The massacre of children, youth and teachers at the Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar on Tuesday, Dec. 16, has rightly been met with shock and outrage around the world and throughout Pakistan.
Recalling their own trauma in the bombing of All Saints’ Church in Peshawar on September 22 in 2013, when 128 church members were killed and 170 wounded in a Taliban bombing, Christians in Peshawar have responded in prayer and compassionate outreach to the families of the 148 people killed and many wounded in Tuesday’s attack.
Insar Gohar, Youth Coordinator of the Diocese of Peshawar, sent out this missive on Tuesday:
Dear Friends & Prayer Partners!
Our city of Peshawar is once again under the terrorists’ attack: a school has been attacked by the terrorists and about 132 school children and teachers have been killed and many other are injured. The parents of the children are in deep grief, and the whole environment of Peshawar is under terror and under grief.
The situation in our city is very tense. All the major roads within the city are blocked, and people have been stuck on the way. Some of the school and college students are stuck in their schools, as the school administrations are not allowing the children to go to their homes unless their parents come. Parents are not finding a way to reach there. My niece is also in her college and we are trying to bring her to our home.
This reminded the Christians of Peshawar of last year’s attack on All Saints’ Church. They are crying with the parents of today’s deceased children.
Please pray for all this situation, for protection of our city, and for peace in our region.
An op-ed piece in the New York Times on Wednesday opened with a touching vignette of one small expression of caring by Peshawar Christians in response to the catastrophe:
Outside the main ward of the Lady Reading Hospital, where five teenage Muslim boys lay fighting for their lives, a Christian had come bearing roses.
“Cannot go inside!” said the officer in plain clothes.
“But these roses,” pleaded the Christian man.
“You may give these flowers to me,” said the officer. “Thank you.”
The officer turned to us. “The Christians have called off Christmas, you see,” he explained — in honor of the schoolchildren murdered here this week.
In 2013 as well the Christian community’s Christmas celebrations were muted, at that time in the wake of the toll of the September church bombing. The community’s solidarity this year with the suffering of so many Muslims at the hands of the Taliban is salutary and exemplary. As many Muslims reached out in care after the All Saints’ attack, so now Christians are reaching out in care.
Wednesday I had a long conversation with a Muslim colleague in Peshawar who lost a number of associates in the massacre. He is discouraged, but undaunted.
I have been heartened by the response of so many friends and colleagues in the USA and elsewhere to the news of the December 16 massacre. It is clear that many people around the world are alert and paying attention, even as they may find it difficult to know how to make a difference.
The Nativity that we celebrate in Christmastide took place in desperate times. Grinding poverty, random violence, and imperial oppression were grounds for despair, and many did give up hope. The incarnation of God in Christ Jesus took place in a remote corner in circumstances shaped by those desperations. At the other end of Jesus’ life he shared the humiliation of the oppressed and shared their death. In the eyes of the world that trajectory did not auger well for making a difference.
Yet from that life light continues to shine and transform. God’s reign was proclaimed and enacted in healing and liberation. God’s compassion shone forth. Human community formed over seemingly unbridgeable differences. Resurrection vindicated what came before and validated hope for the consummation of all things.
Christians in Pakistan live in that reality as well as in catastrophic horror. Alongside other Christian communities, the Diocese of Peshawar of the Church of Pakistan, continues its mustardseed ministries in Peshawar and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It preaches and lives the work of Christ in congregations, clinics, hospitals, schools and, of course, Edwardes College. It is a privilege to join in that work.
Please do pray. That means much.