By Gregg Brekke, Presbyterian News Service.
A Sunday afternoon blast ripped through a crowded park in Lahore, Pakistan, killing at least 70 and wounding more than 300 people. Pakistani Taliban splinter group, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing it says targeted Christians celebrating Easter at the amusement park, although most of those killed, including 29 children, were Muslim.
Veda Gill, executive director of Presbyterian Church (USA) partner, the Presbyterian Education Board in Pakistan, sent a note to friends and supporters of the organization earlier this week. “We celebrated Easter with a sunrise service and then a worship service at 10:30 am,” she said. “The churches were all jam packed. The State provided us with police security. We were all so thankful to God for His safety … until it was 6.30 pm.”
That’s when a suicide bomber walked into the Gulshan-i-Iqbal park, or Garden of Iqbal, and detonated himself in close proximity to children’s carnival rides. The park was teeming with families enjoying picnics and the Easter holiday. Gulshan-i-Iqbal is named after Sir Muhammed Iqbal, a prominent Pakistani poet and philosopher who died in Lahore in 1938.
“My family and I were at our home when this tragedy occurred,” Gill continued. “Our house was packed with my husband’s four sisters, their husbands, and some of their children who had come from America to attend a wedding when we heard a big blast.”
Gill said the park is only a five-minute walk from her home and is on the path she and her husband frequently walk. “This is the place where I took my granddaughter every other day when they were in Pakistan for Christmas,” she said.