Building Up Peshawar’s Next Generation

By William Stark

07/22/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – On September 22, 2013, the congregation of All Saints Church, located in Peshawar, Pakistan, was filing out of the church building following a typical Sunday service. As a crowd gathered in the church’s tight courtyard, two strangers passed through the gates and stood amongst the friends and families.

At 11:44 a.m., the two strangers detonated the explosives hidden under their clothing, unleashing a hail of shrapnel, body parts, and blood. More than 600 Christians were exposed to the deadly blasts and when the dust settled, over 100 were killed and scores more injured.

To this day, the courtyard of All Saints Church bears the scars of this deadly attack. Inside the church, a clock’s hands remain frozen on 11:44 a.m. as a memorial.

The bombing of All Saints Church remains Pakistan’s most deadly incident of Christian persecution. However, many do not think beyond the attack’s initial carnage or immediate victims. Those who survived the days and weeks that followed the bombing are often forgotten.

However, this does not mean they do not exist or are undeserving of our help.

As a Regional Manager, I have had the privilege of serving the community affected by this attack. Among the most vulnerable survivors were the children orphaned and the children whose parents were injured so severely that they could no longer support their families.

In the months following the bombing, ICC launched an education program supporting the children severely affected. The goal of this program was, and is to this day, to support the education of children who would have been forced to drop out of school due to the effects of the bombing.

Since the program’s launch in April 2014, ICC has supported the education of 62 Christian students, with over half of them graduating from high school due in large part to ICC’s support.

It has been amazing for me to watch the children in this program grow up over the last seven years. Recently, I caught up with two students who are now continuing their studies at university.

Joyce William’s father, William Ghulam, was killed in the bombing of All Saints Church. In addition to her father, Joyce also lost her brother and sister in the bombing. Joyce’s mother, her only surviving family member, was also severely injured. After the bombing, Joyce had to support her mother for two years as she recovered.

Joyce was in eighth grade when she was enrolled in ICC’s All Saints Church schooling program. Now 21, she looks back at the importance of the support she received.

“The importance of ICC’s schooling project of course lies in the fact that it helped remove the financial burden of my education from my mother’s shoulders,” Joyce explained. “In the midst of such a troubling time, the support paved a way for my studies. I am highly grateful to ICC.”

Now studying English at the University of Peshawar, Joyce hopes to follow in the footsteps of her father, a renowned teacher in Peshawar.

“I got into the habit of reading books because of my father,” Joyce said. “He used to read books and encourage his students to have a deep friendship with books. Keeping his successful life in view, I decided to follow in his footsteps. I want to develop my professional career as a professor at a university.”

For Nida Arif, another graduate of the All Saints Church schooling program, her entire family was severely injured by the bombing.

“Four members of my family got injuries,” Nida said. “We went through a very hard time after the attack.”

“I started receiving support from ICC in April 2014,” Nida continued. “For three years, I was the beneficiary of this project and am proud to announce that I am now enjoying my medical studies. This is all because of ICC’s love and concern.”

At 22, Nida is studying to become a nurse at Rufaidah College of Nursing, a program within the Kuwait Teaching Hospital in Peshawar. She is currently in her third year of studies and plans to join the Pakistan Army as a nurse after she graduates.

“I could not have reached this stage in my life if ICC was not there,” Nida explained. “In the future, I want to initiate a small-scale project of my own to encourage Christian youths to flourish in the medical field.”

For me, it has been a humbling experience to serve the families affected by the bombing of All Saints Church, especially the students benefiting from the schooling program. I always enjoy hearing about what the graduates of the program have gone on to do following ICC’s support.

Looking to the future, however, I am excited by the prospect of going beyond the programs ICC is currently supporting in Peshawar.

As a part of the new Generation Transformation program, ICC will continue to support Christian students like Joyce and Nida as they further their studies at university. This program will allow ICC to not only help the Christian community of Peshawar recover from the 2013 bombing, but also build up the next generation of Christians to be even stronger.

It is amazing, and humbling, to see how God can resurrect an opportunity so wonderful out of an event as tragic as the bombing of All Saints Church.

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