SAMAF provides a platform for advocacy and awareness for various religious and ethnic communities of S. Asia. We actively participate in the International Religious Freedom Roundtable hosted by the US State Department at which the issues facing the minority communities throughout the world are voiced. But this past week, we came across the issue of Pastor Sohail Latif, a Christian pastor of River of Life Christian Church/Church of Pakistan (Anglican) and father of five young children who has been wrongfully imprisoned in Karachi, Pakistan, since May.
Jenny Noyes, Executive Director at New Wineskins Missionary Network, an Anglican mission-mobilizing entity, and I met last fall at an IRF Roundtable when she announced the formation of the Anglican Persecuted Church Network. She shared about the plight of Pakistani persecuted Christians as minorities and the hardships they endure. With our mutual fervor to secure religious freedom for all people, we became natural allies.
So when Jenny Noyes and her friend Cheryl McCarthy, Director of the Ananias Project, the Prayer and Intercession Stream of Fresh Expressions USA, shared Pastor Sohail’s plight and his deteriorating health while in prison, we immediately jumped into action. This case called to my mind a similar moment that my friend and senior SAMAF advisor, The Honorable Tom Garrett, felt when he walked into the Sudanese Embassy in Washington DC in 2018 while serving in Congress, requesting the release of the imprisoned Christian pastors in Sudan.
Nadeem Nusrat, Chairman of SAMAF, leader of the large secular Muhajir Muslim community in Karachi, lent his full support to release Pastor Sohail. We Rhinos (Cheryl’s nickname for us) are charging together in garnering support from other organizations. A special thank you to my friend in the press core who was very helpful in facilitating our message to key people.
On behalf of all who are tirelessly working to secure his release, I truly believe that Pastor Sohail’s incident is a moment of reckoning for the leadership of Pakistan, but only if they recognize it and seize this moment to do the right thing.
Letter to Ambassdor Majeed Khan
Dear Ambassador Majeed Khan,
On behalf of the South Asian Minority Alliance Foundation (SAMAF), I wish you and the people of Pakistan a very happy Independence Day. We at SAMAF hope and pray for a strong vibrant partnership between both nations based on mutual success and shared values.
We are requesting immediate attention to the case of Pastor Sohail Latif Sandhu, a Pakistani citizen and leader in the Karachi Anglican Church, who is in prison in Karachi on unknown charges. The attached letter is currently circulating among a broad range of US civil society groups. It requests your assistance in addressing the concerns for Pastor Sohail and the number of signatories is growing. Pastor Sohail’s health is deteriorating while in prison and he needs immediate medical attention.
We look forward to your response back.
To All Concerned with Religious Freedom and Minority Rights,
On May 22nd, 2020, Pastor Sohail Latif Sandhu, his wife, and their five children lay asleep in their humble Karachi home. Their slumber was abruptly terminated when, under the cover of darkness, local Pakistani authorities burst into the house without warning and dragged Sohail away. A life of fear is nothing new for religious minorities in the South Asia region. In this instance, the victim is Sohail Latif, Pastor, Pakistani citizen, and Founder and Chairman of the River of Life Church of Pakistan in Karachi. What makes this worse is that the charges against Sohail appear to stem only from his efforts to help his neighbors, the poor and dispossessed, suffering under conditions that most of us could hardly imagine.
Pastor Sohail is just one in a series of religious and ethnic minorities in South Asia to suffer injustice based on their faith or birth. Whether it be Sikhs, Ahmadi, Christians, Baloch, Muhajir, Pashtun, or others, the absence of news coverage due to Covid-19 has emboldened these oppressors, who weaponize the media blackout just as the authorities who abducted Sohail weaponized the cover of darkness.
On behalf of the South Asian Minority Alliance Foundation, we are humbled to act as an advocate for this man and so many nameless, faceless others like him.
Pastor Sohail, with his family
As always, time matters.
Reports indicate that Pastor Sohail is suffering from fever and related illness as he languishes in a Pakistani prison. He has yet to have a bond hearing, with his first such opportunity scheduled for less than a week from today, on August 20th.
We request that the Government of Pakistan provide the information below about Pastor Sohail and that the US Government help us in obtaining this information. The letter will be sent to the Ambassador Pakistan in Washington, copied to US Commission of International Religious Freedom and the US State Department.
Why was Pastor Sohail Latif arrested? What charges are filed against
him? What evidence exists that would indicate that these charges are more likely true than fabricated? What justifies having denied this man a bond hearing for so long, and why was he taken without warning, under the cover of darkness, in front of his devastated wife and children? What medical assistance has been provided to him while in prison?
We humbly pray that our efforts towards liberty and justice will be pleasing to God, and that the suffering of Pastor Sohail and his family can be used for a greater good, and have every faith that this can occur consistent with God’s supreme power.
Once again, time is of the essence, please join our effort today!
- Mr. Puneet Ahluwalia, Executive Director, South Asia Minorities Alliance Foundation, [email protected]
- Mr. Nadeem Nusrat, Chairman, South Asia Minorities Alliance Foundation, [email protected]
- The Honorable Tom Garrett, former U.S. Congressman, and Senior Advisor to South Asia Minorities Alliance Foundation, [email protected]
- Mrs. Cheryl McCarthy, Director of The Ananias Project (Fresh Expressions US), [email protected]
- Mrs. Jennifer Z. Noyes, Executive Director, Anglican Persecuted Church Network, New Wineskins Missionary Network, [email protected]
- Ms. Patricia Streeter, Co-Leader, Anglican Persecuted Church Network, [email protected]
- Ms. Faith McDonnell, Co-Leader, Anglican Persecuted Church Network, and Institute for Religion & Democracy, [email protected]
- Mr. Robert J. Silverman, former President of the American Foreign Service Association and Senior Advisor to South Asia Minorities Alliance Foundation, [email protected]
- Ms. Sandra Roberts, Director of Zameiru Ministries, New Zealand, [email protected]
Rev. Dr. Elijah M Brown, General Secretary, Baptist World Alliance (BWA)