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Attacking our Churches is attacking Pakistan

On a not-so-fine day (15 March, 2015), most of us were glued to our TV screens watching the Pakistan vs Ireland match, praying for the win of Team Green to qualify for the Quarter Finals of World Cup 2015. Amid all the enthusiasm, a very heart-breaking and saddening incident happened in a Christian locality of Lahore – Youhanabad. Two bomb blasts occurred in two of the locality’s churches during the Sunday prayers. The deadly blasts took as many as sixteen lives along with more than seventy people being injured. As a reaction, protests broke out and a group of people at the same location got so enraged that they burnt two suspects to death on spot and the police couldn’t do anything to save them.

The intensity of the protests remained the next day as well and ultimately tear gas was used and later on rangers were also called in to maintain law and order in the aftermath of the damage done by the protestors.

It is pertinent to mention here that the TTP faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility of the two attacks. Apart from the situation on ground, the public in general started having mixed opinions about the attack. Though – very rightfully – the attack was condemned in strongest terms by all segments of the society, the interpretation done about the attacks is something noteworthy. Almost every time when a church is attacked, it is considered an attack on the minorities of Pakistan and a general perception is built that Pakistan’s minorities are under attack. On the face of it, it sounds true. More so, when we know that Pakistan is a Muslim majority country and churches are the places of worship of our Christian community. What we often ignore in such circumstances is that it is not only the churches that are being attacked by these goons known as TTP. Sensibility demands that we realize the nature of attacks done by this very group of thugs who have taken thousands of lives till date, and all those lives had only one thing in common i.e. the identity of being a Pakistani.

We have witnessed attacks on mosques, borders, airports, shrines, courts, markets and schools to the extent of having attacks on our first line of defense i.e. the armed forces. In all these attacks, one could never categorize what particular community or sect or religion was attacked. The only purpose of the attacks had been – and continues to be – to take as many lives as possible, to create as much terror as possible, to destabilize the country and to tarnish the country’s image as much as possible. This is exactly what they achieve when they attack any place including Pakistan’s churches.

When we start creating divides by labeling the attacks on churches as attack on minorities, we give a very different message to the world. We need to realize that the attacks on churches or any other place of worship are something not only condemned but also abhorred at all levels. Sanity desires that we understand the evil intentions of those who even have the audacity to proudly claim the responsibility of the attacks – the very group against which a large scale operation is already underway.

It ‘s been very upsetting to see some people defending the lynching incident of Youhanabad at the hands of the violent mob; the same people who highly condemned the lynching of the Christian couple of Kasur on alleged blasphemy. It literally gives one goose-bumps to even imagine someone being burnt alive and to defend such an action is nothing but insanity. The lynching of two persons in Youhanabad is as much condemnable as the lynching of Kasur’s Christian couple. Both were cases of extra-judicial inhumane killings. Unfortunately, there are people out there who have not only been justifying the violence at Youhanabad but have also been giving rise to tensions on religious grounds.

It is our own people who start creating a divide after such unfortunate incidents. Talking of international media is but another story. After the twin blasts, reportings began with categorizing the incident as a target on minorities. Then the reports on lynching were given an impression of violence by Christians toward innocent Muslims. That is how the ultimate objective of the attacks’ masterminds of dividing the nation on religious/sectarian lines is accomplished.

I, as a Pakistani, see the two blasts on the churches at Youhanabad as an attack on Pakistanis like any other attack; be it last year’s deadly Peshawar school attack or the Wahga border attack or any other similar bomb blast across the country where the lives lost were first and foremost identified as the lives of Pakistanis.

The actions of a handful of violent people should not mean that the entire community be blamed for it. If few of the world’s so-called Muslims get involved in terrorist acts, it is not sensible to generalize the world’s entire Muslim population as terrorists. Similarly, the act of Youhanabad’s violent mob burning two innocents alive can never make us look down upon the entire Christian community of Pakistan. In the same way, any such incident happening with the minorities should never make one put the entire blame on the majority or on the country as a whole.

I sincerely appeal to all the communities of Pakistan not to fall prey to the enemy’s cruel intentions. Yes, our minorities have sacrificed a lot in the past and they continue to make sacrifices for their country along with other fellow countrymen. It is we the people of Pakistan only who can empathize with one another in true sense. The rest of the world can only sympathize with us at the most. Let us not forget that united we rise and divided we fall.

In the end, as a result of the Youhanabad blasts and violence, total 21 lives were lost including 7 Muslims. So here again, it’s the blood of Pakistanis which was shed. Whether a Muslim or a Christian, the victim has eventually been a common Pakistani.

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