Christians face ‘devastating’ persecution under Pakistani blasphemy laws, expert says

Ed Clancy Ed Clancy, the director of outreach at the charity group Aid to the Church in Need, speaks with “EWTN News Nightly” anchor Tracy Sabol on July 3, 2024. | Credit: “EWTN News Nightly”/YouTube/screen shot

A Catholic leader has called for an end to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, telling EWTN this week that the accused in such cases are “guilty before even [having] an opportunity to prove themselves.” 

A court in Punjab recently sentenced Ehsan Shan to death for sharing “hateful content” against Muslims on social media. 

Last year, when locals said that two Christian men desecrated the Quran, groups of Muslim men burned dozens of homes and churches in Jaranwala in the region of Punjab in one of the worst mob attacks against Christians in the country. 

Ed Clancy, the director of outreach at the charity group Aid to the Church in Need, told “EWTN News Nightly” anchor Tracy Sabol on Wednesday that after the attacks, Shan “posted some of the content of what was available on social media” regarding the allegations, including allegedly an image of a defaced Quran.

“Because he posted derogatory material that was alleged to be part of this uprising or the attacks on Christians last year — where 20 some odd buildings were burned and hundreds of people and families had to flee their homes because of it — all he did was post something about this and therefore was considered causing violence [and] was convicted of blasphemy,” Clancy told Sabol. 

Shan’s lawyer said on Monday that he will appeal the verdict, AP News reported. When asked if it is possible that Shan could successfully get an appeal if there is international outcry, Clancy noted that most of these blasphemy rulings get “thrown out” after an appeal.

“That’s usually because the first level of verdict is all just about appeasing the crowds and the mobs,” he explained. “Then when it goes up the chain, eventually the truth comes out.”

“Unfortunately for the poor Christians, this is devastating,” Clancy said. “They could spend years in prison fighting crimes that they didn’t commit.”

Clancy argued that foreign leaders haven’t come out as strongly as they should against such laws.

“What needs to happen is organizations, as well as countries, have to speak out about this,” he said. “First of all, to get rid of the blasphemy laws. Secondly, there should be equal justice. You can’t have situations where people are accused and they’re guilty before even [having] an opportunity to prove themselves.”

Clancy noted that these blasphemy accusations happen several dozen times per year. 

“Oftentimes, though, what’s equally as dangerous is just the mere specter of being accused,” he noted. “There are people who have told us that they are told that ‘If you do anything against me, we will accuse you of blasphemy.’”

“They know that once that accusation happens, they’re guilty until they’re proven innocent,” he continued. “They have to live under that fear and almost acquiesce to the wishes of those who make these threats against them.”

Clancy noted the example of Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death and ultimately spent almost a decade in prison after she drank from a glass that was supposed to be for Muslim women.

“She spent nine-plus years in prison,” Clancy said. “Her baby daughter essentially grew up not near her, and she had to flee the country along with her family.”

A peaceful protest against Shan’s death sentence took place in the southern port city of Karachi on Tuesday, with Christian leader Luke Victor calling for his release. 

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Bishop Samson Shukardin, president of Pakistan’s Catholic bishops’ conference, meanwhile, called the ruling, “very, very painful” in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need. 

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