Date: April 30, 2016
They are now being cared for and older ones doing well at school
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS – April 30, 2016) – No child should have to witness such an appalling crime, but some of the children of a Pakistani Christian couple, apparently did.
They were around when their parents, Shama Bibi, 24, and her husband Sajjad [Shahzad] Masih, 27, were burned to death in a brick kiln by an Islamic mob on November 4, 2014 in the tiny hamlet of Chak 59 near Kot Radha Kishan town, 37 miles southwest of Lahore.
Shama, four-months pregnant at the time, was savagely killed alongside her husband for alleged blasphemy, which they both denied. She was wrapped in cotton so she would set alight faster, said relatives who witnessed the horrific attack.
To make matters even worse, the couple had their legs broken so they could not flee the mob that locked them inside a brick-making factory before their murder.
After being incited by a local mosque, the pair were surrounded by a crowd of at least 1,500 and then thrown on top of a brick kiln where they were burned alive, witnesses said.
“They picked them up by their arms and legs and held them over the brick furnace until their clothes caught fire, and then they threw them inside the furnace,” said a family spokesman.
He said Bibi was wearing clothing that did not initially catch fire, so the mob removed her from over the kiln and wrapped her up in cotton to make sure the material would burn faster.
Media reports said that barbaric killings were sparked by the mob's belief the couple had desecrated a copy of the Koran, and by the time the attack was over, only charred bones and the couple’s discarded shoes remained.
The gruesome incident sparked protests by Christians and outrage among rights activists.
Following the killings, Wilson Chowdhry, who heads up the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), told ASSIST News Service, “Police stood back and watched while [the] Pakistani Christian couple, Shahzad and Shama were killed.”
The crime was apparently witnessed by some of their three children, Suleiman (6 years at the time), and the two daughters Sonia (then four years) and Poonam (then 18 months), who after the murder, were initially being looked after by the family of Shahzad.
Now comes the good news that all three children are being supported by The Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF), who have undertaken the responsibility to help educate them.
A spokesperson for the Foundation told ASSIST News Service that the CICF is “bearing all of their education related expenses” which include school fees, books & stationary, uniforms, private tuitions, transportation, extra-circular activities and any other miscellaneous expenses that are required.
“A stipend is also paid to their grandfather for any of their personal needs,” added the spokesperson.
“The two older children, Suleiman and Sonia. are currently studying in an English medium Convent school in Lahore. The principal and teachers are very pleased with their progress.
“We were thrilled to receive their final examination results today! Both children have been promoted to the next grades; Suleiman has passed with 85% marks and Sonia with 80% marks.”
Ms. Michelle Chaudhry President of Pakistan-based Foundation said, “It gives us immense joy and spiritual gratification to see these children happy, confident and doing so well at school.”
She said that at the time of the killings of their parents, they were “hurting, traumatized and so very confused,” and went onto say, “I thank all our supporters who have enabled us to contribute towards bringing about a concrete and positive change in the lives of these unfortunate children.”
Note: The Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF), is an independent, non-government, non-profit organization, dedicated to the eradication of injustice in society by advocating on behalf of the underprivileged, underrepresented and marginalized groups within Pakistan.
Photo captions: 1) The Pakistani couple who were burned alive in a brick kiln by a Muslim mob. 2) The children at the offices of CICF where they had lunch with the staff and were given gifts and goodie bags. 3) The children with their gifts. 4) Dan Wooding with his BPCA award.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is the author of some 45 books. He also has a radio show and two TV shows, all based in Southern California, and has been given a special award by the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), for his reporting on the persecution of Christians in Pakistan.