Mariyum and Newsh

Names: Mariyum Lal (also Mariam Lal) and Newsh Arooj (also Navish Arooj)

Country/Area of Origin: Pakistan

Background: Mariyum Lal and Newsh Arooj are two Roman Catholic nurses who worked at Civil Hospital in Faisalabad, Pakistan prior to their arrest.

Reason for Arrest:

On 9 April 2021, Lal was instructed by a senior nurse, Rukhsana, to remove some old wall decorations and stickers. As Lal was carrying out her orders, nurse Rukhsana told provoked her Muslim coworkers and subordinates by telling them that Lal had removed signage with Quranic verses such as Durood Sharif on them. In response to hearing the news, a Muslim employee of the hospital, Waqas, attacked Lal with a knife while she was tending to a patient, and a mob of angry Muslim workers began to demand “death to blasphemers” by hanging. An unnamed hospital worker filmed a video of Waqas in which he stated the following:

“I could not remain silent over blasphemy of our holy prophet, so I attacked Mariam.. The prophet’s respect is more precious than my life or yours.”

News of the blasphemy allegations spread outside of the hospital and many members of the local Muslim community were enraged. Authorities arrived at the hospital and arrested Lal alongside Arooj, who was helping with taking down the signage. Police filed a First Information Report (FIR) #347/21 against Lal and Arooj for violating Pakistan’s blasphemy laws outlined in Section 295-B of the nation’s penal code.

Lal’s and Arooj’s attorney, Akmal Bhatti, who also serves as the Chairman of the Minorities Alliance of Pakistan, reports that Lal is a single mother to a teenage daughter, and that Arooj was set to be married in two weeks.

Latest Updates:

  • 19 November 2021: Morning Start News revealed that a court decision had been made regarding Lal’s and Arooj’s case in two months earlier, but that it was kept secret due to fears of backlash from radical Muslims. On 23 September 2021, Faisalabad Additional Sessions Court Judge Shahzad Ahmad granted Lal and Arooj bail on account that “the prosecution failed to prove intentional defiling of the Koran inscription” and that “there was no witness who had seen the two women committing any disgraceful act with the sticker. Charging someone for blasphemy for simply holding a religiously-inscribed sticker is not sufficient evidence.” Below are statements made regarding the happy news of Lal’s and Arooj’s granted bail:
    • “This is an unprecedented decision by any sessions court in a blasphemy case. Both women are currently in a safe location. They are very happy and relieved after this court victory, and we are optimistic that the court will absolve them of the charge once the trial concludes. Ms. Arooj was a student, but Ms. Lal was a senior nurse there [Civil Hospital]. She cannot even demand her outstanding salaries because she would have to go to the hospital for it, and it’s definitely not safe for her.” – Attorney Atif Jamili Paggan
    • “We thank the Lord for intervening and will continue to pray for their acquittal from this false case. The ordeal that these two Christian women have suffered due to a false allegation is unimaginable. We also share the anguish and pain of all Christians who are languishing in jail dungeons for years on similar charges and pray that our Lord intervenes in their cases too.” – Azad Marshall, President, Protestant Church of Pakistan
  • 4 August 2021: Aid to the Church in Need published statistics that 60-70% of Pakistani nurses are Christian; Newsh Arooj and Maryum Lal’s case is one of many. In January 2021, Christian nurse Tabitha Nazir Gill was attacked for encouraging her patients to pray to Jesus for healing. On 27 April 2021, an angry Muslim mob occupied a mental hospital chapel after one Christian nurse was accused of “sharing an ‘objectionable’ video to an unofficial WhatsApp group for nurses”. Christian senior nurse Fazilat Lal reflected on being locked into a room while hospital personnel threatened to kill her; she was safely escorted home by hospital guards.
  • 21 April 2021: International Christian Concern released the following statement on Lal’s and Arooj’s case:
    • “We here at International Christian Concern condemn the false blasphemy accusation that has been leveled against Mariyum Lal and Newsh Arooj. In Pakistan, blasphemy allegations ruin the lives of the accused, even if proved to be false. We call on Pakistani authorities to thoroughly and fairly investigate this false allegation and bring the false accuser to justice. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws must no longer be allowed to settle personal scores or incite religious hatred. Too often these laws have been a tool in the hands of extremists seeking to stir up religiously motivated violence against minorities.”
  • 20 April 2021: The UK Parliament introduced a motion on Lal’s and Arooj’s case, stating the following. So far, the motion has received signatures from four Members of Parliament: Jim Shannon (Democratic Unionist Party), Sir Mike Penning (Conservative), Margaret Ferrier (Independent), and Carol Monaghan (Scottish National Party).
    • “That this House notes the blasphemy charges against Christian nurses Mariyum Lal and Newsh Arooj in Pakistan; highlights the attack on those nurses by members of staff within Faisalabad Civil Hospital in central Punjab; notes that the nurses were instructed to remove wall hangings and have been subjected to a personal vendetta; calls on the Punjab Police and Government to protect those nurses and further to drop the erroneous allegations; and further calls on the Foreign Secretary to intervene and apply diplomatic pressure to secure the well being of those two nurses and their families.”
  • 8 April 2021: Father Bonnie Mendes, former executive of NCJP, stated the following:
    • “Blasphemy allegations always follow a pattern .Two decades ago, Christians were usually accused of drinking water form a cup that was reserved for Muslims. Now our nurses are being targeted. There was planning in advance to gather people in the hospital following Friday prayers. The conspiracy continues.”
  • 8 April 2021: Sister Genevieve Ram Lal, Pakistan director of the Catholic Women’s Organization, stated the following:
    • “We are hopeless and helpless. Christian nurses are popular for their commitment and service. The patients are usually drawn to them. Such allegations threaten their career. We expect doctors to be life savers. Christian people respect all religions. The government should protect them.