The victims of Sunday’s Peshawar church bombing should be regarded as martyrs, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said yesterday.
The Anglican Church’s senior cleric said the attack, which killed at least 81 people and injured 150, was “appalling.”
“I think it is true to say that in All Saints Peshawar we have seen more than 80 martyrs in the last few days,” he said in an interview on BBC radio.
“They have been attacked because they were testifying to their faith in Jesus Christ by going to church.” The attack was “outside any acceptable expression in any circumstances for any reason of religious differences,” added Welby.
He said the Pakistani government had a duty to protect all its citizens, including Christians, and criticized the country’s blasphemy laws.
“Their application varies from time to time,” he said. “But they have often been used in ways that seem to us to be unjust and targeting minorities and being used as an excuse to attack minorities.
“And it’s in these sorts of areas that we call on the government and the security forces to ensure that all people are treated equally under the law,” the archbishop added.
Targeting of Christians was becoming widespread, he said, citing attacks in Syria and Egypt.
He also asked for prayers for the victims – and the perpetrators – of the recent Nairobi shopping mall attack that left at least 72 dead and 175 wounded.
“As Christians… we pray for justice, we’re deeply committed to justice … but we’re also called, as Jesus did on the Cross, to pray for those who are doing us harm,” he said.
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