ISLAMABAD: The fearful residents of Rimsha Masih’s neighborhood still living homeless even after a non-violent settlement of Rimsha’s case.
The Christian residents of Mehrabad were forced to flee from their homes during the Rimsha Masih blasphemy row and are still homeless; getting ever more desperate. In access of 800 to 1,000 Christian families residents of Mehrabad are still living in tents or temporary shelters as they fear a violent welcome upon return to their homes in the area. It has been more than a year since they fled their homes anticipating the grave circumstances amid blasphemy accusation on Rimsha Masih a 14 year old Christian resident of the same locality. The escapees to a large extent lack even basic needs for instance clean water for drinking moreover they fear officials may sooner or latter compel them to move on from their present makeshift shelters.
Some sources say, ”The Christians still fear retaliatory attacks from Islamist extremists enraged by the blasphemy accusations made against Rimsha, a teenager with learning difficulties, in August 2012.”
Rimsha Masih was arrested in August 2012 in Islamabad after a Muslim cleric accused her of burning pages of the Qur’an. She was therefore held in jail for three weeks before she finally was released on bail, however the complainant cleric was later accused of manufacturing fake evidence against her and consequently, the case against the girl was dropped. Rimsha however, could have faced life in prison if found guilty over allegations. This case drew extensive international condemnation. After the case against her was quashed in November, Rimsha Masih and her family were also forced into hiding nonetheless they took refuge under government security the family feared of their lives.
After Rimsha was acquitted of blasphemy in November 2012 and she was later granted asylum, with her family, in Canada. At the same time, Christians in her area were reportedly attacked and were forced to flee amid death threats. Some residents however, tried to return but were ostracised and not allowed to buy food. They’re now seeking government support to find permanent homes.
Even if the case against her was thrown out, people accused of blasphemy in Pakistan are often subjected to vigilante justice. Furious mobs have been witnessed attacking and killing people accused of blasphemy notwithstanding two prominent Pakistani politicians who have stood their ground against these acts of vandalism and misuse of blasphemy laws have been killed.
An international organization urges all to:
- Pray for a safe and permanent home for the many Christians from Mehrabad who are still living in fear. Pray that officials will act quickly now to ensure their safety and well-being.
- Continue to pray for God’s protection and favour over Rimsha and her family.