February 1999 News

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Christians in Pakistan Float own Taliban

15th February 1999
The Asian Age
By: Our Special Correspondent

LONDON: Christians in Pakistan are turning to violence and taking up arms to counter increasing persecution and discrimination.

Many Pakistani Christians are reported to have infiltrated hardline Islamic organisations and to have spent months in training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan learning guerilla tactics. A "Christian Taliban" has been formed in Pakistan and armed defence organisations modelled on extremist Islamic groups are being set up. The Bishop of Lahore, according to the Independent, has formed the Sipah-e-Masiyah group and has called for Christians to volunteer. Senior community leaders fear the adoption of violence and militancy by Christians may lead to a civil war with the country's Muslim majority. "Young people are being forced into the hands of extremists who believe guns and bombs are the only wary," said Father, Bonnie Mendes, adding: "We have to stress the ways of peace, justice and love. The government has to face up to realities and make changes, as we are heading for a very dangerous situation."

Frustrated by increased intolerance and attacks against the community and the Nawaz Sharif government's bid to impose Islamic las, Christian youth are being lured to adopt violent means. A Faisalabad man claimed recently to have been one of many Christians who pretended to be Muslims so as to acquire training in military tactics at camps run by hardline Islamic outfits, reported the Independent. Calling himself "Simon Mujahid," the man said he had taken up arms because Christians in Pakistan needed to defend themselves. "We spent several months training in the camp. Since coming back we have bought weapons so we are ready for attack," he said.

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