Churches in Pakistan, condemning the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, have appealing for international help in eradicating terrorism in their country - writes Anto Akkara.
"We earnestly appeal to the national and global communities and specifically churches to pray for the welfare of the State of Pakistan which is passing through a very difficult period of its history and to encourage the nation to bear such a big loss," the National Council of Churches in Pakistan said in a statement last week.
The grouping of four Protestant churches strongly condemned "the brutal assassination" of Bhutto, who was killed on 27 December near Islamabad while campaigning for national elections. Voting has been postponed from 8 January to 18 February 2008 following the violence triggered by the assassination.
The council further urged the "global communities to help the Pakistani nation and its government machinery to eradicate the terrorism which is playing havoc with the lives of the innocent people and disturbing the peace of Pakistan and a great hurdle in the restoration of true democracy in Pakistan".
Describing Bhutto's death as "a national loss", the National Commission for Justice and Peace, a human-rights body of the Roman Catholic Church, said the assassination "raised questions about the effectiveness of the so-called war against extremism".
"The re-occurrence of suicide bombing manifests the impunity available to terrorists to take lives of the innocent people," said the commission.
Calling for respect for "a soul who fought courageously to bring down hatred and division", the commission stated that "the tragedy should be properly investigated without delay and the culprits behind this should be brought to justice".
Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the commission, told Ecumenical News International that Bhutto’s return from exile was a "big boost to the democratic forces" and that her assassination was "an onslaught on democracy itself".
Video images and still photos that have emerged since the assassination show a man in sunglasses pointing a firearm at Bhutto and a man near her clad in white, believed to be a suicide bomber who detonated explosives just after shots were fired. Government agencies have denied any security lapse after the explosion that killed at least 20 people.
[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.]