KARACHI: Staggering from harsh memories of the deadly PeshawarChurch blasts that killed more than 200, leaving countless injured in September last, local Christian community celebrated a “sombre” Christmas this year.
Recalling the pain of the tragedy, Aneela Masih working as a nurse at a private hospital in Peshawar- the capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KP) province, told “I lost my brother, and two cousins in that blast whose blood-soaked bodies are still haunting my memories.” While covering her head with a black Dupatta making efforts to fight back her tears which were about to roll down her cheeks, Aneela said: I have not made up my mind to celebrate Christmas this year.
The deadly incident occurred on September 22 when hundreds of Christians were attending Sunday mass at Peshawar’s All Saints Church, one of the oldest Churches in Pakistan. Two suicide bombers blew themselves up inside the premises of the Church killing over 200 persons.
I am still unable to overcome the horrible memories of that day. It seemed if I was seeing the doomsday. The stench of death and blood was spread everywhere,” an emotional she recollected. She too had received injuries in her back and legs, and remained hospitalized for over a week. She said: I fully understand that Christmas is the name of joy and celebration. But when I think of new clothes, bangles and other stuff, the bodies of my brother and sisters appear in front of my eyes.
Sarah Benjamin- a teacher at a private school in Peshawar also did not have any big plans for Christmas; yet she wishes to utilize the opportunity to get rid of the distress. She said: The entire community is still in pain and fear. What happened on that day was unforgettably horrible. It seemed if it had happened last week. We will certainly buy new clothes, shoes, and bangles for children as we do not want them to stay in grip of fear any more. We want them to come out of the trauma, and Christmas will be a good opportunity for that.
Regardless of a dark shadow of bitter memories of September, the Christian community came into view of being pleased with their Muslim neighbours and friends. Our Muslim friends and neighbours have always stood behind us in testing times, whether its Church bomb blast or attack on community by hardliners said Sarah. She maintained: Eid and Christmas are the festivals that connect Muslim and Christian population of Pakistan. It was my Muslim neighbour who went to the hospital with me, but also supported me financially at that time of need.I see on the one hand, those misguided people who want to kill us to settle the score with US or the West, but on the other hand, I see a majority of kind and loving people who not merely consider us their brothers and sisters, but always come forward to support us-morally and financially.
Younas Sohan Advocate-head of the Ahl-e-Kitab wing of Jamat-e-Islami said: Religious parties and people are more helpful to us. Every year, hundreds of poor Christian families are provided with ration, clothes, and other gifts by Jamat-e-Islami enabling them to celebrate the Christmas. This year too, Jamat-e-Islami is going to distribute ration and Christmas gifts to over 200 poor Christian families, in Karachi only. I do not have the figures of other cities, but certainly Christians there too are going to get the same treatment.
Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation also doles out Christmas gifts among Christians across the country. In addition to Christmas, the FIF provides income support to poor Christians and Hindus on monthly basis.