Pakistani leaders deny review of blasphemy law
Pakistan (MNN) — Earlier this week, various reports surfaced saying that a Senate committee in Pakistan wanted to examine the blasphemy law and perhaps add checks and balances so the law is less abused.
However, since word got out about re-examining the blasphemy law, Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affairs, Sardar Muhammad Yousuf, released a statement refuting the rumor.
Brother Ray with Voice of the Martyrs, Canada explains, “He said they have turned down all the news regarding the change in the blasphemy law. Various news agencies had been circulating on social media and news reports that were released that the government is likely to change the existing blasphemy law. [Yousef] said, ‘We have no plan to diversify or modify the blasphemy law.’ He said, ‘The present democratic government is fully determined and affirms to implement the existing law in true spirit. It has no concoction to make any change in the blasphemy law.’”
The blasphemy law has led to the imprisonment of many Pakistani Christians and religious minorities. Anyone who is accused of insulting Islam faces a potential death sentence.
“Over the years, we’ve worked with several blasphemy cases in the country and, without a doubt, Christians have really been abused by this law. We have seen many fine believers who have been thrown in jail. Asia Bibi, probably one of the most highlighted cases, in the last seven years she’s been in prison,” says Brother Ray.
“Also, there are countless others we have worked with over the years that, because Muslims are jealous because they’re being blessed in their businesses or things like this, they would take a page of the Koran or verses of the Koran, they would burn it and throw it in front of their shop, and then accuse these people of blasphemy. Then while these business owners were going through months and months (if not years) of court cases, the Muslims would take over their businesses and shut them down, take their properties, all kinds of devious things they have done because of the situation with the blasphemy law.”
Although there have been several abuses of the blasphemy law, Brother Ray says there are Pakistani Muslims who recognize the abuses and oppose it.
“We have to be careful when we talk about the Islamic community around the world. One of the things VOM is careful about is we don’t condemn all of the Muslims and call them all radical people. There are Islamic elements that are using this law against Christians, but then there are other Islamic leaders that really have stood up for the Christians who have been abused by the blasphemy law. One case in point is Shahbaz Bhatti a few years ago. He stood up for the Christian community and was actually friends with Muslims that were standing against this harsh law, and he was shot to death for it. Other Muslim judges and judicial people who have stood up for such cases, they have also found themselves either dead or their lives were threatened.”
If you feel moved to pray for the persecuted Church in Pakistan and encourage them, here are a few ways you can do that.
First, Brother Ray offers these prayer requests: “Pray for [Pakistani believers] that they would be wise in the way they interact with their Muslim communities, because if they are caught in a false blasphemy case, it has great ramifications on their families, their churches, and their businesses.”
And for Pakistani Christians suffering in prison, he asks, “I would like to remind our listeners of the verse Hebrews 13:3 to remember those who are in prison as though bound with them. When we take those prisoners who are like Asia Bibi — she’s been in prison now for seven years — to remember like if you were with her in prison, that if you were sitting there day after day, week after week, year after year…just pray as though you were there with her.”
You can also click here to check out persecution and prayer alerts with Voice of the Martyrs, Canada to stay up to date on the persecuted Church around the world.
Finally, if you’d like to give generously to encourage persecuted believers, “there are programs like the Action Pack Program that help bring monetary aid, food, and clothing and help like this to the churches in these countries that have been affected by the blasphemy laws and the discriminatory laws that are there.”