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Pakistan Christian leaders denounce extremism

Declare Dec. 16 a 'national day against extremism' as country marks first anniversary of Peshawar massacre

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Pakistan Christian leaders denounce extremism

Students call for an national day against terrorism outside the Punjab assembly building in Lahore on Dec.16 (Photo by Kamran Chaudhry)

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Christian leaders and activists in Pakistan have called on the government to declare Dec. 16 a "national day against extremism and terrorism."

The call came exactly one year after Taliban gunmen murdered more than 150 people at an army-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

More than 400 people, half of them students, gathered outside the Punjab assembly building on Dec. 16 where they chanted anti-Taliban slogans. Behind them stood a large banner emblazoned with the photos of the 134 children killed at the Army Public School.

"This is a day of nonacceptance when the fight against terror takes a new turn ... This is our message: we will defeat the common enemy and protect our country," the Rev. Shahid P. Meraj, dean of the Anglican Cathedral Church of the Resurrection in Lahore told ucanews.com.

"The sacrifice of young martyrs has shown the way. They have finally pulled the curtain away from the face of the real enemy," he said. 

Catholic Church leaders welcomed government efforts in trying to tackle militancy and terrorism, in the wake of the massacre.

"Thank God the authorities are finally dealing with these extremists. We are completely in favor of a national day against terrorism and similar steps to combat terror, which has gripped the whole country," said Father Francis Gulzar, vicar general of Lahore Archdiocese.

The Rev. Shahid P. Meraj, second left, leads an anti-terrorism rally in Lahore. (Photo by Kamran Chaudhry) 

Reaction

In order to appease public anger following what was the deadliest extremist attack in Pakistan's history, the government lifted a moratorium on capital punishment for terrorist offences. Soon after, the death penalty was extended to convicted murderers.

Since then rights groups estimate almost 300 inmates have been hanged, with eight going to the gallows in Punjab province on Dec 14.

Four terrorists convicted of being involved in the school attack were also hanged earlier this month.

To mark the first anniversary of the massacre, schools around the country were closed Dec. 16 to express solidarity with the victims' families.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif approved the renaming of 122 colleges and schools in Islamabad after murdered students.

Special prayers were to be offered in all districts of northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, while political leaders, military officials, students and parents of the dead students were to pay tribute to the victims at a special ceremony at the school in Peshawar.

The Center for Human Rights Education also called for a national day against terrorism to express "solidarity with all the victims of terror."

"A year after the incident, the whole nation is still in a shock. We strongly demand stern action against terrorists and militants," center director Samson Salamat said in a statement.

 "The financing of terrorist groups should be checked and stopped, while all individuals or groups supporting militants and terrorists, openly or secretly, should be held accountable," he said.

 

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