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Christians often victims under Pakistan's blasphemy law

Lahore, May. 13, 2005 (FIDES/CWNews.com) - Long list of persons booked under blasphemy law since 1988: 647 victims of a law which discriminates and is often a tool of exploitation

A Pakistani law against blasphemy has been widely exploited against Christians, the Fides news service reports.

Fides points to a list of 647 names: the names of people arrested and detained on charges of blasphemy in Pakistan since the blasphemy law was introduced in 1988. Besides these people at least 20 others accused of blasphemy were assassinated. This information is contained in a report issued by the Justice and Peace Commission of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Pakistan.

Article 295/c of Pakistan's penal code, known as the "blasphemy law," affirms that "anyone who insults the holy name of the Prophet in word, writing or deed or visible representations, direct or indirect insinuations" will be punished. The maximum sentence is life imprisonment.

However the law is also used by some people to gain advantage against political adversaries or to settle quarrels. In many cases, Christians have been the victims, with fundamentalist Muslims bringing charges against them under the blasphemy law.

The Catholic Church in Pakistan has said that the law is "unjust and discriminatory," calling for its abrogation. At present there are 80 Christians in prison on charges of blasphemy-- a high number considering that Christians are a very small minority. The bishops' justice-and-peace commission has re-launched its anti-blasphemy law campaign on the occasion of the 7th anniversary of the suicide of Bishop John Joseph of Faisalabad, a fierce adversary of the legislation.

According to the bishops' commission report, of the 647 people charged with blasphemy, 50 percent were Muslims-- although Muslims make up 97 percent of the country's population. Christians accounted for 13 percent of those charged, although Christians account for just 2.5 percent of the population. Of the 20 people who have been murdered after being charged, 6 have been Christians.

 

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