By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
ISLAMABAD (Worthy News) – Concerns remained Sunday about a pastor in eastern Pakistan who was reportedly detained for “faking” a shooting incident, although Worthy News and others witnessed him in hospital.
Pastor Eliezer Sidhu, better known as Pastor Vicky, had been treated in Civil Hospital Faisalabad, saying he was shot Sunday, September 3, following a prayer service in his Presbyterian Church in the Rehmat Town of Faisalabad city.
The shooter expressed outrage about the removal of Islamic graffiti from the church building, the pastor said.
Pastor Vicky was reportedly forced to recite an Islamic phrase praising Allah and Islam’s Prophet Muhammad before being shot by the attacker, who fled the scene.
The alleged incident happened in the same eastern district of Punjab province where, last month, angry Muslims destroyed scores of churches and homes.
Doctors were seen treating him for two gunshot wounds on the right side of his body, including a bullet injury to his shoulder, but police accused the pastor of filing false charges, sources familiar with the case said.
“According to the police, he did this [shooting incident and graffiti] deliberately to attract international attention and seek asylum in Western countries. The police further stated that Pastor Vicky himself had been involved in creating Islamic graffiti on the walls of his church, and they have the evidence to prove it,” said human rights activist Farrukh H. Saif.
“He is still in detention following his arrest on September 12,” Saif said Sunday. He told Worthy News that team members of his Emergency Committee to Save the Persecuted and Enslaved (ECSPE) “met with Pastor Vicky’s family in Faisalabad. They strongly asserted that the charges against Pastor Eliezer were baseless and fabricated by the police.”
The family said they have “evidence” to support their claims, Saif added. “The family also alleges that there is significant pressure on the pastor to withdraw his case.”
Saif noticed that “many pastors and church leaders face pressure from the police administration not to support” Pastor Vicky pastor “or else they will face the consequences.”
This is not the first time Pakistani authorities “wrongfully” accused Christians” who are already enduring oppression,” Saif explained. “It’s worth noting that the Punjab police chief attributed [last month’s]incident in the town of Jaranwala [where churches and Christian homes were destroyed] to India, suggesting it was part of foreign conspiracies.”
Several churches have since reported Islamic graffiti and other attacks, Worthy News learned.
It comes amid growing pressure on devoted Christians in Muslim-majority Pakistan, several sources say.
Additionally, “Every year, perpetrators abduct and forcibly convert approximately 1000 girls to Islam, inflicting immense suffering on their families. They then subject the parents to pressure, warning them of dire consequences if they try to retrieve their daughters,” Saif said.
He claimed that Pakistan “has become a nightmarish place for Christians.”
Incidents like “forced conversions and discrimination against religious minorities continue to persist,” Saif observed.
Despite Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s announced crackdown on extremism, the Islamic nation still ranks 7th on the annual World Watch List of 50 countries where advocacy group Open Doors says Christians suffer most for their faith.
Many among the estimated 4.2 million Pakistani Christians, about 1.8 percent of the country’s 229 million population, face persecution, Open Doors said. “Believers who have converted from Islam are the most vulnerable to persecution,” the advocacy group added.
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