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Christians ponder future after Osama

Schools close to avoid trouble as rumblings of Muslim discontent continue

Armed villagers in Amritnagar, a Christian majority village in Punjab, have been running a self-help security force for a decade<i> Photograph ©Michael Coyne</i> Armed villagers in Amritnagar, a Christian majority village in Punjab, have been running a self-help security force for a decade Photograph ©Michael Coyne
  • ucanews.com reporter, Peshawar
  • Pakistan
  • May 6, 2011
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Several schools and Church offices here were closed today fearing a backlash against Christians in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden this week in the northern garrison town of Abbottabad.

While the world continues to buzz with news of the hunting down of the Al Qaeda leader, Church and Christian groups are keeping a low profile across Pakistan.

Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s main religious party, called for protests today against the US raid and branded government and intelligence agencies incompetent.

“Institutions in the vicinity of Church buildings were closed as caution," said Yousaf Masih Yaad, a Christian scholar and analyst in Peshawar, neighboring Afghanistan.

"The threat of bombing has increased in the city which is already rocked to the extreme by Taliban," he said.

Six Christians have died in suicide blasts in this capital city of the northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

“Terrorism has affected Christians as well as Muslims. We have not shown interest in the bin Laden killing as it would enrage the militants," said the diocesan council member of Church of Pakistan.

The Church in the country has not commented on the raid.

“Condemning a terrorist, who posed as an Islamic hero, can invite trouble for our community," said Khalid Gill, chief organizer of All Pakistan Minority Alliance. "The fight against religious extremism has been our core struggle but we stand with our agencies and government in defense of the sovereignty of the country."

The Christian political party lost its patron, Shahbaz Bhatti, a former Catholic federal minister for minorities, when eh was murdered on March 2 in Islamabad. “Taliban al-Qaida Punjab”claimed responsibility for the assassination.

Despite the heightened tensions this week, security fears are nothing new to the country's Christians. The Christian majority Amritnagar village of Punjab province has been organizing “self help” night security details for a decade, an initiative which the locals started after the country was plunged into the "war on terror".

“Every house contributes 30 rupees (US$0.35) a month for the stipend of 12 men who keep watch with axes and guns. It has helped to avert any attack by fundamentalists as well as combat theft in the area," Mehran Khan, the village headman, told ucanews.com.

“People are cautious about discussing bin Laden in public. Though inwardly jubilant, they cannot condemn him in Muslim company," he said.

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