Pakistan (MNN) — A new report from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom details 84 countries that have blasphemy laws that criminalize expression against certain religions. The most egregious enforcers include Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, and Russia. Read the full report here.
Bruce Allen of FMI says some of the countries on the list may come as a surprise. “You’re going to find a country like Switzerland or Germany on the list. So it’s pervasive. Most of the 84 countries are in Africa and Asia, as would be expected. But there are others elsewhere too.”
The goal of these laws? Preventing people from insulting the religious beliefs of others. But Allen says that kind of legal precedent leaves the door open for a lot of different abuse.
These laws can often encourage the mistreatment of religious minorities in a country. “Essentially, governments are trying to safeguard the sensibilities of perhaps the majority population and their view on religion. So they’re saying, ‘Do not insult the leaders, our sacred writings, our traditions, the way we practice something.’”
For instance, Pakistani laws often allow Muslims to accuse Christians of blasphemy in order to get their property. It becomes just another tool of oppression by those in power.
But this has not stopped the Gospel from moving forward, even in the most unlikely places. Allen tells the story of Ismail, a former student in a Muslim madrasa (Islamic religious school) in Pakistan. He became a Christian after finding the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament.
Afterward, he continued going into the madrasa and teaching from the New Testament about Jesus and the forgiveness of sins. Eventually, some students and even two professors at the madrassa embraced Christ as the way to salvation from sin and death. Allen says, “And now they’re using that platform of being teachers and students to share the Gospel in the madrasa. So literally, this madrasa in Pakistan is turning into a church, and dozens of people have come to faith in Christ.”
Change is needed
So many countries need legal changes to protect those most vulnerable. Bruce asks readers to pray that lawmakers in these countries would have the courage to make these changes. “Even if they’re not Christ-followers, we know that God raises up lawmakers and uses men and women to affect his purposes on Earth. So let’s pray that God’s will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. [Pray] that there is the freedom to shine boldly for Christ in these places.”
Pray also that Ismail and other Christians at the Madrasa will be safe from violence in a difficult country.
The header photo shows Ismail reading a New Testament. (Photo courtesy of FMI)