Pakistan (MNN) — Islamic extremists are sending a chilling message to anyone who is
trying to change the country's blasphemy law.
On Wednesday, attackers ambushed Pakistan's minister for
minorities, Shahbaz Batti, as he was on his way to a cabinet meeting. Open Doors Minister-at-large, Paul
Estabrooks, says, "He was basically assassinated, and it's partially for two
reasons: one, he supports the release of Asia Bibi. He also has been
campaigning in the country against the blasphemy law."
Batti was the lone Christian in the federal cabinet. However, his ideals make him the second high-profile target in two months. On
January 4, former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer was murdered by his
bodyguard. The thing Taseer and Batti
had in common was their opposition to the blasphemy law.
Taliban-linked propaganda left at the scene warned that
those who share their views will also share their fate.
Estabrooks says the blasphemy law is widely misused to settle
personal disputes with Christians (or other non-Muslims). "You can just be sharing the differences
between our Christian faith and the Islamic faith, and someone could haul you
off to court."
On average, according to Open Doors, one Christian is
murdered and one is arrested (mostly on blasphemy charges) every month. Defense against the blasphemy laws is
difficult, and even if convicted, the sentencing could set off rioting in the
streets by the hardliners, as evidenced by February's unrest in Java, Indonesia.
Batti's killing shows the threats and
pressures under which minorities are living in Pakistan. Estabrooks says many believers are
walking on eggshells. "Christians are under a double challenge in Pakistan in
sharing their faith because of this possibility of being misunderstood and of
creating anger, which causes someone to bring a false charge against you."
The problem compounds itself with a disruption of effective
ministry. "If you're laboring under the attack of fear, you don't think
straight, you don't act normally, and you cannot be an effective witness."
The Open Doors World Watch List ranks Pakistan as the 11th
worst persecutor of Christians in the world. "Pray for
believers there that fear will not be the emotion that grips them constantly
and rules their lifestyle," Estabrooks says. "We need to
pray that God will enable them to be effective witnesses without a lot of
Pray, too, for protection for Christians facing intimidation
and threats from those around them. There's more about what you can do to encourage the persecuted