As the national officers of the United Church of Christ mourn the victims of one of the deadliest attacks on Pakistan’s Christian community, they are calling for prayers for the dead, the injured, their affected families and the community.
At least 81 people were killed and scores injured in the explosions on Sunday at the historic All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan. Two suicide bombers blew themselves up as hundreds of worshippers were leaving services Sept. 22 to share a meal on the front lawn.
Among the dead were 34 women and seven children, as well as two Muslim police officers. Another 37 children were counted among the 140 people who were hurt.
A splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it “will continue to strike wherever we will find an opportunity against non-Muslims” until their demands that the United States stopped drone attacks in Pakistan's remote tribal region are met.
The UCC national officers condemned the act in a statement calling for prayer.
“The United Church of Christ strongly condemns all violence, and especially that in the name of religion,” the statement reads. “We strive for a world in which faith can be a source of community edification and peace building, and a justification for promoting justice and harmony, rather than violence and disunity.”
In a country where only 3 percent are Christians, many Muslims expressed sympathy and outrage at the attack on peaceful worshippers, and government officials have condemned the attack. “Such cruel acts of terrorism reflect the brutality and inhumane mindset of the terrorists,” said Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Here is the full statement from the National Officers of the UCC:
The United Church of Christ mourns with the many who have been affected by the suicide attack on All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan, earlier today. The loss of more than 80 lives and the more than 140 who were injured--overwhelmingly Christian, but Muslims as well – as a result of the attack is deplorable.
We hold in prayer the Christian community and all who have been affected, particularly as they live in a situation of heightened fear.
The All Saints attack comes on the heels of the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya, in which more than 60 people have been killed over the past few days.
These two incidents remind us of the ways in which religion can be manipulated to justify violence. The United Church of Christ strongly condemns all violence, and especially that in the name of religion. We strive for a world in which faith can be a source of community edification and peace building, and a justification for promoting justice and harmony, rather than violence and disunity.
We offer our solidarity and support for the victims and the affected communities. We offer our prayers for peace, and for reconciliation for people living in the midst of crisis, and the threat of conflict. And we offer our commitment to justice so that many of the motivations to carry out violent acts are eradicated.
Rev. Geoffrey A. Black
General Minister and President
Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo
Executive Minister, Justice and Witness Ministries
Rev. J. Bennett Guess
Executive Minister, Local Church Ministries
Rev. James A. Moos
Executive Minister, Wider Church Ministries