On Sunday, two suicide bombers targeted a Pakistani church during a nativity service celebrating Christmas. The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed nine Christians and wounded 59 others.
“When Pak-Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus they are viewed as demons. I fear for them, I pray for them, I will no doubt weep some more for them,” Wilson Chowdhry, president of the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), said in a statement after the attack.
The ISIS bombers reportedly targeted women and children at Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in the town of Quetta in the region of Baluchistan while 400 Christians were celebrating the birth of Jesus by watching a nativity play for the third Sunday in Advent. BPCA placed the number of Christians killed at 8, but a Reuters report said at least 9 had been killed and 53 injured.
Two Islamists between the ages of 15 and 20 armed with guns and suicide vests burst through the gate of the church. While security forces shot one of the bombers dead at the gate, the other detonated his bomb inside the church courtyard. He chanted praise to Allah as he set off the explosion.
“I heard loud gunfire and people screaming, some of them fell dead after being shot through the walls others were riven in blood, then a loud explosion occurred, there was dust everywhere people were rushing to help those injured. It was terrifying,” a witness who was wounded in the attack told BPCA.
“It was so surreal we could not see who was shooting at us, we could only hear it and see the pain on people’s faces and blood everywhere,” she added. “I simply froze and prayed that I would get out alive and God chose to protect me.”
“Christians flock in their droves to churches around Christmas time and Easter time,” Chowdhry told PJ Media. “Islamists know these are good times to target Christians.”
In a statement after the attack, the BPCA president said his organization had written “several requests to the UK Pakistan High Commission calling for better protection for Christians at Christmas time, moreover we even went so far as suggesting Quetta would be the primary target zone due to recent terrorist patterns.”
He charged that the High Commission “has failed to even acknowledge our communication by email or a written response.”
While the security forces at the church seem to have “reduced the impact of this attack,” Chowdhry said this “has done nothing to ease the anxiety that Christians are feeling.”
The BPCA president declared that Pakistani Christians “desire a more robust investigative process to stop the terrorists before they attack or stronger security presence around churches especially during celebrations like Christmas, where radicalized Muslims are frenzied by the more overt Christian display of their faith.”
“Christians across Pakistan are in sheer terror, but they still want to pack their churches over Christmas,” Chowdhry said. “Martyrdom and Christianity in Pakistan go hand in hand, but never has a nation been more intolerant until now despite the millions invested into Pakistan by the UK and reciprocal billions from America.”
Chillingly, he concluded, “While people in the West eat mince pies and turkey, Christians in Pakistan will be praying for an extra day of their earthly lives and for the protection of their children.”
A few years ago, the Pakistani army warned Christians about potential ISIS attacks around Christmas time. Earlier this month, a grenade attack killed a 7-year-old boy named Lucky Saleem in a Pakistani Christian village.
Christian teenagers in Pakistan have been beaten to death over their faith by fellow students and even police. In September, a Pakistani Christian man was sentenced to death for “blasphemy.” Last year, Open Doors marked Pakistan the 4th worst country for Christians in the world.
“The failure by the government of Pakistan to suppress the Taliban and IS [ISIS] factions mean that every Pak-Christian celebration will be tainted with anxiety and I am certain there will be even more pain and suffering to be experienced yet,” Chowdhry said after the death of Lucky Saleem. “If we created a ‘Foxe’s Book of Martyrs’ for Pakistan we would run out of pages very quickly.”
ISIS terrorists have carried out what amounts to a global war on Christmas. Authorities said that the New York City pipe bomber, Akayed Ullah (inspired and claimed by ISIS), targeted the site where he detonated his explosive device because it was near a Christmas poster. He also said he was inspired by ISIS attacks on Christmas markets in Europe.
Another ISIS-inspired terrorist launched a truck attack at a Berlin Christmas market last year. Tunisian ISIS terrorist Anis Amri murdered 12 people at the Breitscheidplatz Christmas market.
Last month, German police arrested six Syrian nationals suspected of having fought with ISIS — and allegedly connected with a terror plot against another Christmas market in Germany. They were later released. Truck attacks have led to the erection of barricades and security in various cities across Europe.
Earlier this month, the French city of Lyon cancelled its world-famous Christmas market after security costs skyrocketed to € 20,000 — a price the city could not afford.
Last year, Islamic State social media accounts released a list of United States churches to attack on Christmas. In light of recent attacks, Christians need to be vigilant as they worship during this holiday season.
Christians in Pakistan need all the help they can get — through prayers and physical support.
Watch a video of the aftermath of the attack below.