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Pakistan archbishop pays tribute to 'hero and martyr'

At least 14 people were killed and 70 others injured in the attacks during Sunday services at St John's Catholic Church and also a Church of Pakistan congregation in the Lahore district of Youhanabad.

A group with links to the Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility.

Archbishop Sebastian Shaw has told Premier that the suicide bomber who targeted St John's was apprehended by 20-year-old Aakash, meaning he had to trigger the explosion before entering the church.

Aakash volunteered to work on security after previously serving as an altar boy. After dying in the incident he is now set to receive a government medal for bravery.

Speaking about the incident, Archbishop Sebastian said: "Aakash grabbed him and threw him to the ground. He died there and then.

"He sacrificed his life but saved many, in the church were almost 2,000 people.

"If this man had got into the church he would have killed many people.

"He (Aakash) gave his life so he's our hero, he's a martyr."

Meanwhile anti-persecution charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide is calling on the Pakistani government to tackle the root causes of violence against churches.

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: "CSW stands in solidarity with the Christian community in Pakistan and extend our heartfelt condolences to those who lost loved ones in the church attacks and the aftermath.

"We echo the calls of civil society in Pakistan for peace to prevail and call on the authorities to hold those responsible for this deplorable act to account.
"However, the government must go further to tackle the root causes of violence against religious minorities if it is to stem these attacks, which occur against a backdrop of unchecked extremism and institutional, legal and societal discrimination against minorities.

"A culture of impunity means that the victims of such attacks have scant hope for justice - and this must end if religious minorities are to be guaranteed their rights as equal citizens in Pakistan."

Listen to Archbishop Sebastian Shaw speaking to Premier's Marcus Jones:

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