Bishop Mano Rumalshah reflects on the attack at Bethel Church in Quetta, Balochistan, a province of two million with only 50,000 Christians. On Sunday 17 December two gunmen entered the church during 11am worship and killed the gate keeper, a number of police. One of the attackers blew his suicide jacket killing and wounding many more.
In a tragedy of this nature there are always so many facets and different aspects which are very often debatable, but somewhere has a hidden truth. Some of my reflections are as follows:
The local police were given lot of accolades by the Authorities for preventing a bigger disaster, especially for denying the terrorists entry into the church building. Yes, no doubt, if they had entered into the building itself there would have been hundreds of causalities, so we are grateful to the police for preventing it. But there is a big question mark as to where the local police were when these terrorist entered the church compound.
When the parish priest (Rev. Simon Bashir) entered the church premises at 10:30am there were police cars and guards outside the gate on the main road itself, including a police guard up in the tower, overlooking the road and the church building. But when the terrorists entered the premises, there were no police and guards at the entry point on the road itself. They were supposed to stay there for the whole time while the Service was taking place. This leaves a big question mark.
There were patients lying in the hospital who were being asked to bring their own medicines from the shop. It is one of the ugliest practices of our healthcare system. The regular patients are quite used to it, but patients victimized in such incidents just cannot be tortured in this ugly fashion. There is also the case of those patients who needed to be moved to special treatment in other hospitals, but there again such cases were being ignored.
Our healthcare system is one of the ugly facets of our country it needs urgent modification. If you can help these patients in anyway please contact the local church officials and offer your services.
The perennial question is as to why these attacks take place on our Christian community and the answer often is, because we are Christians. The general feeling is that it is either religious rivalry or a desire of the terrorist to seek wider attention for their cause. These aspects have been quite evident in the previous incidents affecting our community as well.
This time Islamic State has made a very clear claim that its they who did it and strong indicators are that it is in retaliation to the recent stance taken by President Trump on the issue of Jerusalem. A recent article in the national newspaper Dawn (24 December 2017) titled: Children of a Lesser God says that “Things started to change after 2001 after the US invaded Afghanistan.
All of sudden, Christians began to be viewed as American and Western agents who were brought to the country to promote an imperialist cause. A lot of the oppression this community faces is because of misconceptions borne out of this line of thinking. Many churches have come under attack by militant groups since then”.
This trend can be detected in so many other aspects of life here. One often says that when the West sneezes on such issues; we the Christians of Pakistan (and perhaps elsewhere in similar situations) get the cold. The western governments and our faith siblings in the West should recognize it and not be evasive of this reality.
There is so much more that can be said on these issues but suffice it to say that our Christian community in Pakistan remains faithful even unto death and are proud to live out their faith. These voices of faith and hope resonate whenever you meet such situations and yet you all know that such situations need to be healed and this slaughtering of humanity in the name of religion and ideology must be converted into an embrace of reconciliation and a peaceful living in the human family. May God help us to fulfill this dream.
I cannot help but end this little reflection on a personal note. My father was an Army Chaplain and Vicar in Quetta for almost eighteen years, the longest that he ever served in any Parish. I myself spent my late teens there and had part of my tertiary education there and graduated from the local government college and so did my sisters. We moved to the West from this very place in the early 70s and still think of it as our home in Pakistan.
So it has caused our whole family a lot of pain that our beloved Quetta has become a bastion of blood suckers. May God give us His Grace of Deliverance and Hope.
Bishop Mano Rumalshah
Coordinator: Church of Pakistan