Kirk minister Aftab Gohar forgives his family's killers
A Church of Scotland minister who lost his mother and other close relatives in a suicide attack on a church in Pakistan has said he forgives their killers.
The Reverend Aftab Gohar's 79-year-old mother, nephew, niece, two uncles and other friends and relatives were among 122 killed in the attack last month.
It happened just after Sunday service at a Christian church in Peshawar.
Mr Gohar said: "It is wrong what these people did but I forgive them."
The minister of Abbotsgrange Church in Grangemouth was speaking after returning from a visit to his old family church in Peshawar where the massacre took place on 22 September.
It is thought to be the deadliest ever attack on Pakistan's Christians.
Two Islamist militant groups with Taliban links later said they ordered the attack to hit back at US drone strikes.
The kirk minister said: "We pray that they may one day develop the wisdom to understand that it is not right to kill children and other innocent people.
"There were 125 children in Sunday school that day. My sister was teaching there. Forgiving is what we learn from the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why I forgive."
Mr Gohar, who is due to resume full duties at his Grangemouth church on Sunday, stressed that most Muslims had been "respectful and kindly" in the 130 years of the Christian Church's existence in Pakistan - and displayed those same qualities after the tragedy.
He continued: "The majority of Muslims helped, taking victims to hospital or helping to prepare graves or prepare food for the injured as well as for the friends and relatives caring for them.
"The idea that all Muslims hate Christians is simply not true."
Mr Gohar said he still feared for friends and relatives in the area, adding that there was an urgent need for more medical help for many of those who were seriously injured.
His 23-year-old niece Farah Javed is paralysed from the waist down and needs treatment not available to her in a public hospital.
The Gohar family has already had to find "considerable sums" to pay for medical treatment for relatives.
The Very Reverend Dr Andrew McLellan, convener of the Church of Scotland World Mission Council, said: "It is very moving to hear the words of the Reverend Aftab Gohar.
"These heartless killings happened in Pakistan, but forgiveness makes the whole world better.
"The Church of Scotland is richer for having a minister of the stature of Aftab among us.
"He and his family are entitled to count on the love and prayers of us all."