Ranjah Masih Convicted of Blasphemy
2 May 2003
On 26 April a Faisalabad court convicted Pakistani Christian, Ranjah Masih, of
blasphemy. The judge sentenced him to life imprisonment and a fine of 50,000
rupees for damaging a neon sign depicting the Islamic creed.
On 8 May 1998, following the death of Bishop John Joseph, several youths amongst
a large group of Christian mourners threw stones, damaging a sign that hung over
a shop. Fifty year old Masih was arrested for this, on the complaint of the
local mayors son. He has spent five years in jail since his arrest, and is the
only person to have been found guilty of the offence. He was tried under
Section 295-C of the blasphemy law, which carries the death penalty; however the
judge handed down a life-sentence and fine instead. This, in itself, is a
punishment disproportionate to the crime committed. There is evidence that he
did not receive a fair trial: the police produced little evidence and despite a
full court, no other Christians are reported to have been present. He is likely
to appeal, but this process will take 18 months.
This case highlights the vagaries of the Pakistani legal system and the ease
with which a Christian can be charged with blasphemy in Pakistan. Seven other
Christians are currently facing trial under the blasphemy law. The law is an
easy way to intimidate the Christian community. They are desperate to free from
the threat of this law, in the words of Ranjah Masih, I will be happy if [the]
sacrifice of my life could contribute in the abolishment of this black law of
Pray that Ranjah Masih will have a quick and fair appeal.
Pray that the blasphemy law will be amended or removed.
Pray for the ongoing safety of the Church in Pakistan.
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