A Church of Scotland minister has given his first service since his mother, nephew, niece, two uncles and friends were killed in a suicide bomb attack on a church in Pakistan.
The bombing of All Saints Church in Peshawar on 22 September claimed 122 lives and is believed to be the deadliest of its kind in the country. A Taliban-linked group claimed responsibility – saying it was in retaliation for US drone strikes – but Reverend Aftab Gohar said he forgave them.
On the day of the attack, Rev Gohar, of Abbotsgrange parish in Grangemouth, spoke to his “severely injured” mother on the phone and she told him of the “severe pain in my tummy”. “Those were her last words to me. Then I went to church and I took the service because that was a dedication service of the Boys’ Brigade and Girls’ Brigade and I didn’t want to disappoint our youth organisations,” he told The Independent.
Speaking before Sunday’s service – described by one churchgoer as “very emotional” – he said: “From my childhood, I have learned this is the message of Jesus Christ: on the cross he said: ‘Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing’, and this is what I can say ... And we can pray for them – that God gives them wisdom so that they realise they are doing a wrong thing.
“I’m not superhuman, I am a human and it’s a natural thing that sometimes we get angry or we get upset with somebody, but we have learned this teaching and we have to try our best to follow this teaching, and that’s what I am trying to do.”
Rev Gohar said a “tiny minority” of people in Pakistan were involved in such violence and praised the response from local Muslims in Peshawar. “There was a lot of support from the Muslim community. They helped taking people to hospital, and there were 80 to 90 funerals and the Christian community was very upset and at that stage the Muslim community helped digging graves and preparing them for funerals,” he said. “Also, when I was there I saw that many Muslim organisations visited the injured people in hospital and provided food for them.”
About 168 people were injured in the bombing, including his 23-year-old niece Farah, who is paralysed from the waist down. “Doctors say they have no treatment for her. She didn’t get any big injury, but there is a shell in her spinal cord which has destroyed tissues and nerves,” Rev Gohar said. The Falkirk Herald newspaper has launched an appeal to pay for treatment for her in the UK.
“They were innocent people, children, women and men, who were there to worship God,” he said. “They were harmless people, they were not doing any harm to anybody.”Reuse content