Pakistan Catholics concerned for minorities after terror attack

(Photo: REUTERS / Faisal Mahmood)Members of the Pakistani Christian community hold placards and wooden crosses during a demonstration to condemn the death of a Christian couple in a village in Punjab province on Tuesday, in Islamabad November 5, 2014. Police in Pakistan arrested dozens of people after a mob beat a Christian couple to death and burned their bodies for allegedly desecrating a Quran.

Catholics in Pakistan have reiterated their appeal to the government for heightened security and protection after Islamic extremists carried out a new attack on a minority community last week.

In a statement, the Catholic Church's National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) called for more protection from the government against threatening groups.

It came after 45 members of the minority Shia Ismaili community had been gunned down by several Sunni groups, including the Islamic State.

"We demand from both the federal government and provincial governments to take serious and effective measures to prevent such atrocities and also plead to increase security for all minority groups," read the statement.

It was signed by Karachi Archbishop Joseph Coutts and NCJP National Director Father Saleh Diego, reported.

Gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Ismailis as it motored along Karachi streets on May 13, an attack which the NCJP deemed as "killing of innocent people on the basis of their faith."

Extremists who took responsibility for last week's massacre pledged to continue mounting attacks on minority groups such as Christians.

On May 15, the NCJP led a special service at Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Karachi to pray for the victims and show solidarity with the Ismaili community. Coutts, who presided over the service, said the attacks could be a ploy to divide religious groups in Pakistan.

"Our aim should be to foil such attempts and bridge the distance between religious groups," Coutts said.

For his part, Diego pointed out that minority groups, regardless of belief, should band together to form a united front against people who want to create division among them.

"We should demonstrate unity to raise our voice against atrocities being committed by militants in Pakistan," he said. "We want to give a message to terrorists that we all are Pakistanis and no force, no religious leader and no government can divide us."

Ismailis are Shia Muslims who revere the Imam Ismail. They are about 15 million around the world, and about 500,000 live in Pakistan.

Like its neighbor India, Pakistan had been categorized as a "country of particular concern" by a U.S. congressional commission gauging religious freedom around the world.

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