Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The plight of Pakistani Christians

Asia Bibi is a Pakistani Christian woman who was arrested in June 2009, accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad by Muslim farm workers following a dispute over their different faiths. She was prosecuted under Section 295 of the Blasphemy Law in Pakistan and has spent the last year and a half in prison. On the 8th of November of this year, she was found guilty of blasphemy and sentenced to death. Since 1991 anyone found guilty under Section 295 (C) of the Pakistan Penal Code faces a mandatory death sentence.

The problem is that the Blasphemy Law in Pakistan is being abused to settle scores, exact revenge or inflame religious extremism. Within Pakistan itself, there are voices opposing the death sentence of Asia Bibi. Shabaz Bhatti, Federal Minister for Minorities, has been quoted saying, “She was wrongly sentenced to death.” Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab was quoted saying, "This is a disgraceful case, it is a disgraceful law. It has to be repealed."

The Church of Scotland has connections with the land that became Pakistan that go back to 1857. Our partnership with the Church of Pakistan continues to develop and deepen. Our partners in Pakistan have visited Asia in jail and have urged people to pray and lobby for her release. This is why, Andrew McLellan, the Convener of the World Mission Council and I have written to His Excellency Mr. Wajid Shamsul Hasan, the Pakistan High Commissioner urging the Government of Pakistan to release and pardon Asia Bibi and to ensure that she and are family are protected from those who would seek to take the law into their own hands.

The Church of Scotland also urges the Government of Pakistan to repeal the Blasphemy Law since it appears to be used to intimidate and terrorise minority faith communities in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. This goes against the traditions and teachings of Islam and is contrary to the culture of the majority of Pakistanis.

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