PAKISTAN: Rimsha, a Christian girl with Down syndrome
To: The Member Churches and National Council of Churches in Pakistan
Greetings of Peace!
It is with great shock and disbelief that we received the news about Rimsha, a Christian girl with Down syndrome, in Pakistan, who may be punished by death after she was seen holding burning pages of the Quran. We are also dismayed that she has been arrested under the blasphemy law in Pakistan, which states that defaming Islam is a capital offence. The news reached us during the Asian Church Leaders Theological Conference, convened by the CCA, at Hsinchu city in Taipei from 22 - 27 August 2012. All the 56 participants are equally distressed about this news, have prayed with deep concern and convey feelings of solidarity to all the Christians in Pakistan.
It is unfortunate that this incident has been blown out of proportion by the public who have not taken the time or the effort to consider the vulnerability and innocence of this helpless girl who is now in a state of shock and to make matters worse is separated from her parents who are also under protective custody, fearing the anger of the public. We also view with concern the religious tensions that have forced Christians to temporarily flee Mehrabad, the Islamabad neighborhood where Rimsha resides, and the disruption it has caused in the lives of people.
While expressing our solidarity with the churches in Pakistan and those who are always under the threat of the law that hangs over them as a Damocles’ sword, we hope and pray for a review of this draconian Blasphemy law that does not take into account the helplessness of differently-abled children who are defenseless and unaware of any act of theirs. We would urge the Church and Civil society to call for a revision of not only the Blasphemy law but all such laws that discriminate and punish people on the basis of religion and gender, so that democratic institutions remain just and fair and can function without fear or favor. Please let us know if we can do anything to be of assistance.
In solidarity and prayers,
Rev. Dr. Henriette Hutabarat Lebang
cc: Member Churches and Councils, GC and PAC members, Ecumenical Partners and participants of the Asian Church Leaders Theological Consultation.