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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Pastor shot by a Muslim in Pakistan sparks concern

A Presbyterian pastor in Jaranwala, Pakistan, was shot and wounded by hardline Muslims for refusing to recite the Islamic Kalima

In a disturbing turn of events, a Presbyterian pastor in Jaranwala, Pakistan, was shot and wounded by hardline Muslims, raising concerns about religious tensions and the safety of Christian minorities in the region. This incident comes on the heels of a series of attacks and threats targeting the Christian community.

Attack on Pastor Eleazar Sidhu

On a quiet Sunday evening in Jaranwala, Pastor Eleazar Sidhu of a Presbyterian church found himself facing a life-threatening situation. He and his assistant were returning home after visiting church members when they were stopped by two armed men near the Khanuwana bus stop.

“One of the attackers pulled out a pistol and asked me to recite the Islamic Kalima, [profession of faith],”

The assailants demanded that the pastor recite the Islamic Kalima, a profession of faith. When Pastor Sidhu refused and began to recite the Apostles’ Creed, one of the attackers opened fire, resulting in a gunshot wound to his upper chest. He survived the attack, but the assailants fled the scene.

Read More: Pakistani Christians hold Sunday services at churches damaged by mobs

Acts of Vandalism

The attack on Pastor Sidhu did not occur in isolation. Earlier, unidentified individuals had vandalized the walls of his church with Islamist slogans that included references to Muhammad (PBUH) and derogatory remarks directed at the pastor. These acts of vandalism were reported to the police, who promptly whitewashed the walls and initiated an investigation. However, the situation escalated when Pastor Sidhu and his son were threatened by unidentified individuals who vowed to erase him from the world in retaliation for removing the graffiti.

Escalating Religious Tensions

The incident involving Pastor Sidhu follows a disturbing pattern of rising religious tensions in Pakistan, particularly in the Jaranwala region. Just a month prior, on August 16, mobs incited by the hardline Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) had launched a violent attack on multiple Christian churches and homes. The attack left a trail of destruction, with churches set ablaze and Christian-owned businesses ransacked while local police remained passive spectators. These incidents have triggered widespread condemnation and raised concerns about the safety of religious minorities in Pakistan.

International Response

The international community has been closely following the situation in Pakistan, where religious minorities, including Christians, face ongoing persecution. Pakistan’s ranking as the seventh most difficult place to be a Christian, according to Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List, underscores the gravity of the issue. Advocacy groups and leaders within the Christian community, both in Pakistan and abroad, have expressed their concerns and demanded action.

Legal Action and Judicial Inquiry

In response to the escalating violence against Christians in Jaranwala, Bishop Azad Marshall, president of the Church of Pakistan, filed a petition seeking the formation of a judicial commission to investigate the August 16 riots. Lahore High Court Justice Asim Hafeez ordered the Punjab Province government to respond to the petition, with a deadline set for September 11. The objective of this inquiry is not only to uncover the facts surrounding the attacks but also to determine the causes, hold responsible officials accountable, and propose measures to prevent future incidents.

Read More: Pakistani police arrest two Christians accused of blasphemy

The attack on Pastor Eleazar Sidhu and the series of incidents targeting Christians in Pakistan highlight the pressing need for action to protect religious minorities and promote religious tolerance in the country. The international community’s attention to these events underscores the gravity of the situation and the urgency for a comprehensive response that addresses the root causes of religious persecution. As the world watches, Pakistan faces the challenge of reconciling its commitment to religious freedom with the growing threat to its Christian minority.