Church in Pakistan on Full Security Alert
VATICAN CITY, MAY 2, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican is calling for reflection, not celebration, in the wake of the death al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 terror attacks that killed more than 3,000.
U.S. President Barack Obama announced late Sunday night that a team of Navy SEALS assaulted the villa in which bin Laden was hiding, and killed him after a brief firefight. The world's most wanted terrorist was living in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad, in northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, said in a statement issued today that "a Christian never takes pleasure from the fact of a man's death."
He noted that bin Laden "claimed responsibility for grave acts that spread division and hate among the peoples, manipulating religion to that end," and added that his death is "an opportunity to reflect on each person's responsibility, before God and humanity."
Father Lombardi added that he hoped the event wouldn't "become another occasion to disseminate hate, but rather to foster peace."
According to the Pentagon, bin Laden's body was thrown into the North Arabian Sea after following the traditional Islamic funeral rituals.
Fear of reprisals
In Pakistan, the government has shut down Christian schools and churches, and they have enhanced security in Christian areas, fearing reprisals from bin Laden's followers, the Fides news agency is reporting.
Paul Bhatti, special adviser to the government for religious minorities, confirmed to Fides: "The situation is tense. There are, in fact, strong reactions of fear, unreasonable, against Christian minorities. The government is paying close attention to preventive measures."
Father Mario Rodrigues, director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Pakistan, told Fides that "Christians in Pakistan are innocent victims, even in this situation: any excuse is good to threaten or to attack.”
Retired Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore, Pakistan, told UCANews that while Christians are a "soft target" for militant muslims in the short-term, the long-term effects of the al-Qaida leader's death could reduce extremism in the country.
"At last we have hope that things will get better gradually," he said.
The archbishop called bid Laden a "a role model of extremism and a threat to world peace. His death will change the complexion and decentralize as well as demystify extremism."
Down, not out
Massimo Introvigne, who serves the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe as a "representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions," says that reprisals are already in the works.
"There are jihad sites that are already calling for attacks against churches and the killing of Christians," said Introvigne in a statement sent to ZENIT.
He said that there is a "grave and clear obligation of the governments of Pakistan and other countries where Christian minorities are threatened by the ultra-Islamic fundamentalism to protect Christians against the reprisals that were immediately announced."
Author of a biography on Bin Laden, Introvigne says the death of the al-Qaida leader is "symbolic," but not enough to bring down the terrorist organization, which he says works more as a network of various organizations.
He added that there is also a risk of "short-term fragmentation of decision-making" that could produce a "multiplication of attacks."
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