ASIA/PAKISTAN - Political pressure and false witnesses to cover up the case of "Maria Goretti of Pakistan"

Faisalabad (Agenzia Fides) - Political pressure and false witnesses intend to cover up the case of "Maria Goretti of Pakistan", as she is defined by the local Christian community: we are talking about Mariah Manisha, a Catholic girl killed on November 27, 2011 in the village of Samundari (diocese of Faisalabad) by the 28-year old Muslim, Mohammad Arif Gujjar, because she opposed to a rape, a forced marriage and conversion to Islam (see Fides 2 and 7/12/2011). Fr. Khalid Rashid Asi, Vicar general of the diocese of Faisalabad, says to Fides: "High profile political leaders are moving to drop Mariah’s murder. We fear that the investigation could end up without having solved anything. Therefore, as local Church, we are following the case and we have taken it to the attention of the Commission 'Justice and Peace' of the Episcopal Conference". "We will officially ask that the investigations into the case are assigned to a team of Federal prosecutors, to avoid problems of corruption and local contamination", explains the Vicar of the diocese, anticipating to Fides the contents of an official statement that the Bishop of Faisalabad, Mons Joseph Coutts, will issue over the next few days. According to information provided by the Commission "Justice and Peace" in Faisalabad to Fides, "investigations into the case continue, but in the village of Samundari, where there are very few Christians, some Muslim witnesses are ready to declare that the girl committed suicide, in order to exonerate the real culprit". The Justice and Peace Commission has conducted its investigation and found that Arif Gujjar, had fallen in love Mariah, and had harassed and threatened her, since she had refused his advances. The local Church, said Father Asi, "is waiting for the official conclusion of this story and then will evaluate the case from a spiritual point of view and examine the possibility to report it as a case of martyrdom". In recent years the Catholic community in Pakistan, he concludes, "has several cases like this, where the believers, poor and humble, have preferred to die rather than abandon their faith under threat". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 13/12/2011)