“We were flying kites in the playground when they came and started shooting without saying anything. Both men had covered their faces. We tried to run away. This is the first time we saw terrorists,” said 16-year-old Youbal.
The Catholic eighth grader and two of his friends were injured the evening of August 8 when motorcycle-riding gunmen attacked the Christian colony in the Mastung area of Pakistan’s Balochistan province.
Bishop Khalid Rehmat of the Quetta apostolic vicariate led a group of four priests to visit the shooting victims at the trauma center of Civil Hospital Quetta, 25 miles from Mastung, and prayed for them.
Youbal and the other teens were discharged on August 13, the eve of Pakistan’s 75th Independence Day. However, Youbal’s father Shakeel Masih is worried.
“We want to admit him in a hospital of Karachi for better treatment. The government hospital in Quetta has a poor healthcare system. Youbal has started walking slowly but doctors say he is still in shock and depressed. God gave him new life,” Masih told ACN.
Tensions are high among the Christians of Mastung since the shooting that resulted in the death of Wilson Masih, a 65-year-old Catholic who died August 9.
“He used to hang out with my elderly uncles in the playground facing the Christian Colony. When the terrorists raided, my other uncles laid down on the ground, but he kept standing, trying to warn others about the attacked children. He was hit with three bullets and died of a ruptured intestine,” said Danish Saleem, his nephew.
Wilson was the elder brother of Hendry Masih, an MP of Balochistan who was killed by his bodyguard in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, in 2014. Mastung, a Muslim majority town, is home to just 115 Christians.
Some hundred protestors came out August 10 in Quetta demanding the arrest of the perpetrators of Mastung attack and protection for the local Christians. “Stop genocide for Christians” and “Firing on children – shameful” stated their placards.
According to Sharafat Shareef, executive secretary of Caritas Quetta, there have been at least four attacks on religious minorities of Balochistan in August so far.
“Christians, Hindus and Hazara Shiites are the vulnerable communities facing increasing attacks. The rampant closure of universities due to perpetual protests against disappearances has left the youth semi-illiterate and easy picks for the terror organizations,” said the Catholic official.
“In Chaman area, the dead body of a Christian was found on August 11, the National Minorities Day, with a severed nose and ear. Locals are trying to downplay the case and saying he was intoxicated with liquor and was eaten by a cat.”
Hundreds of Hazara have also been killed over the last decade in attacks in Balochistan province—the country’s largest and poorest region, which is rife with ethnic, sectarian and separatist insurgencies.
Attacks on religious minorities have increased with a surge of terrorism in the country. Seven militant attacks were reported in Balochistan this July in which six people were killed, including four security forces personnel, while 10 sustained injuries.
On August 13, two Pakistan Army soldiers were killed when unidentified terrorists raided a post of security forces in the Harnai area of Balochistan.
The latest attack in Balochistan occurred shortly after the military strongly responded to reports claiming that many militants belonging to the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan were present in Swat valley of the northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
In a statement, the military’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), however, acknowledged the presence of armed men from neighboring Afghanistan on a few mountain tops between Swat and Dir, far away from the population.
In 2018, six Christians were victims of targeted killings in Quetta.
In 2017, two suicide bombers struck Bethel Memorial Methodist Church while children were rehearsing a Christmas play in Quetta, killing nine people and wounding 57.
Islamic State terrorists claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack, while the Baluchistan home minister blamed it on terrorists from neighboring Afghanistan. — Kamran Chaudhry for Aid to the Church in Need
Posted with permission from Aid to the Church in Need United States.