Families are still struggling a year after a suicide bomber killed more than 70 people and injured hundreds others in an attack targeting Christians at Easter in Lahore, Pakistan, International Christian Concern (ICC) noted on the event's March 27 anniversary.
At least 21 Christians were killed and 45 Christians injured when an Islamic State terrorist denoted a suicide vest, killing an estimated 75 people and injuring about 340 others during an evening Easter celebration in a public park.
"The Easter day bombing left me alone," Tariq, a bombing survivor who was injured and lost his brother in the blast, told ICC. "My brother always supported me in difficult times; however, after his death I was extremely depressed." Added Tariq's sister Sumbal, "I will never forget my brother."
The 3.9 million Christians who comprise only 2 percent of Pakistan's population continue to live in danger in the country that Open Doors ranks as number four of its 2017 World Watch List noting the most severe persecution of Christians.
"Pakistan continues to be a deadly country for Christians to live and practice their faith," ICC Regional Manager William Stark said in a press release. "Christians not only face deadly attacks … but they must also endure social discrimination and blasphemy laws."
The anniversary comes at a heightened period of terrorism against various sectors of Pakistani society, with half a dozen bombings one week in February alone killing more than 125 and injuring several hundred, the Washington Post reported Feb. 18. In the most deadly February attack, at least 88 were killed and 250 injured during a religious gathering in the courtyard of a Sufi Muslim shrine in southeastern Sindh province, the Post said.
In response to the series of attacks, the Pakistani government placed security forces on high alert and pledged to "liquidate" all terrorists, the Post said. More than 100 suspected Islamist militants were hunted down and killed, authorities reported. But Pakistani citizens have accused the government of complacency.
In the Easter 2016 bombing, many of the victims were women and children, as the suicide bomber detonated at least eight kilograms of explosives near the children's swings in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, Morning Star News said after the tragedy.