Two Christian Evangelists Charged with Committing Blasphemy in Pakistan
Christian Men in Pakistan Face Potential Execution Over Religious Discussion
02/15/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that two Christian evangelists are being charged with violating Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy law and could face a mandatory death sentence if found guilty. The two Christians are being accused of making derogatory remarks against Islam, the Quran, and offending the religious sentiments of a Muslim while preaching in Lahore.
On February 13, Haroon Ayub Masih and Salamat Mansha Masih, two Christian evangelists, were reportedly preaching in Model Town Park, located in Lahore. While preaching, the two Christians met Haroon Ahmad, a Muslim, and several of Ahmad’s friends.
According to the First Information Report (FIR # 61/21), the two Christians gave Ahmad a Christian book entitled “Water of Life” and began to discuss the divinity of the prophets and Jesus Christ. This discussion with Ahmad turned into an argument that ended with Ahmad accusing the Christians of making derogatory remarks against Islam.
Police have charged the two Christians with committing blasphemy under Sections 295-A, 295-B, and 295-C of Pakistan’s Penal Code. If found guilty, the two Christians could face execution as Section 295-C carries a mandatory death sentence.
In Pakistan, false accusations of blasphemy are widespread and often motivated by personal vendettas or religious hatred. Accusations are inflammatory and have the potential to spark mob lynching, vigilante murders, and mass protests.
Since Pakistan added Section 295-B and 295-C to the country’s blasphemy laws in 1987, the number of blasphemy accusations have skyrocketed. Between 1987 and 2017, 1,534 individuals in Pakistan are being accused of blasphemy. Out of that 1,534, 829 accusations (54%), were against religious minorities. With Christians only making up 1.6% of Pakistan’s total population, the 238 accusations (15.5%) made against Christians is disproportionate.
Currently, 24 Christians are in prison due to blasphemy charges in Pakistan. These 24 Christians are defendants in 21 blasphemy cases represented at various levels of the judicial process in Pakistan.
ICC’s Regional Manager, William Stark, said, “We here at International Christian Concern are concerned for the safety of the Haroon Ayub Masih and Salamat Mansha Masih. We are also concerned for the safety of the broader community these men represent. In many cases, the mere accusation of blasphemy against a Christian is enough to spark mob violence in Pakistan. This violence is often not limited to those accused. There are many examples in which a blasphemy accusation has exploded into violence against an entire Christian community. We call for a complete and fair investigation into the accusation against Haroon and Salamat. Too often Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are misused to justify mob violence or settle personal vendettas. Too often these laws have been a tool in the hands of extremists seeking to stir up religiously motivated violence against minority communities.”
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