CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 9 June 2018

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Weapons licenses for Pakistan churches

QUETTA (UCAN): The provincial government in Balochistan, southwest Pakistan, plans to issue churches in the region with weapons licenses and has donated millions of rupees to Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta to support victims and families of a suicide bombing that killed nine people on 17 December 2017.
 
“The Balochistan Home Department will issue weapon licenses in the name of the churches,” Samuel Pyara, chairperson of the Implementation Minority Rights Forum (IMRF), said.
 
On January 24, following a meeting between the IMRF, officials and police the government notified all 41 Churches in the provincial capital of Quetta to nominate security volunteers for special training under the Civil Defense Directorate.
 
“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,” Pyara said.
 
The Home and Tribal Affairs Department of the provincial government also granted 26.4 million rupees $1.86 million) to the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church to compensate victims of the December bombing of the church.
 
The Federal Ministry for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony earlier announced that it would allocate five million rupees ($353,000) 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 at the beginning of February 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 frauds 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 authorised anyone to do this,” he said.
 
“Such acts of corruption in the name of those who are suffering is despicable,” Bashir said.

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