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Pakistani Taliban condemned for school massacre

19 December 2014


In mourning: Pakistani chil­­dren pray during a special ceremony for the 141 people, most of them chil­­­dren, killed in an attack on an Army Public School for preparatory-aged children, in Peshawar on Tuesday

In mourning: Pakistani chil­­dren pray during a special ceremony for the 141 people, most of them chil­­­dren, killed in an attack ...

RELIGIOUS and political leaders have joined with public figures around the world to condemn the Pakistani Taliban's massacre this week of at least 132 children and nine staff at the Peshawar Army School.

Even the Taliban in Afghanistan - normally close allies with the Pakistani group - described the attack as un-Islamic and said that they were sending condolences to the families of the victims.

In the region, the Rt Revd Humphrey Peters, Bishop of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas, was reported as suggesting that Christians should cancel their Christmas celebrations to show solidarity with the victims, many of whom are Muslim. He said: "This is an inhuman act, and the Christian community stands with the grieved families. All the churches will keep praying for the victims and will visit the families."

Insar Gohar, the youth co-ordinator for the diocese of Peshawar, part of the Church of Pakistan, contacted friends in the Oxford diocese to urge them to pray for everyone caught up in the killings and for the "protection of our city and for peace in our region".

He said "The whole of the environment in Peshawar is under terror and under grief. This reminded the Christians of Peshawar of last year's attack on All Saints' Church, and they are crying with the parents of today's deceased children."

At his General Audience at the Vatican on Wednesday, Pope Francis asked pilgrims to pray to the Lord to receive the deceased in peace, bring comfort to their families, and "to convert the hearts of the violent who do not hold back, even before children".

The Nobel Prize-winner and education activist Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban in 2012, said that she was "heartbroken by this senseless and cold-blooded act of terror. . . I, along with millions of others around the world, mourn these children - my brothers and sisters - but we will never be defeated."

The Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Area Bishop for Wakefield, who has strong links with communities in Pakistan, said: "The whole world is in mourning for the children and teachers of the Army School in Peshawar. We can hardly begin to imagine what it must be like for the families of those who were massacred so callously.

"The Bishop of Peshawar emailed me on the day to say: 'We all here in Peshawar are totally broken. Extremely sad, and feeling very bad'.

"Our prayers are for the people of Pakistan and especially the families who have lost loved ones. Our hope is that this tragedy is a turning point and that those who commit such horrendous acts will stop and see that nothing is achieved by such awful events. We pray for all those who are seeking to bring an end to violence in Pakistan."

In a message to the Pakistani community in Leicester, the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Timothy Stevens, said: "This attack has caused great pain both in Peshawar and around the world. Here in the city we share your deep grief for young lives so tragically lost. Please be assured of the thoughts and prayers of the Christian community at this most difficult time for you."

Addressing the Syrian Orthodox Church, Acton, on Thursday, the Prince of Wales said that the attack was a "sickening example" of the "sacrilege" of violence perpetrated in the name of faith. 

It was also, he said, "a horrific reminder that Muslims themselves are the victims of the violent intolerance of the extremists. The many, many families in Pakistan who have lost children, other relatives, friends and colleagues in the massacre are in my prayers this afternoon."

There is to be a prayer vigil for the victims at St John's, Waterloo, in London, on Saturday at 11 a.m.

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