Pakistani Christians prepare for terrorist attacks

Churches face violence after Asia Bibi acquittal

Police in Pakistan have sent a letter to leaders of Christian organisations, warning them of planned terrorist attacks in connection with the case of the Christian woman accused of blasphemy, Asia Bibi.

The alert by the Lahore Police Inspectorate warns that terrorist organisations – such as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar – are planning attacks aimed at the Christian community, in reaction to Bibi’s acquittal by the Supreme Court on October 31.

According to a report by Agenzia Fides, the news service of the Vatican, the police urged Christian institutions to “pay attention to vigilance,” and reassured them that new security measures would be implemented to protect churches and other Christian gatherings.

“Christians in Pakistan have trust in the security forces.” – Bishop Humphrey Peters

Bishop Humphrey Peters, head of the Church of Pakistan in Peshawar, told Fides the police had given assurances that “they will do everything to protect the churches in the city.”

“We know it is a critical moment,” he added. “Christians in Pakistan have trust in the security forces. We will continue to carry out our role in society, in full cooperation with law enforcement and government.”

Catholic layman Adeel Patras Chaudhry, vice-president of Jesus Life TV, told Fides that Christians would “pay close attention and act with caution in the organisation of gatherings and celebrations at Christmas time.

“We pray for the protection of the faithful.” – Adeel Patras Chaudhry

“We pray for the protection of the faithful and also of the security forces committed to our protection. We are aware of the delicate situation, and collaborate with the police and with the government,” he added.

A spokesperson from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade welcomed the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s decision to overturn Bibi’s blasphemy conviction.

However, the spokesperson would not comment on whether Australia would be prepared to offer Bibi asylum, for fear of putting her or others at risk. The government is aware of sensitive international negotiations regarding Bibi’s future since she was released from jail in the central city of Multan on November 7.

Islamabad has given assurances that Bibi is being kept in a secret, secure location inside Pakistan, pending a permanent place of refuge. However, her escape seems stalled, with the UK refusing her asylum because of security concerns, and Italy and Canada engaged in multilateral talks about her case but neither offering asylum.

It is understood that the Australian government remains deeply concerned about the underlying cause of Bibi’s incarceration – the misuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. With the high-profile case drawing international attention to the plight of Pakistan’s minorities, the Australian government intends to keep raising its concerns about the impact of blasphemy law on minorities through its membership of the UN Human Rights Council.