Confusion surrounds cover-up in Pakistan persecution story

By April 24, 2015
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"Fodor" suffered burns on 55% of his body.  (Photo courtesy of Forgotten Missionaries International)

“Fodor” suffered burns on 55% of his body.
(Photo courtesy of Forgotten Missionaries International)

Pakistan (MNN) — On April 14, MNN released a story about persecution of Christians in Pakistan, in which two boys from Lahore were lit on fire, allegedly for their faith.

Immediately, conflicting reports surfaced, and as time passed, the confusion only got worse. World Watch Monitor covered the story on April 17 with additional details of a family dispute, allegations of a cover-up, and more.

The backstory: 14-year-old Nauman Masih, a Christian boy, was first reported to have been doused with gasoline and set on fire because of his faith. Family members filed a police report, according to the World Watch Monitor account, and authorities promised quick action. However, he died on April 14th in Lahore, Pakistan. Conflicting reports then emerged.

Bruce Allen with Forgotten Missionaries International has been working with the FMI national director on the ground in Pakistan to get to the bottom of the issue. “There seems to have been a bit of a cover-up of who really was behind this attack: was it random, or was it perpetrated by someone else?”

(Photo courtesy World Watch Monitor)

(Photo courtesy World Watch Monitor)

The Express Tribune reported that the investigating officer said the statement was actually filed by Masih’s paternal grandfather, who accused an uncle and his wife of “ordering the attack” due to a land ownership question. Then, authorities attacked the veracity of the persecution aspect, despite Nauman’s deathbed statement, Allen says.

He goes on to provide some new information, as shared by their Pakistani contact. “Some people are saying that it was relatives who were trying to land grab. I checked with our contacts in Pakistan, and our national director said, ‘This is a 14-year old boy. He can’t OWN land.'” He also questions the sudden care taken by officials when Masih was first brought to the hospital. If that were true, he would have been moved to a better hospital equipped to care for the severity of Masih’s burns. Then, there’s this other issue: “We also found out that a lot of the employees of this hospital were on strike at the time. So, putting together a special medical team, it could be that, in reality, all they were doing was to find people to care for this boy because of the strike.”

(Photo courtesy World Watch Monitor)

(Photo courtesy World Watch Monitor)

No one seems to be questioning the attack itself, just the reasons behind it. The situation remains fluid, and new information is coming in. However, Allen stands by the integrity of the story they first shared. Nauman Masih was attacked for his faith and died as a result of his injuries.

Christians, as the minority population, are concerned about the lack of protection, security, and justice afforded them. Tensions since the Peshawar school attack have been on a knife’s edge. Allen says, “The majority population is in charge of anything that is going to deal with legal issues, civil issues, and Christians are feeling very disenfranchised right now. They don’t know who to trust. They’re really looking for ‘who will help us in these situations?'”

Over recent months, Allen and others working with the Pakistani Church have shared their concerns over the rise in targeted violence. They’re either greeted with a blank stare or the question, “What can I do about it?”

On the first, Allen reminds us, “The apostle John says, ‘If you see your brother in need, but you don’t help, how can you say the love of God dwells in you?’ You say you love a God who is invisible, but then you don’t take care of the brothers and sisters who are visible to you; that doesn’t make sense. It would call into question the validity of that type of Christianity.” (1 John 3:17-18 and 4:11-12)

On the second, Allen says, “We do have a responsibility to them to pray for them, to provide them with the resources so that they know God’s Word better for assurance during these difficult times, as well as so that they know what God’s instructions are when you are oppressed by an enemy.”

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