'The Taliban will stop at nothing now,' Pakistan prelate says
"What happened was a sign of desperation. The Taliban are prepared to carry out brutal attacks, killing school children, shooting them in the head.They will stop at nothing now."
By John Pontifex
NEW YORK—All Pakistanis are at risk of terrorist attacks today, a leading Catholic prelate said in response to the Dec. 16 Taliban attack on the Peshawar school that killed 148, most of them children.
Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi charged that the Taliban “will stop at nothing now” to harm people. The president of the Pakistani bishops’ conference, speaking from Karachi with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, said that the threat to schools, hospitals, churches, mosques and other public places had grown and that tighter security was crucial.
Archbishop Coutts said: “What happened was a sign of desperation. The Taliban are prepared to carry out brutal attacks, killing school children, shooting them in the head. They will stop at nothing now.
“The [security services] should be increasing security in public places. We are dealing here with people who have no conscience. It is just blind hatred.”
Stressing that the attack on Peshawar was the Taliban’s response to Pakistan military offences in the Khyber region and North Waziristan, regions close to the Afghan border, Archbishop Coutts said: “The Taliban want 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.’”
But the archbishop said that the Peshawar massacre was not a sign of the Taliban’s growing military might. “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,” he said
The archbishop has called on Church communities to “celebrate Christmas in a sober manner as a mark of respect for all victims of terror attacks.” In a formal statement, he added: “On the birthday of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, all Christians must pray fervently 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 appealed to his faithful to pray not only for those killed in this week’s tragedy but also for other Taliban victim, including the 127 people killed during the September 2013 attack on All Saints’ Church in Peshawar.
Archbishop Coutts also urged people to pray for brick kiln workers Shama Bibi, 24, and Sajjad Maseeh, 27, the young Christian couple burned to death earlier this month after being accused of blaspheming Islam.
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.”
ACN photo: Archbishop Coutts