ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistani Christians, driven from their homes when a mentally handicapped girl was accused of blasphemy, were assisted in their distress with resources provided by the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund.
Rimsha Masih has since been released on bail and Khalid Chisti, the Muslim cleric who accused her, was arrested when witnesses alleged he framed the girl by placing pages from the Muslim holy book in the trash bag she had been carrying.
When the girl originally was accused on Aug. 16, an angry crowd gathered outside the police station where she was being held, according to news reports. The cleric who accused the girl reportedly called for the massacre of Christians in the neighborhood. Terrified Christians fled their homes, many of them taking none of their belongings.
As many as 600 families evacuated from the neighborhood, many of them taking refuge with Christians elsewhere in Islamabad.
Baptist Global Response partners became aware of the displaced believers and made plans to provide them with meals. Drawing from the World Hunger Fund, the partners were able to prepare one meal a day for an average of 300 people over the course of 10 days. As the meals were served, Christian leaders were able to pray with the traumatized families and share Bible stories that helped them understand how to live out Jesus’ command to love one’s enemies.
One of those Christians, Arif Masih, told reporters his family had left so quickly they didn’t even lock the front door. When they returned nine days later, the house had been looted. Even his kitchen utensils and a sack of flour were gone.
“People are so afraid, they cannot sleep at night,” Masih said, according to the McClatchy news service.
Francis Horton, who with his wife Angie directs work for Baptist Global Response in South Asia, said, “It’s such a privilege to be able to help people who find themselves suddenly in desperate need. When this story broke in the international news, many people in the United States were shaking their heads, wondering what to do about a crisis like this. Southern Baptists can celebrate that their partners were actually on the scene, helping people in need. And they were able to respond because Southern Baptists give generously to their World Hunger Fund.”