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Christian Sentenced to Death for “Blasphemy”in Pakistan, the Church Calls for a Government Campaign for Minority Rights

Photo Courtesy: Agenzia Fides

Lahore,Pakistan-A court in Lahore, capital of the Punjab province of Pakistan, sentenced a Christian man to death for committing “blasphemy”: Asif Pervaiz, 37, has been in prison since 2013 on charges of having sent “blasphemous” SMS text messages to employer Muhammad Saeed Khokher. As reported to the Agenzia Fides by the lawyer Saif-ul-Malook, the Muslim lawyer who also defended the Christian Asia Bibi, the court did not give credit to his testimony, in which the Christian man denied any wrongdoing, and sentenced Asif Pervaiz to death on September 8.

According to Pervaiz’s version, reported by the lawyer Malook, “Khokher wanted to persuade him to convert to Islam and, when he did not consent, he falsely accused him of blasphemy”.

According to Malook, “this is another case in which the law is being used unfairly against religious minorities”. In Pakistan the “Blasphemy Law” (articles 295 “b” and “c” of the “Pakistan Penal Code”) provides for life imprisonment or the death penalty for the crime of insulting the Prophet Mohammed, Islam or the Koran.

Fr Qaisar Feroz OFM Cap, Executive Secretary of the Commission for Social Communications of the Catholic Bishops of Pakistan, in an interview with Fides notes: “The Christian community of Pakistan is deeply saddened by the death sentence for Asif Pervaiz. We strongly appeal to the Government of Pakistan to ensure that the Court’s decision can be reconsidered so that justice is done”. Fr. Qaisar adds: “Cases of blasphemy are increasing day by day in Pakistan, which is by no means a good sign in building a tolerant society. We strongly recommend Prime Minister Imran Khan to launch a video awareness campaign to promote minority rights and human dignity”.

Reached by Agenzia Fides, Father Mario Rodrigues, a Catholic Priest in Karachi, comments: “Although we do not know the case directly, we do not believe in the accusations, there are too many precedents and cases of false accusations, in which the law is exploited.

No Christian in Pakistan would ever dream of insulting Islam or the Prophet Mohammed.” Fr. Mario further said: “We people of religious minorities respect all the religions, especially in the condition in which we live, knowing that blasphemy is a very sensitive issue. We are sad because the exploitation and the misuse of the law continue. It is time to make justice and real equality for all Pakistani citizens: even Muslims are often victims of false accusations”.

There are currently at least 80 people in prison in Pakistan for the crime of “blasphemy”, and at least half of them face life in prison or the death penalty. The people accused under the law are mainly Muslims, in a country where 98% of the population follows Islam but, as the Christian activists of the National Justice and Peace Commission, of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference note, “the law takes disproportionately targets members of religious minorities such as Christians and Hindus.”

There are also cases of extrajudicial executions, as radical leaders urge militants to “take justice in their hands” by killing people found guilty of blasphemy, even if they are not convicted in court or are falsely accused. According to the NGO “Center for Social Justice”, founded and led by the Pakistani Catholic Peter Jacob, since 1990 at least 77 people have been killed in extrajudicial executions, in relation to accusations of blasphemy: among those killed there are people accused of blasphemy, their family members, lawyers and judges who acquitted the accused of the crime. The latest sensational murder of the kind occurred at the end of July, when a Pakistani man, but with American citizenship, Tahir Ahmad Naseem, 57, accused of blasphemy and on trial in Peshawar, was shot to death with six gunshots fired by a 19-year-old Muslim Faisal, while he was inside the Peshawar court building.

Since 2017, after a series of large-scale protest sit-ins, Islamic political parties have increasingly included the issue of “defending the law of blasphemy” in their political platforms and agendas. The political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), formed by the leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi is conducting a tough open campaign for the defense of the blasphemy law. Activists, NGOs, non-Islamic religious groups are calling for its revision to avoid abuses of the law and improper use of a “weapon” for personal revenge.

Agenzia Fides

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How to identify Fake News or Messages on Social Media 

Beware of Fake News and Fake Messages on Social Media

Always follow websites or social media platforms of traditional media outlets whether newspapers, magazines,Television News Channels or Radio Stations and authentic online only media outlets.They still maintain journalism excellence and stress on reportorial talent.On the other hand, fake news websites run by people with non journalism background and promote their own ideology with fake news and disinformations and obviously conspiracy theories.

But unfortunately mainstream media also manipulates news to establish their story angle.There were various instances when News papers and TV Channels promoted fake news/conspiracy theories in the form of out of context or manipulated pictures/videos and distorted informations.

Always check the URL of any website.Some fake news websites look like the orginal and popular one the same layout,Logo but if you check the URL you may find extra words like if the orginal website's URL is the duplicate one might be or something like that so first check the URL for authentic informations.

Check whether photos are original or photoshopped.Check Google images for authenticity.You can find help from Google Reverse Images search.

Check the news sources from other websites whether they picked up the story or not.

Whether the website layout is little bit clumsy and obviously grammatical mistakes and spelling mistakes and excessive use of Sex related and sensational and hate stories.Because sex and hate sells.

Follow official websites relating to COVID-19

WHO Clarifies the disinformation about the virus:
COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates
Cold Weather and Snow can not kill the new coronavirus
Taking a Hot Bath Does Not Prevent COVID-19
COVID-19 Can not be transmitted through mosquito bites

Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body. Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth)

According to World Health Organization (WHO): Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water

Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth . If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early.

Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover.

Follow WHO guidelines

When you follow COVID-19 related news and messages from social media then check and recheck it before consuming it.Follow journalism mantra: if your mother says she loves you, check it out.

Most of the messages or informations quote different organizations like WHO, UNICEF, UNDP,Cambridge University  or other well known institutes,organizations or individual to authenticate the messeges.Check official websites of these organizations  if stories are repeated there

Forwarding messages from unknown sources or little known sources, it would be better to ignore it.

Check whether any logo like UNICEF or WHO or other organizations used in the messages which look similar to original logo.

These type of messages are full of Grammatical mistakes and spelling mistakes which are quite uncommon in original messages.

Some fake messages pretend to be real one like unofficial Twitter handle of international media organizations like BBC,CNN,Washinton Post, New York Times-check the official Twitter handles of media outlets.

You can identify fake messages if the message requests you to share it.

Beware of Fake News or Fake Photos/Videos Relating to Communal Hatred

Always check the fact checking sites if you have some doubts about the authenticity of any information or picture.

The Same Method Applies to You Tube Videos Check the Source the credibility of the Source.To Check Fake You Tube Videos Check and Recheck the sources. Does the person have the legal right to the video posted? Did that person capture the video? Whether it has been altered?

But due to advancement of technology we can not really wipe out fake news.According to experts advent of  Artificial Intelligence(AI) some companies small or big one developing  technologies that can  lay digitally created script to anybody's voice  even words,sentences never said by the person.Even they developing a technology which can create fake video footage,images,audios like originals.So be cautious! Rumour-mongers are active everywhere whether in physical world or cyber world.

Without evidence or with fake evidence, a conspiracy theory will always remain a conspiracy theory.

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