Most recent attack on Pakistan's Christians leaves seven dead, two critically injured
In January 1999, Catholic priest Arnold Heredia told Time magazine that Christians in Pakistan were under terrible attack. "It is a religious apartheid," he said. At the time, he was executive secretary of the Institution for Peace and Justice in Karachi. Two years later, no longer the executive secretary for the organization, Heredia was arrested (and eventually released) for peacefully protesting Pakistan's blasphemy law.
If 1999 saw religious apartheid in Pakistan, 2002 is seeing the beginnings of religious genocide. Two men yesterday entered the Institution for Peace and Justice in Karachi, tied and gagged the employees, and shot seven of them in the head at point-blank range. Two others workers were severely beaten. All seven murder victims were Pakistani Christians. Several reportedly lived in very poor neighborhoods. (The BBC has photos and video.)
It's unclear how the attackers got into the offices of the charity, which is guarded by an electronic door that can be opened only from the inside.
"It seems that nobody except Muslims will live in Pakistan," Salim Khursheed Khokhar of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance told Reuters. "Fundamentalism is taking root in Pakistan, and Christians' places of worships and welfare institutes are being targeted one after the other."
The Associated Press reports, "Within hours of the killings about 400 mostly Christian demonstrators marched on the Governor's House in Karachi, demanding the arrest of the perpetrators and protection from the government" and shouting, "Stop religious terrorism."
But it may not stop. "Police found maps of two churches and a Christian school, along with weapons and explosives, during the arrest of two suspected Islamic militants" in Karachi, the Associated Press reported Monday. As a result, churches removed their signs, and other Christian sites surrounded themselves with sandbags.
And over the weekend, a former government official killed his wife and six other relatives because of their relationships with Christians.
Meanwhile, authorities continue to arrest suspects in connection with other attacks on Christians. Still, Christians say the government isn't doing enough to protect them against future attacks. "Our anger is now reaching the boiling point," All Pakistan Minorities Alliance leader Shehbaz Bhatti told the AP.
But as the Chicago Tribune reported last week, Pakistani officials still say Christians are fine in the country. "For God's sake, stop twisting trivial and internal matters of the country into a propaganda campaign," information minister Nisar Menom told a Pakistani-American Christian during a visit to New York. Pakistan, he said, was a "paradise" for religious minorities.
Ivory Coast Missionary school secured
French troops this morning have secured an Ivory Coast missionary school where at least 160 children (100 of which are American) have been trapped since a rebel coup on Thursday. According to reports, none of the children, aged 5 to 18, pinned inside The International Christian Academy are hurt. No one has yet left the school.
French soldiers, along with 200 American troops, have been deployed into Bouaké, the Ivory Coast's second-largest city, to evacuate hundreds of Americans and Europeans caught in the crossfire of rebels and government forces.
Rebels seized the city on September 19 in an uprising against President Laurent Gbagbo. They reportedly still hold much of the town. The children are among 200 foreigners caught inside the K-12 school that houses the children of missionaries in West Africa.
Fighting around the missionary school has been heavy for the last two days. James Forlines, director of Free Will Baptist Foreign Missions, told the Associated Press that he has been in hourly contact with those trapped inside. "It's a large campus and where they penetrated was at the far back end. I don't think the bullets were in danger of hitting anyone," he said. "It really was crossfire, not shooting at the children but a whole lot of ammo going, scaring the kids to death."
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David Mukuba Gitari:
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- Writer charged for Gitari report | Nation reporter Francis Muriithi Muriuki denied the charge (The Nation, Nairobi)
Sex abuse crisis:
- Dioceses said to be following abuse policy | The vast majority of Roman Catholic dioceses in the country are in at least partial compliance with the mandates of the new policy on sexual abuse of minors by priests that was adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in June (The Washington Post)
- Catholic lay board in a hurry | Showing critics and doubters this week it plans to be much more than a token group (Associated Press)
- Vatican says U.S. bishops' plan on sex abuse still under study | Response expected next month (Associated Press)
- Church experts say bishops bungling crisis | Diverse observers unite in condemning Catholic hierarchy (San Francisco Chronicle)
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