illing of Missionary Couple in Pakistan Leaves Tears and Questions Stateside

Kathleen and Arif Khan in an undated photograph. They lived in Pequannock, N.J., before moving to Pakistan 11 years ago.

Published: September 24, 2007

At a time when being American and
Christian in the Muslim world is a proposition fraught with danger, the
Rev. Arif and Kathleen Khan, missionaries from Pequannock, N.J.,
thought that heeding the Lord’s call far outweighed the perils
they faced.


That looming danger finally
came crashing down on the Khans one night last month when the couple
were gunned down at close range in Islamabad, Pakistan, where they had lived for the last 11 years.

The
killings set off an outpouring of grief within the tightly knit
community of Pakistani Christians here and abroad — they number
about 3,000 families in the United States — and among the wider
Christian community. Many described Mr. Khan, 58, a Pakistani-born
American citizen, as a charismatic preacher who, as a member of a
minority group in a majority-Muslim country, endured a hostile society
because of his love of Pakistan and his devotion to his church.

Kathleen
Khan, 60, who was born in Glen Ridge, met her husband in a seminary in
Massachusetts, married him in 1972 and chose to work quietly in his
shadow. She performed social service work like distributing clothing to
earthquake victims and to prisoners in Islamabad. They raised two
children.

Christians make up less than 3 percent of the
population in Pakistan, where preaching religions other than Islam is
illegal and punishable by death, according to a 2007 State Department
report on international religious freedom. So far no one has been put
to death under the blasphemy laws, the report says, but religious
minorities do suffer abuse from the police. The police do not think the
attack on the Khans was religiously motivated, however.

“It
was unnerving to be with them for any amount of time, because they
would begin to speak of their imminent death,” the Rev. Alan Dunn
told the crowd of nearly 1,000 mourners who filled Trinity Baptist
Church in Montville on Sept. 15.

Addressing the overflow
audience, some in suits and ties and others in tunics, some from
neighboring states and one man who traveled from China, Mr. Dunn said:
“Pakistan is a place of dense spiritual darkness. The Khans
understood the reality of such opposition in their daily
experience.”

Mr. Khan’s seven brothers and sisters, all born to a pastor in Pakistan and now living in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, consider themselves devout Christians. But they said their brother’s devotion far surpassed their own.

Days
after the funeral, one of Mr. Khan’s brothers, Rizwan Khan, said
in an interview, “We were always worried about them and sometimes
told them about our concerns.” He added: “But Arif was very
confident that he was safe there because that was his calling. He said,
‘This is my country and I am going to stay here.’ ”

The circumstances of the missionaries’ deaths are still murky.

According to the Islamabad police and news accounts in Pakistan, this much is known:

On
the morning of Aug. 29, Fauzia Haveed, and her husband, Honey —
both members of Grace Baptist Church in Rawalpindi, which Mr. Khan
founded seven years ago —went to the Khans’ home,
accompanied by another man. They told police that they were seeking to
retrieve a videotape alleged to show Mr. Khan sexually assaulting Mrs.
Haveed.

The Khans’ security guard told police that he
allowed the three to enter the home, in a wealthy section of Islamabad,
and soon there was shouting followed by gunshots. When the guard
entered the house, he said, the couple were lying on the floor dead,
both shot in the head.

Neighbors apprehended the Haveeds, whom
the police are holding but who have not been charged. The other man, a
Muslim identified as Said Alam, who the police said fired the fatal
shots, escaped.

The police in Islamabad say Mrs. Haveed claimed
that three months earlier, Mr. Khan sedated and sexually assaulted her,
although she never reported an attack.

The Haveeds said they visited the Khans in an effort to retrieve the videotape, but neither they nor the police found one.

Both the Khan family and church members who knew the Khans dismissed
the assault accusations. “If there was something with a man or a
woman, why would they kill Kathy, too? Why would someone design such a
brutal killing?” Rizwan Khan said.

The Khans’
church, Grace Baptist, had about 40 members. The couple also operated a
radio ministry and translated Scripture into Urdu.

They had
spent much of their careers in Iran and the United Arab Emirates, but
before moving to Pakistan, they lived in Pequannock.

A State
Department official and Elizabeth O. Colton, the spokeswoman for the
United States Embassy in Pakistan, said the embassy was working with
the family and the Pakistani police to solve the case. Ms. Colton said
privacy laws prevented her from commenting further.

Intent as
they are on seeing the mystery solved, friends and relatives of the
Khans consoled themselves with the belief that the missionary life is a
struggle. But even though their worst fears have been realized, the
family is stunned by what happened.

“We cannot explain
what we are going through,” said another of Mr. Khan’s
brothers, Irfan Khan. “Everyone loves their brother no matter
what kind of life he had, but Arif was a man of principle, a true
Christian. He never compromised anything.”

Salman Masood contributed reporting from Pakistan.

Powered by ScribeFire.