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By Shunila Ruth MPA (Tehreek-e-Insaf) President Minorities (Punjab) THE peaceful Pakistani Christian community has always been proud to have played a significant role in the creation and development of Pakistan in various fields, such as education, health, social welfare, media, and the armed forces to name a few. But, in spite of their contributions, they have suffered discrimination (visible and invisible), lack of opportunities, forced conversions and marriages (especially of women), false implications in blasphemy cases and innumerable attacks on the people and their places of worship. Needless to say, Pakistan is in the grip of religious extremism and terrorism. Many internal/external forces are fiercely working against the peaceful existence of Pakistan causing death of over 40,000 people through suicide attacks. All major and some minor political parties are seriously looking for ways to end this menace in the country. One is to initiate a dialogue with the militant groups (whoever is willing). An All Parties Conference (APC) was held in this connection on September 9 this year. Sadly, less than two weeks of the APC, a devastating attack was brought upon Christian worshippers at the All Saints Church, Kohati Gate, Peshawar (KhyberPakhtoonkhwa Province) on 22ndSeptember 2013. Two suicide bombers blew themselves up as worshipers poured out of the church on that Sunday morning. More than 80 died and mover 150 were injured, some of them seriously.
The vibrations of the attack were felt internationally even at the recent United Nations Assembly. In Pakistan, the media gave round-the-clock coverage to the tragedy for almost 24 hours. The politicians, the civil society and religious groups (Muslims and non-Muslims) issued joint and independent statements condemning the massacre. On the day of the fatal attack on All Saint’s Church, Peshawar I was travelling from Khanewal to Lahore when I started receiving phone calls from friends and wellwishers of Christians and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (of which I am an MPA in the Punjab Assembly). As soon as I reached Lahore I switched on the TV and saw people in great pain crying for their loved ones. I immediately contacted the leadership of the Church of Pakistan including the Bishop of Peshawar, Bishop Humphrey Peters and hierarchy of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. I called Ejaz Chaudhary (President PTI Punjab), and sent messages of concern to Chairman Imran Khan, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Javed Hashmi, Shafqat Mehmood, Andleeb Abbas and Dr. Yasmin Rashid. The leadership of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was in a Central Executive Committee meeting in Islamabad when the attack took place in Peshawar. The Punjab President Ejaz Chaudhary and Dr. Yasmin Rashid presented a true picture of the carnage to the Chairman who immediately left for Peshawar along with Chief Minister of KPK Pervez Khattak. Chairman PTI Imran Khan appeared on the media and assured the Christian community of PTI’s support in the hour of great pain. He called the Bishop of Peshawar and met him along with the KPK CM Pervez Khattak. Hina Manzoor (General Secretary Northern Region) and I too left for Peshawar. As per instructions received from Bishop Humphrey of Peshawar, we went straight to the Lady Reading Hospital and prayed with and for the injured and conveyed Chairman
PTI’s message. Later we went over to Bishop Humphrey’s residence and offered condolence on behalf of the PTI. The next day, I and Munazza Hassan (MNA) met with the Health Minister Shaukat Yousafzai, Medical Superintended & Chief Executive of Lady Reading Hospital, senior doctors, surgeon and nurses at the administrator’s office. We, along with the Health Minister KPK also visited the ICU, prayed for the seriously injured and held a joint press conference at the hospital premises. We also visited the All Saint Church at Kohati Gate and offered condolences to the Rt. Rev. Munawar Rumal Shah and Bishop Humphrey Peters.
On the evening of 24th, a candle light vigil was held at Liberty Chowk, Lahore largely attended by the Christian community, PTI Punjab Leadership, District Lahore leadership led by Bishop Samuel Azariah (Moderator, Church of Pakistan), Shunila Ruth (MPA, Punjab), Rev. Amjad and Dr. Bhatti (Administrator UCH hospital) On 25th September 2013, an interdenominational thanksgiving service was held at the Cathedral Church of Resurrection, The Mall, Lahore. Together with Bishop S. Azariah (Moderator, Church of Pakistan), Bishop Irfan Jamil and Dr. Massey I laid a
floral wreath in the memory of all those who died in the Peshawar Church attack. However, while talking of the Peshawar and past tragedies, the Christians strongly felt that it was about time the government formulated an action-oriented policy against perpetrators. This attack cannot be compared with the deliberate and engineered attacks in Punjab such as Gojra, Korian, Joseph Colony, Shanti Nagar etc. I submitted adjournment motion in the Punjab assembly condemning the twin suicide attack on faithful Christians. I did several press conferences and TV shows to condemn the act.
Christians from all over the country came to Peshawar. The whole nation, political parties and religious communities sobbed at this hour of pain and grief. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf announced 3 days mourning in the province and Chairman Mr. Imran khan visited the wounded in the hospitals of KPK. He went to All Saints Church, St. Mary’ s Cathedral and met Rt Rev Humphery Peters (Bishop of Peshawar). The paramedic staff and doctors of Lady Reading Hospital did their best to give services to the patients. 210 wounded and dead bodies were brought to the lady Reading hospital. This was an uphill task and I want to thank all those who helped to burry our dead and take care of our wounded in the hospitals of KPK i.e. LRH, CMH and Khyber hospital.
In conclusion I wish to reiterate Justice and Peace will prevail in Pakistan and God of Peace, Hope and Justice will speak to all those elements who are trying to destroy our beautiful country Pakistan and His creation. We the pained people Promise Peace in Pakistan. God bless Pakistan Long Live Pakistan God bless Imran Khan and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf