By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife correspondents in Pakistan and Stefan J. Bos at BosNewsLife News Center
LAHORE/STOCKHOLM (BosNewsLife)– An elderly Swedish missionary who was shot by a gunman while doing Christian work in Pakistan has died from her wounds, her Swedish church confirmed Thursday, December 13.
Pastor Holger Strandgren told national radio that Birgitta Almeby, 71, passed away overnight in a Stockholm hospital, after she was flown to her homeland for medical treatment earlier this week.
He said the news was “heavy” but “not unexpected” as the Christian woman had been in critical condition since the December 3 attack in Pakistan’s second largest city Lahore.
“Our thoughts are with her loved ones”, the pastor added on behalf of her Pentecostal church in the Swedish town of Köping.
FULL GOSPEL CHARITY
Almeby, who led the Full Gospel Assembly charity, coordinated a church boarding school for orphaned girls in Lahore and other aid projects in Pakistan for nearly 40 years.
The motive behind the shooting remains unclear, but local Christians said she had received threats from unknown men who they linked to Islamic militants. There were no known detentions of one or more suspects Thursday, December 13.
Officials of Pakistan’s Christian minority suggested that the killing of Almeby underscored a growing number of attacks by militants against Christians and moderate Muslims.
She was the second Western aid worker targeted in Lahore in recent years. Warren Weinstein, a 71-year-old American, was kidnapped in the city in August 2011 and is still missing.
The president of the Pakistan Christian Congress party, Nazir Bhatti, said Pakistan’s Punjab province, where the missionary was killed, is “a hotbed of Islamist extremism and a hub of banned terrorist organizations” backed by at least some leaders of the Punjab government.
Pakistan-based women rights group Illuminate told BosNewsLife that it also condemned “the assassination” of Birgitta Almeby and said the government had not done enough to protect women and girls.
“Sister Birgitta”, whose name has been spelled in various ways, “served for over 40 years in Pakistan…living a life dedicated to helping masses of people who live in abject poverty, regardless of their religions, cast or any such forms of racial or religious segregation,’ Illuminate told BosNewsLife.
Besides the missionary, women and girls have been targeted across Pakistan by Islamic militants, including 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, the group recalled. She was shot in the head in October by Taliban gunmen who opposed her campaign for girls education.
Illuminate said it “expresses its outrage and resentment over the state of affairs, where women and young girls are being murdered, kidnapped and subjected to various forms of violence.”
The “killings in the name of ‘honor’, suicides, acid throwing and stove-burning” happen “with shameless impunity, while the State functionaries are doing nothing except lip service for TV cameras,” the activists said.