NOTE: Updates to this story are posted at the end of the page.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws protect ideology over individuals, often resulting in abuse which amounts to legalized terrorism. The nation’s penal code criminalizes acts, speech, and even inferred innuendo which run contrary to revering Islam. According to Section 295C of the Pakistan’s penal code, the crime calls for a mandatory death sentence. Pakistan’s provisions inherently violate international standards of freedom of religion or belief, according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s [USCIRF] in its most recent report to the US State Department. “Accusers are not required to present any evidence that blasphemy occurred,” the report indicates, “which leads to abuse, including false accusations.” The Pakistani government has even recently petitioned Facebook and Twitter to help identify Pakistanis living beyond its borders who it suspects of blasphemy so that it may prosecute them or pursue their extradition.
Ahmed (his name changed for security purposes), a strong evangelical leader involved in Christian ministry across Pakistan, now sits in the crosshairs of this law. He was charged with blasphemy in late October 2017, even though the warrant for his arrest did not specify what acts or words constituted the alleged blasphemy, nor on what date it occurred, nor where. Ahmed does not believe he even has ever met the man who is listed as his accuser.
“Miraculously, [the Lord] gave me strength and energy to face all this with a big heart,” Ahmed said prior to his first hearing. “I am ready for any kind of test and crown.” Ahmed retains a vibrant attitude, reminiscent of the Apostle Paul’s sentiments in Philippians 1:20-21; following his second hearing in his case, he announced, “I am willing to die for the Lord, but I am also eager to continue living for him and advancing the gospel in Pakistan.”
During these first two hearings, held in the judge’s chambers in early November, the prosecution failed to produce any evidence of its allegations against Ahmed. After the judge announced he was inclined to dismiss the case if the accuser does not provide evidence during a third hearing, the accusers and prosecuting attorney met with the defense attorney and threatened to kill him.
In recent years, accusations of blasphemy against Islam have sparked international controversies and played part in incidents of mob violence and assassinations of prominent figures. Often the laws are used to settle personal scores and have little or nothing to do with religion. While evangelical Christians make up less than one percent of the population in Pakistan, they bear a disproportionately large brunt of the impact of the blasphemy laws.
About 40 people are currently on Pakistan’s death row or serving life sentences for blasphemy according to the USCIRF. However, increasingly those who are accused of blasphemy simply never live long enough to see their case defended in court; Vigilantes and mobs often take the law into their own hands. At least 69 people inside Pakistan have been killed by mobs over alleged blasphemy since 1990.
FMI is mobilizing Christians around the world to stand with Ahmed. Below are a few of the ways you can personally join his support team:
- Pray for Ahmed, his family, and those involved in the legal process. (Click here if you would like to receive FMI’s Quarterly Prayer Targets.)
- Thank God for the courageous fairness this judge has shown thus far in the legal proceedings, especially in a country where corruption and violence is rampant.
- Ask God to move in the heart of the courts to dismiss ALL charges against Ahmed.
- Pray that the prosecution is thwarted in any attempt to fabricate evidence or prop up false witnesses now that they are under pressure one last time to provide evidence.
- Intercede for the emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being of Ahmed and his family. Pray that Satan’s darts which aim to cause this brother or his family to doubt God’s goodness or faithfulness or give in to discouragement would constantly fail in their effectiveness.
- Pray for God to continue to grant wisdom, insight, and courage to Ahmed’s defense attorney.
- Ask the Sovereign Lord to move in the hearts and minds of Pakistani government to reform the penal code and justice system in regard to blasphemy laws which are so prone to blatant abuse.
- Send a note of encouragement to Ahmed through FMI. Send an email to our office through our Contact Us page to share your message, prayers, and verses to uplift Ahmed and we will relay it to him.
- Share the financial burden of Ahmed’s defense. FMI established Project Advocacy through which you can help underwrite the expense.
Check back weekly to get the latest updates on Ahmed’s ordeal.