In the Islamic world of Pakistan, Christians are denied the right to free speech. They even face imprisonment or possible death if they say something deemed offensive about Muhammad or Islam.
“The whole Christian community can pray for Pakistan and if you want to step forward and do something concrete, you can uplift the Christian community here in Pakistan,” Jave Rauf, a Pakistani Christian, said.
Many Christians during the past three decades have been falsely accused and imprisoned on charges of blasphemy.
Pakistan’s blasphemy law contains three main sections: blasphemy against Islam, blasphemy against the Muslim Holy book—the Quran, and blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad.
The maximum sentence for those found guilty of blaspheming the Quran is life imprisonment.
The maximum penalty for those convicted of violating blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad is death.
No Christian has actually been executed for blaspheming Muhammad, but many like a woman named Asia Bibi have wasted away for years in prison, waiting for their cases to reach a higher court.
That’s when they are usually thrown out for lack of evidence.
Bibi is a Christian mother who has been imprisoned now for more than four years. She’s confined to a small 8-by-10 prison cell near the Pakistan city of Faisalabad where she awaits possible death.
Bibi was arrested in June 2009 after an argument with her Muslim co-workers who accused her of insulting the prophet Mohammed. A local judge found Bibi guilty and sentenced her to death by hanging. Her case is still on appeal.
Those who speak out against the blasphemy pay a heavy price. Shahbaz Bhati was a Christian and an official in the Pakistan government.
He called for Bibi’s release and the repeal of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
“I believe in Jesus Christ who has given His own life for us. I know what is the meaning of the cross and I’m following the cross and I am ready to die for a cause,” Bhatti said.
Bhati was eventually killed for his efforts. As he drove to work, radicals shot him to death in his car.