Saturday, 26 December 2009


I have just received disturbing news of a Christmas Eve attack in Peshawar

A member of the Assemblies of God and a Roman Catholic were among five who died in a suicide bomb attack in Peshawar on Christmas Eve. The Reverend Joseph John, priest-in-charge of St. Johns Anglican Cathedral was giving sick communion to a parishioner less than forty metres away from the blast.

Two day earlier Edwardes College, an Anglican foundation in the University of Peshawar, was closed prematurely for the vacation by the Principal, the Revd. Dr. David Gosling, after a huge bomb at the nearby Press Club caused students to rush out of their lecture rooms in a panic. People near the Club were killed, and a woman passing the site of the bomb in an auto-rickshaw died of a heart attack.

In spite of these events Christmas services at the main city churches passed peacefully. Attendance at the Cathedral was, if anything, larger than in previous years, and the Police provided maximum security. During the run up to Christmas individual church members had received threats on their mobile phones such as: “You’re our next target”, and “We’ll give you a Christmas gift, and it won’t be the baby Jesus.”

Peshawar has been particularly targeted by extremists in recent weeks, though the main focus of attacks has been Police check posts and government officials and headquarters of Inter-Services Intelligence, which is located near to Edwardes College.

Disturbing though these incidents are, there are indications that they are reactions to the military operations currently being conducted by the Pakistan Army, and that these are being largely successful. There are also signs that some of the more extremist organizations such as Jamiat ul Islami and Jamiatul ulama and individual Sunni clerics are denouncing suicide bombing as anti-Islam.

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