A dynamic Christian pastor has died after being shot in the head as he was leaving church, in what is being seen as a bid to intimidate converts from Islam in the strongly Islamic republic of Dagestan.
Artur Suleimanov (49), himself a convert from Islam, was murdered by a gunman who approached and opened fire as the pastor got into a car outside Hosanna House of Prayer in the capital, Makhachkala, on Thursday 15 July. He died from his wounds in hospital around an hour later. Nobody else was injured in the attack. Pastor Suleimanov leaves behind a wife, Zina, and five children, the youngest of whom is twelve years old.
Mr Suleimanov’s church is one of the largest Protestant churches in Dagestan. In a context where Christians face regular harassment and intimidation, his life had been threatened on several previous occasions.
Barnabas Aid has supported Christians in Dagestan, and our co-ordinator for the Former Soviet Union met Pastor Suleimanov a number of times. He said, “Pastor Suleimanov was a wonderful Christian brother and his shocking death is a devastating loss for the Dagestan 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 in Dagestan.”
The Russian Republic of Dagestan borders Chechnya in the turbulent North Caucasus. The population is 98 per cent Muslim, and the Church faces harassment and intimidation from various groups.