At least 72 people died in a suicide bombing in a crowded park in Lahore, Pakistan, on Sunday. A splinter faction of the Pakistani Taliban, Jamaat ul-Ahrar, has claimed responsibility for the attack, which the group says was directed at Pakistani Christians who were celebrating Easter Sunday in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park.
“It was our people who attacked the Christians in Lahore, celebrating Easter,” Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the Taliban group, said. “It’s our message to the government that we will carry out such attacks again until sharia [Islamic law] is imposed in the country.”
The bombing, which took place just by an area of the park designated for women and children, is the latest attack in recent years that has targeted the small yet important Christian community in the majority Muslim nation.
Who are Pakistan’s Christians?
Pakistan is a country of 190 million people, the vast majority of whom are Muslims. Christians make up about 1.5 percent of the total population, according to the latest census, although some Christians argue that the government undercounts their numbers, which they claim should be closer to 5 percent. Lahore, a city in the eastern province of Punjab, is one of a number of centers for the community in the country.
Christians have a long history in the region; Roman Catholic missionaries first arrived from Europe in the late 1600s. Most of Pakistan’s Christians are the descendants of Hindus who converted during the years of British rule. Often they were from a low caste, and many have remained on the poorer edges of Pakistani society.
However, the Christian minority has also contributed greatly to Pakistani society. Many of the best schools and colleges in Pakistan were established by Christians and attended by the country’s Muslim elite, and Christians have been among the most decorated and celebrated members of Pakistan’s military since independence.
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