A terrorist attack targeting Christians killed over 70 people in Punjab province of Pakistan on Easter Sunday.
As Pakistani Christians were celebrating Easter in a crowded park, a suicide bomber took his life along with many others in an area of the park designated for women and children.
A faction of the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan stated, “It was our people who attacked the Christians in Lahore, celebrating Easter. It’s our message to the government that we will carry out such attacks again until sharia [Islamic law] is imposed in the country.”
Christian leaders across the globe are standing in solidarity with the Christians of Pakistan. Vincent Nichols, the Catholic leader in England and Wales, said, “The perversity of evil knows no bounds. It sinks to a new low of hatred in deliberately targeting women and children celebrating their Easter Day in peace.”
Of Pakistan’s population of 192.8 million people, only 3.8 million are Christians. A Muslim nation, Pakistan enforces strict blasphemy laws that punish religious minorities by death or life imprisonment for going against the word of the prophet Muhammad.
Christianity was first introduced to Pakistan by European Roman Catholic missionaries in the 17th century. The majority of the country’s Christians are the descendants of Hindus who had converted under British rule. Their lineage is often from a low caste, and many have remained on the poorer end of Pakistani society.
Most Muslims and Christians in the region coexist in peace; however, incidents of hostility and persecution have become more common in recent years. In 2013, a suicide bombing left more than 100 people dead at a church in Peshawar, and 14 were killed in a series of attacks on churches in Lahore. The attacks are all attributed to Pakistani Taliban groups.
Punjab’s chief minister, Shahbaz Sharif, condemns Sunday’s attacks, posting on his Twitter account, “Those who target innocent citizens do not deserve to be called humans.” The government has declared three days of mourning to honor the victims.
There are approximately 173 million Christian adults in the U.S. today, making Christians the majority among religious groups in the country.
Aid to the Church in Need is a Catholic organization based out of New York. ACN lists Pakistan in its “high persecution category”; the group is taking donations and encourages Americans to volunteer their services in any way they can.