Sunday 15th March was another bleak day in the ongoing persecution saga of Pakistani Christians. As Christians were nearing the end of their communion service at Christ Church, a congregation belonging to the Church of Pakistan, gun fire shots could be heard followed by a loud explosion. The church was being led by Reverend Irshad Ashkanaz.
Two Muslim gunmen approached the church from one side and a suicide bomber came rushing in, set on causing death and destruction. The church was being protected by a volunteer security team and Ambreen khokar (28 years), wife of Obaid Khokhar (32 Years), was killed immediately by the gunmen. Another, was critically injured, while the third, Obaid Sardar Khokhar, grappled with the suicide bomber. Obaid managed to overpower the suicide bomber and began to drag him away from the church. At this point the bomber, realising his plans to maim and kill many had failed, detonated his incendiary device.
Unknown to these victims three similar young Muslim men were about to approach the entrance of St John's Catholic church, literally 500 yards away. While mass was being presided over by Reverend Francis Gulzar, an identical attack began. Gunmen again led the approach from one side while the suicide bomber rushed at the locked entrance gate. The bomber tried to scale a wall but 16 year old volunteer security officer, Akash Bashir, grabbed his legs and brought him down. While he bear hugged the bomber, our Chairman Wilson Chowdhry's extended cousin Qaisor Pervez, rushed in behind and propped up the arms of the bomber preventing the device from exploding. One of the gunmen then shot the incendiary device, with the resulting explosion killing young Akash and leaving Qaisor in a coma fighting for his life.
15 people were killed instantly and 70 wounded. Ultimately it was the sacrifice of the brave Christian security team that prevented this attack delivering an even larger human death toll. Every one of them is a hero!
One victim Musa Shahzab Tanveer (18years), was outside on an errand purchasing some items for his mother. When the bomb at St james church exploded his limbs were torn off his body. His mother and young brother can be seen wailing in one of the most horrific images taken at the scene of this attack. His mother Rehana Shenaz is unable to come to terms with his loss and has been inconsolabe. She said:
"These evil men have killed my beautiful son, but he committed no crime against them. Why do they [Muslims] hate us so much?"
In the aftermath of the attack a group of young Christian men, traumatised by the death and destruction they had witnessed, took to the streets to protest. They ripped two of the gunmen apprehended by local police away from their custody, lynched and then burned them. The BPCA in no way condones such violence but we believe the hysterical condition of the men involved provides some mitigation. We hope the Pakistani legal system recognises this, despite media bias choosing to focus on the killing of Muslims by Christians rather than on the bomb attack.
Just one week later on Sunday 22nd March 2015, churches across Lahore prepared for the worst as threats had been received of an impending revenge attack. The global Pak-Christian diaspora prayed all night for the safety of their families and friends back in the homeland. Fortunately no attack manifested and our brave Pakistan Officer Mehwish Bhatti attended one of the large churches in the area in solidarity, placing her trust in God.
BPCA started their relief programme visiting injured victims in hospital providing counselling and prayer. We then helped several victims with some small fiscal donations towards the cost of medicines and the re-strapping of fresh bandages which are no longer provided free once patients are stable.
Kushi Masih and another Christian later died, bringing the death count to 17 and with 20 people on critical care, it is believed this number is set to rise.
Yesterday Mehwish Bhatti our Pakistan officer visited the families of the deceased and prayed with them. She provided flowers to the mothers and wives of those departed and gave Christian counsel. The families all still held strongly to their faith and described the peace they got through knowing they would one day meet their lost ones in heaven.
Food parcels were delivered to all the victims' families and we are seeking confirmation from our trustees to enable us to provide grants of 6 months salaries to those families who have lost a main earner. To do this we will need help from our supporters, and we believe many of you will partner with us to bring some stability back into the lives of our suffering brothers and sisters.
Mehwish Bhatti said:
"Hearing the pain of these families was extremely disturbing, some of them have lost young children, others main bread-winners and others elderly relatives. It will take time for their pain to heal and a lot of counselling. Moreover, the event has left families bereft of on an earner. It essential that the global community helps restore the shattered pieces of the lives of these victims."
Mehwish has suggested the following prayer points:
Pray for solace and peace to be restored within these families.
Pray for a restoration of peace in the wider community and an end to hatred for minorities.
Pray for justice for the victims and a more responsible government.
"If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it." 1 Corinthians 12 v 26
We have continued our disaster recovery fund for the victims.
If you would like to donate towards helping the victims of this latest Christian church bombing, then please use these bank details:
Sort Code: 20-67-90
Account number: 63468976
Ref: Love for Lahore Christians
Alternatively if you would like to send a one off donation please use the pay-pal facility on the top right hand corner of our blog, our pay pal email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any cheques should be made payable for the BPCAto our address; 57 Green Lane, Ilford, Essex, IG1 1XG.
With your support we hope to change the lives of millions of Christians in Pakistan.
Bullet riven gates of St James Catholic Church, Lahore.
Families of the deceased agree to meet Mehwish and pray together seeking solace with one another.
Mehwish provided food to the mother of 10 year old Abishake, a very bright student who was praying in church for good results in his exams, which he would have received the following day. He never got to see them. His younger sister keeps asking about him which leads to his mother crying.
This is the mother of Musa Shahzab Tanveer her and her surviving son featured in our main campaign image. Her 20 year old son Musa's body pieces were sprayed widely leaving her in a state of shock.
Mehwish by a poster of the brave couple who lost their lives saving Christ Church, a Church of Pakistan congregation. They leave behind a six year old child. RIP Ambreen and Obaid
Akash Bashir (RIP) died 16 years of age.
Mehwish presented flowers to all the bereaved mothers and wives and food parcels for all the families, some of whom have lost bread-winners.
Mehwish before the gates of Christ Church, Lahore.
Mehwish led prayers with the family of Barkhat Masih a sixty four year old grandfather killed in the blast.
Mehwish Bhatti led prayers with the Family of Akash and Musa, Two former young volunteer security officers and national heroes.
Brave Mehwish counselled the two families of Musa Shahzab Tanveer
and Akash Bashir, their pain should be something we all share. Our young Christian brothers slain while protecting others.