Date: December 19, 2013
Sources: Release International, The Voice of the Martyrs Australia
An influential court in Pakistan is calling for a mandatory death sentence for blasphemy. If implemented, the decision could result in further attacks and accusations against the country's Christian minority. It could also lead to the execution of those who have been falsely accused of blasphemy. The order, which was passed by the Federal Sharia Court earlier this month, now awaits implementation by the country's president.
At present, the majority of those convicted of blasphemy are serving a life sentence, even though the official penalty for defaming Islam's prophet Mohammed is death. The decision by the court would rule out jail sentences for those found guilty of blasphemy and mandate their execution.
Accusations of blasphemy are often levelled against individuals as a way of taking revenge or settling scores. The accusation alone can result in assassination, even for those cleared of the charges. "This is grave news, not just for Christians convicted of blasphemy but also for the many who are falsely accused," explains Release International's Colin King, director of VOMC's sister mission in the United Kingdom. "Extremists may interpret the Sharia Court's ruling as further license to attack even those whose cases have not yet come to court."
According to contacts, the court wants the order implemented "within a couple of months." If that happens, those convicted of blasphemy may not get the chance to appeal. Currently, many Christians convicted of this offense end up spending years in jail waiting for their appeal to be heard in court. Such believers include Asia Bibi, the first Christian woman to be sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy -- a charge she denies. (For more on Asia's case, please visit www.persecution.net/pk-2013-07-04.htm.)
Pray that the Lord will intervene in this situation so that the proposed changes to the blasphemy law will not come about. Instead, may the authorities pursue justice, truth and benevolence for all citizens of Pakistan, including minorities. Ask the Lord to protect His dear children in Pakistan from accusations of blasphemy. Please also intercede for Asia Bibi and others like her who are spending yet another Christmas behind bars, separated from loved ones. May they look to the Lord for their deliverance and not lose heart.
For more information on our persecuted family in Pakistan, please visit our Pakistan Country Report at www.persecution.net/pakistan.htm.