After the attack, PBS NewsHour quoted a statement from Joseph Coutts, the Roman Catholic bishop of Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial capital. “We always live in a state of tension,” stated the bishop. “What’s going to happen next and where is it going to happen?”
Peshawar is near the eastern end of the Khyber Pass through the mountains separating Pakistan from Afghanistan, making it a strategic hub and staging area for convoys transporting supplies to NATO forces fighting the Taliban. During the Afghani mujahideen war against the Soviets in the 1980s, Peshawar served as a center for the CIA and mujahideen to train and brief anti-Soviet fighters. It remains a prime stress point in the struggle between the Taliban and moderate Pakistanis.
NewsHour cited Bishop Coutts’ observation that since Pakistanis associate Christians with the West, particularly the United States, Pakistani Christians make convenient targets for retaliation by Islamic militants.
The report noted that Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which makes it a capital crime to insult the prophet Mohammed, is often used indiscriminately as a tool to attack one’s enemies. Vigilante justice often precedes a day in court for those accused of violating the law.
“The news is spread in the neighborhood and most of these neighborhoods are either slums or rural areas and people come out wanting to lynch the accused,” NewsHour quoted Roland de Souza, identified as a partner in a Karachi engineering firm, who is Catholic. “Even if he is rescued from this crowd by the police the police station is surrounded by people baying for his blood.”
The British Daily Telegraph reported that among the 78 people killed in the church bombing were seven children, and six days after the blast, the pediatric ward of Peshawar's Lady Reading hospital was still full.
A reporter for the Telegraph interviewed a seven-year old boy, Shyam Emmanuel, who lost his parents in the bombing. Shyam told the reporter that he was with about 50 other children singing "The Good Shepherd" in the Sunday school across a courtyard from the church when their teacher sent him with his two brothers and friends to get rice and sweets being offered in memory of a popular parishioner who had died.
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Photo of Pakistani Christians praying in a church: AP Images