'Forgive' the terrorists says priest who lost 27 family members to suicide attack

by Gregory Tomlin |

(REUTERS/Fayaz Aziz)People from the Christian community attend a protest, to condemn suicide bombings which took place outside two churches in Lahore, in Peshwar, March 16, 2015. Suicide bombings outside two churches in Lahore killed 14 people and wounded nearly 80 others during services on Sunday in attacks claimed by a faction of the Pakistani Taliban. A larger attack on Easter Sunday claimed more than 70 lives and wounded more than 200.

LONDON (Christian Examiner) – When Rev. Fayaz Adman learned of the suicide bombing of Christians celebrating Easter in a Lahore, Pakistan, park March 27, he hadn't fully healed from a similar bombing two-and-a-half years before.

His wounds weren't physical. They were emotional and spiritual. The bombing in 2013 killed 85 members of the All Saints Anglican Church in Peshwar. Twenty-seven of the dead belonged to his family.

Fayaz, an Anglican priest in West Bolton, near Manchester, learned of the bombing through a phone call and subsequent television report. He traveled to Pakistan the next day to see how he could help the survivors.

"I felt I was lost," Fayaz said in the interview April 4 on a Church of England podcast.. "I said, 'I need to go back and see my family members, which is difficult to explain in words.'"

As a human being – and a minister – it was difficult for me to forgive those who attacked. It was difficult because they took many of my family in just one event. I know that it is difficult, but I forgive them – and I pray for their families. And I, too, pray that God will enable our friends and family members to forgive those who attack and persecute our family members.
- Rev. Fayaz Adman

Fayaz later walked through the shattered church where two members of the Pakistani Taliban blew themselves up during a worship service. He spoke of the blood and human remains scattered around the church.

What he saw motivated him to action, the priest said.

He and his wife, a registered nurse, asked for permission from the Anglican hierarchy to do something for those wounded in the attacks. They soon established Project Umeed or Project Hope, a medical services program for the victims. They worked with hospitals in Lahore, Peshwar and Islamabad – including the Taxila (Presbyterian) Mission Hospital – to obtain western-quality medical care for many of those injured.

At first, he said, the people believed the quality of care was too good to be true, but later the program expanded to include the long-term care of more of the victims, who needed more than physical care. They also needed spiritual and psychological care.

"I am glad my wife worked honestly, skillfully, and provided the best care to our families," Fayaz said in the interview.

Now, those who were wounded in the 2013 bombing are back at All Saints Church, Fayaz said. He returned when most were back in the pews.

"When I saw those people working on their feet and all the people supporting us, I said a very big 'thank you.' There is a need to support Pakistani Christians," he said.

Like the patients aided through Project Umeed, Fayaz has also been a beneficiary of the work. He said the two-year journey, followed by the recent events of persecution of Christians has made him value forgiveness even more.

"It was really difficult to think about forgiveness in the last few years," Fayaz said. "As a human being – and a minister – it was difficult for me to forgive those who attacked. It was difficult because they took many of my family in just one event. I know that it is difficult, but I forgive them – and I pray for their families. And I, too, pray that God will enable our friends and family members to forgive those who attack and persecute our family members."

That experience of forgiveness was fresh in his mind, he said, when the Easter Sunday bombing took place in Lahore.

He said in the podcast that he was "on the holy table," or serving communion, when word of the suicide blast reached him.

"I was shocked," Fayaz said. "I was unable to speak for a few minutes."

"The basic thing is to pray for these terrorists and those who control these innocent people to offer their lives to be terrorists," he said.

"I think that is a major thing missing in our prayers. And they need – the church needs – our support. As long as these fundamentalists are there, our Christians are in danger."

The danger is real and present. On April 5, reports surfaced that the terrorists behind the Pakistan park bombing, the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction of the Taliban, were plotting much larger and more "devastating" attacks.

The terror group reportedly provided NBC News with information about the suicide bomber and its plans to continue killing members of the Christian community and other religious minorities.

Several smaller attacks earlier in March went largely unreported by western media. Those attacks outside churches in Peshwar killed 14 and wounded 80.