Two Christians have been shot dead by a group of unidentified gunmen outside their church in southwestern Pakistan. The gunmen, who sped by on motorbikes, opened fire at a group of believers outside their place of worship in Quetta, capital of Balochistan province.
“Four men on two motorbikes opened indiscriminate fire, killing two people while injuring three others,” local police official Abdul Razzaq Cheema told AFP, as reported by Yahoo News. The attack took place in the Christian-majority Esa Nagri neighborhood. When news of the murders spread through the community, a massive protest erupted, with some 500 people flooding the streets and blocking the traffic by placing the dead bodies in the middle of the road.
“We are negotiating with them to make them disperse and bury” the victims, the police chief added. Just a few weeks ago, four Christians were shot dead in the same city by gunmen claiming to be linked to ISIS.
According to CNN, “armed men opened fire at a rickshaw carrying the family of three who were returning home from a bazaar. The men fled on a motorcycle.”
In December of last year, a suicide bomber struck a Methodist church in Quetta, killing seven people and leaving more than 20 dead.
Christians make up less than two percent of Pakistan’s 200 million people. The majority of the population is Muslim, and Christians have faced increased levels of persecution. “Much of the Christian persecution in Pakistan comes from radical Islamic groups that flourish and expand under the favor of political parties, the army and the government,” noted Christian persecution charity Open Doors USA on its Pakistan fact sheet.
Open Doors adds that those congregations “engaged in outreach and youth work” face the most brutal of the persecution, “although all Christians suffer from institutionalized discrimination.”
That’s not even touching on the socio-economic hardship believers face in this oppressive nation. “Occupations deemed as “dirty” and “shameful” are reserved for Christians, and many believers are victims of bonded labor. Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws target religious minorities but affect Christians the most, especially those who seek to evangelize,” explained Open Doors. “Discussion of the Christian faith is also known to attract attention from radical Muslims, making it dangerous to engage in faith-related conversations.”