As violence continues to spiral out of control in Pakistan, ANS has received news that indiscriminate firing by a group of Muslim men on congregants of a Presbyterian church in Gujranwala district on Monday, March 2, left a woman dead and 11 others injured, reports Dan Wooding and Sheraz Khurram Khan, special to ASSIST News Service.
Several Muslim men, identified as Amjad, Balal, Zeeshan, Azam and others whose identities could not be ascertained by ANS, opened fire on worshipping Christians at the Presbyterian Church in Songo, which is a town that is some 7 kilometers from Gujranwala city, a week after two Muslim men robbed a Christian resident of the area on gunpoint.
On February 25, two Muslim men intercepted a Christian man, Imran, on his way home and robbed him at gunpoint of 3,000 Pakistani Rupees ($37.3506 USD), a mobile phone and a wrist watch.
Bleeding, Imran, after going home, he then went to the local police station to report the incident. The matter was “resolved” after Muslim notables brokered reconciliation between Imran and the accused.
However, the patch-up proved short-lived, as several armed Muslims made forcible entry into several homes of Christians on March 2 and allegedly harassed and threatened Christians.
Another group of Muslims, who were carrying iron rods, clubs, and guns, entered into the church. They opened fire at the congregants. The culprits allegedly also smashed the windows of the church and desecrated Bibles. They removed the cross erected at the roof of the church and left the scene shouting at the Christians that they would face worse attacks if they did not leave the town.
Talking to ANS by phone, Pastor Patras of the Presbyterian church, said that moving the inured Christians to the local hospital was not without a struggle. Elaborating on this, he said the Muslims had blocked the road leading to hospital apparently to stop Christians from going to Gujranwala District Headquarter Hospital. He said they were eventually able to shift the injured to the hospital after police intervention.
”Police vehicles ferried the injured to the hospital,” he said.
Commenting on the death of Christian woman, Shakeela, who succumbed to her bullet injuries, Shahzad Kamran of the Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan (SLMP) called for her post-mortem.
He alleged that the police “are not taking any action to arrest assailants.”
Mr. Sohail Johnson, Chief Coordinator of SLMP, who visited the scene of incident, condemned what he called “a brutal attack” on Christians and urged prayer partners of the ministry to pray for protection of Pakistani Christians.
“Fundamentalist Muslims are targeting Christians as they cannot tolerate their existence in Pakistan,” he told ANS.
Pastor Patras claimed that the attitude of the nursing staff and medics at the government-run hospital was “callous and indifferent” toward the injured Christians. He said the gunmen had “exercised their influence over the hospital staff” after failing to “stop injured Christians from arriving at the hospital.”
“The medics at the DHQ Gujranwala asked us to take Shakeela to Lahore. It took us a long time to arrange an ambulance as we had no resources,” said Pastor Patras, who believes, Shakeela’s death could have been averted if multiple odds were not stacked against them.
Asked if the police had made any arrests, he said they arrested a couple of people but said “the real culprits are still scot-free.”
Pastor Patras described the situation as “extremely tense”, adding, “Fearing attacks, Christians have shut themselves in their houses. We are scared and are praying for our safety.”
He said Muslims had also attacked Christian residents of Kotli Sahvo, a village in Gujranwala district on February 28. “Police did not even file a report, let alone take action against the culprits,” he alleged.
“Even if a report was lodged. We would lose it in the court as we would not have resources to hire a lawyer,” he said.
ANS has discovered that local Christians have protested against the incident and have demanded immediate arrests of the culprits.
Report from the Christian Telegraph