The 15-year-old Pakistani Christian boy who was beaten, doused with kerosene and set on fire by two Muslim men last week died early Wednesday morning from burns covering 55% of his body. Before dying, the boy said that he forgave his assailants.
Last Friday, two young Muslims stopped the 15-year-old, Nouman Masih, as he was walking to a cloth-stitching job and asked him what religion he belonged to. When he answered he was Christian, they beat him up, threw kerosene on him, and set him ablaze.
The boy was treated at Meo Hospital in Lahore in Punjab province. Doctors initially thought that Masih might be able to survive his burns, but the hospital lacked the burn treatment facilities needed to treat the severity of Masih’s wounds.
“I told them that I am Christian. They started beating me, when I tried running, both boys started following me through the street and then they threw kerosene on me and burnt me,” Masih said.
The British Pakistani Christian Association has set up a donation fund to help cover the family’s funeral expenses. The association’s chairman, Wilson Chowdhry, said that before dying Masih extended “Christian forgiveness” to the men who attacked him.
“Nouman was brave throughout his pain and spoke of forgiveness for his attackers. He dies a martyr and will no doubt be with the Lord today,” Chowdhry said.
Masih’s attackers are still at large and have not been identified.
Friday’s incident followed on the heels of another burning three weeks ago, when seventeen-year-old Christian Sunny Masih was seized by a Muslim mob, beaten and thrown into a flaming kiln. The young man somehow survived the March 20 attack, though he suffered severe burns.
According to prominent Pakistani human rights attorney Sardar Mushtaq Gill, Muslim violence toward Christians in Pakistan is meant to intimidate, particularly since tensions between the Muslim and Christian communities in Lahore have become acute following the church bombings and Youhanabad lynchings.
“This kind of thing is happening because they want to make us terrified,” Gill said. “Especially after this incident at Youhanabad, there has been a crackdown on Christian activists particularly. After this incident, there are a number of men arrested and now there is a common fear among the activists too.”
A Pakistani branch of the Taliban bombed two Christian churches in Lahore on March 15 during Sunday morning services, resulting in the death of 17 people and with another 80 wounded.
After the attacks, thousands of Christians erupted in revolt on the streets of Lahore, demanding more protection from the government, which by many accounts had been minimal.
Afterward, police took two suspected terrorists into custody, but they were intercepted by a mob of protesters, who seized the prisoners, beat them to death, and burned them.
Days after the lynching incident Lahore Police raided every house of Youhanabad and rounded up more than 400 Christian youth, breaking down doors of Christian homes or climbing over boundary walls in the middle of the night.
Christians make up roughly 2 percent of Pakistan’s more than 182 million people and have been the targets of increasingly intense inter-religious violence in recent years.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome