A Christian Pakistani teenager was beaten to death by his Muslim classmates on his fourth day at his new school in the Vehari District of Punjab, Pakistan.
Sharoon Masih, 17, was a promising student who had joined MC Model Boys Government High School. Masih was the only Christian in his majority-Muslim form and was reportedly bulled and abused from his first day, his parents told the British Pakistani Christian Association.
Sharoon was named a 'chura', a derogatory term used for Christians, and was allegedly told by one student: 'You're a Christian, don't dare sit with us if you want to live.' It's also said that there were several attempts to convert Sharoon to Islam.
On August 27, Sharoon was reportedly beaten by many of his fellow pupils in their classroom and died at the scene. Mixed reports have surrounded the on-duty classroom teacher: one report said he ignored the attack, while the teacher himself said he had not noticed it. The school's headteacher later said that the violence had occurred between classroom sessions with one teacher late to arrive, so no one was on duty. The headteacher has been dismissed from his post.
School pupil Muhammad Ahmed Rana has confessed to the attack and has been arrested and detained by local police. No other culprits have been named, though reports suggest several attackers took part.
Sharoon's mother Razia Bibi said: '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.
'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 judgment.'
Wilson Chowdhry, the chairman of the BPCA, said: 'Sharoon was a bright and intelligent young boy who had a potentially good future [and] has now been killed. Yet once again in Pakistan the debate is not on who is culpable but who is not culpable of a most heinous crime.'
He added: 'Christians are despised and detested in Pakistan. They are a constant target for persecution. This killing of a young Christian teenager at school serves only to remind us that hatred towards religious minorities is bred into the majority population at a young age, through cultural norms and a biased national curriculum.
'This devastated family will have to cope with the immense emotional pain of a totally avoidable incident. It is a poor indictment of MC Model Boys Government High School that a Christian could be targeted in this fashion. However by no means is such treatment an anomaly – it is an expectation that Christians will face abuse and violence during their years in the educational system.'
The BPCA has been supporting Sharoon's family and is campaigning for educational reform in Pakistan. It is calling for the removal of anti-minority stereotypes in the national curriculum and an end to bullying in a petition here.