ASIA/PAKISTAN - Legal battle after the death sentence of a Christian couple for blasphemous SMS

Monday, 7 April 2014

Lahore ( Agenzia Fides) - New death sentences for blasphemy and new legal battles affect the Christian community in Pakistan: a Christian couple, he is disabled, she is a waitress, both illiterate, have been sentenced to death on April 4 for alleged "blasphemy via sms". The two were arrested in Gojra in July 2013 (see Fides 23/07/2013). The sentence has generated confusion and bitterness in the Christian community, while lawyers have already announced that they will appeal against the verdict.
Fr. Aloysius Roy, Superior of the Pakistani province of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), told Fides: "We are seriously concerned. Cases like these are common and cause great suffering. We continue to pray, while the issue remains unresolved. We express our solidarity, but Christians keep a low profile, because life is full of difficulties and dangers, and for us the first commandment is to survive. Christians are afraid and they move with extreme caution". The OMI take care of a total of 10 parishes in 4 dioceses in Pakistan, and "the challenges that they have to deal with are above all the injustices that we see every day at the expense of the Christian faithful". The Superior continues: "From the government we expect respect for the law, the rule of law and freedom of worship provided for in the Constitution".
As confirmed to Fides by Farrukh Saif, head of the NGO "World Vision in Progress" (WVIP), a Christian couple, Shafqat Emmanuel, who is disabled, and his wife, Shagufta Kausar, were sentenced to death on April 4 by a court in Toba Tek Singh on charges of blasphemy: they are accused of sending blasphemous text messages. The two have four minor children, who are now being looked after by the NGO WVIP. As reported to Fides, the evidence of the innocence of the two is in fact very clear: the Sim card from where the messages were sent is not registered in the name of the victims. In addition, the two being illiterate, were not able to send any messages in English. The lawyers have appealed to the High Court. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 07/04/2014)