Friday, September 9, 2011

ASIA: PAKISTAN: CHRISTIAN KILLED ON MARIAN PILGRIMAGE

ASIA NEWS REPORT: Sunil Masih, 25, left the group travelling to Mariamabad and never returned. The corpse showed signs of injury. Police deny possibility of his being run over by a truck. Identity of the perpetrators of the murder still unknown. The pain of the family, who lost their only son.

Mariamabad (AsiaNews) - Sunil Masih, a 25 year old Pakistani Christian, was kidnapped and killed as he walked on a pilgrimage to the shrine of the Virgin Mary in Mariamabad, the "city of Mary," in the province of Punjab. The Pakistan Christian Post (PCP) reports that during the journey the young man left the group for a few minutes, heading for the fields for physiological needs, and his body was found shortly after, with visible signs of injuries (see photo). The boy was run over by a truck, to make it appear an accident. However, police investigating the body and the dynamics of episode, strongly denyi the possibility of it being an accident.

Sunil Masih was an only child and sole source of income for the family, because his father suffers from serious kidney problems. At the news of the death of the young man, the mother fainted from the pain. Human rights activists and Pakistani Christians denounce repeated deaths, thefts and robberies perpetrated against the religious minority. They demand greater protection from police and government authorities.

For 60 years now, September 4 marks the beginning of the traditional pilgrimage to the Grotto of Our Lady, Daman E Mariam, located in one of the oldest Christian places of Pakistan, about 115 km from Lahore. The culmination of the festival coincides with September 8, the day the Church celebrates the Nativity of Mary, Mother of Jesus.

The faithful from around the country are travelling on country roads on foot or by bicycle. Some groups are moving by train, those who have them, by car. All embellish their means of transport with streamers or banners to signal that they are travelling to the village of Mary. Catholics are moving along with Christians of other confessions, but also Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. Our Lady of Marialabad has many devotees and over the years has called to her a growing number of pilgrims.

The construction of the grotto dates back to 1927, built by a missionary, Fr Ostar. Years later, in 1949, Fr. Emmanuel Asi promoted the first pilgrimage over three days, starting then as now on September 4th, the faithful throughout the country make their journey to pay homage to the Virgin and ask for her intercession.

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