Pakistan Religious Freedom Under Threat: Pastor’s Shooting Highlights Urgent Need For Action – OpEd


Prominent minority rights activists have called upon the Pakistani government to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the recent attack on Pastor Eliazer and bring the perpetrators to justice. They have also urged immediate steps to enhance the safety and security of religious minorities, particularly Christians, who have been subjected to a series of recent attacks.

On Sunday, September 3, Pastor Eliazer was shot and injured by unidentified assailants, merely a week after unknown individuals had defaced his church’s walls with Islamic slogans in Jaranwala.

According to the First Information Report (FIR) number FSD-SDR-012836 registered at the Saddar Police Station in Jaranwala, Pastor Eleazar was returning home in Rehmat Town with his assistant John Masih after conducting the Sunday Service when they were confronted by the assailants. The attackers brandished a firearm and demanded that Pastor Eleazar recite the Kalma, an Islamic prayer phrase. When he refused and began reciting the Apostles’ Creed, the assailant shouted “Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah” and opened fire, resulting in a gunshot wound to the upper half of Pastor Eleazar’s chest. The attackers fled the scene after the attack.

Pastor Eleazar informed the police that on August 28, unidentified individuals had inscribed Islamic slogans, including “Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah,” the name of the Prophet Muhammad, on the walls of his church. Law enforcement was promptly alerted, and the graffiti was removed. A case was registered against the unknown vandals.

The pastor recounted that three days later, while he was returning home after picking up his son from school, he and his son were confronted by unidentified bearded men who threatened him with the same fate as the defaced Islamic slogans. These threats were accompanied by death threats.

Pastor Eleazar asserted that the individual who opened fire on him on Sunday was among those who had threatened him three days earlier.

The Chairperson of Voice for Justice, Joseph Jansen, vehemently condemned the attempted assassination of Pastor Eliazer by gunshot, allegedly carried out by members of the hard-line Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP). This act of violence comes in the wake of multiple attacks on churches and hundreds of homes belonging to the Christian community in Jaranwala, Pakistan.

Jansen expressed profound concern over the escalating violence and intolerance against religious minorities in Pakistan, particularly the Christian community. He emphasized the urgent need for Pakistan to hold those individuals and groups accountable who are responsible for inciting violence, spreading hatred, discrimination, and attacking individuals solely because of their Christian faith. The recent attacks on churches and homes in Jaranwala serve as a stark reminder of the pressing need to address this issue.

Jansen highlighted that such incidents underscore the failure of law enforcement to effectively protect religious minorities. He stressed that it is the government’s responsibility to closely monitor and take action against those who radicalize individuals and promote hostility against diverse religious groups. This radicalization not only endangers the lives and properties of religious minorities but also threatens the social fabric of the nation.

Advocate Akmal Bhatti, who visited Pastor Eleazar in a local hospital, confirmed that the pastor is currently under treatment for a bullet injury to his shoulder and is now out of danger.

The minority rights activists have put forth the following demands:

Conduct a Thorough Investigation: The Pakistani government must conduct a comprehensive and transparent investigation into the attack on Pastor Eliazer to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Enhance Security Measures: Immediate steps should be taken to ensure the safety and security of religious minorities, particularly Christians, who have been targeted in recent attacks.

Address Root Causes: Religious intolerance, discrimination, and violence must be addressed by holding those who incite hatred and division accountable for their actions.

Strengthen Law Enforcement: Law enforcement measures should be strengthened to prevent further attacks and protect religious minority communities across the country.

Promote Interfaith Dialogue: Initiatives to promote interfaith dialogue and tolerance should be encouraged to foster a more inclusive and harmonious society.

Kashif Nawab

Kashif Nawab is a Director with Social Action Transformation of Humanity (SATH) in Pakistan.

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