Hundreds of Pakistani Christians have attended funerals
Security was tight, with police sealing off Lahore’s biggest Christian neighborhood and submitting those attending to security checks. Sunday’s bombings of two churches in the Youhanabad area left 17 people dead and more than 70 wounded.
Two days of rioting by Christians followed, with two men lynched.
A reported 5,000 police and paramilitary rangers were deployed on Tuesday to try to prevent further rioting. The main road into the district was closed with rails and barbed wire.
Shops were also shut as grieving relatives made their way towards burial grounds. “I would like to tell these terrorists if they think that they can push us back from our faith, they are deadly, entirely, very much at fault,” said Manual Mani, a pastor attending the funerals.
The attacks during Sunday mass have been condemned by representatives of all religions in Pakistan. Make up 1.6% of Pakistan’s predominantly Muslim population.Majority are descendents of those who converted from Hinduism under the British Raj.
Most converted to escape their low-caste status and many are among the poorest in Pakistan. Targeting of Christians fuelled by strong anti-blasphemy laws and anger over US-led war in Afghanistan.
They also criticized the mob violence that followed, as angry Christian crowds threw stones, blocked roads and lynched two men they accused of being involved in the attack. The family of one of the men has told a Pakistani newspaper that he was an innocent shopkeeper and had not been a militant.
Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, speaking at the National Assembly on Tuesday, also condemned the reprisal attacks, saying that they constituted “the worst form of terrorism”.
Christians make up less than 2% of Pakistan’s population and many are among its poorest people. Members of the Christian community say that the riots are a show of anger and frustration from a community that feels unprotected and abandoned by the government.
Conflict leaves 40 percent of children out of school in Mideast areas, UNICEF says
In 2010, between 7 and 8 million school-age children in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Yemen and Sudan were not in school, said Juliette Touma, a UNICEF spokeswoman. Reasons included ongoing conflicts, such as in Sudan and Iraq, as well as poverty.
Since then, new conflicts have erupted in Syria, Libya and Yemen, while fighting in Iraq has intensified following land grabs by the extremist group Islamic State there last year.
Currently, 13.7 million children from the five countries affected by conflict are not in school, the report said. This includes 2.7 million Syrian children, including 700,000 in host countries; 3 million children in Iraq; 2 million in Libya; 3.1 million in Sudan; and 2.9 million in Yemen.
The number of dropouts and children who have never been to school is bound increase. In the next few months, with the situation expected to worsen, “up to half … of school age children will be out of school,” Salama said.