The lives of Insar Gohar and his wife, Uzma Insar were shattered September 22, 2013, when two suicide bombers discharged their deadly weapons in the courtyard of All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan, killing some 130 worshippers including their two young children and his mother.
They came to OMSC (March 20 to May 30) as the first recipients of the Jon and Jean Bonk International Fellowship Fund which, says executive director J. Nelson Jennings, was established in 2012 to “enable beleaguered Christian leaders to come to OMSC from high-pressure situations.”
Dr. Jennings spoke with Insar and Uzma on May 15 as they were enjoying the final weeks of their Connecticut sabbatical.
J. Nelson Jennings (JNJ): I am really happy to have this brief time with you to ask you about life in Pakistan and your time at OMSC, (which has been made possible) with a little bit of financial help from the Jon and Jean Bonk International Fellowship Fund to which many people contributed, and in cooperation with the United Methodists. Many people have been working together for you to come here and we’re delighted that you’ve come. Let me ask you, first, if you might just tell us a little bit about the Church of Pakistan and especially the Diocese of Peshawar where you live.
Insar Gohar (IG): I will tell you that Christians are two percent in Pakistan. It’s an Islamic state. Peshawar Diocese, one of eight dioceses, covers the whole area formerly called North-West Frontier Province, but now they call it Khyber PakhtunKhwa, (a region) that includes the tribal areas of Pakistan.
The Peshawar Diocese, we can say, is the most dangerous area in Pakistan nowadays, especially since there is a war against terror going on. (We) work for the spiritual and social development of the Christian community in that region (and) for the education of the Christian youngsters. And we have a few mission hospitals and clinics where we serve the majority community.
JNJ: What about you in particular? What sort of ministry responsibilities do you have in the diocese?
IG: I am the youth coordinator for Peshawar Diocese. My responsibility is to work for the spiritual and social growth of youth. In our country the youth receive Islamic education in schools and colleges, so we try to provide them as much as we can with Christian education through Bible study programs, seminars, and other activities. We organize summer camps and in those camps we work for their spiritual growth and understanding (of) the Bible. We also organize sports activities. In this way we can bring youth to church and to Christ.
JNJ: You’ve come here to OMSC. What’s the background for your coming here?
IG: (You know about) the incident at the All Saints Church in Peshawar, the bombing at the church. All Saints Church is our mother church, where I have been going from age three. (This has been our church) for the last three or four generations of my family.
Some terrorists attacked our church. There were two suicide bombers who attacked the church and because of that about 122 people were killed, and more than 250 people were injured. Among those, we lost our two kids—one boy and one girl. We also lost my mom in that blast.
We were in a big trauma condition. We were very much in tense situation there, very much fearful.
We are thankful to OMSC and our friends in the United Methodist Church, and for the donors. Everyone worked for us so that we could come here for a time of rest and restoration. It was very hard for us when we lost our kids and other relatives. We were in shock and trauma.
JNJ: So, you’ve had some rest and restoration here so far. How else has your time here been helpful? I know you have some medical needs and other sorts of things. How has your time here been helpful so far?
IG: Yeah, it was very much helpful for us. We both are feeling very much relaxed here and it’s a sort of change for us (to have) some short time for change and restoration. We are feeling very much blessed here. To get out of that trauma seemed very difficult to us while we were in the same fearful environment (Peshawar) there. So, we found this place (OMSC) very much helpful for us. The seminars we attended were very much helpful to us (as were) the counselors who are providing us counseling. They are very good. They help us a lot. They are trying to help us to get out of that trauma.
We are receiving (medical care) here, especially when Uzma got injuries in her arms and hands. When we go to the doctor, they treat us very nicely. All the arrangements made by OMSC to visit those (doctors is) very much helpful to us. We are feeling very much good.
We are receiving spiritual counseling, as well as physical healings.
JNJ: So, you’ll be returning to Peshawar soon. What are you anticipating there? And how can people best be praying as you return?
IG: Things are getting better there. The people who were injured are getting better, but still there is very much a need of counseling (especially for) those who have lost their loved ones. When we go back our church and our diocese will expect us to help others who are going through the same situation as we were before.
They (also) are passing through trauma, so we are preparing ourselves here to help them when we go back.
We want the people to pray for the whole community of the All Saints Church, the whole congregation, especially those who got injured, and who lost their loved ones. They need to come free, and they are still struggling to overcome all those things. We want you all to remember us and our whole congregation in your prayer.
JNJ: Well, I’m sure that will be the case and if I may close by saying how much of a blessing and encouragement you have been to the OMSC community, and to others, simply by giving testimony to God’s faithfulness and goodness in the midst of challenges that many of us find it difficult to understand exactly. And, so, God is good, and you give testimony to that. That’s been a tremendous blessing and encouragement. Thank you.