Pakistani Christians Flee Village After Handicapped Girl Is Accused of Blasphemy

Protestors swarming the home of Rifta Masih

An 11 year-old [correction: 14 year-old] handicapped Christian girl, Rifta Masih, might have burned a Koran or she might have innocently put pages of the Koran into the trash or she might have done nothing. A spurned boy might have done it to get even with her.

Another neighborhood girl, aged ten, brought ashes to the mosque, claiming she saw the 11 year-old burn the Koran. The ashes were indiscernible so the Imam mixed in pages of a Koran and sent it all off to the police.

A neighborhood man described by inhabitants as “shady and unreliable” claims he witnessed the “crime” as well.

The child has some type of handicap, perhaps Down Syndrome. The girl was severely beaten by locals and then jailed. Her family is in protective custody. Mobs of Muslims have rampaged throughout the community demanding she be burned as a blasphemer.

On government orders and for their safety, nine hundred Christians have fled their town for nearby overcrowded Christian slums. The ones who stayed are being refused food and water and have been threatened. Only 10% of the inhabitants are Christians. They work for Muslim landlords and do the dirty jobs no one else wants.

Under Pakistani law, those who defame the prophet face the death penalty while defiling the Koran can bring a life sentence. This is the 4th case against a Christian in recent months and human rights advocates are concerned that the law is being unfairly applied to Christians.

Some moderate Muslims agree but tensions between Muslims and Christians have been growing recently.

If the girl is cleared, she can never return home. Some will forgive her (as if being innocent requires forgiveness) but many will still want her death.

If anyone, Muslim or Christian, speaks against the blasphemy law, they are executed as in the case of a Punjab official last year. In 2010, one Christian couple was sentenced to 25 years for touching the Koran with unwashed hands.

Read more at WaPoTribune PK, and Guardian UK