ASIA/PAKISTAN - The Director of the PMS: "If Rimsha becomes a symbol, everything will be more difficult"
Karachi (Agenzia Fides) - "If Rimsha becomes a symbol for her release everything will be more difficult. Today and tomorrow we will pray in all churches for her and her family ": is what Fr. Mario Rodrigues, national Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) in Pakistan says to Fides, on the eve of the hearing on September 1, when the Court of First Instance of Islamabad is expected to rule on the case of Rimsha. The defense had filed a medical report that defined her "a minor and mentally disabled"; yesterday the counter-party challenged these results.
Fr. Rodrigues told Fides: "We remain confident about her release, so that justice is done. We are happy for the support received from Muslim leaders who have spoken out publicly in favor of Rimsha. I believe that something is changing in public opinion, even about the blasphemy law, which for years we have criticized."
As reported to Fides, in a meeting of the "Special Group" set up to monitor Rimsha's case, formed by the "Pakistan Interreligious League" (PIL) and the "All Pakistan Ulema Council" (APUC), a coalition of Islamic religious leaders, the President of the PIL, Sajid Ishaq, invited everyone to "avoid distortions and exploitation, and to observe the case with transparency and objectivity."
In a statement sent to Fides, the NGO "Christian Solidarity Worldwide" notes: "The postponement of the court is extremely frustrating and prolongs Rimsha's suffering. The cruel decision to oppose to granting bail is a reflection of the mentality of those who support the accusation. We hope that the judge may decide on the case without undue pressure or intimidation."
The Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), ecumenical organization made up of many Protestant Churches in Asia, expressing "shock and disbelief," writes in an open letter, sent to Fides: "We pray and express solidarity to all Christians in Pakistan "inviting institutions to" take into account the vulnerability and innocence of a helpless girl who is now in a state of shock, separated from her parents." The Conference condemns the "draconian blasphemy law" and supports the Church and the civil society in Pakistan "in calling for a review not only of the blasphemy law, but all laws that discriminate and punish people on the basis of religion or gender" . (PA) (Agenzia Fides 31/08/2012)
Karachi (Agenzia Fides) - The young Christian Faisal Masih was killed two days ago in shots fired in the attack of an Islamic extremist group in the Christian suburb of Essa Nagri, on the outskirts of Karachi. This is confirmed by Fr. Mario Rodrigues, a priest in Karachi and Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Pakistan. As he explains to Fides, in the area, densely populated, there are about 50,000 Christians, in conditions of extreme poverty and lack of basic services. In the suburb of Essa Nagri there are about 15 churches of various denominations and various NGOs working with projects of education, social and economic support to the community. Among these, the NGO "Mission and Action for Social Services" (MASS), reported to Fides the latest attack against the community, already in past months subject to terrible violence and abuse (see Fides 27/3 and 14/1/2012). After the attack, which occurred on the night of August 29, a crowd of Christians staged a peaceful protest, but the police intervened to disperse the protesters, firing tear gas and seriously injuring Pastor Cornelius and another young Christian man, Shahzad Riaz, both in hospital.
As stated by MASS, "the police, instead of arresting the perpetrators of the attack, arrested dozens of Christian demonstrators." In Essa Nagri Christians are harassed by criminal gangs and Islamic terrorist groups of ethnic Pashtuns: armed to the teeth, the militants enter the area to collect the "Jizya" (the tax imposed, according to the sharia, on the non-Muslim minorities), and extort money from the Christian merchants. MASS activists have been denouncing for a long time continuous robberies, violence and abuses committed under the cover of some Police officials. Militants raid houses, steal and abuse women and children for fun. The local population is terrorized and residents, exasperated, have decided to form their militia of security to defend themselves. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 31/08/2012)