Peshawar bombing anniversary: Justin Welby calls for prayer for persecuted church

Pakistani Christians who survived the suicide bombing pray during a special mass at the church where the attack took place on September 23, 2013.(AP)

On the anniversary of the Peshawar church bombings, the Archbishop of Canterbury has called for prayers for all those suffering under persecution around the world.

Archbishop Justin Welby, who visited Pakistan's Anglican community in May, said he has been "appalled to hear and see evidence of the hatred, violence and persecution" that Christians face across the country.

At least 119 people, including 37 children, were killed in a suicide bombing outside All Saints Church, Peshawar after a service on 22 September last year.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who were bereaved and injured in these terrible attacks," the Archbishop said in a statement.

"As we have done, so must we continue to pray fervently for Jesus Christ to comfort all those whose lives were changed forever by these evil acts."

Islamic extremist group TTP Jundullah, which is linked to the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack. The group's spokesman, Ahmed Marwat, said: "They are the enemies of Islam, therefore we target them."

Welby said: "We must continue to pray and call for justice, and for the peace of Pakistan and the protection of Christ's people there," adding that Christians in Peshawar offered forgiveness to their oppressors in the days following the attack.

"With one year passed, we should reflect again in awe on this profound witness to Christ by our brothers and sisters in their darkest moment of suffering."

He ontinued: "As we reflect on the Peshawar martyrs, and their families, and all those injured in those shocking attacks, we do so knowing with deep concern that the often deadly persecution of Christians and other minorities has further escalated in many places, especially Iraq and Syria.

"We look back knowing that our prayers are needed with fresh urgency, as we cry them out to a God who shares deeply in the pain, anxiety, suffering and despair of all those persecuted for their beliefs."

The archbishop also urged Christians to "pray fervently to the God of peace and justice...that those who suffer persecution will know relief; that those who do harm will know justice; and that all people – both our friends or our enemies – will know God's peace and love in Jesus Christ."

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom recently found that violence against Christian communities in Pakistan rose substantially between June 2013 and June 2014.

The majority Muslim nation is currently eighth on Open Doors' list of countries where Christians are most violently persecuted for their faith.

According to the World Watch List, "there is a high degree of impunity regarding acts of violence against Christians" in Pakistan, and forced-conversions are not unusual."

The blasphemy laws in particular have been blamed for increasing inter-religious tensions.