Anglican pastor shot dead in Pakistan on way home from church

A young girl lights a candle at a Marian Grotto in Pakistan Credit Magdalena Wolnik CNA 12 17 14 A young girl lights a candle at a Marian grotto in Pakistan. | Magdalena Wolnik.

An Anglican pastor was shot dead after church on Sunday in northwest Pakistan.

Two gunmen on motorcycles ambushed a car in which three Christian clergymen were driving home after a Sunday service on Jan. 30 in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, just 34 miles from the Afghanistan border.

Rev. William Siraj died instantly from multiple gunshot wounds. He was 75 years old.

One other pastor, Rev. Naeem Patrick, sustained a gunshot wound and was treated in a Peshawar hospital.

Police are still searching for the two unidentified gunmen who fled the scene, and no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

A memorial service is scheduled to be held in All Saints’ Anglican Church in Peshawar on Jan. 31.

This is the same church that was targeted in a terrorist attack in 2013 by two suicide bombers who killed 85 people and wounded more than 140.

Catholic Archbishop Benny Mario Travas of Karachi expressed solidarity with the Christian community in Peshawar after the assassination.

He called on the authorities to “take immediate and serious measures, arrest the murderers and work for peace and security for all minorities.”

“All Christians are united with the Anglican Church of Pakistan at this time," Travas said, according to Asia News.

“This ambush undermines peace and religious harmony throughout the country,” he said.

Bishop Azad Marshall, the moderator of the Church of Pakistan, condemned the attack.

“We demand justice and protection of Christians from the Government of Pakistan,” Marshall wrote on Twitter Jan. 30.

The Church of Pakistan is part of the Anglican Communion and a member of the World Methodist Council and the World Communion of Reformed Churches.

The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby wrote online that he joined Marshall in "condemning this abhorrent act."

"I pray for justice and safety for the Christian community in Pakistan," Welby said.

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Christians are a small minority in Pakistan – making up only 1.6% of the population, according to Pew.

But with a Pakistani population of 220.9 million people, this means that there are around 3.5 million Christians the country.

Open Doors includes Pakistan among the top ten worst countries in its World Watch List on the persecution of Christians.

Christians in Pakistan not only face violence, but are also subject to discrimination at a state-level through blasphemy laws, according to the group.

Neighboring Afghanistan was ranked as the most dangerous country for Christians in the world after the takeover of the government by the Taliban.

Father Mushtaq Anjum, a Catholic priest from Pakistan, told Aid to the Church in Need that Christians in his country are under serious threat with the Taliban ruling across the border.

“The threat against them [Christians] has increased, since our government supports the victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan,” Fr. Anjum said.

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“I am afraid many Taliban will return to Pakistan and exploit Islamist extremism, pushing Pakistani terror groups to step up attacks,” he said.

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