Baptists Address Pakistan Blasphemy Laws at UN Meeting
The HRC's second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Pakistan takes place in Geneva, Switzerland, on Oct. 30.
As a nongovernmental organization (NGO) in Consultative Status with the U.N., the BWA, along with other NGOs, nations and states, submitted its own report on the situation in Pakistan.
The BWA report takes particular issue with Pakistan's blasphemy laws that have led to the persecution of Christians and other minority groups.
"The exploitation, violence and persecution against religious minorities are on an increasing curve across the country," the BWA report states.
Among the abuses highlighted by the BWA are extra judicial killings, enforced disappearances, violence against women, misuse of blasphemy laws, injustices at the workplace against religious minorities, and attacks on places of worship.
"A climate of impunity exists" in Pakistan, said Raimundo Barreto, BWA director of freedom and justice. "Perpetrators are not held accountable and police often do not act to prevent abuses or apprehend attackers."
Well-known consequences of the blasphemy laws include that of Asia Bibi, a Christian, who was convicted and sentenced to death in 2010 by a Pakistani court for allegedly blaspheming against the prophet Muhammad.
It has been reported that the accusation against Bibi stemmed, at least partially, from a property damage dispute that Bibi had with a neighbor.
In August, Rimsha Masih, a 14-year-old Christian girl, was arrested for allegedly desecrating pages of the Quran. In early September, a local imam was arrested on suspicion of planting pages of the Quran in Masih's bag. She was subsequently released on bail.
Officials in the south Asian nation have been killed for opposing these laws. Salmaan Taseer, governor of the province of Punjab, was killed in January 2011 by his own security guard who disagreed with Taseer's opposition to the blasphemy laws.
Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian who was Pakistan's Minister for Minorities Affairs, was assassinated in March 2011 for his vocal criticism of the nation's blasphemy laws.
Christer Daelander, BWA representative at the U.N. in Geneva, claims that "thousands of people have been accused of blasphemy" since the laws were first introduced into Pakistan in 1986. "Since then, hundreds have been judged and condemned for blasphemy."
In September, the BWA participated in a hearing on blasphemy laws in Pakistan organized by the World Council of Churches and attended meetings held by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom on human rights violations in Pakistan.
"The BWA will continue to reach out to key countries that can raise these concerns at the HRC," Barreto said. "We urge the global Baptist family to pray for this important UPR session, and encourage Baptist leaders in different countries to write or contact their governments and bring this concern to their attention."
This news release first appeared at the Baptist World Alliance website.