By Richard Marsden
A senior Pakistan archbishop has deplored the “cowardly and inhumane” suicide attack on a Methodist Church by Islamic extremists which killed 13 worshippers and injured 60 others.
The statement by Archbishop Joseph Arshad, the President of the Pakistan Bishops’ Conference, came as a group funeral was held today at the Christian cemetery in the southwestern city of Quetta, following the Sunday’s deadly attack at the city’s Bethel Methodist Church.
Archbishop Arshad issued the statement in his capacity as the President of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Bishops Conference. In it, he called on the authorities "to bring those responsible to justice, and to address the root causes of this intolerance." He stressed the urgent need to “strengthen measures for the protection of all citizens, especially during this Christmas period.”
The massacre in Quetta, the capital of the Balochistan province, happened when two bombers carrying assault rifles stormed the church, triggering a gunbattle. One assailant was killed by police and the other opened fire at worshippers and detonated an explosive vest.
Archbishop Arshad praised the prompt response of the police and security forces who he said “contributed to ensuring the life of almost 400 faithful present in the church.”
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, said to be the first by the organisation on a church in the country.
Archbishop Arshad’s statement, co-signed by senior members of the Justice and Peace commission, said: “The massacres of innocent lives increase in Pakistan. Let us pray to our Lord Jesus Christ so that, as a nation, he can give us strength, wisdom, tolerance and peace. May God give the victims’ families the strength to endure the loss of their loved ones and a speedy recovery for the wounded.”
The statement issued to the Fides News Agency cites a Supreme Court ruling from 2014 which calls on the government to adopt a series of concrete measures to protect religious minorities. It also highlights the national Action Plan against terrorism as a "maximum priority to eliminate extremism from the country".