By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - A Christian man who defended his sister against sexual violence has been killed by “militant Muslims” in Pakistan’s Punjab province, according to Christians familiar with the situation.
Local police initially said the death of Arif Masih was “a suicide case” but changed their view after hundreds of Christian protesters demanded justice, Worthy News learned Friday.
Masih was reportedly kidnapped, beaten, poisoned, and abandoned on May 23 on a street of Punjab’s Tariqabad village amid growing Muslim violence against Pakistan’s minority Christians.
Earlier in the week, he tried to rescue his sister, Rehana Bibi, after two young men dragged her onto the street, Christian human rights investigators confirmed.
Worthy News identified her after she was named by activists supporting the family and had apparently agreed to come forward.
In the May attack, the men stripped her naked after following her home from a local store and breaking into her house, Christians said.
Masih apparently confronted and fought with the men. He then filed a police report against the publicly identified suspects as Muhammad Tariq and Muhammad Majid.
“In response, the accused men began to threaten Arif [Masih] to drop the complaint,” confirmed advocacy group Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC), citing several sources.
“Three days later, they went to his home, kidnapped him, and later dumped him on the street. Though he was taken to hospital, he did not survive the inflicted injuries,” VOMC told Worthy News.
Police registered his death as a suicide after taking statements from those allegedly responsible, prompting protests from an estimated 300 Christians, sources said.
Although police later changed the reason for his death, the two men accused of killing Masih have been released on bail, VOMC added.
Advocacy groups say local Christians fear that those responsible for killing the Christian man and the sexual attack will not be held accountable.
Activists say there is a “general bias” against minority Christians among authorities and the public in Pakistan, an Islamic nation.
In published remarks, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan noted that targeted Christians are among vulnerable populations in Pakistan. “Vulnerable populations such the poor, women, the mentally ill, (and those of) religious, racial and ethnic minorities have fewer resources to use,” it noted.
“Fewer people are willing to help them,” the Rights Commission stressed.
“In Pakistan, belonging to one or more of these marginalized groups puts you at greater risk of police bias, wrongful arrest, and conviction, spending life in prison or even capital punishment,” it added.
Amid the turmoil, Christians urged prayers for the sister and other family members of the man who gave his life to save her.