Sheron Masih was 17 years old and had just begun attending public school. Classmates beat him to death with sticks because he tried to drink water. His murder, "just the tip of the iceberg; below, a great mountain of hatred and discrimination against minorities. "
Lahore (AsiaNews) - Christian and Muslim activists condemn the brutal murder of Sheron Masih, a 17-year-old Christian student, beaten to death by his classmates out of religious racism. The murder has provoked a wave of anger and is a symptom of the climate of religious intolerance towards Pakistan's minorities. Naseem Kousar, a Muslim teacher, told AsiaNews: "Ethnic and religious discrimination is poison that kills humanity."
Sheron was beaten to death on August 30 last year. Originally from Chak 461 village, Pakistani Punjab, he had been admitted to the public school of Burewala just a few days earlier. Razia Bibi, his mother, reports that her son was immediately targeted by Muslim classmates who had imposed a ban on drinking from the same water dispenser as them. But Sheron disobeyed, and for this reason was beaten to death. The teachers defended themselves claiming they were not aware of what was happening among the students. According to some testimonies, the young man refused to convert to Islam.
Provincial authorities have opened an investigation and the teacher Nazir Mohal has been denounced for negligence. Kamran Michael, a federal minister of Christian faith, visited the family and offered economic support. According to Kousar, "a society will never reach a good level of civilization and humanity until it has developed a sense of respect and equity for all religious groups. The same goes for the state. A state cannot claim to be just and democratic unless it demolishes elements that discriminate and does not guarantee the security of all groups. "
Ata-ur-Rehman Saman, coordinator of the National Justice and Peace Commission (Ncjp), reports that "since 2006 we are have been speaking out against hate material against the minorities present in textbooks. But the government closes its eyes in front of the problem. Now the seeds of hatred are ripe and ready to be harvested. Southern Punjab is known for [spreading] intolerance and extremism. Minority students are discriminated against, isolated and derided for their religion. "
For the poet and writer Basharat Gill, "it's not just an accident. It indicates the level of hatred, prejudice and discrimination in educational institutions. What should we expect from society if the chief minister says he does not want to pronounce the names of other religions, where minorities are humiliated in job announcements and school books are full of insults against those who do not profess Islam? " The murder of the young Christian he concludes, "It's just the tip of the iceberg; below there is a great mountain. This incident spreads fear and terror in all non-Muslim students. "
Sharoon Masih was murdered by his classmates on the third day of school. For the National Commission for Justice and Peace, the boy’s murder is the fault of school authorities. His death was not the result of “a fight among teenagers, but in fact it was caused by intolerance, discrimination and inhuman attitude”.
AsiaNews heard the history of Victoria’s family, forced to abandon their hometowns because they are Christian. They moved to Lahore, but here too, Christians endure attitudes of intolerance and hatred against minorities, a far cry from what is said in political proclamations.
Asif Masih, 16, is in jail and his life is in danger. He came close to being lynched, and was saved only by police. An imam has accused him of burning the Qurʾān. The boy is “slightly mentally retarded," a Christian activist said. “He deserves the benefit of doubt.”