As most of us are aware, a bombing on Easter Sunday killed 72 people and injured hundreds more at a park in Lahore in eastern Pakistan. The number of fatalities has been growing steadily as the badly injured succumb to their injuries. The attack occurred in a park near a Christian church where the Christian minority were celebrating Easter, and — at the time of writing — sources are reporting that anywhere from 8 to 29 of those killed were children.
A Taliban-affiliated group called Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they were targeting Christians, although a majority of the victims were Muslim as the park was filled with families enjoying the morning. Pakistani investigators are searching for information concerning the blame and motivations for the attack. BBC reports that over 200 individuals have been detained and over 5,000 have been questioned in a mere two days since the attack.
While the horror of this attack is extreme and its impact will resound for years to come, there is another side of the story that — in a small, yet profound way — negated the effects of the horror and the hate. Within an hour of the blast, crowds began to collect at the hospitals in Lahore. Some were there to search for loved ones who they suspected to be hurt by the bombs. Others were there to assist in the transport of the injured. But the overwhelming majority of those gathered at the hospital were there for one thing:
In the aftermath of the attack, local hospitals in Lahore, who were receiving an overwhelming stream of wounded people, began to report a low supply of blood for transfusions and life support. Within an hour, the Lahore community responded en masse. Politicians and celebrities quickly posted photos of themselves donating blood in order to encourage the flow. While the validity of some photos cannot be verified, some sources are reporting thousands of people waiting outside hospitals across the city.
The innocent blood of children was spilled in a space where communities intermingled peacefully and joyfully. Lives were sacrificed in an attempt to tear down semblances of peace and replace them with fear, to destroy trust and allow violence to swarm. Physically and symbolically, this act tore the fabric of humanity and community. But the beauty of Lahore’s reaction was extreme and profound. Instead of violence, thousands turned toward their suffering neighbor with their arm outstretched not in greeting, but in self-sacrifice that would allow their blood to flow in the veins of another. Physically and symbolically, this act began to immediately negate the violence of the bomb by testifying — with the consensual flow of blood — that life and community are valued here.
Even though Pakistan’s constitution allows for religious freedom, the country has a history of sectarian violence, and the factors that lead to such violence such as segregation, censorship, lack of religious/political freedom, etc. are easy to find. The Christian minority, less than two percent of the population, has suffered attacks in the very recent past. Even among the primarily Muslim population in Pakistan, the minority Shi’a sect often faces discrimination and violence from the majority Sunni population.
And yet, even in this community fraught with tension, when faced with the tragedy of Easter Sunday, citizens in Lahore turned to one another in love. As Pakistani blogger Anthony Permal wrote on Sunday, “Right now thousands of Lahori men and women are queueing up outside hospitals to donate blood. Tonight, Muslim blood will flow through Christian bodies. And vice versa.” Faced with an act of utmost sectarianism, differences faded and people made sacrifices with love for one another.