Letter to Harper - Pakistan
Dear Prime Minister Harper:
I am a Canadian citizen who is concerned about religious freedom in Pakistan.
Asia Bibi was arrested on June 19, 2009, and was charged with blasphemy over a religious discussion she had with Muslim co-workers. Bibi told them that Christ died for our sins and that “Our Christ is the true prophet of God.” The Muslim women erupted in anger and also beat Bibi and tried to pressure her to convert to Islam. She was locked up and it was announced from a mosque that she would be punished publicly. Police took Bibi into custody. Muslim leaders pressed for blasphemy charges and, in 2010 ,Bibi was sentenced to death. Her execution has not yet occurred and her sentence is under appeal. Many Muslims fear that her sentence will be overturned. On December 2010, a Mullah has pledged $6,000.00 in U.S. money to have Bibi killed.
On March 21, 2011, during a Salvation Army meeting in Hyderabad, armed Muslims shot and killed two Christians. Younas Masih, 47, leaves behind a wife and four children and Jamil Masih, 22, leaves behind his wife of one month. Imran Ghafur Masih was sentenced to life in prison on January 11, 2010. He was accused of burning pages of the Quran. While cleaning out a relative's retail shop, Imran was burning some trash and some pages of a Muslim book had fallen into the fire. Before his arrest, Imran and his father were severely beaten. One July 19, (2010), two Christian men, who were facing charges of blasphemy against Mohammed, were shot dead as they left the courthouse. Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s only Christian cabinet minister was also slain. He had called for the reforming of Pakistan’s blasphemy law and also for the release of Bibi.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have long been criticized by advocates of freedom. The blasphemy laws pertain to disparaging speech directed at the Quran or Mohammed. Former President Musharraf made efforts to reform the law in 2000 but decided to drop the issue when Muslim religious protest arose. Also, in 2000, Pakistani Senator, Mushahid Hussain Sayed declared that this law would be changed after the governmental election of that year . However, it has remained in place.
Please take diplomatic efforts to see Pakistan’s blasphemy laws changed. Also, detained Christians such as Asia Bibi and Imran Ghafur Masih must be released. Pakistan is considered an important partner in the fight against global terrorism. Our countries have taken steps to enhance mutual, regional security interests. However, much more needs to be done. Canada has generously allocated 79.8 million dollars in foreign aid flood relief for Pakistan as of February 25, 2011, as well as approximately $130 million for earthquake and reconstruction projects. With this much Canadian tax dollars being invested in Pakistan, Canadians want change to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws which are such an affront to human rights.
Respectfully and sincerely,
Shawn and Ramona Stevens
cc : M. P. John Baird
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