The 15-year-old Pakistani Christian boy who was beaten and set on fire by two Muslim men last Friday after answering truthfully if he was a Christian, died Wednesday morning due to burns inflicted during the attack.
According to prominent Pakistani human rights attorney Sardar Mushtaq Gill, the young boy, Nouman Masih, was walking on his way to a cloth stitching job when he was approached by two Muslim men.
After answering when asked by the men whether he was a Muslim or Christian, the men beat him, chased him down, doused him in kerosene and set him on fire when he told them that he was a Christian. Doctors ruled that Masih's body was 55 percent burned.
Although doctors thought Masih might be able to survive his burns, Gill told The Christian Post on Wednesday that the hospital did not have the burn treatment facilities needed to treat the severity of Masih's wounds.
Masih died around 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
"When he was on his way, two unknown men stopped him and inquired: 'What is your religion? Are you Christian or Muslim?' When he said 'I am Christian,' they beat him and he tried to save himself. Unfortunately, they chased him and then catch him and get kerosene all on him and set on fire," Gill explained. "This is the incident and these are all the facts. He, himself, told this to senior police officer and a number of people recorded his statement and I also heard the same words from his mouth."
The British Pakistani Christian Association has coordinated with Masih's family to set up a donation fund to help cover the family's funeral costs. BPCA Chairman, Wilson Chowdhry, told CP that Nouman issued a "Christian forgiveness" to the men who perpetrated his attack before he died.
"He just said that he forgave them. That's more like a Christian forgiveness, but he didn't want his attackers to prevail and enact their crimes on anybody else. He was just being very magnanimous in a Christian way saying, 'I have forgiven them but I want them to go through the justice system,'" Chowdhry said.
"You can imagine what it was like for him to have kerosene poured on him and being set alight," Chowdhry continued. "He was very vocal in the fact that he didn't want that to happen to anyone else, especially at the moment when Christians are under some very extreme tension."
Because Masih's attackers were able to flee the scene unidentified, the actual perpetrators of the attack are unknown.
Gill decried Pakistani media reports that suggest that Masih's attackers included his own uncle. Gill said Pakistani media is prejudiced against Christians and often tries to falsely "twist" Christian persecution stories.
"They say that there is a dispute with his uncle from maternal side family because Nouman's father died two or three years before and his mother got married with someone other. But now, Pakistani media is saying that it might be his uncle set him on fire, which is totally false and wrong," Gill asserted. "Why would his uncle, who is his guardian, who look after his two children do something [this horrible]?"
Gill, whose own brother was recently shot after refusing to agree on a court settlement in another case that he's is working on regarding two gang-raped Christian teens, said that such violence toward Christians in Pakistan is meant to intimidate, especially after tensions between the Muslim and Christian communities in Lahore have sharply risen 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."
The Christian Post reported Tuesday that at least 111 Christian men and boys have been arrested following the lynching of two Muslim men, who are thought to have been involved in the Lahor church bombings.
Chowdhry said, however, that the total number of Christians arrested since the lynchings is more like 500.
"They are in secret locations. As far as I am aware, they have not been given legal aid or access to their families. And there are concerns that they are being tortured," Chowdhry explained. "Some of them are actually being quite badly treated, as they are being beaten as they are being put into the police vans. Some of them are being tortured even before they are put into cells."
Chowdhry added that police are only releasing prisoners whose families have paid a jizya (bribe) for them to be released.
"Legally prescribed officers of the law are challenging Christians to pay bribes, which they are terming jizya tax because of the killing of two Muslim men," Chowdhry added.