“They were sweethearts,” the Rev. Albert Martin said. “He led her, and she followed him willingly and cheerfully. That is all biblical, you see.”
Martin was remembering Arif and Kathleen Khan, a missionary couple whom Martin’s church, the Trinity Baptist Church of Montville, N.J., had sent to Pakistan eight years ago. There, this August, the couple were shot to death in their home by three suspected killers: a young woman who later claimed that Arif had laced her tea with a sedative and sexually assaulted her; the woman’s husband, a lapsed member of the tiny church Arif had founded just outside the country’s capital, Islamabad; and a gunman from Waziristan, a frontier region that serves as a sanctuary for the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Kathleen, the daughter of scarcely observant Christians, grew up enthralled by the stories of missionaries that filled the New Jersey church where her parents sent her for Sunday school. And Arif, born and raised in Pakistan, the son of a preacher in the country’s small Christian community, felt called to carry his faith into nations hostile to the message he brought. They met at a seminary in Massachusetts and married, and soon Arif, who had become an American citizen, led her and their two young children to live in Iran; the family quickly found themselves fleeing Ayatollah Khomeini’s fundamentalist revolution. Next the Khans made their home in another Islamic country, which Martin would not specify for fear of endangering the missionary that Trinity Church now sponsors there. Arif was banished. In 1999, with their children grown, he and Kathleen settled in Islamabad, their home until their murder. Arif knew the risks of proselytizing. He had, shortly before his marriage, been jailed for weeks in Pakistan for preaching Christ’s power in the streets with his father. “He was a marked man,” Martin said. “He talked of dying for Christ as though it was having a mole removed.”
Their love not only meant forging Christian commitment in those whose faith was, at least in Arif and Kathleen’s terms, feeble; it also meant guiding Muslims toward Jesus. Kathleen did her guiding by giving out sweaters and hats hand-knit by members of American churches. And Arif ran a radio program that reached across parts of Pakistan and as far as East Africa, “to let the Bible speak its message through his lips,” Martin said. Trying to persuade Muslims to call Jesus their savior was, the men in the study explained, to incur the darkest forces in the Islamic society that surrounded the missionaries.
There is no telling, certainly not yet, why Arif and Kathleen were killed. Right after the murder, the young woman, Fauzia Haveed, and her husband, Honey, were arrested and now await trial. The gunman escaped, apparently fleeing back to Waziristan, where the government has little control. Fauzia told police that Arif had not only drugged and assaulted her but that he had videotaped the attack; she and Honey maintained that they and the gunman went to the Khans’ home to claim the tape – a tape that, according to reports in the Pakistani press and in this paper, the police have not found.