‘Something that you say or do that shows you do not respect God or a religion’ according to the Cambridge English Dictionary. Jesus was charged with this crime and crucified because of it (Matthew 26:65) and at this present moment there are many whose charge, sentence and innocence mirror that of their Lord’s for the sake of their Lord.
The most high profile case is Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who has been imprisoned for blasphemy since 2010; her appeal against the death sentence is currently pending in the Supreme Court but it is taking a very long time. Her family has had to go into hiding. There have been death threats made against her and rewards offered for her murder. And in this particular case politicians who have pressed for the repeal of the blasphemy law have been assassinated. In 2011 Salmaan Taseer, a critic of Pakistan’s misused blasphemy laws and one of Asia’s greatest advocates, was killed by his own bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, who said it was his duty as a Muslim to kill the outspoken politician. The Islamabad High Court found him guilty and he was hanged on 29 February of this year. However, many Islamist groups hailed him a hero with an estimated 100,000 attending his funeral, showering the coffin with rose petals.
On 27 March his supporters began to protest in the D-Chowk Red Zone, a high security area where Parliament House and key government buildings are located in Islamabad. This resulted in a media blackout as well as the suspension of mobile networks and bus services. In a bid to end the illegal protest, government officials agreed to seven out of ten of their demands including:
- the release of those arrested during the protest,
- that Article 295 A,B and C of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are NOT amended and
- that leniency is not shown to anybody convicted of blasphemy
After the tragedy of the Lahore terrorist attack on Easter Sunday these concessions are seen by many as a betrayal of the religious minorities in the land, as well as a legitimisation of the extremist mindset and the power they wield.
Release International is calling on the Pakistan government to repeal these blasphemy laws as it is clear that the mere accusation of this crime is enough to destroy someone’s life, as is defending the accused or calling for reforms. We believe that freedom of religion and expression is a fundamental right for every human being, no matter where they’re born, and is also essential for the flourishing of all societies, as stated in all the major international human rights instruments.
Will you join us in signing the petition and share this campaign so that together we can help bring about significant and lasting change for Pakistan’s Christian community?