Posted by: Titus Presler | September 23, 2013

Peshawar church bombing a condensation of horror and loss

“This is a catastrophe for the Christian community of Pakistan,” my secretary Ashbel Taj said to me a few minutes ago.  He had just returned from visiting the wounded at Lady Reading Hospital after today’s bombing at All Saints’ Church in the heart of the old city of Peshawar.

Despite having the largest trauma unit in the world, the hospital scene was chaotic, he said, as staff struggled to treat the 200 or more wounded.  Information is still emerging, but numerous conversations with colleagues in Peshawar – I’m in the USA at the moment – indicate that 150 or more people were killed.

I’ve tried to reach Bishop Humphrey Sarfaraz Peters, but he is fully occupied in visiting the wounded in hospital.  He was on visitation at the parish in Bannu, in Waziristan, but rushed back upon news of the bombing.

Among the dead are students and alums of Edwardes College, the number yet to be determined.  I am told that William Ghulam, who translated for me when I preached at All Saints’, was killed, as were a daughter and son of his.  William was head of a high school in Peshawar and an Edwardian.  His daughter was a current student at Edwardes, his son an alum who was in medical school.  William had an active mind and was a keen observer of changing times in Pakistan.  He would come to tea with me to discuss translation details of an upcoming sermon.  We once discussed Edwardes opening an Education Department, and he was keen to be involved, especially as he was working toward an MPhil degree in Education.

The litany goes on.  A woman student of ours named Mehrab, articulate and mature, who attended Morning Prayer frequently at the College.  The sister-in-law of the presbyter-in-charge at St. John’s Cathedral.  Naeem, the charismatic music director at All Saints’, who led us so inspirationally as we processed through the old city of Peshawar last Easter morning.  And so many others killed or maimed.

I’ve preached at All Saints’ a number of times and have always found it to be an inspiration: a packed sanctuary; latecomers coming to the front to offer their devotions individually before squeezing into a place somewhere; robust Urdu singing; the strong leadership of Pastor Ejaz Gill.

Every Sunday’s liturgy is followed by a sharing of rice pulau – chawal – in the church yard after the service.  Today, it seems, the huge pot of hot rice was brought in not through the usual side gate but in a Suzuki vehicle through the main gate.  What I have heard is that the two suicide bombers came in at the same time dressed in police uniforms.  Then began the mayhem.

An irony is that the 1883 church was designed by CMS missionary Worthington Jukes in the architecture of a mosque and thus as an affirmation of Muslim style in worship space.  And now it is specially targeted.

This bombing came a year and a day after the burning of St. Paul’s Church in Mardan on the Day of Love for the Prophet that was declared on 21 September 2012 amid concern in the Muslim world about a notorious video about the Prophet Muhammad.

We keep the affected families, the All Saints’ community, and the Christian community of Pakistan in prayer.  And we pray that – somehow, sometime, by the grace of God, and through faithful perseverance in our own work – interfaith harmony may ultimately prevail in Pakistan.        


  1. Dear Fr. Titus:
    We are praying for the victims and their families of Peshawar church bombing for comfort and healing. May God keep you safe and bless your ministry.
    Father Sud Tiwari
    St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Manheim, Pa.

  2. So sad, God weeps for those lost and for those who grieve- How long o Lord until there is peace? Praying for all of your friends in Pakistan.

  3. Dear Sir,

    I am very sad and hurt by the incident that took place at All Saints Church, many of my brothers from Edwardes were there and are injured. I can understand what you are going through as I have also witnessed the bombing of a Mosque and all the lives that were lost.

    I wish you were here and could have guided us in such difficult times. It is sad to see what has become of the city that I love and live in. This is not only an attack on the Christian Community but on the entire Community of Peshawar and we pray for our brothers, sisters and their families.

    Sir, Please guide me in how I can help the families who are mourning for their loved ones and be a part of their pain in such a difficult and tragic time.

  4. Dear Titus,

    Please, know of our prayers at St. Peter’s, Cambridge for you and the Christian community there. Please, be safe. May God be with you and those mourning such a tragic loss.

    The Rev. Dr. Christian Brocato, Rector
    St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Cambridge, MA

    • Thank you so much, Christian. Please share my greetings with the good people of St. Peter’s, so dear to Jane and me. As you see on the blog, I’m stateside at the moment but am in touch with my colleagues in Peshawar.

  5. So relieved to know you are okay, Titus. Barry and I thought of you immediately of course upon hearing the news of this terrible tragedy. You, the school, and the people of Peshawar will be in our prayers. Peace, -Bruce

    • Thanks so much, Bruce. Your prayer and care is much appreciated. Blessings, Titus

  6. Was praying and quite worried about you. Glad to know you are safe and to read your thoughts. Holding the Anglican community, indeed the Christian community, and all its friends in prayer, praying that somehow those who use violence will find a new voice. Only with fervent work and much prayer do I see hope for a peaceable solution to the madness. We carry on clothed in prayers for peace.

    • Thanks so much, Pattie. I like your phrasing: from violence to a new voice. How that can happen is the conundrum. It certainly requires a will in that direction, and that is what seems to be missing among the perpetrators. What is encouraging is that they are a small minority within Pakistan, and the entire country is responding with revulsion and condemnation against this act, much as they did against the atrocities against Shia Muslims in January and February. Much remains unresolved in the nation, however, and so these atrocities continue.

      • Thanks Titus,
        A conundrum, yes. The people of Pakistan are not the Taliban and perhaps this along with some of the other atrocities will open people’s hearts to the need to be more intentional about finding a way to stop the violence. The response of Pakistan seems to hold hope. But I could be wrong as I see it only from afar. I hold you all in prayer and am sorry for your losses and the losses to the Christian community.

  7. […] For more information on the church bombing in Peshawar, Pakistan I urge you to go to this post written by a blogging friend who lives in Peshawar: Peshawar church bombing a condensation of horror and loss. […]

  8. Titus+,
    Our prayers are with you all as I watch this morning’s news about Pakistan and now Kenya. We are heartbroken for your loses and the many hurt in so many ways by the violence we are in the midst of these days. Know you are loved and supported in God’s grace and love. Blessings my friend and God’s protection be with you and all whom you hold in your heart. Bishop Jim Adams

  9. Dear Titus, The bishops of TEC, meeting in Nashville, are praying for you and for all who sorrow in Pakistan and throughout the world over this attack. May our God, who wipes away every tear, strengthen our hearts with faith that Easter hymns will outlast and overwhelm gunfire and explosions. Yes, even at the grave we make our song: alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. In the peace of Christ, +George Councell.

  10. Dear Titus, we are praying
    Pray for the Mournful family’s who has had lost there love ones in front of Jesus Christ

    “Oh GOD give the patience to Mournful family’s, who died in Church bomb blast in Peshawar.
    And give the courage to the Pakistani christian community that they should always praises you no matter what happens.
    The enemy of Humanity does not under stand what they are doing. GOD give them wisdom”, Amen

  11. Reblogged this on tckrambling and commented:
    My heart breaks for the situation in Peshawar, a city I grew up in and grew to love immensely from the bottom of my heart. Please read more here about the victims of this horrendous bombing at All Saints Church.

  12. Dear Titus, I hold you in prayer along with all of those killed and injured by this violent act. Your post makes this all the more heartbreaking as you describe the connections and relationships dear to you and the Edwardes community.Know that we at Grace Church are praying for you and for the “faithful perseverance” which is so needed in our world today.
    Dr Barbra, White Plains, NY

  13. Bill and I are praying for all of those -the dead, their families – and those who were literally and figuratively wounded by this attack. We have many friends involved in the ministry of this diocese, thanks to your ministry among us.

  14. The community of All Saints Church in McAlester, Oklahoma weeps for the saints of All Saints Church in Peshwar, Pakistan who are lost to us, but never lost to God. May the blood of the Christian martyrs, like the blood of Abel, cry out to God, “Flood this land with your power and presence, O God, you who love all people as your own. Let our blood and tears produce a great harvest of faith and hope, and especially love. We sorrow at Jesus’ tomb and share in his crucifixion. You, our Father, share that sorrow. Let us grieve and then receive the sober joy of resurrection hope. And receiving again the power of your Holy Spirit, dry our tears and move us forward in faith and love. What is impossible for man, we know is possible with you.” Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers. Stephanie+

  15. Tragic. So much loss–we will keep All Saints firmly in our prayers, Titus. Please keep us updated.

  16. Dear Titus, My thoughts and prayers are with you and all the survivors in Peshawar. I greatly appreciate your posts that keep us all informed.

    God bless, Rachel

  17. Titus… I am so sorry.
    Glad you are safe…. Love to all
    Jeanne & John

  18. Dear Titus,

    Our hearts break for the victims and their families. May all those who died rise to glory. Carol and I pray for you all the college. We pray that one day the people of Pakistan may see the realization of the Beloved Community of redemption and reconciliation. In Peace, Dick and Carol Murphy

  19. Dear Titus, We join you in prayer and sorrow. May God heal the survivors, strengthen the healers, comfort the bereaved, receive the dead, and have mercy on all. Please let us know of anything more we can do to help.
    Jim and Pam Boston.

    • Thanks so very much, Jim and Pam. Please keep all in your prayer.

  20. Dear Titus, I am heartbroken for you, for the Edwardes College community and for the Christian community. I have been anxiously waiting to hear if you were alright; your posting answers this question (I have been worried sick), but with it, the posting just describes the heartbreak and unspeakable loss. Please know that you all have been and shall continue to be in my prayers as well as those of Church of Our Saviour, Killington.

    • why did this have to happen???

  21. Heard from Ted Gaiser a few moments ago that you are not presently in Pakistan… though your heart and prayers are certainly there. Gratitude for your prayer of hope, as tragedy upon needless tragedy of senseless violence occurs throughout our world: “We keep the affected families, the All Saints’ community, and the Christian community of Pakistan in prayer. And we pray that – somehow, sometime, by the grace of God, and through faithful perseverance in our own work – interfaith harmony may ultimately prevail in Pakistan.” May peace prevail, Melody

    • Thanks so much, Melody. You have been with the suffering church in many places, so we much appreciate your prayer and care.

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