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Six Pakistanis baptized by Churches of Christ among dead in Easter bombing

'Every Christian is helping,' a minister in Lahore says, 'but the need is big and urgent.'

Six Pakistanis baptized by members of Churches of Christ in December are among the dead after an Easter evening bombing in Lahore, ministers reported.

In addition, 17 members of Churches of Christ were hospitalized after the suicide blast at Lahore’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, one of the largest parks in the city of 5.1 million souls, minister Eric Masih said.

Four of the church members died immediately in the blast, which killed at least 72 people, Masih said. Another minister, Asher Kaleem, told The Christian Chronicle today that two additional church members, also baptized Dec. 3, died in the hospital.

“The explosion occurred in the parking area … close to children’s swings,” said Masih, who works with Churches of Christ in the predominantly Muslim nation. “The park is a popular site for members of Lahore’s Christian community, many of whom had gone there to celebrate the Easter holiday. Witnesses said they saw body parts strewn across the parking lot once the dust had settled after the blast.”

A militant group associated with the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and said the target was Christians.

Muslims and Christians — including many women and children — died in the attack, Al Jazeera and other news outlets report.

Earlier Sunday, Churches of Christ gathered for Sunday worship as usual — albeit “under very strict security” from police due to threats of violence by militants, Kaleem said.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which claimed responsibility for the attack, also claimed responsibility for two church bombings in March 2015.

The congregations worshiped on Easter Sunday without incident, Kaleem told The Christian Chronicle .

Pakistanis who claim Christianity as their faith make up less than 2 percent of the country’s population of 182.1 million. Religious minorities endure persecution from militant Islamist groups including the Taliban, according to reports by Human Rights Watch and other organizations.

Many Christ followers have fled Pakistan for other countries. In Thailand, members of a Church of Christ have assisted — and baptized — refugees from Pakistan.

In Lahore, church members are arranging and funding funerals for the Christians killed in the blast, Masih said. They also are reaching out to assist survivors and their families. At least nine families impacted by the attack live in an area where Christians recently planted a new congregation, the minister said.

“Almost all the hospitals are full, and we are visiting all the people (from) time to time,” Masih said. “People need medicines and blood urgently. … Every Christian is helping, but the need is big and urgent.”

The Woodmont Hills Church of Christ in Nashville, Tenn., supports works in Pakistan. To assist, or for more information, contact [email protected].

Filed under: Headlines - Secondary International

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