Tuesday, April 17, 2018

RLPB 451. Pakistan: Islamic State targets Christians in Quetta

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 451 | Wed 18 Apr 2018

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PAKISTAN: ISLAMIC STATE TARGETS CHRISTIANS IN QUETTA
by Elizabeth Kendal

Click on map to enlarge
Christians comprise less than two percent of Pakistan's 200 million people. Systematic racial and religious discrimination ensure Christians remain poor, powerless and persecuted. However, as fundamentalist Islam rises, Islamic jihad spreads and lawlessness deepens, Christian vulnerability and insecurity approach crisis levels. In recent months, Islamic State's franchise in 'Khorasan Province' (Afghanistan and surrounds) has claimed responsibility for three deadly attacks targeting Christians in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan's sparsely populated Balochistan Province. On Sunday 17 December at least nine people were killed and more than 50 injured when two suicide bombers blew themselves up at Bethel Memorial Methodist Church. Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISK-P) claimed responsibility [see RLPB 437 (19 Dec 2017)].

On Easter Monday evening 2 April four members of a Christian family were travelling along Quetta's Shah Zaman road when militants on a motorbike intercepted their rickshaw and opened fire. A young girl was wounded; she was rushed to hospital. Her father and three male cousins were killed. Tariq Masih, a relative of the victims said, 'They were guests of ours, they came from Punjab [Province] to celebrate Easter. As they left the house to go to the bazaar after dinner ... they were fired upon.' Provincial police have labelled it 'a targeted attack' and 'an act of terrorism'. ISK-P claimed responsibility, boasting that a 'covert unit' of ISK-P shot the Christians 'which resulted in the killing of four of them, and all praise is due to Allah'. 

On Sunday 15 April four men on two motorbikes opened fire on Christians in Quetta's Isa Nagri (City of Jesus, a Christian neighbourhood). Some of the victims were emerging from a worship service; others were just sitting in front of their homes. The victims were rushed to Bolan Medical Complex, Quetta.  Azhar Iqbal (26) died at the scene while Rashid (or Rahib) Khalid (16) died at the hospital. Two young girls -- Mehvish William (13) and Sunaina Shakil (11) -- were wounded, as was Chaudhry Samuel (38), a prominent figure in Isa Nagri. [For more images and details see Morning Star News.] According to a doctor, all the victims received multiple bullet wounds. Around 500 Christians filled the streets and demanded the government improve security.  Amjad Faryad, an uncle of slain Rashid Khalid, gave voice to Christian fears: 'Why are we coming under attack?' he asked. 'Terrorists are freely attacking us but security forces and the provincial government are playing the role of silent spectator.' Once again, ISK-P claimed responsibility. 

Azhar Iqbal's widow grieves outside the hospital, Sunday 15 April 2018.
Photo credit: Arshad Butt/AP.

ISK-P was officially launched in January 2015.  The Pakistan Army rejects ISK-P's claims of responsibility and continues to insist that ISK-P does not have a presence in Balochistan. Similarly, the US rejects Russia's assertion that the growth of ISK-P in Afghanistan is 'rather serious', and has criticised Russia's efforts to foster security co-operation in the region. Yet, according to a report in Jamestown Foundation's Terrorism Monitor (26 January 2018), 'Wilayat-e-Khorasan, the Islamic State (IS) affiliate in the borderlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan, is one of the terrorist group's strongest franchises. Bolstered by defections from the Taliban and boosted further in recent months by an influx of foreign fighters fleeing defeat in Iraq and Syria, IS Khorasan Province (ISK-P) is growing in strength and influence.' Pakistan's Christians, especially those in Quetta, would surely agree with the Russian assessment that this is indeed 'rather serious'.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* protect, comfort, encourage and sustain Pakistan's long-persecuted and increasingly imperilled Christian community, especially the Christians of Quetta who are this day grieving the loss of fellow-believers, neighbours and loved ones. 'But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.' (Psalm 3:3 ESV)

* raise up leaders -- men and women of vision, integrity, justice, courage and strength; in civil society, media and politics (domestic and international) -- who will be God's instruments in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  (See Isaiah 45:1-7, regarding God's anointing of Cyrus, King of Persia, to be God's instrument, though he knew it not. Promise fulfilled: Ezra 1)

* intervene in Afghanistan and Pakistan at the grassroots level; may the Spirit of God move to  open eyes, unstop ears and soften hearts so that evil will be recognised and rejected, and so the Gospel of grace will be seen, heard and received.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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ISLAMIC STATE TARGETS CHRISTIANS IN QUETTA, PAKISTAN

Christians comprise a mere two percent of Pakistan's population. Intolerant, fundamentalist Islam is ascendant and Islamic State -- which is growing in Afghanistan -- is making inroads. On Sunday 17 December suicide bombers targeted a church in Quetta, killing nine worshippers and wounding some fifty. On Easter Monday 2 April gunmen on a motorbike targeted a Christian family in Quetta, wounding a young girl while killing her father and three cousins. On Sunday 15 April gunmen on two motorbikes targeted Christians in Quetta's Isa Nagri (a Christian neighbourhood), killing two and critically wounding three others. After each deadly attack, Islamic State Khorasan Province claimed responsibility. Please pray for God to intervene in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pray for the Church in Pakistan and especially for Quetta's grieving and imperilled believers.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com