Christian sanitation workers die
Two Christian sanitation workers died saving a Christian colleague tasked with clearing a sewer, known to be poisonous, in Pakistan’s Punjab province. They were refused protective equipment by their Muslim supervisor.
Michael Masih was sent to work on the dangerous sewer at 9 pm on Sunday 3 October despite being suspended from work. He was threatened with dismissal by supervisor Muhammad Farooq if he did not report for work that night. He was sent down a 10-metre manhole with damaged wooden stairs without an oxygen cylinder or any other personal protective equipment (PPE).
When Michael passed out from inhaling toxic gases, Muhammad Farooq ordered two Christian workers, Faisal Masih and Nadeem Masih, to rescue him. Again, PPE was denied. Faisal, like Michael, was suspended and was experiencing flu-like symptoms, and Nadeem was on a self-employment contract that technically prohibited him from entering manholes.
The two rescuers managed to haul Michael out of the sewer, assisted by other workers, but a strong current of water prevented them from exiting, sweeping them away and leaving the two men unconscious.
At this point Muhammad Farooq finally called the emergency services. The emergency team, however, refused to go down the manhole to save the two unconscious Christians. They would, they believed, have become ritually unclean by contact with chuhras, a pejorative term for Christians who are often forced to take dirty and dangerous menial jobs.
When a fourth Christian worker was summoned to assist half an hour later, Faisal and Nadeem were already dead.
Turkey bombing Christians
Turkey has escalated a supposedly anti-terrorist military campaign in Syria and Iraq which appears to be targeting Christians and other minorities.
A spate of Turkish attacks beginning in late August 2021 – including the bombing of a hospital – has been responsible for the deaths of at least a dozen civilians. “It is unclear,” argued an analyst in The Jerusalem Post, “why [Turkey’s] claims to fight ‘terrorism’ often coincide with bombing minorities in Iraq and Syria and carrying out attacks against Christian, Kurdish and Yazidi minorities.”
Amy Austin Holmes, a Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC, notes that “Yazidis, Christians and Kurds have fled in droves from the Turkish-occupied areas of Syria”.
Dr Holmes explained that Turkey’s military campaign has continued in Syria despite the signing of a US-brokered ceasefire agreement in October 2019. Indeed, she added, in the first year after Turkey signed the agreement, “the Assyrian Christian region of Tel Tamer was targeted every single month”.
Dr Holmes also argued, “Turkey has had ambition to expand its territorial control of Syria for several years now. This recent escalation is pretty significant. They’re doing this while the world is distracted by what’s happening in Afghanistan.”
Barney Zwartz is a member of the Presbyterian Church of Australia National Journal Committee and a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Public Christianity