The Irish Catholic has as its front-page story, written by Mags Gargan and dated 31 March: Irish missionaries vow to stand by Pakistani Christians despite upsurge in violence.
The missionaries quoted in the story are all Irish and are all Columbans. However, not all Columbans in Pakistan are Irish. Fr Dan O'Connor is from New Zealand. There are three Columban seminarians whose two-year First Mission Assignment is ending about now, Chung Beong-Rool Joachim from Korea, Pat Visanti from Fiji and Louie Ybañes from the Philippines. There are also four Columban Sisters. Since 1990 Sisters from Ireland, Korea, Philippines and Scotland have worked there. Columban priests first went to Pakistan in 1978-79. Columban Lay Missionaries, mostly from the Philippines but also from Fiji and Ireland, worked in Pakistan for more than 20 years, though there are none there at the moment.
Featured in the CNN report below [Wikipedia]
CNN features a report today, 4 April: Life as a Christian in Pakistan. While the report clearly focuses on discrimation against minorities, particularly Christians, Simah Mohsin points out the fact that more Muslims than Christians were killed in the Easter Sunday bombing. As one of the Columban priests requested in an email after that evil event: We also feel it is important not just to focus on the Christian victims, as there are many other innocent victims of violence, the majority of whom are Muslim, so we need to keep them all in mind and prayer. The majority of the victims were women and children. It might be enough to ask Columbans to keep all here in prayer.
Bishop Joseph Arshad of Faisalabad [Wikipedia]
One of the Columban priests in Pakistan sent this press release by the National Commission on Justice and Peace of which Bishop Joseph Arshad of Faisalabad is the chairperson.
Condemnation of the bombing in Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park, Lahore
The city of Lahore once again had to face the harsh and tragic outbreak of the extremist forces in a deadly and brutal attack on innocent families visiting the park to celebrate the spring season and the festival of Easter. A few days back the government took an initiative to declare Holi (Hindu festival) and Easter (Christian festival) as holidays. While the non-Muslim community of Pakistan were rejoicing and appreciating the efforts of the government, on March 27, 2016, Easter Sunday, a suicide bomb in Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park killed over 70 and left more than 300 injured. Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan JamaatulAhrar has claimed responsibility for the blast stating it had intentionally targeted the Christian Community on Easter. The National Commission for Justice and Peace, a rights based organization of Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, strongly condemns the tragic attack on innocent people in a public park.
His Lordship Bishop Dr Joseph Arshad, Chairperson NCJP and Rev. Fr Emmanuel Yousaf (Mani) National Director NCJP in a joint statement said that killing innocent people, in particular women and children, in the name of religion is unacceptable. While the motive was to target the Christians, yet so many of our Muslim Brothers, Sisters, Children and families who were also visiting the park on account of Sunday holiday fell victim to this brutal attack. We pray for all the victims of this attack, as they were all Pakistanis. While the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Army Chief have strongly condemned the attack, the commission calls upon the government to bring the perpetrators to justice and to tighten its measures for protection of all citizens including minorities and vulnerable communities.
They further stated that the government while addressing the extremist elements through the military operation needs to also address the root causes of this intolerance. It must conduct a large-scale operation to eliminate such elements that are prevalent in the province of Punjab and other parts of the country, which are operating and blatantly challenging the writ of the state.
Bishop Dr Arshad and Fr Yousaf further stated that the uncertainty of life is becoming more obvious in Pakistan. We thus pray to our Lord Jesus Christ that as a nation He may grant us wisdom, tolerance and peace. May God give strength to the families of the victims to endure the loss of their loved ones.
NCJP Media Cell
Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park, Lahore [Wikipedia]
I wish to express my closeness to all those affected by this cowardly and senseless crime, and ask you to pray to the Lord for the numerous victims and their loved ones.
I appeal to the civil authorities and to all the social components of [Pakistan] to do everything possible to restore security and peace to the population and, in particular, to the most vulnerable religious minorities.
I repeat, once again, that violence and murderous hatred lead only to pain and destruction; respect and fraternity are the only way to achieve peace. The Passover of the Lord inspires in us, in an even more powerful way, prayers to God so that he stops the hands of the violent, who spread terror and death; and makes it possible for love, justice and reconciliation to reign in the world.