A 17-year-old Christian student at a school in Pakistan's Punjab province was reportedly beaten to death inside the classroom by his Muslim classmates.
Sharoon Masih, who was studying at MC Model Boys Government High School in the Vehari area in Punjab, has been targeted for being a Christian since he started attending the school, according to his parents.
The British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) reported that Masih was beaten up by his classmates on Aug. 27, his fourth day at the school.
The attackers reportedly shouted insults at Masih while they were beating him, but no teachers or school staff came to rescue him.
One teacher, who was supposed to be overseeing the classroom, claimed that he was reading a newspaper and did not notice the attack. The head teacher later stated that the incident occurred between classroom sessions and that the attack happened without notice because one teacher arrived late for class. The school's governing body have reportedly dismissed the head teacher from his post.
According to BPCA, one of the attackers, Muhammad Ahmed Rana, had already confessed and has since been detained by the authorities. Students initially claimed that Masih was killed for bumping into Rana's foot. Rana, on the other hand, claimed that Masih had smashed the screen on his smart phone, which spurred his anger.
Rana was the only suspect named in the First Incident Report (FIR), but he and other students have said that other boys were involved.
The victim's father, Elyab Masih, saved up the money he earned as a brick kiln worker for his son's admission to the school after Christian teachers convinced him to send him to school instead of putting him to work. Masih's mother, Riaz Bibi, said that her son has been called a "chura," which is a derogatory term for people belonging to the lower caste, according to the hierarchy in some South Asian societies.
"My son was a kind-hearted, hard-working and affable boy. He has always been loved by teachers and pupils alike and shared great sorrow that he was being targeted by students at his new school because of his faith," Bibi told BPCA.
"Sharoon and I cried every night as he described the daily torture he was subjected to. He only shared details about the violence he was facing. He did not want to upset his father because he had such a caring heart for others. The evil boys that hated my child are now refusing to reveal who else was involved in his murder. Nevertheless one day God will have His judgement," she added.
BPCA Chairman Wilson Chowdhry has said that Christians are constant targets for persecution in Pakistan.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has ranked Pakistan among the top five nations in the world with the strictest blasphemy laws in its most recent report. The commission has warned that such laws are often used to target religious minorities.
A 16-year-old Christian boy has been arrested last month after he allegedly burned pages of the Quran, which carries the punishment of the death penalty under section 295-B of Pakistan's penal code.