Christians protest deadly Taliban church attacks

FAISALABAD/LAHORE: Members of the Christian community on Monday took to the streets in Faisalabad and Lahore to register their protest over a Taliban attack on two churches in Lahore which left 15 people dead and more than 70 injured.

The bombings on Sunday occurred during prayers at two churches located around half a kilometre apart in the city’s Youhanabad neighbourhood that is home to more than 100,000 Christians.

Approximately 100 protesters gathered at Faisalabad’s Millat road today where they burnt tires and attacked a rickshaw. The protesters also blocked the Kamalpur Interchange on Faisalabad motorway.

Protesters in Lahore - DawnNews screen grab
Protesters in Lahore – DawnNews screen grab

The protesters then headed to Zila Council Chowk where they are expected to continue their demonstrations. Protests have been taking place in various parts of Faisalabad since Sunday.

Following an attack on a metro bus in Lahore, authorities shortened bus routes today as approximately 200 people continued to protest in various parts of the provincial capital such as Youhanabad, Nishtar Colony and Bund road.

Metro Bus Authority Managing Director Sibtain told DawnNews that approximately 6,000 people had travelled on the metro bus since 6am. He requested the protesters to remain peaceful, adding that he is with them in their time of sorrow.

Women have also gathered for a sit-in protest and prayers for the deceased led by a priest in Youhanabad.

“The purpose of the sit-in is to shed light on the fact that the Christian community should be given protection and peaceful living conditions,” one of the protesters told DawnNews.

People gathered to record their protest against the deadly church attacks - DawnNews screen grab
People gathered to record their protest against the deadly church attacks – DawnNews screen grab

Read more: 15 killed in Taliban attack on Lahore churches

Sunday’s attacks were the worst on the community since a devastating 2013 double suicide-bombing in Peshawar that killed 82 people. That attack came months after more than 3,000 protesters torched some 100 houses as they rampaged through Joseph Colony, another Christian neighbourhood of Lahore, following blasphemy allegations against a Christian man.

The thousands of Christian protesters who clashed with police on Sunday attacked their cars with stones and sticks, as women wept and beat their heads and chests.

The protesters, some wearing crosses round their necks, later turned on the city’s bus rapid transit system — a signature project of the ruling PML-N party of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Christians make up around two per cent of Pakistan’s mainly Muslim population of 180 million. They have been targeted in attacks and riots in recent years, often over allegations of blasphemy.