Listen to Christopher R. Altieri via Vatican Radio:
By Christopher R. Altieri with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
VATICAN CITY/LAHORE (BosNewsLife)– Pope Francis on Sunday, March 15, appealed for peace and solidarity with Pakistan’s “persecuted” Christian minority after bombings at two churches in Lahore left at least 14 people dead and scores of others wounded. He also accused the world of trying to hide the persecution of Christians.
“With pain, with much pain, I learned of the terrorist attacks today against two churches in the city Lahore in Pakistan, which have resulted in numerous deaths and injuries,” he told a crowd of pilgrims and tourists gathered for the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square.
A Taliban splinter group, calling itself Jamatul Ahrar, claimed responsibility for the attack.
The twin attacks took place on churches only a few hundred metres apart from one another in one of the largest Christian neighbourhoods of the city, Youhanabad.
One of the churches was the Catholic church of St. John, the other was the Anglican Christ Church, witnesses said. “These are Christian churches, Christians are being persecuted,” the pontiff noted.
“Our brothers’ and sisters’ blood is shed only because they are Christians. As I assure you of my prayers for the victims and their families, I ask the Lord, I beseech the Lord, source of all good, for the gift of peace and harmony to this country,” Pope Francis added.
And he prayed that, “this persecution against Christians, which the world tries to hide, might end, and that there be peace.”
His comments came while Christians in Lahore faced a tense night. “These attacks have led people into the thought that they are unsafe anywhere,” said Sadaf Saddique, who heads the Good Shepherd Ministry in Pakistan, an outreach to exploited and at-risk children.
Speaking by telephone from Lahore, Saddique, a lawyer, said, “We never thought that Youhanabad could be attacked. He said residents “never thought that people would dare to come into this place, and would attack such a big Christian town.”
Christians, who comprise roughly 2 percent of Pakistan’s more than 182 million people, have been the target of increasingly intense and deadly violence in recent years.