By BosNewsLife Special Correspondent Xavier P. William reporting from Pakistan
RAWALPINDI, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– The leader of a major Christian mission group has urged the government of Pakistan and Punjab province to condemn an attack by armed suspected Muslim militants on a church compound.
Robinson Asghar, who chairs the Robinson Community Development Ministries (RCDM), told reporters Wednesday, April 7, that “no major party or politician condemns” that over a dozen Muslim men and women stormed his organization’s Gordon College Chapel in Rawalpindi on what was “Good Friday” for Christians. “We demand that Punjab’s Chief Minister and the Chief Justice of Pakistan take action”, he said.
Friday’s attack began when 10 men and eight women wielding automatic rifles and other weapons stormed the compound after a Good Friday worship service there, witnesses said.”Good Friday is a day to rejoice as Jesus Christ our Lord gave his life for us” before his resurrection from death, “but we were forced to spend the night in distress…” a pastor of the chapel, Samson Bhatti, told BosNewsLife.
The culprits, he said,”took women and innocent children at the gun point and harassed them, They disrespected the sanctity of the Church.”
Another resident at the church compound, Imran Nasir, said his wife and their two daughters, ages 18 months and 4-years-old, were taken as hostages by the armed group. Amid the ensuing chaos, Gill said, several gunmen — some standing “on the walls of the compound” — opened fire at him when he tried to intervene, but he “managed to save” himself, unhurt.
A witness, Shaban Gill, told BosNewsLife that the armed group also “threw Bibles on the floor and started throwing things around. They also entered the adjacent residential area and started yelling at the women and children at home.” “The group, he added, “started looting the [compound] at gun point [and] harassed the women and children, taking all their cash and jewelry.”
The stand-off ended when security forces managed to enter the building, detaining about 10 suspects. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Ashgar pledged that his organization would “expose the real faces behind the attack as soon as the police has completed the investigation.” He did not elaborate.
Asghar, a former air force pilot whose brother is still serving as a colonel in the Pakistan Army, said minority Christians are disappointed that Islamic extremists are targeting them. “The Christians in Pakistan have always served Pakistan with honesty and dedication. We patriotic Pakistanis, but such incidents are disturbing for us.”
He accused the national and Punjab governments of failing to protect Christians, who comprise less than five percent of Pakistan’s 175 million people.
Friday’s violence was no isolated incident, added Pastor Bhatti. He said villages were torched, families attacked, and “youth killed” without provocation in recent years. How long, he said, “does the Punjab government wants to shed the blood of the Christians in Pakistan?”
He complained that a politician, Malik Shakeel Awan received over 10,000 Christian votes in recent elections, but that he didn’t bother to inquire about the plight pof allegedly persecuted Christians. Awan’s office was not immediately available for comment.
“We don’t want anyone`s sympathies, we only want justice,” Bhatti said. Local church leaders said they have set up a special committee to investigate cases of persecution.