Pakistan (MNN) — The Pakistani government made 39 innocent Christians pay a large sum of blood money, known as a diya, before releasing them from prison.
“There was no evidence against [these Christians],” says Bruce Allen of FMI. “But [the government] said, ‘hey, if we can get diya paid to the victims’ families, then the judge is absolutely free to commute a sentence and release these prisoners.'”
“The government in essence, was trying to save face. They didn’t want to start a riot as [a] radical political party frequently does in Pakistan. They didn’t want them to riot against the court decision. So, this was a way to save face.”
And over 193,000 US dollars (the equivalent of the sum paid) was paid as diya, or blood money. Allen says this payment is a part of Islamic law in Pakistan, and that it doesn’t mean the men have been considered guilty of committing the crime.
How the money was paid
But the families of the Christians never could have paid this price. Allen says most Christians in Pakistan are impoverished, and these families especially so, since their husbands couldn’t earn any money.
Allen says, “These were charitable donations most likely from overseas, where people said, ‘if we know that the judge is considering the payment, then we want to help these families out to do this.’”
Irfan Bashir Masih, one of the Christians released, said that he was not even present when the two Muslim men were killed. He had no hope that he would see his family again until the money was paid. Read more here.
Difficulties for believers in Pakistan
Still, Christians see injustice in the situation. Allen says, “So much attention was given to the fact that two Muslims died. Very little attention inside Pakistan was given to the fact that nearly 20 Christian worshippers died. There’s no compensation given to the Christian families of the terrorist attack. It is a lopsided scenario, but that is common in Pakistan.”
And bigger attacks with more casualties are not even the most common form of persecution in Pakistan. Allen says, “Individual against individual, usually family member against family member. [A] person from within a family places their faith in Christ, the rest of the family, because they feel like this new Christian has shamed their family by abandoning Islam, . . . make it their priority to kill their own family member.”
Allen says Pakistan remains one of the worst places in the world for Christians to live. He says Christians there need prayer for supernatural courage.
“So, we pray for God’s protection [for] the Christians. We pray especially for their courage. Not just to continue to do ministry in the face of hardship, but to follow Jesus’s injunctions about how to love your enemies.”
Prison cell. (Image by Jan Marczuk from Pixabay)