Gunmen open fire during church service in Pakistan, Leaders fear police silence will encourage more violence.


PATOKI, Pakistan: At least three armed men entered St. Paul's Church firing several rounds during a Sunday prayer service in Patoki, Pakistan, on Sunday, Jan. 25. No injuries were reported.

According to eye-witnesses, three of the attackers, Azad Hussein, Mohammad Ali and Amanat Ali, yelled: "We will teach you a lesson and even demolish your church," while firing several rounds from semi-automatic weapons during the service. "These men have a butcher shop in front of our church," Rev. Saleem Gill, the church pastor said. "They throw [animal] remains in our compound, which is nauseating to worshippers." According to Gill, prior to the attack, the three men would often disrupt services by playing loud music and taunting congregants, especially women, with continued harassment and vulgarity. When church officials asked these men to stop their disturbance, the men threatened to demolish their building and entered the church premises the next day to open fire, Gill said. The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) sent a team of investigators to the location and filed a complaint with the local Sadder Police Station on Jan. 27. "We are making all efforts to get justice and to highlight this case for appropriate action," Shahbaz Bhatti, chairman of the APMA said. "The Christian community is fearful that the perpetrators will return to attack again if authorities will not deal seriously with this case." Bhatti claims that police are often reluctant to protect non-Muslim minorities and have sought to "hush up" this incident. He says he is concerned that the callousness of the police regarding this attack may encourage increased violence against Christians and other non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan. St. Paul's Church serves 80 Christian families living in town of Patoki, district of Kasor, where approximately 700 Muslim families reside. On Jan. 15, extremists set off two explosions at Holy Trinity Church in Karachi, causing numerous injuries and extensive damage. Since 2001, there have been a series of attacks by Islamic militants on Western and Christian targets in Pakistan.

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