12/16/2015, 00.00
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Peshawar: One year on, Catholics pray for the victims of military school massacre

by Jibran Khan
Bishop of Islamabad: "At Christmas we relaunch the message of peace for all humanity. Education real answer to fundamentalist barbarism." Priest in Peshawar: "Psychological assistance to the victims." 148 people died in the attack, including 132 children. Day of mourning in Pakistan; the highest authorities present at a ceremony for the repose of the souls of the victims of the Taliban school massacre.

Peshawar (AsiaNews) - Exactly one year after the Peshawar military school massacre, the Catholic Church of Pakistan joins in the national day of mourning to remember the victims of the attack, and in particular the children felled by the terrorist commando.

This morning,  faithful took part in a special prayer ceremony which was held in the churches of Peshawar and Lahore. Across Pakistan a minute of silence was observed, with total interruption of traffic, to honor the memory of the victims and express a concrete gesture of solidarity with their families.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Mgr. Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad / Rawalpindi stresses that even after one year, "the emotions and the pain cannot be expressed in words." The prelate's invitation to pray for peace, especially in this period of Christmas "is a message of peace for all mankind." "We remember the sacrifice of those who lost their lives - adds the prelate - in this terrible act of terrorism" and "we applaud the courage of parents and families" of those children who were murdered who "continue to suffer."

The bishop warns, however, that it is now more important than ever to focus efforts on educating young people in order to combat the terrorist ideology. Moreover,  they must be “given a future," so that we never again see “children go to school and leave in an ambulance ". For this December 20 there will be a special day of prayer for peace "and we ask everyone to join in solidarity."

Fr. Anthony William, a priest in Peshawar, adds that after a year "it is still essential to provide assistance and counseling to students" who  survived, but are victims of trauma and "need rehabilitation." "As we prepare for Christmas - he says - we pray for peace in the country".

On December 16, 2014 a commando affiliated with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attacked a military school in Peshawar (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province), killing 148 people, including 132 children between 7 and 14 years of age. The Taliban said the attack was in revenge for Pakistani army offensives in the northwest regions, along the border with Afghanistan, the historical strongholds of Islamists, which had caused the death of over 1,200 militiamen.

The massacre was strongly condemned by the whole of society, by leaders of the Catholic Church of Pakistan - in the strong interventions made by the bishop of Islamabad and the Archbishop of Karachi - as well as by the international community.

Even today the attack reminiscent of a deep wound, and many, especially among family members, rather than seek revenge justice. A group of survivors of the massacre welcomed the executions of members of the commando. In fact the attack Taliban military school in Peshawar is linked the government's decision to cancel the moratorium on the death penalty, especially for crimes related to terrorism. The investigation showed that the commando author of the massacre at the military academy had orders to shoot and cause the greatest number of victims.

Meanwhile, the province of Khyber Pukhtunkhawa proclaimed a day mourning, with a total halt to all public activities, to commemorate the massacre; in solidarity, the Catholic Church has decided to close all schools.

There are the highest level of security alerts, in the fear (concrete) of new attacks on this day of remembrance and mourning. At the school where the attack took place, there was an official ceremony of suffrage, which was attended by among others, the Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the army commander General Raheel Sharif.

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