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'Joyful Christians'

Human Race | The murder of a pastor and his wife is another stripe of persecution for Pakistani Christians

Issue: "Safe haven," Sept. 15, 2007

After 11 years shepherding a small Baptist church near Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, Pastor Arif Khan, 58, and his wife Kathleen, 60, were shot dead in their home. Both were American. On the night of Aug. 29, the three suspects-one a former member of Khan's church-visited the couple's house.

Islamabad police are calling the murder a "revenge murder," but say they do not yet know the motive. Still, speculation has been high. An early news report said the ex-church member, Honey Haveed, accused Khan of having an affair with his wife, though she was never a church member. Police have arrested the couple.

Another mysterious person at the murder scene was Saeed Alam, the Haveeds' friend but unknown to the church. He reportedly fled to South Waziristan, in Pakistan's fractious Taliban-heavy tribal region.

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Khan's sending church, Trinity Baptist in New Jersey, says the accusation of an affair is ridiculous. Local police have not confirmed it and are instead finding evidence of Khan's "absolute integrity," church leaders said in a statement.

One of Trinity's pastors, Barton Carlson, knew the couple for some 20 years, and remembers them as "very joyful Christians. They were both devoted to one another and loved the Pakistani people."

After Pakistan's devastating earthquake in 2005, which killed about 80,000, the Khans distributed food, blankets, and temporary shelters to survivors. The couple's children, a grown son and daughter, plan to bury their parents in the United States.

The Khans' murder is another stripe of persecution for Pakistan's slender Christian minority. Islamabad in particular is a hornet's nest of Islamic radicalism. Militants supportive of the Taliban and al-Qaeda have long tried to seize control of the capital. In July, a standoff at the notorious, terror-linked Red Mosque between religious students and Pakistani forces ended with about 100 dead.

Close-ups

DEATHS: U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor (R-Ohio) was discovered dead in his Arlington, Va., apartment by staff members on Sept. 5. Reports indicated that the 68-year-old congressman died of natural causes. Gillmor was elected to Congress in 1988 after serving 22 years in the Ohio Senate. On the House floor, Minority Leader John Boehner, a fellow Ohio Republican, called Gillmor "a good friend to all of us, a colleague of mine who served for two decades. . . . He's going to be missed."

Reports of Gillmor's death came on the same day that former U.S. Rep. Jennifer Dunn, 66, died in her Alexandria, Va., home from a pulmonary embolism. Dunn had represented Washington state in the House from 1993 until 2005, and she was the first woman to win a top Republican leadership post. She also served on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Though pro-abortion and moderate on other cultural issues, she played a major role in fashioning the landmark 1996 welfare reform bill.

She was also hugely influential in Washington state's Republican Party, having chaired the state party for 12 years before running for Congress. "It's like a whole generation of Republicans have lost their mom," Washington state GOP consultant Brett Bader told the Seattle Times. "She was that giant of a figure."

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