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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Unknown Militants Bomb Lutheran Church in Mardan City, Northern Pakistan
Some Christians speculate that it may have been a revenge attack for the threatened Koran (Qur’an) burning in Florida

By Jawad Mazhar
Special Correspondent for ANS, reporting from Pakistan

MARDAN, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- News has just reached the ASSIST News Service that unidentified militants used a remote-controlled bomb to attack the Sarhadi Lutheran Church in Yadgar Chowk Avenue, Mardan City, in the northern Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa (KP) province, on Sunday, September 12, 2010, injuring a policeman and a security guard.

Damaged entrance: The main gate of the Lutheran church in Mardan, Pakistan, after the bomb explosion (Photo: Church Times)

This shocking news was relayed to ANS by Bishop Peter Majeed of the Northern Diocese of the Lutheran Church who said that the attack took place at 23:35 hours and partially damaged the church building, which is within the jurisdiction of the Mardan City Police Station.

According to the statement by Bishop Majeed, the church is located in the heart of this city in the North West of Pakistan.

He added that the Rev. Ghulam Shad is the priest-in-charge of the attacked church and the Rev. Chand Masih is the deputy priest.
 

The church before the bombing took place

“More than 450 Christian families comprise the congregation of the Sarhadi Lutheran Church,” he told ANS in an exclusive interview. “Up, until now, no one has owned up to responsibility of the bomb blast at the main gate of the church which critically injured a policeman who stood guard at the gate.

“The policeman, identified as Fazl-e-Rabbi, was immediately taken to the Mardan District Headquarters Hospital but there was no doctor who was able to treat him, so he was shifted to a larger hospital in Peshawar, which is bigger and well equipped for the urgent indispensable medical treatment the injured policeman required.”
 

Bishop Peter Majeed

Talking about the injuries to Rehmat Ali, the church’s private security guard, Bishop Majeed said he “sustained minor injuries” and he was “discharged” after necessary treatment at the local hospital.

When asked if he thought this was the work of a  suicide bomber, the Bishop said that, at the time of bomb blast, he along with his family, were strolling in the church grounds were the bomb was set off and “did not see any one blowing him or herself up,” therefore he felt that it was “a planted bomb blast.”

The Bishop added that although his "whole family "were near to the blast, they “remained safe and sound” and none of them received “even a scratch.”

To a query about the devastation to the Lutheran Church, he said that the bomb blast had partly “mangled the main gate” and the “shock wave was so powerful that window panes were shattered and doors were displaced."
 

A young girl who attends the bombed church displaying her art work

He stated that the church building was also partially demolished, including the boundary wall of the church which had “partially caved in.”

A case has now been registered by a church delegation at the local police against the “unknown bomb planters” for attempted murder, causing and explosion and also for committing a crime outlined in the Anti Terrorism Act.

“High ranking police officers have pledged to beef up security at the church and assured us that they would ensure that all the minorities and their worship places were safe, particularly of Christians in the northern region of Pakistan."

This is a region that is known is a hot bed of terrorism, insurgency and Islamic fanaticism.

Bishop Peter Majeed has now appealed to the "whole world to pray for the safety of Christians in Pakistan,” and now a Christian Provincial legislator of Punjab, Mr. Tahir Naveed Chaudhary, has roundly condemned the attack on the church and has since consoled the victim’s families.

Although the motive for the attack is still unknown, some media reports here in Pakistan have linked the blast at the Lutheran church to the “threats” of burning the Koran (Qur’an,) by a Gainesville, Florida, church which had been called off, but still the attackers, some Christians here have surmised, had decided to go ahead and “punish” Christians for the even the threat of the burning.

Any many of our Christians in Pakistan have heaved a great sigh of relief that the burning was cancelled, fearing that the death toll here and in other Islamic countries, could have been very high.


Jawad Mazhar is a Pakistani journalist specializing in writing about Christian persecution. He was born on November 28, 1976 at Sargodha's village Chak and raised in Sargodha, a city in Pakistan’s Punjab province. He earned his Bachelors Degree from Allama Iqbal Open University majoring in computer sciences and has taught at various educational institutes in his country. He is also involved with “Rays of Development,” an organization working for minority rights in Pakistan. He says, “My aim is to help eradicate Christian persecution through my writing as I bring the plight of these brave people under the spotlight of the whole world.”

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