Easter blessings from UCAN
There is no more important week in the year for Christians than this Holy Week. We call it Holy because of the mystery we celebrate - God's gift of His son who loves us to his death on Calvary and beyond.
Because of that love, we wish each other Happy Easter even when we know there is a lot of tragedy about it - Good Friday. As Christians, we know that what we see happening with and in Jesus goes to the heart of what we know from our own experience of life.
At the Second Vatican Council, the Christian lives we all lead were described as being shares in the Paschal Mystery. We have our share in the death and resurrection of Jesus every day. Our lives are part of the Paschal Mystery.
At UCAN, we work to describe that mystery in the unfolding tragedies and astonishing blessings of the people we seek out and report, feature and comment on.
While at times deeply distressing work, this effort of ours gets its coherence in the same way the death of Jesus did - because of the astonishing grace of a God who never gives up on life and love.
Because of that, we can wish you Happy Easter.
Fr. Michael Kelly SJ
Activist seeks release of girl jailed for blasphemy
All Pakistan Minority Alliance reaches out to Muslim community to urge calmThe locked house of Rimsha Masih in Sector G-11, a Christian slum in Islamabad
- Kamran Chaudry, Islamabad
- August 23, 2012
â€śSupport from government officials is overwhelmingly strong. Top clerics in the country are condemning the injustice [of the girlâ€™s arrest],â€ť said Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, a central executive committee member of the All Pakistan Minority Alliance (APMA), a national coalition of minority rights groups.
â€śWe were hoping for her release but the [Eid ul-Fitr] holidays delayed it,â€ť he said.
Rimsha Masih, variously reported to be between the age of 10 and 16, was confronted by a group of Muslims at her home in Sector G-11, a Christian slum in Islamabad, on the night of August 16 after witnesses said she was found with burned pages of a religious textbook that contained verses from the Qurâ€™an.
The girl and her mother were brought to a local police station and detained before Masih, who the APMA says is 11 years old and suffers from Downâ€™s syndrome, was transferred to Adiyala jail in Rawalpindi.
The family has since gone into hiding, Chaudhry said.
Chaudhry, who is also a member of the provincial assembly and an attorney, said he plans to visit Masih on Thursday along with a group of Catholic priests, during which he would seek her power of attorney to plead her case in court.
Since the arrest, the APMA has contacted local clerics to urge restraint among the Muslim community, Chaudhry said.
â€śWe asked them to stop anyone from promoting hate against Christians during Friday sermons. We have planned meetings with grassroots clerics and will interact closely with them so that we win their support in case of future incidents,â€ť he said.
However the arrest and subsequent furor among some local Muslims sent hundreds of Christians fleeing from their homes in the G-11 slum for fear of reprisal.
Chaudhry said about 25 families had taken refuge in a local Church, while six hundred other Christians left to stay with relatives.
Nathaniel Allarakha, a house painter from Mehr village in the capital, said he and others had fled the G-11 slum on the night of the arrest after calls by a local mosque to prevent Christians from leaving the area.
â€śIt was 11 at night when announcements were made on the mosque loudspeakers urging Muslims to wake up and prevent Christians from escaping,â€ť Allarakha said.
â€śChildren were crying. We stuffed our families into vehicles without salvaging anything. I have been wearing the same shirt for six days.â€ť
Allarakha is among an estimated hundreds of other Christians who fled to a slum in Sector F 7-2 and who have been receiving food aid from the APMA, said Nida Nazir, district president of the groupâ€™s womenâ€™s wing.
â€śWe started with 318 people. The number increased earlier in the week but has gradually dropped,â€ť Nazir said.
However, hopes for a peaceful resolution to the case and the easing of religious tensions surrounding it remain questionable.
Allarakha said he and others who fled have received phone calls from a Muslim community leader in Sector G-11 urging Christians to return to retrieve their belongings and leave the community for good, promising that no one would be harmed.
Meanwhile, local media reported this week that police in Islamabad have filed cases against 175 Muslims for illegal assembly in the days following Masihâ€™s arrest.
US calls blasphemy arrest 'disturbing'