More details on the deadly attack on a Pakistani church over the weekend – the worst attack on Christians in the country’s history – are surfacing today as Christians around the world mourn the tragedy.
A twin suicide bombing at All Saints Church in Peshawar in northern Pakistan on Sunday has claimed the lives of 85 people and injured over 100 more. Among the dead, according to the Diocese of Peshawar, were several children who attended Sunday School and members of the church choir.
A wing of the Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement: “They are the enemies of Islam, therefore we target them. We will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land.”
An archdeacon at All Saints Church told Morning Star News that security in the church is “always tight during Sunday mass.”
“There were about 14-15 police guards headed by an assistant sub-inspector of Peshawar Police assigned for our security, but still the suicide attackers manager their way in disguised as policemen.”
Rt Rev Humphrey S. Peters, Bishop of Peshawar has condemned the suicide attack and said it was a total failure of the new Government of KPK (one of the four provinces of Pakistan) and government has failed to provide security to the minorities in Khayber Pakhtunkhwa, Peshawar Pakistan. He appealed to the Christian community in Pakistan and around the world to pray for the affected families.
Pakistan is ranked No. 14 on the Open Doors World Watch List, ranking Christian persecution by country in 2013. The report highlights the rise of Islamic militant groups and the risk this poses to the minority Christians in the country, making up roughly 2 per cent of Pakistan’s 200 million population.
Barnabas Fund, a Christian organisation supporting minority and persecuted Christians around the world are reporting that the attacks on All Saints Church happened at the end of the church service on Sunday, as hundreds of worshippers were greeting each other.
Wilson Saraj, Barnabas Fund’s projects manager in Australia grew up in Pakistan, where he attended All Saints Church. He knows many of the victims and has been in contact with their families.
“They are so traumatised,” said Saraj. “They can barely speak about what happened… 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 the crisis.”
Anthony Lamuel from the Pakistan Bible Society has sent the following information and prayer requests:
“This is a very sad and shocking event. We had our Area Thanksgiving Service in that church a few months back and I know some of those killed in the attacks and others who are badly injured. Please pray particularly for Mr Asher, who is a good Bible Society supporter and has been injured. I am going to Peshawar tomorrow with the Bishop of Lahore and a diocesan officer. Please pray for the bereaved families, for the wounded and for all the churches in Pakistan, as this has left Christians feeling very insecure.”
Anthony also shared that this coming Sunday, 29 September is Bible Sunday in Pakistan, and he will be preaching in a large church. The Bible Society is expecting around 650 people to take part in a Bible reading and memorisation competition following the service and are asking people to pray for God to protect them and for the event to take place peacefully .
Langham Partnership in Australia, an organisation focusing on raising the standards of biblical preaching and teaching, has also asked for prayer. Langham scholar Qaiser Julius is also the Principal of Open Theological Seminary (OTS) in Pakistan, and is currently studying at Melbourne School of Theology. Wendy Toulmin, executive officer at Langham Partnership Australia told supporters in an email last night that Qaiser’s good friend and colleague at OTS, Naeem Nazir, together with his wife and daughter were among those killed in the Peshawar attack. Naeem was also a Langham Preaching trainer in the region. Read more about the work Langham Partnership has been doing with theological scholars in Pakistan in this article from Eternity last year.
Three days of mourning have been announced with Pakistani government officials condemning the attacks.
All Saints Church was built in 1883 and is one of the oldest churches in Pakistan. The country has some of the strictest anti-blasphemy laws of any Muslim majority country. Reports of persecution for Christians in Pakistan are widespread. Earlier this year, a poor Christian neighbourhood in Lahore was set on fire and ransacked after a mosque reportedly broadcast one of the community’s residents was accused of blaspheming against Muhammad.