November 23, 2012

THANKFUL FOR GOD’S DELIVERANCE: PAKISTANI CHRISTIAN GIRL CLEARED OF CHARGES

(The following is the November 23, 2012 edition of Faith on Freedom, the e-newsletter of the Religious Liberty Program of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. If you have any interest in the persecuted church around the world, you may wish to visit the IRD website and sign up to receive this e-newsletter on a regular basis.)

Among all the many blessings for which we are thankful to God in this Thanksgiving weekend, here is another sign of His faithfulness and mercy.

On Tuesday, November 20, a Compass Direct News Service release announced that the case against the young teenaged Pakistani girl, Rimsha Masih, had been dropped by the court in Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad. Rimsha, who is believed to be mentally disabled, was arrested under Pakistan’s egregious Blasphemy Law back in August of this year. Compass Direct quoted her attorney, Akmal Bhatti, who said that the case had been a misuse of law, and the court had “quashed the case” and “declared Rimsha innocent.”

You may remember that Rimsha, who spent over three weeks in a maximum security prison for her own protection, was accused of desecrating Islamic texts. Although after the accusation and Rimsha’s arrest some Islamists in the community of Mehrabad where the Masih family had lived had attacked all of the Christians, forcing many to flee, other Muslims assisted in bringing justice. Some members of the mosque informed the police that a local Muslim cleric, Khalid Jadoon, had given Rimsha the torn Quaranic pages so that an accusation could be leveled against the Christian community. It appears that Jadoon will now face criminal charges for making a false accusation.

Rimsha and her family are in hiding. Pakistan’s Minister of National Harmony, Paul Bhatti, explains that they can never go home. As with any Pakistani Christian that is accused of blasphemy against Islam, however false those charges may be, their life and the lives of their family members are forever altered. They would live in mortal fear if they were to return home. Even area Christians not related to Rimsha are finallly attempting to return, but with great trepidation.

Minister Bhatti knows the danger facing Christians in Pakistan first-hand. His brother, Shahbaz, his predecessor as the Minister of National Harmony, and the only Christian politician on a State level, was gunned down for his work to defend Christians against the Blasphemy Laws.

Compass Direct also obtained a statement from Naveed Chaudry, another of Rimsha’s attorneys, who said, “This is the first case of its kind when a person charged under the strict blasphemy laws is exonerated from the accusation. This case has also brought for the first time a debate on how these laws are misused to target innocent people.”

As a result, says Compass Direct, Rimsha’s arrest has “prompted widespread international condemnation of Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws.” Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari ordered an investigation of the law, and said that it must not be used to settle personal scores.

Christians in Pakistan and concerned citizens around the world are hoping and praying that these changing attitudes towards those accused of blasphemy may bring about needed reform and/or bring a complete repeal of the unjust law. Currently, it is hoped that some justice can likewise be applied to situation of Christian wife and mother of five, Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death on blasphemy charges in November 2010 and is still in prison. May she be delivered like Rimsha. *********************************************************************************************** The Institute on Religion & Democracy is a donor-supported 501(c)3. Your tax-deductible gift to the IRD will ensure continued coverage of the Church’s social witness. Please donate here.