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Archbishop warns of backlash over bin Laden

Christian minority a 'soft target' although terrorist's death could bring longer term benefits

A file picture of Osama bin Laden, killed today by US forces in Pakistan A file picture of Osama bin Laden, killed today by US forces in Pakistan
  • ucanews.com reporters, Lahore, New Delhi and Dhaka and Manila
  • Pakistan
  • May 2, 2011
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Pakistani Christians could suffer a backlash after the death of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden a former head of the Catholic Church in the country told ucanews.com today.

“We are a soft target as they cannot attack America. We demand security. The government should control any retaliation," Archbishop Emeritus of Lahore, Lawrence Saldanha said.

But despite the risk of short-term retaliation against Christians, bin Laden's killing could return balance to the war-torn society of Pakistan, he said.

He was hopeful that the killing of world’s most wanted terrorist will reduce the militant radicalism that has engulfed Pakistan in recent years.

"At last we have hope that things will get better gradually," he said.

“Many looked on bin Laden as a hero of the Islamic revolution. But he was a role model of extremism and a threat to world peace. His death will change the complexion and decentralize as well as demystify extremism," the archbishop said.

US forces killed Osama bin Laden, the founder of al Qaeda, in Abbottabad city in northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province after a brief firefight. US President Barrack Obama said the forces had been acting on intelligence originally received last August and had acted in co-operation with Pakistani security authorities.

Saudi Arabian-born Bin Laden ordered the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States which killed more than 3,000 people.

Saldanha was ordained archbishop on the day of the attacks.

“The post 9/11 events affected my whole episcopal career and life," he said, adding that the situation changed for Christians who were badly affected by violence and bloodshed. I saw it growing worse," he said.

Meanwhile in India, a Church leader prayed the Al Qaeda leader’s death would not lead to retaliatory attacks.

Father Babu Joseph, spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, regretted that bin Laden had met a violent death. “The Church never endorses violence or associates with violence. Violence perpetrated by religion is never acceptable to any civilized society.”

Some Indian Muslims reacted to bin Laden's death by blaming the United States for his radicalization.

“Osama bin Laden and others felt the Central Intelligence Agency had used them for its personal interests. This led to World Trade Center bombings and wars in Iraq.” J. S. Badukwala, an Islamic scholar in Gujarat, said.

The withdrawal of US and its allies from Afghanistan [after the defeat of the Soviet Union] made their supporters feel betrayed, he added.  However, Muslims in India, unlike their counterparts elsewhere, were not influence by the Al Qaeda ideology, Badukwala said.

Muhammed shafi Madani, another Muslim leader in Gujarat, says Americans create "Osamas" whenever they want to serve their personal interests and he wants the world to understand “the designs of the US.”

The Islamist's death triggered mixed reactions among Christians and Muslims in Bangladesh.

“No killing is welcomed. A criminal should be brought to trials and be duly prosecuted," Catholic Bishops’ Episcopal Commission for Christian Unity and Interreligious Dialogue  chairman Bishop Bejoy D’Cruze of Khulna said. “I don’t know if bin Laden or Al Qaeda had any connection with Bangladeshi militants or not. But it’s sure they were encouraged and inspired by his activities, which will decline I believe.”

Sujit Purification, 34, a Catholic NGO officer said, “I’m glad that 9/11 mastermind is dead now, it’s good news. No one can support the terrorist activities he committed.”

Moni Haider, 47, a Muslim, said he believed Bangladeshi militants would be discouraged by bin Laden’s death. "They've got to realize that the bin Laden chapter is over even though he was such a powerful terrorist.”

Shah Kawthar Mustafa Abululayee, 61, a Muslim and philosophy professor at Dhaka University, told ucanews.com.

“[Bin] Laden’s death will surely affect national and international terrorism and militancy, but better to comment after couple of days I think. All the terrorist activities in the world should be stopped.”

In the Philippines, Catholic Church leaders today advised the government to prepare for possible retaliation from bin Laden loyalists.

“His followers in different places might retaliate because of what happened to him,” said Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iniguez.

Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez in a separate interview also echoed those fears of Iniguez.

“The death of bin Laden is good [in the fight against terror]. But it is also bad because his loyalists will retaliate not only against the military and police but against innocent civilians,” he said over Church-run Radio Veritas 846.

Bishop Martin Jumoad of Isabela prelature, meanwhile, said the terrorists' death was a "triumph of good over evil."

His prelature is in Basilan province where Al Qaeda-inspired Abu Sayyaf Islamic militant forces have camps and have frequently attacked attacking Christian communities.

Bishop Jumoad  said he hoped bin Laden’s death “will weaken the Abu Sayyaf Group here in Basilan because Abu Sayyaf leaders have been claiming they are being supported by Al-Qaeda through Jemaah Islamiyah.”

However, he acknowledged retaliatory attacks might follow when the news of the killing spreads.

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