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09/06/2023 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – A lead pastor in Jaranwala, Pakistan was shot on Sunday by two assailants after he refused to recite a Muslim creed.

Christians continue to be targeted by radical Muslims in Jaranwala since it became a flashpoint of violence about two weeks ago. A mob in the thousands ravaged the Christian community and destroyed at least 26 churches and 196 homes. The attackers were angered by an alleged desecration of the Quran, a false blasphemy charge fueled by a disagreement between a Muslim and a Christian teen and his brother.

Rev. Eleazar Sidhu, lead pastor for the Presbyterian Church in Kukranwala village within the Faisalabad District, was allegedly targeted by members of the far-right Islamic extremist political party Tahreek-e-Labbaik after he removed graffiti from his church walls on Aug. 28.

“While I was conducting my regular morning prayers in church, a woman from the congregation informed me that she had noticed graffiti on the church walls, including symbols of the Islamic extremist party, Tehreek-e-Labbaik,” said Pastor Sidhu. “I immediately called the police, who helped me whitewash the walls and register my case against the perpetrators.”

This enraged the extremist group and members began to follow and harass Pastor Sidhu. Three days later, two bearded men threatened him as he returned from picking up his son. The men said they would remove him from the world the same way he erased the graffiti with the Islamic inscriptions.

On Sunday, Sept. 8, Pastor Sidhu was returning home with his assistant after pastoral visits when the same two men stopped him on his motorcycle. This time they demanded that they recite the Islamic Kalima or profession of faith.

The men refused and recited the Apostle’s Creed instead. This angered the assailants even more, and one of them shouted “Labaik ya rasool!” before shooting Pastor Sidhu in the shoulder. He was taken to a hospital where doctors successfully removed the bullet, and he continues to recover.

Police have since stepped up security in Kukranwala, a relatively new Christian settlement, but residents are fearful and rattled by the incident.

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