09/27/2016, 13.44
PAKISTAN
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Peshawar: three years after the Protestant church massacre, some still struggle to survive

by Kamran Chaudhry

On 22 September, prayers were held at All Saints Church for the Taliban’s victims. Some of the injured still require hospital treatment. On Saturday, a Mass was held in St John Vianney Church. Arif Aqeel was left paralysed and mute by the blasts.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Three years after the Taliban committed a massacre at the All Saints Church Protestant in Peshawar, some injured Christians are still struggling to survive.

On the day of the anniversary, 22 September, the church that was attacked held a memorial prayer for the more than 100 victims and the 144 people who were injured.

“Four Christians are still visiting hospitals for their treatment,” Rev Humphrey S. Peters, bishop of the (Anglican) Church of Pakistan, told AsiaNews. “The government must fulfil its promise to establish an endowment fund for the people affected by the church bombing”.

On 22 September 2013, two suicide bombers blew themselves up at the end of the Sunday service, near the Protestant Church in Kohati Gate. More than 600 worshippers were inside the building at the time of the blasts.

Built in 1883 in the style of a mosque, the historic building faces Makkah and symbolises an attempt at peace, harmony and peaceful coexistence between the Muslim majority and the Christian minority.

In the aftermath of the attack, the leaders of the Islamic community, along with Protestants and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan, firmly condemned the barbaric act of violence.

Since the attack in Peshawar, capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (northern Pakistan), Islamic terrorists have targeted the province. In fact, more suicide bombings were carried out a few days after the church attack.  

More was to follow. In December 2014, an attack against a military school in Peshawar killed 150 people, mostly children. In January 2016, another massacre occurred, this time at the University of Charsadda, claiming the lives of 21 students. The latest attack came earlier this month against the Christian colony on Warsak Road, a few kilometres from the military school.

The Christian community "lives in constant danger,” Fr John William said. “We cannot say that the situation has improved for minorities since the government launched the National Action Plan to fight the militants."

The priest officiated a second ceremony in memory of the victims of St John Vianney Church, last Saturday.

Arif Aqeel, 47, attended the Mass. He was left paralysed and mute after the explosion. The doctors had to amputate his left leg to stop the bleeding, but they failed to do anything for his vocal cords. Today he uses a wheelchair, which parishioners pushed up the church steps.

“His monthly medicines cost about 15,000 rupees (US$ 145),” his wife Jane said. “It’s the same amount he gets in his pension. My two sons were also injured but received no compensation from the provincial government”.

“I had to leave my job to take care of him as he is bedridden. Both government and churches supported us in the early days but now we have to decide between food and medicines. An NGO is paying for the school fee of my youngest son but we need regular support”.

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