03/02/2022, 15.16
PAKISTAN
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Book tells the stories of wounded Christian families of Youhanabad

by Shafique Khokhar

“Anthem of Hope" by Anee Muskan tells the stories of the Christians jailed in 2015 after the violence that followed the deadly attacks against two churches by suicide bombers that left 27 dead. After years of suffering, the accused were acquitted only in 2021, but despite their sense of dejection, they bore witness to the Gospel.

 

 

Lahore (AsiaNews) – The life of Pakistani Christian families marked by the tragic Youhanabad attacks of March 2015 is at the centre of “Anthem of Hope”, a new book by a young Christian writer, Anee Muskan.

On 15 March 2015, two Taliban suicide bombers blew themselves up at the entrance to two churches in Lahore’s Christian quarter, killing 27 people and injuring 70 others.

In reaction to the attack, some Christians stopped and killed – in an act condemned by all Christian leaders – two Muslims suspected of being among the perpetrators or accomplices of the attackers.

While the police have never arrested those behind the terrorist attacks, scores of Christians ended up in prison, on rioting charges, damage to public property and arson. Only in 2020, 41 of them were acquitted and released.

“Anthem of Hope” is the brainchild of ​​Sir Atta-ur-Rehman Saman, deputy director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, as a way to describe the chaos that engulfed the lives of the families of the Youhanabad prisoners.

“We all know the martyrs of that blast and those who were glorified as heroes," Anee said, but what followed the explosions "is something that stayed concealed for the last six years.”

“I had to do justice to each story and each character. [. . .] I'm thankful particularly to the National Commission for Justice and Peace,” she added. “It was a process of almost two years in which we interviewed and collected stories of various families who shared the suffering.”

Years later, the two explosions still echo in the lives of these families and “writing these stories wasn’t easy,” the author explained.

Although the suffering is now part of their lives, “It was as if every family was parading their sorrows upon the anthem of hope and that's how we came up with the name ‘Anthem of Hope’.” Yet, “Even in misery, I have identified a ray of hope,” she noted.

One person in particular provided a glimmer of hope for the families: Fr Emmanuel Yousaf Mani. From the start, he “stood by these families [. . .] even after the release of the prisoners.”

Above all, he taught her an important a lesson about life. “The passion and devotion of Fr Emmanuel Yousaf Mani reflects the true nature of Christianity. And this is the life lesson I've learned, the true spirit of Christianity and impactful application of Gospel.”

Those who will read “Anthem of Hope” should expect “an emotional roller coaster ride and somehow arrange some tissues as well” to wipe away their tears. But for Anee, she hopes she was able to capture the storis, especially the suffering and dejection the families felt.

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