ABSECON — A group of Christians, a majority of whom are originally from Pakistan, held a candlelight vigil Wednesday for the victims of a terrorist attack at a church in that country Sunday.
Eighty-five people were reported dead after two suicide bombers attacked the All Saints Church in Peshawar, a majority Christian-population city in northwestern Pakistan.
About 50 people attended the vigil at Absecon Presbyterian Church on New Jersey Avenue and sang hymns in English and Urdu, the national language of Pakistan.
Elick William, of Galloway Township, spoke in Urdu and said the group is saddened by the news of the blasts and that she has shed tears for those who suffered in their native country.
Godwin Shams, of Sicklerville, Camden County, said the church attack was an effort to dissuade the Pakistani government from aiding the U.S. in its fight against terrorists.
“We do not condemn them, but we condemn their actions,” Shams said.
The church where the attack occurred has historical significance in the region as one of the oldest houses of worship. It was built in 1883 and was established along with a hospital and school to pioneer education for the youth regardless of gender, an unusual effort at the time, said Danish Shams, Godwin’s wife.
In addition, she said, the church was designed with minarets, similar to an Islamic mosque.
A wing of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombings, saying they would continue to target non-Muslims until the U.S. stops drone attacks in Pakistan.
The threat of terrorism and the tension between religious groups is a post-9/11 development, said Godwin Shams, who added that Christians make up 5 percent of Pakistan’s population.
“It has drawn the fanatics into the open,” he said. “They want to unhinge the Pakistani government.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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