(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has made an appeal for peace in Pakistan and for solidarity with the country’s persecuted Christian minority, in the wake of a pair of terror attacks that left at least 14 people dead and scores of others wounded in the city of Lahore, and accused the world of, “trying to hide” the persecution of Christians.
“With pain, with much pain,” said Pope Francis to the crowd of pilgrims and tourists gathered for the Angelus prayer this Sunday in St. Peter's Square, “I learned of the terrorist attacks today against two churches in the city Lahore in Pakistan, which have resulted in numerous deaths and injuries,” for which a Taliban splinter group, calling itself Jamatul Ahrar, has claimed responsibility.
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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 Church of Pakistan Christ church. The Holy Father went on to say, “These are Christian churches: Christians are being persecuted. 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.”
Concluding his appeal, Pope Francis prayed, “That this persecution against Christians, which the world tries to hide, might end, and that there be peace.”
“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 to Vatican Radio from Lahore, shortly after the attacks, Saddique, a lawyer, said, “We never thought that Youhanabad could be attacked, we never thought that people would dare to come into this place, and would attack such a big Christian town.”
Christians comprise roughly 2% of Pakistan’s more than 182 million people, and have been the target of increasingly intense and deadly violence in recent years.