Bomb blast victim Bilal Boota receives a check from Archbishop Sebastian Shaw at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Lahore, May 18. Boota still has shrapnel from the attack inside his body, which doctors are unable to remove. (ucanews photo by Kamran Chadhry)
Some of the victims of the Easter Sunday Lahore terrorist bomb blast have received financial support from the Catholic Church through a Caritas program established after the suicide attack in a public park that killed more than 70 people.
Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw of Lahore joined Caritas Pakistan in distributing checks to victims of the attack, which targeted a children's play area in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore on March 27.
"It was a very painful incident, families celebrating a joyful occasion were targeted," said Archbishop Shaw at Lahore's Sacred Heart Cathedral, May 18 while addressing 19 families, including four who are Muslim, affected by the attack.
"In our society it is very important to become a source of encouragement for each other," he said.
The checks — worth 40,000 rupees (US$381) each — were part of the Lahore blast victims support program, which was launched by Caritas Pakistan Lahore in April.
"Our help won't heal wounds but at least you can buy some medicine with it," said the bishop.
The attack death toll climbed to 78 on May 15 after another victim, a Christian woman, died in Jinnah Hospital. The bomb blast injured more than 350 people.
Watch this ucanews.com video to see bombing victims receive financial support from the Caritas program.
Among the victims benefitting from the financial support provided by Caritas was Bilal Boota, 21, who still has shrapnel wedged near his spine.
On the night of the attack, Boota was exiting the park when he heard a loud explosion behind him.
"I turned to see what happened and shrapnel went through my chest. My white T-shirt became red at once. It was hard to breathe," Boota said.
Doctors were unable to remove all the shrapnel because of fears that doing so would cause paralysis.
"They advised medication," Boota said. "I can't stand for hours at my job now. My back is stiff when I wake up," he said.
Perwaiz Masih, a Christian tuk-tuk driver, survived the blast but it killed his 18-year-old son. Another son was wounded in the knee. The tragedy changed his life.
"Now I fear parking my vehicle in crowded places. The scene of dead bodies still haunts me at night," Masih said.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying Christians were the main target. Despite this, the majority of the victims were reported to be Muslims.
The support program
The Caritas program also is providing trauma counseling to those affected by the bombing.
"We received a call from a first year student who started going back out to public places after attending our counseling. She thanked us for her newly found courage. This is our success," said Naeem Naz from Caritas.
The Catholic charity has plans to finance treatment for those who remain critically injured from the attack.
Caritas is also going to pay for at least a year of schooling for a child who lost his family's breadwinner to the bombing.
The Caritas project team is also performing puppet shows for women and children affected by the attack.
Caritas plans to distribute more financial support to bombing victims next month.