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Taliban Targets

Post-assassination political fight puts the church at greater risk.
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Even as Taliban forces released hostage Reginald Humayun Zaheeruddin, general secretary of the Church of Pakistan, on January 2, five more Christians were kidnapped in the regions bordering Afghanistan.

"It's the same group who [President Pervez] Musharraf has said killed [former prime minister Benazir] Bhutto," said the Rev. Canon George Conger, who has been reporting on the Anglican-affiliated Church of Pakistan for more than a decade. "The Taliban will release those five men if six Taliban militants are released by the police."

Pakistan's breakdown of law and order, which Bhutto warned about before her assassination on December 27, particularly harms Christians, who make up a mere 3 percent of the country's population. "Prominent Christians—these [hostages] are all professional men—are being singled out by the Muslim militants in this battle with the government as being soft targets," Conger said.

Bhutto's death has complicated the already precarious situation. According to Joshua T. White, a graduate fellow at the Institute for Global Engagement who lived in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province for 10 months, the nation is undergoing a complex power struggle. "What you have is the army, the Islamist parties, and in the third position these neo-Taliban who are based in Waziristan."

White said Pakistani Christians appreciated Bhutto's platform of greater freedoms and democratic participation, but they were disappointed with her previous stints as prime minister. "[I]n truth [Bhutto ended up] not doing a lot for advancing women's rights or minority rights," he said.

Mano Rumalshah, the Church of Pakistan's bishop of Peshawar, said that unrest in the country has not directly involved Christians, who, being mostly ...

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