New minister Aftab escaped Taliban to preach in Tweeddale
The new minister for Eddlestone, Peebles Old Parish, and Stobo and Drumelzier has spoken of the heartbreaking journey he’s taken to finally settle down in Tweeddale.
The Reverend Aftab Gohar is settling into his new home with his wife Samina, a care worker, after serving for 13 years at the Abbotsgrange Church in Grangemouth.
He first came to Scotland as an already experienced minister with the Church of Pakistan, to study theology at the Free Church College in Edinburgh, where he became firm friends with the Rev Andrew Anderson.
Andrew, who spoke at Aftab's induction on December 28, said: “Before very long I recognised in Aftab a man of huge personal gifts and qualities, and a faithful and deeply-committed Christian.
"At the end of the year, my wife and I went to Aftab’s graduation ceremony at the Free Church College, during which it became clear that he was held in the highest regard by those who had worked with him and taught him. I read his dissertation, and was greatly impressed with his grasp on the orthodox Christian doctrines, and his deep hold on Christian truth. Aftab duly returned to Pakistan, and we kept in touch.”
Indeed, Andrew went on to visit Aftab and his family at a town called Bannu in the North-West Frontier Province, where the minority Christian church was at odds with other forces there, including the Taliban.
Aftab said: “We had to leave the country in 2008, and because of my previous connection with the church of Scotland, they invited us to come over.”
However, many of his family stayed. In 2013, a suicide bomb attack on the All Saints Church in Peshawar left him devastated, with many of his family members losing their lives.
He said: “I lost my mum and many relatives, including neices, nephews, uncles and cousins. The hardest thing is we still don’t know who did it, but it was certainly some extremist people.”
It’s believed 85 died in the attack.
Now, nine years later, the draw of the Borderland finally saw him take up his latest post.
He said: "We had visited Peebles before several times with our boys Shahan and Zeeshan and we loved the town and the scenery here, the riverside, and the people are so nice and friendly.”