By Andy Bowerman, Anglican Alliance with additional reporting by ACNS staff
The Bishop of Peshawar has said that, following what he called “another unimaginable horror”, the Church of Pakistan has decided to cancel its Christmas celebrations.
The Church in Pakistan’s Bishop Humphrey Peters spoke solemnly about the aftermath of yesterday’s attack by the Taliban on a school that left 132 children and nine adults dead.
“It is another unimaginable horror that has been unleashed upon this beautiful city,” he said. “The Church has already taken the decision to cancel Christmas as a celebration. Instead we will be using the time to come alongside those in the wider community who are grieving and injured.
“How can we celebrate and host parties when our city has been so devastated? We will still gather to worship but in a simple, stripped back and prayerful way.”
The attack on the Army School in Peshawar Cantt, just a few blocks from St John’s Anglican Cathedral, came just two years after twin suicide bombers froma group affiliated to the Taliban murdered more than 100 worshippers of All Saints Church in Peshawar.
The Bishop said that the Church is looking to support communities in practical ways – visiting the injured in hospital, being with their families and supporting the bereaved – which ever faith group they belong to.
He stressed that the Church would continue to minister to those affected long after the world’s focus has moved elsewhere.
“Many of those injured [in 2013] are still receiving treatment,” said Bishop Peters. “We need to insure that we stay with families for the long term.” He went on to emphasise that, while there was much anger and despair within the population of Peshawar, the Church should remain true to its calling. “We must go on striving to be a source of comfort, of hope and reconciliation – that is the role of church – in good times and bad”
Speaking last night Insar Gohar, the Diocese of Peshawar’s Youth Coordinator who lost his mother and children in the 2013 bomb blast, said parents of those killed an injured in yesterday’s attack are experiencing “terror and deep grief”.
“This [event] reminds the Christians of Peshawar of the attack on All Saints' Church,” he said. “They are crying with the parents of the children killed today.
“Please pray for this situation, for the protection of our city and for peace in our region.”
Many people from this beleaguered city will gather at St John’s Cathedral, Peshawar, tomorrow at 3.30pm to hold a candlelit vigil and time of prayer.
Bishop Peters concluded, “We know the pain the wider community is feeling, we share in their devastation and we will walk with them in their anguish.