Assailants Gun Down Christian Priests in Pakistan

Christian devotees hold candles during a Easter vigil procession at Central Brooks Memorial Church, in Karachi on April 4, 2021.  (Photo by Rizwan TABASSUM / AFP) (Photo by RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP via Getty Images)
RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP via Getty Images

Unknown gunmen opened fire on three Christian priests as they exited church in their car in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar Sunday, leaving one dead and one wounded.

The three priests from the Church of Pakistan were leaving a city church following Sunday services when two gunmen riding a motorcycle began firing on their vehicle.

Pastor William Siraj, 75, received multiple gunshot wounds and died instantly whereas Reverend Patrick Naeem Patrick suffered a gunshot wound to the hand and is in stable condition. The third, unnamed priest in the car was unharmed.

As yet no one has taken responsibility for the shooting, the latest attack on Pakistan’s small Christian community, and police officials say an operation to find and arrest the assailants is under way.

“We strongly condemn the firing on clergy of Diocese of Peshawar and instant killing of Pastor William Siraj and injuring Rev Patrick Naeem earlier today,” Church of Pakistan Bishop Azad Marshall wrote on Twitter. “We demand justice and protection of Christians from the Government of Pakistan.”

Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, chairman of Pakistan’s Ulema Council and special representative of the prime minister of Pakistan for Interfaith Harmony and Middle East, also condemned the attack.

A memorial service for Siraj will be held on Monday at Peshawar’s All Saint’s Church, the site of a major attack by Islamic militants in 2013. Over 70 worshippers were killed and 100 wounded in the assault that involved both bombs and firearms.

Christians represent some two percent of Pakistan’s population of around 220 million people, which is overwhelmingly Muslim.

The recently released 2022 World Watch List, a ranking of the countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian today, placed Pakistan in the number eight position.

According to the report, Christians in Pakistan are “considered second-class citizens and are discriminated against in every aspect of life” and violence against Christians “continues to happen at extreme levels.”

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