Grangemouth minister’s mum killed in terrorist atrocity

Reverend Aftab Gohar, minister of Abbotsgrange Church, lost three family members in last week's bombing in Pakistan
Reverend Aftab Gohar, minister of Abbotsgrange Church, lost three family members in last week's bombing in Pakistan
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A popular minister was in mourning after three family members, including his mother, were killed by a suicide bomber.

Eighty-five people died in the attack on All Saints’ Church in Peshawar, Pakistan, which shocked the world.

But for the Reverend Aftab Gohar, minister at Grangemouth’s Abbotsgrange Parish Church, there was personal tragedy from Sunday’s horrific events.

The Church of Scotland minister was devastated to learn his mother and two of his brother’s children had perished in the terror attack on Christian worshippers.

Mr Gohar (45), who was born in Peshawar, which is in the shadows of the Himalayas, returned immediately to Pakistan, along with his wife Samina.

Their two sons, Shahan (17) and Zeeshan (15), are being looked after locally.

A spokesperson for Falkirk Presbytery said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with Aftab and all his family, and indeed all who have been affected by this atrocity.”

Parishioners from Abbotsgrange Church were shocked to learn that their popular minister, the Reverend Aftab Gohar, lost his mother, along with his niece and nephew, his brother’s children, in a suicide bombing.

They were among 85 people who died, along with more than 100 injured, in an atrocity which occurred as Christians left All Saints’ Church in Pakistan’s Peshawar.

Mr Gohar and his family – wife Samina and sons Shahan and Zeeshan – moved to Scotland in 2008 and he was inducted as Abbotsgrange’s minister in February 2010.

As well as being the first Pakistani minister in the area – and only the third in Scotland – he was also the first full-time Abbotsgrange minister, following the joining of Dundas and Kerse congregations four years earlier.

Mr Gohar took Sunday’s service, which saw the rededication of the Girls’ and Boys’ Brigade companies. At that time news of the bombing had filtered through but he only knew his mother had been injured. However, later that day came the tragic news of her death and those of his niece and nephew.

A church member said: “The whole congregation is absolutely stunned by this terrible event. They are a lovely family and everyone’s thoughts and prayers are with them at this time.”

Mr Gohar was ordained in the Church of Pakistan in 1995, before travelling to Scotland in 1998 for a year of study.

A spokesperson said: “The Church of Scotland was shocked with the news of the suicide bomb attack at the historic All Saints’ Church in Peshawar.

“Our shock and sorrow increased when we heard that Rev. Aftab Gohar’s mother was among the dead, along with two of his brother’s children. Aftab grew up in All Saints Church.

“Our condolences go to our friend and his family and to all who are grieving the loss of loved ones or recovering from injuries.”

They added the extent of the bombing was only now becoming apparent.

The spokesperson added: “Already stories are emerging that among those killed were leaders in the local Christian community, teachers, people who arranged scholarships for Christian students along with children and young people who should have their whole lives ahead of them.

“We are united in sorrow with our brothers and sisters in Peshawar and we give thanks for the lives of those who have been killed.

“The Church of Scotland is grateful for the many messages of sympathy already received and note particularly, the statement from the Muslim Council of Scotland condemning the attack.”

The Peshawar bombing was Pakistan’s worst attack on Christians and led to country-wide protests.

Initially the atrocity was claimed by the Jundullah branch of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, a group that has orchestrated attacks against Shias. However the day after the bombing the groups’s main spokesman denied any involvement.

Pakistani Christians represent about 1.6 per cent of the country’s overwhelmingly Muslim population.

Religious minorities have long been targeted by militants in Pakistan but this is the first attack of its kind in recent years.