A Church of Scotland minister who lost his mother and other close relatives in a suicide attack on a church in Pakistan says he forgives the killers, despite the immense pain and loss.
The Rev Aftab Gohar is now back from Pakistan at Abbotsgrange Church in Grangemouth, in Scotland, where he will resume full duties on Sunday 20 October 2013.
He commented: “It is wrong what these people did but I forgive them. We pray that they may one day develop the wisdom to understand that it is not right to kill children and other innocent people. There were 125 children in Sunday school that day. My sister was teaching there. Forgiving is what we learn from the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why I forgive“.
On 22 September, after Sunday prayers, the congregation of All Saint’s Church’s congregation in Peshawar gathered to enjoy a thanksgiving feast. Some had already left; but there were still hundreds of people in the compound when the suicide attackers struck without warning.
The attack on the minority Christian community in Pakistan killed 122 people and injured 168, causing headlines around the world.
Mr Gohar travelled to his old family church after the massacre which resulted in the death of his 79 year old mother Iqbal, his 11-year-old nephew, his nine-year-old niece, two uncles, three cousins, two of his closest friends and many other friends and relatives.
Mr Gohar stresses that most Muslims have been respectful and kindly in the 130 years of the Christian church’s existence in Pakistan – and displayed those same qualities after the tragedy.
“The majority of Muslims helped, taking victims to hospital or helping to prepare graves or prepare food for the injured as well as for the friends and relatives caring for them. The idea that all Muslims hate Christians is simply not true.”
Mr Gohar says he still fears for friends and relatives in the area and says there is an urgent need for more medical help for many of those who were seriously injured. His 23-year-old niece Farah Javed is paralysed from the waist down and needs treatment not available to her in a public hospital.
The Gohar family has already had to find considerable sums to pay for medical treatment for relatives.
The Very Rev Dr Andrew McLellan, Convener of the Church of Scotland World Mission Council, added: “It is very moving to hear the words of Rev Aftab Gohar. These heartless killings happened in Pakistan, but forgiveness makes the whole world better.
“The Church of Scotland is richer for having a minister of the stature of Aftab among us. He and his family are entitled to count on the love and prayers of us all.”