A Christian bicycle mechanic in Lahore, Pakistan, was sentenced to death last week on baseless charges of blasphemy, his lawyer said. Click here to read full story.
In 2017 Muhammad Irfan had asked Ashfaq Masih not to charge him for a bicycle repair because he was a devotee of Muslim Sufis and saints. “Masih rejected his request, saying he only followed Jesus and wasn’t interested in Irfan’s religious status as a Muslim,” Masih’s attorney said.
Police later arrested the 36-year-old Pentecostal, accusing him of disrespecting Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, by allegedly saying that Christ was the only “true prophet,” according to the arrest report. Masih has testified that he was framed on false charges by the complainant in the case.
The attorney said the judge disregarded his pleas to give the benefit of the doubt to Masih as there was no evidence against him, “but the judge handed Masih the death sentence” on July 4.
A number of people have reportedly been sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy.
In January, a Rawalpindi court sentenced a Muslim woman to death after finding her guilty of insulting Muhammad in text messages she sent to a friend. The woman, Aneeqa Atteeq, was arrested in May 2020 after a man told police that she sent him blasphemous caricatures via WhatsApp.
In December 2021, a mob descended on a sports equipment factory in Sialkot, lynching Sri Lankan Priyantha Kumara and burning his body publicly over allegations of blasphemy.
The incident drew nationwide condemnation, and authorities arrested dozens of people over involvement in Kumara’s killing, but there has been no legislation to stop these types of allegations, Morning Star reported.
Pakistan ranked eighth on Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country had the second-highest number of Christians killed for their faith, behind Nigeria, with 620 slain during the reporting period from Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021. Pakistan had the fourth-highest number of churches attacked or closed.