St. Thomas parish, located in Wah Cantt ( Cantonment)almost 45 Km from Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, was attacked by extremists on the evening of March 28. Wah Cantonment Ordnance Complex consists of 14 ammunition facilities in Wah (Pakistan Ordnance Factories - POF), which is supposedly a high security area.
According to the caretaker of at the Catholic parish, at around 6:30pm the normal security guard was absent from the gate. It was then that 6 or 7 armed men entered from the small gate at the entrance and threw stones at the windows, destroyed the light towers and tried to break down the church door. The caretaker then rushed to alert the parish priest and the police. The extremists were armed, but did not fire their weapons. When they were unable to break the church door, they tried to burn it, ultimately they fled upon failing to enter the church building. Father Yousaf rushed to the scene and gathered together the local Christian community for safety, while the caretaker is in a state of shock and is unable to give any statement.
Father Yousaf said, "This is a reaction of the desecration of the Koran in Florida, although the Catholic Church has officially condemned the incident and we have also displayed a banner outside the church condemning the incident, still the innocent people are facing the consequences. We had clearly announced that we are not linked or associated with the Americans. There was no guard present at the time of the attack, the local police provides the security but only on Sundays."
Protestant pastor Tariq Emmanuel, who lives close to the St. Thomas Church in Wah Cantt, said, " We heard the noise from the Church, we rushed to the scene, we saw the men running out from the church, they didn't open fire as the cantonment area is a sensitive area, the military and the security agencies would have rushed to the church in case of any gunshots. Although there was no prior threat or any tip from the local police."
Pastor Emmanuel said further, " Last week the Regional Police Officer (RPO) Rawalpindi Hamid Gondal had called the Christian leaders, Pastors and Fathers to discuss the current situation. He stressed in the churches to install security cameras and hire private security guards who are Christians and are reliable, the police will provide the security on request. The Christian leadership had expressed the concerns about the security provided by the police, they were reluctant to trust the police specially after the Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti`s assassination."
The officials of the security agencies and the police reached the St. Thomas Church. They have taken the statement from the caretaker, the Parish Priest and the nearby residents.
The Bishop of Islamabad / Rawalpindi Rufin Anthony also reached Wah Cantt, he said " we condemn the attack, we had officially condemned Terry Jones from Florida, we have clarified that we are Pakistani Christians, not Americans. From time to time we have been saying that we should not be associated with the Americans. The security agencies and the police has started the investigation, although there was no threat of any sort from anyone or there was no notification from the local police. The most disturbing aspect is that the St. Thomas Church is located close to the POF Complex, which is the sole ammunition factory in Pakistan and is suppose to be a secure area. There are 4 entry barriers for entry, anyone who enters Wah Cantt passes through a security clearance, so the attackers didnt come from outside Wah Cantt, they are still present in the town. I urge the security agencies to take immediate action and arrest the culprits as this is a serious matter. The police has provided 2 armed guards for now, we are planning to have a meeting with the Christian leaders, Anglican Church and Pastors from various Churches to finalize a course of action in the current situation."
This is the third attack on a Church in Pakistan in past one week, a wave of fear and frustration is spreading among the Christians in Pakistan. The Young Christian professionals don't see any hope in Pakistan anymore.