PAKISTAN: Government must intervene and save mentally challenged girl from punishment under blasphemy laws
Asia Evangelical Alliance calls for Global Solidarity against Controversial Law
The global Christian community is deeply concerned over the fate of Rifat Masih, an 11 year old Pakistani Christian girl, who has been arrested under the so called anti blasphemy laws and can face the death sentence. Rifat Masih suffers from a mental disorder, and has been accused by her neighbours of burning sacred Islamic texts. No one actually saw her burning anything as the offence allegedly happened inside the house, and she was caught while finding somewhere to throw away the remains.
Expressing its shock over the developments, the Asia Evangelical Alliance calls upon the President, Mr Asif Ali Zardari, and government of Pakistan to use their good offices to save the girl and get her released from jail. She is so traumatised by her experience that she could not even speak with civil society activists who have tried to meet her in jail.
The Asia Evangelical Alliance together with international church organisations have long sought abrogation of Pakistan’s controversial legislation which, under the guise of punishing blasphemy, has been used as an instrument against members of the Christian community in the country. Human Rights organizations have in the past documented several incidents in Pakistan villages where neighbours made false allegations of blasphemy against Christians on frivolous grounds to harass them, or deliberately to deprive them of their land and businesses.
Rifat Masih is the latest in this list. She was arrested , after complaints against her prompted angry demonstrations, and Mr. Zardari, ordered the Interior Ministry to investigate the case. Over 900 Christians living on the outskirts of Islamabad have been ordered to leave the Mehrabadi neighbourhood where they have lived for almost two decades. The people have now taken refuge in the overcrowded Christian slums in and around the Pakistani capital. Reports say that shopkeepers have refused to serve the few who have stayed behind. No one actually saw her burning anything as the offence allegedly happened inside the house, and she was caught while finding somewhere to throw away the remains.
Rev. Dr. Richard Howell
Asia Evangelical Alliance
New Delhi, India