By Worthy News Asia Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (Worthy News)– Suspected Muslim militants with links to the terror groups Al Qaeda and the Taliban attacked a historic church in northwestern Pakistan and burned Bibles and other Christian books, but police are reluctant to investigate the case and detain suspects, Christians said Tuesday, May 26.
The destruction of the St. George Grecian Church was discovered by workers renovating the building, said the church's pastor Ijaz Masih in a statement distributed by rights group International Christian Concern (ICC).
Masih said that shortly after he presided over a Sunday service, workers “were shocked when they arrived” in the morning of May 12, “and found the church's cross broken in pieces, the altar demolished and partially burned, Bibles and hymnbooks burned and torn apart, and the pews reduced to ashes.”
He said attackers also ransacked bathrooms and cemented over a plaque inscribed with the names of the donors responsible for the original construction of the building.
ICC quoted local Christians as saying they were “astounded” that the attackers could sneak into the church and vandalize it without being noticed by anyone in the neighborhood. “They are especially concerned because the church is located within a military zone and thus is considered to be in a very secure location.”
Ijaz said he had started as the pastor of St. George Church two years ago, and that the Christians in Bannu Cantt had been living peacefully with their Muslim neighbors. He believes the attack was carried out by “radical Muslims linked to the Taliban or Al Qaeda with the goal of provoking a clash between local Christians and Muslims.”
A Christian advocacy group in Pakistan, the Center for Legal Aid, Assistance, and Settlement (CLAAS), said that although police have registered the attack, “they are not investigating it as they would if the attack had been on a mosque.” There was no immediate comment from police, although the government has pledged to crackdown on Islamic extremists.
ICC Advocacy Director Jeremy Sewall told Worthy News in a statement that his group has urged Christians to "Please pray for the members of St. George, that God would give them courage in the midst of this frightening situation.”
Sewall said the attack comes amid concerns that that “Muslim radicals continue to operate with impunity in Pakistan," despite a recent military offensive against Taliban militant positions in areas such as the Swat Valley in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), some 160 kilometers (100 miles) from Islamabad, the capital.