One of these Christians who is treated as an untouchable is Khaleel Masih, a 42-year-old Christian, in Pakistan. Masih supports his wife and six children by selling ice-cream from an ice chest on the back of his bicycle. Often, Masih has to leave his own city, Changa Manga, and travel through the surrounding villages in order to find enough customers for his business.
On May 17, Masih visited a village in the Kasur district to sell ice-cream. The visit, which started out well, soon turned disastrous.
“It was a sunny day,” Masih remembered. Two Muslim brothers, Muhammad Rizwan and Muhammad Farman, came up to Masih and began insulting him.
Masih stated, “They called me ‘Chora,’ an insulting word used for Christians. Then they began accusing me of selling unclean merchandise to Muslim children. I wanted to argue and make them understand that this wasn’t true but they didn’t listen to me. Instead, they began to beat and torture me.”
Soon, approximately twenty other men joined in the attack. They not only beat Masih, but also damaged his bicycle and scattered his ice-cream along the ground.
Other Muslim men and women yelled slogans in the street, saying: “Christians are untouchables! They are not followers of our holy prophet. They are meant for cleaning our houses and therefore should not be allowed to sell anything edible to Muslims.”
Describing the event, Masih stated, “I was attacked, beaten, and abused for selling ice-cream to Muslim children and women.”
When Masih reported the attack at the local police station, the police refused to listen to his statement. Later, after finally being allowed to file a complaint against his attackers, the Muslim religious leaders used their position to pressure Masih to withdraw his complaint. They also forced him to sign a reconciliation agreement.
Sadly, Masih’s persecution reflects the discriminatory religious and social structures that exist in Pakistan. As a Christian, Masih is considered a part of the lowest social caste in Pakistan and is deemed “untouchable” by some members of Pakistan’s Muslim majority.
Those deemed untouchable in Pakistan are often ostracized by the majority community and are condemned to work sanitation jobs, cleaning and removing human waste. Since many Muslims in Pakistan believe Christians defile everything they touch, they forbid Christians to sell any sort of food to them.
This ideology of religious discrimination is what prompted the group of Muslim men to violently beat Masih and destroy his property.
Among the few options available to Pakistani Christians who wish to stop this relentless persecution is to convert to Islam and turn their back on everything they believe. Some audacious Muslim leaders in Pakistan prey on the weaknesses of suffering Christians, tempting them to convert to Islam by offering them a better life.
Soon after the attack on Masih, local religious leaders from the Muslim community approached Masih and asked him to convert to Islam. The leaders promised Masih that if his entire family converted to Islam, they would provide him with a new house, a well-paying job, and education for his children. Masih flatly refused the offer, saying that he would never betray Jesus.
Like Masih, many Christians are torn between remaining firm in their faith in Jesus Christ and being able to provide an adequate living for their families. By allowing Christians to be labeled as untouchables, Pakistan is instead perpetuating a culture of hatred, strife, oppression, and degradation.