19 November 2015
The persecuted church in Pakistan
The persecution of Christians in Pakistan continues as strict blasphemy laws are adhered to and often used to attack those in minority groups. Christians make up a tiny percentage of the population at only 2.5 per cent, but are often persecuted and discriminated against in a variety of ways.
The famous case of Noreen ‘Asia’ Bibi highlights the continuous problems that Christians face in and the law that states a Christian person’s testimony is worth half of that of a Muslim’s in the judicial system. Cases can therefore be built on very flimsy evidence and as the case of Noreen shows, Christians are often targeted and discriminated against.
Alliance member Open Doors’ website states- “Dozens of new cases against Christians were filed in 2014. But despite this, the government has ignored any national or international calls to amend the laws. Churches are still free to meet, but they are monitored, and services are sometimes attacked. Christians are treated as second class citizens; Christian women and children are particularly vulnerable to rape and sexual abuse.”
Another case is of 4 Christian men (one of which is a Christian Pastor Aftab Gill) being charged with blasphemy for using the Urdu word ‘rasool’. They used it in the Christian context of 'apostle' in some advertising (the word is used several times in the Urdu Bible), however Muslims were offended as this word can also be used to refer to the prophet Mohammed.
There are many other horrific cases of Christians being discriminated against even outside the judicial system. Incidents are too numerous to mention but they include a 25 Year Old Christian woman who was kidnapped and forced to marry a non-Christian, a Christian man tortured to death by police in Lahore and a pregnant Pakistani Christian woman killed alongside her husband for alleged blasphemy.
However there is some hope. On the 2 November this year, Christian News Network was one of many news agencies to report that the Supreme Court in Pakistan called for the blasphemy laws to be reviewed. There finally seems to be recognition that the laws are unjust and being used inappropriately to settle personal vendettas.
“In the absence of adequate safeguards against the abuse of the blasphemy law, people falsely accused of the offense suffer irrevocably,” the judgment written Oct. 27 reads, but confirms that the reforms must still protect blasphemy laws.
A further article from the Guardian goes on to say- “In a country where Islamic extremists once operated with near impunity, in recent months the state’s attitude towards them has hardened dramatically.”
· For Asia Bibi’s death sentence to be overturned. It is currently waiting appeal at the Supreme Court. Also pray for her health in prison as she is held in a small solitary cell with no natural light.
· Pray for the numerous other cases where people from minority groups have been unfairly accused and sentenced
· Pray for the continual judicial review of the blasphemy laws- that God’s justice would come and the gospel would continue to reach the people of Pakistan.