Pakistan deploys snipers for Christmas *Al Qaeda accused of plotting to bomb churches in Turkey

December 26, 2011 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Pakistan deploys snipers for ChristmasPakistan, December 22, 2011: Pakistan will deploy snipers and hundreds of extra police at churches this Christmas to prevent possible attacks on the persecuted Christian minority, police said Wednesday.

The bulk of Pakistan’s tiny Christian community live in and around the eastern city of Lahore, where police said there were 433 churches.

“We will deploy 2,500 policemen, including sharp shooters, to provide security to them at Christmas,” Nayab Haider, a police spokesman, told AFP.

Lahore has suffered a series of attacks blamed on Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants, part of a nationwide campaign of violence that has killed more than 4,700 people since July 2007.

Recent kidnappings of a US development expert and the son of assassinated politician Salman Taseer have heightened security fears in Lahore, a city of eight million and considered Pakistan’s cultural capital..

“We have placed 38 churches in category A, which are most sensitive, and among them, 20 are even more sensitive as we expect foreigners to visit these churches on Christmas Eve,” Haider said.

Traffic would be banned outside these churches, and each one assigned seven policemen and a sniper, he added.

“Police will also instal walk-through gates at the entrance of all churches to be manned by security staff,” Haider said.

He denied there was any specific threat to Christians at Christmas but said precautions were being taken on a “general threat perception”.

Only three percent of Pakistan’s 174 million people are estimated to be non-Muslim. The Vatican has said Pakistani Christians are often victims of violence and discrimination.

On Tuesday, the Masihi Foundation, a human rights group, warned that a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy last year is in a “very frail” physical and mental state.

Asia Bibi, 46, was sentenced to death in November 2010 after drinking water from a well reserved for Muslims and allegedly making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed. Her appeal at the High Court in Lahore is ongoing.

Pope Benedict XVI and the international community have condemned her conviction and have asked for her to be pardoned.

Al Qaeda accused of plotting to bomb churches in Turkey


Turkey BombingTurkey, December 13, 2011: A startling plot involving Al Qaeda and an attack on churches in Turkey came to light Friday.

According to reports from the daily Taraf newspaper and Compass Direct News, a homegrown terrorist cell had laid plans to attack all of Ankara’s churches as well as their Christian clergy. Rody Rodeheaver with  I.N. Network USA says, “These were terrorists tied to al Qaeda, who were gathering caches of explosives, weapons, plans, maps–all that you need to bring about a terrorist attack.”

The militants planned a “jihad” strategy by focusing their attacks against Turkey before waging war against the United States and other countries. He explains, “Part of the rationale behind this is that it is much easier to strike in Turkey than to take the risk of making these strikes by al Qaeda in the U.S. I think the other things that were being talked about here and planned were some bombings and continued assassination attempts on Christian leaders.”

Police also discovered lists of the names and home addresses of Christian clergy and other church workers residing in Ankara. Christian leaders were caught flat-footed with the revelation of the details. However, security measures had already been beefed up with recent threats. Rodeheaver says the report comes as a reminder of the environment that Turk Christians live in. “One of the churches that was being singled out, there’s actually a guard booth where the police sit 24/7 because this is a major target as well as our staff person who has a bodyguard.”

Police raids netted 14 suspected Al Qaeda militants, several of whom faced additional charges December 10. Christians are soft targets, which is why, Rodeheaver notes, they are used as scapegoats by extremists. “It falls into the pattern of wanting to embarrass the Turkish government, whom they wish to see become Islamic and pull away from their secular bent.”

Despite the alarm raised by the revelation of the plot to destroy Ankara’s churches, I.N. Network’s team in Turkey won’t be deterred. On the one hand, it’s a logical approach. “If they became overly concerned about these various plots, they wouldn’t be able to do their ministry.”

On the other hand, “There is a commitment on the part of these believers that God has called them to do what they’re doing. Because He has called them, He will both supply their needs and protect them.” It means I.N. Network has chosen to stay focused on their mission of developing the Church in Turkey.

Church planting and evangelism are carried out by a small church plant in Istanbul. Due to the ostracism many Christians feel, internet evangelism and a Christian children’s ministry are also very important parts of I.N. Network Turkey.

Rodeheaver urges believers to “pray for the protection both for the ministry staff in these countries, the national workers, who, day in and day out, are doing their job in sharing the Gospel. I think the other thing to pray for is that the staff has great wisdom in how they communicate and how they share the Gospel.”

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