Three Pakistani Christian Evangelists Facing Possible ‘Blasphemy’ Charges

Three Pakistani Christian Evangelists are Facing Possible ‘Blasphemy’ Charges
They join the growing number of believers who are being charged with this ‘crime’ that carries the death penalty.

05/31/2011 Pakistan (ANS)-Three Christian evangelists have joined the growing number of believers in Pakistan who are facing charges under the country’s controversial blasphemy laws, which can result in the death penalty if found guilty.

ANS has learned that a Muslim complainant named Mohammed Ashfaq has filed a petition No.24626/10 on December 13, 2010 in the Court of Session, Lahore, accusing three Christian evangelists – the Rev. Ishfaq Rafiq, Shahrukh Gill and an elderly lady, Ms. Joyce Perveen – accusing them of of passing derogatory remarks against Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam.

The court has directed the Station House Officer of the Lahore Police Station to further investigate the complaint and decide whether to register a formal First Information Report (FIR) against the three Christians.

So far a formal FIR has not been registered and the case is still pending.

Background to the case:

The Rev. Ishfaq Rafiq, aged 40, is married and has a son and daughter.

A source told ANS, “He preaches gospel and works for the economic uplift of the downtrodden Hindu tribes of the Southern Punjab. He also preaches the gospel among the local people. He downloaded an article called ‘Islamic Jihad’ from the Internet and translated it into Urdu.

“The contents of this article hurt the feeling of Muslims when it told that the concept of ‘Islamic Jihad’ causes violence and terrorism in the world. The article also claims that Islam is not a ‘religion of peace’ at all and alleged that it is not a compatible brand with other religions in today’s world.

“Mohammed Ashfaq, the complainant of this case, is a Muslim. He worked with Rev. Ishfaq Rafiq as a driver in Southern Punjab. His main duty was to drive mobile hospital unit consisting of a small van. One year back he left the job and recently came back and requested Rev. Ishfaq Rafiq to provide him job. This time he met the pastor in Lahore along with two other friends named Mohammed Asghar and Abdul Razaq.

“On November 14, 2010, the pastor was driving in Lahore with his two passengers, Shahrukh Gill and Ms. Joyce Perveen. On the way Mohammed Ashfaq (the complainant) and his two friends (named above) joined the pastor. It was a pre-arranged meeting. As they reached near the FC College Church, the pastor stopped his van there. He asked Mohammed Ashfaq to wait there with his friends for about 10 minutes saying he would soon be back. The pastor, along with his two associates, went to the FC College Church they picked up that Urdu version of article and went through the contents.”

Our source said that the Muslim men had learned about the contents of the article and, when the three Christians returned to the vehicle, he found them “very much offended and agitated.”

He added, “They showed him the article and protested against it. The pastor tried to cool down their emotions but his efforts proved useless. The Muslims then immediately disappeared and the pastor later on approached Mohammed Ashfaq to try and settle the matter, but failed. Mohammed Ashfaq told him that the situation was now not in his control. ‘My other fellows are very much offended they have taken the matter to the police for legal action,’ he reportedly told the pastor.

“The contents of the article do not provide ground for the offence of blasphemy (295-C of Pakistan Penal Code), so they later, in the application, mentioned that the pastor and his associates had also passed derogatory remarks and insulted the holy prophet and accused them of blasphemy under Section 295-C.

“According to the blasphemy law, only the passing of remarks verbally/non verbally are enough to declared someone blasphemer. In Pakistan, Muslims are very much intolerant towards Christians in such cases. In Islamic Sharia it is mandatory for a Muslim to kill such blasphemer and become ‘Janti’ (winner of paradise) in next world.”

Our source went on to say, “Influential religious groups declare such blasphemers as ‘Wajab-ul-Qatal’ (liable to death) and announce rewards for anyone who will kill such blasphemers. This announcement is made through loudspeakers from mosques after Friday prayers. Such announcements create insecurity for the alleged blasphemers. They have to flee their homes and live in hiding. Some time they are killed by extremists as there are many examples of extra judicial killings in Pakistan.

“Meanwhile, unfortunately some Islamic religious groups like Sunni Tehreek and Pasbaan merely, on the basis of this allegation of blasphemy, have declared these innocent people under Islamic law as ‘Wajab-ul-Qatal’ (liable to death) and have also announced a large reward for anyone who will kill these alleged blasphemers.

“After this announcement these people have become very insecure and vulnerable here. They have fled their homes and been living in hiding in other province amid constant dangers, while Islamic death squads have been hunting them day and night. I am afraid because of prevailing circumstances that the extremists will brutally kill these innocent people at any time, as there are already many examples of extra judicial killing in such cases here in Pakistan.”

Our source has asked for urgent prayer for the three Christians in the case and for the many others who are facing these blasphemy charges in Pakistan.

“Please pray for justice for the protection and safety of these vulnerable families with a durable solution to their critical situation which will enable them to rebuild hope in their life.”

Background to the blasphemy law:

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, as its name reflects, is an Islamic country. Its population is about 170 million people and the majority (96 percent, is Muslim. Only about 4 percent are non-Muslims which included Christians, Hindus, Ahmedis, Scheduled Castes and Sikhs. They are termed on the basis of religion as “minority”.

In Islamic Sharia law they are called “Zimmis” (people under protection), or de facto, second class citizens. Islam recommends a separate dress with separate color for them.

In 1986, Zia-ul-Haq, the then president of Pakistan, introduced Islamic blasphemy laws to the Pakistan Penal Code. Called Section 295-A, it prohibits speaking against Islamic personages. It merits 3 years imprisonment for the convicted one. 295-B prohibits defiling the holy Quran. It merits life time imprisonment for the convicted one. 295-C prohibits defaming the prophet of Islam. It merits death penalty for the convicted one.

Our source stated, “Unfortunately, the ghost of the draconian Islamic blasphemy law since 1986 has been hunting the minorities in Pakistan. The law is being misused against the Christians particularly. It is an instrument in the hands of Muslims and they can successfully apply it for the following:
1. To grab the properties of the Christians.
2. To stop the activities of the Christian missionaries and churches.
3. To take personal revenge from the Christians.

He added, “In Pakistan only a true or false verbal non-verbal allegation of blasphemy is enough to declare a non-Muslim a blasphemer. Before an alleged accused is brought to court he is often killed extra-judicially by the extremists on the basis of merely allegation of blasphemy.

“On occasions, the accused are killed in jails while in judicial custody. Their close family members are forced to flee their homes and live in hiding permanently. This is the time when they are dispossessed of their valuables and property. One can imagine the magnitude of religious extremism in Pakistan.”

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