The weekend’s terror attack on a methodist church in Pakistan is a reminder there is no Christmas Peace in a region where Christians rarely feel safe.
Nine people died and dozens others were injured at Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta after two suicide bombers attacked the church. ISIS has claimed responsibility.
DANGEROUS TIME OF YEAR
The attacks came amid heightened security because Christian places of worship are often targeted by Islamist extremists during the Christmas season.
Pakistan’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, told Reuters, “Quetta church attack targeting our brotherly Christian Pakistanis is an attempt to cloud Christmas celebrations. We stay united and steadfast to respond against such heinous attempts.”
Baluchistan Police Chief Moazzam Ansari credited the security forces guarding the church for taking down one of the attackers, “Otherwise the loss of lives could have been much higher,” he told reporters.
It was the first time the Islamic State group has claimed an attack on a church in Pakistan, though Muslim extremists have claimed church attacks in the past. The deadliest example was in September 2013, when twin suicide bomb blasts killed 85 people in a Peshawar church. In March 2015, two suicide bombers attacked two churches in the eastern city of Lahore, killing 15 people. Those attacks happened on Easter Sunday.
The Christmas season has been a time for Islamist terrorists to strike worldwide. The “underwear bomber” attempted to blow up a plane around Christmastime in 2009.
The heinous terror attack in San Bernardino, California, began at a Christmas party when Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 of their co-workers in 2015.
ISIS PLANS SMALLER ATTACKS
Terror experts warned that the inroads made against the so-called Islamic State “caliphate” in Iraq could mean increased terror attacks around the world as the group spreads its attention toward isolated attacks instead of controlling land.
Some also feared increased violence this Christmas season as a result of President Donald Trump recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in early December.
Following the announcement there were regular clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters with violence erupting in Bethlehem, Ramallah, Hebron and other West Bank towns, in addition to the Gaza Strip.
And last month, a poster circulated among ISIS supporters that showed a man driving in a car with a gun and a backpack toward the Vatican. The poster read “Christmas blood” and “So wait…” on a second line.
THE FAITHFUL ARE SHOWING NO SIGNS OF FEAR
The concerns do not appear to have affected tourism to Israel this holiday season. Statistics from the Tourism Ministry show a 24 percent increase in travel.
And while some tour guides say they are detecting signs of a downturn, Daniela Epstein, the director of the German-speaking department at Sar-El tours, a large tour operating company accommodating mostly Christian tour groups, told the Jerusalem Post that so far nobody has canceled their trips. “If anything, people are just calling and asking questions.”
Still, with tensions running high and in a region where Christians are always in danger, it is a good time to pray for the safety of our fellow believers.