05/31/2011, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Punjab: armed gang attacks Protestant clergyman who is saved by Muslims

by Jibran Khan
Muslim extremists ambush the pastor, fire at his car. The pastor and the people travelling with him were able to escape and find refuge in a Muslim village. Residents, who fired back at the attackers, force them to flee. “They want to kill Christian voices in Pakistan.”
Lahore (AsiaNews) – Rev Nadeem John and his travelling companions escaped by a miracle from an attack launched by Muslim extremists who ambushed their car. The clergyman and the people in his car were able to save themselves by abandoning the car in a field and finding refuge in a predominantly Muslim village. Once aware of the situation, some local residents armed themselves and fired back at the attackers who fled. Speaking to AsiaNews, the reverend said, “The attackers wanted to kill Christian voices, but a complaint will be filed with higher authorities.”

Rev Nadeem John and his companions were attacked early yesterday morning as they came back from a seminar for young Christians organised by the Catholic Church in Gojra, Punjab. In 2009, Muslim extremists had already attacked the same village causing death and destruction, including the burning of homes. As they did before, extremists issued threats against the religious minority in order to get them to cancel their three-day weekend meeting.

After spending the entire day with kids, Rev Nadeem John left Gojra by a car. He was accompanied by Rev Sohail Anjum, a third man called Sunil John, and their driver named Johnson.

Around 2 am, two black Toyota Corollas intercepted them. Gunmen then fired at the car carrying the four Christians, hitting it several times and wounding the driver on the shoulder who however was still able to drive the car away and into a field on the side of the road. The passengers bolted from the car, followed by the terrorists who continued to fire at them. “At that point, I felt we would not make,” Rev Sohail Anjum said.

Eventually, the fugitives reached the village of Musalmania where they found unexpected help from the residents, most of whom are Muslims.

“We entered the village arms raised and told residents that we are under attack”, the pastor said. Some of the residents pulled out their rifles and started firing at the attackers who turned back. Thus, the locals saved the lives of the small group of Christians.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Rev Nadeem John said he filed a First Information Report with the Jhung District Police.

After condemning the attack, he described it as an attempt to “kill Christian voices”, something that occurred “several times in the past” already.

“Extremists have a habit of waiting for cars to leave Christian villages before shooting at them. This time, the matter will be brought to the attention of higher authorities,” the clergyman said.

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