I pray to you, LORD, in the time of your favour; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation. Rescue me from the mire, do not let me sink; deliver me from those who hate me, from the deep waters. Psalm 69:13-14

Irshad was killed as he tried to protect some children who were playing in the churchyard when four militants opened fire after an Easter Sunday morning service on 27 March 2005. Seven other Christians were injured in the attack outside Victory Church in the village of Khamba, Punjab, Pakistan.

It was just after 10.30 am and the congregation was coming out of the building when, suddenly, members of a local clan opened fire in a sustained attack that lasted half an hour. As men rushed to save the playing children, 22-year-old Irshad was shot through the head and killed outright. Others who sustained injuries were Arshad Masih, Imran Masih, Ismaeel Masih, Jamil Masih, Naeem Masih, Niamat Masih and Pervez Masih. Though all sharing a very common surname for Pakistani Christians they are not directly related to one another.

The attackers all belonged to a local Muslim clan known as the Dogars, who were trying to claim land that had been allocated to the Christian community. They had previously demolished some Christian graves with a tractor, insisting that the Christians relinquish the graveyard and adjoining church property.

O God and Father of all, whom the whole heavens adore: let the whole earth also worship you, all kingdoms obey you, all tongues confess and bless you, and the sons of men love you and serve you in peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Eric Milner-White (1884-1963), quoted in Philip Law, Seasons of Devotion

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo is the International Director of Barnabas Fund and the Executive Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life.

Photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash

Irshad Masih (2005) – In the Firing Line

Originally appeared on Isaac Publishing

Sudanese Christians (1983-2005) – Civil War