Taliban Kidnaps 16 Christians

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Christians Kidnapped for Renting Homes that were Formerly a Muslim School

Washington, D.C. (ICC) -- The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) www.persecution.org has just learned that 16 Christians were kidnapped at gunpoint in Peshawar, Pakistan on June 21, 2008, and have since been released.

Muhammad Siraj, a Muslim from Academy Town in Banarasabad, near Peshawar, has been renting out a compound to eight Christian families for the past year. The compound had previously been used as an Islamic Seminary (madrassa). However, Siraj was unsatisfied with the Muslims’ maintenance of the buildings and tardiness in paying their bills. Finally, Siraj evicted the Muslims and decided to rent his buildings to several Christian families.

Several times this past year, the Taliban had ordered the Christian families to vacate their homes because they had been part of an Islamic Seminary, but they refused to leave. At approximately 8pm on Saturday, June 21, the militants stormed the home of Salamat Masih where over 50 Christians had gathered for a prayer service before a child’s birthday party. The attendees included two neighboring pastors, Reverend Bashir and Reverend Karamat of the Apostolic Church, and the Muslim landlord, Muhammad Siraj.

The militants arrived heavily armed at Salamat Masih’s home and kidnapped 16 Christians and the Muslim landlord at gunpoint, transporting them to the Khyber area near the border with Afghanistan. The group was thrown into five different vehicles and stripped of their cell phones, money, and other valuables.

ICC was able to talk to one of the kidnapped Christians by phone, Saleem Masih, who reported that the Christians were not severely tortured, but that the kidnappers did hit a few individuals.

Saleem Masih said, “We were not allowed to talk to each other or our families on our cell phones during the period of our abduction. Our assailants blindfolded us and transported us to three unknown places before finally holding us captive in a cave.”

Miraculously, all of the kidnapped Christians were recovered and reported to be ‘safe and sound’ within twelve hours of their abduction, after the speedy intervention of local police officials and politicians. The Taliban has not, however, released the Muslim landlord, Muhammad Siraj.

Reflecting on the incident, Saleem said, “I will never leave my faith and stop going to the Church even if I am persecuted more than this."

Mano Romalshah, the Church of Pakistan Bishop of the Peshawar Diocese, told ICC, “It was a blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ that our brothers were able to come back to their families within such a short period of time.”

The Bishop also said, “We, the Christians of this country, do not demand protection but equal citizenship, religious freedom, and the right to live.”

Bishop Mano Romalshah has urged the authorities to take action against the elements that divide Pakistani society on the basis of religion.  He believes that discriminatory laws have brought disharmony among religious communities and hardship to many innocent people, and has demanded that the discriminatory laws be repealed and that action be taken against the perpetrators.

Christians in this location are an extreme minority and are constantly under the threat of groups affiliated with the Taliban, especially now that the Taliban is gaining more power and challenging the state.  In May 2007, two incidents were reported of Christians receiving letters from militant groups telling them to convert to Islam or face death.  It is important for the Body of Christ to continue to pray for our brothers and sisters to remain strong in their faith in the midst of persecution.

ICC is a Washington-DC based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide.