A tragic mum has thanked Falkirk Herald readers for helping her to spend this Christmas season with her family.
Robina Shaheen travelled from Pakistan to Grangemouth last month to be with her brother, the Rev. Aftab Gohar, this festive period and to receive counselling following two heartbreaking years.
Many of her relatives were killed or badly injured in the bombing of the Christian church in her home town of Peshawar in September 2013.
Her mother, father-in-law, and several nieces and nephews, died in the atrocity and her daughter, Farah Javed, a beauty therapy student, was left paralysed.
The young woman’s plight touched the hearts of people around the world and The Falkirk Herald launched an appeal to raise money to bring her to the UK for medical treatment which would hopefully help her walk again.
Almost £10,000 was raised and, although doctors initially said there was little they could do, medical experts at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham had agreed to assess her.
Work was underway to deal with all the necessary red tape to allow Farah and her mother, to come to the UK.
But sadly, in January this year, the day before she was due to complete the necessary paperwork, Farah died, aged only 24.
It was agreed that the money in the fund should be split between Farah’s family and UNICEF, the United Nations children’s charity.
It allowed Mrs Shaheen, who has also lost her husband and mother-in-law in the last two years, to come to the UK and receive counselling arranged by the Church of Scotland.
Speaking this week from her brother’s home in Grangemouth, the Abbotsgrange Church manse, she explained how it was very different to see the Christmas season celebrated so openly.
The minister said: “In Pakistan Christian’s can celebrate Christmas within their church compounds but not outdoors.”
Passing on his gratitude, the Rev. Gohar said: “We are really thankful to everyone who has made it possible for my sister to come here to be with us.
“Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ, who came to this world as the Prince of Peace. I wish everyone peace, prosperity and the blessings of Christmas.
Interpreting for his sister, he said: “She thanks all the readers of The Falkirk Herald who worked so hard for Farah. Unfortunately, she never managed to come here but it meant a lot that people cared so much.
“She is very happy to celebrate Christmas in this country with a free mind and no fear or tension.”
Suicide bomb attack
On 22 September 2013, a twin suicide bomb attack took place at All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan, in which 127 people were killed and over 250 injured.
It was the deadliest attack on the Christian minority in the history of Pakistan.
The Islamist group Jundallah claimed responsibility for the attack.
This week, the Rev. Gohar said tensions were again high in Peshawar over fears of another possible incident.