September 22, 2013 was just a routine Sunday service at the church. Congregants kept pouring in wearing smiles on their faces eager to worship their Lord. Church bells echoed, children ran ahead of their parents straight towards the Sunday school section.
No one could ever have had the slightest of hint that this service is going to be the last for many. As the service progresses time keeps ticking, some of the congregants will be no more after a while. Even life will never be the same for all of these.
Shortly the service was over; the congregants filed their way out of the church. Majority of them were gathered just in front of the gates when a sudden blast hit the joy filled atmosphere. No body could understand what had really happened after an interval of few seconds another deafening blast occurred putting an end to the voices of many.
All Saints Church, in Kohati area of Peshawar was under attack. Within minutes blood and gore swept the 129 years old White-Stone Church. Two suicide bombers had blown themselves up claiming uncountable lives several injured. The white marbled spectacle of traditional architecture was now bathed in blood. Dead bodies lay on the floor people screaming and yelling just trying to figure out where their loved ones are.
After two years, one can hardly fathom the trauma those Christians had undergone those who still live to recollect the dire memories. However, the surviving victims of this tragedy expose great strength and the faith still residing in the hearts of these Christian, in the face of the gloomy tragedy of their lives. One of the survivors, Asher Ashkar Gohar says, “The victims of the blast still go to the church and they are not scared.”
Asher Ashkar Gohar who was 21 at that time was there that Sunday, he had prepared a special Bible study for the church’s youth group. “As I opened my file to share my thoughts with my friends after the church service, I heard a blast. At that time, I didn’t know that it was a suicide attack.”
He can still recall every single moment of the unexpected calamity, suffering, pain and anguish which he and all his church people had gone through. He himself sustained several injuries and was taken to hospital severely wounded. “It took me almost a year to get fully recovered from my injuries. However, I still have scars which would always remind me of that day.”
Nonetheless, many like him have shored up all the more courage and determination. Casting all fears aside, they stride forward towards life. “It has made me much stronger as God has given me the strength to overcome the pain that day has inflicted upon me and all the survivors.”
Not barred at all by the catastrophe, Asher Ashkar Gohar is still working with the youth of the All Saints Church. He is now pursuing his Masters’ degree in English literature at the University of Peshawar. Gohar is only one example however; there are many others who have managed to surface from the deep grief of losing their loved ones and the psychological trauma and are now moving back towards life.
Yasir Bhatti another surviving victim asserts that even after facing immense agony, pain and misery of losing close relatives in the attacks, his faith and dedication to God is unshakable. “My faith has never decreased; rather it has increased after that incident.”
He mentioned that he sustained several severe injuries in the blasts, but underlined the emotional suffering he and other surviving victims still feel deep inside their hearts caused by this incident. “The survivors have uncertainty in their minds for the future. As the time goes by, it is even getting harder as the religious intolerance is increasing.”
“So, as the fear of living here for the Christians is growing, that day will always be the reminder of losing the loved ones,” he continued. “But one factor gives me and the bereaved families comfort and that is the love of God. I know God is with us and He will give us relief from all our pains.”
As the day progresses, I urge all to utter silent prayers for these courageous Christians who had to suffer beyond words could portray. This is indeed the day every Christian in Pakistan would remember.