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Expression of deep concern about the safety and security of the Christian minority in Pakistan

29 October 2001

Letter to H.E. General Pervaiz Musharraf, President of the Republic, 29 October 2001.

Your Excellency,

The World Council of Churches is deeply concerned by the act of terror committed in Bahawalpur on 28 October, when masked gunmen attacked the St Dominic's Roman Catholic Church where Sunday's services were being conducted by Pastor Emmanuel Allah Ditta of the Church of Pakistan. As a result of indiscriminate firing by the gunmen, 17 worshippers were killed and around 30 others were injured including women and children.

The World Council of Churches has followed with concern the recent developments in the region. In a letter sent to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan on 2 October by Dr Konrad Raiser, the WCC General Secretary, the Council expressed its apprehension of the military action initiated by the International Coalition in Afghanistan. The Council appealed to the United States and the United Kingdom to bring a prompt end to this action.

We are aware of the difficulties faced by the people of Pakistan and your government as a result of the continuous bombings in Afghanistan that have resulted in an increasing number of civilian casualties. This has caused resentment and division within Pakistan society. While appreciating the manner in which Your Excellency's government has handled the present crisis, we nevertheless are deeply concerned about the safety and security of the Christian minority in the present highly charged environment of religious intolerance.

The National Council of Churches in Pakistan has supported the government's decision to join the International Coalition to fight terrorism. In view of Sunday's killings in the church at Bahawalpur, it has asked that a judicial inquiry be held into the incident so that those found guilty of this heinous act can be brought to justice.

The World Council of Churches supports the demand of the National Council of Churches in Pakistan. While we remain supportive of Your Excellency's government in these difficult times, we urge that all necessary measures be undertaken to provide safety and security to the Christian minority in Pakistan.

                                                                                                                                 Respectfully yours,

                                                                                                                                 Georges Lemopoulos
                                                                                                                                 Acting General Secretary