Hindu Vivek Kendra
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Pakistani Christians mourn victims

Pakistani Christians mourn victims

Publication: MSNBC
Date: September 26, 2002
URL: http://www.msnbc.com/news/812682.asp?0dm=N327N

Black flags flew over churches and Christian areas in the Pakistani city of Karachi on Thursday, as Pakistan's small Christian community mourned the massacre of seven charity workers.

Sadness At The deaths at the hands at two unidentified gunmen was mixed with fear, and widespread anger at the government of President Pervez Musharraf for not protecting them.

"Down with Musharraf," a group of about 200 protesters wearing black armbands chanted as they marched through the narrow lanes of the Christian slum of Essa Nagri in Karachi. "Hang the culprits who killed innocent Christians."

On Wednesday two gunmen burst into the office of a Christian charity, tied up and gagged the employees before shooting them in the head at point blank range with a pistol.

Six of them died instantly, one died later in hospital while an eighth man was in a coma on Thursday battling for his life with a serious head wound. All were Pakistanis.

The attack was the fifth against Christian targets in Pakistan in the last year. The attacks, which have killed about 40 people, have been blamed on Islamic militants angered by Musharraf's support for the U.S.-led war on terror.

Pakistan's 1.6 million Christians - about one percent of the population - are often among the mainly Muslim country's poorest people, many working as cleaners or menial workers.

"We are second-class citizens in Pakistan, we don't have any rights, no protection," said Faris Ayub, one of the protesters. "Our families are not secure here. I will leave this country as soon as I will get a chance."

Three Days Of Mourning

Christian leaders announced three days of mourning, beginning on Thursday. In Karachi, shops, schools and churches were closed in Christian-dominated areas, with extra police standing guard outside many venues.
Church leaders said on Wednesday they were hoping to stage a joint funeral service for most of the victims, most likely at the weekend, although the fact that some were Protestant and others Catholic could complicate matters.

On Thursday, it was time for anger and fear as well as grief.

"They don't consider us human beings and only Muslims are allowed to live in this country," said Ayub, a male nurse, who said he feared more attacks.

Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider vowed on Wednesday to track down the killers, who made a clean getaway after the attack.

But Liaquat Munawwar said he and four other members of the Christian charity MASS were prepared to take drastic action if something was not done quickly.

"If the government fails to arrest the culprits within the next three days, we will commit suicide in front of the governor house," Munawwar said.

Last October masked gunmen sprayed automatic gunfire at worshippers in the city of Bahawalpur, killing 17 people in the worst massacre of Christians in Pakistan's history.

In March, a grenade attack on the Protestant International Church in Islamabad killed five people, including the wife and daughter of an American diplomat.

On August 9, four Pakistani nurses and an attacker were killed in an attack on a Christian hospital in the town of Taxila. Four days earlier six people were killed by gunmen who burst into a school for the children of foreign missionaries in the hill town of Muree.

"We have faced attacks on our churches and other places for the last many years," said Shahzadi Michael, a local government official in Essa Nagri.

"The government has failed in providing security to us," she said. "We don't want to take the law into our own hands but we are being forced to think otherwise."

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