[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Church of Pakistan has designated 22 September – the anniversary of the deadliest terror attack against the country’s Christian community – as the Day of the Christian Martyrs in Pakistan. Twin suicide bombers killed 127 people and injured more than 250 others when they attacked All Saints Church in Peshawar on 22 September 2013. There have been numerous other attacks – included an attempt to attack the Warsak Christian compound in Peshawar last month. A resident was killed foiling that attack.
Those events, and the September 2012 arson attack on St Paul’s Lutheran Church in Mardan, will be commemorated with a special ecumenical payer service on All Saint’s Day (1 November) in Peshawar’s All Saints Church.
The designation of 22 September as the day of the Christian Martyrs in Pakistan was made “to commemorate the All Saints Church Martyrdom of children, women, elders and the youth” in the 2013 attack,” the Diocese of Peshawar said. “The sorrow and grief can still be felt even after three years.”
A special prayer service was held in All Saints Church on 22 September this year. All diocesan schools in Peshawar were closed on the day and relatives of the dead and injured began arriving at the church from the morning to offer their personal prayers.
The Bishop of Peshawar, Humphrey Peters, conducted the service alongside priests from the diocese. His sermon was described by a diocesan spokesman as being “very fruitful for the spiritual growth and consolidated the Church.”
The Church of Pakistan – a united church that brings together Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Lutherans – lives under the constant threat of terrorism. Early last month a group of terrorists attacked the Christian community living in a colony at Warsak. One of the colony’s residents, Samuel Masih – described in initial news reports as a security guard – raised the alarm with local security forces.
One of the four terrorists killed himself when he detonated a suicide vest in a house. The others were killed by security forces. Samuel Masih was killed in the crossfire. He has been hailed a martyr by the Church.
Bishop Peters was abroad at the time of the attack but returned to Peshawar and visited the colony on his return “to console the victims and to show solidarity with the whole of people of God.” His visit followed that of diocesan officers and clergy in the immediate aftermath. In his visit, Bishop Peters visited the family of Samuel Masih and prayed with them.
Bishop Peters also met with security forces who explained the operation to overcome the terrorists. “They were so happy to see the bishop and excitedly told the story of their combat with the intruders,” the diocesan spokesperson said.
Bishop Peters inspected the house that was damaged by the suicide bomber and saw bullet holes in the doors and walls of many buildings in the colony, including the church. “He once again praised the Lord and encouraged the people to stay strong in their faith and religion,” the diocesan spokesperson said.