Pakistani Christians Want End to Blasphemy Laws

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LAHORE, Pakistan - Pakistani Christians have launched a petition campaign demanding that the nation's blasphemy laws be repealed.

July 26 will be a day of prayer for victims of religious persecution in Pakistan.  Petition drive organizers say it's time to speak with one voice and demand rights for Christians there.

"This is the call to everybody.  Everyone around the world," one planner said.  "For those who seek justice [and] for those who are the body of Christ." 

The Christians say they are tired of attacks against them -- the burning of their homes and possessions and the beating of family members simply because they are members of a Christian minority in a Muslim dominated society.

Christians like 21-year-old Sandal Bibi say they want to bring an end to the arrest of Christians on false charges of blasphemy.

Bibi and her father Gul Sheer were both imprisoned on charges of blasphemy -- charges they say are false.

A Nightmare Unfolds

Their arrest came on October 9, 2008, after a mob of more than 100 angry Muslims surrounded their house, stoning it and the church gate nearby.

Their church and home are in a predominantly Muslim village near Faisalabad.

Muslims became enraged when they heard broadcasts from several mosque loudspeakers accusing the two Christians of desecrating the Koran.

The annoucement came after Bibi's 8-year-old brother, Imsal, found pages of the Koran at the side of the road in front of his house. Family members say he gave them to Bibi who immediately turned them over to a Muslim neighbor.

Bibi's mother suggested the family was set up. She believes the Koranic pages were intentionally placed in front of the house because Sandal and her father were agressively winning villagers to Christ.

Bibi was praise leader at the church.

"She was always telling others that God is the way, Jesus is the way to salvation," her mother said. "She always said that to everyone who attended."

That message also came from the church loudspeakers -- words that some Muslims didn't want to hear.

Bibi and her father are not alone. Many Christians over the past two decades have been falsely accused and imprisoned on charges of blasphemy.

What Pakistan's Blasphemy Law Prohibits:

  • Blasphemy against Islam
  • Blasphemy against the Muslim holy book, the Quran
  • Blasphemy against the prophet Mohammad.

The maximum sentence for those found guilty of is life imprisonment.  That's what Bibi and her father could face if convicted.

The maximum penalty for those convicted of violating blasphemy against the prophet Mohammed is death.

A Call for Action

No Christian has actually been executed for blaspheming Mohammad, but many have wasted away for years in prison, waiting for their cases to reach a higher court. That's when they are usually thrown out for lack of evidence.

The petition calls on the Pakistani government to repeal the blasphemy laws.

While organizers hope 200,000 signatures will be collected by the end of this year, they say signatures are not enough.  They're also petitioning a higher authority. 

Pastors from 316 churches say their members will observe a day of prayer throughout Pakistan July 26.

They want believers around the world to join them in asking God to help Christian victims of persecution and to move hearts to bring about a repeal of the blasphemy laws.

*Parts of this report originally aired January 27, 2009.

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Gary Lane

Gary Lane

CBN News International Correspondent

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