Barnabas helps Christians driven from Pakistani village by blasphemy case
Country/Region: South and East Asia, Pakistan
Imam arrested for framing Christian girl Rimsha Masih
As a plot to oust Christians from the village where Christian girl Rimsha Masih was accused of blasphemy is exposed, Barnabas Fund is helping the families who were forced to flee their homes.
Christians were driven out of Maherabad
Pakistani imam Khalid Jadoon Chishti planted evidence on the 14-year-old with Down’s syndrome to “get rid of Christians” from Maherabad, a court in Islamabad heard this week.
Chishti was himself charged with blasphemy on Sunday (2 September) after witnesses, including his own deputy, Hafiz Muhammad Zubair, came forward, saying that they saw him add pages of the Quran to the bag of burnt papers used as evidence against Rimsha. It is the first time that someone has been arrested in Pakistan for fabricating evidence in a blasphemy case.
The ashes had been brought to Chishti by Rimsha’s original accuser, who said that the Christian girl had burnt pages from the Quran. Zubair and others told the imam not to interfere with the contents but to “give the evidence to the police as he got it”.
But seeing that no Quranic pages were visible in the bag, Chishti is alleged to have added some himself, saying that this was “the only way to expel the Christians from this area”.
Rimsha was subsequently detained on a blasphemy charge that carries a life sentence under Pakistani law. Chishti claimed to have “saved” Rimsha by handing her over to the police.
The teenager’s lawyer has since called for her to be “acquitted immediately”, but she remains in police custody. Her case has been adjourned three times and is now scheduled to be heard tomorrow (7 September).
Barnabas helps Christian families
Barnabas Fund partners delivering aid to the ousted Christian families
All Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Allama Tahir Ashrafi, who has spoken out in Rimsha’s defence, said that certain people from her village, Maherabad, have wanted to force the Christian community out for some time so that a madrasa, an Islamic school, could be built there.
Their plan certainly worked, because hundreds of Christians fled their homes amid Muslim violence and threats. Some are staying in churches, some with relatives elsewhere, while others have set up camp in a forest. It is not yet known whether they will ever be able to return to Maherabad, but most are too fearful to do so at present.
Barnabas Fund has been providing food parcels to the destitute Christian families. We have received messages of thanks from those we have been helping. One couple, Salamat Masih and Yasmeen Bibi, who have a daughter with special needs, said:
When our pastor informed us about the contribution of food we were so happy and prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ who provided us with food... We are thankful to Barnabas Fund for stepping forward at this difficult time and providing us with enough food.
It costs £25 to feed one Christian family for a month. (€32, US$40, AU$38, NZ$49) The food packages include flour, rice, oil, tea, grains, beans, spices and salt.
This week the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) released the findings of a content analysis of school textbooks used in Punjab and Sindh that showed a significant increase in the amount of “hate material” targeted at Christians and other religious minorities. Drawing a link to the Rimsha Masih case, the NCJP’s Peter Jacob said that such material must be eliminated from textbooks, otherwise similar incidents would continue to happen.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, He said:
The whole Christian community from Maherabad is suffering over this malicious case, which appears to have been manufactured deliberately to drive hundreds of innocent people from their homes. Thank God for the courage of those who have come forward with new evidence, and pray that truth and justice will prevail for both Rimsha and the Christian families whose lives have been turned upside down.
If you would like to help the Pakistani Christian families forced to flee from their homes because of this incident, please send your donation to project Victims of Violence Fund (00-345).using our secure server.
If you prefer to telephone, dial: 0800 587 4006 from within the UK or +44 1672 565031 from outside the UK. Please quote project reference Victims of Violence Fund (00-345).
If you prefer to send a cheque by post: Click this link for the address of our regional office. Please quote project reference Victims of Violence Fund (00-345).
For a quick donation of £3.00 by SMS (see terms and conditions here) text Barnabas/345 to 70007 (Please note: This facility is presently only available to UK supporters).
- Give thanks for the remarkable response to Rimsha’s case from numerous Pakistani Muslims, who have come forward with evidence against her accusers and spoken out in her defence. Pray for their protection.
- Pray that the underlying issues in Pakistan that lead to the mistreatment of Christians, notably the blasphemy laws and hate material in school textbooks, will be properly addressed in light of this case.
- Pray for the Christian families who have been made homeless. Pray that the Lord will be “a refuge for the needy in [their] distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat” (Isaiah 25:4b).