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The school at Peshawar reopens after the bombing

02/10/2013: Pakistan

On 22 September, the Marists of Peshawar in Pakistan experienced a time of terror when a bomb exploded in a church near the Brothers’ residence. They conduct a school in the neighbourhood, St. John Vianney Boys High School, Kohati Gate, which takes in poor children, 60% of them Muslim. Many persons associated with this Marist work were affected by the attack . A few days ago, we published Br Remigius Fernando’s account of this tragic event. Today we publish a letter Br Remigius wrote to Br Adolphus Shanthi Liyanage, Provincial of the Province of South Asia, explaining what happened when the school in Peshawar reopened, several days later.

_____________________

Dear Shanthi,

Today we reopened the school, after three days of mourning. I was very nervous. I prayed in the morning that nothing would go wrong to excite either the Muslims or the Christians. We also had to be very careful about the security at the entrance. I started getting telephone calls inquiring whether the school would remain closed.

class=imgshadowThe Muslim children started to come in and I stood in front of the office and welcomed them with an “extra large” smile. They knew I was hiding something.

Meeting some of the teachers drew a few tears from my eyes, and I knew I was not going to be able to talk to the boys straight. As the Assembly started I whispered to some of the teachers, including the Islamiyat teacher, to say something to pacify and soften the emotions of the children! They did a wonderful job. Some of the things they said did much more than what I expected. Boys saw me hiding behind  the teachers and crying.

One of the most beautiful things one teacher said was this: "Up till now we Christians thought we were a minority, but after this week’s experience we know we are in the majority, because from the day this incident happened, our Muslim brothers have been with us helping us in everything."

"After the blast, some Muslim men who came to help us removed their shirts to cover the exposed bodies of women who were lying, wounded".

Our gardener said: "When we went to dig graves in the public graveyard, we found the Muslims had already dug graves, put up lights and were waiting with a simple meal."

That day quite a few Muslim parents came to school, just to express their sorrow and tell us how ashamed they were of what had happened. I told them, religion had nothing to do with this. It was a political act. And they were very happy to go away with this feeling of reconciliation.

So Shanthi, the day was beautiful, thank God, and thanks to the prayers of all the Brothers. I have received many messages from Brothers, even in French. I have answered all of them, even the French one from Belgium, I managed to say, "merci beaucoup!".

Please convey our prayerfull gratitude to all the Brothers.

__________________
Bro. Remigius Fernando

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