Pakistan Christians protest over deadly church attacks
LAHORE, Pakistan - Some 5,000 Christians rallied in the Pakistani city of Lahore Monday, blocking roads and shouting anti-government slogans in a second day of protests against twin Taliban suicide bombings of churches that killed 14 people.
Sunday's attacks in the Youhanabad neighbourhood of the eastern city sparked mob violence in which two other suspected militants were killed, with Christians smashing up cars and a bus station in a rare show of anger from the persecuted minority group.
More than 1,000 police were deployed in the neighbourhood Monday, where many protesters had armed themselves with clubs, but the situation remained calm.
"We are on the roads to get justice, we want protection," 50-year-old protester Maqbool Bhatti told AFP.
Bhatti, a government employee, said authorities had failed to take adequate security measures.
"There was no proper security on Sunday, the government should protect all churches," he said.
Asher Kanwal, 30, added: "Christians are protesting because they are worried of their future."
Christians, who make up around two per cent of Pakistan's mostly Muslim population of 180 million, have been targeted recent years, often over allegations of profanity regarding the Quran or the Prophet Mohammed.
Sunday's attacks were the worst on the community since a devastating double suicide-bombing in the northwestern city of Peshawar in September 2013 killed 82 people.
That came months after more than 3,000 Muslim protesters torched some 100 houses as they rampaged through Joseph Colony, another Christian neighbourhood of Lahore, following blasphemy allegations against a Christian man.
Christians volunteers established their own security check-points on Sunday, tying ropes across the roads leading into Youhanabad and patting down worshippers who had come to offer prayers for the dead ahead of funerals planned for Tuesday.
Some carried placards with slogans such as "Why do you kill us?", "Stop killing Christians," and "Let us live".
Special prayers were meanwhile planned at churches throughout the country, as well as candle-light vigils by Christian groups and members of civil society.