Pakistan Christians Flee Homes after Girl's Arrest

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In Pakistan, a young girl is behind bars and an entire Christian community is hiding in the woods.

The reason? The girl is accused of blaspheming the Koran.

Police arrested Rimsha Masih, who is mentally impaired, on Aug. 17 after Muslim extremists accused her of burning pages of the Koran.

Christians gathered in the Pakistani capital city of Islamabad this week, demanding that young Masih be released from jail.

"We have gathered here to protest the arrest of our girl, who is only 11 and cannot even read. How could she burn a book?" the crowd protested.

Meanwhile, Pakistani Christians pray they'll be allowed to return to their homes.

Six hundred families are now living nearby in a park and in the woods. Rioting Muslim extremists forced them to flee their village at the time of the alleged blasphemy incident.

The internally displaced Christians built a makeshift church in the wilderness. Their new place of worship, and their presence, is not welcome by local Muslims.

Still, one woman said Muslims burned the church and prevented Christians from entering the forest.

"What will we do to save our lives?" she asked.

Babar Minhas, a Muslim, said he wants the displaced Christians to leave the area.

"If they have nothing in writing, then they can't stay here," he said. "We live in the surrounding area and our houses are affected."

Chairman of the Pakistan Interfaith League Sajid Ishaq said the Christians are still afraid to return to their homes.

"We are trying our best to send them home safely and we are also demanding to the government that they should give compensation of the loss," he said.

The Christians are unlikely to return to their village and freedom is unlikely for Masih until the case works its way through Pakistan's juvenile court system.

Her lawyer, however, said even if she is cleared of blasphemy charges, extremists may try to kill her if she returns home.

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Mark Martin

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Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/MarkMartinCBN.