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Bath churches send help for Peshawar church bombing victims

06 February 2015

HELP AND HOPE PROJECT

Traumatised: survivors of the All Saints' bomb are helped with counselling

Traumatised: survivors of the All Saints' bomb are helped with counselling

AN AID scheme set up by churches in Bath to help victims of the 2013 bombing of All Saints', Peshawar, has extended its work to help survivors of the massacre at the Pakistani Army School near by last December (News, 19 December).

Today, workers from the project Help and Hope were due to make the first delivery of supplies and offer counselling for post-traumatic stress to some of the 80 people - mainly children - wounded in the Taliban attack, in which 141 people died.

The project's work on the ground is led by Qamar Rafiq, a Pakistani Christian living in Bath who has business links to his home country. His team have already made seven visits to the All Saints' survivors, and recently took victims to the capital, Islamabad, for counselling.

After the school massacre in December, the project's founder, the Revd Alan Bain, who is Rector of St Philip and St James, Bath, suggested that the team offer its counselling experience to the students. "It's a great risk to the team," he said. "It's a war zone, it's a predominantly Muslim school, and Christians are vulnerable. But their reply was: 'This is God's mission: we can do nothing else.'

"These children are in critical need of post-traumatic stress relief for the future so they are in a position to return to school. . .

"But it's very difficult to do medical work in Pakistan; we have to tread very carefully. The last thing they want is a Westerner, because the West is dropping bombs on them from drones, and the Taliban kill doctors vaccinating against polio. So we are taking basics like blankets and medical foam mattresses. We are also delivering fruit juices for all the pupils.

"It's very simple stuff, but it's building relationships. The amazing thing is that we now have a Christian church going across the barriers to a Muslim school, sharing what they have learned from these past months of trauma.

"God has guided us from be- ginning to end, and it's been almost like riding a wave of faith."

Bath had responded well to his original appeal for £15,000, Mr Bain said. "It's been like the jar of oil that never runs out: we take one load, and there's nothing left, and then it fills up again. It might sound a cliché, but we simply have to trust God. He seems to be supplying us with what we need to do the job.

"It's not so much bringing aid: it's bringing hope and contact. It's showing people in a God-forsaken part of the world that, actually, God is in it, and that he does care. The lesson for us is that if you set your mind to it, you can do most things."

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