Churches in Pakistan have joined in widespread condemnation of the bomb blasts that killed 139 people people and injured over 500 among the crowds thronging the streets to welcome former prime minister Benazir Bhutto home from her self-imposed exile.
Ecumenical, Protestant and Catholic leaders, a small and often under-pressure minority in the largely Muslim nation, have joined the appeal for calm, the restoration of order, and addressing political differences without violence.
Archbishop Lawrence John Saldanha of Lahore Catholic archdiocese strongly deplored the suicide attacks on Pakistan’s former premier’s welcome gathering in Karachi, in a statement issued late last week.
The head of the Catholic bishop's conference said that there should be a fair and speedy enquiry into the incident. He urged people of all faiths to work for peace, harmony and reconciliation in the country.
A joint press statement from Saldanha and Peter Jacob, chair and executive secretary of the Churches' National Commission for Justice and Peace, declared: “We strongly condemn this loss of innocent lives and express solidarity and condolences with the families of the deceased.”
They continued: “We consider the killings at Karachi an act of extreme cowardice and terrorism and demand that the government should ensure the safety of the lives of citizens. We also demand a fair and prompt enquiry of the tragic incident and strict action against the culprits. We also call upon citizens irrespective of religion, cast and creed to work for peace and harmony in the country”.
Ms Bhutto said after the attack that she plans to continue to live in the country, working for democracy. She was not going to be deterred by carnage or threats, she said, adding that courage for peace and justice was owed to those who had lost their lives.
The suicide attack left at least 139 people dead, including three police officers. Current estimates suggest more than 560 have been injured. The authorities expect the figures to rise.