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Yet, while some blasphemous Christians are killed as blood sport for enraged Muslim mobs, others are targeted for assassination by a select few.
For example, in July 2010 several gunmen in Punjab Province shot to death two Christian brothers accused of blasphemy, Rashid Emmanuel and Sajid Masih Emmanuel, as they left court handcuffed together on their way back to prison after their court appearance.
Both brothers had been arrested a month earlier after leaflets allegedly bearing their names and featuring derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad were found around town. Ironically, local police were going to clear them because an analysis of the hand-written leaflets showed that they were not the authors of the offending script.
In fact, Pakistani authorities claimed the accusations against the Christian brothers were fabricated by people who had a grudge against them, an unsurprising assertion given that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws contain no provisions to punish a false accuser or false witness. As a result, the laws have often been used to settle personal scores rather than to defend against perceived sleights to Islamic piety.
One such notable victim of score settling is Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five children, who has been awaiting a death sentence in prison since 2009 after a verbal disagreement with some women in her village led to her being accused of having blasphemed against Mohammad.
Sadly, this relentless Muslim persecution of Christians has a trickling down effect. As an example, Christian children required to take Islamic studies in school are in danger, according to one young Pakistani mother, simply “if they write anything or misspell anything to do with the Prophet Mohammad.”
To that end, some parents take the added precaution of not telling their children about Jesus because they are terrified they will fall prey to accusations under the blasphemy statutes. As such, an entire Christian generation of young children is growing up not knowing their faith for fear that it will lead to potentially disastrous consequences.
One such Christian child, Rimsha Masih, now faces her own set of disastrous consequences as she remains incarcerated in a Pakistani jail, her fate far from settled. As Ansar Burney Trust, a human rights advocacy group, says children as young as seven can spend years behind bars before the courts have even decided if they are innocent or guilty, estimating there are “as many as 4,500 juveniles in Pakistani prisons.”
Of course, not everyone shares concerns about Rimsha’s fate, most notably Muslim residents in her neighborhood, who assign Rimsha’s predicament to her deep misunderstanding and disrespect to Islamic traditions and culture.
That viewpoint was perhaps best expressed by a local shopkeeper, Mohammed Ilyas, who simply said, “Even a 3-year-old, 4-year-old child knows: ‘This is Muslim. This is Christian. This is our religion.’”
That religion, apparently, requires that not only a toddler be expected to know what constitutes an heretical act against Islam but also an 11-year-old-girl with Downs’s syndrome, and if they can’t, be prepared to suffer the consequences.
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