On Sunday, 22 September, while 350 Christians were gathered in All Saints church in Peshawar, north-western Pakistan, two suicide bombers blew themselves up, killing at least 80 church-goers.
In the same weekend as atrocities occurred in Kenya and Iraq, this event in Pakistan was the deadliest attack on Christians in recent times. Approximately 150 were hospitalised, many in a critical condition, and a medical emergency was declared. Three days of mourning are now taking place in Pakistan.
The bombers had hidden 12 kilograms of explosives in their vests. One worshipper told The Telegraph that a sound like a firecracker was followed by a huge explosion. The church’s walls and floors were splattered with rice (prepared for the free meal due to be given to worshippers after Mass), and blood stained the white interior of the 162-year-old building.
Responsibility for the attack has been claimed by a militant group linked to the Taliban, Jandullah, who said they were retaliating against US drone strikes in Pakistan.
The church is in a predominately Hindu and Christian area, and these religious minorities total less than five per cent of Pakistan’s population. Terrorist attacks against religious minorities in Pakistan have increased over the past decade, and in 2011 the Christian minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated for opposing the discriminatory blasphemy laws.
Criticism has been directed towards the Pakistani government who are seen as not providing enough security for Pakistan’s religious minorities and slow to respond to attacks against them.
The Evangelical Alliance and their South Asian Forum are calling on Christians to pray for the wounded, for families who have lost loved ones and for peace for all religious minorities in Pakistan.
Manoj Raithatha, national coordinator of the South Asian Forum, said: “We are greatly saddened by this atrocity and call on the Pakistani government to do more to protect religious minority groups. Strong action must be taken to stop this awful violence against Christians and ensure that Pakistanis of all religions can live in peace and freedom.”
Dave Landrum, director of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, added: “This bombing is the latest in a long line of atrocities against Christians in Pakistan. The world is now watching the Pakistani government to see whether they have the will or the ability to protect Christians. They urgently need to act.”
Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, stated: “This is one of the worst attacks on Christians in Pakistan we have ever seen. Many people have died and many have been seriously injured, but still nothing is done by the Pakistan government to prevent such attacks – which are becoming more and more frequent. We have organised a protest (in London on 24 September) outside the High Commission to highlight the desperate plight of Christians in Pakistan and the constant threat of violence they face on a daily basis.”
Paul Robinson, chief executive of Release International, said: “This attack on innocent Christians in Peshawar is truly shocking and atrocious. Please pray for all those suffering as a result. It is not just those who have been injured or lost loved ones who will have been affected by this terrible violence but the whole Christian community in Pakistan. For my staff who are deeply involved with Pakistan and for our partners working there, who will now be helping the bereaved, it is heart-breaking.”
Please consider showing the three-minute Religious Liberty Commission video in your church and making time to pray for persecuted Christians across the world.