Pakistan (MNN) — Another Christian died at the hands of Pakistan's disputed blasphemy law this week. The cause of death has been deemed a heart attack by the government, but many believe he may have been murdered.
In February 2010, Christian Qamar David was fined 100,000 rupees and given a life sentence in jail. Despite the pleas of Pervaiz Chaudhry–David's lawyer–in court that David had been framed, David was charged with blaspheming the prophet Muhammad via text message to a man Chaudhry says David did not even know.
The apparent stranger in question who initiated the messaging, Munawar Ahmad, was also put on trial but was acquitted despite 11 witnesses pointing to his direct involvement in the incident, according to Compass Direct News.
David's situation is not unique in Pakistan: many other believers have been sentenced to years in prison under Pakistan's highly-abused blasphemy law with little evidence against them. David, however, paid the ultimate price for his alleged crime when he died earlier this week.
After multiple reports from David in earlier months of abuse and violence against him, many are skeptical this his untimely death was anything less than murder. Carl Moeller with Open Doors, USA says the situation does indeed look suspicious.
"The report is that he died of a heart attack," says Moeller. "[However] the indications are clearly that he had been under threat in the prison and had also asked for protection in the prison. It's quite likely that this 'heart attack' may not have been that at all."
Other inconsistencies include mixed reports of whether David died in his cell or in the hospital, the way in which his death was notified to the jailers, and the state's announcement of David's death from natural causes despite the absence of an official autopsy.
Moeller says that unfortunately the cover-up for the murder of a Christian in Pakistan would not be out of the question.
"For someone who lives in a country where recent politicians like Salmaan Taseer in the Punjab [Province] and Shahbaz Bhatti–the only Christian who was in the Pakistani government–were literally assassinated and their assassinations celebrated in that country, it's not unusual to think that a Christian in prison for blasphemy would suffer violence and have that violence covered up by authorities there."
Taseer and Bhatti both opposed the blasphemy law and defended the cause of minority Christians in the Muslim country. Since their deaths, no other leaders have picked up the cause. "When we lose leaders who are willing to take such bold stands, it's very difficult to find others who will put their lives squarely in the cross-hairs at risk again," Moeller notes.
The combination of this most-recent blow along with several other fresh Christian deaths could spell trouble for believers. "It means more pressure," says Moeller. "It means those who perpetrate threats and violence against Christians in the name of this terrible law will feel more strength and more confidence to go ahead and do so."
There is fear that other blasphemy offenders, including Asia Bibi, are in even more danger of being killed, given the circumstances.
The situation for Christians in Pakistan is indeed deteriorating. Open Doors is standing by the church regardless, providing them with spiritual encouragement, training, education and other assistance. Prayer is vital during this time for believers who love their country but are constantly at risk.
Pray for opportunities for believers to share the Truth of Christ, and pray for their safety as they do so. Pray that the Lord would continue to make good on His promise to build His church–especially in Pakistan, country number 11 on Open Doors' World Watch List for the persecuted church.