Pakistani police burst into a classroom last week, dragged 14-year-old Arsalan Masih out, and beat him to death in what appears to be the latest sectarian lynching targeting Pakistan’s besieged Christian minority.
The murder happened in a village in the Punjab province where 300-400 Christian families live:
— LumenLife (@_lumenlife) October 12, 2017
Two similar attacks targeting Christian children in August illustrate the escalating violence that, at best, seems tacitly endorsed by Pakistani authorities. Morning Star News spoke with the father of Arsalan Masih after last week’s attack, who described how seven police officers murdered his son:
“Arsalan was attending his tuition classes at the Ideal Science Academy when Head Constable Imtiaz, Driver Rashid, Constable Arshad and some other unidentified policemen kicked open the door and dragged him out of the classroom,” Masih said. “Sardar, alias Billu, a police constable, helped them to identify the boy. With this, they all started beating Arsalan with fists, kicks and rifle butts.”
Teacher Farhan Ali tried to stop the assault, but the officers shoved and slapped him and continued beating the boy, Masih said.
“Rashid struck Arsalan’s head with a pistol, and he started bleeding,” he said. “When they bundled him into the police van, Arsalan collapsed and died. Later the police team threw Arsalan’s body on the roadside and fled.”
Numerous bystanders witnessed the assault, but the policemen threatened them if they intervened, he added.
Four months ago Arsalan had fought with a Muslim boy after the classmate tried to bully him into renouncing his Christian faith, said Masih, a member of the Presbyterian Church in Pakistan.
A case has been opened against the police officers involved, but none have been arrested.
This case bears similarities to the murder of another Christian student in Punjab province, 17-year-old Sharoon Masih, in August. According to reports, Sharoon was the only Christian in his school, and he was beaten to death by his classmates for drinking from the same water glass after one of his Muslim classmates.
His teacher claimed he didn’t hear the students beating him to death as he read a newspaper. A new student to his school, Sharoon had previously been harassed by students demanding he convert to Islam.
Earlier in August, another Christian teenager was nearly beaten to death by a mob after being accused of burning a Quran. The victim, 16-year-old Asif Masih, is in jail facing the death penalty after being charged with blasphemy on the accusation from an imam.
Pakistan’s blasphemy statute is regularly used to target religious minorities to settle personal disputes and to harass perceived “infidels.”
Just last month, another Christian man, Nadeem James, was sentenced to death for blasphemy on accusations he shared material ridiculing Mohammad on the WhatsApp messaging service.
In July, an unnamed 16-year-old Christian was arrested in Gujarat for allegedly making “provocative remarks” about Mohammad. Police reportedly had to move him to another jail on fears that locals intended to attack the police station and kill him.
Many in Pakistan were shocked after a 23-year-old journalism student at a university in Marwan, Mashal Khan, was beaten and shot to death in April by fellow students. His roommates accused him of insulting Islam during a religious discussion in their dorm the night before:
There have been a number of high-profile cases of Christians being murdered and prosecuted for blasphemy. Perhaps the most gruesome was the murder of a Christian couple, Sajjad Maseeh and his pregnant wife Shama Bibi, who were set upon by a mob of up to 1,200 people in Punjab province in November 2014. They were thrown into a brick kiln by the crowd and burned alive. They were falsely accused of throwing away pages from a Quran. The attack left their three children orphaned:
— HMK Deutschland (@HMK_Deutschland) November 9, 2016
Last November, a court sentenced five people to death, but acquitted 90 others in their murder.
Also in 2014, another Christian couple from Punjab, Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar, were found guilty of sending blasphemous text messages to a local imam and sentenced to death.
In August 2012, 14-year-old Rimsha Masih was arrested after an imam accused her of burning a Quran. She was released and the case was dropped when authorities discovered that the cleric had fabricated the evidence.
One of the most notorious blasphemy cases was that of Asia Bibi, a mother of five children, who has been in prison since 2010 and sentenced to death. She was accused of making derogatory comments about Mohammad during an argument with a Muslim woman:
— ACLJ (@ACLJ) August 25, 2017
In May of this year the chief justice of Pakistan denied a request for an appeal hearing.
Christians in Pakistan have not only had to contend with random sectarian violence, but also with a series of mass casualty church bombings in recent years.
Last year, an Easter Sunday suicide bombing targeting Christians celebrating the holiday in a Lahore public park killed 75 and injured 340. A group affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban claimed credit for the attack, while Christian leaders worldwide condemned the massacre.
Christians in Lahore were also targeted with suicide bombings at two churches during Sunday services in March 2015. The attacks killed 17 worshipers and injured more than 70 more. Protests by Christians continued for several days. Again, a group affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban took credit for the bombings.
The deadliest attack on Christians in Pakistan occurred in September 2013, when the All Saints Church in Peshawar was targeted by two suicide bombers: 127 were killed and 250 were injured.
In claiming responsibility for the Peshawar church bombing, the group’s spokesman, Ahmed Marwat, said:
They are the enemies of Islam, therefore we target them. We will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land.
Like most Christian communities in the Muslim world, Pakistan’s Christians are targeted with church bombings, lynchings, and blasphemy prosecutions. As been reported here at PJ Media, Christian girls in Pakistan are also targeted for forced conversions to Islam, as is true in other Muslim-majority countries.
Many of these ancient Christian communities in the Muslim world predate Islam itself, and have continued to exist under successive waves of persecution and sectarian genocide over the centuries.
Sadly, at the current rate, some of these Christian communities that have endured for centuries will simply cease to exist in our lifetimes.