Christians in Peshawar Honor the Martyrs of All Saints Church on Anniversary of Bombing
Families Still Mourning Two Years After Pakistan’s Worst Incident of Persecution
09/22/2015 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Christians in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar are gathering to honor the martyrs of the All Saints Church bombing on the second anniversary of the attack. The attack on All Saints Church remains the single deadliest attack on Christian in Pakistan’s independent history and it left hundreds of Pakistani Christians dead or wounded as a result.
On September 22, 2013 at approximately 11:45 a.m., two suicide bombers connected to the Pakistani Taliban detonated themselves inside the courtyard of All Saints Church located in Peshawar, Pakistan. The church, established in 1883 and considered one of the oldest Christian institutions in the city, had just concluded its Sunday service and hundreds of church members were gathered in the walled courtyard outside the church when the bombs exploded.
The resulting scene was that of mass carnage with shrapnel, body parts and blood littering the church compound. When the smoke cleared, over 100 Christians were killed and hundreds were more wounded, requiring immediate medical attention.
The Jundallah group, an affiliate with the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the deadly attack, labeling the mass murder of Christians a “protest” to U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. The group’s leader, Ahmad Marwat, promised that attacks would continue until U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan were halted.
Sumbal William, a Christian who lost her father, brother, and sister in the attack, told ICC, “Apparently, two years have passed since the attack. However, the wounds of losing three family members are still fresh for me. It is impossible to forget that bloody day which turned our life forever into sorrow.”
“Lord in His mercy accepted many people from All Saints Church to become living witnesses,” Bishop Humphry Peters of Peshawar told ICC. “God gave a big job to many of our people to become martyrs. Therefore, this is a time of joy and blessing because our martyrs have become saints.”
In response to the bombing of All Saints Church, Pakistan’s Supreme Court passed a judgment suo motu stating that the government had to take more steps to protect religious minorities. As part of the 32-page judgment, Chief Justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hassain Jillani said, “A Special Police Force [must] be established with professional training to protect the places of worship of minorities.”
Since that judgment was passed down in June 2014, the Pakistani government has done little to secure the Christian minority or their places of worship. “The government is not in the least bothered about religious minorities,” Gulshan Bhatti, a member of the Awami National Party, told ICC last year.
ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, William Stark, said, “As Christians in Peshawar gather to remember those killed in the bombing of All Saints Church, the rest of the world should join them in their remembrance so that tragedies like this don’t happen again. The Christian community of Pakistan has too often been ignored by both the government of Pakistan and the international community. This inattention has allowed awful human rights abuses to be metered out to this persecuted community with alarming regularity. Church bombings, false blasphemy accusations, and forced conversions and forced marriages are just a few of the abuses Christians in Pakistan are forced to face as a daily reality. More must be done to secure the rights of Christians in Pakistan. Otherwise, attacks like the bombing of All Saints Church will continue to happen. Allowing more families in Pakistan to be torn apart because of their religious identity. ”