3/15/2017 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Two years ago, suicide bombers killed dozens of Christians and four Muslims in an attack on two Christian churches in Youhanabad, a primarily Christian neighborhood in Lahore, Pakistan. At approximately 11:18 a.m. on March 15, 2015, attackers detonated at St. John’s Catholic Church. Five minutes later, suicide bombers attacked Christ Church. According to a local source, as many as 3,000 Christians were gathered at these churches for Sunday prayers.
Two years later, the survivors still mourn the loss of life and continued persecution.
Fozia James, a widow whose husband died in the attack, told International Christian Concern (ICC) that “life has become so difficult after this tragedy. Literally two years have been past to this deadly incident, however for me the life is stuck on a point. My husband died once, however for me it’s like dying every day.
“I am speechless when my four-year-old daughter asks me about her father. She misses him, she asks me to call him back, she wants to talk and walk around with him, she wants to enjoy life with her father, but I have no answers for her. There isn’t any happiness in life, its looks like meaningless. However, I am thankful that God chose us for martyrdom.”
Most of the victims were the primary breadwinners for their families; thus, their deaths left their surviving family members with a daily struggle for survival. Father Qaiser Feroz, who heads Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Social Communication Commission, said, “The bombing has disturbed day-to-day life of the victims terribly. Widows find it very difficult to feed their children and giving them good education. The government should introduce long-term projects for the rehabilitation of victims of terrorism.“
For one Christian, the Youhanabad bombings “was a tragic day in the history of Christians in Pakistan. The incident was a turning-point in the lives of Christians particularly the martyrs’ families, which has pushed their lives years back. Threats, fears and worries have become regular part of the victims’ lives, and therefore creates countless challenges for them. The bombing mostly affected the widows and orphans. This is why they are living miserable life and are left alone. The victims require psychologically healing and therefore should be taken into a special care by the authorities.”
Threats and continued persecution still occur two years after the attack. Rev. Irshad Askhnaz of Christ Church in Lahore told ICC of threats made against his church every Sunday.
In spite of the danger, however, Christian volunteers and local law enforcement agencies attempt to provide a measure of safety. The Christian community has also tried to use the attack and its anniversary as a tool to strengthen its faith. “Despite the physical costs of the attack, the martyrdom of dozens of Christians has made the Christian congregation and the youth stronger in their faith,” according to Rev. Ashknaz.
William Stark, Regional Manager for South Asia, said, “We remember the victims of the Youhanabad bombings with great sadness. There were many stories of bravery and courage on that day as Christians tried to stop the suicide bombers from detonating. Because many of the victims were male, their wives and children have been left in an incredible vulnerable position. They have little opportunity for work in order to provide for themselves. Today, we remember the sacrifice and courage of the dead, but also their families who continue to face incredible challenges.”