The World Council of Churches' (WCC) general secretary, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, has strongly condemned the lethal terror attack in Pakistan on 27 March as shocking and brutal, urging the government to ensure that its communities can be better protected against fanatics.
A suicide bomber killed at least 70 people and wounded more than 300. The attack, responsibility for which has been claimed by a Taliban splinter group, targeted Christian families celebrating Easter Sunday in Gulshan-e-Iqbal park in Lahore. The victims of this attack were predominantly children and women, and included Muslims as well as members of the Christian community.
“This attack is particularly shocking, in the first place because there seems to have been a clear intention deliberately to target young children who were simply enjoying themselves in the freedom of the park,” said Tveit.
“Second, the timing of the attack also appears to have been intended to strike against Pakistan's vulnerable Christian minority on one of the most sacred days in the Christian calendar.”
The evening explosion went off near children’s rides and a parking area in Gulshan-e-Iqbal park in the eastern city of Lahore, the historic centre of Christianity in Pakistan. The area was crowded with people celebrating the Easter holidays, and many families were leaving the park when the blast occurred.
Tveit commented, “In the face of this brutality, the human family, all people of faith and of good will, must stand together to recommit to respecting and caring for one another, to protecting one another, and to preventing such violence.”
The WCC general secretary encouraged prayer for and solidarity with the victims and those close to them. He also called on the government and authorities of Pakistan to “do more to protect all people in Pakistan, whether Christians, Muslims, or of any other religion or belief, from the violence perpetrated by such extremist sectarian criminals.”
Tveit underlined that “The principle of freedom of religion and belief for all people must be affirmed and protected in Pakistan, and throughout the world, as a fundamental ethical and legal responsibility of government.”
Tveit concluded, “Any reference to violence in the name of religion or motivated by religion (like in Aberdeen) is particularly unacceptable and dangerous.”