Repeal of blasphemy law still seems far off
ICC Regional Director Jonathan Racho was interviewed by Mission News Network and comments on the status of the blasphemy law in Pakistan
10/16/2009 Pakistan (MNN) ― In early August, a mob killed 11 believers and set fire to more than 40 Christian homes in Gojra, Pakistan. This past Monday, six of those who had been arrested for the attacks were released on bail of 50,000 Pakistani Rupee ($600).
This makes for a total of 19 who were involved in the attacks who have been granted bail by the Lahore High Court of Pakistan. The knowledge that the decision to free the fanatics rested in a court that is supposed to stand for justice is discouraging, to say the least. There is some fear that the decision has only permitted further violence. The decision has therefore caused many to reignite the fight for a repeal of Pakistan’s blasphemy law.
Blasphemy against Islam is a federal offense in Pakistan. The Christians attacked in August were suspected of blasphemy, although they had all been cleared of any wrong-doing. (For more on the story of the attacks, click here.) The unfortunate fact of the matter is that blasphemy can cover any number of things and is often targeted specifically at Christians.
“Blasphemy is a very subjective word,” says Jonathon Racho, director of Africa and the Middle East with International Christian Concern. “What is blasphemy for a Muslim can be completely alright for a Christian. For instance, if you say that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that is our belief as a Christian. But for a Muslim, they’re still offended by it.”
“Christians can easily be accused of committing blasphemy while they are talking about Jesus Christ,” says Racho. “So it becomes very hard for Christians to evangelize, and Christians can easily be killed for doing so.”
Although there has been talk of repealing the pestilent blasphemy law, the likelihood that it will be overturned any time soon is slim. Many Islamic radicals have influence in the government and are quite unlikely to agree to anything for the sake of Christians.
In the meantime, “The Christians in Pakistan feel that they are not protected by the officials of Pakistan,” says Racho. “They definitely feel that they are being treated as second-class citizens and that Pakistani officials are not protecting them from violence.”