Two Pakistani men are being accused of reproducing insulting comics about the Prophet Muhammad — a purported act that has enraged Muslims and led to their imprisonment on blasphemy charges.
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Joel Veldkamp, head of international communications at persecution watchdog Christian Solidarity International (CSI), told CBN’s Faithwire a young man named Sunny and his cousin Noman have been in jail for three years, awaiting some form of justice.
“They’re being accused of reproducing some insulting comics about the Prophet Mohamed which … they say they didn’t do and which, of course, should not be a crime even if they did do it,” Veldkamp said. “But they were accused three years ago, and they’ve been in prison ever since.”
If convicted, Sunny and Noman could face the death penalty.
Their families have also faced plenty of fallout over the allegations. Sunny’s father had a stroke and lost the use of his left arm after finding out about the legal ordeal, and his brother and sister have had to leave school due to safety concerns.
“It’s not safe for them to go to school anymore,” Veldkamp said. “Everyone knows that they’re the siblings.”
Watch him explain this story and other tragic instances of Christian persecution in Pakistan:
Tragically, Sunny and Noman aren’t alone in their condemnation, nor are they outliers, as Christians living in Pakistan often face dire circumstances and false accusations that can lead to imprisonment and death.
“Many Christians in the country go about their days normally, but there is always kind of a sword hanging over their heads,” Veldkamp explained. “Because, among many problems in Pakistan, they have a blasphemy law that makes it a capital crime, so it carries a death sentence to insult Muhammad, or insult any of the Muslim prophets, or insult the Quran.”
These laws are compounded by false accusations being easy to wage, and it’s pretty difficult to prove one’s innocence if and when such claims arise. Christians, unfortunately, are “particularly vulnerable to getting accused.”
“A lot of Christians kind of live in fear of their neighbors, of their business partners, of other people in their neighborhood that they might be accused at any moment,” Veldkamp said.
He added it’s challenging to seek appropriate justice, citing pressure on the police, judges who don’t uphold the truth, and other mob coercion if and when a person is charged.
Veldkamp cited a separate 2012 case about a young girl with Down syndrome who was allegedly set up by a cleric in her neighborhood. The man purportedly burned a copy of the Quran and slipped it into the girl’s bag before calling the police and turning her in.
“Thankfully, she was released after three weeks because the international outcry about this was just horrible,” he said. “But when they released her, they had to take her out of the jail in a helicopter because that was the only safe way to get her out without her being killed.”
Veldkamp said CSI often gets involved not only in helping spread information about these cases but also in assisting individuals with funds and support when they find themselves in legal chaos.
Open Doors USA’s “World Watch List” ranks Pakistan the eighth most challenging country for Christians to live in, citing anti-Christian sentiment in almost every area of life.
“In Pakistan, Christians are considered second-class citizens and are discriminated against in every aspect of life,” the 2022 report reads. “Church leaders can be arrested if they don’t abide by the authorities’ wishes. These arrests act as warnings to the Christian minority and intimidates them further.”
Find out more about Christian Solidarity International and the help they’re offering Christian Pakistanis.
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