LAHORE, Pakistan (Christian Examiner) -- As many as 2,000 people including several prominent Christian leaders from the region attended the April 15 funeral of a teenage boy who died a martyr earlier the same day, less than a week after he was reportedly set on fire because of his Christian faith.
Nauman Masih initially was expected to make a full recovery from burns that covered over 50 percent of his body, but the youth took a turn for the worst following plastic surgery to heal his wounds, Christian Today reported. Before his death, Nauman told authorities he was attacked by two young men who approached him April 10, asking about his religion, according to the British Pakistani Christian Association, an advocacy group for Pakistani Christians. Reports from several news sources vary Masih's age between 13 and 15 years-old.
"Nouman was brave throughout his pain and spoke of forgiveness for his attackers. He dies a martyr and will no doubt be with the Lord today," BPCA chairman Wilson Chowdhry said in a written statement. "Please pray for his family who have had to endure 5 days of extreme heartache and can expect little justice."
Earlier this week, the BPCA posted a video interview and English transcript of Nauman in which the youth described the attack from his hospital bed in Lahore.
In the interview, Nauman noted he was returning from a stitching class to the tailor shop where he worked Friday afternoon during the hour of Muslim prayer time known as "Jummah."
"Two boys surrounded me on bikes and stopped me. Both the motorcyclists had their faces covered. They started abusing and asked me who I was and what my faith was. I said I am Christian and they abused more," the now deceased Nauman had explained noting his attempt to defend himself.
"They slapped me four times on my face then one of them threw kerosene oil over me and the other threw a match stick at me. They then rode away."
According to UCA News, the boy suffered severe burns on 55 percent of his body. The news source reported Nauman was raised by his paternal uncle, Nadeem Masih, since age 4 after his father died and his mother remarried.
Nadeem filed a report with police asking that the killers be brought to justice. Conflicting reports from the victim's grandfather suggested Nadeem was a suspect for the murder, according to Christian Today.
Some credit the confusion to authorities' lack of interest in investigating Nauman's case because of the growing hostility toward Christians.
Joseph Francis, national director of the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), told UCA News the incident had caused uneasiness among many Pakistani believers.
"The killing of Nauman has further increased a prevalent sense of insecurity among Christians who are yet to recover from the twin suicide attacks on churches in Lahore," he said.
On March 17, suicide bombers attacked the two churches in the city's largest Christian neighborhood, killing at least 17 Christians and wounding 75 others. In the days immediately following the attacks, violent protests broke out and two bombing suspects were lynched even as Pakistani Christians demanded the government provide better protection.