Deploring what he called yesterday “a cowardly and senseless crime”, Pope Francis yesterday appealed to the civil authorities in Pakistan to protect vulnerable religious minorities following the deaths of 72 mostly Christians in an Easter Day suicide attack on a park in Lahore.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the bombing that killed 29 children and their parents and left 240 injured. The Islamic fanatics said the attack was intended to kill Christians, who make up almost 2 per cent of Pakistan’s population and have long been vulnerable to sectarian violence (see AP backgrounder).
The Pope in St Peter’s Square yesterday called for a minute’s silence to remember the victims, following his Regina Coeli address which during Eastertide replaces the Angelus.
“I wish to express my closeness to all those affected by this cowardly and senseless crime, and ask you to pray to the Lord for the numerous victims and their loved ones,” Pope Francis said, adding: “I appeal to the civil authorities and to all the social components of that nation, that they do everything possible to restore security and tranquility to the population and, in particular, the most vulnerable religious minorities.”
Cardinal Vincent Nichols today described the bombing in Lahore as “despicable and utterly contemptible”. In a tweet, the Archbishop of Westminster said that “evil will never defeat goodness”.
Lahore, the capital of Punjab, is the power base of the Pakistani president, Nawaz Sharif, whose democratically elected government is contested by the Taliban, who wish to impose sharia law.
Violence against the 3m-strong Pakistani Christian minority is nothing new. A year ago two suicide bombers killed 17 and wounded 78 in an attack on a Christian neighbourhood in Lahore.