After years behind bars and on death row, Asia Bibi was recently acquitted of blasphemy charges by Pakistan’s Supreme Court. But although the verdict technically liberated the mother of five, many in Pakistan responded to the announcement in anger, with protests erupting in the country’s major cities. Her family is currently in hiding and seeking asylum in a Western country.
Overwhelmingly Muslim, Pakistan is a challenging place for the Christian (and Ahmadiyya community.) It ranks No. 5 on the 2018 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it’s hardest to be a Christian. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom also classifies Pakistan as a Tier 1 Country of Particular Concern. It recently booted out 18 international non-governmental organizations, including the Christian nonprofit World Vision.
The reality is that most of the country’s Christians are people who historically are from a lower caste system, which although officially abolished, still exists in the country, says Michael James Nazir-Ali, a former Anglican bishop in the Church of England, who was born in Pakistan.
“The bulk of the Christian population comes from these people who were landless, casual labor, just as Asia Bibi is, and were discriminated against and despised by many of the wealthier people around,” said Nazir-Ali.
This week on Quick to Listen we’ll talk about what it’s like to be a religious minority. Nazir-Ali joined digital media producer Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli to discuss the history of Pakistan’s Christian community, whether blasphemy laws will ever be abolished, and what role the United States plays in improving religious freedom in the country.
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