The spirit of Holy Week, the most solemn period in the Christian calendar that culiminates into Easter, was dampened in Pakistan after a 34-year-old Pakistani Catholic man was allegedly beaten to death by doctors and security guards in a government hospital in Lahore.
Suneel Saleem, the father of four succumbed to his injuries on March 26 following the brutal beating he sustained during a quarrel after he objected to a female doctor slapping his heavily pregnant sister.
The sanitary worker later died in Services Hospital where the incident occurred, UCANEWS reported.
Assault on family members
"About 20 security guards and 14 doctors punched and attacked my brothers and cousins with batons, chairs and belts," said Aneel Saleem, a brother of the deceased who was also attacked. He said Suneel’s ribs and legs were fractured. “He fainted and later died in the same hospital," Aneel said.
A complaint registered with the police on March 27, said the nine month pregnant sister was slapped by a female doctor. Local police have registered a murder case against five doctors and several security guards of the hospital.
Father Qaiser Feroz, executive secretary of the Pakistani bishops' social communications commission, conducted Suneel's funeral also on March 27.
"This is a first of its kind tragedy.… People visit hospitals for treatment and doctors are supposed to save lives," sad Father Feroz.
Hospital complains against family
The administrators of Services Hospital have also filed an application with the police against the Catholic family for creating a 'lawless' situation. Local media Dawn reported that a medical superintendent said: "The fighting began when hospital guards forced relatives of a patient to stop making a video of the ward with a mobile phone."
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has offered his sympathy to Suneel's family and ordered an inquiry into the incident.
Suneel’s family joined about 300 angry protestors who blocked roads in front of Lahore press club on March 28 for 2 hours to demand action against hospital staff. "We want justice," cried Suneel's mother at the event.
Solidarity with family
Christian True Spirit, an NGO that aids victims of persecution, said they will offer free legal aid and financial support to the victim’s family for six months. The youngest of Suneel's children is his 4-month-old daughter.
The Center for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), an interdenominational organization working for discriminted and persecuted Christians in the country, has condemned the murder. "The brutality against Sunil is not justifiable in any way. Too many continue to abuse the law, to take justice in their own hands and to kill innocent people with impunity, “ CLAAS director, Nasir Saeed told the Vatican’s Fides news agency.
“When a dispute involves a Christian, Muslims feel entitled to carry out intolerable violence, knowing that they will not be punished. This is not justice,” he said. Saeed lamented the failure of the Pakistani government in protecting the countries minorites. He said that “intolerance against religious minorities in Pakistan has reached a dangerous level and there is an urgent need to stop these atrocities".
The Lahore incident took place just a month after an initiative organized in Rome, Syria and Iraq attempted to draw attention to the suffering Christians around the world.
On February 24, Rome’s most famous landmark, the Colosseum, as well as two churches in Aleppo and Mosul were lit up in red, symbolizing the blood of martyrs.
The initiative was organized by Aid to the Church in Need, the Pontifical Foundation that provides pastoral and humanitarian assistance to persecuted Christians in over 140 countries around the world.
Among two families invited to the Rome event, was the husband and youngest daughter of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman, who has received a death sentence in 2010 for alleged blasphemy.
Ahead of the Reome event, Pope Francis met the two families and prayed for victims of religious persecution across the world.