Since the 1990s, scores of Christians in Pakistan have been convicted for desecrating the Koran or blaspheming against Prophet Muhammad, although experts say most accusations are fuelled by personal disputes.
While most of them were awarded death sentences by lower courts, the sentence was often set aside by the higher courts due to lack of evidence, or because the complainants in the case were found to be targeting the community for economic benefits.
Perhaps the best known example is that of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman from a Punjab village who in 2010 got into an altercation with some Muslim women of the village and was later accused by them of having blasphemed against the prophet.
Then Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who publicly stated that the law had been abused in Aasia Bibi’s case, was murdered by his police guard.
Months later, the country’s minister for minority affairs and a leader of the Christian community, Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated for speaking out against the law. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for that murder.
Two years later, a minor Christian girl, Rimsha Masih, became the first non-Muslim to be acquitted by a court in a blasphemy case when it was discovered that she had been framed by a local Muslim cleric.
Accusations of blasphemy have often led to mob violence against Christians.
In 2005, hundreds of Christians had to flee their houses in Faisalabad city after one of the residents was blamed for having burnt the pages of the Koran and the entire neighbourhood was attacked by a mob wielding axes and sticks. Several churches and Christian schools in the city were set on fire.
In 2009, in Gojra town of Punjab, nearly 40 houses and a church were burnt by the mob, and at least eight members of the community were killed, all burnt alive.
Mostly Muslims and Christians co-exist amiably enough without frequent outbreaks of animosity, going to each other’s festivals, sharing community spaces.
The blasphemy law is a foothold for Satan to attack God’s people and destroy this nation. Pray for its destruction and removal. Only God could act to bring such a change. And pray for brave lawyers like Asma Jehangir and Hina Jilani who are willing to risk their lives to defend Christians, pray God’s blessing, protection and mercy for them.