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Day of prayer for the release of Asia Bibi

Tomorrow is an international day of prayer for the release of a Pakistani woman sentenced to death for blaspheming Islam’s prophet, Muhammad. Dominant Muslim nations such as Pakistan (“Land of the pure”) have instituted blasphemy laws which punish, often with death, any insult, real or perceived, against the founder of that religion.

That would be bad enough, but what is worse is that the laws are used as raw leverage against the weak and defenseless. Christians are the main target, but others as well, such as minorities in offshoots from Islam such as the Sikhs, and even normal Muslims, can at any time find themselves charged with blasphemy or tearing up a Koran, as a way for the accusers to exact personal revenge, get a hold of land or livestock, or to pressure women for sexual favors.

In the case of Asia Bibi, the woman on death row at this time, the motive seems to be revenge and just plain bullying and bigotry. What’s new is that this is the first time Pakistan has stooped to sentencing a woman to death for this supposed crime.

There has been talk of repealing the blasphemy laws in Pakistan for many years, but the problem is that the military has ruled the nation by shrewdly balancing off the religious groups against the secularists. And it hasn’t been good politics in recent years to tick off the religious groups by repealing these laws. As a sop to the West, Pakistan has instituted a ministry for minority affairs, but it’s pretty much a joke. And a week ago, one outspoken governor who openly sympathized with Bibi’s plight was assassinated for his position in the matter. One could say there is a distinct and tragic chilling effect on liberalization in Pakistan.

So this is more than about the life of one woman, as important as that is. The Body of Christ is suffering worldwide, especially in Islamic and totalitarian nations, and the use and misuse of blasphemy laws is often the cutting edge of the sword used against our brothers and sisters.

Separately, in Lausanne, Evangelical leaders got together and issued a call for unity and fervent missions. I’d like to draw attention to one clause of their statement:

“A divided Church has no message for a divided world. Our failure to live in reconciled unity is a major obstacle to authenticity and effectiveness in mission,” it states.

“We lament the dividedness and divisiveness of our churches and organizations. We deeply and urgently long for Christians to cultivate a spirit of grace and to be obedient to Paul’s command to ‘make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

This is absolutely key to our progress in the world. As one of the last things He said during His natural life on earth, Jesus prayed and exhorted His followers to be one, even as He and the Father are one – and that’s pretty tight organic unity, indeed.

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. -John 17:20-21

At this point, I don’t much care about ecclesiology or tradition or structure, beyond the basics. I care about essential right doctrine, and I care about love. The Body needs to come together if our witness is to have any power at all.

Please spread the word. Let’s join in solidarity tomorrow with our suffering sister, and with the suffering church throughout the world. Let’s do it for their sake and for the sake of the Gospel. The onerous blasphemy laws are being used to violate rights and subvert justice. They also are being used by a militant religion to stifle criticism and dissent, which is a major reason why Islamic societies have consistently failed to evolve and prosper. God loves freedom (Gal 5.1) and He welcomes honest questioning (Is 1.18). He can take the heat.

May God bring peace and prosperity to His church, and if necessary, strength under persecution, but in either case, love and unity.(Source)

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Junaid Qaiser

4 Comments

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  • It is a good move to alive the issue in the world, the mullah with the support of military are pushing back the forces of liberalism in Pakistan and they have succeeded to create an environment of fear in the society. This fear is reflected in the statements of government officials and other out spoken persons after the killing of Shaheed Taseer.

  • There is no doubt that she is innocent, we must struggle for her to get her free.
    The Pakistani blasphemy law has nothing to with Islam. This is true that there were few persons
    were punished to death at that time, but reasons for their punishment was absolute different.
    I will not go in detail.
    This law was made by Mullas together with Zia-ul-haq ( a black period of Pakistan history ) just to use it for their own interest. This law was made in harry because mullas were knowing very well
    that this is the time…. as they were knowing very well that Pakistani people will never elect them
    enough to get in power.

  • Prayer celebrated for peace in all churches: a sign of hope for Pakistan
    Lahore – The Day of prayer and fasting for peace celebrated yesterday, 30 January, in all the churches in Pakistan, was and is “a bright sign of hope for the whole Country.” It is an initiative which hopes “to convert hearts and to rediscover the good of peace and harmony,” Fides was told by Father John Shakir Nadeem, Executive Secretary of the Episcopal Commission for Social Communications, who took part in the celebrations. The leaders and faithful of the religious minorities also joined the Christian initiative, as well as numerous Muslims, because they all “want to create a better Country, in the sign of reconciliation and the common good.”
    On the other hand, on the same day in Lahore (as in other cities), more than 40,000 radical Islamic militants demonstrated “against the revision of the blasphemy law, against the freedom of Asia Bibi, against the United States and against the Pope, accused of interference.” This, the priest explained to Fides, is the fundamental difference: “We are not against anyone. We have prayed and fasted, together with all people of good will, because we believe in the values of peace and we want to make our contribution to the Country in this way, as Christians.”.
    The Day, called for by the Pakistani Bishops, recorded a massive turnout in all dioceses, “despite the unfavourable climate, risks and suffering that Christians living today in Pakistan experience,” remarked Fr Nadeem. In Lahore a special prayer vigil was held in the Catholic church of St Mary of the Franciscan Capuchin Friars, with the participation of Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore and President of the Episcopal Conference, and Peter Jacob, Executive Secretary of the Commission for Justice and Peace. Also present were representatives from other Christian denominations and religious minorities such as Hindus and Muslim leaders.
    “We need to listen to the voice of conscience, that leads us towards peace and towards good,” he said to Archbishop Saldanha. “The issue that affects Pakistan today is not of a religious nature, but political,” said Peter Jacob in his address. Muslim leaders present read verses in the Koran that speak of peace, affirming: “Our country needs this.” The faithful present also remembered and prayed for Asia Bibi, the Christian woman unjustly sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy.
    Faced with the demonstrations by radical Islamic groups, the assembly expressed their unanimous desire to bring them a message of dialogue in the name of the good of the nation, entrusting this to moderate Muslims, who may act as spearheads, hoping to lower the tension and the polarization across society.