Asianet Pakistan /

A 45-year-old Christian man in Pakistan has been arrested. His crime? Posting 1 Corinthians 10:18-21 on his Facebook page. The passage discusses sacrifices made to idols and warns Christians against participating in such practices that involve “devils” in the King James Version. Verse 21 states, “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table and of the table of devils.” The man, whose name is Haroon Shahzad, did not post any additional commentary with the verse but was arrested Thursday in Chak 49 Shumaali village, Punjab Province. 

The post was made a couple of days before Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice), a four-day festival involving the sacrificial slaughtering and sharing of meat amongst Muslim believers. An outraged Muslim man who lives in the same village as Haroon, Imran Ullah, apparently took a screenshot of the post and sent it to other social media groups, accusing Shahzad of blasphemy and lodging a complaint. He then incited violence against the “blasphemous acts by Christians” in several mosques. Riots soon broke out, leading to the Haroon family and other Christians in the village going into hiding. 

 Christian lawyer Aneeqa Maria Anthony of the group The Voice is representing Haroon. Haroon gave a statement to authorities and was taken into custody. The lawyers stated that the charge of blasphemy creates heightened tensions in the case. “We know that the accused has not committed a crime. But given the current circumstances, the sensitive issue of the blasphemy law, and the location where we are – all factors affecting the case – the situation is not favorable,” the lawyers told Agenzia Fides. The lawyers affirmed their belief in God’s intervention. “We believe that God will not abandon us. We intend to take legal action, defend an innocent man, seek bail, and join the investigation. In the meantime, we hope there will be no mass violence. Thousands of cases like this are pending in Pakistan’s courts, where Christian citizens are being wrongly charged and arrested, even though they are innocent.”

 Pakistan has one of the strictest blasphemy laws in the world, with the accused possibly facing the death sentence if convicted. The most famous blasphemy case in Pakistan involved Asia Bibi, a Pakistani mother and Christian who had been accused of insulting Muhammed during an argument with neighbors in 2009. Bibi spent years on death row in Pakistan until her sentence was overturned in 2018 by the Pakistan Supreme Court. Bibi fled Pakistan for Canada, where two of her daughters had been said to have asylum. There were several protests and arrests after her acquittal. Despite the national embarrassment the case brought to Pakistan, Pakistan’s National Assembly unanimously voted this past January to strengthen anti-blasphemy laws, which are often used to persecute religious minorities like Bibi and Haroon. Haroon awaits a bail confirmation hearing on July 11th. 

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