Christian group to hold conference on Pak blasphemy law

The World Council of Churches said the conference was intended to give a global platform to religious minorities in Pakistan.

Geneva: An influential Christian Church organisation will hold an international conference on Pakistan`s blasphemy law in Geneva next month, after an 11-year-old mentally challenged Pakistani Christian girl was arrested on charges of blasphemy, which has triggered international outrage.

The girl, Rifta Masih, who reportedly suffers from Down`s Syndrome, was arrested after being severely beaten up by furious locals in Mehrabadi village, near Islamabad, for allegedly burning ten pages of the Quran, reports The Dawn.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) said the conference, to be held from September 17-19, was intended to give a global platform to religious minorities in Pakistan "who are victimised in the name of its controversial blasphemy law" in cases which had brought death penalties and "mob-instigated violence."

It will be addressed by representatives of the minorities - Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, dissenting Islamic sects - including Ahmadis and Shias. Pakistani diplomats in Geneva, however, have not been invited.

"The public hearing aims to heighten discussions at international levels on the deteriorating situation of the human rights of minorities in Pakistan and the misuse of the blasphemy law," said WCC official Mathews George Chunakara.

The WCC, which links 349 Protestant and Orthodox Church bodies representing more than 560 million Christians in some 110 countries, said the gathering had been planned for some time and was not directly connected to Rifta Masih`s case.

The incident was followed by the forced exodus of more than 900 Christians from the poverty-stricken suburb of Islamabad.

Pakistan`s President Asif Ali Zardari has called on officials for a report on the girl`s arrest.