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April 17, 2018

The colour red


April 17, 2018

The white portion in Pakistan’s flag has been stained repeatedly with blood from members of the country’s minority communities. These stains were added to again when two members of Quetta’s Christian community were killed and five others injured when unidentified attackers on a motorcycle opened fire on them as they left a church in the Esa Nagri area. The attackers were then able to escape as panic spread among members of the community leaving the church after Sunday service. This is not the first attack on Christians in Quetta. Earlier this month, as Christians observed Easter four members of a family travelling in a rickshaw were killed when unidentified gunmen opened fire on them. The Christian family had come from Punjab to visit relatives. Late last year, nine Christians were killed in a suicide attack on a church. The 400 others inside the church suffered injuries but were saved by guards who prevented the bombers from entering the building.

The attack on Christians follows a pattern established over many years. Christians have been killed in attacks on their churches and residences in other parts of the country, notably in Punjab. The attacks in Quetta are relatively new, with Shias usually the primary target of previous killings in the provincial capital and other parts of Balochistan. The Christian community there has historically remained low key. They have however increasingly become the target of extremist groups in many parts of the country. The manner in which this is affecting communal harmony is alarming. Perhaps religious scholars need to take the lead in reminding people that Christians have traditionally been respected in Muslim societies.

The repeated attacks in Quetta appear to be the actions of a single group. We are familiar with groups which have remained active in the past in the province. The security apparatus also has a duty here to track down these elements and ensure they are not able to operate with so much impunity. Pakistan needs to show the world that it is a country where all faiths are respected and every citizen granted security of life. To achieve this, the teaching of tolerance needs to be expanded to school curricula, the media and other forums. It is essential for the sake of our country and its future that we are able to achieve this. Pakistan was always intended to provide a safe living space for all groups. We must not allow a few extremist elements to ruin this vision and to tarnish the image of our country.

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