Anglican Pastor Shot Dead in Pakistan on Way Home from Church

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

A young girl lights a candle at a Marian grotto in Pakistan.
A young girl lights a candle at a Marian grotto in Pakistan. (photo: Magdalena Wolnik / Shutterstock)

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," Archbishop 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,” he said.

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,” Father Anjum said.

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

Catholics attend Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral, the seat of the Archdiocese of Lahore, on Aug. 20, 2023, four days after a mob attacked several Pakistani churches over blasphemy allegations. More than 80 Christian homes and 19 churches were vandalized when hundreds rampaged through a Christian neighborhood in Jaranwala in Punjab province last Aug. 16.

Church Responds to Mob Attack on Christians in Pakistan

The mob destroyed electric meters and outdoor air conditioning units, and set the Christians' homes and shop ablaze. Eventually, they brought them out, hurled stones at them, and beat them with sticks. They tried to lynch Masih, who was seriously injured.

Several mobs attacked Christian communities and set fire to several churches Aug. 16, in the town of Jaranwala, in Pakistan’s Faisalabad district, after two Christians were accused of defiling the Quran.

Pakistan Violence, the Abortion Pill, Maui Fires and More (Aug. 19)

The Maui fire devastation and a spared Catholic Church, a court ruling reinstating limits on abortion pills, Ohio pro-lifers gearing for an aggressive abortion ballot measure in November, and churches destroyed by a mob in Pakistan — these are some of the news stories that Matthew Bunson and Jeanette De Melo discuss this week in an Editors’ Corner. Then, EWTN News legal analyst Andrea Picciotti-Bayer gives an update on several religious liberty cases making their way through state courts.