Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed Monday to root out terrorism after a deadly suicide bombing targeted Christians enjoying an Easter outing, but the scale of the challenge faced by Christians was evident both in the carnage and in a mass protest by radical Islamists angered by the execution of a man they revere for killing a provincial governor accused of blaspheming Islam.
For Christians, the two events on Sunday – one in the Punjab capital, Lahore; the other in the federal capital, Islamabad – highlight the dangers they face in a country where even mutually hostile Islamists share a common animosity towards followers of Jesus Christ.
The group that claimed responsibility for the bombing in a Lahore park is a Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) offshoot formed in 2014 and calling itself Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which has publicly declared support for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Although victims included Christians and Muslims, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar’s spokesman boasted that the “martyrdom” operation was directed at “Christians as they were celebrating Easter,” and pledged more such attacks. Most of the at least 72 people killed were women and children, police reported. More than 300 people were injured.