A mob of angry Muslims attempted to burn a young Christian man alive in a brick-making kiln after accusing him of blasphemy.

In fact, the 17-year-old worker had merely asked to be paid for his work in Sheikhupuru, Pakistan, an industrial city about 210 miles south of Islamabad. Less than 2 percent of the population in the district is Christian, but makes up the overwhelming proportion of the bonded laborers working in the brick-making business, who are seen as virtual slaves.

Sunny Masih was savagely beaten after asking for his wages and then thrown into the oven and onto the white-hot coals. Despite his clothing and hair catching fire, the young man escaped alive, but suffered serious burns all over his body. His employer threatened Masih that his family would receive the same treatment if they intervened on his behalf.

It is well known that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are, according to the Wall Street Journal, “almost as a matter of routine, misused to settle personal scores.”

The practice of hiding behind religious protection law to exact revenge, or for purposes of intimidation amounts to vigilante justice that one member of the Pakistani Parliament to call “a social evil that has taken root in our society.”

Last summer, the country’s Supreme Court ordered the creation of a police task force to recommend ways to combat the practice. In addition, a national Council for Minorities Rights has been mandated by the government to “monitor the practical realization of the rights and safeguards provided to minorities under the law.”

A similar mob attack in the same district drew widespread attention in January when a married couple was beaten and burned to death after a dispute over wages.

The New York Times, Reuters and NBC, among other media, reported that the mob claimed the couple had burned a copy of the Quran, which prompted them to beat the pregnant woman to death before throwing her into a kiln with her husband. The couple left behind four orphaned children.

The Washington Post has reported extensively on the persecution of Christians who are unable to find cemeteries that will accept the bodies of their deceased family members.



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