“But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.”
(Psalm 5:11 NIV)
Christians in Pakistan are fearing greater persecution after Pakistan’s National Assembly (lower house of the federal Parliament) unanimously voted to strengthen the country’s blasphemy laws. The law, which can be used to punish those who insult the Prophet Mohammad, is now extended to include the Prophet’s wives, companions, and close relatives. Those convicted can face ten years’ imprisonment with no provision for bail, a fine of one million rupees (about US$12,000), and even a death or life sentence.
The law has often been used as a tool for persecution and discrimination. In many cases, the accused has been attacked and killed by a mob even before legal proceedings begin.
Islam is the state religion of Pakistan, which allows capital punishment for apostasy and blasphemy against the religion. Christians in Pakistan are considered second-class citizens and face discrimination in every area of public and private life. At least 40 people are currently serving life sentences or execution for blasphemy in the country. A number of other Muslim-majority nations have capital punishment for apostasy but not blasphemy.
According to the British Asian Christian Association, Christians make up an “unhealthy percentage of blasphemy convicts and spend longer periods incarcerated than other victims of these draconian laws.” False accusations are often made against Christians in unrelated disputes, and these could lead to attacks by mobs. A famous case was that of Asia Bibi, a Catholic, who was allegedly accused of blasphemy and spent almost 10 years on death row. She left Pakistan in 2019 but is still receiving death threats. In 2011, Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab, was assassinated for opposing the blasphemy laws, as was Shahbaz Bhatti, the first Minister for Minorities Affairs and the only Christian in the Cabinet, for opposing the blasphemy laws and fighting for the release of Asia Bibi.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent rights group, said it was deeply concerned over the latest legislation, which has yet to be approved by the Senate (upper house of the federal Parliament). Let us lift Pakistan and our brothers and sisters there to the Lord.
Home Group Prayer:
Thank you for the nation of Pakistan that you love and your people there for whom you laid down your life. At this time, we pray that you would, in your power and care, cover the country with your blood. May your protection be over our brothers and sisters there.
We also lift up the leaders and those in power in the country, and ask that the blasphemy laws would be repealed, and that freedom of religion would be granted to all. May your Spirit work mightily, changing hearts and turning them to you. We especially lift up the women in the country, especially those who know you, and ask that your hand of protection would be upon them. We know you are raising up leaders who are speaking up for those who are persecuted, and ask for your hand upon them. May your kingdom come in Pakistan, and may you do more in that country than we can ever imagine.
We commit Pakistan, the believers there, and those in power into your hands, in Jesus’ name. Amen!