Churches in Pakistan have deplored the killing of six World Vision staff members as the international Christian humanitarian organisation announced it has suspended its operations in the country - writes Anto Akkara from Bangalore, India.
Dean Owen of World Vision said after the attack, "All of World Vision’s operations in the country have been suspended for the time being." He said World Vision had received "no threatening letters" before the killing.
Owen told Mission Network News, "There were somewhere between 15 and 20 individuals who broke into our compound. They shot up the staff and robbed the staff of jewellery, money, computers, and phones. World Vision typically loses one staff member a year to violence; never, ever in our 60-year history have we lost six in one day."
News agency reports said unidentified gunmen lined up the staff at a field hospital in the small town of Ogi in the Mansehra district on 10 March and shot them indiscriminately before detonating bombs that damaged the building housing the healthcare facilities for those affected by the earthquake that ravaged the area in 2005.
In addition to the deaths, eight staff members were injured.
"This kind of barbarous act is against the suffering humanity," the National Council of Churches in Pakistan said in a statement.
Following the devastating earthquake that resulted in the deaths of about 100 000 people in Pakistan, leaving its infrastructure shattered, World Vision had been operating relief centres in the North West Frontier Province, an area that is often troubled by violence.
"All the people who were killed belong to [the] Islamic faith," said the national church council, a grouping of four traditional Protestant churches in the Muslim majority nation.
Victor Azariah, NCCP General Secretary, told Ecumenical News International from his office in Lahore on 11 March, that the attack seemed to be linked to the "Taliban movement, which is against the American presence in any shape."
Rich Stearns, World Vision US president, said in a statement that he mourns "the terrible loss to the World Vision family" with its six staff members killed "in a brutal and senseless attack".
He noted, "Our work in Pakistan is conducted by local citizens." While mourning the staff "who died as dedicated workers seeking to improve the lives of people affected by poverty and disasters", the statement reiterated that "we remain committed to helping children, families, and communities in this country".
Several international organisations operating in Pakistan's troubled border areas with Afghanistan have come under deadly attack, including suicide bomb blasts, in recent months from pro-Taliban groups in Pakistan.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International  is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]