Pakistani minister whose church was bombed to resume ministry at home

Sydney-based Anglican minister, the Rev Ijaz Gill, is not letting fear stop him from returning to his homeland of Pakistan to resume his ministry – despite a horrific bomb attack that killed 122 of his congregation, many of them children, and injured 168 of his friends.

Rev Gill was just about to remove his robe after morning service at All Souls Church in Peshawar when the first bomb hit on 22 September 2013.

The historic 19th-century church was crowded with about 500 people, including many families, who were celebrating wedding announcements with a spread of food and sweets.

“When the first bomb blast hit, I fell down; it hit my head and shoulder, I was injured. The second bomb blast hit many, many people,” he recalls, shaking his head over the immense carnage.

Rev Gill believes the suicide bombers targeted his church, located on the border with Afghanistan, because of his outspoken stand against the Taliban. The Muslim extremists also took exception to his outreach which used stickers bearing mottos such as “I love Jesus”, “Jesus, Son of God” and “God is my shepherd.”

Despite continued threats, Rev Gill was reluctant to leave Pakistan, where he had served in ministry for almost 30 years, but he heeded the urging of family and friends to flee. He and his wife arrived in Sydney on temporary protection visas in July 2014.

Life in Sydney was difficult at first but over time Rev Gill developed an Urdu ministry at an Anglican church in southwest Sydney. Now, seven years later, Rev Gill and his wife Shahanz are excited to return to Peshawar to resume their ministry work there – despite the dangers from an ascendant Taliban in Afghanistan. The couple feels they can no longer delay being reunited with their four children and eight grandchildren, with the ninth due next February. They fly out on 30 November.

The Rev Ijaz Gill and his wife Shahanz Gill

Though he is returning to Peshawar – the same province on the troubled border with Afghanistan – Rev Gill will serve at a different church; happily, it is the church where his son Shahroon Ijaz Gill is now a priest.

For safety’s sake, he has also changed his strategy, including the name of his ministry, in the hope of winning Muslims for Christ without antagonising militants.

“The new name of the ministry is Good Samaritans Shed Ministry. I’m going to help our Muslim neighbours and the community. This is my strategy. So at first, we build a relationship with the community. And then, once I build the relationship, I’m going to share the good news of Jesus and the love of Jesus and the peace of Jesus,” he said.

“I’ve been praying for this and God has given me this vision that I build that relationship first with the people and then share the good news.”

Instead of stickers, he will share the gospel of Christ via a recorded version of Psalms in Urdu, on a smartphone.

“I always use Psalms in my services,” he explained. “And I have experienced that Muslims accept the Psalms more.”

Rev Gill is not deterred by the fact that it is illegal for a Muslim to convert to Christianity in Muslim-majority Pakistan.

“Although it is illegal, however, we share the good news, and when people accept, then we work closely with them – and at times people take a stand on their conversion,” he says.

Rev Gill says he will be working closely with a team coordinated by his son, Shahroon.

“My vision is to spread the good news to the people that I spend time with. And that is my goal to share the good news of Lord Jesus to those people,” he explains.

Rev Gill says he will miss his church friends, but adds, “I will continue to pray for them, that God bless them abundantly and continue to use them.”

“Please pray for my ministry and particularly pray that God will be with me for this work, for this project. And that God will open the doors and people will come and support me in the work that I am doing.”

 

 

 

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Please pray for safety for Rev Gill, his family and his flock. And pray for much gospel fruit in a difficult part of the world.

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