Seeking refuge in a forest

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, cut down trees and are using the branches to build a church.

Their ordeal began when a Christian girl in their poor Islamabad neighbourhood was accused by a neighbour 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.

Most Christians in the neighbourhood fled — some 600 families according to one interfaith group. Some said their landlords evicted them. A few have returned. — Photos and text by Agencies

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Pakistani Christians gather outside a church in the low-income neighbourhood of Mehrabad in the suburb of the capital Islamabad. — AFP Photo
Pakistani Christians gather outside a church in the low-income neighbourhood of Mehrabad in the suburb of the capital Islamabad. — AFP Photo
Pakistani Muslims look on in the low-income neighbourhood of Mehrabad in the suburb of the capital Islamabad. — AFP Photo
Pakistani Muslims look on in the low-income neighbourhood of Mehrabad in the suburb of the capital Islamabad. — AFP Photo
Pakistani Christian youths fly kites near the house of a Christian girl, who was arrested on charges of blasphemy, in the low-income neighbourhood of Mehrabad in the suburb of the capital city of Islamabad on August 22, 2012. — AFP Photo
Pakistani Christian youths fly kites near the house of a Christian girl, who was arrested on charges of blasphemy, in the low-income neighbourhood of Mehrabad in the suburb of the capital city of Islamabad on August 22, 2012. — AFP Photo
Pakistani Christian and Muslim youths play near the house of a Christian girl, who was arrested on charges of blasphemy, in the low-income neighbourhood of Mehrabad in the suburb of the capital city of Islamabad . — AFP Photo
Pakistani Christian and Muslim youths play near the house of a Christian girl, who was arrested on charges of blasphemy, in the low-income neighbourhood of Mehrabad in the suburb of the capital city of Islamabad . — AFP Photo
A Pakistani Christian collects his belongings to leave his house in a suburb of Islamabad, Pakistan on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. — AP Photo
A Pakistani Christian collects his belongings to leave his house in a suburb of Islamabad, Pakistan on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. — AP Photo
Pakistani Christians from a neighborhood where a girl was arrested on alleged blasphemy charges sit outside the office of the city municipality in Islamabad. — AP Photo
Pakistani Christians from a neighborhood where a girl was arrested on alleged blasphemy charges sit outside the office of the city municipality in Islamabad. — AP Photo
Children sit in front of the locked family house of Rimsha Masih, a Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy. — Reuters Photo
Children sit in front of the locked family house of Rimsha Masih, a Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy. — Reuters Photo
Pakistani Christians from a neighborhood where a girl was arrested on alleged blasphemy charges pray in a clearing of an urban forest in Islamabad. — AP Photo
Pakistani Christians from a neighborhood where a girl was arrested on alleged blasphemy charges pray in a clearing of an urban forest in Islamabad. — AP Photo
Members of the International Christian Alliance chant slogans in support of a Christian girl who was accused of burning papers containing verses from the Quran, at a protest in Karachi on August 27, 2012. — AFP Photo
Members of the International Christian Alliance chant slogans in support of a Christian girl who was accused of burning papers containing verses from the Quran, at a protest in Karachi on August 27, 2012. — AFP Photo
In a picture taken on on August 22, 2012, Pakistani Christian youth gather in a prayer room in the low-income neighbourhood of Mehrabad in the suburb of the capital Islamabad. — AFP Photo
In a picture taken on on August 22, 2012, Pakistani Christian youth gather in a prayer room in the low-income neighbourhood of Mehrabad in the suburb of the capital Islamabad. — AFP Photo
Frightened Pakistani Christian families flee their home in a suburb of Islamabad, Pakistan on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. — AP Photo
Frightened Pakistani Christian families flee their home in a suburb of Islamabad, Pakistan on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. — AP Photo
Pakistani Christians from a neighborhood where a girl was arrested on alleged blasphemy charges pray in a clearing of an urban forest in Islamabad. — AP Photo
Pakistani Christians from a neighborhood where a girl was arrested on alleged blasphemy charges pray in a clearing of an urban forest in Islamabad. — AP Photo
Frightened Pakistani Christian families flee their home in a suburb of Islamabad, Pakistan on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. — AP Photo
Frightened Pakistani Christian families flee their home in a suburb of Islamabad, Pakistan on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. — AP Photo
Pakistani Christian women collect their belongings to leave their home in a suburb of Islamabad, Pakistan on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. — AP Photo
Pakistani Christian women collect their belongings to leave their home in a suburb of Islamabad, Pakistan on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. — AP Photo

Comments (1) (Closed)


Md Adab
Aug 29, 2012 08:13am
Why no comment from people?? are people shying away due to Guilt? People should develop them self 1st than expect others....