By BosNewsLife Asia Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– A Pakistani Christian man spent another day in freedom Tuesday, April 17, after he was cleared of blasphemy against Islam in a case that Christian rights activists hope will help others held on similar charges.
“I was produced in court three times during the case proceedings, but not one accuser ever turned up at the hearings,” said 27-year-old Dildar Masih, a father of two, in published remarks.
“You cannot imagine my joy when the prison officials told me that I had been acquitted by the court. I had not been taken to the hearing that day; only my lawyer, Javed Raza, and father were present in the courtroom,” he added in a statement distributed by Christian news agency Compass Direct News.
Earlier Christian rights activists already said he was “falsely accused” in June 2011 after an incident involving his eight-year-old nephew.
The youngster, Sunny Masih, had reportedly been pressured by Muslim students from a local mosque to recite the Muslim confession of faith. When Sunny refused, the Muslim boys allegedly began to beat him.
“Dildar, who saw this from some distance, shouted and rushed to the scene to rescue his nephew, and then went to work,” explained Barnabas Fund, one of the groups assisting him with advocacy.
A few days later, a blasphemy case was registered with the police against Dildar by a Muslim prayer leader, who accused the Christian man “of insulting” the Islamic faith and “offending” the religious passions of Muslims.
Soon after, Dildar, who lives in the Mian Channu area in Punjab province’s Khanewal district, was detained and held in custody in the regional Multan Central Jail.
“I prayed a lot … This was the only other thing I did in prison besides having food and sleeping,” he reportedly said. “I kept on telling God that I had complete faith in Him and would wait for the day when He would set me free,” amid threats from other inmates.
In November 2011, his father Yousaf Masih reportedly contacted CLAAS, a Pakistani Christian legal organization supported by Barnabas Fund, to request legal help and financial assistance for Dildar’s wife and two children.
“It is [now] also providing safe accommodation for Dildar and his family [as] those accused of blasphemy in Pakistan are very vulnerable to reprisal attacks by Muslims, even after they have been cleared of all charges,” Barnabas Fund confirmed.
Christian rights activists say however that many others are left languishing in prison for months or even years while their case is considered.
“If they are eventually released, it is almost impossible for them to return to their former lives because of the threat from hostile Muslims,” Barnabas Fund cautioned.
Among them is Asia Bibi, an imprisoned Christian mother sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2009, who still awaits the outcome of her appeal.
Last month 50 human rights activists from around the world urged Pakistan to free her.
“Asia Bibi is innocent, but the Pakistani government does nothing in fear of reprisal,” said French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet, who is among those “demanding justice” for Bibi.
“By refusing to act and to impose reforms, the Pakistani government becomes the accomplice for the fundamentalists,” she told the U.S.-based Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN).
Challenging the blasphemy legislation in Pakistan can be dangerous: Two politicians, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and Christian government minister Shahbaz Bhatti, were both shot and killed in two seperate incidents last year for their public opposition to the controversial laws under which Christians and others have been jailed across the heavily Muslim nation.