A girl sobs quietly in a the compound of All Saints Church, in Peshawar, PakistanKamran Chaudhry for World Watch Monitor
By Kamran Choudhry, communications officer, Caritas Pakistan
News of the deadliest attack ever on Pakistani Christians last Sunday deeply depressed me. It was personal. TV video clips showed my childhood friends helping the injured worshippers. As I saw their images frozen on my television screens, a sudden phone call made it even more painful. “We are in All Saints Church, everybody has died, buddy”, one of my friends in Peshawar told me, crying. I decided I had to go there myself, to see what I could do.
Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhthunkhwa, was a different city when my family used to live there 14 years ago. Our relatives used to visit our house for shopping expeditions because our small, relatively peaceful city was famous for its comparatively cheaper clothes, crockery and electronics goods smuggled from neighbouring Afghanistan. My father used to pick and drop me on his Yamaha motorcycle from Edwardes High school in front of the All Saints Church.
The school was now closed for the three-day mourning announced by the bishops. A walkthrough metal scanner gate was now installed at its entrance, guarded by two policemen.
The road to All Saints Church, located in a clothes market, had been blocked by barbed wire. A group of parishioners were checking all pedestrians. My backpack was checked four times before I entered the mosque-shaped Church, the only one of its kind in the country. “Our apologies, but we don’t trust anyone now”, they told me.
A huge yellow tent was erected in the church compound which has become a hub for visitors, media people and government officials. Crying women frequently added to the pathos of the sad atmosphere of the compound, with its blood-tainted bricks and its walls showing the marks of the ball-bearings sprayed from the detonated bombs
We prayed inside the church, and also examined the damaged 130 year old structure.
We later visited the injured at Lady Reading Hospital.
Shoes of the bombing victims at All Saints ChurchKamran Chaudhry for World Watch Monitor
The same evening I revisited the Church, where the shoes of dead worshippers still lay stacked near the entrances. I even saw a few books and a school water bottle among them. Someone had placed bouquets beneath wooden crosses near the doors of the church.
By that night, it had turned into a small memorial lit by hundreds of candles.
I also met a few of my childhood friends who showed me the images captured on mobile phones moments after the blast. “At first we saw toes among the piles of shoes. We prayed that victims had been taken away to hospital, but that was not the case”, one told me.
“We had never seen so much blood and so many mutilated bodies. Shopkeepers helped tocover the bodies, many of them naked”.
Lastly, I visited one of my uncles, who belongs to the church choir. His left lung was ruptured when a ball bearing shot through his chest. Even after major chest surgery, one ball bearing is still inside his left wrist. I request you to pray for his speedy recovery.