Pakistan (MNN/VOM) — The Pakistani case that sparked a Muslim rampage against the Christian Joseph colony in Lahore last Spring wraps up in two days.
The last prosecution witness is expected to testify on December 7. Meanwhile, the Christians who were forced to flee from their homes during the Rimsha Masih blasphemy row are still homeless.
It’s part of a bigger picture revealing that the desperate conditions facing believers are worsening. In the days since the All Saints Church attack in Peshawar, a rash of blasphemy accusations have stoked tensions in Pakistan. Four blasphemy cases against Christians were registered in less than a month–four times higher than the monthly average recorded over the last two years.
Christians claim that as a recognized minority, the government fails to protect them. In all of these blasphemy charge cases, no direct evidence was available against those accused, and yet the accused pay the penalties.
Todd Nettleton, spokesman with the Voice of the Martyrs USA, explains, “The blasphemy law is basically used as a stick to beat Christians over the head, and really, not only Christians, but also Muslims as well. It’s often used as a way to settle a score, as a way to take over someone’s property.”
The wording of the law is loose and open to interpretation. That’s where trouble starts for Christians. A conversation about Christ could turn into a blasphemy complaint, says Nettleton. “Oftentimes that is really the line: someone was offended. It’s not a defense to say ‘what I said was true,’ because the accusation was based on someone taking offense to what you said, not on the truth of what you said.”
Nettleton adds that risk increases during this time of year. “We do see an increase on attacks on churches during the Christmas holiday season, during the Easter season–those very significant Christian events. I think where blasphemy can come into it is in the area of evangelism.”
Despite international criticism, it appears unlikely that Pakistan will amend or repeal its controversial blasphemy laws. The laws impose severe penalties–including the possibility of a death sentence–on those found guilty of insulting Islam. Nettleton says, “When blasphemy cases come about, we are involved in the area of advocacy, in the area of helping people find legal representation, and we’re also involved in really trying to influence the Pakistani government.”
Nettleton goes on to explain that in 2010, Christian Asia Bibi became the first person to receive a death sentence under these laws, for her alleged blasphemy of the prophet Muhammad. Asia Bibi remains in prison while her sentence is under appeal. “One of the main ways we’ve done that is through the ‘Call for Mercy’ petition campaign on behalf of Asia Bibi, who is a Christian woman who was found guilty of blasphemy. [She] is currently in prison in Pakistan waiting for her appeal to be ruled on by the high court.”
Pray that God supernaturally moves and the blasphemy laws are repealed. Ask God to encourage, protect, and continue to give believers in Pakistan courage and strength to stand for Him.