Wednesday, August 24, 2011

122. Pakistan: legal discrimination & impunity fuel persecution

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 122 | Wed 24 Aug 2011

PAKISTAN: LEGAL DISCRIMINATION & IMPUNITY FUEL PERSECUTION

By Elizabeth Kendal

Sharia Law prohibits Christians testifying against Muslims in court. Consequently, in an Islamic state Muslims are essentially guaranteed impunity for crimes committed against Christians. As would be expected, impunity and legal discrimination then fuels further persecution. The resulting profound insecurity is doubtless the most devastating aspect of dhimmitude (subjugation under Islam). Furthermore, as Islamic fundamentalism rises in constitutionally secular Muslim-majority states, Sharia provisions are increasingly being enforced to appease politically powerful hardline Islamists, even though these provisions conflict with the law of the land. Weak and fearful governments are increasingly opting for 'reconciliation' and 'harmony' over justice. As the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) recently noted, 'Legal discrimination against religious minorities and the failure of Pakistan's federal and provincial governments to address religious persecution by Islamist groups, effectively enables atrocities against these groups and others who are vulnerable.'

The police are now seeking to whitewash the 2 March 2011 assassination of Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti (a Christian) by shifting the blame from those who claimed responsibility -- militants linked to the Tehrik-i-Taliban -- to Bhatti's Christian relatives. Bhatti died because he was defending Asia Bibi, a Christian woman jailed in June 2009 on a charge of blasphemy. Asia has been languishing on death row since her conviction in November 2010. Her refusal to convert to Islam had earned the hatred of her Muslim co-labourers. One day they refused to drink the water she delivered, claiming it was contaminated because Asia was an infidel. Asia responded that her Jesus was the Son of God while their Muhammad was no prophet. After her arrest, a local Muslim leader offered to pay US$6000 to anyone who killed her. Two of the three MPs who have risen to defend Asia have been assassinated, leaving the remaining MP, Sherry Rehman, fearing for her life. Not safe even in the local jail, Asia has been transferred to Multan Prison. Her husband, Ashiq, and five children have been driven into hiding.

Mukhtar Masih is an ordained pastor of the Full Gospel Assemblies of Pakistan. While running a small fellowship from his house in Gloria Colony, Sheikhupura, Punjab, he also established and ran the Good Shepherd High School. Islamic fundamentalists complained about the school's Christian activities whilst other Muslims coveted the school's land. Eventually these hostile forces used Islamic militants to threaten and terrorise Mukhtar Masih until he fled Pakistan for his life, taking his daughter Mary with him. Mukhtar's sons, Samuel and Emmanuel, and his brother Araf Masih then took on running the school. Directed by Muslim lawyer Muhammad Ashraf, the Islamic militants eventually forced Mukhtar's relatives to sign over the property and make the Muslims shareholders in the business. Mukhtar's relatives have also had to sell their homes to meet the Muslims' extortion demands. Muhammad Ashraf has occupied the school and changed its name to Focus School System.

The National Director of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), Joseph Francis, brought the case before the local court, which cancelled the agreement and ordered the return of the property. Muhammad Ashraf responded by sending armed militants to kill Mukhtar's relatives, who fortunately managed to escape. Now he has started filing false charges against the Christians, including robbery and murder. From experience, the great danger is that they will be accused of blasphemy also, an emotive charge that carries a mandatory death sentence.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --

* God will anoint more Pakistani MPs, lawyers, writers and artists to speak up for justice to great effect for the sake of Pakistan's besieged Church.

'Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped . . .
to open doors before him . . . I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me . . . I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.' (From Isaiah 45:1-6 ESV)

* the Holy Spirit will draw all the Church in Pakistan to rely on God who raises the dead and delivers his people in answer to prayer (2 Corinthians 1:8-11).

* God will provide all the needs of Asia Bibi, Mukhtar Masih and their families and deliver them from evil; may the Lord's 'own arm' deliver justice against the wicked and recompense for the persecuted.

Say to those who have an anxious heart, 'Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.' (Isaiah 35:4 ESV)
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SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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LEGAL DISCRIMINATION & IMPUNITY FUEL PERSECUTION IN PAKISTAN

Sharia Law prohibits Christians testifying against Muslims in court, effectively guaranteeing impunity for those persecuting Christians. With Islamic fundamentalism rising, Pakistan wants to appease the politically powerful Islamists and so is permitting the use of such Sharia edicts. This impunity and legal discrimination only fuels more persecution. Police are now trying to whitewash the assassination last March of the Christian MP and Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti. Mother of five, Asia Bibi whom he was defending, has languished on death row, convicted of 'blasphemy', since November 2010. Persecuted, threatened pastor Mukhtar Masih has fled from Pakistan, and his relatives back in Punjab are gravely imperilled. Desperation to keep fundamentalist Muslims pacified prevents the authorities from pursuing justice for those being victimised and persecuted. Please pray for the Church in Pakistan.

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