Sunday, Bloody Sunday Again

Going to a park is often a fun adventure for children and an outlet for parents seeking to get their children out of the house. One such park was named to recognize a noted National Poet and the “Spiritual Father of Pakistan,” Dr. Mohamed Iqbal. The Gulshan-e-Iqbal (Garden of Iqbal) Park is a 67 acre park in the urban sprawl of Lahore, Pakistan. On Easter Sunday some families gathered in the park to celebrate Easter, others gathered with family just to enjoy a fun day at the park. With a lake, play areas, park rides at “Fun Land” and even a petting zoo, the park should have been a safe haven for families enjoying the green space and fun activities. Yet Easter Sunday would become Sunday, bloody Sunday again.

Jamat-ul-Ahrar (JA), which can be described as an associated group with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) sent a suicide bomber, Salahuddin Khorasani to target and kill Christians celebrating Easter. Salahuddin Khorasani “carried out the attack on the eve of Christian festival Easter on March 27, 2016 as per his will. He has gifted his life to Allah.” The suicide bomber detonated his vest near the exit from the park near the children’s swings killing 72 and injuring over 300 individuals.

This is not the first attack against Christian targets by the Jamat-ul-Ahrar. On September 23, 2013, they conducted a suicide bombing at the All Saints Church in Peshawar. In March 2015, Jamat-ul-Ahrar sent two suicide bombers who detonated at St. John’s Catholic Church and at Christ Church in Lahore.

Today in the Garden of Iqbal Park there is a sign placed near where the suicide bomber detonated his device saying “Terrorism has no religion.” The Pakistan Government needs to do more to protect Christians in Pakistan. It comes as no surprise that terrorist groups in Pakistan have been targeting Christians. Just like the lyrics of U2’s song Sunday, Bloody Sunday once again we have families in Lahore feeling despair in their hearts with the deaths and injuries of loved ones because terrorists targeted Christians in Pakistan. Unfortunately Bono’s lyrics ring true once again.

. . . There’s many lost, but tell me who has won
The trench is dug within our hearts
And mothers, children, brothers, sisters torn apart
Sunday, Bloody Sunday.

But while the song is written about “The Troubles” even Ireland had a Good Friday Agreement that ended the troubles and brought peace to the conflict.

Terrorists Targeting Christians in Yemen

Missionaries of Charity Sign Photo

Christians have been targeted and killed in increasing numbers this last year. Terrorists have targeted people of faith in Nigeria, Kenya, Pakistan, Libya, Egypt, the Philippines, Central African Republic, Iraq, Syria and numerous other countries. Recently, terrorists attacked Catholic nuns in Aden, Yemen. On the morning of March 4, 2016, terrorist gained entry to the nursing home run by the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, Yemen. The terrorist tricked a guard into allowing entry and killed him immediately. The six gunmen killed 17 individuals including four nuns from Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity Order. Among those killed were Sister Anselm from India, Sister Margherite and Sister Reginette from Rwanda and Sister Judith from Kenya. The Sisters cared for almost 80 mentally challenged and physically handicapped children as well as a number of elderly and dying people.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic Order of Sisters in 1950. Today the Order has over 4,500 Sisters in over 125 countries all dressed in the familiar blue and white sari. All members of the Order take the vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and to give wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor. That last vow is what Mother Teresa was known for and what the nuns in Aden were doing-caring for the poorest of the poor.

This was not the first time that the Missionaries of Charity were attacked by terrorist. On July 28, 1998, Abdullah Nasheri gunned down three nuns just outside their clinic in Hodeidah, Yemen. Nasheri stated during his interrogation that he killed the nuns because they were preaching Christianity. The three slain nuns were all medical nurses working at the clinic. Nasheri had been to Afghanistan and waged jihad in Bosnia in 1992. Nasheri was convicted in 2000 and executed by a firing squad in April 2003.

For 25 years the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity had been providing care to those in Hodeidah. In 1973, Mother Teresa sent five Sisters to Hodeidah to set up a home for unwanted children and to care for adults with diseases and birth defects. Terrorist attacks, civil war and targeted assassinations have not deterred the sisters from caring for those less fortunate in Yemen. Terrorist also have a history of conducting attacks in Yemen against Christians.

On December 30, 2002, Abed Abdul Razak Kamel of Al-Islah, an Al Qaeda affiliated group killed three members of the Jibla Baptist Hospital. This Baptist Hospital had been providing key medical services in Jibla for over 35 years. Kamel entered the hospital with an AK-47 and killed William Koehn, the hospital director, Dr. Martha Myer and Kathleen Gariety, the hospital’s purchasing agent. Donald Caswell, who ran the pharmacy was shot by Kamel but survived. Koehn had spent over 28 years at the hospital and Dr. Myer had been in Yemen for 24 years. Kamel was convicted in December 2002 and was executed four years later.

St. Joseph’s Catholic Church was one of only a few churches that had remained open in Aden throughout the fighting and bombing. On September 16, 2015, suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists set fire to the church in the Tawahi District of Aden. The systematic targeting of churches and Christians by terrorists continues with the aim to close down churches and drive Christians out of Yemen. On December 9, 2015, the Immaculate Conception Church was blown up in the Ma’ala District of Aden.

As the Easter season approaches we must remember that Christian Churches and people of faith in Yemen and around the world are under siege. The Missionaries of Charity in Yemen have followed in Mother Teresa’s footsteps caring for the poorest of the poor. While almost everyone else who could flee Yemen has fled-small groups which includes these courageous sisters who wear the white and blue striped sari have remained and continue to tend to those in need. We need to do more to eradicate terrorism where ever it raises its ugly head and support those who are in these conflict areas facing chaos, terror and even death on a daily basis.