A caring ministry for survivors of terrorist attacks
World Communion Scholar Insar Gohar celebrates graduation, Claremont School of Theology in California. PHOTO: COURTESY THE GOHAR FAMILY.
By Rebecca Asedillo
May 30, 2019 | ATLANTA
As the season of school commencements rolls around, one graduating World Communion scholar, Insar Gohar, is fired up with a vision of his ministry when he returns home to Pakistan.
“In my prayer and meditation, in my discernment, what is being revealed to me is to join my diocese and start a caring ministry especially for the survivors of terrorism, who have suffered like my family has suffered,” said Gohar.
Gohar was on the staff of the Diocese of Peshawar, Church of Pakistan, when he and his wife lost their two children and his mother in the bombing of All Saints Church on September 22, 2013. A niece, two uncles, a cousin and other friends and relatives also perished in that terrorist attack; his wife, Uzma, a brother and a nephew were injured.
Through an arrangement facilitated by Global Ministries’ general secretary, Thomas Kemper, Insar and Uzma spent 2½ months of the following year at the Overseas Ministries Study Center (OMSC) in New Haven, Conn., where they received trauma counseling and time dedicated to their process of healing.
Kemper recalls how he was extremely moved by the faith that the couple exhibited in the midst of the worst tragedy parents could ever experience in their lives. He invited them to address Global Ministries’ Board of Directors’ meeting in April 2014. “Hearing their story reminded board members and staff how costly discipleship can be in the 21st century and how freedom and reconciliation have to be part of our mission agenda.”
While at the OMSC, Gohar said, “I received the call to focus my ministry on pastoral care and counseling. It helped us a lot. It brought us to a peaceful place, gave us new hope and purpose for my life.”
“Now I have a passion to share my learnings in this area because there is a need for spiritual care, not just physical healing, for people going through trauma,” he added.
Gohar has been able to pursue this call through a World Communion Scholarship grant from Global Ministries. This program is designed to prepare church and community leaders around the world to more effectively serve in the mission of their churches and communities upon completion of their studies.
On May 21, 2019, Gohar graduated from Claremont School of Theology (CST) with a Master of Divinity and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies, with special concentration in pastoral care and counseling.
The Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Kuan, president of CST, has gotten to know Insar and his family well over the years. President Kuan said, “It has been an honor and a blessing to have Insar as a student at CST. I have had the privilege of having him as a student in two courses. He has not only been an excellent student, but he and his family have enriched our community tremendously. I know that he will have a wonderful ministry ahead when he returns to Pakistan. I hope that he will come back to CST someday for Ph.D. studies.”
While studying at Claremont, Gohar, Uzma and their 4½-year-old daughter, Aaima, attended Claremont United Methodist Church, where he also did his internship. Aaima goes to preschool at the church on scholarship.
“People here at Claremont have been so caring,” Gohar remarked. “The love and kindness that we received from them reminded me of Jesus’ commandment to ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ to love without condition and to love even to the strangers. It is motivating me to do the same.”
Someday, Gohar hopes to pursue doctoral studies in Christian counseling to be better equipped for this ministry, which as far as he is aware is not yet available through the Church of Pakistan. The Church of Pakistan is The United Methodist Church’s mission partner in Pakistan, which in 1970 formed a union of four denominations that included Methodists.
In the meantime, Gohar is clear that he is returning to a country where, at any moment, terrorism could strike again. “It is still a tense situation. But my burden and my vision are to serve in my own country; that is my commitment to God.”
Gohar is in communication with his bishop, Bishop Humphrey Peters, about the caring ministry that he envisions, and in which he was engaged prior to coming to the United States.
“In fact, after this horrible tragedy, I was motivated to volunteer for a ministry to console other survivors and teach them about the love of God,” he wrote in “New World Outlook” (November/December 2016). “I know, being a follower of Jesus, I have to take up my cross. I and other survivors and members of our church have already forgiven those who attacked our church.”
He wrote in that article about counseling children who were orphaned by the church bombing when he and his family returned to Pakistan during a summer break.
But Gohar also envisions that the ministry could serve others in the diocese who need care, such as lay leaders, catechists and other pastors, who may be overburdened or stressed. Moreover, he hopes that he will have opportunities to offer short courses and seminars on pastoral care and counseling for the church.
Another possibility that Gohar is considering is to teach in this area of discipline in a seminary setting within Pakistan, and he is in prayerful discernment about it.
Some members of Gohar’s family, including two of his brothers, were present at Gohar’s graduation. But they keenly felt the absence of their son Eshan, who would have been 17 this year, and daughter Naiher, who would have been 15, had they survived the bombing.
“We suffered a lot” said Gohar in one of his newsletters, “but I believe in the restoration power of our almighty God and the caring hands of our Lord Jesus. And we move forward in the power of the Holy Spirit with this thought that ‘life must go on,’ and God makes new ways and opens new doors for our lives.”
Asedillo is a consultant who formerly served with Global Ministries as the executive secretary for Asia and the Pacific Region. She was liaison and coordinator for Global Ministries’ work in Pakistan at the time of the 2013 bombing of All Saints Church in Peshawar.