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Pray for the Persecuted Church

Christians in Islamic republics are experiencing a growing legal nightmare. Muslim shari’a law prohibits Christians testifying against Muslims in court.

As a result, in Pakistan and Iran, Christians are without rights in any court case involving a dispute with a Muslim.  Likewise in criminal court, Muslims are guaranteed impunity for crimes committed against Christians. In Islamic republics, such impunity and legal discrimination has fueled persecution.

However, the resulting insecurity of non-Muslims is shrugged off by Islamic authorities. Such traditional dhimmitude or subjugation under Islam gives non-Muslims yet one more reason to embrace Islam.

As Islamic fundamentalism rises in such countries as Turkey and Egypt, which have not been Islamic republics, but are constitutionally secular states with a Muslim majority, the question of shari’a is ever in the forefront. Do Muslims have more rights? Under shari’a, they do — dramatically so. But in a secular republic, everyone is theoretically equal.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to appease politically powerful hardline Islamists, reports Elizabeth Kendal of the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin — even though shari’a conflicts with the law of the land. Weak and fearful governments are increasingly opting for “reconciliation” and “harmony” over justice.

That’s exactly what’s happening in Pakistan, reports Kendal. Even the Human Rights Commission in Pakistan recognizes the problem:

“Legal discrimination against religious minorities and the failure of Pakistan’s federal and provincial governments to address religious persecution by Islamist groups, effectively enables atrocities against these groups and others who are vulnerable.”

Pakistani police are now seeking to whitewash the 2 March 2011 assassination of Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who was a Christian, by shifting the blame from those who claimed responsibility, Muslim militants — and instead blame Bhatti’s Christian relatives.

“Bhatti died because he was defending Asia Bibi, a Christian woman jailed in June 2009 on a charge of blasphemy,” writes Kendal. “Asia has been languishing on death row since her conviction in November 2010. Her refusal to convert to Islam had earned the hatred of her Muslim co-labourers. One day they refused to drink the water she delivered, claiming it was contaminated because Asia was an infidel. Asia responded that her Jesus was the Son of God while their Muhammad was no prophet.

“After her arrest, a local Muslim leader offered to pay US $6,000 to anyone who killed her.

Two of the three members of Pakistan’s parliament who have risen to defend Asia have been assassinated, leaving the remaining MP, Sherry Rehman, fearing for her life. Not safe even in the local jail, Asia has been transferred to Multan Prison. Her husband, Ashiq, and five children have been driven into hiding.

“Mukhtar Masih is an ordained pastor of the Full Gospel Assemblies of Pakistan,” writes Kendal. “While running a small fellowship from his house in Gloria Colony, Sheikhupura, Punjab, he also established and ran the Good Shepherd High School. Islamic fundamentalists complained about the school’s Christian activities while other Muslims coveted the school’s land.

“Eventually these hostile forces used Islamic militants to threaten and terrorize Masih until he fled Pakistan for his life, taking his daughter Mary with him. Mukhtar’s sons, Samuel and Emmanuel, and his brother, Araf Masih, then took on running the school.

“Directed by Muslim lawyer Muhammad Ashraf, the Islamic militants eventually forced Mukhtar’s relatives to sign over the property and make the Muslims shareholders in the business. Mukhtar’s relatives have also had to sell their homes to meet the Muslims’ extortion demands. Muhammad Ashraf has occupied the school and changed its name to Focus School System.

“The National Director of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement, Joseph Francis, brought the case before the local court, which cancelled the agreement and ordered the return of the property.

“Muhammad Ashraf responded by sending armed militants to kill Mukhtar’s relatives, who fortunately managed to escape. Now he has started filing false charges against the Christians, including robbery and murder. From experience, the great danger is that they will be accused of blasphemy also, an emotive charge that carries a mandatory death sentence,” reports Kendal.

“Please pray specifically that God will anoint more Pakistani members of parliament, lawyers, writers and artists to speak up for justice to great effect for the sake of Pakistan’s besieged church.

“Pray that the Holy Spirit will draw all the Church in Pakistan to rely on God who raises the dead and delivers his people in answer to prayer (2 Corinthians 1:8-11). Pray that God will provide all the needs of Asia Bibi, Mukhtar Masih and their families and deliver them from evil; may the Lord’s ‘own arm’ deliver justice against the wicked and recompense for the persecuted.”

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