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In prayer for the innocent victims

· The Archbishop of Lahore ·

A “Day of prayer for the innocent lives of martyrs” is how today the Christians of Pakistan are remembering the victims of Sunday's terrorist attacks as well as those who have been killed in the recent past simply for professing their faith.

It was a day dedicated to sorrow and tears, while the Christian community is questioning a future more insecure than ever. “We live in fear”, explained Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw of Lahore, who spoke by telephone to L'Osservatore Romano after a security meeting that he attended along with local authorities. “We asked for security and protection. But I must say that these attacks are difficult to foresee and to prevent. They involve well-organized people, whom we do not know much about at this time. They appear to be Taliban but we have no way to tell whether or not they have ties with IS extremists”.

Regarding Sunday's attack, the Archbishop stated, “No one could have expected it”. The fear is that the local community may act in a fit rage when, instead, what is called for most of all is calm. “We are cooperating, we are receiving sufficient help from the authorities”, the Archbishop said repeatedly, thanking the Holy Father for the beautiful words he said at the Angelus and also for his closeness. The local media, the prelate explained, are providing a range of news regarding what is happening to the Christian community, perhaps spurred by Pope Francis' intervention. This helps them to feel less isolated, although it does not suffice, as noted by the Justice and Peace Commission of the Bishops' Conference of Pakistan. In a letter the Commission exhorted the Government “to adopt strong measures to protect the churches and the religious minorities in Pakistan”, recalling that “the Christian community has already been targeted by extremists in the past”. It was also recalled in the letter that the churches “had already been subjected to threats and have already asked police for greater security measures”. However the sensation today is that, for Christians, security is only a mirage.

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