MY HEART WAS broken when I got the news on a Sunday in September: All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan, had been attacked by two suicide bombers just after the Sunday service, as worshippers filtered out of the sanctuary. Eighty-five people were killed, including 34 women, seven children, and two Muslim police officers there to provide security. Later reports said the bombers were Sunni extremists.
In 1976, I was honored to start Youth for Christ in Peshawar. There were few Christians in this area near the Afghan border; Peshawar was not and is not a big town. Undoubtedly, some of the adults in and around the church when it was bombed were people I had met decades earlier.
News of the bombing confounded my memory of Peshawar 38 years ago. Religious plurality then was not perfect, but it was in great contrast to today. Christians, though few, served the Lord with some freedom. Youth for Christ held open-air rallies in the park, amplified by public-address speakers, with young people singing Christian songs with Bible messages to be heard by anyone within earshot. No security was needed, and truth be told both Muslim and Christian youth were in the audience and the choir.
The start of the second Gulf war in 2003, and subsequent military actions, changed everything. Reports say the church bombing in Peshawar was in retaliation for U.S. drone strikes that killed innocent men, women, and children, along with suspected terrorists, in that part of Pakistan. Peshawar is strategically located on the border with Afghanistan, not far from the famous Khyber Pass and only about 125 miles from where Osama bin Laden was killed.