These days good news is rare in the field of religious liberty. But while the case of Pakistan remains serious, good news should be heralded.
by Marco Respinti
More often than not, reporting on religious liberty means giving specialists and the general public alike bad news of discrimination, violence, torture, and death. Good news, though rare, should thus be always heralded.
Pakistan, for example, is a country where bigotry may take the face of prominent public figures who make a career of offending minorities, the form of “informal apartheid” for non-mainstream creeds, the aspect of forcible conversions, and even the shape of open persecution. This is the case of the famous and notorious “blasphemy law”, though which non-Muslim may be sentenced up to the death penalty based on scarce and often fake evidence. Thus, good news from Pakistan is really a major event.
The High Court in the city of Lahore has granted bail to Nabeel Masih, a Christian, says his lawyer Naseeb Anjum. The man was arrested in 2018 when he was 16, after a mob accused him of committing blasphemy by liking and sharing a picture of Mecca’s Kaaba on Facebook that was accused of being disrespectful. For four years, he remained in prison with this terrible accusation pending on his head, with the perspective of serving a total of 10 years in jail as he was sentenced. He was the youngest defendant convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan.
The British Asian Christian Association, which operates from London, UK, has sided by Masih ever since and now rightfully rejoice, even if it is still unclear when the young man will be actually freed and what will happen next.
On the other hand, the situation in the country remains very serious. Amnesty International documented it in a report released in December 2016 illustrating the period between 2011 and 2015: it is the most updated and recent, being that span of time the largest and latest for which data is available. The recorded blasphemy cases filed in Pakistan for that period are 1,296. After more than four years from that (so far) last and latest report the number has certainly increased.
One clear, unimpeachable, and authoritative judgment explains this tragedy: “The majority of blasphemy cases are based on false accusations stemming from property issues or other personal or family vendettas rather than genuine instances of blasphemy and they inevitably lead to mob violence against the entire community.” It is contained in the Amnesty International 2016 report and it was uttered during the Supreme Court judgment in Malik Muhammad Mumtaz Qadri v. the State of October 7, 2015.