Minister who lost 20 relatives in a terrorist attack forgives the perpetrators
Reverend Aftab Gohar, a full-time minister in the Church of Scotland since 2008, joined other campaigners in handing in a petition to the Pakistan Consulate in Glasgow last week. The petition requests the Pakistani government to improve safety for religious minorities and use the blasphemy law to punish those who attack Christians.
He disclosed how difficult it was to forgive the suicide bombers who struck All Saints Church in Peshawar on 22 September 2013. At least 122 people were killed when two explosions ripped through All Saints and over 250 were injured. The Reverend lost his mother and 19 relatives in the attack and has been struggling with grief since.
“It was a very hard time for us all and I was questioning ‘why did it happen to those who were very regular churchgoers?’ Those who didn’t go to church on that day, did they do the right thing? The Bible says ‘when you are persecuted because of your faith in Jesus, you are blessed’. They all died for their faith.”
Rev Gohar recalled receiving a terrifying text message whilst getting ready to preach a sermon at his church’s Sunday service in Scotland. His whole world was shaken up that day. However, he put up a brave face for his congregation’s sake, as he did not want to disappoint them by cancelling the service.
In a recent interview he admitted that he had been struggling to forgive the perpetrators and found solace in the story of Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch woman who survived the Ravensbrück concentration camp after being caught helping Jews to escape the Nazis.
He said “It was hard for me to forgive those responsible but with the strength of God I did so and freed myself from the extra burden of hatred and revenge. On the cross, Jesus prayed for those who were crucifying him: ‘Forgive them Father, they don’t know what they are doing. Jesus said ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you – a lesson that some people find impossible to follow.”
The Reverend condemns Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws for the many attacks against Christians.