I believe that the situation in Pakistan is very critical to the security and peace in the area. The politics of this country is very complicated. For example, even within the Intelligence community, there are different groups, some of whom support the Taliban in and outside the country, and others vehemently opposed to them. This makes the situation for minority faiths extremely dangerous, especially as the justice system is corrupt, and therefore it is difficult to know who to trust.
One of the key challenges for the country’s government is the amendment/annulment of the ‘Blasphemy Law’. Many people, including several government ministers have been murdered over the issue. I have written a number of letters on the subject, one of which I include below.
‘I am appealing, once again, on behalf of my fellow Christians, who live in your country, for your government to amend sections of Section 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code.
As you know, there are four parts to the law, two of which cause problems for Christians. These are 295-B and 295-C, of which Section 295-C can be the most easily abused of all. The offence can be merely spoken, and there is no need to prove intent. I am aware that although there is a mandatory death sentence, there is no penalty for false accusation. So, unsurprisingly, numerous cases have been registered under this section, against Christians, Muslims and Ahmadiyyas. Almost all have turned out to be malicious accusations made by someone with a personal grudge against the accused (usually over land matters).
While both Christians and Muslims suffer from accusations under 295-C, Christians are much more vulnerable because there is a tendency for both police and judiciary (often out of fear of reprisals) to give greater weight to the testimony of Muslim witnesses than that of Christian witnesses. Cases under 295-C are often a matter of one person’s word against another concerning a purported conversation in the past. So if the accuser is a Muslim and the accused a Christian there tends to be a bias in favour of the accuser.
Other problems which face Christians accused under the “blasphemy law” include the fact that ‘extreme’ Muslims often feel they have a religious duty to make sure that the accused is killed, no matter what the legal authorities decide. Several Christians have been murdered in this way. (A judge was also murdered, apparently for acquitting a Christian.) Even if officially found “not guilty”, a Christian who has been accused of blasphemy can never return home because their life will be in danger.
May I encourage your President, through your good offices, to take appropriate action, including education, to prevent such injustice against a section of the community of Pakistan? If Muslims believe in a strong God, they should not fear the Christians. Christians are good citizens of your country.
I would like to hear what progress has been made in this area. Many thanks.’
May I encourage you to write letters like the above to the President of Pakistan, making sure that it is written in a spirit of loving concern. Also, please pray for this country, which has suffered much over the years, with a major earthquake and two devasting floods, when many people died. Pakistan and India both have nuclear weapons, which either might use against each other, especially as there are often tensions between them, due to issues such as Kashmir and certain groups, based in Pakistan, setting off bombs in places like Mumbai and New Delhi.
Since writing the above, I have made the following suggestions to the Pakistani authorities:
The main reason for writing is to implore you to take action urgently with regard to the following areas to decrease the amount of violence between communities:
- Introduce non-biased education on all religions in the schools, madrassas, and other centres of education like mosques and churches, taking into account the Constitution of Pakistan recognising equality for all religions and peoples;
- Increase the literacy levels of rural peoples and their understanding of the Qur’an’s teaching on working together for each person’s betterment and not just their own;
- Encourage all mullahs and imams to preach peace and reconciliation to their people and to work with Christians and others for the betterment of their communities, through gathering them together to discuss such issues;
- Amend the Blasphemy laws so they cannot be used as a grievance tool;
- Educate all police officers to uphold the law in a non-biased way, including forbidding them participating in beatings of anyone and increase their numbers, especially in sensitive areas like in Baluchistan and the north-west tribal areas, to help with reconciliation and peacemaking work as well as protecting minorities, making sure those that break the law are dealt with appropriately;
- Make sure all police and army officers uphold the law in a fair and unbiased way through proper vetting for security, better training in riot control, non-violent interrogation techniques, intelligence gathering and forensics;
- Strengthen the security of magistrates, lawyers and judges who uphold the law and prosecute those who are involved in bribery;
- Find better ways of getting aid to those who live in isolated areas after floods and earthquakes through increasing the number of helicopters available for such work as well providing suitable landing sites in every village, and improving roads so they are not washed away so easily.