September 3, 2012

Pakistani institutions and religious leaders are working together for the release of a Christian girl accused of blasphemy and to reduce the risk of Muslim-Christian violence over the incident, said the Pakistani prime minister's special adviser on minorities.

Paul Bhatti, the Catholic adviser, told the Vatican's Fides news agency Aug. 23 that those working to secure the girl's release included Muslim leaders.

The girl, Rimsha Masih, is an 11-year-old with Down syndrome.

She was taken into custody Aug. 18 after allegedly being found with burned pages of the Quran, the Muslim holy book.

When the police took her away, hundreds of angry Muslims were reportedly gathering in the mainly poor Christian neighbourhood of Islamabad where she lived.

Hundreds of families have fled the neighbourhood, and the police presence has increased.

Catholic leaders in Pakistan and human rights activists have said the country's anti-blasphemy law, which includes offences against the Quran, has been misused to persecute Christians and other minorities in the country.