One week after a deadly attack on their church in Islamabad on March 17, the members of the Protestant International Church (PIC) gathered to comfort and pray for each other. There are many mental and physical wounds to be healed, but even if the church is hurt, it is not broken.

About 80 people attended the Sunday, March 24, service held at the St. Thomas church a couple of miles away from the PIC. Windows at the church are broken, and the inside has not been cleaned up. Survivors cannot use their church for the time being, but they will move back as soon as possible. The grenade attack killed five (including an American mother and her daughter) and injured about 40 people. The attacker may have died in the assault.

Church member Ian McClelland, who works for the British nongovernmental organization Tearfund, is volunteering for the church as much as he can. Yesterday he was an usher.

"If anything came out of last Sunday's service, it is that God is faithful and his purpose is complete. He is still leading, even if I cannot explain why people have died, but they have gone to be with Christ," McClelland says. He is convinced that the church will grow stronger through the hardship.

As the service began, church members quietly sang hymns accompanied by a pianist. Some members were unable to attend because of their severe injuries. Others arrived with clearly visible signs of their wounds from the attacks. One man had burn injuries on his face. A woman had many bandages on her arm, and another arrived on crutches. While not all of the church members have physical injuries, all those who spoke to Christianity Today said their emotional traumas also are difficult to bear.

Some people at the service came from far away to mourn the losses. Jim Killgore was pastor of the church for four years before he returned to Atlanta last year. "Early Sunday morning [March 17], I was watching CNN for the weather forecast. I wanted to know what I should wear for church," Killgore told CT.

"I saw the crawling text saying there had been an attack at a church in Islamabad. I and my wife fell on our knees praying for the church."

Now back for an extended visit, he preaches the sermon and leads prayer.

Killgore told the church it is okay to cry and to shout at the Lord. "Your tears will become seeds of hope. Maybe you haven't been able to cry. Those tears welled up inside will become seeds of hope. It's all right to cry. Even our Lord Jesus cried," he told the congregation

"Your tears are important to God, and your tears are not in vain," he assured them, citing Psalm 30:5 and 56:8.

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American Stew Georgia, originally from Wisconsin, is the leader of the church council, and in the past week he was running from hospital to hospital to comfort and support church members. Six people are still in two hospitals.

"In the 64 years I've lived, this has been my busiest week. It has been a hard week, but it has been good," Georgia told CT. "People I've talked to said it was a privilege to be injured for the Lord. However, there have been many tears. I have cried, they have cried, and we have cried together. It's good to cry."

He is confident the church will continue to grow despite the hardship. "We are a grieving church, but not a broken one. I think we will become a stronger church through this."

Rushika Weerasooriya, a 24-year-old Sunday school teacher and the daughter of the Sri Lankan ambassador, was in the basement with the children when the grenades exploded. She praises God for all those who were saved.

"It is confusing and difficult to understand, but God has a purpose way beyond what I can understand. I'm honored to be a part of his purpose," she said.

Weerasooriya also thinks the attack was good for other Christians in Pakistan. "The police are more careful about protecting Christians now," she said.

The attack of the church was a defeat for Pakistani police, who have done everything they can to beef up the visible security. Senior Superintendent of the Islamabad police, Rao Iqbal, has taken a personal responsibility for the investigation, and he was also present at the church.

"We have several suspects, and they are from here, not from India," he said, refuting claims that Indian intelligence agents were responsible for the attack. Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has singled out Islamic militants, and they are also the prime suspects in the attack against the church.

"I'm very hopeful that we can solve this case fast," Iqbal says.

Related Elsewhere

Related coverage includes:

No arrests made after church attackBusiness Day (March 25, 2002)
Faith unbending in bombed churchThe Washington Times (March 25, 2002)
A week after attack, congregation seeks solace — Associated Press (March 25, 2002)
Christians pray for killed in Pak churchThe Times of India (March 24, 2002)
Christians Pray for Five Killed in Pakistan Church — ABC News (March 24, 2002)
Wounded marvel at survivalThe Boston Globe (March 21, 2002)
Church Attack In Pakistan Kills Two From U.S.The Washington Post (March 18, 2002)
Worshippers Dead in Pakistan Attack — Associated Press (March 17, 2002)

For more articles on the March 17 attack, see Yahoo's full coverage on Pakistan.

Christianity Today'sWorld Report has more coverage of religious tensions and violence in Pakistan.