Siraj who, was 75 years old, died instantly from multiple gunshot wounds, while Naeem sustained a gunshot wound and was treated in a Peshawar hospital. They belong to the Church of Pakistan, a WCC member church. Though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, police have described it as a terrorist act. Even though a comprehensive investigation has been launched, the assailants are yet to be apprehended.
Sauca said: “We stand in solidarity with the families affected in the diocese of Peshawar, and all Christians and peace-loving citizens of Pakistan, grieving the death of Pastor William Siraj and the wounding of Rev. Patrick Naeem.”
Sauca emphasized the responsibility of the government and authorities to protect all Pakistan’s people and communities from violence and terror. “The life and witness of Christians in Pakistan deeply inspires people all over the world,” he said. “Even in the challenging context of being a minority and often marginalized, Christians in Pakistan continue to be a blessing to the nation, significantly contributing to the wider Pakistani society.”
The Church of Pakistan's moderator and president, Bishop Dr Azad Marshall, said: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the targeted attack on our church leaders. We demand immediate arrest of the assailants and protection for our community members.”
Marshall stated that there has been a spate of terror attacks in the country since the Pakistani Taliban ended a ceasefire with the government in December. “This resurgence of terrorism must be contained immediately before the situation gets out of hand,” he said. “We have complete faith in our security forces and we expect the government will do everything within its means to ensure the security of all citizens and worship places.”
The Church of Pakistan’s bishop of Peshawar, Right Rev. Humphrey Sarfaraz Peters, reflected: “On Monday we laid Pastor William Siraj to rest, and more than 3,000 people joined the funeral, to celebrate his life. Our grief and sadness are shared by communities of all faiths, and we live among people who are loving and promote interfaith harmony.”
Peters called for containing the tiny fringe of the population bent on shedding the blood of innocents. “We demand the arrest of the assailants and security for our community members,” he said.
Peter Jacob, a senior human rights activist and executive director of the Centre for Social Justice based in Pakistan, said: “The assassination attack on Sunday reminds us of the hundreds of innocent members of the Christian minority who have been martyred in terrorist activities, including 15 worshipers in a Church at Bahawalpur in 2001, the six staff of the ecumenical Committee for Justice and Peace in Karachi in 2002, Minister Shahbaz Bhatti in 2011, and 90 worshipers of All Saints Church Peshawar in 2014.”
Jacob added: “The Christian community has served the country in social services and acted in favour of peaceful coexistence in the country. It is now time that the government should take a serious note of the presence of extremism that targets the citizens on the basis of their beliefs.”
He noted that a large number of people of Pakistan are peace-loving and do not support the abuse of religion for acts of violence. “This support should be utilized to uproot the outfits that pose danger to peace and amity,” he said.