As most of the western world remains in shock over the news in Pakistan that an 11-year-old Christian girl believed to have Down syndrome was imprisoned over the nation's strict blasphemy laws, the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) has praised the World Council of Churches (WCC)'s decision to hold an urgent international conference on the issue.
"At the best of times, the situation for most of Pakistan's Christians is deplorable. They live in extreme poverty and degradation, limited to the lowest of job and educational opportunity. But there is hardly ever a best of times. They always live under the Damocles sword of this abominable Blasphemy Law, never knowing when they could be accused, or what ridiculous issue will cause mobs to form," said IRD Religious Liberty Program Director Faith J.H. McDonnell in a statement.
Rimsha Masih, the young Pakistani girl, was put in jail for allegedly burning pages from a book containing Islamic scripture, although reports varied on whether the girl herself burned the pages, and whether she actually has a mental disability. She was also apparently attacked by the villagers in her community in mob-induced incident, but the vagueness of the details has not stopped the larger part of the international community to react with deep concern about the case. more >>
Pakistan's human rights body strongly condemned on Monday the arrest of an 11-year-old Christian girl with Down syndrome after she was accused of "blasphemy." Tensions have compelled around 600 Christians to flee the area.
The girl, identified as Rifta Masih from the rural area of Mehrabadi in Islamabad, was accused of burning a Noorani Qaida, a booklet used to learn the basics of the Holy Quran, last Thursday. It was also alleged that she had thrown the booklet in the garbage after putting it in a plastic bag.
Following the accusation, which appears to be untrue, a mob demanded for the arrest of the girl and threatened to burn houses belonging to Christians. more >>
LAHORE, Pakistan – Christians in a village in Punjab Province are fighting to save their decades-old graveyard from being converted into farmland by a retired army colonel, sources said.
Because of the military man's influence, police have refused to address the complaint by Christians of Bhondary Wala village in Narang Mandi in spite of orders from senior administration officials, the sources said.
Rehmat Masih said that Col. Farrukh Alam has claimed ownership of 150 acres of land and has threatened area Christians if they did not vacate it. The graveyard, which was established before the partition of Pakistan and India, had already shrunk to about a third of its original size after the retired colonel dug a boundary around it. more >>
Al-Qaida released a video Sunday showing 70-year-old U.S. citizen Warren Weinstein, kidnapped in Pakistan last year, pleading to President Barack Obama to break the U.S. rule of not negotiating with terrorists and save his life by meeting the kidnappers' demands.
Weinstein, a contractor for Virginia-based consulting firm J.E. Austin Associates Inc., made a personalized plea to the president in a video available online.
"My life is in your hands, Mr. President," the kidnapped contractor said in the video. "If you accept the demands, I live. If you don't accept the demands, then I die. It's important that you accept the demands and act quickly and don't delay." more >>
LAHORE, Pakistan – A Pakistani Christian falsely charged with "blasphemy" after rescuing his 8-year-old nephew from a beating at the hands of Muslim boys has been cleared of the charge.
Dildar Masih, a 27-year-old father of two young children, was acquitted on March 26 after prosecutors failed to produce any evidence against him, he said.
"I was produced in court three times during the case proceedings, but not one accuser ever turned up at the hearings," Masih told Compass by phone. "You cannot imagine my joy when the prison officials told me that I had been acquitted by the court. I had not been taken to the hearing that day; only my lawyer, Javed Raza, and father were present in the courtroom." more >>
LAHORE, Pakistan – Authorities do not know who abducted two Christian hospital employees in Karachi last week, but police sources said they suspected the kidnappers had links with banned terrorist organizations.
There is a strong possibility that Islamic extremists took the two workers of South Korea-based Good Samaritan Hospital, Issac Samson and Indrias Javaid, to Pakistan's tribal areas after kidnapping them on Thursday (March 1), the sources said.
"Such cases are on the rise, as banned Islamist groups and other criminal gangs are turning to kidnappings for ransom in order to survive and procure weapons and ammunition, but at the same time one cannot rule out the possibility of a targeted elimination of foreign and local NGO [Non-Governmental Organization] workers," a senior investigator for the Karachi police told Compass. more >>