They believe the West is coming to attack them, and they aren’t going to sit around and do nothing.
What is their goal?
To make Pakistan an Islamic State. They say democracy is un-Islamic, so they are against the government. People ask if Christians are being persecuted in Pakistan, but they’re not really aiming at us. They are aiming at the State.
Fortunately we have a good, large, well disciplined, standing army. But our army has been trained, armed and equipped to fight a conventional war with the so-perceived threat from India. That means we want F16 bombers. We want the latest heavy tanks. We want long range artillery.
Last year in June the army finally went into action. They put in 30,000 troops in this mountainous area.
We have learned they are now targeting all schools. Why?
Since the army has gone into action, they’re finding it tough to hit back at the military.
If the terrorists can’t hit the army, what do they do? They think: “We can’t get to the army, but there is an army school up north, where most of the kids are children of army officers. We’ll hit them where it hurts.”
That was such a brutal attack. Little children in school, hiding under the desks, another guy coming around, saying “that child is still moving” — bang. They were shooting them as if they were shooting animals. It was so bad. One hundred and thirty kids plus they burned one teacher, and they did it intentionally in front of the kids, so you can imagine.
They wanted to hurt … that’s what terrorism means: terrify you so that you say, “My God, I better not do anything, because these guys are vicious.” They terrify you.
What made them then attack churches?
When the government started providing more protection, they chose another target: churches. “Get the Christians.” I was telling somebody: If we start guarding our churches, putting our young men to look out for anyone suspicious, the terrorists may say: it’s now difficult to get the churches, let’s hit the hospitals.
How many things can you protect with hundreds of churches, thousands of schools? They could hit the railway station, where hundreds are getting on an off; or a bus station.
They could choose any target now, but they have specified schools for a reason: this is where you are teaching un-Islamic education, you are teaching the English language.
We value the English language. We have a kind of elite school, where the children can do what is called the Cambridge O-level examination. Higher than that is the A-levels. The terrorists say: That is all Western “crap”. I’m using the word, they didn’t. But that’s what they mean. They say: “Clean Pakistan. We want an Islamic system.”
So in this sense, when the Taliban attacked the churches, they were not saying: “Let’s go and attack the Christians.” If they had that in mind, they could just squeeze us. We are only two percent of the population. It’s really the State they are aiming at. They want to Islamize the country. And if they do succeed in that, then we will be in trouble indirectly as Christians.
How are the Christians generally responding after the attacks?
We are responding in another way. We have received a lot of sympathy from the Muslim community. I got a nice letter from the high court lawyers association, saying “we condemn this” and “this is not an Islamic way of going things, and we are with you.”
Last Sunday, I was still in Karachi. I was about to celebrate the evening Mass and the telephone rang. It was a group I didn’t know. They said they wanted to come and express their solidarity. It turned out to be a group of about 100 people. Most of them were university students — all Muslims. Plus people from civil society: a few doctors and lawyers. They all came and stood holding hands in front of the Church until the Mass finished, meaning to say: we don’t agree with what is happening, and we are here to protect you. Of course they were not armed or anything, but it was a great act of solidarity.
When Mass finished — it was celebrated in our language — I announced to the people: don’t get worried, when you go out of the Church you’ll see a lot of people standing outside. They are Muslims, but they are here to be with us. And pray for them too. It’s a very bold act.