06/08/2022 (International Christian Concern) – Last week on Tuesday, a Lahore High Court judge granted bail to a mentally ill man, Stephen Masih, who had been arrested on charges of blasphemy. Masih had been languishing in jail for over three years, with neighbors afraid to make statements before the court about his mental condition. The original incident which triggered the arrest in March of 2019 was an argument between Masih and one of his neighbors that escalated into a mob accusing him of blasphemy and setting his house on fire. The arsonists walked free, but Masih was imprisoned.
Last year, UN human rights experts called for Pakistan to release Masih. The Punjab Institute of Mental Health Lahore indicated that Masih was suffering from bipolar affective disorder and was “unfit to stand trial.” He was finally released on bail last week. Voice for Justice (VFJ) reported that during Masih’s ordeal over the past three years, police tortured Masih’s mother, leaving her with a broken leg and arm. “She has not been able to recover and has been bedridden since then. His family members fled the area and relocated to a safer place,” the VFJ chairman said.
Laws against blasphemy in Pakistan are often weaponized against Christians and other religious minorities in the country, as was the case with Masih. The accused face a possible death sentence, while their families face persecution on the outside. According to the Centre for Social Justice, at least 1,949 people accused of blasphemy between 1985 and 2021 have been subjected to false allegations, prolonged trials, and displacement. We pray that Masih, his family, and all Christians in Pakistan facing blasphemy accusations will find justice and security in the face of persecution.
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