Pakistani institutions and religious leaders are working together for the release of a Christian girl accused of blasphemy and to reduce the risk of Muslim-Christian violence over the incident, said the Pakistani prime minister’s special adviser on minorities.
Paul Bhatti, the Catholic adviser, told the Vatican’s Fides news agency on August 23 that those working to secure the girl’s release included Muslim leaders.
Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, has reported that the girl, Rimsha Masih, is an 11-year-old with Down syndrome.
She was taken into custody on August 18 after allegedly being found with burned pages of the Quran, the Muslim holy book.
When the police took her away, hundreds of angry Muslims were reportedly gathering in the mainly poor Christian neighborhood of Islamabad where she lived.
Hundreds of families have fled the neighbourhood, and the police presence has increased.
“The situation is under control,” Bhatti told Fides.
Catholic leaders in Pakistan and human rights activists have said the country’s anti-blasphemy law, which includes offenses against the Quran, has been misused to persecute Christians and other minorities in the country.
Daughter of St Paul Sr Daniela Baronchelli, who works in Pakistan, told Vatican Radio on August 20: “We have been told that the girl cannot respond to the interrogation.
They found her with a bag that had parts of a burned Quran inside. They don’t know, however, who gave it to her or where she got it; they don’t know anything.”
Sr Daniela said the angry crowd “wanted to burn her alive because they say it was a great offense against the Quran.”
The unjust use of the anti-blasphemy law “unfortunately is becoming all too common.
“The fact is that the extremists don’t want the Christians here anymore, so any little thing – true or not – is enough to incite a revolt,” she said.