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Pakistani Christians Say Muslims Not Behind Church Massacre

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    Assalamu alaikum, Pakistani Christians Say Muslims Not Behind Church Massacre http://www.islam-online.net/English/News/2001-11/01/article6.shtml PESHAWAR,
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31, 2001
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      Assalamu'alaikum,

      Pakistani Christians Say Muslims Not Behind Church Massacre

      http://www.islam-online.net/English/News/2001-11/01/article6.shtml

      PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Oct 31 (IslamOnline & News Agencies) - The Christian
      community in Pakistan is struggling to come to terms with the massacre of
      17 people, refusing to believe that it might have been committed by their
      Muslim brothers, news agencies reported.

      No one has so far claimed responsibility for Sunday's attack on Saint
      Dominic's church in Bahawalpur, when unknown gunmen burst into the church
      and began spraying the congregation with gunfire.

      A Muslim guard and 16 worshippers were killed in the worst act of violence
      against Christians in Pakistan's history.

      Police rounded up some 22 suspects Tuesday in efforts to trace those
      behind the church carnage, the Pakistani daily Dawn reported. No charges
      have been filed.

      The crackdown was launched after a warning by the Punjab governor to the
      local administration for the early arrest of the culprits, the daily
      reported.

      It has been learned that the suspects belong to two sectarian outfits, but
      police officials declined to give any information in this regard.

      Police suspect the attack was carried out by hard-liners amid rising
      tensions over Pakistan's support for the U.S.-led attacks on neighboring
      Afghanistan's Taliban regime, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

      In the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, Christian leaders say they
      have no problems with their Muslim neighbors.

      "Here with the Muslims, we live like brothers and sisters," said prayer
      minister Joseph Lal, of St. John's Cathedral in Peshawar.

      He refused to believe Pakistanis could have carried out the attack.

      Instead, he maintained "external hands" or "anti-Pakistani elements" were
      behind the atrocity - such as Pakistan's bitter rival, India.

      After the massacre, Islamabad tightened security measures around churches
      and a dozen men from the paramilitary Frontier Constabulary, armed with
      weapons and truncheons, have been standing guard at the Anglican cathedral
      here - located not far from a mosque in the center of the city.

      The cathedral's pastor, Rashid Nazir, also spoke warmly of relations in
      the city and dismissed the notion that Pakistanis were behind the
      killings.

      "Relations with Muslims are very brotherly," he said, adding, "I think
      that the RAW [Research and Analysis Wing] Indian agency is involved,"
      although there have been no suggestion of the intelligence agency's
      complicity.

      This point-blank refusal to believe that Muslims were behind the
      unprecedented act, however, betrays a fear among the Christian community
      to do or say anything that could whip up anger among Islamic radicals,
      already incensed by almost four weeks of U.S. strikes on Afghanistan.

      Their insistent support for Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf also
      reveals the insecurity of the minority group, which feels the authorities
      are their only bulwark against sectarian violence.

      "Christians are given security by the government," said Nazir. "The
      government is very helpful, we have freedom of worship, freedom of
      evangelism," his deputy added, saying he did not feel threatened.

      Just a few steps away in the St. John school, there were no apparent signs
      of trouble. Seventy percent of the pupils are Muslims and the remaining
      20% are Christians and members of other faiths, said deputy head Raheel
      Sherazer.

      Many of the Christian schools in Peshawar are very popular because of
      their high standards of education, and many well-off Muslim families send
      their children to them, AFP said.

      In another Christian school, St. John Vianney High School, located in the
      old part of the city, the pattern is the same with 60% of the pupils being
      Muslim and the other 40% being Christian. Six men from the Frontier
      Constabulary have been guarding the school as a precaution, said principal
      Alvin Gill.

      Mahmud Ahmed Ghazi, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Haj, said
      Monday that terrorists have no religion and the killers of Christian
      worshippers are not Muslims. While talking to newsmen at Bahawalpur, some
      85 kilometers from here, Ghazi said that Islam is the religion of love,
      sympathy, tolerance and brotherhood, Pakistani daily The Frontier Post
      reported Wednesday.

      Islam guarantees protection of life, property and honor to the minorities
      living in a Muslim country.

      Ghazi said the government condemns the inhuman massacre at the church and
      that the terrorists involved are not Muslims.

      Colonel S.K. Tressler, Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, said that
      massacre of worshippers is an act of terrorism and an outrage against the
      whole nation.

      Christians are Pakistan's largest religious minority, comprising 1.5% of
      the of the country population of 140 million.

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