BPCA was asked for an article for a Christian magazine. We include it here, plus (from the blue on) an update on the situation of the community Rimsha came from, who are suffering more attacks, and are not getting any help or compensation to rebuild their homes and lives.
Pakistani girl with learning difficulties still charged with blasphemy
On August 16th a Muslim man accused Rimsha Masih, a young illiterate Christian girl with learning difficulties, of burning pages of a textbook containing Koranic quotes from the Koran and carrying them around in her home district of Mehrabadi, Islamabad. There are conflicting stories about how she came to have the papers. Her family are reported to have said she never actually left the house on that day. Some sources say her original accuser, a Muslim man, gave her the bag with the burnt pages in. In any case, he went to the local Islamic prayer leader, Khalid Jadoon, who pressed charges, and also called Muslims from mosques all around to ‘defend Islam’, a very common tactic in such cases. A several thousand strong mob of Muslims quickly gathered and attacked the Christian community and Rimsha’s family, beating her, her mother and siblings. Rimsha was arrested, and hundreds of Christians fled the area to relatives or to live in nearby forests. As well as looting Christian houses, the mob demanded Rimsha be handed over to be burnt alive - not an idle threat, as a few weeks earlier another mob had stormed a police station and dragged out a mentally ill homeless Muslim man similarly accused and burnt him to death in the street outside.
Rimsha’s family say she is 11, while a medical board concluded she was 14, but with a lower mental age. However Jadoon’s lawyer accused Rimsha and the state of ‘conspiring’ to falsify her age. He also publicly called for her to be murdered if she was acquitted. But then Jadoon’s two deputies reported that when presented with the ‘evidence’, he added torn pages of the Koran, saying ‘This will get rid of the Christians’. Now he too has been arrested under charges of blasphemy.
Some sources allege an additional motive was for Muslims to seize Christian land, also a common tactic. The government has promised to fund rebuilding, but nothing has happened, and many Christians are refusing to come back, despite official claims that it is safe.
Rimsha has been released to her family on bail, and they are in hiding, but she still faces trial on a charge that could lead to the death sentence. Her case might have made the news, but it is just one of many similar false blasphemy charges against innocent victims, many of them Christians.
Rimsha and her family are under-government protection in a hidden location, whilst she awaits a full trial. The residents of her town in Mehr abadi near Islamabad say that threats and attacks on them have returned, since security measures to their community have been relaxed after Rimsha was released on bail. Many have fled to relatives homes who cannot afford to keep them for long and to protest at the failure to provide protection and compensation promised by the Minister of Harmony Paul Bhatti. A sit in protest took place in the blue area of Islamabad near St Thomas' Church on Tuesday 13th August 2012. To date no assistance has been provided to this beleaguered community. The BPCA has initiated a fund to help with subsidence and relocation of these families.