• Peshawar emeritus bishop describes anguish of Sept. 22 attack
• Commends Diocese of Peshawar for response to catastrophe
• Probes speculations about motives behind bombing
• Appreciates response of Muslims, other churches and government
• Assesses strengths and weaknesses of NGOs’ response
• Exhorts Western Christians to live in mutual responsibility
• Sees attack as “defining moment” for future of Pakistan’s Christians
• Exhorts Pakistani Christians to unity and socio-economic development
On Feb. 10 I received a remarkable document from Bishop Munawar Rumalshal, Bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Peshawar, with the following note: “I finally picked up some strength to write something on the Peshawar tragedy, of which I am sending you a copy. Please use it as you will.” Other pressing matters here in Islamabad were preoccupying at the time, but I am now seeking to give it as wide an audience as possible.
“Manifesto” is my term for the document, not Bp. Mano’s. I use it because his statement brings together moving descriptions of the suffering of victims with historical analysis and bold challenges for both the world Church and the Christian community in Pakistan. The document is long, but I encourage readers to continue to the end. It is the most significant document that I have seen coming out of the catastrophe of 9/22/13. The manifesto was written in Epiphanytide, but it is edifying as well in this Lenten time after Ash Wednesday – and at any time.
PRAY: AND BE BLOWN TO PIECES!
The REALITY at All Saints’ Church, Peshawar, on Sunday, 22 September 2013
This cataclysmic act committed by two suicide bombers shook the very foundations of our people and changed the very course of not only their lives but of the whole Christian community in Pakistan. It happened after the morning worship of Holy Communion while they were sharing an agape fellowship in the small compound of this historic church. The church was built in 1883 as the first church building of its kind, being designed like a mosque and especially for the use of the native Christians of the local area. Even at that time its foundations were filled with the blood of nine local Christian martyrs. It is located in the heart of the ancient historic city of Peshawar and in the neighbourhood of the famous Qissa Khawani (story tellers) bazaar, which was the hub of the travellers of ancient times when entering from Khyber Pass onto the Silk Route.
My relationship with this ‘gharana’ (family) goes back almost quarter of a century. I have shared their joys and sorrows during these years. I have been their friend and father-figure. Many of them I had Baptized, Confirmed and Married. It has been one of the two largest parishes in the Diocese of Peshawar and a bastion of indigenous Christianity in this famous border area of Pakistan/Afghanistan. Most of the families can claim their lineage in this area for well over a century. One of the most celebrated aspects of their Christian witness has always been their Easter procession, very often numbering up to five thousand young and old, women and children, singing and praying through the winding and narrow streets of the neighbourhood. Almost all of them speak and communicate in the local Pakhtun language and are also well versed in Pakhtun culture. So they have never felt themselves to be either outsiders or unfamiliar with the local customs and traditions. For this reason they were always open and at ease with their Muslim neighbours. Read More…