Outrage and condemnation are running high in Pakistan’s Christian communities following the brutal murder of a 22-year old young Christian in Kasur district, in Punjab Province.
Saleem Masih was attacked whilst taking a bath in a tube-well pool belonging to an influential local Muslim landlord. Accusing him of polluting the pool water, his killers tortured him brutally causing multiple fractures and internal and external injuries all over his body.
The murderers kept him for about three days before returning the body to his family. Taken to a hospital in Lahore Saleem succumbed to death on 28 February after three agonising days.
Several Christian and Muslim religious leaders met in Lahore on Wednesday to address the issue and plan their action, the Vatican’s Fides news agency reported.
At the meeting, chaired by Anglican Bishop Azad Marshal Raiwind of the Church of Pakistan, were present, among others, Father Francis Nadeem OFM Cap, Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism (NCIDE) of Pakistan’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference (PCBC), Pastor Emmanuel Khokhar and Islamic leader Muhammad Asim Makhdoom.
All present “expressed deep regret” over the episode, a sign of widespread intolerance towards Christians, and also over the inaction of the police to prevent the crime and releasing the perpetrators soon after.
“It is the state’s responsibility to provide security to all citizens of the country without any kind of discrimination. All citizens, of all religions, are equal, contribute to the development of their beloved nation and deserve equal rights,” Fr Nadeem told Fides. “We are a nation and live under a single Constitution and a single flag. The state must enforce these fundamental principles,” he added.
Bishop Azad Marshal declared he will file a “First Information Report against the criminals and will not step back until the perpetrators receive the appropriate punishment”.
The assembly of religious leaders expressed While expressing pain and bitterness at the persecution of Christians in Pakistan, the assembly of religious leaders also recalled the sufferings of Muslims in India, inviting both countries to avoid discriminatory laws and behaviour and respect the “principle of citizenship”.
The assembly decided to appeal to human rights organizations of the world “to take immediate action to stop violence against Muslims in India and against religious minorities in Pakistan”. It also planned to appeal to the government of Pakistan take practical measures to avoid this type of incident in the future and bring the perpetrators of Saleem Masih’s murder to justice and actively promote interreligious harmony in Pakistan.