Nasir Masih, 15, perished June 10 in the southeastern Village 48 NB, on the outskirts of the city of Sargodha, after the landowner kept the severely sick teenager at his farmhouse to work and concealed his illness for 41 days, his family told BosNewsLife.
The Muslim landlord, identified as Nawaz Wirk, had no comment. The case has underscored concerns over Christian teenagers and younger children being held in slave-like conditions in this predominantly Muslim country. Struggling family members in rural areas often send children to landowners as they have no financial means to provide for their children.
Close relatives of Masih said he apparently was infected with rabies, a devastating illness impacting the nervous system, in early May. Rabies is almost always fatal in non-vaccinated humans after the symptoms have developed, although experts say prompt treatment may prevent the virus from progressing, increasing survival chances.
However Nasih Masih’s parents, who were not identified amid fears of repercussions, said the landowner took action only on the “38th day after the stray dog’s bite, when Nasir Masih suddenly fainted from pain and extreme shivering." Only when his condition "got lethally dangerous, the Muslim landlord called [us] and asked [us] to take him home," his mother told BosNewsLife.
After treatment closer to home failed, he was rushed to a hospital in Lahore where the boy eventually told doctors he was biten by a stray dog, saying he had been warned by Muslim “feudal lord” not to reveal this fact or "face dire consequences." Although he received intensive care treatment and an injection, it was too late to safe his life as "the virus had already reached and damaged the brain," his parents said.
Soon after, the landlord allegedly warned the parents not to inform police saying he would otherwise file a case of "blasphemy against Islam" against the Christian. Rights and church groups say blasphemy laws, which carry prison sentences and even the death sentence, have often been misused to settle disputes.
Several Christian leaders and politicians have meanwhile condemned the case. The leader of non-governmental rights and advocacy organization Rays of Development Organization (ROD), Ferhan Mazher told BosNewsLife that the case underscored that "authorities must to build a society free of interfaith violence and discrimination."
Christian youth leader Farrukh Tanvir Chaudhary said he and other groups were pressuting local police to take action against the case landowner and urged authorities to "play a decisive role in the abolition of the hostile attitude against the religious minorities of Pakistan."
Nasir Masih was not the only Christian worker facing discrimination and oppression at work, rights groups said. This month some 700 Christian sanitary workers protesting in Sargodha, demanded payment after authorities apparently refused to pay their monthly wages of roughly $58. In a suprise move, the demands were met after the protests, however concerns remain over their future.
An ROD report, obtained by BosNewsLife, showed that Christians are often "hated and discriminated due to their profession as sanitary worker" and many Muslims consider Christians "untouchable and refrain from eating or drinking with them.."(Jawad Mazhar is a Christian journalist covering and investigating persecution from the most difficulties areas of Pakistan. As everyone at BosNewsLife, he currently raises his own financial support to make his ministry possible. Will you help him? Please prayerful consider any donation to: ‘Rays of Development Organization’ , Account # 13727900012403, Habib Bank Limited, College Road, Kalyar Town, Sargodha, Pakistan. You can also become a regular prayer/support partner. For more information visit: RaysOfDevelopmentOrganization.BlogSpot.Com or write to Office.ROD@Gmail.Com or call: +92-345-8622504. BosNewsLife: Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals.)