Christian Prisoners of Conscience: Stephen Masih
Stephen Masih, a mentally disabled Christian, was charged with “blasphemy” in Punjab, Pakistan on 11 March following a complaint by two Muslim men who claimed he made “derogatory remarks against the Holy Prophet Muhammad in their presence” and ignored their requests to stop. The complaint was lodged at Badiana police station under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which carries a mandatory death sentence. He is being held in police custody while investigations continue.
Stephen, 38, lives with his elder sister Alia and their mother, who is bedridden because of serious illness. At about the age of ten, Stephen became ill with typhoid fever which caused brain damage, leaving him mentally disabled. His family is too poor to pay for the medicine he needs to control the fits and vocal outbursts of bad language caused by his mental disability.
Other Christian Prisoners of Conscience in Pakistan
Three victims of Pakistan’s “blasphemy” laws will have their cases heard in March 2019.
Nabeel Masih’s “blasphemy” case will be heard in Lahore High Court on 18 March. He was only 16 years old when accused of “blasphemy” in September 2016 for posting a picture on Facebook deemed offensive to Islam. Nabeel and his family and even his lawyers have faced death threats.
The appeal of Sawan Masih against his conviction of “blasphemy” will be heard on 20 March. Sawan, a father of three, was sentenced to death for “blasphemy” in March 2014 over an allegation that triggered Muslim riots in 2013 that left hundreds of Christians homeless in Joseph Colony.
Zafar Bhatti from Rawalpindi was given a life sentence on 3 May 2017 for allegedly sending “blasphemous” text messages about Muhammad from a mobile phone even though the phone used was not registered in his name. His appeal against the conviction of “blasphemy” will be heard on 21 March 2019.
Qasir Ayub was sentenced to death for “blasphemy” on 13 December 2018 by a lower court in Punjab, after being accused of allegedly posting “disrespectful” material online in 2011. His appeal is pending in Lahore High Court Rawalpindi Bench. No date yet given.
CLAAS (Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement), which is supported by Barnabas Fund, has taken up these cases and is pursuing justice for the falsely accused Christians.
Pakistan’s “blasphemy” laws comprise 295-A, B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code. However, it is only the charge of “defiling the name” of Muhammad (295-C) which carries the death penalty. To date no one has been executed under the law, but a number of Christians and others have received death sentences.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9
Pray for Christian Prisoners of Conscience in Pakistan
Lord Jesus, we lift up our brothers and sisters in Pakistan held in custody on blasphemy charges, asking for You to strengthen them during their time of trial. We praise and thank You for their example of faithfully clinging to You in the midst of such hostility.
We pray especially for Stephen Masih who is mentally disabled that the Lord will provide someone to speak up for this vulnerable man as he cannot speak for himself and that he will be judged fairly (Proverbs 31:8-9). Pray that the Spirit of the Lord will bring him peace and calm as he waits alone in custody and that he will know when to keep silent.
We also pray for Nabeel Masih, Sawan Masih and Zafar Bhatti, whose cases will be heard in March, that Your peace will fill them as they place their trust in You for the outcome held in Your hands. May they find consolation in knowing that they have not denied the words of their Saviour.
We ask that the judges will not hold any prejudice in their hearts and have the wisdom, compassion and courage to make just decisions in each case.
We also remember Qasir Ayub whose appeal is pending in Lahore High Court and ask that you will grant him patience and perseverance as he waits on You to deliver him.
We pray for the healing and restoration of all victims of the “blasphemy” law and that they will be safely reunited with their families in God’s perfect timing. May their tears sown in hard times, reap songs of joy and praise to the Lord (Psalm 126:5).
We call on the Lord to bring about the repeal of the unfair and misused “blasphemy” laws in Pakistan.