Kidnapped Christian Preacher in Pakistan Returns

( [email protected] ) May 19, 2004 03:48 PM EDT

A Christian preacher abducted in southwestern Pakistan escaped from his captors, according to Reuters AlertNet. "He has been found and is in Islamabad," police Deputy Inspector General Pervez Rafi Bhatti told Reuters in Quetta. "We have sent a police team to bring him back safely."

According to police and family, Wilson Fazal, a Pakistani Pentecostal cleric at a church in the city of Quetta, disappeared on Sunday after receiving threatening letters sent by a group calling itself Mahaz-e-Jihad, or "Frontier of the Holy War". The letters urged Fazal to stop preaching Christianity and to convert to Islam or face unspecified consequences.

No details of the captors or the escape were immediately available, however officials reported that according to Fazal, he had been kidnapped and taken to the northwestern city of Peshawar, about 375 miles northeast of Quetta, when he managed to escape. Bhatti said police were still investigating.

In a separate report, a Philadelphia-based Christian newspaper said that a wave of pamphlets is hitting parts of Central Pakistan, causing concern for believers. The pamphlets are hitting Christian colonies in Quetta at night, threatening a holy war, and accusing blasphemy.

According to the Pakistan Christian Post, the pamphlets threaten churches, schools and hospitals that are evangelizing. The authors of the pamphlets are also forcing Christians to join them to evangelizing Islam in America and joining Jihad against America or risk harm to relatives and children.

Even though the city of Quetta is also home to hard-line Islamic militants opposed to religious tolerance and the US-led war in neighboring Afghanistan, Christians have lived in harmony with the Muslim population for the most part. However, in recent months, Quetta has seen a sudden rush of deadly attacks on minority Islamic Shi'ites by Islamic militants, the last of which killed 44 people.

About 70,000 of Quetta's population of 1.5 million are Christian.