Pakistan (MNN) – An increasing number of reports continue to flow out of Pakistan, claiming that Christian persecution is on a rise in the country. The culprit? Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
Mosque Lahore in Pakistan. (Photo Courtesy of FMI for MNN use)
“The blasphemy laws are abused. People are accused of blasphemy for a variety of reasons. The blasphemy can even just be an insinuation or innuendo, which, if you’re the Muslim in this case that’s a very subjective thing,” FMI’s Bruce Allen explains.
“You can just say, ‘I’m offended and therefore I want to charge you with blasphemy.’ So, the blasphemy laws are used frequently to settle personal scores and vendettas.”
Earlier this month, a report came out about a 17-year-old Christian boy who was beaten to death by his classmates all because he drank out of the same glass as a Muslim boy.
The teacher who had been in the classroom at the time of the incident claimed he hadn’t noticed a disturbance, but that he’d been reading a newspaper. However, the autopsy report said that the young man had died from the repeated blows to both his head and body.
“That should have aroused the teacher’s attention. So, you kind of wonder, was he intentionally turning a blind eye to the violence? And that’s one thing that does happen,” Allen shares.
Yet, this is just one incident of the increased reports of anti-Christian violence in Pakistan.
“There’s another situation where a Christian Pakistani man was sentenced to death just earlier this month on those blasphemy charges because he had allegedly sent a Muslim friend a poem using [an app] on his mobile phone,” Allen says.
The Muslim friend thought the poem was derogatory towards Islam and the prophet Muhammad. And despite there being insufficient evidence against the Christian man, the court still ruled in favor of the Muslim friend. The evidence that was brought to court was simply hearsay.
Cases like this cause a lot of Pakistani Christians to question how they can seek justice in their country, and if justice is even possible for them.
“Christians are disproportionately accused of blasphemy in Pakistan when you consider their size in the country, they’re a small minority, and yet about 25 percent of blasphemy cases are against Christians,” Allen shares. “And Christians do not make up 25 percent of the population.”
Dangers Christians Face
The combination of the blasphemy law along with the lack of justice means that a Pakistani Christian’s biggest threat doesn’t come from terrorists or the government, but from their neighbors and families. If a Muslim converts to Christianity, he or she is viewed as an infidel. When this happens, family members often see it as their duty to destroy that person.
Pakistan Bible reading. (Photo courtesy FMI)
“No one has been executed by the government for the crime of blasphemy since 1990. And yet, scores of people are dying in the street once they’re accused of it. So, sometimes being put in jail after a charge of blasphemy is the safest place for the Christian to be, ironically,” Allen explains.
A couple of years ago, a survey found that only 16 percent of Pakistanis have a positive view of Christians. Christians in Pakistan are usually from the lower class, economically speaking. And, they usually don’t have the money to seek justice when they’re unfairly accused of blasphemy.
However, it’s unclear whether or not persecution in Pakistan is increasing, or just the number of reports. But regardless, FMI church planters are still sharing the Gospel.
“I continue to be amazed and inspired myself by our partners in Pakistan,” Allen explains. “They are certainly aware of the threats against them– of just being a minority in their society and the discrimination that is against them every day, in terms of whether it’s employment or education and things like that.”
FMI partners in Pakistan continue to be diligent in sharing their faith, despite the attacks that some have faced.
“[FMI tries to] help educate [our partners] how to share the Gospel. Let people know the truth, but to do it with respect and with gentleness,” Allen says. “And we work with them about how to cultivate conversations in which it’s actually the non-Christian who takes the initiative in asking questions of the Christians.”
How to Help
Pray for these Christians. Pray for them to be able to connect with Pakistanis who are thirsting for righteousness. Please also pray for Pakistani Christians’ safety and courage as they share God’s word. Pray for God’s provision, the Gospel’s work in Pakistan, and the discipleship of new believers. And finally, pray for Pakistan to reform its blasphemy laws.
Want to help in a practical way? Then help support a Pakistani church planter. FMI partners are given $125 a month, which helps supplement their main income, provide ongoing training, and provide for emergency medical expenses. It also helps pastors to be able to focus more on evangelism and discipleship.
Help support an FMI Pakistani pastor or church planter here!