Muslims rally around Christians in Pakistan after church blast

(Photo: REUTERS / Mohsin Raza)Members of the Pakistani Christian community hold placards during a protest rally in Lahore to condemn Sunday's suicide attack on a church in Peshawar, September 24, 2013. A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the 130-year-old Anglican church in Pakistan after Sunday mass, killing at least 78 people in the deadliest attack on Christians in the predominantly Muslim country.

The world heard about it when Mohammad Jibran Nasir blogged, "I asked my Imam to condemn the Peshawar Church Blast, will you?"

It started around September 28 after he had set up a Facebook page.

Later on October 6, carrying signs that read, "One Nation, One Blood", "Many faiths, one God" and "No more dialogue, only action!" between 200-300 Muslim Pakistanis peacefully gathered around St. Anthony's Church in Lahore while Mass was held inside the church.

The people gathered in support of the victims of the attack on All Saints Church in Peshawar where a twin suicide attack killed more than 100 Christian Pakistanis on September 22.

Standing in the courtyard of St. Anthony's Church, Mufti Mohammad Farooq delivered a sermon, quoting the Quran, preaching respect for other beliefs.

Father Nasir Gulfam joined him after the two-hour Mass service ended.

The two faith leaders stood holding hands as part of the human chain made up of Pakistani Muslims and Christians in a show of solidarity.

The attacks occurred at the end of a service at All Saints Church in Peshawar, an area where an Islamist insurgency has taken place in recent years.

Sahibzada Anees, one of Peshawar's senior officials, reported, "We are in an area which is a target of terrorism and within that area there was a special security arrangement for the church. We are in a rescue phase and once it is over we will investigate what went wrong."

Pakistan's Ulema Council, an association of leading Muslim scholars, strongly condemned the church attack.

Allama Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, chief of the council, told Agence France-Presse (AFP), "It is an extremely shameful attack which has shamed all Pakistanis and Muslims."

Participating in the human chain was Mohammad Jibran Nasir, an organizer for Pakistan for All.

Nasir had helped lead a similar event a week earlier and also went to his blog on The Express Tribune to persuade Pakistanis to ask their Imams to preach about tolerance, minority rights and to condemn the attacks on the Peshawar Church.

Nasir wrote up his own experience of speaking with his local Imam, who hesitantly agreed to speak out for minority rights over a couple weeks.

He wrote of the experience, "It is a tough fight but it is a good fight and it has to be fought the long and hard way."

Nasir spoke out during the Lahore gathering saying, "The terrorists showed us what they do on Sundays. Here we are showing them what we do on Sundays. We unite."

The human chain at St. Anthony's Church gathered momentum after the church service ended. The service, attended by Christians and Muslims, was dedicated to prayers for the victims of the September 22 attacks.

More people joined the crowd as they moved into the streets, chanting their slogans of "One Nation, One Blood."

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