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Christian minority Tag

 

Pakistan – The “Asia Bibi” the world knows nothing about – ACN-News

16.02.2019 in ACN International, ACN Interview, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Asia, Asia Bibi, Blasphemy Law, By Maria Lozano, By Marta Petrosillo, Journey with ACN, Mario Bard, Pakistan

Pakistan: “My husband is innocent!” –

The “Asia Bibi” the world knows nothing about

 

In Pakistan, 224 Christians have been victims of the blasphemy law since the law’s passage in 1986, Cecil Shane Chaudhry, Executive Director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of Pakistan, told a delegation from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) during a visit to the Asian country.

The Colony Joseph. In March 2013, almost 300 houses and 2 churches were destroyed after the Christian Sawan Masih was accused of blasphemy.

 

By Marta Petrosillo and Maria Lozano

 

Although the legal case against Asia Bibi finally came to a positive resolution on January 29th, 23 Christians were killed for blasphemy accusations between 1990 and 2017 and the Commission has documented a further 25 cases of Christians under trial, according to a study presented to ACN.

 

Specifically, there are two paragraphs of Section 295 of the Pakistani Penal Code (paragraphs B and C) that can be understood as the “anti-blasphemy law”. Section 295B stipulates a life sentence for anyone who desecrates the Quran, while insulting the Prophet Muhammed carries the death sentence under Section 295C.

 

“The anti-blasphemy law is a powerful tool that fundamentalists can wield to the detriment of minorities and is often misused as a means of personal revenge,” Chaudhry said. “And when charges are brought against Christians, the entire community suffers the consequences.”

 

This is exactly what happened in March 2013 in Joseph Colony, a Christian district in Lahore, after the young Christian Sawan Masih was accused of having insulted Muhammad. “On 9 March, after Friday prayers, a mob of 3000 Muslims burnt down the entire district, destroying almost 300 houses and two churches,” Father Emmanuel Yousaf, NCJP President, explained to the delegation from ACN during a visit to the residential area. In the meantime, the district been rebuilt, thanks to funding from the government and returned to the Christians.

 

Cecil Shane Chaudhry, executive director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of Pakistan.

While the 83 instigators of the arson attack have all been released, Sawan Masih was sentenced to death in 2014 and is still waiting for the appeal proceedings to be held. “The hearings are constantly being postponed,” attorney Tahir Bashir explained. “The last hearing was scheduled for 28 January, but the judge did not appear. A new court date has now been set for 27 February.”

National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) was formed in 1985 by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan. It provides services in the field of human rights advocacy. Since 1990 the Commission has defended cases of blasphemy against Muslims, Christians and Hindus, and has campaigned for abolition of the blasphemy laws. The team of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP).

Just as in the case of Asia Bibi, there are a lot of irregularities in Sawan’s case. The charges against him were brought by one of his Muslim friends, Shahid Imran, following an argument between the two men. Only two days later, two witnesses appeared who in reality had not even been present at the time Muhammed was allegedly insulted. “The charges against Sawan are being exploited,” Father Yousaf told ACN. “The true motivation behind this is an attempt to drive Christians out of this city district. It has become very popular because it lies very close to the steel factories.”

 

In the meantime, Sawan’s wife Sobia is raising their three children all by herself. “I don’t know why they have accused my husband,” she said to ACN. “I just know that the man who brought charges against him was a friend of his with whom he had quarrelled. Sawan is innocent!”

 


 

Project of the Week : Prison Ministry in Pakistan

06.01.2016 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Pakistan, Project of the Week, Religious education

Pakistan

Support for the prison ministry in the diocese of Faisalabad

Life in a Pakistani prison is truly punishing. Torture is common-place, and the prison conditions are often appalling. The prison cells are tiny and overfilled, and a hundred prisoners often have to share a single toilet. Prisoners often die of heat stroke or heart attack, and dozens of prisoners die in custody every year.

For Christians the conditions are still worse than for their Muslim fellow prisoners. Given that even in “normal life” they are oppressed and discriminated against, it is hardly surprising that their conditions of imprisonment are still more precarious. Again, since most of the Christians are among the poorest in society, their families cannot afford to bribe their jailers, as others do. As a result, and unlike the Muslim prisoners, the Christian inmates almost never receive visitations from their relatives.

« J'étais en prison et vous m'avez visité » Évangile selon Matthieu, ch. 25 v. 26

“I was in prison and you visited me.”  Matthew, . 25 v. 26

There are approximately 5,000 people in the prisons of Faisalabad, the third-largest city in Pakistan. Of these between 85 and 100 are Christian, most of whom have been imprisoned for relatively minor offences, such as drug possession, illegal trade in alcohol and other similar offences. Many of them would have already long since been released if they had been able to afford the fines imposed on them. But since they are too poor to pay the fines, they are left sitting in prison.

A great blessing for prisoners

Once a month, however, and on major holidays the authorities in Faisalabad do at least permit Catholic priests to enter the prisons and talk and pray with any inmates who wish to do so. This is a great blessing for the prisoners. The pastoral care provided by the Church benefits not only the prisoners themselves but also their family members – above all when the prisoner has been the sole breadwinner of his family. In such cases his imprisonment can inflict extreme poverty on his wife and children, and here too the priests do their best to ease the worst of the need. They also endeavour wherever possible to promote reconciliation between the families of the victims and those who have committed the offence.

ACN has supported this prison ministry in the past and will continue to do so this year with a contribution of $8,700 CAN.

 

Text : ACN international
Adapted by: Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada – ag@acn-aed-ca.org