At least 75 people were killed and nearly 370 injured after a bomb exploded in Gulshan-e Iqbal Park in Lahore. Many of the victims were women and children. A Taleban off-shoot, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, saying that the target of the attack was Christians celebrating Easter.
Crowds were larger than usual on Sunday in the busy park, with what the Church of Pakistan described as “an extraordinary rush” in the evening as a large number of Christians had turned up to mark Easter Day.
Pakistan was at a “breaking point”, the Moderator of the Church of Pakistan, the Most Revd Samuel Azariah, said in response to the attack.
Bishop Samuel and other bishops visited hospitals in the aftermath to console and pray for the injured and to analyse the situation. In a video message late on Easter Day, Bishop Samuel said: “I have personally met and seen small children, women, old people. Some of them unconscious. Some of them from our church and from our diocese. It is a very, very tragic and sad event.”
In the video, recorded before Jamaat-ul-Ahrar had claimed responsibility, Bishop Azariah said the bombing was “definitely targeted to create chaos, confusion, fear and anxiety amongst the people”.
In a later statement, posted on his Facebook page, Bishop Samuel said that such terror attacks “weaken and damage the struggle and effort toward bringing a relation of peace and harmony between Christians and Muslims”.
Responding to the attack, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: “We pray for the victims of Lahore to the crucified God who brings hope in despair, whose love is with the victims, who promises justice.”
Bishop Samuel asked that the Anglican Communion keep the Church in its prayers. “May this time of Easter – a celebration of Christ’s victory over death and the grave – be a meaningful and a consoling experience for many of our people who are in the hospital at the moment. . . May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ prevail amongst us.”
In a phone call with the Anglican Alliance, Bishop Mano Rumalshah of the Church of Pakistan spoke of the trauma experienced by the victims of this attack. “Our hearts have grown old talking of this,” he said.
Bishop Mano had, just two weeks ago, helped to convene a development roundtable in Lahore for the Church’s partners around the world. He stressed the importance of long term economic development. In addition to meeting the immediate needs, he said that the Church “has to develop the Christian community for long-term economic viability.”
Revd Andy Bowerman, Co-Executive Director of the Anglican Alliance, attended the roundtable meeting. Andy said: ‘I returned from Lahore just a week before the suicide bombing – we had spent four days as churches, both local & international, exploring the role of minorities in bringing reconciliation. I’d even been taken for a short break to the Gulshan-e Iqbal Park where the atrocity took place, so can picture the families gathered and hear the sounds of children playing there.”
“It’s another huge blow to the country not just to the Christian community. What they need from us is prayer and tangible action.”
“We can do this by praying, as Moderator Sammy Azariah has asked, that ‘the hope of the resurrection will continue to burn brightly’ and that the nation can move beyond simply condemning another extremist attack,” Andy said.
“We can also respond practically by supporting local Christian hospitals as they respond to the immediate crisis and seeking long term opportunities to enable the Christian communities of Pakistan to flourish spiritually, emotionally & economically. It seems that now is the time to engage more deeply and not hold back,” Andy added.
The Anglican Alliance will next week organise a conference call with the Church leadership in Pakistan and with both Communion and ecumenical partners. This will be an opportunity to hear directly from the Church about the unfolding situation and to learn how church and agency partners can best support the local churches’ response.
The Minar-e-Pakistan (Tower of Pakistan) has been adopted as a backdrop of a meme by social media users expressing solidarity with the people of Lahore after the Easter Day massacre.
Based on reports from ACNS and the Church of Pakistan and phone calls with Church leaders.
Photos: Bishop Samuel visits a man injured in the Easter Day bombing. Credit: Diocese of Raiwind
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