Religious extremism in Pakistan

(Mat 5:10 NKJV) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Asia Bibi in Court (The Voice of the Martys)

A Christian woman, Asia Bibi, 45, has been sentenced to death in Pakistan on Nov 8, 2010, in Punjab, for insulting the Prophet in 2009. The incident dates back to June 2009 where she was asked to fetch water whilst working in the fields. However, a group of women from the majority religion objected saying the woman was unclean and in the ensuing arguments it was alleged that derogatory remarks were made. All she had said was that "Jesus is alive. Our Christ is the true prophet of God". Under Section 295C of the Pakistani Penal Code, such crimes against blasphemy carry a possible death penalty.  The overwhelming majority at the Ittanwalai village where the incident took place has fully supported the decision.

In the aftermath of 911, It is often claimed that religion is about love. But the reality is that many major religions are based on a series of laws and yoke of burden and serious consequences and even death if it is not followed. Worst still, the laws are imposed upon those who are not of the same religion. Religious extremism is a threat against the nations and not homosexuality. “Not all” are extremist we claim, saying that extremist are a very small minority. However, the wide support of the death penalty against the woman for blasphemy shows a pervasive extremist religious culture in many nations. 

We should limit the freedom of religious extremist, and even introduce laws that discourages religious fundamentalist acts such as women wearing fully covered scarf in France, to the anti-gay picketing of the Westboro Baptist Church. Religious freedom should not be abused to cause harm and limit the freedom of others. We should not tolerate religious extremism (often disguised as the freedom of religion or the anti-blasphemy laws now being debated at the UN), lest we end up with:-

a) 52 killed as a result of religious militant’s hostage taking in Our Lady of Deliverance Catholic Church in Baghdad, Iraq.

b) Gays being hunted down and killed in Uganda and Nigeria by the Anglicans and Methodist churches.

c) Thousands of gays are hanged and killed in Iran.

The Christian right response to the 911 religious terror such as invading Iraq and Afghanistan causing a 100 fold more deaths and sufferings than those killed in 911 is also not justified. Injustice begets religious fundamentalism in response. The Christians in Iraq were far safer under the Sadam regime rather than under US occupation because they bore the reprisals of the US invasion and it became a religious conflict.

Christian Right organizations such as Focus on the Family have been using their special rights and freedom of speech to propagate hate and false rhetoric against gays. Calling it dialogue and giving another side to the debate, they have all but conquered the airways having the financial might and the backing of the majority against the small gay community. Therefore, what moral right has Christians to come against the death sentence of the Pakistani Christian woman? It is after all according to the Law which the Christian Right is so eager to follow and insist on, and secondly it is their country and the vast majority of the country supports the sentence.  Who are we to say otherwise?

We are reminded in the bible that the manner we judge is the manner we will be judged by. The Christian Right in America has been playing the victim card for too long whilst they were actually the perpetrators. Therefore, when Christians are the victims in Pakistan, will the West listen after enduring so much false rethoric from the Christian Right? They are concerned about Christians in death row yet thousands of gays have been killed in Iran and in America the rhetoric by the Christian Right have resulted in so many gays committing suicide. The Anglican South is also on a witch hunt in Africa against gays.

There is indeed a terrible persecution against Christians in many countries by other religions, yet often in Singapore we do not hear about it as we only look out for the non existent Gay agenda. This is a shame because there is great suffering in many nations for the Gospel sake whilst in Singapore we have been too focused on wealth, power, and persecuting gays. 

(Mat 5:44 NKJV)  "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,

(Mat 5:45 NKJV)  "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 

True Christianity offers a very different spirit than we are seeing in the Christian religious right in America. Instead of harming others, we are to offer ourselves a living sacrifice such that others may live and have life more abundantly. In particular, Mat 5:44 calls us to love our enemies.

People need to see Jesus in us, the sacrificial lamb, rather than seeing the Pharisees in us, who killed Jesus. When we love our enemies, people see God in us (Mat 5:45), for we live and have our existence in a shared common space call Earth (Mat 5:45). We are all interrelated, the crimes against humanity in the name of religious extremism causes great harm. When God withholds the rain upon the wicked as a judgment of the sins of persecuting the innocent, the same rain is withheld upon the rest of the community.  We are all interrelated as humanity one way or the other.

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