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Christian Accused of Blasphemy Dies from Injuries in Pakistan

LAHOREPakistan: An elderly Christian attacked by a Muslim mob in Pakistan over a false blasphemy accusation succumbed to his injuries at 12:30 a.m. Monday (June 3), his son said.

Sultan Gill, son of 74-year-old Nazeer Masih Gill, said his father passed away after the government had moved him to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Rawalpindi on the day of the attack, May 25, for security reasons.

“Doctors there conducted two surgeries to save his life, but despite the removal of bone fragments from his brain, his condition remained precarious, and he couldn’t survive,” Sultan Gill told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News.

An agitated mob of Muslims in Sargodha, incited by a mosque announcement, including women and children, assaulted Nazeer Gill after an area Muslim accused him of burning pages of the Quran in the street. The mob pelted Nazeer with bricks and stones, beat him with sticks, and kicked him as he lay bleeding on the ground, sources said.

Despite police efforts to intervene, the mob persisted, resulting in multiple skull fractures and critical blood clots in his brain. The mob also damaged the ambulance transporting Nazeer Gill to a hospital, further complicating rescue efforts.

A grieving Sultan Gill said his father had worked for over 30 years in the United Arab Emirates and returned to Pakistan 25 years ago to start a shoe manufacturing business with his savings.

Sultan Gill said 11 members of his family, including his father, mother, wife, three children, and five children of his elder brother, were present in their house in Mujahid Colony during the attack.

“It was around 6 a.m. when we heard shouts outside our main gate,” he told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News. “When I went outside to enquire, I saw a group of 20–30 Muslims there who alleged that my father had burned pages of the Quran. I tried to placate them and seek forgiveness on my father’s behalf if he had mistakenly done something wrong, but they refused to listen.”

Police soon arrived and told the mob that they were taking his father into custody for investigation, he said.

“Meanwhile, the number of the mob had grown to hundreds, and as soon as the police brought my family outside, some people snatched my father from the policemen and started torturing him,” Sultan Gill said.

“I tried to rescue him, but the police told me that the lives of the entire family were at serious risk, and it was essential to move us to safety.

They assured me that they would save my father from the mob, after which I agreed to leave, but they failed to rescue him in time.”

Sultan Gill said police and security officials moved his family to a government guesthouse while he was allowed to go to the CMH in Rawalpindi with his father.

“Doctors at the CMH carried out two head surgeries on my father, but his condition did not stabilize, and after fighting for his life for nine days, he passed away,” he said.

Sultan Gill said his family still lived in a government safehouse for security reasons. “They have told us that we cannot return to our house for some days, as it is not safe yet,” he said. “However, the entire episode has been so traumatizing for all of us that I don’t think we will ever be able to resume our normal lives there.”

His three children and the family of his older brother were in deep shock and fear, he said.

“The mob looted all our valuables and belongings,” said the 50-year-old member of the Presbyterian church. “They also burned some rooms of our house and damaged the infrastructure.”

He doubts his family will be able to resume their business in Mujahid Colony despite assurances given by police and administration officials, he said. Sultan Gill and his father were managing the business.

“Our business was flourishing, making some local Muslims jealous of our success,” he said. “There have been multiple attempts to involve us in fake cases, which we faced bravely, but this time, they misused religion to persecute us.”

Tragic Death Grieved

The incident sparked nationwide and international condemnation and protests against the persecution of Christians and other minorities accused of blasphemy.

Church of Pakistan President Bishop Azad Marshall posted a message of grief on X, which read in part:

Marshall wrote, “Today, grief should weigh heavily on every Pakistani, not only for the atrocities abroad but also right here.”

“Yet again, hate has brought us to the place where we must ask questions. The question is not ‘Where will this stop?’ because beyond the devastation of homes and lives, beyond the brutal killing of a hard-working man, beyond the devastation of a community and the grief of a family, we have already come too far!”

Catherine Sapna, executive director of legal advocacy group Christians True Spirit, said that she could feel the fear and trauma in the Gill family when she met them on Monday (June 3).

“The family had been brought there for some time to attend the funeral of their elder,” Sapna said. “During my conversation with Gill’s grandchildren, I could sense that the gory and violent incident had left a profound impact on them.

I also met the victim’s widow; she is in her 70s, but the grief is such that she wasn’t able to say anything. Seeing their condition, I don’t think it is safe for them to continue living there.”

Sapna demanded that the government ensure justice for the grieving family by punishing the perpetrators of the attack.

“This is not the first time they have lynched someone on fire in Pakistan on accusations of blasphemy,” she told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News.

“It’s high time the government realizes the need for a strong deterrent against the misuse of the blasphemy laws.”

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

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