Pakistanis are mourning those killed and wounded in a series of terrorist attacks which have taken place this week in the country, including one on a Sufi shrine that left more than 80 people dead.
“People in Pakistan are above all sad; they are also angry with the institutions that are not able to protect citizens. Finally they feel fragile, vulnerable, helpless in the face of [a] terrorist threat that spares no one,” Fr. Inayat Bernard, director of Santa Maria Seminary in Lahore, told Fides.
“We condemn this senseless violence against innocent human beings. Before any ethnic, cultural or religious connotation, the victims are human beings,” he continued.
A suicide bomber reportedly loyal to the Islamic State attacked devotees at a Sufi shrine in Sehwan, more than 90 miles northwest of Hyderabad, on Thursday. In addition to the more than 80 killed in the attack, some 250 were wounded. Sufism is a form of Islamic mysticism which the Islamic State opposes, in part because it reveres individuals it regards as saints. The shrine in Sehwan which was attacked is devoted to Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a Sufi poet and philosopher of the 13th century.
Since Monday, there have also been terrorist attacks or attempts in Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar, Mohmand, and Arawan.
In a security crackdown in response to the attacks, Pakistani forces have killed more than 100 militants. It has closed border crossings with Afghanistan, whence it claims the militants were based.
“Today we know that we are all potential targets,” Fr. Bernard commented. “Even us Christians – no one is excluded. The victims of these latest attacks are all Muslims, tomorrow it could be the turn of a Christian, a Hindu or a Sikh. This indiscriminate violence hits places of worship, such as the Sufi mosque in Karachi, or churches in the past.”
He lamented that “religious communities are forced to adopt their own security measures and cannot rely on the government. There should be more control, but it is very difficult when there is a great influx of faithful.”
“This violence profanes the name of God, profanes Islam and uses religion to try to overthrow the state. Public opinion strongly calls on the government to urgently implement the national action plan against terrorism, already outlined, but there is some hesitation on behalf of the government and this gives rise to many questions on the possible existing connections even in the institutional apparatus. We are in an impasse”.
Catholics in Pakistan are called to “pray and show deep empathy and solidarity” to the Sufi victims in Sehwan, he said.
“We brought our condolences to the police, after the massacre in Lahore; we go to hospitals to offer assistance and solidarity to the injured,” he said.
He added that interreligious meetings are being organized “to reject, in the name of God, [the] terrorism that has bloodied our beloved nation, and say yes to peace and respect for life.”