Open Doors USA launches Campaign to Support Girl Accused of Blasphemy
SANTA ANA, Calif. (Sept. 13, 2012) – On Aug. 16, Rimsha Masih, a young Christian girl with possible learning disabilities, was arrested on charges of “blasphemy” in Islamabad, Pakistan. Open Doors USA announced today it has launched a campaign on her behalf.
Rimsha, allegedly between the ages of 11 and 14, was accused of burning pages of the Quran, a serious crime under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws. Following her arrest, angry crowds threatened to burn Christian homes in the area. Many Christians were forced to flee. After an initial court appearance, Rimsha was held in prison and some reports say that her parents were placed in protective custody.
Last Friday a Pakistani judge granted bail to Rimsha. Judge Mohammad Azam Khan set bail at $10,500. It’s rare that bail is granted in a blasphemy case, partly for the defendant’s own safety, but Masih’s lawyers pleaded that she was a juvenile, according to Open Doors News.
The girl was released Saturday from a prison in Rawalpindi, a city near Islamabad, and taken away by helicopter accompanied by tight security.
Robinson Asghar, aide to the Minister for National Harmony, told Reuters Rimsha is expected to re-join her family in a secret location. Asghar said there are no plans to send Rimsha abroad. Prosecution lawyers said this was a risk as a result of the prominence the case has received in international media. Asghar’s boss, Minister Paul Bhatti, is concerned with the girl’s security after his brother Shahbaz, then Minister for Minorities, was shot dead in March 2011 for challenging the blasphemy laws.
“Even though Rimsha was released, she and her family will be in grave danger and likely will not be able to return to their home,” says Open Doors USA Advocacy Director Lindsay Vessey. “Vigilante killings of those accused of blasphemy are common in Pakistan.
“Even with her release, she still faces blasphemy charges and a possible trial. Those charges against her should be dropped immediately. Like other victims of this unjust law – including Aasyia Noreen (Bibi) who has been in prison for four years under a death sentence for blasphemy – Rimsha needs the support and prayers of Christians worldwide.”
Vessey says the Open Doors USA campaign could make a difference for Rimsha. Christians can help her case by contacting Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, asking Pakistan to protect Rimsha and ensure justice for her.
To send an email to Ambassador Rehman, visit the Open Doors Advocacy website to take action. Included on the site is a sample letter.
- For safety and justice for Rimsha and her family
- That the displaced Christians will be able to resettle in safety in their homes
- For other Christians facing blasphemy charges such as Aasyia Noreen (Bibi)
Nearly 70 percent of the world’s 6.8 billion people live in countries with little or no freedom of religion. Open Doors is an organization that for over five decades has come alongside Christians in 60 of these restrictive, dangerous countries, campaigning for the freedom to believe from the gulags in North Korea to the halls of Congress. Open Doors’ outreach to more than 100 million persecuted believers includes delivery of Bibles and other materials, training of indigenous leaders in the Word, Christian community development, prayer and advocacy. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.
(For more information or to set up an interview, contact Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email [email protected]).