PAKISTAN: Two Christians shot dead in church attack

Two Christian men were shot dead in an attack on a church in Pakistan by Muslim youths on Monday 21 March 2011.

Father-of-four Yunis Ilyas (47), pictured with his family, and newly-wed Jameel Masih (21) were shot dead outside a church in Hoor Camp, a colony of poor Christians in Hyderabad. Two others, Sadiq Masih (45) and a man named only as Waseem (20) were shot and seriously injured, and were transferred to hospital in Karachi; Sadiq Masih is in a critical condition.

The incident started at about 6.30pm, when Muslim youths gathered outside a Salvation Army Church. They began playing loud music on their phones and shouting abuse at women who were arriving for a prayer service to mark the 30th anniversary of the church. The pastor and several others, including the four men who were shot, came out and remonstrated with the youths, telling them to stop shouting at the women and to respect the sanctity of the church. The youths continued to shout insults, then left the scene, but returned shortly afterwards with pistols and fired at the Christians as they came out of the church.

Yunis Ilyas’ family is among 855 very poor families in Pakistan supported by a Barnabas Fund feeding programme. Yunis leaves a wife, Sosan, and children Ulfat (27), Sobia (25), Uzma (23) and Bashir (22). Jameel Masih leaves a young widow who is deeply shocked.

The attack in Hyderabad comes a week after Pakistani Christian Qamar David died in Karachi Central Prison on 15 March. He had been sentenced to life imprisonment on false blasphemy charges – his family believes that he was murdered, while jail officials claim that he died of heart failure.

The attack comes three weeks after the assassination of Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who was assassinated in Islamabad on 2 March for opposing the blasphemy laws.

(Barnabas Fund, Compass)