Home Voices The Exchange An Inconceivable Challenge: The Story of a Persecuted Pastor in Pakistan

An Inconceivable Challenge: The Story of a Persecuted Pastor in Pakistan

Pakistan
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On Aug. 16, 26 churches, 180 homes, and a Christian graveyard were destroyed, looted, and burned by a charged mob of several hundred men in the Punjab state of Pakistan. Members of the Christian community from all over the country, several key leaders, and officials visited the affected communities to show their support, including the current caretaker Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Chief-Justice of Pakistan.

A few days after these attacks, someone sprayed religious slogans on the wall of a local church. This church is led by Pastor Eleazar Sidhu. The content of the slogans contained basic Islamic beliefs, in addition to calling the pastor cursed. Realizing the sensitivity of the matter, Pastor Sidhu immediately called a police officer and requested for the words to be cleared from the wall. Pastor Sidhu wisely did not attempt to remove the graffiti himself, as this would violate the country’s blasphemy laws, for which the punishment is the death penalty. Additionally, he made a video in the presence of a police officer as proof that he had nothing to do with the writing and clearing of the religious slogans.

In this video, which is available on social media, Pastor Sidhu described why the police officer had been called. He commented that the best way to discuss religious matters is by sitting together and not by writing slogans on a church wall. Then, he explained the words written on the church wall.

After this, an assistant policeman cleared the words by spraying white color on them. The pastor hid the face of the assistant policeman in this video for safety; if the policeman could be identified, then he could be in danger for clearing the graffiti. On Aug. 29, Pastor Sidhu filed a case against unknown personnel for writing religious slogans on the church wall.

A couple days later, Pastor Sidhu was threatened by some local men. These men angrily told the pastor that he would be removed from this world like the way he erased the religious slogans. As Pastor Sidhu returned home from picking up his children from school, he was confronted by one of these men, who was carrying a gun. The man stressed that Pastor Sidhu must deny his Christian faith or be killed. Pastor Sidhu refused to deny his faith, replying that he would prefer to be killed than to deny Christ.

At this point, the man shouted furiously, blaming the pastor for insulting his religion. The man started shooting at Pastor Sidhu, hitting him in his upper right shoulder. The attacker immediately fled from the scene and Pastor Sidhu was taken to the nearest hospital with severe injuries. Thankfully, he survived the attack. On Sept. 3, Pastor Sidhu filed another case against his attacker, whom he recognized. The judicial court gave orders for the matter to be further investigated and for the pastor to be at liberty. 

From Sept. 4-22, there was no news about Pastor Sidhu. On Sept. 23, a Christian woman and her colleague visited the pastor’s house. As a result, horrific details were released about the inhumane treatment the pastor was receiving. It was revealed that Pastor Sidhu’s physical condition had worsened since the day he was released from the hospital. Moreover, the extremist group involved in attacking the pastor had been using pressure tactics through some local policemen to force him to withdraw his applications for a legal action against them.

Contrary to the court orders, the policemen did not permit Pastor Sidhu to participate in church services, meet with his congregants, or see his extended family. He did not receive regular access to the medications that he needs for his preexisting medical condition, which led to him experiencing severe shakiness and difficulty speaking. He has been in a wheelchair since his release from the hospital.

Additionally, Pastor Sidhu was mentally tortured as three policemen were staying with him at all times. For 19 days, the policemen slept at Pastor Sidhu’s house, where he lives with his wife and children. At times, Pastor Sidhu was even chained. While speaking to Christians gathered outside the home, his wife said that they have not had any privacy due to the police presence. She raised the questions: “Are we not Pakistanis? If I was a Muslim woman, would any strange men ever dare to cross my house boundaries and stay overnight?”

On Sept. 23, she expressed her determination to not withdraw the legal petition and to continue pursuing lawful action against her husband’s attackers. On this occasion, Pastor Sidhu asked, “Am I a terrorist that I have been chained to and the police will not leave me alone? What wrong has my wife done that the policemen stare at her, and she cannot breathe freely in her own house? My father served this country as a teacher for twenty-five years; do we deserve such a treatment?”

Pastor Sidhu stressed that he has not committed any crime and that four of his acquaintances have been pressured and detained by the police, including a 13-year-old boy.

The policemen briefly detained and tortured the Christian woman and her colleague, who insisted that if Pastor Sidhu were to be detained, then court orders must be issued. At this point, the pastor was dragged and taken to the police station. There he was tortured, humiliated, insulted, and beaten. He was threatened with false charges and was not supplied an adequate amount of food and water. Moreover, policemen made derogatory remarks about the Bible and the ethnic background of local Christians. Pastor Sidhu endured physical, mental and emotional suffering before appearing in court.