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Muslims Beat Elderly Street Preacher in Lahore

2/12/08 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – On February 9, 2008, two young Muslims reportedly threatened a 60-year-old evangelist, Mr. Daniel Sodagar, for preaching the Gospel publicly and began beating him when he refused to stop.

Mr. Sodagar was reading the Psalms through a megaphone on a street in Youhanabad, the largest Christian neighborhood in Lahore. Two Muslim shoppers warned him to stop “shouting,” but Mr. Sodagar continued to read the Psalms. This enraged the Muslims and they started beating him violently, injuring his right ear, eyes and mouth. Local Christians intervened and prevented the attackers from doing any more damage.

The same day, over 500 Christian men, women and children marched to the office of Mr. Tariq Javed Tariq, a local Christian politician, and staged a protest demanding legal proceedings against the Muslim attackers. They chanted the name of Jesus, recited the Psalms loudly and sang hymns. The protesters demanded religious freedom, equal rights, and protection of religious minorities. Local Christian shopkeepers also joined the demonstration after shutting down their shops in protest.

Mr. Goga Masih, President of Christian Merchants Youhanabad, submitted an application to the local police station requesting that the police arrest the attackers. The police did arrest the culprits, but had not registered the case by the time this report was written.

In an interview with ICC, Yousaf Kamran, a Field Officer for a Christian NGO in Lahore, urged the authorities to take strict action against those who support religious intolerance. He said that there are still not equal rights and opportunities for all citizens in Pakistan, regardless of religion. He warned the authorities that the local Christians would stage a huge protest at the district level, inviting Christians from other parts of the country and the international media as well, if the culprits were not brought to justice. Kamran informed ICC that Christians in Youhanabad would organize hunger strikes and weekly protests if their demands were not met.

According to Mr. Younas John, a Christian resident of Youhanabad, Sodagar had been preaching the Gospel in the same manner for about 25 years. He said that the elderly evangelist goes from one neighborhood to another without using a vehicle. He does not invite people to any enclosed venue or room, but he goes to people himself, stands in the streets, preaches, and then goes to another place.

Sodagar did not stop preaching and was seen again on the roads after initial medical treatments.