Quetta church also given 26 million rupees to support victims of Christmas attack
An Implementation Minority Rights Forum (IMRF) meeting on Jan. 26 at Bethel Memorial Methodist Church, Quetta. (Photo by Samuel Pyara)
A provincial government in southwest Pakistan plans to issue churches in the region with weapon licenses and has donated millions of rupees to a Methodist church to support victims and families of a suicide bombing that killed nine worshippers in December.
The Balochistan government notified all 41 churches in the provincial capital of Quetta on Jan. 24 to nominate security volunteers for special training under the Civil Defense Directorate.
The notices were issued following a meeting between the Implementation Minority Rights Forum (IMRF) and officials and police in Quetta last week.
“The Balochistan Home Department will issue weapon licenses in the name of the churches,” IMRF Chairman Samuel Pyara told ucanews.com.
“This will further enable a special force of volunteers to assist local police when services are held. We will form a committee to monitor these developments and settle the problems of those affected,” he said.
The Home and Tribal Affairs Department of the provincial government also granted 26.4 million rupees (US$239,000) to the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church of Quetta to compensate victims of the Dec. 17 bombing of the church.
The Federal Ministry for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony announced earlier it would allocate 5 million rupees to assist with the repairs after a government delegation visited the building at the end of last year.
“The complicated government process and slow coordination between departments was a major hurdle [to the new security measure],” Pyara said.
“Neither police nor hospital authorities had submitted a list of victims or an assessment of losses to the Quetta deputy commissioner. We had to convince them to fast-track the matter.”
Thirty people injured in the blast are still receiving treatment, officials said.
Simon Bashir, the pastor of the bombed church, was in Karachi this week visiting a 16-year-old girl who was due to undergo eye and jaw surgery.
“We are literally running after patients in different hospitals. People, not buildings, are our priority at present. [The victims] are not satisfied with the treatment at government hospitals,” he said.
“At least four patients sustained injuries to their groins and require urgent surgery. One 30-year-old woman suffered amnesia due to a traumatic head injury,” he added.
He expressed concern about fraudulent actors exploiting the attack.
“I have received calls from an embassy in Islamabad about a Christian lawmaker who is collecting funds in our name. However I haven’t recommended or authorized anyone to do this,” he said.
“Such acts of corruption in the name of those who are suffering is despicable.”