Archbishop Justin Welby has issued a statement on the first anniversary of the suicide bombings at All Saints Church, Peshawar, Pakistan, on 22 September 2013 in which more than 100 Christians were killed.
As we approach the first anniversary of the horrific suicide bombings at All Saints Church, Peshawar – which made martyrs of more than 100 Christians and wounded many more – firstly our thoughts and prayers are with all those who were bereaved and injured in these terrible attacks. As we have done, so must we continue to pray fervently for Jesus Christ to comfort all those whose lives were changed forever by these evil acts. Meanwhile we must continue to pray and call for justice, and for the peace of Pakistan and the protection of Christ’s people there.
In May I visited Pakistan’s Anglican community – who number 800,000 in a population of 180 million – and I was appalled to hear and see evidence of the hatred, violence and persecution they face. As I sat among them, I heard the searing anguish in their cry for the right to worship in freedom and safety. But I was also moved and inspired by their steadfastness and courage, which is grounded in deep and unshakable faith in Jesus Christ.
In the days following the bombings, Christians in Peshawar spoke of forgiveness for their attackers even as they cried out for justice and protection. With one year passed, we should reflect again in awe on this profound witness to Christ by our brothers and sisters in their darkest moment of suffering.
As we reflect on the Peshawar martyrs, and their families, and all those injured in those shocking attacks, we do so knowing with deep concern that the often deadly persecution of Christians and other minorities has further escalated in many places, especially Iraq and Syria. We look back knowing that our prayers are needed with fresh urgency, as we cry them out to a God who shares deeply in the pain, anxiety, suffering and despair of all those persecuted for their beliefs.
So today as we hold the people of Pakistan in our hearts, we must pray fervently to the God of peace and justice: asking in His name that those who suffer persecution will know relief; that those who do harm will know justice; and that all people – both our friends or our enemies – will know God’s peace and love in Jesus Christ.