The deadly bombing of a church in Pakistan’s north-western city of Peshawar is unprecedented, but not entirely unexpected considering the community’s history in the country, explains the BBC’s M Ilyas Khan.
Until now, Taliban militants have mostly targeted the places of worship for Muslim minority sects in Pakistan such as Shia Muslims and the Ahmadi sect.
But attacks against the Christians are not uncommon. Some of these have been related to Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws, while others appear to have a political motive.
In recent years the assassination of two high-profile Christian politicians also put the plight of this minority in the spotlight.
After Hindus, Christians are Pakistan’s second-largest minority group representing about 1.6% of the country’s overwhelmingly Muslim population.
Large populations are in the southern metropolis of Karachi, and there are countless Christian villages in Pakistan’s heartland of Punjab, in Lahore, the city of Faisalabad. In the deeply conservative north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province there are, according to one lawmaker, 200,000 Christians, of whom 70,000 live in the city of Peshawar.
The majority of Pakistan’s Christians are descended from people who converted from Hinduism centuries ago under the British Raj. Most of those converts had been low-caste Hindus, kept at the lowest rung of society by virtue of their birth and would have converted to escape the fate destined for them within the caste system.