When You Are Having a Bad Day…Think on This
New Delhi, 16 November (ENI)–A 60-year-old Roman Catholic
Pakistani, Ranjha Masih, has been acquitted after being held in
for eight and a half years in isolation at a prison awaiting
trial on fabricated blasphemy charges.
"We are really happy. This is a victory for Christians and those
who believe in human rights," Joseph Francis, director of the
Christian action group that pleaded Masih’s appeal, told
Ecumenical News International on 16 November from his office in
Francis, director of the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and
Settlement (CLAAS), said that the Lahore high court acquitted
Masih on 13 November of blasphemy charges. If found guilty these
carry a mandatory death sentence in Pakistan.
Masih had been arrested on the day of the funeral of Catholic
Bishop John Joseph of Faislabad who had shot himself in May 1998
to protest a death sentence that had been meted earlier out to
another member of his church on false blasphemy charges.
The legal aid centre said that during the mourning procession for
Bishop Joseph, who sacrificed his life to highlight abuses of the
blasphemy law, distressed Christian youth stoned vehicles and
Following this, a shop signboard with verses inscribed from the
Quran fell down. A group of Muslim youths then grabbed Masih from
the crowd and accused him of knocking down the signboard. Since
then, Masih had been detained, awaiting trial.
"Ranjha [Masih] is the 20th Christian we [CLAAS] have got
acquitted by the court [after being charged with blasphemy],"
Francis told ENI.
However, the Catholic activist pointed out that 10 Christians
have also been murdered during blasphemy trials since the law was
enacted in 1988. "Many of those acquitted (of blasphemy) do not
feel safe here and have migrated," said Francis explaining adding
that 10 of the Christians acquitted of blasphemy have migrated,
seven to the United States and three to Germany.
A study conducted by the Justice and Peace Commission of the
Catholic church in 2005 had pointed that of the 647 blasphemy
cases reported in the Pakistani media since 1988, 90 cases were
against Christians who account for less than three per cent of
Pakistan’s 165 million, most of whom are Muslims. [378 words]
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