In the latest instance of lethal violence against Christians in India, two masked gunmen on motorcycles shot a Christian pastor to death on Saturday night as he was standing outside the Temple of God church in Punjab state.
The 50-year-old Rev. Sultan Masih was standing outside the church talking on his mobile phone around 8:45 on Saturday evening when two armed youths with their faces covered drove by on a motorcycle and fired multiple shots at the pastor from a close range, according to police.
Two youths who were playing near the church witnessed the crime, and one said they had seen two men arrive on a motorbike and shoot the pastor. “We raised the alarm and informed his family. He was taken to the DMC Hospital in a car,” he said.
The pastor sustained a bullet wound to the head and two more to the chest and was rushed to a nearby hospital where doctors pronounced him dead on arrival. CCTV cameras installed at the church captured images of the attackers, but they could not be identified because it was dark.
Rev. Masih had been serving at the Temple of God Church for more than two decades and reportedly had no enmity with anybody. The pastor also ran a school for poor children inside the church. He is survived by his wife and two children.
The murder of Masih has provoked an angry reaction from members of the local community, who assembled outside the church to express their anger at the attack.
On Sunday morning, numerous members of the Christian community staged a protest, blocking traffic on the National Highway for some five hours, demanding the arrest of the killers and accusing the police of inaction. The protesters eventually dispersed around 3:30 in the afternoon.
Sukhbir Singh Badal, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal opposition party, strongly condemned the murder saying that “no one was safe” in Punjab.
“The Congress government is paying a heavy price for not acting against its own workers who started political killings immediately after the party came to power,” he said.
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