Target Killing, Slain for Christ – Pastor William Siraj

Target Killing, Slain for Christ – Pastor William Siraj
Peshawar Pakistan – On 30 January, 2022 unidentified motorcyclists shot and killed a pastor in Peshawar, the capital of the Province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), after Sunday Church Service. The late Pastor was accompanied with companions, one of whom was injured in the shooting. Pastor William Siraj (75), a retired schoolteacher and resident of Kohati near All Saint Church had served his community for more than 40 years. He was returning home after a church service with Pastor Patrick Naeem and Munawar Masih when two unidentified assailants on a motorcycle approached their car and opened fire. Pastor Siraj did not survive the attack while Pastor Naeem sustained injuries. Masih survived the brutal attack as he was sitting in the middle passenger seat. A terrorist group took responsibility for the shooting. The incident also sparked fears of targeted killings and terrorism resurgence in the province’s largest city. Police personnel and members of religious minorities have been previously targeted in the city.
Pastor Naeem told the CAPC team of the two assailants on a motorcycle. One was wearing a helmet while the other was wearing a headscarf, making it difficult to identify them. Police are investigating the attack. The Police is using CCTV cameras and other evidence to identify the culprits. Attacks by Islamic extremists on Christian religious and political leaders in KPK have been frequent. KPK is situated in Northwest of Pakistan, adjacent to Turkham border with Afghanistan. KPK is heavily affected by terrorism. Pakistan has lost the lives of more than 80,000 civilians and security forces, and many Christian lives have also been killed. This tragic incident brings back bitter and painful memories of a deadly suicide attack which occurred in 2013 when two suicide bombers blew themselves at All Saint Church. More than 280 worshippers were killed, and hundreds wounded. The Islamist militants in Pakistan have long made religious minorities, including Christians, one of their targets.
CAPC President, Nadeem Bhatti, visited Pastor William Siraj’s family and extends deepest condolences to the family and loved ones. Shumaila Robin, the daughter of Pastor Siraj, told CAPC that their family had gone through the deadly suicide attack on September 22, 2013. She said, “I am the single daughter of Pastor William Siraj’s and a widow of Martyr Robin Bhatti. I married Robin Bhatti In 2004, who was an employee of the Diocese of Peshawar and served in the relief area. In 2013, Bhatti was martyred in the suicide bombing at All Saints Church. He was the only child of his parents.” The martyrdom of Robin Bhatti and the suicide bombing released a mountain of grief on his wife and children. Shaumaila also said, “My father preached for more than forty years and was honored by the local Christian community. For me, the grief of the martyrdom of my husband and now my father is unbearable. Both are not with us in this world and the pain has become more intense”. CAPC also wished Pastor Naeem a swift and full recovery.

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Nadeem Bhatti also had a meeting with Dr. Mohammad Shoaib Suddle, who leads the One-Man Commission on Minority Rights. Dr. Shoaib Suddle Commission was constituted by the Supreme Court in 2019 to oversee implementation of its judgement on protecting minority rights. Nadeem discussed with Dr. Shoaib Suddle the issues facing Christians in Pakistan. Nadeem also discussed the federal government grant which has was not delivered to All Saint Church blast victims. Dr. Shoaib Suddle promised to take the matter to the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
It has been over seven and a half years since the Pakistan’s Supreme Court issued a landmark judgement instructing the government to protect minorities. However, attacks have not been met with sufficient government action or condemnation from senior public figures in Pakistan, including Prime Minister Imran Khan. Left is Shamim Akhtar a widower speaking to Nadeem Bhatti The attack on Pastor Siraj also drew condemnation from human rights activists, civil society, religious and political leaders, including Minorities Alliance Pakistan (MAP). MAP who not only condemned the attack, but demanded that the Prime Minister of Pakistan and interior Minister to immediately investigate the incident and arrest the culprits as soon as possible. MAP organized a peaceful protest in Islamabad on February 6, 2022 to condemn target killings and terrorism. They also demanded that adequate financial assistance be provided to the families of the martyred and injured pastors. MAP also called on the federal and provincial governments to ensure the safety of Christian institutions and leaders in view of the “rising tide of terrorism” and reiterated the need for unity and strict action against those who are behind this brutal attack.

Left is Shamim Akhtar a widower speaking to Nadeem Bhatti

Christian leaders condemned the attack and demand justice and protection of Christians. Christians in Pakistan call on the Government of Pakistan to ensure that this attack is thoroughly investigated, the perpetrators prosecuted, and efforts to protect minority communities across the country are significantly increased. Pakistani Christians, who live peacefully in Pakistan, believe that hate, prejudice, discrimination, and segregation should be made a punishable offense. Severe punishments should be meted out on faith-based discrimination.

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