Christians in Pakistan confront charges of blasphemy

Roman Catholic Bishop John Joseph of Pakistan shot himself to death on May 6 to highlight the case of Ayub Massih, a Christian sentenced to death for supposedly making blasphemous remarks against the Prophet Muhammad and thus against Islam. Following the death of the 66-year-old bishop and the Christian community’s subsequent protest, the Lahore High Court ordered a stay of execution for Massih, pending an appeal. His fate remains undecided, as does the fate of more than 140 other people charged under the country’s law against blasphemy.

In a letter sent to a local newspaper just before his death, the bishop stated that he hoped his suicide would galvanize his fellow bishops and others to work for the repeal of sections 295 B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), which make any blasphemy against Islam a serious crime and blasphemy against Muhammad punishable by death.


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