BY SIMON MARTELL!
CHRISTIANS were again the victims of brutal violence in Pakistan, when Islamic militants carried out two attacks on separate targets in less than a week.
Local Christians were targetted by the terrorists in the highly volatile region, and security at Christian sites across the whole country is now under review.
But Alexander John Malik, Bishop of Lahore and the senior cleric in the Protestant Church of Pakistan, denounced the killings.
"If they (Islamic militants) think that by targeting us they might change the policies of America and England, they are mistaken."
In the first attack this month, four gunmen burst into the Muree Christian School near Pakistani-administered Kashmir and opened fire indiscriminately, killing six Pakistanis.
Three men suspected of carrying out the attacks were challenged by police shortly afterwards, at a checkpoint in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, and blew themselves up.
Before killing themselves they allegedly warned that several other groups like them planned to carry out similar attacks on Americans.
The escalation of violence and fears of further attacks on Western targets have already caused three consulates to halt operations in Islamabad.
Then last Friday, on the very morning that the Australian Cricket Board announced its decision to cancel the team's tour of Pakistan scheduled for October because of safety concerns, unidentified attackers hurled grenades into the chapel at a western-financed missionary hospital about 25 miles from Islamabad killing three Pakistani nurses.
Another nurse died in hospital on Sunday this week from injuries sustained in the attack Hospital administrator Jospeh Tall said: `This is a matter of great sadness for our country. It will cause fear — especially among Christians. We feel trapped."
According to police, the attackers had been waiting outside the Presbyterian hospital chapel and threw the explosives at a crowd of women leaving the daily morning service.
More than 20 of the missionary staff were injured, two seriously, and one of the assailants was found dead.
Until then, it was believed that the earlier attack on the school was aimed at westerners rather than Pakistan's Chris flan minority, because staff and students were mainly foreign.
Now it appears that the distinction is blurred at best and that the persecution of Pakistan's Christian community is in fact escalating. A note written by the killers was discovered at the school. It stated that they were avenging • Muslims in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The subsequent hospital attack was the fourth on a Christian target in Pakistan since President Pervez Mushanuf joined the US-led campaign against al, Qaeda and the Taleban last autumn. Police said the attacker has been identified as a member of a "banned religious faction".
"Ever since Pakistan decided to join international efforts against terrorism, it has been subject to such incidents," said Information Minister Nisar Memon in a statement.
He described the killings as "a sinister attempt to drive a wedge between the Muslim and Christian communities in Pakistan."
Among the killings in Pakistan in the last nine months was the Bahawalpur massacre at St Dominic's Catholic Chuath in October. Eighteen Protestant worshippers and one Muslim policeman were killed.
Christians represent one pei. cent of the Pakistani population: