Pakistan grenade attack on missionary hospital chapel service leaves three nurses, one attacker dead
In the second attack this week against Christians in Pakistan, three men this morning attacked the Christian Hospital in Taxila, about 25 miles northwest of Islamabad. Three women were killed and more than two dozen were injured—at least two are in serious condition. One of the attackers was also killed.
Police and government officials say the attackers are probably part of the same group that attacked Murree Christian School on Monday. They were apparently dressed similarly and were unshaven (though reports vary on this last point).
Also like the Murree Christian School attack, the assailants apparently chose the target because of its missionary associations—the Taxila hospital is partly funded by the Presbyterian Church (USA)—but they didn't kill any missionaries. In fact, AFP reports, there were no foreign patients or staff at the hospital at all, nor were there scheduled to be. The only foreign staffer, a Swedish nurse, is on leave.
Pakistani Christians are fearful of more attacks. "If immediate steps are not taken by authorities to provide protection to Christians, I fear that it will lead to the start of genocide in Pakistan," Shahbaz Bhaddi, leader of the All-Pakistan Minorities Alliance, told the Associated Press.
The attack on the Murree Christian School was targeted at children. This attack seems to have been focused on women. Far more women and children attend the chapel services than men, and custom mandates that women exit first. Reuters reports that the attackers "had been waiting by the hospital gates for the daily morning service to end before they struck"—suggesting they could have thrown the grenades into the chapel during the service but decided to wait until it was letting out so they could choose their female targets.
Details of the attack on the hospital are still coming, but it more or less began at 7:45 a.m. (10:45 p.m. Eastern time Thursday) with the attackers rushing through the front gate (after waiting). Their first stop was the guard booth. "One of them pulled out a pistol and pushed me inside the room," guard Erik Masih told the Associated Press. "I was inside the room for a few seconds when I heard the sound of explosions," he said. "At that moment, the man who was guarding me outside ran away toward the main gate."
"The scene inside the church is terrible," says Zahid Hussain of the Times of London. "The windows are shattered and bits of masonry are scattered all around the entrance. The stone around the doorway is blackened from the smoke from the grenades, and inside, fragments of the wooden pews are lying around. Blood is splattered everywhere." The BBC has video of the destruction.
"Officials said one attacker died when a piece of shrapnel flew into his back and pierced his heart," the AP reports, but Reuters disputes this account, based on a report from S.K. Tressler, a Christian who is Pakistan's minister for minority affairs. Tressler's account, in turn, was from police. Reuters says the man was caught by a hospital worker, then shot by another attacker to make sure he couldn't identify the others. That fits with the recent suicide by the school attackers.
Meanwhile, writes Hussain, Christians in Pakistan "know they will have to be extra vigilant, but they are very aware that it is almost impossible to stop a determined attack by extremists. The Pakistani Government will want to do as much as possible to reassure them of their safety, but they too recognize that there is little it can do."
'Costco Church' wins battle:
- Judge halts city's bid for church land | Cypress' attempt to seize Cottonwood property for a Costco is temporarily blocked (Los Angeles Times)
- Also: Church wins round in Cypress land fight | Temporary injunction halts effort to seize property for Costco project, pending judge's decision in March (The Orange County Register)
- Also: Churches gain edge over cities | Judge's strongly worded ruling stops Cypress from exercising eminent domain (The Orange County Register)
- Abortion case winner loses her baby | Tanya Meyers had just received a judge's permission to have an abortion over the objections of her ex-boyfriend (Associated Press)
- Also: Dad's sad, mad: Too bad | Why dads don't count when it comes to abortion (Dahlia Lithwick, Slate.com)
- Stem cell challenge | Intel founder gives UCSF $5 million, urges other donors to match it (San Francisco Chronicle)
Islam and Christianity:
- Saudis lash US 'Christian extremists' | The Saudi press has launched a vitriolic attack on what it describes as Christian fundamentalism in the United States (BBC)
- Saudi leader accuses Bush advisers | al-Watan newspaper says Christian fundamentalism is more dangerous than other extreme religions (The Times, London)
- Book value | Lawsuit against Koran assignment ignores the mission of universities (Editorial, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
- Bible-reading prison workers win Minnesota lawsuit | Two prison employees reprimanded for reading their Bibles in silent protest of an employer-sponsored training session on homosexuality have been awarded $78,000 in damages by a federal jury (Reuters)
- Native American gets okay to use eagle feathers in religious practices | 10th Circuit upholds lower court ruling that seizure of feathers violates Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Associated Press)
- Mom sues for $1.5 million after school rejects son's letter to Jesus | Jesus seemed perfect for a writing assignment the 7th-grader got this spring in his language-arts class in Brookfield, Ohio: write a friendly letter to someone who dramatically changed his life (Fox News)
- Texas school district sued over e-mail policy | Employee claims rule barring workers from using e-mail to send religious messages violates First Amendment (Associated Press)
- Also: HP schools' policy on e-mail spurs suit | Employee says ban on religious content is unconstitutional (The Dallas Morning News)
Crime and courts:
- Memphis minister shot and killed in New Orleans | What happened to Alfred DeWayne Hill is a mystery (Associated Press)
- Priest receives probation for false carjacking report | Ex-pastor lied to cover up his night with prostitute (The Baltimore Sun)
- One 9th Circuit appeals court, under God? | The nation's biggest - and most controversial - federal court may be split up (The Christian Science Monitor)
- Methodists only bar gay clergy in theory | Church courts are unwilling to prosecute (Associated Press)
- Episcopals read letter on feud | Churches throughout the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania were ordered Sunday to read a letter written by the bishop to explain the suspension of a conservative rector who opposes the ordination of women and homosexuals (Associated Press)
- Also: Episcopal Church war over gays escalates | Bishop's letter to cite minister's disobedience (Philadelphia Daily News)
- San Francisco judges cut ties to Scouts over gays | The city's Superior Court judges and commissioners — in response to a resolution from a local bar association — have adopted a policy that prohibits them from participating as members in a chapter or branch of any organization that "discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation by excluding members on the grounds that their sexual orientation renders them 'unclean,' 'immoral,' or 'unfit.'" (The Washington Times)
- Cape Town gays to pinklist 'homophobes' | Companies who were to be "pinklisted" would be given two weeks' notice and an opportunity to rebut the charges (South African Press Association)
- Anti-gay drive wrong to use MLK | The makers of these fliers seek to tap black antipathy by way of the church, thereby implying divine sanction for their bigotry (The Miami Herald)
Marriage and family:
- Prenuptial abstinence as aphrodisiac | It's not just a southern thing. (Dannye Romine Powell, The Charlotte Observer)
- Earlier: It's never too late to be a virgin | A period of "secondary virginity" is increasingly the norm for many brides-to-be across the South, an accommodation to the modern reality of premarital sex and the traditional disapproval of it in the Bible Belt (The New York Times)
- Fathers of faith give more time to their children | A new study shows that fathers of the evangelical and Catholic faiths may be better parents than secular dads, if judged by the time they spend with their children in activities or at the dinner table (The Washington Times)
- Anglican website attacks its archbishop | Peter Jensen is seeking a retraction from Sydney-based Anglicans Together Online (The Sydney Morning Herald)
- Church lifts 'burden of bills' from parishioner | It's not uncommon for a revival at New Hope Baptist Church to save somebody, but recently Cheryl Moore was saved from her debt (The Bergen [N.J.] Record)
- Hawaii church sees courthouse as the way to God's house | After Hale O Kaula's building permit was denied, Justice Dept. joined the group's fight to force the county to allow multiuse facility (Los Angeles Times)
- Churches face exemption loss | The city has put a group of local churches on notice that they are about to lose their special tax exemptions unless they start farming their properties as promised (Vancouver Sun)
- 'All of a sudden, kaboom' | Deadly storms left church in disarray, 1000 without power (Houston Chronicle)
- Witnessing the new reach of Pentecostalism | Annual Meeting Brings 7,000 To D.C. for Fellowship, Praise (The Washington Post)
- Father of a movement within his church | Priest attunes his parish to yoga, its spirituality (Lexington [Ky.] Herald-Leader)
- Confessions of Father Bob | He overeats and can curse like a sailor. He's uncomfortable comforting the sick and regrets not having kids. But for Father Bob Hartnett, being imperfect is what makes him a good priest (The Baltimore Sun)
Church of England:
- Evangelical Alliance speaks on Rowan Williams becoming a druid | "His involvement in the use of druid customs, costume and language give the confusing impression that Christianity is compatible with neo-paganism." (Press release)
- It is time for another reformation | Anglo-Catholics are the intellectual heavyweights in the Church of England. Now Protestantism must fight back (Theo Hobson, The Guardian, London)
- Leader of Lords cagey on disestablishment | As leader of the House of Lords, Gareth Williams knows that he has to tread carefully on the issue of disestablishment of the Church of England, but he leaves little doubt about his own views (Financial Times)
- Also: Bishops could lose their seats in the Lords | Established church may lose its privileges (The Guardian, London)
- A question of belief | Should the Church tolerate a pick'n'mix approach to the Creed? (The Times, London)
- Elderly bishops are revolting | For today's bishops, the moment of transition is not consecration, but retirement (Don Cupitt, The Guardian, London)
- Orthodox tradition, the American way | New leader of Orthodox unlikely to change church (The Orlando Sentinel, via Newsday)
- Between South and East | St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Brookside, Alabama, worships with a southern drawl and a Russian accent (Associated Press)
Mission & Ministry:
- 'Missionaries' raise suspicion | Some dude's just walking around McComb, Mississippi, saying he's a missionary—but instead of sharing the gospel he's asking for cash (Enterprise-Journal)
- Fair's prayer booth offers spiritual comfort | Midway tent volunteers come from 10 churches (The Baltimore Sun)
- National Council of Churches of Kenya's AIDS idea a loser | It is appalling that the NCCK should even think of asking doctors to break the confidentiality of HIV-positive patients (Editorial, The Nation, Nairobi, Kenya)
- Village's prayers answered by surgery on conjoined twins | Jubilation sweeps Guatemalan birthplace of the girls, where God is thanked for a miracle (Los Angeles Times)
- Gibson follows his Passion | Mel Gibson has scouted Italian locations for "Passion," a film that would explore the life of Christ, and he's talked to Jim Caviezel about the leading role (Variety)
- 'U'-Rated Edits in for Fight | Directors Guild of America takes aim at businesses that edit videos for viewers (The Salt Lake Tribune)
- Earlier: Family-Friendly Titanic Irks Hollywood (Christianity Today, Jan. 11, 1999)
- Earlier: Everybody's a Director | CleanFlicks and Movie Mask give film fans an alternative (Christianity Today, Mar. 25, 2002)
- CS Lewis books to hit silver screen | Movie rights to works sold off. (The Belfast Telegraph)
Other stories of interest:
- Religion news in brief | NCC says it's recovering financially, Methodists and Episcopalians talk, Mayor apologizes for arrests of preachers, and other stories (Associated Press)
- Hoping to get religion | An obscure group of Mexicans insist that they're really Jews (Newsweek)
- Theism through biology | The religious right has one thing correct: Its ideas about education are not significantly present in public school. But God is. (Nathan Black, The Denver Post)
- Wesley actor finds help to keep tradition going | Bill Vance has portrayed Methodist founder since 1975 (The Dallas Morning News)
- Controversial billboard defaced | Artscape piece pictured Jesus as beer pitchman (The Baltimore Sun, via Obscure Store)
- An unbeautiful mind | John Polkinghorne, science, religion, and self-deception (The New Republic)
- Earlier: Bottom-Up Apologist | John Polkinghorne—particle physicist, Gifford lecturer, Templeton Prize-winner, and parish priest. (Christianity Today, May 24, 2002)
- The very American Stanley Hauerwas | Hauerwas' utopian view of the Church as self-sufficient and antimodern needs a little Niebuhrian realism (Stephen H. Webb, First Things)
- Reparations then and now | The call for reparations for slavery ignores the Civil War (Allen C. Guelzo, First Things)
- Swapping 'religion' for 'postsecularism' | Anyone who doesn't recognize the power of "post" in intellectual strategy just hasn't been watching. It can gel loosely related phenomena into a major intellectual movement or cultural vanguard without having to be very precise about what unites them or what they are rather than what they are not (Peter Steinfels, The New York Times)
- Bound by the Bible Belt | Atheists sometimes face rejection or ridicule in our predominantly Christian culture (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)
- Scholars are all agog over digital Gutenbergs | Scholars who work with the Gutenberg Bible at the University of Texas don't have to travel to Austin anymore (Chicago Tribune)
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