Peshawar's Christian Community Offers Prayers and Solidarity
International Christian Concern
International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Taliban militants stormed the Army Public School and Degree College in Pakistan's northwestern city of Peshawar, provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, killing an estimated 126 students and teachers and wounding another 120. The attack is now considered one of the deadliest attacks perpetrated by the Pakistani Taliban and has shocked both the nation and the world.
The assault started at around 10 a.m. this morning, when at least six militants wearing military uniforms entered the school through a back door and began shooting indiscriminately at both students and teachers. A spokesman for the provincial government has claimed that 126 bodies have been recovered from the school so far and that 120 additional students and teachers were wounded and seeking medical treatment at Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar. He also said that most of the slain were teenagers.
In a statement, the Pakistani Taliban has taken credit for the assault on the school, claiming it was an act of revenge against the Pakistani army due to its military operations in North Waziristan that began last June. Pakistan's Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, denounced the assault on the school as a "cowardly act" and vowed to continue military operations against the Pakistani Taliban.
The attack on the Army Public School and Degree College comes just one year after the Pakistani Taliban perpetrated the suicide bombing of Peshawar's All Saints Church, widely considered the single deadliest attack on Pakistan's Christian community in the country's history. On September 22, 2013, two suicide bombers connected to the Pakistani Taliban detonated their bombs outside the gates of All Saints Church. The church had just concluded its Sunday service and over 600 members were exiting the church when the bombs exploded. Over 100 churchgoers were killed in that attack, which the Taliban claimed was revenge for the U.S. drone program in Pakistan.
In an interview with ICC, Bishop Humphrey Peters, the bishop of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), condemned the attack on the school. He said, "This is an inhuman act and the Christian community stands with the grieved families. All the churches will keep praying for the victims and will visit the families." Bishop Peters also announced that Christians throughout the province and FATA should cancel all Christmas celebrations, dinner parties and other holiday programs to show solidarity with the victims of this attack, the majority of whom are Muslim.
Gushan Bhatti, former provincial joint secretary of the Awami National Party, expressed deep sorrow over the incident. After visiting the school and hospital, he shared the situation with ICC. He said, "It was highly painful and unbearable to see the situation and meet parents." He also requested Christians avoid high-scale celebrations at Christmas.
ICC's Regional Manager for South Asia, William Stark, said, "Religious extremism and terrorism continue to tear at the social fabric of Pakistan. This latest attack comes as a reminder that extremists in Pakistan, like the Pakistani Taliban, are willing to commit any act of violence to establish their ideology. Along with Pakistan's Christian community, ICC condemns this attack and offers prayers of condolence for the families affected. Over a year has passed since Pakistan's Christian community was shattered by the bombing of All Saints Church. Like that incident, the extremists and militants have targeted the innocent and vulnerable. More must be done by Pakistan's government to secure the safety of its people and end the reign of terror directed by the Taliban."
For interviews, contact William Stark, Regional Manager for South Asia:
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