) - As the month of June comes to a close, International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned of two incidents of persecution affecting the Christian community of Hyderabad, Pakistan.
Christian Boy Murdered for Refusing Islam
In one of these incidents, Wajaesh Shono, a 15-year-old Christian student, was reportedly killed by three Muslim men on June 14. The murder occurred in Tando Muhammad Khan, a district approximately 70 km north of Hyderabad.
Wilfred Mohan, a Franciscan friar and the uncle of Shono explained that his nephew's school teacher, Ali Haider Chandio, and two other men from Haider's tribe, Dost Ali Chandio and Somro Chandio, were the individuals responsible for the murder. According to Mohan, the three assailants called to Shono as he worked in the field with his father. Mohan stated, "When Shono joined the group, two of the men held Shono tightly while the third person stabbed him fifteen times." Shono, Mohan reported, died immediately from his wounds.
Shono's murder was the culmination of systematic religious pressure being directed towards him. ICC sources in Hyderabad reported, "Because of Shono's success in school, a local group of Muslims often pressured Shono to convert to Islam." Since Shono stayed committed to his faith, his classmates ostracized him.
Ranjha Masih, a local human rights defender, stated, "Shono's Muslim classmates never allowed him to use their study table or chairs. They always avoided playing with him because of his Christianity, and hated when he drank water from the school tap."
The police have reportedly registered a first information report (FIR) under sections 302 and 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code and have arrested the three Muslim individuals responsible for Shono's murder.
Mohan, who has been working to see that justice is done in his nephew's case, told ICC that he has received indirect threats, pressuring him to withdraw the charges and to agree to a reconciliation. However, Mohan stated that he wants justice to prevail.
Meanwhile, Shono's family continues to grieve over the loss of their son. Mohan, reminisced about his nephew's faithfulness, stating, "Wajaesh Shono was a true Christian, a consistent worshiper, and a committed follower of Jesus Christ."
Christian Teenagers Accused of Blasphemy by Muslim Cousin
Four days before Shono's murder, three Christian teenagers, Kamran Salamat, Raju Saleem, and Saud Masih, were accused of blasphemy and beaten by a mob of Muslim men. ICC sources explained that Salamat's cousin, Muhammad Sonu, converted to Islam approximately two years ago.
Sonu tried to persuade his cousins to convert to Islam as well, but when they refused, their discussion quickly turned into a dispute. Sonu threatened Salamat and the others, saying that he was going to "give them a good lesson." On June 10, Sonu went to the nearest mosque and claimed that Salamat and his friends had made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad.
Without waiting to verify Sonu's report, more than a dozen men from a nearby Islamic seminary came and attacked Masih's house. The men beat the three teenagers and knocked over household items. As the men carried out the attack, they chanted abusive slogans at the Christians. After the attack, the men went to the police to register a complaint against the three boys.
Since the attack, the teenagers have been forced into hiding. Some Christians in the community have filed an FIR regarding the incident. According to local sources, Muslims have recently been observed lingering around Christians' houses.
These attacks in Hyderabad have left the Christian community there feeling afraid and uncertain about their future. They now worry that these attacks may be the beginning of a more aggressive campaign against Christians in the area and that, at any moment, a larger anti-Christian riot could ignite.