The terrorist attack on All Saints Church in Peshawar last Sunday, September 22nd has devastated the Christian community not only in Pakistan but across the UK.
A series of two bomb blasts went off outside the church killing 130 and injuring over 145, after the service had commenced. Officials said suicide vests were later found outside All Saints, which was originally built in 1883 by an expert Muslim architect of Mosques. An estimated 37 of the victims who died are thought to be children.
Sylvia James, from Walsall who lost 5 relatives and numerous friends in the attack including her aunt and 3 grandchildren told Pukaar News “When I heard the news I called my brother and he told me of the suicide blast. I was very panicked, all of my relatives were there.” Mrs James, whose family had worshiped at All Saints from childhood with regular attendance, defiantly said “This will not stop Christians going to church.” Her husband, James Mangtamunn continued “I was very surprised and sad. Why are they doing this to Christians because we are at peace and we want peace all over the world.”
The attack on Pakistani churches is the second in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa exactly a year to the day. Two militant groups are claiming responsibility for the suicide bombers, both of which have past links with the Pakistani Taliban, who have however condemned the attack.
Shahid Anwar who lives in Leicester, lost his uncle and 4 cousins, was at a loss as to why Pakistani Christians were being persecuted telling Pukaar News “I can’t explain because our nation is suffering every month, every year, we don’t know what is happening with Christians.” Mr Anwar had a male cousin who was due to go to All Saints on the morning of the 22nd to announce his upcoming marriage, but did not attend.
Pakistani Christians represent around 1.6% of the country’s religious beliefs and Bishop Samuel Azariah, presiding Bishop of the Church of Pakistan said “This is a very sad moment in the history of this nation and in the history of the Christian community. Never in the past has such an ugly incident taken place where so many lives have been lost.”
Local Reverend Paskal Clement of the Church of the Resurrection, Weymouth Street, Leicester told Pukaar News “We are really very sad and totally condemn this act of terrorism it should not happen to anyone. It’s a waste of life and there is no respect for human beings. We extend our condolences to our Christian community.” Rev. Clement will be holding a vigil this Friday 26th September at his church to remember those who have died, praying for the injured and consoling those who have lost loved ones.