Future of blasphemy laws in question

By October 14, 2015
FMI_Pakistan flag
Asia Bibi (Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs)

Asia Bibi
(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs)

Pakistan (MNN) — A recent Supreme Court ruling flew in the face of popular opinion and gave a glimmer of hope to human rights activists.

Last week, Pakistan’s Supreme Court upheld the 2011 death sentence ruling for Mumtaz Qadri.

“I have a strong feeling that Asia Bibi and all other innocent Christians who have been subjected to the blasphemy laws will be freed by the Supreme Court,” a Christian politician told Morning Star News’ Pakistan correspondent.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are often used as a legal excuse to persecute Christians.

While the aforementioned ruling might be a step in the right direction, it’s not time to party yet, says Forgotten Missionaries International’s Bruce Allen.

“Until blasphemy laws are amended and revised, until Asia Bibi is released from prison, things are still staying the same.”

Reason for inquiry

Mumtaz Qadri is regarded as a hero in Pakistani culture.  (Picture obtained via Facebook)

Mumtaz Qadri is regarded as a hero to many in Pakistani culture.
(Picture obtained via Facebook)

Qadri was given the death sentence for killing his employer, Salman Taseer: a governor who avidly opposed Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and publicly supported Asia Bibi.

At the time of Taseer’s murder, Qadri was functioning as his personal bodyguard.

Immediately following the crime, Qadri garnered a great deal of public support. Even today, his fans are demanding Bibi’s execution take place before Qadri’s.

“He is treated like a king in prison,” Taseer’s daughter tells Morning Star News. “Women bring him their children for him to teach.”

The public’s high esteem and support of Qadri reflects a cultural approval of the blasphemy laws, something human rights groups and followers of Christ ardently oppose.

Salmaan Taseer  [State Department photo / Public Domain]

Salmaan Taseer
[State Department photo – Public Domain]

For the Supreme Court to run against public opinion and enforce Qadri’s punishment was “the first step in introducing some rational discourse on blasphemy,” wrote Saroop Ijaz, head of Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, in a statement obtained by Morning Star News.

However, is it too soon to hope?

“The government is facing international pressure to deal more decisively with the threat of terrorism,” notes Allen.

Indeed, “the Supreme Court decision is a very strong sign that the state is trying to recover the space it ceded to violent extremists,” the Christian politician agrees.

Is the Qadri case merely a political ploy, or the start of a bigger movement? Only time will tell, Allen admits.

Why hope remains

FMI_Muslim prayer in Pakistan

Muslim workers pause for a few minutes along an alleyway in the afternoon to offer their ritual prayers.
(Image, caption courtesy FMI)

Pakistan’s political and legal atmosphere may be on the brink of change. But it’s not altering the work of indigenous missionaries supported by FMI.

FMI empowers and equips local believers to reach their neighbors for Christ, Allen explains.

Many come from Muslim backgrounds.

“They are very passionate about the Gospel. Sometimes it’s very costly, but they don’t back down,” says Allen.

“In the first half of 2015, there were 200 new believers brought to faith in Christ through the work of our ministry partners; 75% of those new believers have already been baptized, [and] 35 new churches have been planted.”

Financial support from the Body of Christ allows these believers to focus full-time on ministry and planting churches, instead of working additional jobs to support themselves.

FMI acts as a bridge, connecting international believers with those inside Pakistan.

(Photo courtesy GoodReads.com)

(Photo courtesy GoodReads.com)

“We need partners,” shares Allen. “We’re looking for people who will say, ‘Yes, I will commit to praying for this church planter. I want to support and empower him so that he can remain in ministry.’”

Partner with a Pakistani pastor through FMI here.

“For new partners, we will give a book called Western Christians and Global Missions: What’s the Role of the North American Church? It’s a good book by Paul Borthwick, who is a missions expert.”

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