Broken by the Bombs of the All Saints Church Attack
11/1/2013 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – On September 22, two suicide bombers attacked All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan. Over 600 church goers were packed into the church’s walled compound when the attackers detonated the suicide vests they were wearing, causing the deaths of over 130 Christians and wounding over 150 more. The following is the story of one family, who lost 5 members including a father, two sisters, a brother, and a sister in-law.
“Searching for my younger sister, whether she was dead or alive, was a similar experience like someone hanging on a Cross for a whole day,” Ms. Sanobar Younas, age 36, told ICC’s representative. “I will never forget Sania’s smiling personality and her sacrificing behavior towards others.” Sanobar Younas, a housewife, lost five relatives including her younger sister, Sania Haroon, 27, and her husband, Haroon Shareef, 32, in the twin suicide attacks at All Saints Church.
In an interview with ICC, Sanobar said, “This is an unbearable, unforgivable and unforgettable loss to us.” Uncontrollable tears ran down her face as she shared the painful moments of the day. “We will never be able to forget our sweet ‘Anjee’ [a family nickname for Sania]. I will miss her mostly at the times of the family gatherings.”
“I am thankful to Jesus that our parents have already gone to heaven; otherwise it would be impossible for them to bury their young beloved daughter and son-in law.”Sanober’s mother died in June 2013, her father in 2010.
Recalling the memories of Sania, she said, “My Anjee was a very beautiful girl. My parents used to call her a “Lucky Star” because they had a male-child (Shahzada) in the family after her birth. Anjee was my parent’s fourth girl-child.”
“She studied at St. Michael’s convent high school in Peshawar and wanted to join the fashion industry as a model, however she was never able to fulfill this dream,” Sanobar said. “My sister was very blessed; she had a loving husband, Mr. Haroon Shareef, who was a professional photographer.” Sania’s husband, Haroon, was also killed in the bombing at All Saints Church. “They have entered into the eternal life along with Haroon’s father Mr. Shareef Masih and two sisters Shazia and Sapna,” Sanobar said.
Mr. Younas Benjamin, a catechist at the Catholic Church and Sanobar’s husband, said, “One cannot express this loss in words. For us it is not less than the end of our lives.” After a pause and a long breath he continued, “I still remember riding with Anjee on my bicycle wearing a pink-color frock. It is impossible for me to get the memories of our childhood away from my eyes and mind,” Benjamin added.
Talking over a cellular phone to a relative, Mr. Benjamin said, “I had no words to inform my wife and other family members about the five deaths. It was too hard to bear.”
Mr. Shahzada Saleem and Mr. Sharoon Saleem, Sanobar’s brothers were in too much pain during their interview with ICC and couldn’t even share a single word about their very sweet and loving sister without crying.
“[A] few weeks back Anjee appeared in an interview to join a private bus service as a bus-hostess,” Sanobar shared. “She was selected for this job. Just three days before her death she received the appointment letter and navy-blue uniform. She was excited to join the office on October 1, 2013.” All the family members present in the room wept for the life cut short by the September 22 bombing.
According to Sanobar and Younas Benjamin, Sania and her husband always used to go to a Catholic Church, however on the day of the incident they joined their other family members and went to All Saints Church which is Protestant, to celebrate the first announcement of Samson Shareef’s [Haroon’s brother’s] engagement.
Talking to ICC, Samson Shareef, age 31, said, “I wish I would have also gone to All Saints Church on that day for martyrdom.”
“We have lost 5 members of our family and our future happiness as well. I have no words to express the feelings I had when I saw my loved ones among hundreds of dead bodies. I may still look alive on the Earth, however I am not now that I have lost so many loved ones,” Samson said, fighting through the tears of his grief.
“I still cannot believe my “Goodoo” [a family nickname for his brother Haroon], my loving father and two sisters Shazia and Sapna have gone forever and will never come back home. They went to the Church for me, so I am guilty for it,” he said.
Recalling his father, brother, sister in-law and two sisters, Samson continued, “I used to have friendly fights with my sisters over using the computer system at home.” With his eyes full of tears he said, “I will miss them at every step of life.”
Regarding his upcoming scheduled wedding, Samson said, “My family wants to follow the orders and plans set by my late father, therefore I will be getting married according to my father’s wishes, however we will avoid music, dances, decorations, and unnecessary rituals.”
Hundreds of Christian families in Peshawar have similar stories of tragedy. When the dust settled, over 130 Christians were killed in the attack at All Saints Church, leaving hundreds of families broken. Pakistan’s government has promised to compensate these families for the losses they have sustained, but nothing will be able to replace the loved ones they lost. Without decisive action by Pakistan and the international community, Christian families, who have been persecuted in Pakistan for decades, will continue to suffer loses like this. Please, keep these persecuted brothers and sisters in your prayers today.
ICC is a Washington, D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441 or visit www.persecution.org.