Yesterday evening seventy citizens of Pakistan were blown apart by a suicide bomber at a park in Lahore. The death toll will rise. It always does, especially when seriously wounded people are left to the tender mercies of Pakistan’s healthcare system. Many were women and children. Families were enjoying the cool spring weather, taking advantage of a day of rest to push their children on the swings and buy ice creams. It must have been a wonderful time.
Then a suicide bomber parked his car near the gate, next to the swings, and detonated his device. Now those same families are ripped apart; their laughter transformed into screams and terror by means of twenty kilos of explosives and a bag of ball bearings.
Many of those killed were Christians. They, like my family and me, spent Sunday morning at church rejoicing in the glorious triumph of Easter Sunday, when Jesus rose from the dead and conquered death and sin. They, like us, shared lunch with family and friends. They, like us, went out to celebrate in the evening. Yet we were not attacked and they were. The same people who laughed and rejoiced in the victory over the grave are now, themselves, in the grave. Life beat death, and then death came back in the darkness of a bomber’s heart and in the shape of chemicals and ball bearings.
And yet this is not over. After the attack messages started circulating asking for donations of blood for the wounded. A Lahore taxi firm offered free travel to anyone going to hospital to donate blood. People of all religions are united in condemning the attack. The condemnation even united India and Pakistan: the hashtag prayforlahore is trending in India. Hospitals in Lahore are crammed – literally crammed – with people queueing to donate blood. Probably most of them are Muslims. I am crying for gratitude as I type.
Still the pain remains. This is a profoundly beautiful and deeply misunderstood country, full of polite, kind, honourable people – and yet a country bedevilled by violence perpetrated by a minority of deranged lunatics who kill indiscriminately. They target Christians, and Hindus, and Shias, and Sunnis, and the Pakistani soldiers who give their lives to protect Pakistani civilians: they are against everyone, except their fellow bigots.
And yet they will lose. Pakistanis are too good, too decent, too strong to give in to this mass murder. Love will win in the end, though the path to that victory may be littered with more bodies. Life will triumph over death. Easter is not the end, but the beginning.