The residents of Mehrabad – a poor suburb in the outskirts of the Pakistani capital city, Islamabad has been home for 20 years to the poor Pakistani Christians. They have conducted their last worship in the simple church that was built less than a year ago with the help of Muslims from the surrounding areas.
Mehrabad has been home to the Christian Community which consists of poor families, whose only source of income is the collection of paper or wood from the ever-growing nearby capital city – Islamabad.
Rimsha Masih the young Christian girl with Down’s Syndrome was arrested from Mehrabad’s Christian Community for accusations by her neighbours of burning pages from a children’s religious instruction book which contained verses from the Holy Quran – a very grave and deadly crime in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The country has embraced the main religion of Islam which is 97% of the population while the minorities suffer in poverty and discrimination especially the Christian community. Witnesses have stated that a local mosque imam had heard of Rimsha’s incident on the same day that it had taken place, thus leading an enraged crowd of Muslims to Rimsha’s house. The Police later on stepped in and arrested Rimsha for blasphemy charges.
The recent events taking place in Mehrabad, has shook the Christian Community as it has awakened the horror that was witnessed by the people of Gojra, Punjab in 2009. This incident had left seven killings and 40 Christian houses being burnt to the ground by Muslim radicals with regard to a rumor of a page from the Holy Quran being dishonoured during a wedding in the Gojra Christian Community.
Tensions had already erupted in Mehrabad seven months earlier when Muslims were annoyed by the services being held at the local Church in the Community. The Church which is hidden away by the streets surrounding it was built with the help of Muslims. Even though no obvious clue was allowed to be placed on the building it was given permission to act as the place of worship only on Sundays for the Christians of Mehrabad. This issue had sparked tensions just a week before Rimsha was accused. The shutdown of the Church was demanded as the music coming from the Sunday services annoyed the Muslims who were praying at the same time. The Sunday service at church grew quiet as the Christians continued to meet but did not hold a service as not to raise the tension any further and to come up with a negotiable solution for the situation.
Ashraf Masih a resident of Mehrabad said, “If we can’t pray here anymore, we’ll have to leave the area”.
Mehrabad’s residents have fled their homes after the incident as they are afraid that the Muslims would enact the same horror that had taken place in Gojra years back but has remained fresh in the memories of Pakistani Christians.
Despite all this, some Muslims kept themselves at a distance from all the rage occurring at present regarding Rimsha and the demand for Christians to vacate the area.
Mohamed Mehtab, a landlord said, that he did not want the Christians to leave. Most of the run-down shacks in Mehrabad as well as the Church building are rented out to Christians by Muslim landlords – which had been under dispute before the case of Rimsha.
Even though, Rimsha’s case has prompted concern from Western governments and anger from rights groups, who say the blasphemy law is abused in personal disputes and should be reformed. There seems to be little hope in the Pakistani Christian Community that justice will be served. The Christians have been always targeted, tortured and tormented by the Muslims for years without any justice ever taking place. People who have stood up against such matters have been brutally killed or murdered with unexplainable reasons, which differ from person to person.
The people of Mehrabad see no hope to call the place their home once again as Christians who have chosen to stay in their homes at present are being denied food and other necessities for their faith in Christ Jesus. On the other hand, Mehrabad Christians can never return home as their safety is not guaranteed – as stated by the Pakistani government.
For the Only Cause that matters.
Submitted by: Marin