Rare Good News in Sudden Reversal of Fortune for Iranian Pastor and Accused Pakistani Girl
"Many who have followed Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani's case are strongly urging asylum in the West for his family." -- Faith McDonnell, IRD Religious Liberty Director
Contact: Jeff Walton, Institute on Religion and Democracy, 202-682-4131, jwalton@TheIRD.org
WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- Amidst bad news from Libya and Egypt, there have also been two surprisingly positive developments from both Iran and Pakistan this week.
On September 8, Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was acquitted and freed from prison where he had been held for 1062 days because of his Christian faith and witness.
Meanwhile, Rimsha Masih, the young Pakistani Christian girl accused under Pakistan's blasphemy law, was released on bail. Rimsha, who has been identified as being 14 years old, but with a lower mental age and possibly having Down syndrome, was falsely accused of burning pages of Islamic material. One of her accusers, a Muslim cleric named Khalid Jadoon, has himself been accused of planting false evidence in order to stir up hatred against the Christian community.
Rimsha's release from jail was highly dramatic. With her face completely covered, she was escorted by heavily armed guards from an armored personnel carrier to a Pakistan military helicopter. She was then flown to an undisclosed location to be reunited with her family.
IRD Religious Liberty Director Faith McDonnell commented:
"Persecution of Christians by the Iranian Islamic regime has been going on for years, and even with this unprecedented acquittal, there is still danger for Youcef and his family. Many who have followed his case are strongly urging asylum in the West for the Nadarkhanis. In any case, pray for God's protection for them.
"Like Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, Rimsha Masih is free but not safe. Even if all the charges against her are dropped, the Islamist mobs that originally attacked her, her family, and the entire Christian community where she lived, will not be satisfied.
"Other Christians who have been accused of blasphemy have been killed by vigilantes before trial or while in prison. Others have had to flee the country permanently.
"The fate of Rimsha Masih's family, like that of the Nadarkhanis, is uncertain. The safest alternative in a climate where Islamists see justification for destroying an entire Christian neighborhood is to get out. Some reports, including a Compass Direct interview with one of Rimsha's attorneys, have said that there are no plans to send them abroad. But asylum in the West may be the only way to ensure their survival."