If you’re a Christian, you must be guilty.
That seems to be the prevailing belief throughout Pakistan. As a result, Christians in the predominantly Muslim country face barbaric injustice and abuse – even death – under its archaic blasphemy laws, even when there isn’t a scrap of evidence against them.
The ACLJ just took direct action at the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) to defend the rights of defenseless Pakistani Christians.
Ironically, Pakistan sounds like Salem, Massachusetts, around 1693, where a simple accusation could mean your life. Being convicted of blasphemy under Pakistan’s archaic laws carries the penalty of death. And sadly, blasphemy charges are easily doled out upon innocent Christians and other non-Muslims, and they are difficult to fight in court.
According to a recent report, a Christian man, Sohail Masih, in Pakistan may be sentenced to death because of what most of us would consider an innocuous Facebook post:
A Christian man charged with blasphemy for making a theological argument on Facebook that Muslims deemed insulting toward the Islamic prophet Muhammad is now facing a potential death sentence for the post.
According to the article, the Christian was only arrested after “a protest by a crowd of enraged Muslims who heard about Masih’s comment online.”
As we explained in our recent submission to the U.N. HRC:
Most recently, a Christian man, Sohail Masih, was arrested and charged with violating sections 295-A and C of the Pakistan Penal Code after a local Imam alleged that Sohail criticised the Muslim holiday Miraj and the celebration and ritual of animal sacrifice in his social media post. Violent mobs threatened the family of the accused and other Christians living nearby.
The complaint filed by the Imam alleges that Sohail’s post stated that the blood of goats and bulls cannot wash away sins. No evidence to support this claim has been presented. However, the statement, even if made, is almost a direct quote from the Bible, specifically Hebrews 10:4, and reflects any true Christian’s basic belief. A true Christian believes that only the blood of Jesus washes away sins. While that statement may conflict with any religion that requires animal sacrifice, it is still a truly held Christian belief, the expression of which is protected under Pakistan’s Constitution and Pakistan’s obligations under international human rights law.
Apparently, not only is religious freedom not protected in Pakistan, but based on this incident, neither is freedom of speech. If a man can be arrested and charged with blasphemy by the will of a mob for a Facebook post, that doesn’t offer much hope for any Pakistani Christians.
And what is even more terrifying is that according to the article, a Christian doesn’t necessarily have to be the one making the “blasphemous” post to be charged and punished.
An example: if someone shares blasphemous content to a Christian’s page, this could result in blasphemy charges against the Christian, even if the Christian did not directly interact with the content.
This sort of disgusting injustice should not be tolerated in any country.
Here in the United States, we’re dealing with a “cancel culture” where a simple accusation on social media can have a detrimental effect on one’s career. In Pakistan, someone can post a blasphemous comment on your page, and it could literally cancel your life.
And there doesn’t even have to be digital evidence. Through our affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), office in Pakistan, we’re currently representing a Christian man who has been accused of desecrating the Quran. Our client’s sister-in-law, who converted to Islam, claimed that she found torn pages of the Quran in her house. She claims she was told it was her Christian brother-in-law who desecrated the Quran. The man was arrested and held for several days; and despite the police failing to find any evidence linking our client to the crime, the trial is still ongoing. This innocent Christian could face grave consequences, even without proof of guilt.
The ACLJ did successfully help advocate for the freedom of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was charged with blasphemy in Pakistan for drinking water from the same cup as her Muslim co-workers. This poor mother of five who performed hard labor to provide for her family was sentenced to hang for drinking water just a few years ago – in the 21st century. Consider that for a moment.
As we told you, we advocated tirelessly on her behalf and helped save her life. However, she still was not safe. Asia had to remain inside the Pakistani prison even after she was acquitted, while angry mobs called, quite literally, for her head. Fortunately, she was ultimately reunited with her family in Canada.
Many other Pakistani Christians have not been so fortunate. We recently told you how we were working with the family of a Christian man in Pakistan who was beaten to death by an angry mob with steel rods and hot irons. His supposed offense: bathing in an outdoor well that belonged to a Muslim after a long day unloading trucks of hay in the sun.
Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan should have the right to express their beliefs without fear of violence, harassment, or arrest for the accusation of blasphemy. It’s time Pakistan re-examine its archaic laws and protect ALL of its people.
To that end, the ACLJ has just delivered a critical written submission to the U.N. HRC through our European affiliate, the ECLJ, to defend Pakistan’s Christians. We urged the international body to work with Pakistan to uphold its commitments under international law and honor its own constitution and stop the abuse of Christians.
As is evidenced from the cases presented, prosecutions under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and other forms of discrimination and persecution are still inhibiting Christians in Pakistan from living safely. It is imperative that the Human Rights Council take swift action and work with the government of Pakistan to ensure that Christians are able to safely reside in their own country. No one should have to live under the fear of being persecuted or prosecuted for holding a minority faith or expressing his or her religious views. Laws should seek to mitigate such fear, rather than encourage it. As such, we respectfully request that this Council work with the government of Pakistan in order to protect the people who are vulnerable to prosecution under blasphemy laws or are persecuted by the majority for their faith.
The current Pakistani legal system fuels this injustice with antiquated laws that endanger Christians and empower their abusers. Our submission highlighted a number of religious freedom violations under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and demanded that Pakistan remove the outdated blasphemy laws, which have existed unchanged for far too long, and replace them with laws that protect all of its people, not just Muslims.
We will continue working at the U.N. to demand protection for Christians, like Sohail Masih, from violence and persecution.