“I came [to church] in the morning with my whole family for prayers and worship but returned home with no-one. My mum took her last breath in my arms; my dad and sister died.”
Teenager Shaloom Naeem’s world was torn apart yesterday (22 September) when his parents and older sister were killed in the deadliest-ever attack on Pakistan’s Christian minority.
They were among at least 83 people who lost their lives in a double suicide bombing at All Saints Church in Peshawar. The attackers struck at the end of the service as around 400 worshippers were greeting each other, leaving a scene of carnage, devastation and heartbreak. Around 131 people were wounded, some of them critically. Many of those killed and injured were children.
Wilson Saraj, Barnabas Fund’s projects manager, is from Pakistan and grew up in All Saints Church. He knows many of the victims and has been in contact with their families; some of his own relatives were injured.
They are so traumatised, they can barely speak about what happened yesterday. It is a grievous tragedy; hundreds of lives have been devastated by the loss of loved ones and they will need a great deal of support as they try to come to terms with the magnitude of this crisis.
I have many memories from my childhood of going to Sunday school and the youth group at this church and my close relatives are still members. We are greatly distressed; the victims’ families are all very much in my thoughts and prayers today.
Barnabas Fund will be providing practical help to this shattered Christian community in the weeks and months ahead.
One of the injured, Robin, told Wilson on the phone from his hospital bed:
I was in a horrible state – it was like the end of the world for me but when I came to my senses I realised that I have been given a second chance in my life and I am very thankful to my Lord Jesus Christ.
The threat of an attack against All Saints Church had been known for a number of days before the bombing, but the usual guard of two policemen was not reinforced.
The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack. Ahmad Marwat, a spokesman for one of the group’s factions, said they would continue to “strike foreigners and non-Muslims” until US drone attacks, which have been targeting the north west province – of which Peshawar is the capital – stopped. He added:
[The Christians] are the enemies of Islam, therefore we target them. We will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land.
Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the country’s Ulema Council, an association of leading Muslim scholars, condemned the bombing, saying that it violated the tenets of Islam.
All Saints was built in 1883 and is one of the oldest churches in Pakistan. Christians, who comprise around two per cent of the population, have long suffered discrimination and violence, but Sunday’s suicide bombing escalates the threat level dramatically.
Provincial lawmaker Fredrich Azeem Ghauri warned, "Now after this attack Christians across Pakistan will fear for their lives."
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).