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August 24, 2012Contact: Jeff Walton 202-682-4131, 202-413-5639 cell
Washington, DC—The Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) is commending the World Council of Churches (WCC) for its decision to hold an international conference on Pakistan's blasphemy law. The September Geneva conference comes after Rimsha Masih, an eleven year-old Pakistani Christian girl reported to have Down syndrome, was accused of desecrating the Koran. Masih is now in prison, where authorities say she is safer from mob-instigated violence.
"The public hearing aims to heighten discussions at international levels on the deteriorating situation of the human rights of minorities in Pakistan and the misuse of the blasphemy law," said WCC official Mathews George Chunakara.
IRD's Pakistani source reports that Christian families in Masih’s community have fled from their homes because of a mob that has threatened their lives on the basis of what is, at most, an error by a Christian serving maid burning what she mistook as discarded paper.
IRD Religious Liberty Program Director Faith J.H. McDonnell commented:
“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.
“It is inconceivable that human beings could treat a little girl, let alone one with Down syndrome, in such a brutal manner. The mob was intent on killing Rimsha and other Christians in the community, unless she was turned over to the authorities and put in prison.
“Reports indicate that Rimsha was beaten. Only a month before, Islamists accused a mentally-impaired Muslim man of burning a Koran. A mob stormed the police station where the man was being held, dragged him out, and burned him alive.
“Pakistan has both signed on to and ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. The treatment of Rimsha Masih is far from the rights afforded special needs children. Word that Pakistan's President Asif Al Zardari has called on officials for a report on the girl's arrest is a good sign. We hope and pray that he will intervene and that good Pakistani Muslims will speak out about these outrages.”
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