By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– Two young children in Pakistan were mourning their Christian father Saturday, April 19, after he was reportedly shot dead by a Muslim guard for refusing to convert to Islam.
Sunny Masih, 24, was attacked while working as a cleaner at a branch of Bank Islami in Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city, police said.
Family members disputed claims by bank security guard Omar Farooq that the young man had shot “himself in the forehead” on Wednesday, April 16.
Farooq, of Khushab District in central Punjab Province, reportedly told police that Masih “looked depressed” when he arrived at the bank at 8 a.m.
Soon after he allegedly killed himself with a pump-action shotgun that the guard had left unattended before going to the washroom.
However Haider Masih, father of the deceased, disagreed saying his son “was a lively young man” who had shown no signs of depression. He said his son got a job at the bank a few days ago.
Independent rights investigators also raised doubts about Farooq’s statement. In fact, “Farooq mocked” the young man’s “Christian faith on a daily basis and forced him to embrace Islam,” stressed Nasir Saeed, a director of the Center for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS).
“Farooq started showing dreams…and told him that he was good looking and should embrace Islam,” said Saeed, whose advocacy group has closely monitored the case.
“He also promised him a life of luxury and marriage to a rich Muslim woman, but [Sunny Masih] did not care about these things and refused to embrace Islam,” the director told BosNewsLife.
Haidar Masih advised his son to ignore the security guard, but on April 16 the Christian was tempted into a conversation about religion, according to investigators.
Eventually, Masih “politely” asked the guard, “why he was so adamant for him to embrace Islam as he was not ready from his heart,” recalled Saeed. “He again clearly refused to convert, stating that he was a true follower of Jesus Christ,” he said.
Soon after, “Farooq…became aggressive and opened fire” on Masih, “with a bullet hitting him the head, killing him on the spot.” The quard began “shouting” that the Christian “had attempted suicide”, Saeed said.
It was not immediately clear Saturday, April 19, when and if the Muslim guard will be charged with murder. Last week’s attack was the latest in a series of deadly incidents against Christians in this heavily Muslim nation.
Even children have been attacked for refusing to convert Islam or on charges of ‘blasphemy’. Among those victims was an 11-year-old Christian boy, Samuel Yaqoob, who was killed in August 2012 in Faisalabad, around 96 kilometers (60 miles) outside Lahore.
Yaqoob’s burned and tortured body was discovered on Eid, the celebration which marks the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.
Witnesses and detectives said his lips and nose had been sliced off, his stomach removed and there was evidence that his legs had been mutilated too.
His killing came just days after the detention of for ‘blasphemy’ Rimsha Masih, a mentally challenged girl, who was later rushed abroad following an international outcry. Rights activists say many cases remain unnoticed and have expressed concern about growing Islamic extremism in Pakistan, with Christians being attacked across the country. And, Christians remain anxious about possible more attacks this Easter.