21 December 2017
Courtesy: Al Jazeera
Islamabad, Pakistan – Nobody in the Gil family ever misses the weekly service at the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta, Pakistan.
But last Sunday marked an exception. Barkat Gil had to tend to a work emergency. There was a shutdown that morning at the state electricity infrastructure company.
“My youngest son called me, telling me to go to the church quickly, there had been a bomb blast,” the 54-year-old told Al Jazeera. “Security forces had closed the roads. I went to the Civil Hospital because they were bringing the wounded there.”
Barkat Gil is mourning the loss of his daughter Madeeha and 14-year-old niece Mehak Sohail [Saadullah Akhtar/Al Jazeera]
His 30-year-old daughter Madeeha Gil and 14-year-old niece Mehak Sohail were among the victims.
“My daughter in particular loved attending church, and she used to spend so much of her time praying, even at home,” he said. “We are such regulars at the church that if we ever don’t come on Sunday, then people are often worried about our absence.”
By the time Madeeha reached the hospital, her breathing was shallow and she was unresponsive. She had been shot in the neck.
When the doctors returned from the operation theatre, they announced that they could not save her.
Days earlier, Gil’s wife Parveen had bought their only daughter a new dress for Christmas.
On Monday, Madeeha was buried in it.
While he never imagined his particular church would be attacked, he always knew it was a possibility.
“The threat is there in the whole country. What place is safe? No one is safe in their own houses, or even in God’s house. Not in a church, in a mosque, in an imambargah [a Shia Muslim mosque], or in a gurdwara [a Sikh place of worship]. The fear is always there.”
At that, he asked if he could be excused.
The funeral for his niece was about to begin, and he had to deliver the sermon.
‘He was firing at us’
At least nine people were killed in total as two attackers stormed the church, which was filled to capacity with 400 worshippers. Sunday marked a special day, with a children’s Christmas play also scheduled.
One of the attackers detonated his suicide vest at the entrance.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack on the church in Quetta but did not provide corroborating evidence such as the names and photographs of the bombers, as it had done for previous attacks in Pakistan. Read more on this at: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/12/quetta-church-attack-victim-place-safe-171219075359336.html