Christians Gather For Christmas Under Stepped Up Security

Christmas church services and other celebrations have kicked started and held this weekend under the gaze of armed guards and security cameras in many countries after Islamic State gunmen attacked a Methodist church in Pakistan as a Sunday service began.

Majority-Muslim countries in Asia and the Middle East were particularly nervous after U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent announcement he intends to relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a decision that has outraged many Muslims.

In Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, police said they stepped up security around churches and tourist sites, mindful of near-simultaneous attacks on churches there at Christmas in 2000 that killed about 20 people.

Muslim volunteers in Indonesia are also on standby to provide additional security if requested.

“If our brother and sisters who celebrate Christmas need … to maintain their security to worship, we will help,” said Yaqut Chiolil Qoumas, chairman of the youth wing of the Nahdlatul Ulema, one of the country’s biggest Muslim organizations.

In Cairo, where a bombing at the Egyptian capital’s largest Coptic cathedral killed at least 25 people last December, the interior ministry said police would conduct regular searches of streets around churches ahead of the Coptic celebration of Christmas on Jan. 7.

Image result for Christians Gather For Christmas Under Stepped Up Security

Egypt’s Christian minority has been targeted in several attacks in recent years, including the bombing of two churches in the north of the country on Palm Sunday in April.

At the Heliopolis Basilica, a Catholic cathedral in northeastern Cairo, security forces set up metal detectors at the main doors and police vehicles were stationed outside ahead of masses Dec. 25, which marks Christmas Day for Catholic and Protestant Christians.

In the Pakistani city of Quetta, members of a Bethel Memorial Methodist Church are repairing the damage done by a pair of suicide bombers who attacked during a service last Sunday, killing 10 people and wounding more than 50.

Broken pews and damaged musical instruments were still strewn around church grounds Thursday, with about a dozen police standing guard.

 Pastor Simon Bashir, who was leading the service when the attackers struck said; “We’re making efforts to complete repairs and renovation before Christmas, but it seems difficult in view of the lot of damage,” . He was not hurt said.

The government of Baluchistan province, of which Quetta is capital, plans to deploy 3,000 security personnel in and around 39 Christian churches this Sunday and Monday.

Provincial police chief Moazzam Jah Ansari told Reuters that volunteers from churches were also being trained to conduct body searches and identify worshippers entering churches.

Pakistan’s Christian minority, which makes up about 1 percent of the population of 208 million, has been a frequent target  along with Shi’ite and Sufi Muslims  of Sunni Muslim militants.

In the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, where an Easter Day bombing in a park last year killed more than 70 people, police Detective Inspector General Haider Ashraf said every church would be monitored with CCTV cameras as part of security measures.

Christian Kaleem Masih lost his aunt in the Easter attack, which was claimed by Islamic State, and his wife was wounded, but he said they would be attending Christmas services.

“Christmas is our holy day,” Kaleem said. “We will fulfill our religious duty by celebrating it with smiles on our faces.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s