They want the Pakistan’s Supreme Court to ban certain passages in Biblical Scripture under the country’s notorious “blasphemy” laws. Specifically, Muslims regard certain biblical characters (i.e. Abraham, Isaac, David and Solomon) as prophets, and the Bible’s accounts showing them as flawed. While Christians are convinced the Biblical accounts are correct.
Assertions that Jesus is God, that He died and rose from the dead, and that salvation comes through Him are also falling in conflict with Islamic teachings. Todd Nettleton is a spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs USA. He says the sect that’s making the demands wants “at least those sections taken out of the Bible, if not the entire Bible will be banned in Pakistan. They say that “there won’t be trouble as long as the courts act in this case, as long as the courts do what they want them to.”
Within Pakistan’s Penal Code are penalties ranging from a fine to death for “blasphemy.” According to Voice of the Martyrs, the law is often misused to target religious minorities, including Christians.
The law is a focal point for religious tensions in Pakistan. Just this year, because he supported the repeal of the law, assassins murdered Punjab Province Governor Salman Taseer and Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti. Todd Nettleton adds that the “potential for violent reaction is possible. There is a high level of concern right now in Pakistan because of the Asia Bibi case, and that anti-Christian and anti-American feelings resulted from the killing of Osama bin Laden.” However Nettleton does not understand the dynamics at play here and the facts are the United States had to vindicate the 9/11 deaths at the hands of Bin Laden. Also, it is commonly believed by those in the know that the killing of Osama Bin Laden makes no difference with regard to the Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan. Asia Bibi is a perfect example of that. She was sentenced to death for professing Jesus is the only son of God, and that no man can get into heaven without salvation in Jesus name only. She often spoke about Jesus. This was the crime for which she was sentenced to death long before Bin Laden’s death.
The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-S) party–a Muslim offshoot party out of India–is ready to launch their formal petition to ban the Bible should the courts not rule to outlaw the sections they complained about. When asked if such a petition would cause more trouble for believers, Nettleton says, “At this point, it’s a lot of noise. If it starts to be motion towards actually banning the Scriptures, that will be a huge concern.”
Even if the motion gains traction, Gospel outreach won’t be hampered much. “The reality is that Christians are already taking great risks in Pakistan to share their faith. Some are even going into the most devout Islamic areas to share their faith with people there.”
Less than two percent of Pakistan’s 17 million people are Christian. Other religious non-Muslim minorities are less than one percent of the total population. The rest of the country is Muslim, mainly Sunni.
There’s been no word on when the Supreme Court will hand down a decision on the JUI-S request. Nettleton says, “Pray for justice in Pakistan. We can pray that the courts will rule according to the Constitution and according to the law.”
For the believers, “Pray that they will be encouraged. We can pray that they will continue to minister in spite of the risks that they already face, and we can pray that Muslims will come to know Jesus.
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