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PAKISTAN: Man Charged with Blasphemy

PAKISTAN: Man Charged with Blasphemy

A Christian man was beaten and charged with blasphemy on 5 August, following comments made on his Facebook account about the Islamic celebration of Lailat al Miraj.

The celebration involves eating sacrificial meat. In response, Sohail Masih allegedly posted: “It is not possible that the blood of goats and bulls can wash away sins. The incident of Miraj is based on a lie.” The post came to the attention of a mosque leader, who claimed that “Muslims were extremely hurt” by the comment.

As news of the post spread, a group gathered and began to beat Sohail. Police intervened, taking him to the police station. When the crowds heard that charges had not yet been laid against him, they began to attack the station until the accused was charged with blasphemy.

With the help of police, Sohail’s wife Shunila, and their two young daughters, escaped to another city where they are being protected, since mobs threatened to burn down their house.

Investigations into the incident raise disturbing questions. Those who know Sohail, a salesman at a small shop, say that he cannot write and does not know how to share a post on his phone. It is believed someone may have maliciously shared the picture using his account while he was helping a customer. His wife acknowledges that he has seen the post but has not shared it, nor would he do such a thing.

Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy laws have been frequently abused, often to attack Christians and sometimes to obtain personal gain in business disputes.

Sources: CLAAS, Pakistan Christian Post, UCA News

  • Please remember Sohail in your prayers, along with his wife, young daughters, parents and others who are facing backlash because of this incident.
  • Pray that the truth will be revealed and justice will ultimately prevail.
  • Intercede for Pakistan’s governmental and judicial leaders, that they will be willing to make changes to these laws to prevent abuse.

Post your prayer in the comments below.

PAKISTAN: Family Discord and Blasphemy

PAKISTAN: Family Discord and Blasphemy

A Christian man has been accused by two close family members of committing blasphemy, in what appears to be the first case of its kind in Pakistan. Anwar Masih was arrested on 2 June and charged under Pakistan’s blasphemy law 295-C. Both his wife and daughter have accused him of speaking against Islam.

Anwar’s wife, Kausar Parveen, and their daughter, Samreen, operated a beauty parlour in Lahore. According to reports, Samreen began an affair with a Muslim man and became pregnant. She has since converted to Islam and married the man. All of this happened without the knowledge of Anwar. Once this father found out, he was shocked and upset that the information had been withheld from him. In anger, he allegedly made comments about Islam, which Samreen recorded with her mobile phone. That recording has been turned over to police.

The police have detained Anwar; the mother and daughter have left the house and are hiding at an unknown place.

Nasir Saeed, Director for Centre of Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement, stated, “This is another example of the misuse of the blasphemy laws where a daughter gets rid of her father – and a wife, her husband – simply because he cannot accept what they have done.” “It is sad as no matter whether it was pre-planned or not, the fact is that Masih will have to wait years and years to prove himself innocent and has no future. Even if the mother and daughter regret their decision, the family has broken, and it will never be the same again.”

Sources: UCA News, The Irish Catholic, Pakistan Christian Post

  • Intercede for this broken family. May God work in miraculous ways to restore these shattered relationships and minister His love and unity among them.
  • Pray for Anwar, that he will be strengthened in his faith and trust in the Lord during this time of great difficulty.
  • Intercede for the Pakistani authorities; pray the blasphemy laws will be examined and changed to prevent abuse.

Post your prayer in the comments below.

PAKISTAN: Appeal Delayed for Christian Couple Accused of Blasphemy

PAKISTAN: Appeal Delayed for Christian Couple Accused of Blasphemy

Shagufta Kausar and her husband Shafqat Emmanuel have spent the last six years in jail waiting for an appeal against their death sentence for blasphemy.

The family of the poor Christian couple from the central Pakistani town of Gojra, hope an end to their ordeal could be in sight; a final hearing at Lahore High Court was scheduled for Wednesday, though it was delayed. The hearing was postponed to 22 June.

Their lawyer, Saif ul Malook, who also represented Asia Bibi, another Christian woman who had a death sentence for blasphemy successfully overturned, said the evidence used to convict the couple was deeply flawed.

However, he warned, that judges can be fearful of acquitting suspects, in case they are targeted themselves by extremists. Court proceedings have also slowed in recent weeks as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

The married couple were convicted in 2014 of sending blasphemous text messages insulting the Prophet Mohammed to a local imam from a phone number registered to Shagufta’s name. Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan, and though no-one has ever been executed for it, dozens have been killed by mobs after being accused of the crime.

Shagufta’s brother Joseph, said the couple were innocent, and he doubted they were literate enough to have written the abusive messages. Prior to the charges Shagufta worked as a caretaker in a Christian school. Her husband Shafqat is partially paralysed.

Joseph said on a visit to jail, Shafqat told him he had been tortured into making a false confession: “He told me the policeman hit [him] so hard that his leg was broken.”

The couple have four children, who Joseph said have been left traumatised.

Human rights groups say blasphemy allegations are frequently used to settle personal scores or target religious minorities. The couple’s lawyer said that in their trial they suggested a neighbour they had argued with might have purchased a SIM card in Shagufta’s name and sent the messages in order to frame them.

Sources: BBC, International Christian Concern

  • Ask the Lord to strengthen and sustain this couple as they continue the long wait for their case to be heard and resolved.
  • Pray the hearing will take place on 22 June and ask the Lord to help and guide Saif ul Malook and his team. Pray that justice will be sought and upheld.
  • Pray for the protection of those advocating for change in the blasphemy laws in Pakistan. Commit to the Lord those suffering as a result of being falsely accused.

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PAKISTAN: Persecution of Christians Continues

PAKISTAN: Persecution of Christians Continues

Twenty-five Christians are in prison for blasphemy, six with death sentences. They include Shafqat and his wife, Shagufta. On 8 April the Christian couple will have their appeal heard by the Lahore Court of Appeal.

Sentenced to death in 2014, the court found them guilty of sending blasphemous texts to an Islamic cleric, even though their ‘confession’ was extracted under torture and both are illiterate. Catholic lawyer, Khalil Tahir Sandhu, will present the appeal.

Since the death of Christian farm labourer, Saleem Masih on 28 February, outraged Pakistanis have been using the hashtag #JusticeForSaleemMasih in outcry and to protest the abuse of Pakistan’s religious minorities.

Saleem died in Lahore’s General Hospital after being beaten and tortured by Muslims who accused the ‘filthy Christian’ of ‘polluting’ a well.

Source: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin

  • Pray for justice and liberty for Shafqat and Shagufta. May the Lord bless, guide and protect their lawyers, in particular, Khalil Tahir Sandhu.
  • Ask the Lord to comfort the family of Saleem. Pray that his death will not be in vain. Ask the Lord to use the outrage expressed to help ensure justice and bring about significant cultural change.
  • Pray the Lord will sustain, bless and continue to grow Pakistani’s vulnerable and persecuted Christian church.

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PAKISTAN: Testimony of Asia Bibi

PAKISTAN: Testimony of Asia Bibi

“I, Asia Bibi, daughter of Salamat Masih, believe in Jesus”. So begins a video testimony of the Pakistani woman who was formerly sentenced to death for blasphemy but now living in an undisclosed location in Canada.

Grateful for the opportunity to begin building a new life for her reunited family, Asia is calling out to the world to remember others still being imprisoned for their faith.

In the video, Asia, who remains a proud Pakistani, expresses remorse for having to leave her homeland and beloved elderly father. Even while in Canada, however, her life is still under threat by those seeking to punish her for alleged blasphemy.

The US State Department estimates that there are presently 77 others in prison under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. One such person is Zafar Bhatti, who has been trying to appeal a life sentence since his imprisonment in 2012. On 12 September, his hearing was delayed for the eighth time and rescheduled to take place on 10 October.

When Asia Bibi arrived in Canada in May 2019, she joined her daughters who had been granted temporary asylum.

As the long-suffering Christian mother looks toward the future, she intends to move to an undisclosed European nation. Once settled, she hopes to continue the healing process after all the damage caused by years of detainment in prison. To hear Asia’s testimony in her own words, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSK2_tS8mNg

Sources: The Telegraph, Church in Chains, Release International

  • Pray for ongoing healing to take place in the lives of Asia and her family members and for their continued protection.
  • Pray the Lord will lead them as they consider plans for the future.
  • Pray for Zafar and others who are presently in prison for their faith. Commit to the Lord, Zafar’s upcoming appeal.

Post your prayer in the comments below.