In an incident that shows the ongoing religious persecution faced by Christians in Pakistan, Ahsan Masih, a disabled farm worker, was abducted by Muslim landlords and subjected to extreme violence before tragically losing his life.
The incident, which unfolded in the Faisalabad region, has ignited outrage and calls for justice.
Ahsan Masih, a devout Christian, found himself thrust into a nightmare when he agreed to become a guarantor for his friend Shahbaz’s loan of Rs. 400,000 (£1034) from a local Muslim landlord. In a show of solidarity, Shahbaz had initially agreed to work on the landowner’s farm until the debt was repaid.
Ahsan Masih, a devoted friend, joined Shahbaz in his labor on the farm, fully intending to assist in the endeavor. However, the situation took a grim turn when Shahbaz fell seriously ill, leaving Ahsan responsible for the debt.
The horrific incident occurred on the fateful day of August 30th, when Ahsan was forcibly abducted from another local farm where he was working, accompanied by his brother Nadeem Masih. The abductors, armed and menacing, wasted no time in brandishing their firearms and issuing threats to ensure Ahsan’s silence. They ruthlessly seized him, forcibly dragging him into a waiting car, and sped away, leaving his family in shock and despair.
In a chilling revelation, landowner Muhammad Aslam later informed Nadeem Masih that Ahsan was in his custody, a hostage to secure the repayment of Shahbaz’s debt. This appalling act left the Masih family in a state of unimaginable distress, with their loved one’s life hanging in the balance.
The anguish and terror of Ahsan Masih’s ordeal reached its devastating conclusion when his lifeless body was discovered on Muhammad Aslam’s farm by Salarwala police on September 1st. The sight of his lifeless form bore witness to the unspeakable horrors he had endured during his captivity.
In the wake of this horrifying incident, Nadeem Masih courageously filed a First Information Report (FIR) against the suspected assailants, who are currently in police custody, facing charges of murder and kidnapping in connection with Ahsan’s tragic death.
Juliet Chowdhry, a trustee for the British Asian Christian Association, expressed profound sorrow and anger over Ahsan’s untimely demise. She emphasized that this tragic incident serves as a stark reminder of the harsh realities Christians face in Pakistan, where laws may exist on paper but their efficacy hinges on robust enforcement and the broader social and economic context. Chowdhry stated, “Such incidents not only shock the conscience but also serve as a reminder of the urgent need for authorities to take decisive action in order to ensure justice and restore the nation’s dignity.”
Pakistan’s Christian minority has long faced severe persecution for their faith, with the country ranking number 7 on the Open Doors’ list of nations where Christians endure the most extreme forms of persecution. This distressing situation is exacerbated by misused blasphemy laws, acts of violence, kidnappings, forced marriages, and coerced conversions to Islam.
In response to this escalating persecution, various advocacy groups, including the British Asian Christian Association, are joining forces to stage a protest in London on September 9th. The demonstration aims to raise awareness of the increasing threats and violence faced by Christians in Pakistan and to demand justice for Ahsan Masih and countless others who have suffered a similar fate.
Additionally, a petition has been launched, urging the Pakistan government to address the pervasive violence and persecution against Christians in the country. The petition seeks to mobilize international support and bring pressure to bear on the authorities to take concrete measures to protect religious minorities and uphold the principles of justice and equality.