On Sunday 3 October Michael Masih was ordered by his boss at the Sargodha Metropolitan Corporation to go down and clear a blocked sewer known to be full of toxic gases. Michael, a Christian, asked for protective equipment, but this request was refused.
At about 10 p.m. Michael descended through the manhole, but after a few minutes in the sewer he lost consciousness. Two more Christians – who were also refused protective equipment – were sent down to rescue him. Faisal and Nadeem managed to get Michael out, but then a strong current swept them away. Their boss called the Punjab Emergency Service, but when the Muslim emergency workers, equipped with breathing apparatus, understood they were supposed to rescue Christians they refused, because touching Christians would make them ritually “unclean”. At about 2.30 a.m. a fourth Christian, Shahbaz, also without protective equipment, climbed down the rickety ladder into the sewer (see video). He found his two colleagues dead.
“We miss him so much,” said Mariam, widow of Nadeem. “But God has called him to his breast, and we thank God for His gift of heaven. He died saving another man…”
Poor, vulnerable and abused
Why did Michael enter the deadly sewer? He had at first refused the order but his boss, in a tirade of anti-Christian expletives, said Michael would be sacked if he did not obey. Michael was desperate to earn some money having brought home nothing to his family for the last few days because he had been suspended for missing a day’s work.
Likewise, Faisal felt he had to go to work when summoned on 3 October, even though he was very ill and his wife Anum pleaded with him to stay home. His boss had made it clear that if Faisal refused the work he would lose his job. “We would starve to death,” he said to Anum, as he explained why he must go.
Poor and vulnerable Pakistani Christians, like Michael, Faisal, Nadeem and Shahbaz, often work in dirty, high-risk, low-pay jobs. Without influence, money or respect in Pakistani society, they are very vulnerable to abuse. Many find it difficult to get any work at all, owing to discrimination. Hunger is an ever-present danger.
You can help them
Barnabas Fund is feeding hundreds of very poor Christian families in Pakistan, through monthly food parcels providing about 50% of a family’s food needs.
The typical cost of a monthly food parcel is just £20.
Please help feed our suffering brothers and sisters in Pakistan.