Pakistan (MNN) — Pakistan has been facing international pressure to change its blasphemy laws for some time.
These blasphemy laws target minorities, like Christians, who if they say or do something deemed offensive towards Islam or its prophet Muhammad, can be charged with blasphemy which results in a death sentence. And because the law is so subjective, it’s often used falsely to settle vendettas.
With that said, it looks like the country is finally taking action to reform this largely abused law. However, there’s reason to be wary.
“One of the problems is even when proposals are made…violence often erupts just at the mere thought of doing reform to the blasphemy laws because they consider that even then an insult to Islam,” FMI’s Bruce Allen explains.
“Governors have been assassinated by their own bodyguards when the governors have said, ‘Yeah, we need to address this [blasphemy law].’ So, it is very sensitive.”
Still, Allen is thankful the recent proposals included very specific changes to the law. Furthermore, Allen has prayed for years for Pakistan to change or get rid of its blasphemy laws. And there’s still hope this could be the answer to the prayer.
“The political rhetoric coming out of the parliament sounds good. And as Christians in the West, we can applaud that. But I also know that those proposals will face tough opposition from the recently formed Tehreek-e-Labaik party, because that party specifically seeks to make blasphemy laws more stringently applied,” FMI’s Bruce Allen shares.
In fact, it was this political party who rallied the masses last November and successfully shut down Pakistan’s capital for three weeks and paralyzed the government. They are not happy about the proposed changes to the blasphemy laws because they will bring accountability for the individuals making blasphemy accusations.
“Well, this proposal says if you make a false accusation, you should be held accountable to the same standards. And so, this sort of nonsense, all the false accusations, is a slight or an offense against Islam as well,” Allen says.
“We’re going to say you can be punished by a jail sentence of 10 years and a potential death sentence to balance out the punishment [with] those [who] are accused of blasphemy.”
Another proposal, if accepted, would require the plaintiff to produce two witnesses when registering a complaint. These witnesses must be willing to testify against the accused. By doing so, they also risk the same punishment if the plaintiff’s accusations are found false.
Allen expects there will be street rallies and calls for strikes and protests as the Pakistani government works through the process of potentially approving and implementing these proposals to the current blasphemy law.
Be Prayerful, Be Active
What this means for Christians both in Pakistan and worldwide, though, is a waiting game. So while we wait, let’s be active with our prayers.
Keep praying for Pakistan to reform its blasphemy laws and for justice in the country. Ask God to continue turning Pakistani hearts to him. FMI has watched as in the past few years, numerous Pakistanis have come to know Jesus as their Lord.
Pray for the Pakistani Christians who are in leadership and mentor positions to be equipped to do these things well. Also, pray for the next generation to be fortified in serving God and doing ministry.
Want to help equip Christians in Pakistan? Then consider supporting a Pakistani church planter or pastor or giving to FMI’s Tangible Resources fund.