By BosNewsLife Asia Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– A Pakistani evangelist and pastor was still recovering Thursday, December 16, after he was set on fire by hard-line Muslims in Pakistan’s Punjab province, Christians and rights activists said.
The incident happened November 22 while 26 year-old Pastor Wilson Augustine went door-to-door to several homes in his nighborhood, located on the outskirts of the city of Saraghoda to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, according to area Christians who found him.
The recently ordained pastor was in Village 96-NB when six Muslim brothers saw one of the pamphlets he was distributing and claimed that the description of the resurrection of Jesus “was derogatory” to Islam’s prophet Muhammad, witnesses said.
Muslims reportedly angrily ordered Pastor Augustine to leave the village and allegedly threatened him with dire consequences if he did not stop preaching in the village. Pastor Augustine initially complied and left, but continued to evangelize in other villages, preaching in a small church, and then, at approximately 10 p.m. local time set out for his home, according to advocacy group Voice Of the Martyrs (VOM), citing Christian sources.
“When he reached the main bus stop at the highway, riders on three motorcycles began to flash their headlight beams into his eyes and rev their engines. Pastor Augustine heard and recognized the voices of the six Muslim men who had threatened him. They attacked him, beating him with clubs and belts. The Muslim brothers also threw a cold liquid on him, lit a matchbox and set his body on fire,” VOM said.
Local Christians reportedly found the evangelist the next morning after the Muslim brothers apparently dragged him into nearby shrubs, where he lost consciousness.
His clothes were torn and covered in dried blood, according to investigators. Christians, who were not identified apparently for security reasons, said they took him to a hospital where he was treated in the burn unit.
After four days, he was released, but was still recovering Thursday, December 15, BosNewsLife learned.
Pastor Augustine’s father immediately reported the assault to the local police station, but officers were reluctant to file a case against the attackers, whose father was a wealthy and powerful landowner, VOM said.
A report was allegedly only filed after the registrar was pressured by local church leaders and a politician. “In this report, the police refused to name the six men, claiming that Pastor Augustine could have mistaken their identity due to the darkness of the night,” VOM added. There was no immediate reaction from local police.
There have been similar attacks against Christians in Punjab province. Earlier this year, Christian Arshed Masih was seen burning to death in front of a police station in the city of Rawalpindi near Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, shortly after his wife Martha was raped by police officers, rights investigators and family members told BosNewsLife at the time.
The attacks, which led to international condemnation, were linked to death threats from Masih’s Muslim employer and other hard-line Muslims.
Rights groups have urged Pakistan’s government to improve the protection and rights of minority Christians in the Islamic nation.