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03/03/2021 United States (International Christian Concern) – Advocates brought together by the Religious Freedom Institute in Washington DC honored the memory of Shahbaz Bhatti, a Pakistani human rights advocate who was brutally murdered ten years ago. His assailants who were never identified or held accountable for their crimes.

Bhatti served as the Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, in which capacity he campaigned against Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws. These laws continue to plague Pakistani Christians and other religious minorities and is one of the most prominent tools of persecution utilized by the majority Muslim population. A mere accusation of blasphemy is enough to mark an individual for life and, potentially, lead to the death sentence.

The most prominent case of blasphemy in the recent past was that of Asia Bibi, a woman who spent nearly a decade on death row after being falsely accused of blasphemy. Her case became internationally known and drew attention to this notorious law in Pakistan. She was acquitted in 2018 and now lives in Canada with her family.

ICC has tracked cases of blasphemy in Pakistan for years and has compiled a report with dozens of verified blasphemy cases. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are some of the strictest in the world. A simple discussion of one’s faith with members of the majority community could prompt a blasphemy accusation and ultimately land one in prison. The laws limit the ability of the Christians and religious minorities to share and live out their faith.

Matias Perttula, ICC’s Director of Advocacy, said, “Shahbaz Bhatti worked tirelessly to end these senseless blasphemy laws which continue to discriminate against and oppress Christians in Pakistan. It’s time for Pakistan to move this law off the books and enter into a new era of religious freedom for all as guaranteed by the constitution of Pakistan. Now more than ever there is cause for the powers that be in Pakistan to make significant reforms and eradicate these extremist measures.”

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