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Governments rethink blasphemy laws as Pakistan chaos continues

Canada (MNN) — Democratic nations worldwide are “checking their books” for blasphemy laws as chaos continues in Pakistan.

Exactly one week ago today, Christian mom Asia Bibi was declared “not guilty” and her death sentence was overturned. Tenzin Dorjee, Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), stated the following in a press release:

“The case of Asia Bibi illustrates the extent to which blasphemy laws can be exploited to target minority communities. These laws seek to protect entire religions rather than the individual… it is deeply troubling that Bibi’s case even reached this level, where she almost became the first person in Pakistan’s history to be executed for the crime of blasphemy.”

(Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA)

Communal outrage and continued detainment followed the court’s decision. Italy vowed to help Asia Bibi escape Pakistan, and her lawyer is reportedly seeking refuge in the Netherlands.

Blasphemy laws became a “hot topic” as the USCIRF called on Ireland and 68 other countries to put an end to blasphemy legislation. Ireland amended its blasphemy law on October 27, and now Canada is looking to do the same.

Don Hutchinson, author of Under Siege and former board member of Voice of the Martyrs Canada, urges believers to surround Canada’s decision-makers in prayer.

“When Paul wrote to Timothy, he said that we should pray for all of those in authority,” Hutchinson notes, referring to 1 Timothy 2.

“If the actions of people in authority upset us, that’s a ‘trigger signal’ from God to say, ‘You better bring it to Me. If it’s upsetting you, bring it to Me and let Me help deal with that for you.’”

Asia Bibi’s case and the surrounding events underscore the importance of religious freedom, he adds.

“When we read stories about Asia Bibi … and see unrest taking place in Pakistan… we can reflect on our situation in Canada and realize that there must always be a place for critical discussions about differences in belief.”

Ending blasphemy laws in Canada

Hutchinson expects the end of Canada’s centuries-old blasphemy law to come soon, just as the drama surrounding Asia Bibi’s release unfolds in Pakistan. Solomon notes God’s perfect timing in Ecclesiastes 3, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

“We may get a decision, a vote, by the end of the year, or it may be early next year,” Hutchinson states, explaining that a repeal known as Bill C-51 just reached the final stages of Canada’s legislative process.

Track the progress of Bill C-51 here.

(Photo by Daniel Joseph Petty from Pexels)

Though it’s nearing the finish line now, the movement to end Canada’s blasphemy law actually began two years ago.

In June 2016, groups representing humanists, atheists and secularists launched an online petition calling for the repeal of Section 296. A year later, the petition grew into Bill C-51, and has been progressing through Canada’s legislative system ever since.

Section 296 prohibits the publication of a ‘blasphemous libel’,” explains Hutchinson, referring to the law by its formal name.

The push to repeal Section 296 is largely orchestrated by secularists, but removing blasphemy laws also protects Canadian Christians. As is common in Pakistan, non-Christians can persecute believers by accusing them of blasphemy.

“The reasons for removing Section 296 are many… Where blasphemy laws exist, they’ve often been used not to deal with hateful anti-religious sentiment, but to deal with very minor incidents,” Hutchinson says.

Please pray for governments in Canada and beyond as they consider legislation and take action.

Header image courtesy of VOM USA.

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