On February 6th, the Pakistani National Assembly passed a law amending some criminal laws. For the first time, sectarianism, mass lynching and forced conversions will be punished, and the explicit aim of the legislation is to improve the conditions of the country’s religious minorities.
Speaking to AsiaNews, some activists expressed their satisfaction with the legislation, which, still needs the final signature of the president to pass it into law.
According to Samuel Pyara, a Christian and president of Bright Future Society, “These measures were crucial to save our country. Mob justice has become a part of people’s mind-set. There was a great need to make it a punishable offence and we appreciate the government’s action.”
The bill’s statement of objectives and reasons says that “terrorism, sectarianism and extremism have gripped the entire country and these acts have become the order of the day.”
With respect to the persecution of religious minorities, inciting sectarian violence and ethnic hatred, and “deliberately using words to hurt the religious feelings of any person”, punishment “has been enhanced from a year-long imprisonment and unspecified fine to imprisonment, extendable to three years and not less than one year, and/or fine of Rs500,000” (US$ 4,770).
The new law also imposes a sentence of between 5 and 10 years and a fine of up to Rs1 million in the case of forced marriage of an underage girl or a non-Muslim woman.
Also, for the first time, lynching by ” organised group or a mob by taking the law in own hands” is also illegal.
- Give thanks for this new legislation, a big step forward in protecting religious minorities and women in Pakistan.
- Pray that the new legislation will be signed by the President without further delay or problems.
- Pray for the implementation of the new legislation, for those who will be enforcing it to do so with justice, integrity and wisdom.
- Pray for the Christian community in Pakistan, for protection from any backlash against this legislation, and for greater freedom to worship and meet together without fear.
Proverbs 31 vs 9: “Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”