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Churches increase security in Pakistan due to Taliban threat

by Cara Bentley

Churches in Pakistan have stepped up security following the Taliban's return to power in neighbouring Afghanistan. 

Senior clergy in the Protestant and Catholic Church have agreed to tighten surveillance around churches, including checking the identity of people entering church grounds by car, using metal detectors as people go in for services and increased armed protection around churches, especially at Sunday services. 

The leaders fear that the Taliban's take-over of Afghanistan will trigger extremist incidents aimed at Christians and other minority faith communities. 

Pakistan human rights activist Sajid Christopher, chief executive of the Human Friends Organisation, said there were fears raised that Taliban-associated group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other militant organisations would capitalise on events in Afghanistan. 

Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Mr Christopher said: "When the Taliban were in power before, there were a lot of terrorist attacks in Pakistan. There were terrorist organisations attacking churches and other Christian institutes and other Christian institutes. They clearly became targets. 

"Now the Taliban are back, it will strengthen the TTP and other Islamist groups and so there could be attacks."

Taliban fighters have allegedly gone house-to-house to track down Christians and other minorities and there were reports of people being ordered to hand over their phones with the threat of being killed on the spot if their devices were found to contain Bible verses or devotional material.

Earlier this week, former US religious freedom ambassador Sam Brownback warned of genocide against Christians and other minorities in Afghanistan. 

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