Down's Syndrome girl charged with Blasphemy in Pakistan
A young Christian girl with Down’s syndrome has been detained by police in , falsely accused of blasphemy; hundreds of Christian families have fled their homes amid a violent Muslim backlash.
The shocking treatment of Rimsha Masih, aged around 11, from Maherabad village (also known as Mehara Jaffar), Islamabad, has been widely reported and was condemned by the US on Monday (20 August) as “deeply disturbing”.
The vitriolic and violent reaction of the Muslim community prompted hundreds of Christian residents to flee. Barnabas Fund is helping with the provision of emergency aid.
Rimsha was accused on Thursday (16 August) of burning pages of a Noorani Qaida, a booklet used to learn the basics of the Quran. The alleged incident was broadcast over the loudspeakers of the mosques in the area, stirring up local Muslims; they chanted slogans against Rimsha and severely beat the girl, members of her family and other local Christians. The mob also torched the homes of two Christian families in the area.
Police arrested Rimsha under section 295-B of the Penal Code, which carries a life sentence for desecration of the Quran, after hundreds of protestors blocked the Kashmir Highway, calling for action to be taken against her. Rimsha’s mother and sister were also detained.
In an abhorrent move, the imam of the local mosque provoked calls for the youngster to be handed over to the mob and publicly burned.
After Friday prayers Muslim residents took an oath in the mosque, determining to drive Christians out of the area. The mullahs issued an ultimatum giving Christians a month to leave; Muslim residents agreed that shopkeepers would refuse to sell groceries and other essentials to Christians, and that Muslim landlords would end tenancy agreements with them.
Some of the ousted Christians have gone to stay with relatives, while others are being housed temporarily in church elsewhere in Islamabad.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said:
Barnabas Fund is providing food packages, which include flour, rice, oil, tea, grains, beans, spices and salt, for at least 300 Christian families. It costs £25 to feed one Christian family for a month. (€32, US$40, AU$38, NZ$49)
The targeting and treatment of this young, disabled girl is truly deplorable and thoroughly inhumane. On the basis of a flimsy and false allegation under a law that should not even exist, this vulnerable young life, and those of her entire Christian community, have been ravaged.