Starting a new school is daunting enough, but when other students single you out because of your faith, it can be impossible. For one Pakistani Christian, the abuse he received quickly turned to violence, and shockingly, on just the second day of his time at his new school other students viciously attacked him. He didn’t survive.
Seventeen year-old Sharoon Masih was killed on 30th August at MC Model High School in Vehari, Punjab. It is alleged that classmate Raza Ahmed attacked and killed him in his classroom.
Pakistani media reports say the behaviour (and possible negligence) of school staff contributed to Masih’s death. His mother said Ahmed had stopped her son from drinking water two days before his murder.
Pakistani Christians are often treated with contempt, because many come from a downtrodden “untouchable caste” with whom some Muslims refuse to drink and eat.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Javed Tahir Majeed, said “Sharoon’s classmate, Sabir Ali, told us that Sharoon was sitting at the back of the classroom. When he got up to walk through the benches, Raza sprawled his legs out to block his way, telling him he could not go out. When Sharoon tried to get past Raza’s legs, Raza started to beat him up. Sabir tried to intervene but Raza beat him up as well.
“Raza denied to us that he physically touched Sharoon but the entire class testified that he kept beating Sharoon even when he fell on the ground, and kept kicking him till he was unconscious. Raza is tall and well built. He has a reputation for fighting even outside the school.”
Sub-Inspector Muhammad Kashif told World Watch Monitor that it was during ‘Islamic studies’ that class teacher Nazeer Ahmed had gone out of the class. “The teacher has informed us that he had taught four periods consecutively, so he was exhausted and went to the washroom,” he said.
District Police Officer Umar Saeed Malik said: “Ahmed alleges that on his first day, Sharoon had broken the screen of a mobile telephone that Ahmed had brought to school. However, our investigation proves the screen was already broken; probably Raza was pressuring Sharoon to extract money by bullying him”.
Sharoon Masih’s father, Ilyasab said that “Sharoon told his mother that students hated him because of his religion and he was not comfortable to go to school”. Ilyasab told Sharoon he would go to school with him the next day and talk to his teachers about the situation – but Ilyasab didn’t have the chance to meet any of them that morning. Later that day, Sharron was killed.
Worryingly initial autopsy reports are saying there were no signs of marks or injury to Sharron’s body. The justice system is painfully slow in Pakistan and is too expensive for the poor, especially Christians who often neither have money nor connections within the state machinery. Ilyasab Masih hopes to get justice. “I have complete faith in Jesus that we will get it,” he said.
Masih’s killing has heightened fear among Pakistani Christians.
Sub-inspector Kashif said there are at least 24 Christian students in the school; Deputy Superintendent Majeed said school staff told his team there are 47. One staff member is also a Christian.
The Vehari District is not so far known for religious extremism, but this is the latest in a recent series of incidents in Pakistan.
Source: World Watch Monitor
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