Pastor and Driver Murdered in Pakistan

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Kidnapping followed threats for ‘converting Muslims.’

by Barbara G. Baker

ISTANBUL, April 11 (Compass) -- Unknown killers kidnapped and brutally killed a Protestant pastor and his driver near the capital of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) last week, apparently in retribution for their evangelizing activities among Muslims.

The bullet-ridden, mutilated bodies of Pentecostal pastor Babar Samsoun and his driver and fellow evangelist, Daniel Emmanuel, were found dumped on a roadside near the outskirts of Peshawar on April 7, two days after they were kidnapped.

Both had been severely beaten and disemboweled, with their arms and legs broken and noses and ears cut off. Dozens of bullets had been shot into their bodies, and their hands were left shackled back-to-back with a heavy chain.

Despite the horrifying condition of the bodies, police officers handling the case took the pastor’s wife and young children to identify the deceased. “This was a traumatic experience for them,” a local source told Compass. “Needless to say, the police were anxious to bury them without any post mortem.”

However, 200 Christians launched protest marches in Peshawar, forcing local authorities to conduct an official forensic examination before proceeding with the funeral and burial on Sunday. Relatives and friends of the slain men blocked traffic near the cemetery on the main highway linking Pakistan with Afghanistan on Friday and again on Saturday, demanding that the killers be brought to justice.

“Protest marches are still continuing for the arrest of the culprits,” a local church leader confirmed today, noting that the Christian community was “fearful and demoralized, as they feel nothing is being done by the authorities to safeguard them from such barbarous attacks.”

On April 5, the day of their disappearance, Samsoun’s brother filed a First Information Report with the police. Soon afterwards, families of the victims received telephone calls demanding ransom money. But investigators have since determined that the men were tortured and murdered shortly after their capture, before the ransom demands ever began.

The two were last seen leaving the offices of the Ilam Dost Welfare Trust, a local non-governmental organization (NGO) running an educational program. When their bodies were discovered two days later, police sealed the organization’s office and took one of its staff into custody. Although police authorities have since claimed they are no longer detaining the man, his whereabouts remain unknown.

“Babar did not officially represent that NGO,” a local source told Compass. “The police are trying to implicate them unnecessarily.” Local newspapers claimed the two men were employed by the organization, with one even stating Samsoun had himself founded it.

One of Samsoun’s colleagues told Dawn newspaper in an April 9 report that the slain pastor was “accused of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.” Police sources, meanwhile, declared they were searching for a former khatib (mosque prayer leader) who was “reported to have been converted to Christianity” by Samsoun.

However, in statements to the press police authorities blamed the killings on an alleged family dispute over the elopement of the pastor’s younger brother with a Muslim girl. When the men’s disappearance was first reported, police had detained the girl and her brother as suspects in the abduction.

No one has claimed responsibility for the savage killings. But for more than a month, the two men had been receiving telephoned threats, demanding that they stop their Christian activities in the Peshawar area.

Samsoun, 37, had supported himself by running a small business while pastoring the congregation of the Jesus Pan Gospel Church in Yousafabad. He leaves behind a wife and three children. Emmanuel, also in his mid 30s, was unmarried.

The double homicide came on the heels of an Easter Sunday attack on a village church near Lahore two weeks ago, when armed gunmen killed one worshipper and injured seven others as they left morning services.

Government and police sources in Pakistan routinely characterize such acts of violence committed against the minority Christian community as incidents rooted in personal disputes, rather than acts of terrorism. Less than two percent are Christian of the nation’s overwhelmingly Muslim population.

“However, Christian leaders said it was a ‘targeted act of terrorism’ meant to intimidate Christians,” the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) noted in an April 8 release on the murders.

The NWFP is governed by the Mutahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), which according to a report on the Peshawar murders by the Kuwait news agency KUNA enforces “an extremist, retrogressive brand of Islam.”

An estimated crowd of 1,500 mourners attended funeral services for Samsoun and Emmanuel yesterday in Peshawar, led by the Church of Pakistan’s Bishop of Peshawar, Rt. Rev. Mano Rumal Shah, and other local clergy.

“We do not know the actual facts and reasons of their kidnapping and killing,” one of the pastors who participated in the funeral commented afterwards. “Today many newspapers gave different news. But one thing I know very well, that we lost two men of God in Peshawar.”