By Worthy News Asia Service
PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN (Worthy News)– Minority Christians in Pakistan faced a bloody New Year as local tribesmen prepared for funerals Saturday, January 2, shortly after the deadliest suicide attack in Pakistan's history killed at least 95 people.
At least one Christian, a man, was among the victims of Friday"s car bombing on a volleyball field near Lakki Marwat city, BosNewsLife learned. No more details were immediately available.
Authorities called the attack a New Year's warning from al-Qaida linked fighters to Pakistanis who formed militias to drive out militants from this north western region near the Afghan border. Rescuers were seen searching between the rubble for more bodies.
Pakistan's minority Christians say they are in the cross-fire: They are reportedly confronted by militants fighting Pakistanis and the U.S. backed government and secondly by angry Muslim fighters specifically opposing Christianity in this predominantly Islamic nation.
NO CHRISTMAS CHEER
In the town of Gojra, dozens of Christian families have celebrated Christmas in a tent camp after losing their homes to a rampaging Muslim mob in riots that killed at least eight people earlier this year. One family of seven burned alive in their home during the early August violence, which broke after Muslims accused Christians of desecrating the Koran – considered a "holy book" by Islam.
But it doesn't stop there.
Christians say that after the worst violence against minorities in Pakistan in 2009 left them homeless, they are still regularly harassed. Locals said they've been threatened by mobile phone text messages promising a "special Christmas present," and rocks have been thrown at their camp at night.
Islamic extremists also threatened to attack churches and other Christian institutions in text messages , according to several Christian groups.
SECURITY MEASURES CRITICIZED
The president of the Pakistan Christian Congress, Nazir S. Bhatti, said in published remarks that he was "dissatisfied" with security measures provided by the government.
Back in Gojra, Bishop John Samuel said Christmas services were still held, but added that "people are afraid because of this incident also because of this tussle, this tension."
Pakistani security forces have been accused of not doing enough to prevent attacks against Christians, but authorities claim they have stepped up police patrols. (With additional reporting by Worthy News' Jawad Mazhar in Pakistan and editing by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos).