Attack fears mar Christmas in Pakistan

 Escorted by his bodyguards Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, attends  a ceremony in Tehran, Iran on Sunday, Dec. 24, 2006. President Mah...


Escorted by his bodyguards Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, attends a ceremony in Tehran, Iran on Sunday, Dec. 24, 2006. President Mah...

There were no Jingle Bells, pine trees on the streets or massive shopping sprees as Pakistani Christians prepared yesterday to celebrate Christmas amid lingering fears of attacks by radical Muslims.
Security has been tightened around churches in the capital and other cities where Christians, who account for about 3.8 million of Pakistan's 140 million people, attended Christmas ceremonies, Sikandar Hayat, a senior Islamabad police officer, said.
There are 31 churches in Islamabad and the surrounding district and "we have given security cover to all of them," Hayat said. Metal detectors were in place for most services and armed escorts will guard parishioners, church officials said.
Signs of Christmas can be seen in luxury hotels and shopping centers frequented by foreigners, but Pakistani Christians - feeling threatened by Islamic radicals even though there have been no major attacks in recent years - celebrated in their homes.
Suspected militants had in the past attacked Christian and Western targets in Pakistan, apparently to express anger over Pakistan's support for the U.S.-led war against terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan.
The radicals set off grenades at a church inside Islamabad's heavily guarded diplomatic enclave in 2002, killing five people including two Americans.
Two assailants covered in burqas, the all-encompassing garment worn by women in some Islamic countries, tossed a grenade into the tiny Protestant church in the village of Chianwala east of Islamabad four years ago, as about 40 people were attending a Christmas Eve service inside. Three girls were killed and several worshipers were injured.
Even though there have been only sporadic attacks since then, there are fears among Christians they could be targeted again.
"I visited Liberty market last night to buy some gifts," said Masroor Raza, 19, a Forman Christian College student, while standing next to his three college mates in the eastern city of Lahore. "I completed my shopping at earliest and hurried away from the market. You know the security reasons; it's Christmas Eve."
Many Christians complain that life is tough for them in a country dominated by Muslims.
"There's no joy for us this Christmas," said Bashiran Masih, a mother of five living in a drab Christian colony in Karachi, a hotbed of Islamic militants. "We don't feel safe."
"It's at Christmas time when we feel most left out," Masih was quoted as saying by the Dawn daily newspaper. "We live in ghettos and work as cleaners. Christmas is just another day which makes me feel that I'm not a part of" Pakistan.
Reverend Irfan Jamail of a Protestant church in Islamabad said that despite the problems facing non-Muslims in Pakistan, the Christmas tradition goes on.
"We start our worshipping near midnight and pray for out community, for the people of Pakistan and the country," Jamail said.

Updated : 2021-04-17 04:01 GMT+08:00