pastor of the largest Pentecostal church in Russia’s predominantly Muslim
region of Dagestan died Friday after being shot in the head outside his church.
Suleimanov, 49, himself a convert from Islam, was shot late Thursday by a
gunman as the pastor got into a car outside Hosanna House of Prayer in the
capital, Makhachkala, according to the religious liberty ministry Barnabas Fund.
The group said
Suleimanov died from his wounds in the hospital around an hour later. No one
else was injured in the attack. Police have not arrested a suspect in the shooting.
Many see the
attack as an attempt to intimidate converts from Islam. “Pastor Suleimanov was a wonderful Christian brother
and his shocking death is a devastating loss for the Dagestan church,” said a
Barnabas Fund leader who worked closely with the church. “He and the Hosanna
House of Prayer church were very active in ministry and outreach in particular.
We see his murder as an attempt to put further pressure on Christian converts
Dagestan, which is more than 90 percent
Muslim, is plagued by insurgent violence often inspired by Muslim separatists
in neighboring Chechenya, BosNewsLife reported. Christians there face regular
harassment, and Suleimanov was no exception.
Earlier this year, Dagestan authorities
abruptly cancelled a five-year agreement with Hosanna House of Prayer that allowed the
church to visit prisoners, Forum 18 reported last month. Three other
Pentecostal pastors told the persecution watchdog that public attitudes were
infringing on their religious freedom, even preventing some members from
attending worship services.
Suleimanov is survived by his wife, Zina, and
five children, the youngest of whom is 12 years old. Barnabas Fund asked supporters to pray for their
safety, that those behind the attack would be apprehended and that Christians
in the region would not be intimidated by the violence.