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Archbishop urges Pakistan to step up security after school massacre

The leader of Catholics in the country has urged the government to increase security, arguing that the terror threat to schools, hospitals, churches, mosques and other public places has grown.

During an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) he said the attack, which killed over a hundred children, was "a sign of desperation", adding:

"The Taliban are prepared to carry out brutal attacks, killing school children, shooting them in the head. They will stop at nothing now.

"They should be increasing security in public places. We are dealing here with people who have no conscience; It is just blind hatred."

"The Taliban are wanting to show [the military] that they can hit the [army's] children and all their families. Their message is: 'We can get you in your own territory'."

"I don't think it was a show of strength. It is more likely to be a last ditch attempt to show what they can do."

Image: ACN

Image: ACN 

Archbishop Coutts, who is President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan, has called on Christians to pray for the 141 victims of the attack earlier this week, and also for peace:

"It is the duty of every Christian to be a promoter of peace, reconciliation, harmony and unity ... work[ing] together with fellow citizens [so] that Pakistan may be free from the scourge of violence and terrorism."

He called on church communities to "celebrate Christmas in a sober manner as a mark of respect for all victim[s] of terror attacks", adding:

"On the birthday of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, all Christians must pray fervently for peace."

In a statement, Archbishop Coutts also asked Christians to remember those persecuted in Pakistan, such as Christian couple Shama Bibi and Sajjad Maseeh, who were burned to death earlier this month for alleged blasphemy.

He said: "It is very important for us to know that there are others praying for us, wanting to help us, wanting to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us in faith.

"In spite of all our difficulties, we find a lot of strength in the prayers of all those who are concerned for us and I thank everybody who is remembering us, especially at this time of great tragedy and sadness."

The Peshawar school massacre has also been condemned by Pakistan's National Commission for Justice & Peace.

Fr Emmanuel Mani, NCJP director, and Cecil Chaudhry, executive director, have signed a message which states:

"We are running out of demands for human rights and now plead to the governments, all political parties, religious leaders, civil society organisations and the judiciary to set aside all their personal and political differences and join hands to end this menace of terrorism collectively.

"The government, both federal and provincial, along with the intelligence agencies should take serious and effective measures to prevent such an atrocity and also demand to increase security and ensure [the] safety of all children and citizens of Pakistan."

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