London: (By Hannah Chowdhry and Juliet Chowdhry) In a shocking incident that has sent shockwaves through Christian communities throughout Pakistan, Pastor Alizer Sidhu (33 yrs), a devoted clergyman serving at the Presbyterian Church in Khunwana, Faisalabad, narrowly escaped a life-threatening attack at 9.30pm on Sunday evening (03.09.23) while returning hime from visiting some church families.
This attempt on his life has raised concerns about the safety of religious minorities in Pakistan and underscores the need for greater protection and religious tolerance.
On Sunday 3rd September, Pastor Alizer Sidhu was returning home at 9.30pm after visiting church families for prayer and other support. Around 1km from his home he stopped his motorcycle to urinate in a field and was met by an armed assailant who intercepted him and opened fire on him, endangering his life. Quick action by those around him ensured that he was swiftly transported to the nearest hospital, where medical professionals managed to stabilize his condition. Though the pastor’s life was spared, the attack left the nation’s Christian community in shock and disbelief.
In a display of remarkable courage and resilience, Pastor Alizer Sidhu aka Pastor Vicky recorded a video statement while en route to the hospital in an ambulance. In this poignant video message, he recounted the harrowing encounter with his attackers. According to his account, the armed men halted his motorcycle by parking there motorcycle in front of him. and demanded that he recite the Kalma, a declaration of faith in Islam. When the pastor refused, one of the assailants chanted a slogan and opened fire, demonstrating a chilling act of religious intolerance.
I said I will recite the Kalma of my Christ. He did not give me a chance to read the Kalma of my Christ. Then he shouted a slogan of Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah and shot me. He opened fire straight at me.”
Pastor Alizer Sidhu, spoke with British Asian Christian Association, he said:
“I was targeted by members of the militant group Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan.
“Two unknown individuals forcibly stopped me on the streets by riding their motorcycle in front of me to stop my safe passage.
“The perpetrators asked me to recite the kalma (the Muslim declaration of faith), but I responded by telling them ‘I would rather recite the Kalma of Christ.’
“Upon this, the assailants chanted ‘Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah’ and opened fire, hitting me in the shoulder, causing me to fall.
“The assailants fled the scene, continuing to chant Muslim slogans.
“I was screaming with pain and Someone from a crowd that developed called 1122 for medical assistance.
“The medical team arrived quickly and I received first aid and was transported to District Headquarters Hospital, Faisalabad.
My life is no longer in danger, and underwent a medical procedure to remove the bullet from my shoulder this morning.
“I thank God that he spared my life.”
Pastor Vicky had already anticipated and tried to avoid such an incident. Last week, a video went viral on social media showing unknown individuals writing Islamic text on the walls of the Presbyterian Church in Rehmat Town, Satyana Road, Faisalabad. During early morning prayers at the church, some unknown Muslims had written Islamic scripture on the walls. The writings not only declared the finality of the prophet but also included curses against Pastor Vicky. Such curses were unusual and strongly suggest that certain members of the Muslim community held grievances against the pastor as well. Pastor Vicky reacted to this incident peacefully and promptly called 15 for police assistance.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Mr. Mustafa, along with his officers, arrived at the scene and removed the text using ink-removal spray. While the police were in the process of removing the text, Pastor Vicky recorded a video, stating, ‘We are not involved in removing the text. The police officers are responsible for its removal.’
Deputy Superintendent of Police Mr. Mustafa, along with his officers, arrived at the scene and removed Islamic text from a church wall using ink spray. While the police were in the process of removing the text, Pastor Vicky recorded a video, stating, ‘We are not involved in removing the text. The police officers are responsible for its removal.’
The graffiti on the church Pastor Sidhu has drawn widespread condemnation from various quarters of society, including leaders of Pakistan’s National Ulema Council. This condemnation highlights the urgent need for religious tolerance and protection for religious minorities in Pakistan. It is essential that such incidents are thoroughly investigated, and those responsible are brought to justice. You can read more about the graffiti and watch videos (here).
Two days later, Pastor Sidhu was stopped by two men who threatened to take revenge for the removal of the Islamic script. Pastor Vicky explained to the British Asian Christian Association what happened, adding:
‘I was just returning home after dropping my son off at school when, near Chawala Mill, two unknown individuals forcibly stopped me.
“The men gave me a shrill warning; they said, ‘The way you have tried to remove the name of our Prophet, which of course cannot be removed. Inshallah, we will remove your name the same way.'”
“I took my son to school and while returning from school, near Chawala Mill two men stopped me. They said as you have removed the name of our Nabi [Prophet] – well tried to remove it but it can not be removed – Inshallah, we will remove your name the same way. This same person, the one who stopped me…”
This shooting is believed to be retaliation after Pastor Vicky reported the incident to the police and shared it on social media, it clearly angered members of Tehrik-e-Labaik. The assailants, before shooting him, raised slogans of ‘Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah.’ Tehrik-e-Labaik was responsible for inciting a mob in Jaranwala that burned 26 churches and over 100 houses. A significant portion of the Muslim community in Pakistan supports the violent speeches of Tehrik’s leadership against Christians, America, and Europe. Tehrik-e-Labaik aims to impose Sharia Law in Pakistan and advocates for stricter blasphemy laws in the country.
The fundamental ideology of Tehrik-e-Labaik has attracted Muslims from all corners of the country. Followers blindly embrace this ideology and are willing to engage in conflict against Christians and other minorities in Pakistan. Anyone who exposes them or attempts to speak out against their activities is vulnerable to attacks and criticism from local Muslims.
Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for British Asian Christian Association, said:
“The attempt on Pastor Alizer Sidhu’s life serves as a stark reminder of the challenges faced by religious minorities in Pakistan.
“It is truly chilling to consider that the graffiti on the walls of the Presbyterian Church served as a harbinger of such violence.”
“Clearly, this assassination attempt was a sinister effort to exacerbate the anxiety and fear that Christians are currently grappling with amidst a disturbing trend of frequent attacks.”
“An alarming and concerted effort is underway to eliminate the Christian community in Pakistan and coerce them into converting to Islam.”
“The situation has escalated to what could be described as genocidal proportions, with the conspicuous absence of overt government involvement.
However, the failure of effective governance and the lack of law enforcement suggest a degree of complicity on the part of Pakistani authorities.”
In a show of unwavering support, the British Asian Christian Association (BACA) will be visiting Pastor Alizer Sidhu tomorrow and has pledged to cover all his medical expenses. This gesture underscores BACA’s commitment to standing by individuals like Pastor Sidhu, who dedicate their lives to their faith and communities.
Furthermore, Juliet Chowdhry, a Trustee of the British Asian Christian Association, has taken proactive steps to address the growing concerns regarding the safety of Christians in Pakistan. An email has been sent to the Pakistani High Commission in London, urging immediate action and protection for all Christians in Pakistan, especially in the wake of recent incidents, such as the mob arson, looting, and vandalism attack in Jaranwala. In Jaranwala, hundreds of homes and at least 26 churches suffered damage in the attack, highlighting the urgent need for safeguarding the rights and security of religious minorities in Pakistan.