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Indian Christian Community shocked at massacre

Indian Christian Community shocked at massacre in Pakistan Church

Protect Minorities, General Pervez told in Urgent Fax

PRESS STATEMENT

NEW DELHI, Sunday 28 October 20001

The All India Christian Council and the All India Catholic Union have in a joint statement expressed their shock at the massacre of Pakistani Christians who were killed while at prayer in a Church in Bahawalpur near Multan this morning. The two Christian organisations have in an urgent fax message called on Pakistani president General Pervez to take immediate steps to safeguard the country's minority populations from violence by extremist armed groups.

The following is the text of the statement issued by Dr John Dayal, National vice President of the All India catholic Union and the Secretary general of the All India Christian Council on Sunday.

"The entire Indian Christian community is shocked at the brutal massacre of Pakistani Catholics who had gathered for the morning Sunday mass in a Church in Bahawalpur today. According to reports, armed men of an unnamed fundamentalist group came to the church on motorcycles, forced their way inside during Mass, first killed the Priest and then sprayed the innocent worshippers, who included many women and children, with bullets from automatic weapons. While 19 persons were reported dead in the first reports, dozens are in hospital with critical injuries.

The Christian community, a micro minority at less than two per cent of the population, has been under much stress in recent years, targeted by religious bigots as well as by the government's anti infamous blasphemy laws. After the terrorist attacks on America on 11 September, certain groups in Pakistan openly threatened the Christian community with violence. Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore, who had prayed for the victims both of the September terrorist attacks and the military retaliation going on in Afghanistan, had cautioned some days ago that he feared the military intervention in Afghanistan could have unpredictable consequences. The Archbishop had told general Pervez Musharraf that the greatest danger for minorities in Pakistan was in villages where there is less protection.

Despite warnings from Christian leaders, and their own assurances, the government of Pakistan failed to take due precautions. We call upon President General Pervez Musharraf to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety and security of the Christians, Hindu and Sikh minority groups in Pakistan.

The Christian community at large has made it clear that it does not see the post-September 11 situation as a strife between Islam and Christianity. Christian leaders have condemned the terrorist attacks on New York in unequivocal terms. They have voiced their opposition to war on innocent people. In his first message to New York after the terrorist attacks, Pope John Paul II said "To all I solemnly repeat the Gospel injunction not to be conquered by evil, but to conquer evil with good, to trust in the power of God's grace to transform human hearts and to work fearlessly to shape a future of justice, peace and security for the children of our world.'

We pray for an end to terrorism and we pray for peace. We pray for all victims of terrorism, in New York and Bahawalpur and other places, and for the victims of war, the innocent men, women and children who have been killed and injured in Afghanistan. Unthinking and bigoted acts of violence, and vengeful reprisals, will only add to the suffering of the people and injure the prospects of lasting peace in this region.

ENDS

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