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Fleeing Christians build church from branches in forest

They fled their homes amid the anger over the Christian girl who has been charged with blasphemy. Now they are improvising a place to thank God.

  • Zarar Khan and Rebecca Santana
  • Pakistan
  • August 28, 2012
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Having fled their homes in the latest spasm of Pakistani religious strife, a few hundred Christians have camped in a forest in the Pakistani capital [Islamabad], cut down trees and are using the branches to build a church.

Their ordeal began when a Christian girl in their poor Islamabad neighborhood was accused by a neighbor of burning pages of the Quran – a blasphemy by Pakistani law that can mean life in prison.

A week after the girl's arrest, much remains in question: her age – 11 to 16 in conflicting reports; mental condition _  Down syndrome has been mentioned; and what exactly she was burning – there's little evidence that Quran pages were involved.

But as word spread, hundreds of people gathered outside her house demanding action, and on Aug. 20 police arrested the girl pending an investigation. (The Associated Press is withholding her name because it does not generally identify underage suspects.)

Most Christians in the neighborhood fled – some 600 families according to one interfaith group. Some said their landlords evicted them. A few have returned.

One of those who moved into the forest on Sunday was Sumera Zahid, who was busy feeding her three children and her parents.

"We used to come here to collect wood for fuel so we find it a suitable place for shelter," she said. "Here it is not anybody's home, nobody's land. Let us live here in safety."

On Monday their pastor, Arif Masih, spoke to them by the frame of branches they were lashing together for their church.

"We are thankful to the Lord for this land although here is no water and food, but rest assured the Lord will create water fountains and provide all fruits here for you if you remain patient and suffer these hardships, thanking the Lord," he said.

Full Story: Fearful Pakistani Christians Make Home In Forest

Source: Huffington Post Religion
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