Life continues to be extremely dangerous for Christian human rights campaigners and journalists in Pakistan as death threats continue to be directed at them by Muslim radicals.
Already, there have been several murders against those who have dared to speak out against the country’s controversial blasphemy law.
The killings have included Shahbaz Bhatti, 42, the only Christian in the cabinet of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), who was shot dead by gunmen who ambushed his car in broad daylight in the capital, Islamabad, at the beginning of this month.
He had angered Muslim radicals for speaking up for Asia Bibi, the Christian mother-of-five who had been sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy, and also against the country’s blasphemy law.
Another victim was the influential governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Salman Taseer, who died early January after being shot by one of his bodyguards in the capital, Islamabad.
Mr. Taseer, a senior member of the Pakistan People’s Party, was shot when getting into his car at a market.
Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, was reported by the BBC as saying that the guard had told police that he killed Mr. Taseer because of the governor’s opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy law and his support for Ms. Bibi.
The latest threats have been made against Joseph Francis, National Director of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), in Pakistan and one of our correspondents.
A colleague of Mr. Francis told the ASSIST News Service, “This is an urgent prayer request for Mr. Joseph Francis who has been receiving death threats from militants for speaking for the persecuted people especially Christians in Pakistan.
“Just for a brief reminder, when the Pakistani court sentenced Asia Bibi to death for blasphemy last November, the issue of the blasphemy laws was highlighted in the national and international media.
“All human rights organizations were demanding the repeal of these man-made laws and appealing to the government for release of Asia Bibi from the blasphemy charges and her death sentence.”
|Human Rights Focus Pakistan recently organized a protest rally against the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti|
Then speaking about the two recent killings, the spokesperson said, “Their murders are also a fresh example of the misuse of this law.”
ANS has been told by CLAAS that Mr. Francis has been receiving threats from Islamic organizations because “he spoke on the misuse of blasphemy laws on the Duniya TV Channel on their Policy Matters program.”
The CLAAS spokesperson went on to say, “He also spoke on the blasphemy issue in the program Kal Tak on the Express TV channel after the death of Mr. Taseer.
“Now,” added, “the religious extremists in Pakistan are very active and want to impose Sharia Law in Pakistan. They are totally against the repeal, or any changes, in the Islamic laws of Pakistan.
“They may have silenced Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti for opposing the blasphemy laws, but there are many others who will continue to speak out. Campaigns to repeal these laws will continue and the shedding of the blood of Salmaan and Shahbaz will not be in vain.”
Joseph Francis then said, “Even though I am getting threats on my life, as a soldier of Christ I am willing to stand up for the rights of those persecuted and pressed down by these unjust laws, even if the ultimate goal demands my blood too.
“I know I have opposition from the religious extremists who want to stop me from defending my brothers and sisters in Christ from all kind of persecution, but I will continue my struggle for the repeal of the blasphemy and other Islamic discriminatory laws.”
The spokesperson concluded by saying, “We at CLAAS urge you to keep Mr. Joseph Francis in your prayers, as well as all of the CLAAS staff, CLAAS lawyers, and other people who are working for the persecuted people in Pakistan through their NGO’s.
“Also, for the people who are scared at the moment by the current situation of Pakistan. May our Savior Jesus Christ protect us with His precious blood and use us for His Glory.”
One of our ANS correspondents in Pakistan, who has asked not to be named for security reasons, has also revealed that he has been receiving death threats.
In a message today he wrote, “For several years I have been serving as a voice for the voiceless people of Pakistan, but I can’t take it anymore as they have started threatening me directly via letters and calls.”
We ask you to pray for the safety of these two friends at this time; that they will be protected from these disturbing threats.