Pastor Shot and Killed in Drive-By Shooting at Church in Northern India
Local Christians Stage Demonstrations Calling for Perpetrators to be Apprehended
07/17/2017 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) –International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Pastor Sultan Masih was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting outside of his church in Ludhiana on Saturday, July 15. Following the killing, local Christians staged demonstrations calling on authorities to apprehend those responsible for the brutal murder.
According to reports, Pastor Masih was outside of The Temple of God Church on his cellphone when two masked men riding a motorcycle shot the pastor four times around 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night. The masked assailants then sped away on the motorcycle. Witnesses rushed Pastor Masih to the Dayanand Medical College and Hospital where he died.
Relatives of Pastor Maish claimed that they had noticed suspicious activities outside the church for the past two months. Stephen Sidhu, a relative of the slain pastor, told the Times of India, “Some suspicious-looking men were making rounds of the area, clicking pictures and making videos of the church and also of the address on its board. During the silver jubilee function of the church on May 31, about 20 to 25 miscreants arrived and accused the pastor of conversion. There was a campaign going against the church and the priest on a social networking site, too, saying, ‘No conversions.’”
On Sunday, July 16, local Christians staged a demonstration in Ludhiana by blocking traffic on the Jalandhar Bypass Chowk on National Highway 1 from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.. Hundreds of demonstrators blocked vehicles, accusing local authorities of inaction and calling for the perpetrators of the murder to be brought to justice. In response, Ludhiana police have created a special investigation team to investigate the murder, but have yet to bring suspects in for questioning.
“This is shocking beyond words,” John Dayal of the United Christian Forum told ICC. “We welcome the relief provided to the family by the Chief Minister of Punjab and his assurance that the crime will be investigated by a special team. We hope and pray that the killers will be soon apprehended.”
Attacks on Christians and their places of worship have dramatically increased since the election of the BJP-led central government in 2014. In 2016 alone, ICC documented more than 360 separate attacks on Christians, mostly led by radical Hindu nationalist groups operating with near complete impunity.
William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “Attacks on Christians and their places of worship continue to escalate in both number and intensity because of the impunity enjoyed by those committing these attacks. This brutal murder of a pastor outside of his church must be a wakeup call for many in India. Those perpetrating attacks on religious minorities in India, whether the victims be Muslim or Christian, must be confronted and brought to justice. India’s constitution guarantees full religious freedom for all, which means that everyone should be able to live without fear of attack because of their religious identity. Unfortunately, Prime Minister Modi and his BJP-led government have done little to make this constitutional guarantee a reality for India’s religious minorities. This must change or else we will continue to see religious violence in India escalate.”