Catholics in Pakistan have condemned the deadly 16 February terrorist attack on a Sufi shrine in southern Sindh province, which has killed at least 80 people and wounded more than 250. A bomber blew himself up among devotees in the shrine of Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in the town of Sehwan, about 200 kilometers from Karachi. It has been the deadliest in a string of recent bombings claimed by the Islamic State, the Pakistani Taliban and other militants, with some 20 children among the victims.
Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, head of the Pakistan Catholic bishops’ conference, has strongly condemned the attack on the shrine. "It is sad that a Muslim shrine has been attacked in a Muslim country. We feel so helpless. The scourge of terrorism has spread like a cancer. It has long roots in our society," the archbishop said. "The government or army alone cannot fight it alone. The whole nation should stand united, without discrimination of faith, use all peaceful methods and reject these terrorists," he told UCANEWS. "Terrorists lie when they claim to target only government departments and spare public or religious places. Attacks on shrines is a wider problem emerging from sectarianism; terrorism has no borders," he said.
Father Qaiser Feroz, executive secretary of the Pakistani bishops' social communications commission, said "shrines are being targeted simply because they are crowded and people of all faiths visit them especially to listen to devotional songs." "The religious fundamentalists only want bloodshed, there is no faith motivation," he explained.
Father Paulus Gill who conducted prayers for the victims Friday morning at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Hyderabad 130 kilometers from Sehwan city, told AsiaNews, “We are losing human values. What we are witnessing is the result when religion combines with politics.” Just when government announced that the cricket final of the Pakistan Super League would be held in Lahore as things were getting better, the terrorist showed their muscle." "Only dialogue can bring peace with religious fundamentalists,” he said explaining that extremism crept into Pakistani society especially after Islamization by General Zia ul Haq who introduced religious and gender biases in Pakistan's laws. “Now we are drowning and it will be long before peace prevails in Pakistan,” he added.
Father Abid Habib of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Association of Major Religious Superiors fears churches will be next. "We are getting messages and churches will be attacked now,” he said. The terrorists may be based in Afghanistan but they are being funded by Saudis. They follow Wahabi ideology which lauds the concept of jihad and urges hatred of infidels. Visiting shrines to them is idol worship," Fr. Habib said.
Sunil Kumar Founder chairman Voice of Peace (VOP), an interfaith youth forum, plans to hold a protest against the attack this weekend at Karachi Press Club. "We are in shock seeing bloodshed every day, the extremism has reached its peak. People now await the death toll after every incident. No religion or place is safe, people are being targeted everywhere", said the Hindu activist. "Terrorist agencies are trying to divert public attention. Our nation must wake up and use all resources to save lives. The only solution lies in understanding and respecting diverse faiths and giving equal rights to non Muslim citizens. Our rulers have to learn from their mistakes". (Source: UCAN/AsiaNews)