Islamic Lawyers Press for Blasphemy Trial, and possible Execution, of 11-Year-Old Girl with Down Syndrome
August 31, 2012
An international coalition of churches representing more than half a billion Christians will meet in Geneva next month to take up the plight of an 11-year-old Christian girl who faces execution under Pakistan's blasphemy laws.
The World Council of Churches called the meeting to discuss Pakistan's brutal blasphemy laws and, in particular, the case of Rimsha Masih. Masih, who is believed to have Down syndrome, has been in jail for allegedly burning pages from a book containing Islamic scripture. The case has generated international condemnation, but the fundamentalist firebrands behind her imprisonment seem immune to criticism, much less diplomatic efforts.
"It is inconceivable that human beings could treat a little girl, let alone one with Down syndrome, in such a brutal manner."
- Faith J.H. McDonnell, of the Washington-based Institute for Religion and Democracy
"This latest affair just highlights the total hypocrisy of Pakistan, and its supporters, in the Human Rights Council," Roy Brown, chief representative to the United Nations for the International Humanist and Ethical Union, said in a statement.
Pakistan's blasphemy laws are ambiguous -- except in their mandatory prescription for execution -- and, as in the case of Masih, often enforced in tribal regions at the insistence of angry mobs. Pakistan's President Asif Al Zardari has demanded a report on the girl's arrest, which has brought protests from Amnesty International, British-based Christian group Barnabas Fund and others.
The Council, which links 349 Protestant and Orthodox church organizations, will hold the conference from Sept. 17-19, with United Nations representatives also expected to attend. The agenda will be topped by Pakistan's blasphemy laws, persecution of Christians and Masih's case.