A 21-year-old Christian man identified as Ansar Masih, is being treated at a hospital in Pakistan after he was severely burned with hot iron rods for allegedly befriending a young Muslim woman in Sheikhupura district.

Masih’s ordeal was first made public through the social media accounts of Mohammad Jibran Nasir, a 28-year -old lawyer, civil rights activist, blogger, and independent politician in Karachi.

“Sheikhupura Christian man Ansar burned with heated iron rods for befriending Muslim girl. [First Information Report] registered but influentials forcing compromise,” Nasir noted in a tweet early Sunday, alerting several politicians and journalists.

A Dawn News report said Masih was attacked earlier this month by the father and brothers of the Muslim woman because they did not approve of his “friendship” with her.

According to a First Information Report signed by Masih’s sister at Sheikhupura’s Saddar police station, Masih first engaged the woman two years ago in a friendship which grew over time. The Christian and Muslim pair reportedly spoke on the phone often and Masih would visit the woman’s neighborhood to meet her.

When her family discovered the friendship, however, the woman’s father, Manzoor, and her brothers called Masih’s father and warned him to instruct his son to stay away from the woman or suffer dire consequences.

On April 1, while on an errand for his mother in the woman’s neighborhood, Masih was allegedly kidnapped by the woman’s father and brothers who stripped him, beat then burned him with the hot iron rods.

Masih was then reportedly taken to his father’s house after the attack where his family was told he had been involved in a traffic accident. The injured man was then rushed to Sheikhupura’s District Headquarters Hospital where he revealed what happened after he gained consciousness.

Four days later on April 5, Masih’s sister filed a report with local police who took the accused men into custody.

In his announcement of the case on Sunday, Nasir explained that Masih’s family could not afford to take him from Sheikhupura to Lahore for proper medical treatment of his burns and was able to mobilize help.

“We are bringing him to Lahore today to get him admitted in Mayo. Family is very poor with no means to support treatment,” Nasir said on Twitter. He also noted that Masih’s family was thrown out of their village over the incident.

Masih’s father said their family has been under pressure by those accused of the crime as well as the area police to overlook the attack and withdraw the police complaint.

Ansar’s is reportedly now in stable condition and is receiving necessary treatment.

According to Open Doors, there are multiple groups of Christians experiencing persecution in Pakistan.

While historic Christian communities exist openly, they have to put up with stringent rules and constant monitoring, while Christian converts from Islam suffer the brunt of persecution from both radical Islamic groups as well as families and neighbors.

Protestant Christian communities are under close scrutiny and suffer frequent attacks, especially when they are active in outreach among Muslims. Violent persecution is common. Christians are targets for murder, bombings, abduction of women, rape, forced marriages and eviction from home and country. Unjust and arbitrary blasphemy laws are used to punish Christians and prevent evangelism.

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