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Soft targets

The U.S.

Security guard Robin Peera Datta briefly left his post outside the Institute for Peace and Justice in central Karachi to buy milk for the staff's midmorning tea. While he was away two gunmen entered the agency's offices armed with the latest Russian-made semiautomatic pistols. They tied six workers to chairs, taped their mouths, and shot each one in the head. A seventh worker was shot and wounded as he tried to flee but died later in the hospital. As the attackers began to flee, Mr. Peera Datta returned; they beat him but not to death.

Local investigators initially concluded that the killings were "a well-planned act of terrorism." If so it is the fifth deadly assault by Islamic militants on Christians-two church attacks, a Christian school, and a mission hospital-all since Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf gave his public support to the U.S. war on terror. Those attacks have killed 39 and injured 75.

Police say the Karachi killings differ from previous attacks on Christians where the terrorists used Kalashnikov rifles and hand grenades, and their targets included Westerners. The latest attack came one week after police in Karachi arrested militants of the Harakat ul-Mujahideen Al-Almi, a suspected terrorist cell. They possessed weapons and explosives, as well as maps and plans for at least two churches and a Christian school in Karachi.

IPJ is a Christian-based humanitarian organization, locally funded, with a 30-year track record in Pakistan. It does not receive direct aid from Western organizations and none of the victims had apparent ties to the West.

All those killed, in the words of one colleague, were "working for the uplift of the poor of the city irrespective of ethnicity or religious background." The group provided legal help, mediated labor disputes, and monitored human-rights violations on behalf of Karachi's poor. Most of the workers killed, according to one source, lived in poor neighborhoods to be close to their mission. Local Christians regard a magazine published by the agency as "bold"; it recently criticized Pakistan's repressive blasphemy laws.

The victims were Iqbal Allah Rakha, 40; Benjamin Sadiq, 26; Kamran Anjum, 25; Jan Muneer, 30; Aslam Martin, 45; Mushtaq Roshan, 51; and Edwin Foster, 35 (who died in the hospital).

One of the victims had been married two months; the others leave behind wives and children. "They need a measure of love and some financial help," a pastor who knew the victims told WORLD. (Unnamed sources in this story, obviously, fear for their lives.)

The killings put the terror war a step closer to all Pakistani Christians. They make up less than 3 percent of the population but have been under threat since U.S. military action commenced in neighboring Afghanistan. The local pastor, who visited each victim's family on Sept. 25, said, "In a way we are paying the price of American actions while Americans are protecting themselves. There is a growing hopelessness, even anger, on the part of Christians who live in Muslim lands. They are affected by U.S. action."

Shahbaz Bhatti, chairman of All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, said, "We appeal to the international community to save the unprotected Christians of Pakistan."

Church leaders announced three days of mourning to coincide with the Sept. 29 funeral for the seven men. Some churches will continue their activities. One pastor told WORLD his congregation would hold its regular meeting. "If we give in to fear it seems our work will be over."

Mindy Belz

Mindy Belz

Mindy wrote WORLD Magazine's first cover story in 1986 and went on to serve as international editor, editor, and now senior editor. She has covered wars in Syria, Afganistan, Africa, and the Balkans, and she recounts some of her experiences in They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Mindy resides with her husband, Nat, in Asheville, N.C. Follow her on Twitter @mcbelz.