PESHAWAR: Among dozens of those injured as a result of the deadliest attack on Christian community; children make up a considerable number of those traumatized and victimized.
It was at 11.44am that time stood still at All Saints’ Church. The clock on the Church wall has frozen at the very moment 7 year-old Shyam Emmanuel lost his parents. In that same minute, 7 other children gave up their ghosts along with several adults who had assembled outside the lustrous white walls of the All Saints Church.
The massacre mete out here was dealt by two suicide bombers who detonated suicide vests with an interval of 30 seconds turning a pleasant community gathering into the biggest massacre of Christians in country’s history.
Yet 6 days after the shocking bombings; the paediatric ward of Peshawar’s Lady Reading hospital is predominantly occupied by the victims of Church attack.
Shyam is one of such cases of bandaged, battered and seared children being treated, many of whom had lost their entire families or parents, brothers, sisters, cousins and friends.
Shyam says, “He could not remember much of the blast.” All he knows is that he was one of around 50 children singing The Good Shepherd in the Sunday school when their Sunday school teacher told them to, ”Run out and get rice and sweets being offered in memory of a popular parishioner who had died.” As he hasted down the steps with his two brothers and friends into the yard, the two suicide bombers blew themselves up thus causing the clock on the wall of All Saints’ Church to cease.
While Arif Latif another victim of the attack says, as son as he heard the blast saw the devastation he straight away thought that his 12-year-old son Norman was dead while he and his wife had been inside the church. “We were confused. We have two children. I went looking for them. He was under a dead body, unconscious. I thought he was dead. I picked him up and he shouted about his leg. It was broken, he was crying in pain, but I was happy because my child was alive,” he recalls.
Even though Norman and his sister survived the blasts nonetheless burns on one side of the young boy’s face have turned his skin white, the ball bearings from the suicide vests had penetrate his chest while some of the shrapnel residue caught inside. His arm is critically burnt and a tube has been inserted into his chest to alleviate his breathing. However doctors remain doubtful about his liver.
Another disheartening case reported is that of a 9 year old little girl in severe trauma, as one of our people was trying to make the sign of the Cross on her forehead. She said, “Don’t do it, because they will come and kill me.”
Bishop Sarfraz Humphrey Peters draws attention to the actuality of Christian life in this part of Pakistan. All of the children in Lady Reading hospital’s wards however are prone to anxiety even if they retain their faith, will at some point have to face hardship because of their religion.
Bishop Peters further explained, Christians do Pakistan’s lowest status and lowest paid jobs. Shyam Emmanuel’s father was a janitor at an air force base and many Christians work as cleaners, sweepers and domestic servants – jobs done by so-called “untouchables”.
“Christian children in government schools are not treated well. They call them sweepers and tell them they can’t eat with them or drink with them. Because we are marginalised and the poorest of the poor, the old Hindu caste system prevails,” Bishop Peters said. “Many of our people were once low caste Hindus so they’re treated as nothing at all. There is a psychological problem with the Christians; they become so timid and scared. They’re supposed to be very brave. But we are refugees in our own country like flies on the wall,” he continued.