Pakistani Christian unexpectedly acquitted of blasphemy charges

By September 19, 2007

Pakistan (MNN) — Two days ago, a lower court in Faisalabad,
Pakistan unexpectedly acquitted Shahid Masih of blasphemy. What's unusual is that the lower courts of
Pakistan rarely acquit "blasphemy" suspects.

The case stems from an accusation made by a Muslim teenager,
Muhammad Ghaffar, on September 10, 2006. Ghaffar claimed he saw Masih rip up pages containing verses from the
Quran during a theft of books from a medical clinic in Madina Town district
of Faisalabad.

The court cleared the case after prosecution witnesses
changed their original testimonies.  Voice
of the Martyrs'
Todd Nettleton says it's an answer to prayer. "It gives
hope to the Christians in Pakistan that they have the opportunity for some kind
of a just verdict even early on in the case without going through the appeal
process, going all the way to the Supreme Court. I think, obviously, that is a
good development." 

The unexpected acquittal drew a shocked response from both
Christians and Muslims. Nettleton cited
Compass Direct's report of the reaction,
as described by Masih's lawyer. "There
were about 100 fanatics inside and outside the courtroom who were astonished when
their own witnesses claimed that the accused was innocent. They were very,
very angry."

At least 23 people involved in "blasphemy" cases have been
murdered in Pakistan since the notorious laws were instituted in 1986.   

Nettleton asks believers to pray that the publicity from
this case will draw non-believers into the knowledge of Jesus Christ. "I
think we can pray for the church in Pakistan with the political turmoil that's
going on in their country. We can pray that the church will stand strong and
that even as there's so much upheaval going on that they will be a witness
for Christ and we'll see new people come to know Christ in a personal
way."

There are also concerns for the safety of Masih's family. Compass Direct reports that a mob of Muslim
fanatics attacked his home in 2006 after rumors of his alleged desecration of
the Quran spread throughout the neighborhood.  

That security concern is repeated throughout the
country.  There are many reports of Pakistani
Christians who have received threatening letters telling them to convert to
Islam or they will be bombed.

Christians
make up approximately 1.5 percent of Pakistan's population, according to the
U.S. State Department's most recent report on International Religious Freedom. Click here to find out more ways you can get
involved in encouraging believers in Pakistan.

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