It has been one year since All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan was attacked by two suicide bombers connected to the Pakistani Taliban. In the aftermath of the attack, over 100 Christians were killed and over 150 more wounded. Despite the passage of a year, little has changed for many of the victims of the attack. Christians in Pakistan are often discriminated against because of their religious minority status. Promises made by the government of aid and security have gone unfulfilled. Please pray the the victims of the All Saints Church bombing and Christians in Pakistan generally.
9/23/2014 Pakistan (The Express Tribune) – It’s been a year; time has moved on but only outside the gates of All Saints Church. The barbed wire that encircles the church, with its razor-sharp bitterness, has barred time from the church. The clock that eerily stopped ticking at 11:44am on September 22, 2013 is now missing. Time has only passed but naught has changed.
“It brings back horrific memories” says Javed Iqbal, a senior member of the parish, while pointing at the damaged walls of the church which still carry the imprints of ball bearings that pierced through them. “Security officials who visit us flinch when they see the walls—it’s unimaginably painful.”
In the year gone by, much-promised help to renovate the church and rid it of its scars has not arrived.
Iqbal, however, has managed to fix the ornamental glasswork with the help of some friends, who wished to remain anonymous. “The government has nothing to claim, we’ve fixed these ourselves,” adds Iqbal.
The evening in the church is quiet; the gates of the inner portion are open for prayers. The lone policeman who stands guard does not budge an inch because of the fear of “the unknown that still surrounds these streets.” He nervously looks through the narrow opening in a steel door, questioning anyone who knocks.
A biometric security system and walkthrough gate bundled into a corner with torn sandbags has not made his life any easier. There are two policemen deployed at the church at all times, the number increases to four on Sundays. Insecurity surrounds the place; it’s not just one community that is on the hit list. Increased sectarian target killings, attacks on the Sikhs and the odd bomb planted by extortionists has squeezed all the space out of this once diverse city.
The Walled City, which symbolized a protective layer, is now imploding with not just violence but also pain, pain is epitomized by All Saints Church.
A cursory glance at official compensation records of the diocese is depressing; it’s astonishing how a single incident of violence has affected the lives of so many people. “Affected Families, 129, Widows, 44, Orphans, 14…” and so the list goes.
Whose name is or isn’t on the list remains a topic of discussion among affected families.
While accusations of embezzlement are made, it is hard to verify individual claims because of a lack of transparency. Lists available do not match up: “We are on it to get it corrected,” says Pastor Fayaz Channa unconvincingly.
Iqbal, who has maintained close relations with all affected families, says the distribution has not been even, putting the blame on the diocese as well as the government. “One requires political influence even to get compensated,” he says.
“Master Nazir and his wife passed away, but their children’s names are not included on any list.”
Some people involved in documenting the victims have also sought asylum and are now living abroad, a reason for resentment within the community.
First Steps, Second Chances
Master Stephen Yaqub, the devoted church tabla player resumed his musical duties after being bedridden for more than ten months but with one minor alteration. Because of the severity of his injuries, he can no longer sit on the ground.
Rehana Maryam* has been operated on six times now. She was eight months pregnant when the blasts ripped into the church and almost lost her legs. In an earlier interview, she told The Express Tribune she had lost the baby as the shrapnel sliced into her stomach.
Rehana took her first few steps last week, but her mother who was visiting her to celebrate the successful surgery died in a road accident.
Others like Arif Masih, whose injuries could have been treated and who could have completely healed, has been hospitalized since last year. His leg was partially amputated but has now been completely removed. “He is diabetic and his wounds developed gangrene,” says his doctor.