Pakistan (MNN) – Strict blasphemy laws continue to upend the lives of Christians in Pakistan*. Two Christian teenagers were recently arrested for blasphemy charges in the Punjab province. Sunny Mushtaq (19-years-old) and Noman Asghar (17-years-old) face blasphemy charges for receiving what were considered blasphemous sketches in the likeness of Prophet Muhammad via WhatsApp.
Pakistan’s Misused Blasphemy Charges
Executive International Director for FMI, Bruce Allen says a Muslim sent the sketches to Mushtaq and Asghar. The sender, who also appears to have alerted the police to press charges, will face no consequences for his actions.
If convicted of the blasphemy charges, Mushtaq and Asghar will pay a penalty fee and face a death sentence. That is, if vigilante street justice distributors do not get to these young men first.
“It is frequently that people are set up and the Christians, many of them are just naive about the evil intent of their neighbors. They don’t suspect that anything like this would ever happen,” Allen explains.
“For example, a frequent charge is that Christians are using pages of the Quran as fuel for their fire. They’re lighting up pages of the Quran as kindling under a teapot to get the water to boil. What I find so ironic…the overwhelming majority of Christians in Pakistan are illiterate. They don’t even own books, much less a Quran. They’re not going to have a Quran on hand to rip out pages of it.”
However, sometimes a Muslim neighbor will purposefully give their Christian neighbor a Quran to set them up for a blasphemy charge.
On his last trip into Pakistan, Allen says Christians in the country have increased precautionary measures to prevent the abuse of blasphemy accusations in what amounts to religious segregation. One of these measures includes marking the bottom of cups as to avoid the accusation for drinking out of a cup a Muslim could use. This accusation is similar to what jailed Asia Bibi for nearly a decade.
Still, it is difficult to prevent the abuse of social media platforms like WhatsApp when others can easily harass Christians and “plant evidence” on them. 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.
As for government action, Allen explains the government has made empty promises to crack down on the misuse of blasphemy charges in the country.
Allen recalls a situation where two Muslims burned a Christian man and his expectant wife alive. Convicted of murder, the perpetrators appealed to the Lahore High Court. The court acquitted and released them.
“Even though there were [several hundred]eyewitnesses to the events… the perpetrators of the abuse go free. If we really look at what the government is doing, it’s sad. It’s dismal in regards to how little help is being given to the Christians,” Allen says.
Where is God?
Stories such as these dig up hard questions, like the question of God’s place in times of extreme persecution. But Allen says God is present. He has not abandoned His people.
He is present in the prayers and words of encouragement the global Church offers to its persecuted brothers and sisters. He’s present when He sustains these Christians.
“When they hear that we are praying, when we forward the messages that get written on Mission Network News’ Facebook page or other comments to stories…they realized that, wow, the body of Christ is strong around the world. That is a great, great encouragement to them,” Allen says.
Pray for Sunny and Noman’s release, their encouragement, and for God’s peace.
“Lord, please provide courageous and God-fearing lawyers who will act on their behalf, who will be their advocates in the courts, who will follow up on the legal matters…We want to pray for the accused’s families who remain out in society at large and therefore are very vulnerable to attacks. So, pray for their protection and perseverance as well,” Allen urges.
* Pakistan is ranked as the 5th most dangerous place to live as a Christian per the Open Doors USA’s World Watch List. Find the list here.
Header photo courtesy of FMI.