Call2Prayer: Blasphemy Laws and Religious Freedom

Our prayer for this week will be a prayer of thanksgiving. Recently, it was announced that Asia Bibi’s acquittal would be upheld in the Pakistani courts, ensuring that she would not be sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy. 

She was accused eight years ago of making an offensive comment about the Prophet Mohammed after a row about the use of a bucket of water. Individuals said that she had dirtied the water when she used it as she was an infidel. She has been in prison in a secret location since, for fear of her life. In October 2018, she was acquitted, but after large scale protects, an appeal was submitted to stop her from leaving prison until the hearing. We praise God that on the 29th January 2019 that acquittal was upheld and Asia Bibi has been freed from prison.  

Pakistan is not the only country that has blasphemy laws. It is believed that there are 77 countries with these laws, although only a few enforce them and an even smaller amount use the death sentence against those accused. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Mauritania have also handed out death sentences in recent years. In 2016, a Saudi poet was sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy but in the end was given a prison sentence and lashes. 

The blasphemy law can be abused and used as a way to attack minority groups or settle personal vendettas. In Pakistan, these laws are especially used against minority groups such as Christians and Ahmadis. As we saw with the Asia Bibi case, she had an ongoing dispute with her neighbour about property damage. It is believed that the neighbour accused her of blasphemy to gain personal advantage. Her and her family were despised in their village for being Christians, which gave ground for other villagers to support this accusation. Asia Bibi and her family were beaten by the villagers before being arrested for blasphemy. Accusations of blasphemy can spread quickly and the accused have been lynched by mobs before it has been established what was even said. 

The courts in these countries are often under immense pressure from hard-line believers who want stronger laws on blasphemy. A governor in Pakistan was murdered by his own bodyguard in 2011 for tweeting support for the removal of blasphemy laws in Pakistan. This was in turn seen as support for Asia Bibi which angered many hard-line Muslims. Many fear for their lives if they speak up, and so they do not. After Asia Bibi’s acquittal in October, her lawyer was forced to leave the country for fear of his life. 

A lot of misconceptions about Christians and Christianity come from misunderstandings and a stream of negative propaganda from governments. To help remove misconceptions about Christianity, our Got It! project has been producing 1-2 minute animated films on key misconceptions Muslims have about Christianity such as, the Trinity, Salvation, Grace, and Jesus. We hope that through these animations people will gain a better understanding of what Christianity is and help create positive religious dialogues. 

We also have our Arabian Dawn project, which documents video testimonies from Gulf believers. These are all produced and created in Arabic and it is used to show new believers in the Gulf that they are not alone. In countries where you can be killed for becoming a Christian, it can feel very isolating and lonely. We hope that through this project these believers will see that there are other believers, like them, in their own country who also praise and worship Jesus. 

Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song. For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. Psalm 95:2-3

Join with us in prayer this week

  • We praise God for Asia Bibi and her acquittal from the courts. We praise and thank you God for your protection around her during this time.

  • We praise God for the courts not bowing to pressure, but serving justice.

  • Lord we pray that the government would not bow to pressure and would allow the Bibi family to leave Pakistan and provide strong protection within the country.

  • We pray for Pakistan as a whole - pray that the government would use this case to bring change and peace in their country.

  • We pray for all minority groups who are persecuted through blasphemy laws. We pray that the governments would seek to create countries where religious freedom is a norm and all people can grow and prosper.