'Accept others for who they are' Kirk minister tells MSPs

A minister who forgave terrorists who killed his mother and other close relatives has urged people to accept one another for who they are.

Rev Aftab Gohar said the First and Second World Wars, the Holocaust and other mass killings were the worst examples of intolerance and inhumanity.

Speaking at the Scottish Parliament today, he said many people judge others on the basis of their religion, race, colour, language, ability or disability.

Rev Aftab Gohar
Rev Aftab Gohar addressing MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Gohar said mass killings can be avoided in the future if people accept "everyone with all their differences" and try to live peacefully.

His 79-year-old mother, nephew, niece, two uncles and other friends and relatives were among 122 people killed in a terrorist attack at their Christian church in Pakistan in 2013.

Speaking shortly after the atrocity, Mr Gohar said what the terrorists did was wrong but he forgave them and prayed that they would learn that it was not right to kill innocent people.

The minister of Abbotsgrange Church in Grangemouth gave Time for Reflection and told MSPs there had been a "long chain" of killing across the world through terrorism.

"Personally, I have experienced the loss of my mum, nieces, nephews, cousins, uncles, aunts and friends in a double suicide attack at my home church in Peshawar, Pakistan in 2013," he said.

"Today, when we look around us, we can see a lot of mass killings throughout the world even today, especially in countries like Myanmar, Sudan, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Iraq, USA, Israel and Palestine, all on the basis of religion, colour, race and language.

"Have we ever thought about the cause of this hatred, fighting and killing?

"For me the main reason for this is lack of tolerance."

Live peacefully

Mr Gohar said the word tolerance means to "allow something you do not approve of or to put up with something unpleasant".

"In other words to live with someone whose thoughts, religion, race, colour or language is different from ours," he added.

"The problem is many people judge others around them on the basis of their religion, race, colour, language, ability or disability.

"If we all learn this one word ‘tolerance', then we can see a real peace and harmony around us. "

Mr Gohar, who has served his congregation since 2010, said the best and appropriate alternative word for tolerance is acceptance .

"We need to accept others as they are and try to live with them, peacefully," he added.

"These atrocities have happened and can happen again.

"So we must learn from our past and help our generation and the next to avoid any repeat of them in our time."