On 17 December, two suicide bombers attacked a church named Bethel Memorial Methodist in Pakistan. A week before Christmas, there were at least 400 people in attendance at the church. The assailant detonated a bomb he was carrying inside his vest near the doors of the entrance to the main hall. There was to be another suicide bomber, but he was put down by police after a failed attempt to detonate his jacket. In the wake of this tragedy, at least five are dead and 35 more are severely injured. The Islamic State, otherwise known as ISIS, has taken responsibility for the attacks. According to the New York Times, however, Pakistani officials claim that the group had nothing to do with the bombs. Islamabad, where the Church was based, has been at the centre of multiple terrorist attacks, all of which ISIS has claimed. This raises questions about the safety of the religious minority population in Pakistan, as it is well known that the Pakistani government has made very few efforts to ensure just treatment and protection of religious minorities.
The church that was attacked was Christian; about two million out of Pakistan’s total population of 198 million are of the Christian faith. Shamaun Alfred Gill, a Christian political and social activist based in Pakistan, claims that Pakistani law enforcement and government branches have failed to protect and show compassion for the Christian population. He states, “December is a month of Christian religious rituals. We had demanded the government beef up security for churches all over the country. But they failed to do so.”
The Los Angeles Times reports details of the crime scene with the help of local Pakistani news channels. The scene is chaotic and tragic – inside the church, everything is flipped over and in disarray as panicked people try to navigate the scene. They describe some of the victims screaming as they run out of the church, and others staying behind to look for the bodies/remains of their loved ones. The tragedy of what has happened is immense, as well as the uncertainty of what is to come.
Whether ISIS was the terrorist group that perpetrated this attack or not, this was a blatant act of terror. It has happened before and it will most likely happen again if preventative measures are not taken. In accordance with what Mr. Gil said above, the Pakistani government and law enforcement need to extend their reach and strength and ensure the safety of all their people, religious minorities or not. They should be receptive to suggestions like those of Mr. Gil, and need to work in accordance with their citizens. Furthermore, issues like these need to be publicized more widely. It seems as though this kind of terror attack is only a fleeting moment of worthwhile news – one that barely ripples across the globe. Instead, we should all be made aware of the terror that ensues in parts of the world. ISIS and other militant groups run rampant and the world must acknowledge that their terrorizing goes well beyond the Western world.