Christian Sanitation Worker Tortured in Pakistan

Christian sanitation worker Yasir Masih was tortured in the Gujjarpura area of Lahore, Pakistan on May 25, 2024. (Christian Daily International-Morning Star News screenshot)

Christian sanitation worker Yasir Masih was tortured in the Gujjarpura area of Lahore, Pakistan on May 25, 2024. (Christian Daily International-Morning Star News screenshot)

LAHORE, Pakistan (Christian Daily InternationalMorning Star News) – Muslims upset with a Christian sanitation worker in Lahore, Pakistan on Saturday (May 25) beat him and left him chained in blistering heat for hours, sources said.

Hussain Masih, father-in-law of Yasir Masih, said he found the 35-year-old sanitation worker in the Gujjarpura area of Lahore chained to a chair in the street.

“[Yasir] Masih’s entire body was badly bruised, and he was chained to a chair,” Hussain Masih told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News. “When he regained some strength, he told us that Malik Khadim Hussain, a resident of Gujjarpura, his son and three others had held him hostage and tortured him for not immediately obeying their order to collect the garbage and sweep the doorstep of their house.”

Yasir Masih’s primary responsibility was to clean streets, but he had customarily granted the Muslim family’s requests to clean their area, the Christian’s father-in-law said.

“Masih told [Malik] Hussain that he would do the needful as soon as he finished his official work and got busy,” Hussain Masih said. “After some minutes, when Masih went to Hussain’s house, he told him to go on the roof and clean it. When Masih went to the roof, Hussain, his sons and the other men attacked him with iron rods, punches and kicks.”

The Muslim family then chained him to a chair and kept him hostage for hours, Hussain Masih said.

“When they left Masih alone, he found a chance to escape, still chained to the chair,” he said. “He tripped down the stairs and dragged himself out of the gate into the street, where he collapsed. Some passersby recognized him, and this is how we also got information about his whereabouts.”

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Hussain Masih said his son-in-law had left for work around 5 a.m., but a few hours later his supervisor arrived at their home saying he had not arrived at his designated work area in the Gujjarpura area of Lahore.

“We got worried and started searching for him,” Hussain Masih said. “Around 5 p.m., someone informed us that Masih had been found chained to a chair and was lying unconscious in a street in Gujjarpura.”

He said that when they reached the site, they were shocked to at the condition of Masih, father of four children.

Yasir Masih’s family and friends later protested in front of the Lahore Press Club, demanding registration of a First Information Report (FIR) and arrest of the suspects. Senior police officials assured them of action, and police later arrested Malik Hussain and two others, though his sons were still at large.

“We only want justice for Masih,” Hussain Masih said. “He was persecuted just because he had delayed an order of the influential Muslim landlords. Though the police have registered an FIR, we appeal to senior officials and our community leaders to ensure that all the accused are arrested, prosecuted and punished for their barbarous act.”

‘Children of a Lesser God’

Christian socio-political activist Sunil Gulzar said the incident further exposed the mindset of Pakistan’s Muslim majority toward marginalized and vulnerable sanitation workers, most of whom are Christian.

“Christian sanitation workers work long shifts even in extreme weather conditions to keep the city clean,” Gulzar told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News. “However, despite their dedicated services, these workers are often ridiculed and mistreated because of their Christian faith.”

Some Hindus also work in sanitation in Sindh Province, but Muslims refuse the work as they see it as beneath them, he said.

“It seems that sanitary workers are children of a lesser god,” Gulzar said. “They often face salary delays and no job security. They are discriminated against even by their Muslim colleagues, and now we are witnessing incidents of physical violence against these weak people.”

Christians in Pakistan are often referred to as Chuhra (low caste), a pejorative term reserved for sanitation workers referring to their past as members of the subcontinent’s Hindu Chuhra caste that was historically associated with sweepers. Though many of them converted to Islam and Christianity, they continue to suffer the same disparagement and are relegated to jobs seen as degrading and defiling.

Road sweepers in Pakistan are mostly Christians and are also referred to by other abusive slurs in local languages.

Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2024 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, as it was the previous year.

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