In the United States and most Western countries, we take our religious freedom for granted. We are free to come to church and worship without fear of being arrested or imprisoned. Also, we are free to worship or not to worship, and there is no pr
However, the religious freedom of the United States and Western democracies stands in stark contrast to that in most Islamic and Communist countries. Simply being a Christian can bring the threat of death or imprisonment in such countries as Pakistan, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, China, and North Korea.
In this article, however, I would like to focus your attention on one particular person who needs our help. That person is the Rev. Parvez Masih, a Christian pastor. Why just this one person? First of all, because he can provide us a name with which to relate to the entire persecuted church. And, secondly, because if we can free this one man, we are well on the way to freeing others.
As you read this, the Rev. Parvez Masih languishes in a cell the size of a small closet while his captors plan their next act of torture and humiliation for him.
Rev. Masih is not a murderer, or rapist, or even a petty thief. His only crime is being a Christian in a country that is 97 percent Muslim. He is charged with "insulting the Prophet" under Section 295c of Pakistani law. There is one penalty for this "crime," and one penalty only: death. You may read his story in the Voice of the Martyrs (www.persecution.com) newsletter or at the Web site for Christian Solidarity Worldwide (www.csw.com). There are other Christian Web sites that carry this story, also.
I would like to point out that more Christians were martyred in the last century than in all previous centuries combined. Their martyrdom is continuing in Islamic and Communist countries. If you and I do not do something to halt the persecution of Christians, the 21st century will be a tragic repeat of the 20th.
In most Islamic countries, Sharia law prevails. Under this "theocratic" form of law, those who do not like Christians can use the "blasphemy" provisions of Sharia law to drive them out of business, disinherit them, or simply have them "disposed of" through execution. Like the witchcraft laws of medieval Europe and Colonial America, the standard of proof is virtually nonexistent, and like the witchcraft laws, the blasphemy laws have been used to keep people from challenging the "status quo."
Right now Pakistan stands at a crossroads: it will either say no to religious terrorism in all forms-whether it is application of the blasphemy laws or the unchecked reign of mob violence-or it will say yes to radical Islamic clerics who would steer Pakistan into unending religious and political chaos.
Your communications to the Pakistani government will help it decide the former. There have been recent successes: two Christians were recently acquitted of blasphemy charges. As the Pakistani government realizes that people in the United States and other countries really do care about how Christians are treated, it will know that reform of its laws and politics are necessary to form an enduring friendship with us.
Here's what you can do: write a letter to the President of Pakistan and to the Pakistani Ambassador to the United States. The address for Pakistan's president is: President Pervez Musharraf, President's House, Islamabad, Pakistan. Pakistan's ambassador to the United States may be contacted at this address: The Hon. Ashraf Jahangir Qazi, Pakistan Embassy, 2315 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008.
Below is a sample letter:
I am deeply grieved that the Rev. Parvez Masih, a Pakistani Christian pastor, has been held in the District Jail in Sialkot since April 2001 without having access to bail or being granted a trial. I feel that his arrest on charges of blasphemy are unwarranted, and that he should be immediately freed by your government and given protection from violent religious groups that commit hate crimes against Christians and other religious minorities.
In my view, Pakistan's blasphemy laws violate the freedom of religion provisions of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The persecution of Christians under your country's blasphemy laws shocks the conscience of all who believe in freedom and justice.
I am pleased that you have joined the United States in the war on terror, but now I ask you to oppose religious terrorism in all of its manifestations. Please free Rev. Masih, and then repeal your country's blasphemy laws. We should be working toward common goals, but the persecution of Christians currently stands in the way of our being the best of allies and friends.
Yours respectfully and sincerely,
Your letters WILL make a difference-both to Rev. Masih and the scores of other Christians who are charged under Pakistan's blasphemy laws each year. I ask that all who read this article write to President Musharraf and Ambassador Qazi before the sun goes down on another day.
Please remember the Apostle Paul's admonition to us in Hebrews 13:3, "Remember those who are in prison, as if you were in prison with them, and remember those who are tortured, as if you were being tortured with them."
The Apostle Paul has asked us to help the persecuted church. You and I must help the persecuted church-for if we do not, who will?
Please pray for Rev. Masih and all other persecuted Christians, and please send off your letters today!