Five years ago, I lost close friends in one of the most gruesome terrorist attack on Pakistani soil. In twin attacks on two Mosques in Lahore, 88 Ahmadi Muslim worshippers were killed at the hands of the Taliban. It was a painfully bloody day. This last weekend, I woke up to sad news from Pakistan that made me relive some of that pain.
Fourteen worshipers were killed, and more than 70 were injured, when two Taliban suicide bombers blew themselves up outside churches in the Youhanabad neighborhood of Lahore, Pakistan.
These attacks on Pakistan’s Christian community are not a sporadic event. They are a part of a very tragic trend. Just over a year ago, another suicide attack at a Peshawar church claimed 78 lives. Not long before this, an angry mob torched over a hundred houses in Lahore’s Joseph Colony, following blasphemy allegations against a Christian man. Another Christian couple — Shama and Shahzad — were recently lynched and burnt alive in a kiln on similar blasphemy charges. As in the Joseph Colony rampage, this mob violence was also led by a local cleric.
While Pakistan’s minority communities are frequently attacked by religious extremists, the state does very little to protect them. Even in the rare instance that the perpetrators of such attacks are caught alive, they get away with a mere slap on the wrist. Pakistan’s ruling party, the PML-N, is especially notorious in sponsoring hateagainst minority communities in an attempt to appease extremist elements that serve their vote bank. In fact, we now know that the Punjab Government under Mr. Shahbaz Sharif reportedly carried out negotiations with al Qaeda.
The reaction from the masses in Pakistan is not very encouraging either. The majority continue to remain apathetic to the ongoing persecution of minorities. The few that speak up are threatened and intimidated into silence. All this, while the Islamic faith requires that all Muslims stand up to such injustice.