Some of the images from within this article have been lost during transfer to our new website.
After the brutal murder of 9 people and over 50 casualties the survivors of the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church Islamist attack and families of the deceased,
will all be joining with other parishioners to celebrate Christmas at a bittersweet ceremony on Christmas Eve and then again Christmas Day.
The service tomorrow will be the first time the whole church has come together since the attack and will be a day of mixed emotions.
Despite the heavy trauma, members of the church faced last weekend everyone of them has expressed a passionate desire to return to their spiritual home and to praise God – in the face of huge human loss they have suffered. Their presence at the service will send out a defiant message that the Islamists have failed
to frighten Christian worshippers away from their church or their God. Mehwish Bhatti our lead Pakistan officer is flying from Islamabad to Quetta share time at their service with them.
Initially the Pak-Army sealed off the Church and their cordon was to be maintained till after Christmas. However, after victim families, all the parishioners, the clergy of the church and the BPCA applied some pressure, it was agreed the Christmas service would go ahead at the targeted church.
The Islamist attack at the Methodist Church took place during a Nativity service last Sunday (17th December 2017). We have now interviewed over 40 people and have pieced together as accurate an account as we could to remove some of the confusing conflicts found in various stories on the internet.
Apparently the Nativity Service (service with children’s depiction of the Nativity during 3rd week of Advent) began at 10:30, without a hitch.
There was a half hour of carols and time of worship at the start of the service. At 11:00 Pastor Simon Bashir began the sermon focusing on the Nativity which he duly completed at around 11:45. At 12:25 preparations began for Holy Communion and people began to queue to approach the altar to receive bread [Eaten in remembrance of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of His life].
At around 12:20 while people were still in the queue making the way to the altar, gun shots could be heard outside the church. The shooting arose because George Masih a brave hired security officer closed the courtyard gate reducing the impact of the gun attack by the Islamist Assassins seeking to kill hated Christians.
The quick thinking Pastor Simon Bashir told members of the church to sit down or get as close to the floor as possible and stay silent – no doubt saving lives.
Gulzar Masih courageously ran towards the entrance of the building and was shot dead but not before he locked the doors to the church preventing the terrorists entering the church which would have culminated in a large-scale massacre on the scale of the attack at All Saints Church, Peshawar in 2013 (click here).
Victims of the Peshawar attack were supported for nearly two years till compensation finally arrived from government (click here)
Parishioners ran to the front of the altar which was furthest away from the gates. When one terrorist was shot dead, the other assailant turned his attention to the church building which was locked and shot at it indiscriminately.
Churchgoers speak of a surreal moment where they could not see their killer but heard people screaming from pain or dropping dead from bullets that had pierced through the walls.
After running out of bullets the bomber shouted Allah-hu-Akhbar [Arabic for God is the Greatest] and then detonated the explosive device around his waist.
Two young Sunday school teachers saved the smaller children who were to appear for a Christmas Nativity play. But keeping them hidden in a back room.
The frightened parishioners stayed where they were and did not leave until security forces entered and told them it was safe to do so, by which time they soon discovered that 9 people were dead and over 50 injured. Below we list several genuine eyewitness accounts.
Some exaggerated accounts say that witnesses heard a bang and then shooting but this is false (click here). The shooting definitely took place first then the explosion then security forces gave the all clear. Another article states that Christians rushed out of the church after the explosion and were killed by Islamist gunmen this too is false (click here).
Both those accounts state that 11 people died, however the death toll as of today is nine as confirmed by the police, the victims and local hospitals. Moreover we have attended all but one of the funerals, unable to attend one as the body was sent to Lahore for burial. We will be meeting the final family sometime tomorrow to cover the costs of the funeral for them.
Pak-Christians across the globe and purchasing bullet-proof vests for the young men who are bravely volunteering their lives to secure the safety of our churches. BPCA is trying to coordinate the process by purchasing them in bulk at a discount. If you would like to contribute please help by donating using one of the mechanisms (here).
In the CCTV footage provided to us from the Methodist Church it can be seen that there are three men involved, but one of them simply seems to run away without getting involved. The police have said there were four men involved in the attack and a nationwide search is underway for the other two Islamist fugitives. The video shows brave George Masih close the church courtyard gates on the attackers. He was killed later:
This other video shows the relative calm of the parishioners as they leave the church, many wanted to help the injured, others helped women and children leave. One woman even placed a Bible carefully back in place on a pew before vacating the church – there was definitely no further shooting after the explosive device was detonated:
Our lead officer in Quetta Pastor Adil and a team of three others have been visiting families of the deceased providing words of counsel, praying with them and administering our aid programme. Families have all been provided a reimbursement of the cost that they paid for the burial of their
Gulzar Masih (RIP)
Gulzar Bhatti (49 yrs) was the father of 7 children, 5 of whom were daughters and 2 sons. He was employed as a laboratory technician. His eldest son
Ramesh (18yrs) was also injured in the blast and is currently recovering from injuries to his head and right hand.
Traumatized Ramish Gulzar
The family live in a house allocated via the Government as Gulzar Bhatti’s widow is a staff nurse at Bolan Medical Complex. The family had a relatively
easy life while their father was around as the combined incomes of both parents ,provided for their every need. Now that only Gulzar’s wife is
a source of income they do not know what their future will be like. Ramish is already considering quitting university to support his family.
Civil Hospital in Quetta have provided initial treatment for Ramesh and discharged him the day after the attack. Responsibility for the ongoing
medical costs for his injuries has now become the responsibility for the family. Ramish described the incident, he said:
“I heard gunfire just as I and my younger brother Ishaq were bringing out the youngest children in the church for their nativity drama. My brother and I quickly pulled the children back into the room where they had been changing into costumes. Then a loud explosion occurred I later woke up in hospital.
“While there I discovered my brother, mother and father were also in hospital. My brother and mother survived but my father lost his life which is a brutal blow to our family. Our future is uncertain and we have lost a wonderful loving father who we all miss terribly.
“I will never be able to repay my father for everything he has done for me – it’s heartbreaking.”
One Islamist was killed before he could shoot or detonate his explosives, the second started shooting into the church which had its door open. Gulzar Masih rushed to the door and closed it and was shot dead in the process. His bravery surely saved many others.
The widow of Gulzar Masih has been compensated by BPCA for the costs of the funeral of her husband and we have agreed to pay the ongoing medical costs for Ramish.
George Masih (58 years) was deployed as a paid security officer for the Church. When two men tried to rush into the gate he noticed that the front
man was covering his face and suspiciously running towards the church. With immaculate professionalism he shut the gate on the would be intruder slowing down the attack. The Islamist attacker then had to scale the gate losing valuable time and resulting in him having to shoot at George
which resulted in local people calling the security forces and a very rapid police and military response. Once the Islamist climbed over the wall he stabbed George in the neck then shot him several times making George the first casualty of this attack.
George has five children four of them are married and independent however one unmarried daughter was dependant on him. BPCA have not yet met with the family of George but aim to assist his family as soon as we do.
Younas Masih the husband of Salamati has been compensated for her funeral costs.
Salamti Bibi (42 yrs) died in the church after being shot in her stomach several times. Her husband, Younas Masih (49 yrs) is a retired government employee. They have three Children among them one of their daughters Anum (19 yrs) received a minor injury to her left foot but has fully recovered. Anum is a school teacher and has not yet returned to the school she works at as she comes to terms with the loss of her mother. Anum said:
“We were in church, we were celebrating the birth of Jesus. We meant no harm to anyone, we were completely innocent. The two men involved in this attack killed my mother as they killed us all. All they had was hate, a deep rooted twisted hate, that meant they were devoid of compassion.
“Evil men like this have destroyed our country, they have shattered so many lives and now my family have experienced the same deep sorrow that others who have lost loved ones to a brutal unexpected death. It has shocked me to the core and I am finding it so hard to cope, my emotions are a mixture of anger, frustration and sorrow.
“I know I will see my mother in heaven one day, but the wait is so long and for now it is small solace. She has been the most beautiful thing in my life and now she is no longer there. I cry myself to sleep and I pray for her, I ask God to let her know that I love her so much.”
Akash Masih (19 yrs) RIP
Akash Masih (19 yrs) was killed instantly after being shot in the head, he was a 2nd year student at Inter College as well as a student at Technical Training Centre Quetta. His family are residents of Essa Nagri in Quetta. His father Naseem Masih is a government employee and had six children
in total with his wife Parveen Babi.
This family three further injured members Naveed (15yrs) brother of Akash was shot on his elbow and is still receiving medical attention, One daughter Aster (22 yrs) is still admitted at Civil Lines Hospital and was operated on yesterday (22nd December 2017) due to shrapnel lodged in her intestines.
Mother Parveen also suffered severe injuries to her head but was released from hospital yesterday. Naseem Masih, spoke with BPCA, he said:
“My heart is broken, I have lost my handsome, intelligent wonderful son who was in command of his life and was heading towards a good future. His death has shattered our family, we all feel broken, we still cannot believe he is gone. It breaks my heart that I will never see him grow up.
“Our family is still going through great pain as we wait to see if Aster will survive, I pray on my knees night and day pleading with God to return her to me, it would be a cruel blow if we lose both children, we have done nothing to hurt these evil, twisted murderers, their attack makes no sense.
“God is our only hope in this country, I will never forsake Him, my family and I will all be back at church on Sunday. We are Christians it is what we do – despite the constant targeting.”
A broken father mourns the lost of a dear son.
BPCA have covered the costs for the funeral of Akash and are helping with ongoing medical cost with other family members injured.
Sohail Younis father of Mehak is compensated by BPCA for the funeral costs for his murdered daughter.
Mehak Sohail (14 yrs) was a 7th grade student and was killed in the blast. Her father Sohail Younas (44 yrs) has four other children his daughter Wasiqa (16 yrs) is also in hospital with shrapnel in her jaw and eye. Wasiqa is currently admitted at Combined Military Hospital (CMH). Mr Younas is an officer for a company called ‘State Life Insurance’. He said:
“Losing my daughter at such a young age is morale-sapping I have not yet come to terms with her death. She was a beautiful, friendly and intelligent child that did nothing to hurt anyone. Every memory I have of her will be cherished she will never be forgotten.”
A happy family destroyed!
Sunila Nidat (35 yrs) lost her life in the blast. Nidat Masih (44 yrs) her husband was himself hit in the chest and is now facing respiratory problems.
He has been placed on pain-killers and a medicated inhaler but should recover over time – has been discharged from hospital. Nidat’s two sons, Elijah (9 yrs) and Zarek (5 yrs) children escaped injury thanks to the quick thinking of Narish and Ishaq who protected the younger children. Nidat is an agricultural engineer and will need time off work. BPCA have agreed to support him through his period of unemployment. Two of Sunila’s sisters are
taking care of the children at the moment and have described the great trauma exhibited in the children.
Nidat has spoken to BPCA officer Mehwish by telephone today, he said:
“I lost the love of my life, my wife of 11 years. We had a very happy home and were enjoying bringing up our wonderful children. The blast took Sunila away from me and has left my children terrified, they think that church is a place to be feared, but it is not. It is these killers in our midst that should be feared as they are everywhere and they will no doubt attack us again and again because Christians are anathema.
“These people have no emotions they are brainwashed and taught that we are demons, but it is obvious who are innocent and evil in this attack.
“I have to care for my two boys without my wife and I know it will be hard but I will raise them into fine men whatever happens, I owe this to my wife’s memory. She is a martyr who is with God now and though I want to pray that I am united with her soon I know I must first see my two boys to adulthood. I just hope she forgives me for failing to protect her from the Islamists that took her life.”
Pastor Adil covered the costs of the funeral for Sunila which he gave to her father Arif Bhatti as Nidat was in an operation at the time.
Fazal Masih’s widow now begins life without her husband of 23 years
Fazal Masih (53 yrs) was killed instantly by a bullet to his heart. He was proprieter of a welding unit. Fazal left a wife, three sons and two daughters behind to mourn for him. Fazal Masih’s wife Shenaz (42 yrs) is a housewife. All her children are studying and now that the stability that their family had has gone, they now fear their future. The family feel quite helpless as no family member is yet employed or earning an income. Faraz (22 years)
the eldest son has just completed his Bachelor of Science undergraduate degree from Musa College, Quetta. He said:
“It was the desire of my father that his all children obtain higher education but now we will all struggle without him. I was going to follow up my bachelors degree with a Master’s Degree but now will have to find work to support my family.
“Our lives have been destroyed and filled with sorrow by some wicked men who are heartless. I hope the two men that are on the run are found and that their capture leads to the exposure of others who are planning similar attacks.”
BPCA will pay the £208 per month required to support the family for 6 months while Faraz finds employment.
BPCA team pray with the family of Sultan Masih
Sultan Masih (40 yrs) was shot in the forehead and died instantly. He was the father of 5 children and worked as a ticket inspector at Baluchistan Ralway Station. Sultan Masih was a paid security officer for the Church along with George Masih. He was the second person to lose his life after George Masih. Mrs Masih spoke with BPCA, she said :
“I lost my champion, Sultan was my protector and now I feel so vulnerable. I have five children all in education and now we cannot even afford to pay our daily living expenses.”
The family have asked us to cover £108 per month for 6 months while they find a solution to their new financial dillema, especially since all 5 of the children are under 10 years of age. We have agreed to cover this. Since his elder brother died three years ago he had also been caring for his sister-in-law and three children. Sultan closed the main gate of the church and saved more than 400 people given that locals have stated due to the amount of explosives deployed the roof of the church would have collapsed on the congregants if the terrorists had gained entry.
Madeeha Barkat killed for her faith died after a bullet cut through her neck.
Madeeha Barkat (29 yrs) was attacked by polio as a child causing her to right arm to become immobile due weak muscles – she also had weak eyesight.
Her disability meant that she never attended school as special needs are not catered to in Pakistan. Despite her disability she was able to undertake many household chores like washing clothes, she helped her mother with cooking within her capabilities and groomed herself. She was the eldest child in her family and was given great respect by all her younger siblings who loved her especially because she was the only sister. Danish Gill (27
yrs) brother of Madeeha spoke about her, he said:
“Despite disabilities my sister was the most loving and caring sister I knew. She would make tea and would lay the table for me and my brothers when we came home from work and school. She was always the one who would open the door to me and I could talk to her about anything.
“She never complained about her disabilities and lived her life to the full. She survived such a debilitating illness and proved her worth ten times over, which is why her cruel death hurts so much. Our sisters was a warrior – she conquered polio and life’s difficulties but this heinous attack was too much for her. I will miss her every day of my life.”
BPCA has covered the costs for the funeral of Madeeha.
Arooba Maryam is being fed through a drip due to the acute intestinal damage she suffered.
Arooba Maryam (15 yrs) received a bullet to her abdominal region. She fell unconcious and later awoke at Civil Hospital Quetta, she remembers very little of the attack. A successful operation has removed the bullet, however she has been restricted to her bed for the next 3 months as her body fully recovers from the trauma caused. She is bed-ridden and is required to use a catheter for excretion. Arooba spoke with our officer Pastor Adil, she said:
“I thank God that he allowed me to survive my injuries, I feel upset that I have survived when so many have lost their lives. I pray that God takes care of those who have fallen, they did not deserve to lose their lives.”
Arooba is a 10th Grade student but due to her injury cannot attend her board examinations which were due in January. However our officer Mehwish has spoken to her school who have agreed to provide her course material for her too learn in the comfort of her own home. She is also being offered the choice of taking her exams later in 2018 if she does not feel prepared by the current examination dates.
BPCA have paid for Arooba’s extraneous medical costs and will continue to support her through ongoing medical costs.
Aleeza is one year and six months old and her father Ashraf Masih is a cleaner at Balochistan Railway Station. Shrapnel from the blast was lodged in Aleeza’s abdominal region and she was unconscious, causing her parents to panic as they thought she was dead. After she was operated on in the hospital Aleeza regained consciousness. Aleeza is still in hospital while her recovery is being monitored but it is believed she will soon be discharged. BPCA will cover the costs for further medication and scans and has already covered costs for charges that applied from the original admission to hospital. Ashraf Masih, said:
“Aleeza survived very serious wounds at such a tender age and I can only believe that God has a great purpose for her life.
“My wife and I could not stop weeping when we thought she was dead, but God brought her back from the brink of death.
“We rejoice in our Lord who chose to preserve our childs life and we will dedicate her very existence to the furtherance of His Kingdom. Our God truly is great.”
Yousaf Khokhar still in shock
Yousaf Khokhar (58 yrs) is a resident of Essa Nagri, Quetta and is employed as a police constable. He has 5 children among those four are married. He is a widower and was attending church with his unmarried son Saleem when the blast happened. Yousaf Khokhar was hit by broken pieces of glass from
the shattered windows of he church, they entered the right side of his collar bone and his verterbral column. A successful operation has removed the large painful pieces of glass and he is well bandaged up and resting whilst on pain killers. He is hoping to be discharged soon. Mr Khokhar, said:
“I have been praying for courage because the attack has left me feeling anxious and traumatised. I will never forget the loud sound of the explosion – it still fills me with dread.”
The Balochistan Police Department has promised to support him with a medical allowance to cover the costs of the treatment he needs. BPCA has provided him a small hardship allowance whilst he awaits the police insurance.
Nadia Younis is on a drip, pain killers and a catheter.
Nadia Younas (19 yrs) is a 2nd year student at ‘Polytechnical College; on Saryab Road. On the day of the blast Nadia along with two sisters Saima (18 yrs) and Aqsa (10 yrs) were performing in the youth drama at her church. Nadia described in her words what happened during the blast, she said:
“I was in a queue for Holy Communion nearly all the church was in a line as we prepared to receive the bread [symbolic of the body of Christ sacrificed for mankind], whilst awaiting my turn I could hear gun shots, I was in a fit of panic and did not know what to do. Thankfully Pastor Simon quickly instructed the church to sit or lay down on the floor, he told us to get as low as we could in whatever place we could find.
“We could hear bullets being fired and I felt a pain sear through my abdominal region I just screamed and screamed, then a loud blast was heard and I fell unconscious, I woke up later in hospital.”
Nadia has been operated on but has been kept admitted because she is still in a very vulnerable condition. The family were paying £44 per injection for pain killers she requires to lower her pain to a bearable level. BPCA have taken on all the costs associated with her hospital treatment.
Still in shock Maheen is traumatised by the attack.
Maheen Shezad (14 yrs) is the eldest of the 5 siblings and was hit with bomb shrapnel which entered her abdomen and broke her ankle. Her father Shezad Masih is a government employee at Balochistan Railways. Maheen had attended the church along with her father who also received minor head injuries from the blast. Maheen was operated on and hopes to be discharged soon, her father was discharged the same day after some triage. Maheen said:
“I was so frightened I thought I was going to die. I still can’t believe it happened so many people have been killed – every time I remember what happened I just feel like crying. I will never forget this day it is a painful reminder that Christians are always in danger here in Pakistan.”
BPCA are helping these victims but the little we are doing for them gives little joy. All our officers are exhibiting great trauma from having to deal
with so much sorrow and we ask that you pray for them as well as these beleaguered families.
Shamim Bibi (39 yrs) was hit with shrapnel that lodged into her patella and is currently admitted to Civil Lines Hospital. BPCA have agreed to covered her ongoing medical costs. She is a married woman with two children and is waiting eagerly to return home to her children who are traumatised without her,
Tina Qasim (29 yrs) is a married woman wih 5 children, She was hit by shrapnel in her right shoulder and BPCA provided her with a small gift to cover the cost of painkillers as Civil Lines Hospital did not provide any. She has been discharged and civil hospital didn’t give her any medicine so she wants her to pay a medical allowance the wound.
Adil displayed proof of examination.
Adil Daniel (28 yrs) and Salva Adil (26 yrs) were both injured during the blast. Salva was hit with Sharpnel in her abdomen and she says that Civil Lines hospital dischared her before treating her completely . Her husband is jobless and was also hit with sharpnel this time on his left foot. He requested BPCA to help them with a complete check up as his wife has been suffering with pus around her wounds and the area has become very painful.
They are being supported to the cost of £80 for the medical examination. The married couple have two daughters, Nida (7 yrs) and Mariam (5 yrs ) who attend local schools.
Adil and his family.
Ashraf cannot move his arms since being shot and is praying for restoration of his limbs.
Ashraf Masih (35 yrs) is married to his wife Shazia (32 yrs) and they are praying for a child. He was hit by a bullet that crossed right through his torso crossing from shoulder to shoulder. He has lost movement in both his hands for now and is expected to be admitted to hospital for a long time while he recovers. The family have paid £55 for several treatments and scans which BPCA has covered. We hope to continue to pay for his ongoing medical expenses and to support his wife until he is able to return to work. Until this attack Ashraf had worked as a driver for a private company. His monthly salary is £85 and we will cover this for as long as we can. Ashraf said:
“I was happy and content with life, my wife and were praying for a child but other than that everything was perfect. The men who shot me have left me with two paralysed arms and I am terrified that I will never have movement back in them.
“I want Christians everywhere to pray for me, this is so unfair I have done nothing wrong and now only God can help me. He has saved my life now with their help and prayers I want to be able to hold my wife in my arms again and to be able to drive again that I might be able to support the two of us. Please pray for me.”
There are numerous more victims that we would like to help and any contributions to assist them in the recovery of their injuries would be greatly appreciated. We have paid for 8 of the 9 funerals and expect that people suffering from the ill effects of this tragedy will continue to require support for some time. If you would like to donate please click (here) for various payment options.
Images of Church after attack our BPCA volunteers have helped with clean up operation:
Shattered sound speaker
Our officers before the charred entrance.
Destroyed PA equipment
Smashed musical organ