Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy against Islam is now in Canada with her family

As reported by Terry Glavin of the Ottawa Citizen, July 1, 2013:

Until the Canada Day weekend, it was a closely-guarded secret in Ontario’s Pakistani émigré community that Rimsha Masih, the Christian girl whose entrapment in Pakistan’s barbaric blasphemy laws captured headlines around the world last year, was living incognito with her family in Canada.

While much of Rimsha’s harrowing saga can now be told, her story is just one small drama in a much larger and necessarily untold story involving scores — sometimes hundreds — of people who are secreted into Canada every year.

In the case of 13-year-old Rimsha, it was only after she was recognized at a Mississauga shopping mall and a Toronto-based advocacy group confirmed the basic facts of the case last week that her parents consented, on Saturday, to allow Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to speak publicly about the story.

“There was no point in denying it by then. It was becoming a known fact in the community,” Kenney told me on Sunday. “This was being dealt with in extreme discretion. I don’t want to be too dramatic about this, but they’ve had targets painted on their backs for the better part of a year.”

While Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are an outrage against international human rights norms, Rimsha’s case was especially notorious. Initial reports described Rimsha as a child with Down’s Syndrome who stood accused of having burned a Koran, and the proceedings against her almost immediately revealed that she’d been framed by a fanatical Muslim cleric, a neighbour with a grudge against the family.

Blasphemy allegations targeting Pakistan’s tiny Christian community sometimes fail to produce convictions, but they rarely fail to provoke lynch-mob violence, pogroms and assassinations. The Masih family had “gone underground” last September, and even though a November high court ruling ordered a dismissal of the charges against Rimsha, whose disability involves a slight intellectual impairment, the death threats persisted.

After furtive contacts between Ottawa and the family’s protectors in Pakistan and a series of expedited deliberations at the Canadian High Commission in Islamabad, Rimsha, her parents and her three siblings arrived in Canada March 13. Rimsha’s parents are Misrak and Mariyam Masih, her sisters are Rubacca, 15 and Cloudia, 10, and her brother is Anosh, 8.

The family is receiving some assistance via the refugee assistance program, to help them through their first year in Canada. They are also being helped by the Pakistani-Canadian Christian community, Kenney said. The family is living somewhere in the Greater Toronto Area, “which is all we’re going to say...”

...Roughly 1,000 people have been swept up by Pakistan’s blasphemy laws since 1986, more than half of them during past five years. Kenney said he was already “acutely aware” of the mortal threats involved, not least because of the Pakistani Taliban’s March 2011 assassination of his friend Shabaz Bhatti, the crusading Pakistani MP who was an outspoken opponent of Islamabad’s blasphemy laws.

Bhatti’s brother Peter, president of the Toronto-based International Christian Voice, was instrumental in developing the lines of communication between Ottawa and the Masih family in Islamabad. Peter Bhatti has also taken a leading role in helping the family settle in the Toronto area...

...To come to the aid of a person accused of blasphemy in Pakistan is to take one’s life into one’s hands. In January, 2011, Punjab provincial governor Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by a member of his own security team for having taken up the cause of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death by hanging in 2010 for an act of blasphemy that she denies committing. Bibi’s case is under appeal.

Getting Rimsha Masih’s family spirited out in Pakistan was a slow and dangerous process.

“It took some time because of the danger for them to procure passports for her and her family,” Kenney said, “but as soon as that happened we ensured that our High Commission processed permits for them to come to Canada.”
While I rejoice that the Masih family is out of immediate harm's way, I suspect that it doesn't necessarily mean that they're safe even in Toronto. Given the multicultural monstrosity that Trudeaupia (still officially known as "Canada" has become), it's not outside the realm of possibility that the same mentality that persecuted the Masih family in Pakistan may be at work in Canada. Let us pray for the safety of these Christians in Canada and, of course, in their homelands.

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