Pakistan’s religious extremists, including the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan and the Red Mosque in Islamabad have issued threats against the country’s Supreme Court justices over their decision in the Asia Bibi case. According to reports, the extremists threatened that if she were to receive clemency, the justices would meet a ‘horrible’ end.
On Monday 8 October, Pakistan’s Supreme Court finally heard the appeal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death under the country’s notorious blasphemy laws. Bibi, who has been on death row since her conviction in 2010, remains the highest profile case of blasphemy in Pakistan and likely in the world.
The charges against Bibi stem back to an argument she had in 2009 with Muslim co-workers. These co-workers were offended that Bibi, a Christian who they considered untouchable, had used the same water bowl as Muslims. Bibi’s co-workers claim that she made blasphemous remarks against Islam in the argument that followed.
Following Bibi’s conviction and death sentence in 2010, two prominent politicians, Salman Taseer and Shabaz Bhatti, took up Bibi’s case. Both men were targeted and assassinated by religious extremists within a year.
Source: International Christian Concern
- Ask the Lord to grant courage and wisdom to the court justices who are considering the appeal. Pray they will be fair minded and unbiased.
- Ask the Lord to protect them against a very real danger.
- Pray the Lord will protect and strengthen Asia, her family and legal representatives.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court postponed its ruling Monday on the final appeal of a Christian woman who has been on death row since 2010 after being convicted of blasphemy against Islam.
The judicial panel listened to Asia Bibi’s defence lawyer challenge statements by those who accused her of insulting Islam’s prophet.
The three-judge panel, headed by Pakistan’s Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, did not say why they reserved their judgment or when they would announce their decision. It ordered everyone present to refrain from commenting on the case, in an apparent attempt to avoid inflaming public opinion.
Bibi, a mother of five, was arrested in June 2009, after her neighbours complained that she had made derogatory remarks about Islam’s prophet, Mohammed. A year later, Bibi was sentenced to death under the blasphemy laws despite strong opposition from national and international human rights groups.
Her lawyer, Saif-ul-Malook, said she stood a good chance to be released. “The incident happened on 14 June 2009, but the case was registered on 19 June 2009. The accused did not get the benefit of doubt. Legally, it is a weak case,” he said.
Pakistani Christians fear that even if she wins her appeal, and her blasphemy conviction is overturned, she will be prey to mob violence, as many Pakistanis are convinced she deserves to die.
Pakistan’s Christians and other religious minorities complain of legal and social discrimination in their country. In the past few years, many Christians and Hindus have been brutally murdered over unproven blasphemy allegations.
Blasphemy laws in Pakistan, where 97% of the population is Muslim, were introduced by the military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s. But activists say they are often implemented in cases that have little to do with blasphemy and are used to settle petty disputes and personal vendettas. Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis – a minority Islamic sect – are often victimised as a result.
Pakistan’s populist Prime Minister Imran Khan, who came to power in August, vowed to defend the country’s controversial blasphemy laws during his election campaign earlier this year.
Sources: World Watch Monitor, Deutsche Welle, The Washington Post
- Pray the Lord will grant Asia a peace which passes all understanding. Pray too she will be given the patience to endure this further delay. Ask the Lord to provide His protection to her as she continues to wait.
- Ask our Heavenly Father to ensure that justice finally prevails for Asia. Pray He will give the judges courage and clarity of mind, as they come to their decision.
- Pray this case may be used by the Lord to bring positive changes to the Pakistani political and judicial systems.
Iran’s hard-line government has sentenced four Christians to harsh prison terms for putting their faith in Jesus Christ.
Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz and his wife Shamiram Issavi, who are ethnic Assyrian Christians, and Amin Afshar Naderi and Hadi Asgari, who are Christian converts from Islam, were sentenced to a combined total of 45 years in prison for allegedly conducting “illegal church activities” and spreading propaganda which reportedly “threaten national security.”
In 2014, Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz was arrested when plain-clothed security forces raided his home during a Christmas party. In 2017, an Iranian Revolutionary Court sentenced him, along with Hadi Asgari, to 10 years in prison for “forming a group composed of more than two people with the purpose of disrupting national security” in relation to their church activities. The same court sentenced Amin Afshar Naderi to five years in prison for allegedly insulting Islam.
In January 2018, Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran sentenced Shamiram Issavi to five years in prison for “membership of a group with the purpose of disrupting national security” and another five years in prison for “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security.”
Iran, which is overwhelmingly Muslim, has a constitution that has restricted freedoms for non-Muslim citizens.
“Consequently, Christians in Iran have been a target of harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention, unfair trials, and imprisonment on national security-related charges solely because of their faith,” Amnesty International said in a statement. “In the past year alone, dozens of Christians, mostly Christian converts, have been targeted.”
The four Christians, who are currently free on bail, are awaiting the verdict of their appeal court.
Source: CBN News
- Pray our heavenly Father will uphold these believers as they face a difficult and uncertain future. Ask Him to help them to be strong and not fearful.
- Ask the Lord to grant them favour in their appeal.
- Pray the church in Iran will continue to grow in love for the Lord and faithfulness to Him as they reach out to their fellow countrymen.
American pastor Andrew Brunson’s hopes of being released from jail in Turkey have been dashed yet again.
Yesterday, a judge ordered Pastor Andrew to remain behind bars, despite intense international lobbying raising hopes he would be freed. Turkey has just declared an end to the national state of emergency imposed after the failed coup two years ago which Pastor Andrew is accused of backing.
Pastor Andrew, who leads a small church in Izmir and has lived in Turkey for 22 years, faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted of having links to those suspected of the 2016 coup. He has been charged with terrorism and espionage – charges he strongly denies.
Former members of his church are among those testifying against him, with what are described as ‘vague, unsubstantiated accusations’. When the judge invited Pastor Andrew to respond, he said, “My faith teaches me to forgive, so I forgive those who testified against me.”
Pastor Andrew’s lawyer claims that he should have been granted conditional release as the investigation into his case has been completed. Pastor Andrew has been in custody since October 2016 and is said to have suffered severe harassment and lost 22kg in weight.
President Trump and senior US officials have appealed directly to President Erdogan for his release. The fourth hearing in his case is scheduled for October 12.
Source: Release International
- Pray that God will sustain Pastor Andrew and Norine and deliver them from the lies that hold him captive. Pray these lies will be exposed (Luke 8:17) and the truth revealed.
- Thank God for the powerful witness of Pastor Andrew’s grace and forgiveness towards his persecutors, including those he once counted as friends.
- Pray that God will speak into the hearts of those who are testifying against Pastor Andrew and convict them of the need to speak the truth and defend him.
There is a mixture of hope and scepticism among Pakistani Christians with the latest development in the case of Asia Bibi who was sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2009.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court, Mian Saqib Nisar, stated on 21 April that Asia’s appeal would be heard soon and that he will personally preside over the case. Another time, he mentioned that all appeals before the Supreme Court would be decided by July.
This case has been a flashpoint over the past number of years. Those who have taken up Asia’s cause have faced threats on their lives. The most prominent were the deaths of a federal government minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, and Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer. Both were assassinated in early 2011 for their outspoken criticism of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and support for Asia Bibi.
In anticipation of problems, the Chief Justice has ordered police protection for Asia’s lawyer.
Sources: World Watch Monitor, Pakistan Today, The Express Tribune
- Ask the Lord to sustain Asia Bibi, her family and her legal representatives. May they feel the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit.
- Pray this case and others similar, may be used by God to bring about real change in the government and legal system in Pakistan.
- Pray that the case will proceed quickly and justly, and for the protection of all involved — including the Chief Justice.