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Personal tragedy behind each of 85 deaths in Pakistan church bombing

Project(s): 00-345

Country/Region: South and East Asia, Pakistan

By Wilson Saraj, Barnabas Aid’s projects manager

Behind the staggering death toll of the worst-ever attack on Pakistan’s Christian community are many faces that I knew personally, having grown up in All Saints Church, Peshawar, where my relatives continue to worship. The church was targeted in a double suicide bombing on Sunday (22 September), which left scores of Christians dead and injured.    

Christians have staged protests throughout Pakistan this week
Christians have staged protests throughout Pakistan this week

The official tally stands at 85 dead, but is almost certainly much higher, as some relatives recovered the bodies of their loved ones before they were accounted for. And more may yet die as some of the injured remain in a critical condition and the local hospital struggles under the strain of so many severely wounded.

Yesterday (25 September), the Archbishop of Canterbury described them all as “martyrs”.

Each statistic tells an individual story of intense tragedy. William, a man of a similar age to me, with whom I remember playing cricket as a lad, was killed along with his son and daughter. His wife is in a critical condition in hospital and does not yet know that her family has been murdered.

Their son, Noel, aged around 22/23, was a medical student, having worked extremely hard to gain the qualifications necessary to train as a doctor. William himself was a very intelligent man; he was the principal of the local government school. It is very rare in Pakistan for Christians, who are heavily discriminated against and generally restricted to low-paid menial work, to rise to such a position. This family was a credit to the Christian community and a blessing to wider society.  

Khalid, a good friend of mine – we grew up on the same street – was also taken from us in this horrific attack. He was the main breadwinner for his family, and I do not know how they are going to cope without him.

Naiher (8) and her brother Eshan (11) were both killed in the bomb blast
Naiher (8) and her brother Eshan (11) were both killed in the bomb blast

Naiher (8) was killed along with her brother, Eshan (11), both pictured, and their grandmother. Children are the future for their families and the Church; what will tomorrow hold for them?

It will take some time for those involved to recover from the trauma. Zaveria (22) was momentarily blinded when something hit her on the head during the blast. The impact knocked her to the ground. She described the dreadful scene she saw when her vision returned: dead bodies on the floor, body parts flying through the air, her own mother lying on the ground unconscious. Zaveria suffered a severe head injury, and her mother is in a serious condition. Their psychological scars may well run deeper than their physical ones.

Christians have this week staged protests across Pakistan, understandably calling for better protection in the wake of the All Saints bombing, which was the single greatest tragedy to have ever afflicted the Church in Pakistan.

It has brought with it a growing sense of despair as to the future of the Church. We face not only discrimination, marginalisation, persecution and violence but also endemic poverty; our Christian community is one of the poorest in the country. 

In the midst of their grief however, victims of the All Saints bombing have also talked of forgiveness and expressed determination to continue practising their faith, despite the danger. Pakistani Christians have remained faithful to Christ over the years, seeking to worship Him, follow Him and serve Him.

All Saints will hold a service on Sunday morning as usual, in defiance of the extremists who are trying to suppress Christianity in Pakistan.

The church has asked us to pray for healing and peace for everyone affected by Sunday’s attack. Please continue to remember them in your prayers as the news agenda moves on to other matters.

Barnabas Aid will be helping the victims with practical means to rebuild their lives.  

We at Barnabas Fund were already supporting many very needy Christian families from Peshawar, some of whom attend All Saints Church and were caught up in the blast, through our feeding programme in Pakistan; this provision helps the poorest Christians to break free from poverty and provide a better future for their children.

Thank you for your support and prayers.

Give Today

If you would like to help those who have been affected by this attack, please send a donation to the Victims of Violence Fund (project 00-345). using our secure server.

If you prefer to telephone, dial: 0800 587 4006 from within the UK or +44 1672 565031 from outside the UK. Please quote project reference Victims of Violence Fund (project 00-345).

If you prefer to send a cheque by post: Click this link for the address of our regional office. Please quote project reference Victims of Violence Fund (project 00-345).

For a quick donation of £3.00 by SMS (see terms and conditions here) text Barnabas/345 to 70007 (Please note: This facility is presently only available to UK supporters).

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