By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
The family and community of an 11-year old girl with Down syndrome who was arrested under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws face threats of mob violence and burning warns International Christian Voice (ICV).
ICV founder and chairman Peter Bhatti said Rimsha Masih’s family and much of her 1500-strong Christian community is in hiding because extremists have said that becausPeter Bhatti, founder of International Christian Voice, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper earlier this year. Bhatti is requesting for assistance for the family Down's syndrome Pakastani women who was arrested in Pakastan for burning pages of the Koran.e the girl burned pages of the Koran her whole family must be burned.
“We request that the rest of the Muslim community come forward to help the Christians of Pakistan,” he said. He also appealed for financial assistance for the displaced families.
Bhatti is the older brother of assassinated Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, the first Christian to hold a cabinet post in the Pakistan government. Bhatti was the second prominent political leader in Pakistan to be assassinated by extremists after publicly speaking against the blasphemy laws. His brother, Dr. Paul Bhatti, an oral surgeon, is now acting as an advisor to the Pakistan government on religious minorities.
Shahbaz Bhatti was ambushed by gunmen on Mar. 2, 2011, only two months after the Jan.4, 2011 slaying of Punjab government Salmaan Taseer.
Masih was charged under the blasphemy laws and put in jail, a move that drew condemnation from Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.
“I am deeply troubled by reports that a young girl with developmental disabilities has been arrested for alleged blasphemy in Pakistan and that her family faces threats of violence,” Baird said in an Aug. 20 statement. “Canada is concerned about the safety of the girl, her family and their community. We have learned that local religious leaders are working together with authorities to calm the situation.”
“We urge Pakistan’s political and religious leaders to continue to cooperate to protect the family and community,” he said. “Canada strongly condemns any act of religious persecution. We urge Pakistan’s government to ensure equal rights for all Pakistanis, including members of minority communities.”
ICV, founded to provide support for persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan, is holding a fundraising dinner on Sept. 14 to raise money for the persecuted community.
Bhatti also expressed alarm over the brutal slaying of a 14-year old Christian orphan from Faisalabad, a city 255 km south of Islamabad. Suneel Masih’s mutilated body was discovered Aug. 21 with his nose, ears, and tongue removed and acid splashed on what remained of his face. His limbs had been pulled off. Internal organs, including his liver and kidneys were also removed. The boy had gone into a local market to buy a shirt when he disappeared.
Christians are not the only vulnerable minority in Pakistan. Hindus and some Muslim groups outside the mainstream are also targeted, according to news reports.