Minister forgives church killers

A Church of Scotland minister who lost his mother and other relatives in a suicide attack on a church in Pakistan has forgiven the killers and praised members of the Muslim community who tended to the victims.

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People attend funeral prayers for victims of an explosion in Peshawar, Pakistan (AP/Mohammad Sajjad)

A Church of Scotland minister who lost his mother and other relatives in a suicide attack on a church in Pakistan has forgiven the killers and praised members of the Muslim community who tended to the victims.

Reverend Aftab Gohar will resume full duties at Abbotsgrange Church in Grangemouth on Sunday following his return from Pakistan, where has been paying respects to the deceased and comforting surviving relatives.

The attack happened on September 22 as a congregation from Peshawar's minority christian population gathered at All Saint's Church in Peshawar to enjoy a thanksgiving feast after Sunday prayers.

Some had already left but there were still hundreds of people in the compound when the suicide attackers struck, killing 122 people and injuring 168.

Rev Gohar said: "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."

Mr Gohar travelled to his old family church after the attack which killed his mother Iqbal, 79, 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.

His neice Farah Javed, 23, is paralysed from the waist down and needs treatment not available to her in a public hospital. The Gohar family has had to find considerable sums to pay for medical treatment for relatives.

Mr Gohar said 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," he said.

"The idea that all Muslims hate Christians is simply not true."

Mr Gohar said he still fears for friends and relatives in the area and said there is an urgent need for more medical help for many of those who were seriously injured.

The Very Reverend Dr Andrew McLellan, Convener of the Church of Scotland World Mission Council said: "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."