Islamabad Hospital Discharges Last Church Blast Victim

Saturday, August 10, 2002

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, June 5 (Compass) -- Dr. Christy Munir was discharged from an Islamabad hospital yesterday, 10 weeks after a deadly church attack in Pakistan's capital city almost took his life.

He was the last of several local Christians critically wounded in the March 17 blast to be released from hospital care.

Munir was president of the International Protestant Church, where five people were killed and another 45 injured by a grenade attack in a diplomatic enclave of Islamabad.

Shrapnel shattered the artery in Munir's right shoulder and nearly caused the retired chemistry professor to bleed to death in the hours following the Sunday morning attack. He was left with severe nerve damage causing semi-paralysis of his right hand and arm. He also suffered a compound fracture of his right leg, along with severe leg burns that required skin grafts.

Munir, who spoke with Compass from his bed in the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences on May 17, said that he heard three separate blasts during the March 17 attack.

After hearing the first explosion, he said he was trying to dash out of the church when a second blast knocked him onto the floor. He managed to get up and run toward the exit, but a third blast again felled him, breaking his leg.

"I tried to push myself out along the floor, and shouted for someone to drag me out. By then, I was totally drenched in blood. I felt no pain, but I found myself becoming weaker and weaker." As he realized he was losing consciousness, he said, "I just yielded myself to my God. I prayed, 'Whatever you will, Lord, I am here. You can take me.'"

Then suddenly he heard his wife Maureen calling his name, begging him to answer. "I heard her, but I couldn't respond," he recalled. Although police were reluctant to enter the church for fear of more explosions, his wife, a medical doctor, finally persuaded them to roll her husband onto a blanket and remove him from the building, so he could be transported to a hospital.

"I can feel the impact of prayers for me in multiple ways," Munir said. "The very first thing is that I was almost dead when people outside the operating theater came together and started praying for me! Friends told me later they had never seen such a scene. Even Muslims joined in."

It was not until 3:30 a.m. the next morning, after three successive operations, that Munir's pulse began to beat normally. Only in mid May did tests indicate that his nerves, deadened by at least 12 hours without circulation, had slowly begun to respond and regenerate themselves.


For a second church family struggling to recover from the blast's crippling wounds, their loss includes the death of their college-age daughter. Reeba Good was the only Pakistani killed in the attack, along with two Americans, an Afghan and the unknown attacker.

She was sitting in church between her father, Edward, and a younger brother, Arshid, neither of whom remember seeing her after the attack began. They were later told by a diplomat's wife in the congregation that she had cradled Reeba's head as she lay on the floor dying, asking her gently, "Reeba, do you know where you are going?"

"Yes," Reeba replied, "I'm going to my Lord Jesus."

It was 12 days later when her father, who suffered multiple wounds on his chest and abdomen and a number of bone fractures, learned that Reeba had died. Good's injuries later forced the amputation of his right leg. Although his son Arshid's leg was broken and torn by shrapnel, it is healing well and the cast is due to be removed within a few more weeks.

Good spent 22 days in the hospital before he was released to his home on the outskirts of Rawalpindi. Propped on pillows on his bed, with his scarred left leg still in a clumsy metal splint, he admitted it had not been an easy time for him. He found himself unable to sleep, both from the physical pain as well as the grief over his daughter's death.

"God spoke to my emotions," Good said, his eyes filling with unshed tears. "He told me, 'Don't worry about Reeba. She is with Me.' So we have forgiven that man, whoever he was, who killed her and left me crippled like this."

Good had supported his family by giving private lessons in both Urdu and English. But now, he said his family had been forced to take out loans totaling 800,000 rupees ($13,335) to pay the hospital and medical bills for himself and his son. One of his daughters had to quit her teaching job to help care for the men when they returned home. In addition, the family hired the services of a male nurse still required for the father.

"No one from my government has ever come to see my face since the attack," Good said. "They have given us nothing for the victims or the injured, like they did after the Bahawalpur church massacre. I think they have the mindset that foreign Christians should help us," he sighed.

Most of the wounded at the International Protestant Church were foreign citizens who were flown to their home countries by their governments or employers, with medical costs paid through their insurance companies.

"But we have experienced such comfort in our sorrow," Reeba's older sister Avase said. "We don't want to miss honoring Jesus in this. We cannot tell you how, but He has taken all our mourning."