The Church in Pakistan’s Bishop Humphrey Peters spoke solemnly about the aftermath of yesterday’s attack by the Taliban on a school that left 132 children and nine adults dead in the city of Peshawar.
“It is another unimaginable horror that has been unleashed upon this beautiful city,” he said. “The Church has already taken the decision to cancel Christmas as a celebration. Instead we will be using the time to come alongside those in the wider community who are grieving and injured.
“How can we celebrate and host parties when our city has been so devastated? We will still gather to worship but in a simple, stripped back and prayerful way.”
The attack on the Army School in Peshawar Cantonment, just a few blocks from St John’s Anglican Cathedral, came just two years after twin suicide bombers from a group affiliated to the Taliban murdered more than 100 worshippers of All Saints’ Church in Peshawar.
The Bishop said that the Church is looking to support communities in practical ways – visiting the injured in hospital, being with their families and supporting the bereaved – which ever faith group they belong to.
He stressed that the Church would continue to minister to those affected long after the world’s focus has moved elsewhere.
“Many of those injured [in 2013] are still receiving treatment,” said Bishop Peters. “We need to ensure that we stay with families for the long term.” He went on to emphasise that, while there was much anger and despair within the population of Peshawar, the Church should remain true to its calling. “We must go on striving to be a source of comfort, of hope and reconciliation – that is the role of the Church – in good times and bad.”
Speaking last night, Insar Gohar, the Diocese of Peshawar’s Youth Coordinator who lost his mother and children in the 2013 bomb blast, said parents of those killed and injured in yesterday’s attack are experiencing “terror and deep grief”.
“This [event] reminds the Christians of Peshawar of the attack on All Saints’ Church,” he said. “They are crying with the parents of the children killed today.
“Please pray for this situation, for the protection of our city and for peace in our region.”
Many people from this beleaguered city will gather at St John’s Cathedral, Peshawar, tomorrow at 3.30pm to hold a candlelit vigil and time of prayer.
Bishop Peters concluded, “We know the pain the wider community is feeling, we share in their devastation and we will walk with them in their anguish.”
Revd Andy Bowerman, Co-Executive Director of the Anglican Alliance, visited Peshawar earlier this year to learn more about the Church’s ministry there and meet with Bishop Humphrey Peters, who is an Alliance Board Member.
Reflecting on the latest tragic developments in Peshawar, Andy said, “In this time, as we prepare to mark the coming of the Christ child, it is particularly poignant and heartbreaking to reflect on this modern version of the Massacre of the Innocents. We join the Church in Pakistan in their prayers this Christmas and stand in solidarity with their ministry of comfort and reconciliation in the aftermath of this latest devastating attack.”
In the photo, Bishop Humphrey Peters visits the injured in hospital following the 2012 attack. Credit: Diocese of Peshawar.