Who, you ask? Were it not for the valiant agency Morning Star News, which specializes in documenting the persecution of Christians around the world, even fewer news consumers would know the name of this angelic-looking, 71-year-old Swedish lady who was gunned down in the Pakistani city of Lahore:
Shot by two armed men outside her house in Lahore's upscale Model Town as she returned from her Full Gospel Assemblies (FGA) office in the Kot Lakhpat area, Almby died at about 10 p.m. Pakistan Standard Time at Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, FGA Bible School Principal Liaqat Qaiser told Morning Star News.
Almby, director at the FGA Technical Training Institute and also a teacher at the FGA Bible School, was shot in the chest, and the bullet damaged her left lung. Initially she was taken to Lahore's Jinnah Hospital, where doctors removed the bullet and said her condition was critical because of excessive bleeding.
She had served the Pakistani Christian community for 38 years.
"Almby will be missed dearly," Qaiser said. "She spent a long time serving the poor and downtrodden Christians in Pakistan, and every Christian is very sad at her demise. But she is in a much better place now."
Who would commit such a monstrous act? According to the local police superintendent, Ijaz Shafi Dogar, the lack of witnesses means that it's hard to figure out the motive behind Almby's murder. But Qaiser, Almeby's colleague, is in no doubt that the responsibility lies with Islamist terrorists. "Who else would want to murder someone as apolitical and harmless as Almby, who had dedicated her life to serving humanity?" he asked. Superintendent Dogar, meanwhile, is making every effort to dampen speculation over the Punjabi Taliban's involvement in the murder, on the grounds that "there was no word from them regarding the attack on the Swede."
There is much that can be said about the significance of Almby's murder. To begin with, it is a particularly horrific example of the violence meted out towards Christians in the Islamic world, whether natives or foreigners, from Egypt to Indonesia. Additionally, Superintendent Dogar's statements are yet more confirmation that, whether through fear or collusion or a combination of the two, every Pakistani security agency appears to crumble at the mere mention of the Taliban. As The Washington Post reported this week, a new report on Afghanistan issued by The Pentagon "included stark language on Pakistan," noting the country's "passive acceptance of insurgent sanctuaries [and] selectivity in counterinsurgency operations that target only Pakistan militants."
Yet what stands out most of all is the media silence around the killing of Birgitta Almby. Outside of Swedish press outlets like Aftonbladet, which published a heart-rending photograph of Almby with one of her young charges, no media organization of any significance has yet picked up the story.
There is no need, here, for a detailed reprisal of the arguments as to why the slightest offense against the Quran garners world headlines. Nor is it necessary to ask why those Western commentators who hang on every syllable of Muslim anger continue to ignore the plight of Christians in the same part of the world. However, as someone who follows this issue closely, I have to ask whether atrocities like the Almby murder are no longer considered newsworthy.