A Christian man sentenced to death, has been acquitted by a Pakistani court, six years after he was charged with blaspheming the Islamic prophet Mohammad.
Last Tuesday, the Lahore High Court acquitted Sawan Masih, a street sweeper from the eastern city of Lahore who was sentenced to death in March 2014 under Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws.
Masih, a father of three, was accused by his Muslim friend, Muhammad Shahid, of insulting the Islamic prophet Mohammad during a conversation in the eastern Lahore city’s Joseph Colony.
The following day, mosques recounted the accusation against Masih over their PA systems, prompting a mob of more than 3,000 Muslims to loot and burn 180 Christian homes, 75 shops, and at least two churches. Amid the violence, Christian families were forced to flee the area.
Masih denied the charges and said the accusations were made due to a property dispute.
Masih was handed over to the police and was later charged under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s Penal Code. He was subsequently sentenced to death under Section 295-C by Judge Chaudhry Ghulam Murtaza, saying he “must be hanged and fined,” in a trial held in the Lahore Camp Jail due to security concerns.
The Lahore High Court decided that the prosecution had failed to establish that Masih had committed blasphemy and acquitted him.
His family is being threatened and is in hiding.
Sources: The New Indian Express, The Christian Post, Church in Chains
- Praise God for answering the prayers of Sawan Masih, his family and people all over the world.
- Pray that Sawan will experience the Lord’s physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. Pray for strength and patience as the family try to overcome and adapt, after being so long apart.
- Pray for the protection of Sawan and his family. Pray too that the Lord will lead them as they consider their future.
Post your prayer in the comments below.
Police in Pakistan have arrested two brothers accused of killing their Christian neighbour.
In June, Nadeem Joseph and his family were attacked by Muslim neighbours after moving into the TV Colony of Peshawar, the capital of the Khybar Pakhtunkhawa province.
Nadeem and his mother-in-law were shot by Salman Khan and his brother, Suleman. Khan reportedly attacked the family because they purchased a house in the area.
In a video message recorded from his hospital bed, Nadeem said, “A month ago, I purchased a house in TV Colony. I still have to make the final payments to the seller, but Salman Khan, a Muslim in the neighbourhood, started harassing my family.”
Nadeem claimed Khan asked his family to leave the neighbourhood as it was “meant for Muslim residents only.” Khan went on to ask, “How dare a Christian family live amid Muslims?”
On 30 June, Nadeem died in hospital as a result of the gunshot wounds he sustained.
Religious intolerance in Pakistan is widespread. Christians often face discrimination as a part of their daily lives. This discrimination often dictates the jobs Christians hold, the education they receive, and even the neighbourhoods in which they live.
Source: International Christian Concern, UCA News
- Thank the Lord for the development in the case and pray for the family as they endure this time of trial.
- Pray this case may be used by God as an example of religious intolerance. May it help secure change in the attitudes of many.
- Pray the death of Nadeem will not be in vain but will somehow be used by God for good. Ask God to draw the church in Pakistan into a stronger and deeper relationship with him
Zafar Bhatti has been in prison since 2012 after being charged with sending blasphemous text messages. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2017.
Diagnosed with diabetes, the 56-year-old Christian had two minor heart attacks in 2019 and suffers from eyesight problems. It was recently reported that he had another heart attack on 3 September. He received swift medical attention in prison to stabilise his condition but there are ongoing concerns for Zafar’s physical and mental health. His lawyers called on the Lahore High Court (Rawalpindi Bench) to grant immediate bail on medical grounds and allow him access to medical treatment outside of jail.
Due to threats from fellow inmates, Zafar is presently being held under tight security. His appeal hearings have been adjourned repeatedly, causing great distress to him and his wife Nawab. An appeal was due to be held on 7 September but was postponed for three days.
Following a brief hearing at Lahore High Court on 10 September, the Rawalpindi Bench instructed the local police superintendent to commission a medical report on Zafar. His lawyer from Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) later met the superintendent and was allowed to visit Zafar in prison.
The legal team from CLAAS reports the good news that Zafar’s faith in Christ remains strong and that he is recovering from his recent ailment. Zafar told them that his Saviour will protect him and that “soon I’ll be out of the jail”. In the meantime, he has asked for Christians around the world to pray that he will be proven innocent and thus released from prison.
Sources: Pakistan Christian News, Church in Chains
- Pray Zafar will receive suitable medical treatment and be kept safe from those in prison who wish him harm.
- Pray the Lord will grant Zafar favour to miraculously make a way for his safe release.
- Pray that the hearts of Zafar’s opposers will be radically transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit and the faithful witness of Zafar.
In Pakistan, COVID-19 restrictions combined with monsoon season, left brick kiln workers, along with other day workers, with no work and therefore no pay for months.
As a result of the pandemic, Pakistan went into lockdown from March to May with some ongoing restrictions in place until August.
The enforced restrictions significantly affected the country’s poor and vulnerable communities, including the Christian minority.
Pakistani Christians, most often day labourers in the lowest paying jobs, could no longer work and faced the very real threat of starvation.
For those working in the brick kilns of Lahore, Pakistan’s monsoon season resulted in additional job losses. The season which runs from June to September brought very heavy rainfalls this year. This resulted in the kilns being closed from July to September.
This meant no work, no income and nothing to feed the family.
Additionally, as much-needed aid was distributed throughout Pakistan, VOM received reports of Christians being pushed to the end of distribution queues or being denied assistance altogether.
VOM Australia, together with our distribution partner in Pakistan provided basic food packages to those who needed it most.
The distribution areas selected where those where no one else had reached. One such place was the brick kilns on the outskirts of Lahore.
There are almost 70 families residing in these brick kiln colonies. The average family size is six members. All of the adults are illiterate and have no option to work elsewhere. Their employers, the landlords, have not provided any support in this crucial situation.
Families were very grateful for the help they received. They are thankful to God who kept them safe and fulfilled their desperate need.
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Saneha Kinza Iqbal, a 15-year-old Christian girl, was abducted by Saeed Amanat, a 30-year-old Muslim man, on her way to church in Faisalabad, Pakistan.
The abduction reportedly took place on 22 July, however, Saneha’s family was only able to file a report with local police on 19 August because officers initially refused to cooperate with the Christian family.
Saneha’s family fears their daughter has been added to the extensive list of Christian girls who, after being abducted and forcibly converted to Islam, are forcibly married to Muslim men.
Saeed Amanat, Saneha’s abductor, is a security guard at the Allied Hospital in Faisalabad. On 2 June, Rukhsana Bibi, Saneha’s mother, injured her hip and was hospitalised at Allied Hospital. Saneha would often visit her mother at the hospital, allowing Amanat to meet and become familiar with Saneha.
On 22 July Saneha went to church for morning prayers but never returned. Her family asked neighbours if they had seen Saneha and some said she was seen in a car with strangers. Later, a neighbour confirmed that one of the men in the vehicle was Amanat.
Waseem Morris, Saneha’s brother, met with Amanat’s father in an attempt to have Saneha returned to the family. At first, Amanat’s father promised she would be returned, but several days later, Amanat’s father changed his mind.
After this refusal, Saneha’s family began receiving threatening phone calls. These phone calls, made by Amanat, threatened Saneha’s family if they made any attempts to have Saneha returned home.
According to a 2014 study by The Movement for Solidarity and Peace Pakistan, an estimated 1,000 women and girls from Pakistan’s Hindu and Christian community are abducted, forcefully married to their captor, and forcibly converted to Islam every year. The issue of religion is also often injected into cases of sexual assault to place religious minority victims at a disadvantage. Playing upon religious biases, perpetrators know they can cover up and justify their crimes by introducing an element of religion.
Sources: Asia News, International Christian Concern
- Intercede for Saneha and her family. Pray for favour as they deal with the authorities. Pray she will soon be restored to her family.
- Pray that, in the meantime, the Lord would protect and preserve them and give them His peace and strength.
- Pray the authorities in Pakistan will do more to protect Christian girls from kidnappers and will pursue justice for affected families. Ask the Lord to soften the heart of Amanat.
Post your prayer in the comments below.