The market bombing appeared to target a neighborhood with a strong Hazaras population, who are known as a Shi’a Muslim ethnic group. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom condemned the attack.
Since December 2018 the U.S. Department of State has designated Pakistan as a “country of particular concern” (CPC) because of the nation’s continuous violations of religious freedom. To put it simply, religious minorities are perpetually in the crosshairs of extremists.
Attacks During Holy Week
Our sources report that last Saturday, one day after the market bombing, Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi made comments in Islamabad claiming terrorism had been defeated in the country while speaking to Islamic scholars at a conference. As Christians in the country celebrate Holy Week and prepare for Easter services, extremists are no doubt ramping up their campaign against religious minorities. While police presence in certain areas has increased, the increases are due to the attacks in the area, not protection for said minorities.
Furthermore, Bruce Allen with FMI says the government has conducted media blackouts to prevent word of terror attacks from spreading. Unless the event happens locally, most Pakistanis are unaware of what is happening in their own country. However, FMI-supported churches are kept informed through various contacts.
“I’ve made sure that we’ve had constant communication with our partners in those areas. They’re all safe…They’re moving ahead with their ministry activities. They already know that they have to be discreet, careful, in terms of how they do ministry on a regular basis. Now that’s just heightened a little bit for them. But they’re preparing to celebrate a victorious Easter Sunday coming up,” Allen says.
Preparing for Worship
In preparation for Holy Week, FMI-supported pastors in Pakistan met together on Monday to discuss how best to protect their churches and congregations moving forward this week. On this Good Friday, as we move towards celebrating the victory of the cross, Allen asks for prayers.
“It’s during this very week, what we call Holy Week today, that Jesus instructed [the] first disciples about terrorism, injustice, and imminent persecution, and yet he encourages them with the conclusion that they should be at peace and be of good cheer because he is greater than any evil in the world…We want to pray for the Christians in Pakistan, that they would be filled with that peace, that courage, that hope,” Allen says.
Pray for government leaders in Pakistan and for God’s wisdom in their decisions for the country. Also, pray for FMI-supported Christian leaders in Pakistan to utilize their recent training regarding managing risk and security. Pray these leaders would have opportunities to share what they have learned with non-FMI-supported Christian leaders so that the Pakistani Church is prepared to engage with its culture with wisdom and hope.
Header photo courtesy of FMI.