Displaying items by tag: Pakistan
Christian volunteer security guards are preparing to defend their churches in the run-up to Easter. With world-wide concern peaking after Palm Sunday’s suicide bomb in Indonesia, William Arif Khan and his team of fifteen security volunteers at Lahore’s Sacred Heart Cathedral stressed the need for extra vigilance. ‘For the past twelve years, I have been leading young men dedicated to support the police’s security guards stationed at the cathedral. We don't expect any rewards. All of them have dedicated their holiday to the Church. They have metal detectors. The police have allowed us to keep some licensed weapons on church premises; but only my deputy and I are armed with a pistol. Everybody is afraid of the terrorists. But we stand for the One who protects us all. Our faith tells us that God won't let us down. We perform our duties with complete passion and avoid negative thinking.’
A video from Pakistan shows Tabitha, a Christian nurse, who was beaten by fellow nurses and staff after accusations of blasphemy. The hospital where she worked issued an order that medical staff could not receive tips or deal with money from patients. Tabitha reminded a Muslim co-worker of the order when she saw she was collecting money from a patient. When Tabitha mentioned it to her superior, she was dragged off into a closet, tied and beaten up. Blasphemy accusations are highly inflammatory in Pakistan and often lead to mob violence and vigilante killings. The life of a blasphemer is much like the story The Scarlet Letter, but instead of wearing the letter A for adulterer, they walk through life with an invisible B for blasphemer. Police investigated and found the accusations to be false. However, the family remains in hiding due to threats associated with the accusations.
Acknowledging a need to restrain the abuse of ‘blasphemy’ laws and protect victims of false accusation, forced marriages to Muslims and forced conversions, the government has appointed a special assistant to the prime minister on religious harmony and Middle East. It is hoped this appointment will end the social structure where Christians are inferior to Muslims, confined to low-paid menial jobs such as street sweeping and latrine cleaning. A significant government statement affirmed that minorities living in Pakistan are ‘not second-class citizens’, and guarantees they will be protected under the rights and privileges enshrined in Pakistan’s constitution. Also, there is now a grievance helpline set up to report false accusations of ‘blasphemy’.
Raja Waris, a 25-year-old Christian lay reader, is in police custody in Lahore after he shared another person’s post critical of Islam on his Facebook page. Raja apologised to the Muslims in person, saying he had shared the post for academic understanding between Christians and Muslims and did not mean to offend any Muslims, and the issue appeared to be resolved. But then a huge mob gathered demanding his beheading. Fearing violence, hundreds of Christian residents fled their homes while around 400 anti-riot policemen were deployed to the area to thwart violence. When local church elders were taken to the police station, a large mob gathered outside, chanting slogans against Christians. Negotiations failed, and Raja was hiding due to threats to his life. Mob leaders only called off the siege after he was held under blasphemy laws that call for up to ten years in prison. He and his family are currently in a safe house for their security.
In Pakistan, false accusations of blasphemy are common and often motivated by personal vendettas or religious hatred. Imran was falsely accused of blasphemy and imprisoned for life. On 15 December the Lahore High Court acquitted him and released him, after he had spent over ten years in prison. The development came as a shock to Imran’s family. ‘It is a day of resurrection for us’, Naveed Masih, Imran’s brother, said. ‘God has heard our cry and we are very thankful to Him. It’s a Christmas gift for us.’
On 2 November Karachi police recovered a 13-year-old Christian girl and arrested the Muslim accused of abducting and forcibly marrying and converting her. The action came after a rising tide of protests over the previous validation of the marriage. The girl, Arzoo Raja, was due to appear on 5 November at a court hearing which will hear evidence about Arzoo’s age (her parents have provided proof that she was born in 2007) and decide whether she was forcibly converted and if her marriage is legal.
In Pakistan, false accusations of blasphemy are widespread and often motivated by personal vendettas or religious hatred. Accusations have the potential to spark mob lynchings, vigilante murders, and mass protests. Recently the wife and family of Asif Pervaiz went into hiding after Pervaiz was sentenced to death for allegedly committing blasphemy. Pervaiz was handed the death sentence on 8 September, nearly seven years after his arrest. ‘She is in hiding because she feels threatened,’ said Release International, an organisation that supports persecuted Christians. For the sad story of the family’s ordeal, click the ‘More’ button.
A Christian brother asks us to pray for Pakistan, where this crisis will play out very differently. Prime minister Imran Khan said he won't be able to lock down cities fully because of the poverty. Citizens simply have to go to work each day to feed their families. Also, crowded living conditions and limited healthcare facilities will mean the virus spreads rapidly, causing enormous loss of life - many times greater than we will see in the West. However, in the middle of this awful pandemic, we may have the greatest opportunity and responsibility that the Church has ever had to share God’s love with the people of Pakistan. People who are angry, frightened, grieving and in despair have questions about life and death, why God let this happen, why prayers were not answered. This is potentially a time for the gospel like no other in history.
She was picking fruit on a sweltering summer’s day in June 2009 with Muslim women when a dispute arose over a shared cup of water because the Muslim women would not drink from a cup that they considered ‘unclean’ as it had been used by a Christian. This culminated in Aasia Bibi being accused of insulting Muhammad. ‘My husband was at work, my kids were in school’, she recalled. ‘A mob came and dragged me away. They made fun of me.’ ‘I am not angry at all, I’ve forgiven everyone from my heart and there is no hardness in me. I learned how to be patient after having to leave my children behind.’ These are the gracious words of Aasia Bibi, the Christian mother-of-five who spent nearly eight years on death row in Pakistan, falsely accused of ‘blasphemy’.
For the first time since 1890 the full Pakistani Pashto Bible will be printed. The translation is in the major Yousafzai dialect of Pashto. Up to now missionaries and evangelists and the underground Pakhtun speaking Church only had a version of the New Testament in a mix of Pakistani and Afghan Pashto. This version, aimed at Pakhtuns living outside Pakistan, will be printed in Europe. It is hoped that the Bibles will be ready to transport to mission agencies in spring 2020. For security reasons, the name of the translating organisation is not available.