ASIA/PAKISTAN - Taliban attack in Swat: Bishop defends "the right to life and education"

Islamabad (Agenzia Fides) - "Every person has a sacred right to life and education": so says His Exc Mgr. Rufin Anthony, Bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi to Fides, the diocese which includes the Swat valley (province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), where yesterday the Taliban group "Tehreek and Taliban Pakistan" attacked Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old Muslim activist. The girl was hit by a bullet to the head, was admitted to hospital in Peshawar, where doctors define her condition critical but "stable". The Bishop told Fides: "God created man in his own image, every life is precious and belongs to Him alone. As a Christian community we express sympathy and solidarity towards Malala." Speaking of the districts of Swat and Malakand, the Bishop explains: "Christians are there, but for the priests it is difficult to reach the faithful because they lack the basic conditions of security, although in recent times the situation seems to have improved. In fact, the Sisters of the Presentation have recently re-opened a girls' school (see Fides 11/04/2012), and this is a good sign for the people and for the Christians of the diocese. The Church in Pakistan is very committed to the education of girls, to contribute to their development and emancipation." Reverend Samuel Gill, an Anglican Pastor of the "Church of Pakistan", that takes care of 50 Christian families in the Swat Valley and another 50 in Malakand, told Fides: "We have not registered any dangers for Christians. Of course, there are Taliban groups and the army provides for the defense of our churches. We live in uncertainty: Malala was the victim of a targeted killing that may affect anyone, Christian or Muslim, who does not share the ideology of the Taliban. " The attack towards Malala has shaken civil society in Pakistan. Tahira Abdullah, a longtime Muslim activist, told Fides: "Whoever speaks against religious extremism and Talibanisation of the country is not safe in Pakistan. Talibans are not only in the tribal areas (FATA) but they are everywhere, and human rights activists are in danger. Last July, in Peshawar Farida Afridi was killed, another human rights activist. We ask the government to punish the perpetrators of the attack, to ensure the protection of women and minorities, to protect the life and dignity of all citizens, as required by the Constitution." (PA) (Agenzia Fides 10/10/2012)