A Pakistani Arab-Christian examines the ruins of that which was his place of worship before it was destroyed by muslims
Muslims torched Christian homes and “destroyed” a church in a slum area of
Islamabad while suspected militants shot at another church outside Pakistan’s
capital, after the jailing of a mentally handicapped Christian girl for
“blasphemy”, witnesses said Tuesday, August 21.
“Our staff and a few
[other] Christians went into [Islamabad’s] colony of Meherabadi [late Monday
local time ],” added Farrukh H. Saif, executive director of Pakistani rights
group World Vision In Progress (WVIP).
“We found that five houses were
burned and one church was destroyed,” he told BosNewsLife. “Bibles [have been
torn] to pieces and a [church] cross is broken”, the official
Elsewhere in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi the Catholic St.
Matthew’s Church was “attacked by unknown extremists at 2 a.m. local time,”
added Saif, citing investigators.
“They opened fire at the Church
building which damaged the front of the building,” in Karachi’s Pehlwan Goth
neighborhood, he explained.
Karachi’s WVIP representative in Karachi, Sunny Bernard
Gill, said the incident had “created tension and fear among Christians of the
Pehlwan Goth” area.
This was not an isolated incident in the neighborhood
as “Muslim extremists” have attacked Christian properties and churches twice
over the last year, Saif said.
The latest violence came as 11-year-old
Rimsha Masih was preparing to spend another night in Adiala jail, a grim
facility in Rawalpindi, close to Islamabad.
Police jailed the girl
Friday, August 17, after at least hundreds of Muslim protesters demanded that
she face charges under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
A local cleric had said
she burned pages of the Noorani Qaida, a religious textbook used to teach the
Koran to children, said Saif.
Rimsha is thought to be mentally handicapped, but
police quoted in some media claimed “she had no mental impairments” and that she
may be older.
However Saif told BosNewsLife he is convinced about her
young age and stressed she “could not have known she burned the textbook as she
can not read.”
As Pakistani Muslims celebrated the feast of Id al-Fitr,
Rimsha was still in Adiala jail reportedly with her mother, awaiting their
Muslim mobs have been pressuring the girl’s Christian neighbors and
others to flee, Saif and other activists said.
Thousands of Christians were still outside the slum area
where the alleged burning incident happened, fearing for their lives, according
to several human rights workers.
There were concerns late Tuesday, August
21, that at least several Christian refugees would have no place to return to,
amid reports of burning homes. WVIP said it was distributing food among hundreds
of impoverished Christians.
Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari
stressed in a statement that he had “taken notice” of the situation and ordered
the Interior Ministry to investigate the girl’s detention.
Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy legislation anyone, including apparently
minors, can face the death penalty or at least a long prison term for blasphemy
On Monday, August 20, Dutch parliamentarians of the
ChristianUnie, or’ChristianUnion’ party, urged the Netherlands and the European
Union to pressure Pakistan to release Rimsha and demand an end to the blasphemy
The case underscores concerns over thousands of children who rights
activists say are languishing in Pakistani jails, often without proper legal
representation, or just forgotten by what critics view as a corrupt and
bureaucratic judicial system.