– International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a Christian student from Karachi, Pakistan was nearly killed after being stabbed in an attack by Muslim classmates. As is common with attacks by Muslims on Christians, the student’s parents were pressured by the police to not press charges. Yet, the family has declared that they want justice. According to a local human rights defender, this violent incident resulted from unchecked religious intolerance in Pakistan’s educational system.
The incident began on Friday, February 15, when Haroon Irfan, a Christian student at Government Mohammadi School in Karachi, reported that his Muslim classmate, Muhammad Majid, stole and damaged his school notebook. According to the school’s headmaster, Muhammad Aftab, Haroon is known by the nickname “small Einstein” because of his intelligence.
“Haroon made a complaint to the teacher and, when the notebook was recovered from Majid’s backpack, he got angry and felt insulted,” Irfan Masih, Haroon’s father, told ICC.
Two days later, on Sunday, February 17, Haroon was attacked by Majid and several other Muslim boys as he was on his way to buy food from a local hotel. “When Haroon was alone on the road, Majid and five others beat Haroon for alleging [Majid] of stealing his notebook and complaining to the teacher,” Irfan explained.
In the course of the attack, the assailants stabbed Haroon in the stomach, damaging his kidney. “The attack was so terrible that Haroon’s kidney was cut into two pieces,” a local Christian activist told ICC.
The assailants fled the scene, leaving Haroon wounded on the ground. When Haroon was discovered, he was rushed to Jinnah Hospital in Karachi where doctors were forced to remove his kidney.
Haroon’s father reported that local police were initially unwilling to register a First Information Report (FIR) regarding the attack on Haroon. According to Irfan, the police pressured him to settle the matter outside of Pakistan’s judicial system.
“We are not going into any process of negotiations or forgiveness,” Khursheed Bibi, Haroon’s grandmother, told ICC. “We want justice.”
“This incident is a continuation of previous incidents of intolerance which we have experienced in schools and colleges,” Ghazala Shafeeq, a local human rights defender, stated on social media. “Christians feel insecure, therefore authorities must come up with practical steps to ensure their safety and security.”
“The authorities must also introduce amendments to the educational system to promote religious tolerance,” Shafeeq continued. “If we don’t purify educational institutions and delete the hate material from the textbooks, we are going to damage the next generation.”
ICC’s Regional Manager, William Stark, said, “We here at ICC are deeply distressed by the violent attack on Haroon. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family. Religious intolerance and discrimination based on religious identity are widespread in Pakistan. Unfortunately, this is not only present in Pakistan’s educational institutions, it is widely modeled by many teachers and taught by school curriculums. We hope that this attack will lead to justice for Haroon as well as real change to Pakistan’s educational institutions. These institutions should be safe places where students are allowed to receive a proper education regardless of their religious identity.”