Memorial Service Held at Site of 2013 Massacre
01/31/2022 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Gunmen targeted two priests traveling home from church in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar on January 30, killing one and injuring the other. Father William Siraj (75 years) died instantly from multiple gunshot wounds, while Father Naeem Patrick was treated for a gunshot wound to his hand.
The memorial service for Father Siraj will be held today, January 31, at Peshawar’s All Saints Church, which was attacked in 2013 by militants who killed over 70 parishioners and wounded more than 100. According to public statements by the authorities, the identities of the assassins are unknown as they escaped on motorcycles, but an investigation is ongoing, and the manhunt has expanded.
Jeff King, ICC’s president, said, “Our hearts are heavy with the news of yet another fatal attack against Pakistan’s Christian community. We are lifting them up in prayers today as they gather for the memorial service, and we also pray for a speedy recovery of Rev. Naeem Patrick. The congregation of All Saints Church has experienced so much loss through the years. We hope for a speedy investigation into this assassination and urge for the due process of justice.”
Church leaders from across the world have expressed their sadness at the assassination and have urged the authorities to conduct a full investigation. Bishop Azad, a senior bishop in the Church of Pakistan, stated, “We strongly condemn the firing on the clergy of the Diocese of Peshawar and instant killing of Pastor William Siraj and injuring of Rev. Patrick Naeem earlier today. We demand justice and protection of Christians from the government of Pakistan.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, added that he “join(s) Bishop Azad in condemning this abhorrent act, and I pray for justice and safety for the Christian community in Pakistan. Please pray for the family of Pastor William Siraj, all who mourn him, and for Rev. Patrick Naeem. As we mark Candlemas today, we pray for the light of Christ’s justice, hope, and peace for our brothers and sisters in the church of Pakistan.”
Christians are a minority in the Muslim-dominated country of Pakistan and are regularly subjected to targeted acts of violence. As ICC documented in its 2021 Persecutor of the Year report, “The persecution of Christians in Pakistan is severe and complex… In recent years, major terrorist attacks on Christian places of worship have not been reported. However, many Pakistani Christians fear the possibility of these attacks.” Sadly, the targeting of Christian clergymen only increases these types of fears.
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