A childhood dispute over playing together could result in the death penalty for five Christians, after their Muslim neighbors made up accusations of blasphemy against them, according to a new report from Voice of the Martyrs.
The ministry organization that monitors persecution of Christians worldwide, and works on their behalf, said the newest case was just reported by organization sources in Pakistan.
In the city of Toba Tek Singh, five Christians – Rashid Masih, Salamat Masih, Sahba Masih Motta, Bao Masih and Sheela Masih – right now are living under the threat of physical attack from Muslim extremists, and in fact the stability of the relationship between Muslims and Christian in the entire region is endangered, the report said.
All because of a disagreement among children over playtime.
“Daniel, an 11-year-old Christian boy, refused to play with his Muslim friends, resulting in them beating him,” the Pakistani source told Voice of the Martyrs.
“Daniel’s family confronted the Muslims who called the police and made a false report saying Daniel’s family had blasphemed the name of the Holy Prophet,” the source reported.
Now the five are charged under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws 295-A and 295-C and are in fear for their lives.
“The Muslim family told other Muslims at a religious gathering that Christians had disgraced the Holy Prophet, tore a holy sticker and beat it with a shoe. This has led to tension in the city,” the Pakistani source, who was not identified by name, told VOM.
“Christians in the area fear Muslim extremists will attack the family. There is fear there will be (other) attacks this week during celebrations leading up to Easter Sunday,” the source reported.
According to Pakistani laws, a conviction under blasphemy laws 295-A and 295-C can result in imprisonment of up to three years, a fine and the death penalty, or life imprisonment and a fine.
“Pray God protects these believers and provides a way of escape for them,” VOM said in its alert about the life-threatening situation.
Claims of blasphemy are easy to submit to authorities in Pakistan, and extremely difficult to defend against. They also are becoming more and more common, according to VOM reports.
It was just a few weeks ago Martha Bibi, who lives in the village of Kot Nanka Singh, was taken into custody after a false allegation of blasphemy against her.
She had gone to some local builders, asking about materials they had borrowed from her family’s construction supply business. An argument resulted and the report was made that Martha had blasphemed Muhammad.
“Pakistanis ought to be ashamed that such a mockery is being made of their legal system,” Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern, said at the time. “Accusing a Christian of blasphemy to get them arrested is no way to resolve an argument. It is high time for Pakistan to repeal its infamous blasphemy laws.”
Shahbaz Kaka, before his arrest
Voice of the Martyrs had announced just a few days earlier that yet another Pakistani man, Shahbaz Kaka, was being treated at a medical facility after being released from a life prison term for blasphemy, of which he served six years.
In that case, VOM said, Qari Rafique, the head of a mosque, asked the man why he was using the toilet that was adjacent to the mosque. After he noticed a cross around his neck, he made a series of false accusations against Shahbaz, including statements to authorities that he “disgraced” the Quran by tearing pages out, cutting them into pieces and trampling them under his feet, a VOM source reported.
His arrest followed immediately, and he later was charged, tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his “crime,” according to VOM.
“We wonder about the injustice of his arrest and the six years he spent in prison,” said Todd Nettleton, the director of media development for VOM. “We are concerned for other Christians who still face persecution in Pakistan, and encourage the Pakistani government to provide true religious freedom in their country.”
According to records, Christians have faced severe opposition from militant Islamic groups since Pakistan was formed in 1947 as the Muslim section in the partition of British India.
Christians routinely are barred from jobs and Christian merchants are harassed, and since the war in Afghanistan started, problems have intensified since Pakistani Christians are seen as being a part of an attack on Islam, VOM reported.
Sharia law, Islamic religious law, was adopted in 1998, and that further limited the rights of Pakistani Christians.
While Article 20 of the Constitution of Pakistan assures every citizen the right to profess, practice and propagate their religion, Christian organizations working within Pakistan report reality is quite different.
“Unfortunately very little evidence is needed to make a charge under the blasphemy laws and it is very difficult for non-Muslims to successfully contest the accusations,” said one analyst.
That law reads: “Whoever by words, either spoken, or written, or by visual representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly, or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death.”
Voice of the Martyrs
is a non-profit, interdenominational ministry working worldwide to help Christians who are persecuted for their faith, and to educate the world about that persecution. Its headquarters are in Bartlesville, Okla., and it has 30 affiliated international offices.
It was launched by the late Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, who started smuggling Russian Gospels into Russia in 1947, just months before Richard was abducted and imprisoned in Romania where he was tortured for his refusal to recant Christianity.
He eventually was released in 1964 and the next year he testified about the persecution of Christians before the U.S. Senate’s Internal Security Subcommittee, stripping to the waist to show the deep torture wound scars on his body.
The group that later was renamed The Voice of the Martyrs was organized in 1967, when his book, “Tortured for Christ,” was released.