Monday, November 29, 2010

The Tyranny of Islamic Blasphemy Laws

Asia Bibi with her two children

Pakistan like other Islamic States have blasphemy laws which serve as a means to suppress and tyrannise Christians and Jews by the Islamic majority. Pakistan is one of the prime movers for the introduction of a blasphemy resolution  at the U.N.

Under Pakistan's blasphemy laws Asia Bibi an innocent Christian mother of two children, was sentenced to death and held in a Pakistani prison, since November 8 this year. So goes the fate of Christian minorities in Islamic States like Pakistan.

According to Reuters today a court barred President Asif Ali Zardari from pardoning Asia Bibi:
Last week, a government minister said an initial inquiry into the case of the Christian mother said she had not committed blasphemy but was falsely accused after a quarrel.
Blasphemy convictions are common although the death sentence has never been carried out. Most convictions are thrown out on appeal, but angry mobs have killed many people accused of blasphemy.
If you survive being killed by an Islamic mob, then the courts will try you and sentence you to death. That's how they intimidate and terrorise the Christian minority even if you are eventually given a "pardon" ( to receive a pardon you first have to be guilty; similarly for clemency).  

Here's the background of Asia Bibi's story from the Pakistan Christian Post
Lahore: November 9, 2010. (PCP) A Christian woman named Asia Bibi was sentenced to death by District and Session Courts after year long trial on accusation of blasphemy filed by Muslim villagers of Ittanwali, where she was residing from generations.
While working in farms with other Muslim women, Asia Bibi was dragged in religious dialogues on June 19, 2009, when Muslim women termed her an “Infidel” and Christianity a “Religion of infidels” and pressed her to embrace Islam. 
Asia Bibi who is married and have two children, defended Christianity with her little knowledge and told Muslim women that Christianity is only True religion on which Muslim women made a roar and accused her defiling Prophet Mohammad.
The Muslim men working in nearby fields also gathered and attacked Asia Bibi on which she fled to village in her home. The angry Muslims followed her and took her out of home and started beating her. They tortured her children also but meanwhile some one informed police.
The police took Asia Bibi to police Station and filed FIR against her under section 295-B and C of Pakistan Penal Code but showed it a protective custody to other Christians of Ittanwali village.
Section 295 B and C PPC are subject to life in prison or death sentence but it is first judgment in history of Pakistan when a woman is sentenced to death.
Release International an advocacy group for persecuted Christians around globe is pleading Asia Bibi case and have launched an online petition to ensure justice for her.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Christian Congress PCC have expressed concern on death sentence to Asia Bibi and have appealed to President of Pakistan to withdraw false case against Asia Bibi immediately.
PCC is pressing upon government of Pakistan to repeal blasphemy law and have organized multiple conferences in Pakistan and USA.
Will Pakistan repeal blasphemy laws? It was a promise of the President during the elections. Pray for Justice for Asia Bibi, her speedy release and the repeal of cruel and repressive blasphemy laws in Pakistan and throughout the Islamic world.

Pakistan is the country which is a prime movers for the introduction of a blasphemy resolution  at the U.N.This headline from the Canadian news service CANWEST from November 2008:

 "anti-blasphemy measures have sinister goals, observers say"
Islamic countries Monday won United Nations backing for an anti-blasphemy measure Canada and other Western critics say risks being used to limit freedom of speech.
It's a 10-year plan to spread Islam: 
Passage of the resolution is part of a 10-year action plan the 57-state Organization of Islamic Conference launched in 2005 to ensure “renaissance” of the “Muslim Ummah” or community.
But some good news (really!); support is actually diminishing: in 2008 it was defeated 85-42, a margin of 43.
Combating Defamation of Religions passed 85–50 with 42 abstentions in a key UN General Assembly committee, and will enter into the international record after an expected rubber stamp by the plenary later in the year.
According to a report from CNS News (November 23, 2010):
The text has passed every year since 2005, but the last three years have seen declining support, with the margin of votes dropping from 57 in 2007 to just 19 last year (2009).
Could sanity be breaking out?

Gurth Whitaker

Calgary, Alberta

Sunday, November 28, 2010


It is Advent Sunday today!

The first Sunday in Advent, and my Daily Devotional today entitled "Shaping a Silence" fits well with the theme of preparing ourselves for Jesus.

My daily devotional is called "Encounter with God" and is published by Scripture Union [2]. I think it is kosher (regarding copywrite) to publish the whole thing as it is only one page out of three months (about 130 pages), so it is certainly less than 10%; besides my motive is to promote their materials.

"The apprentice who learns to hear the whisper of God in the silence of prayer will soon learn to hear that same whisper in the clamour of a broken world' [1]
The reading is Psalm 131 taken from the New King James Version (NKJV)

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

(1) LORD, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty. 
Neither do I concern myself with great matters, 
Nor with things too profound for me. 

(2a) Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
(2b) Like a weaned child with his mother; 
Like a weaned child is my soul within me. 

(3) O Israel, hope in the LORD
From this time forth and forever.

Back to the text from the devotional ...
One of the questiops that runs like a thread through the Bible and hovers just below the surface of the Psalms is that of God's acceptance. Whose prayer does God hear? Whose offering is received? What kind of worship does God accept? This is a profoundly human question.
If God is the all-powerful Maker of the world, how do I reach him? David's answer in Psalm 131 is threefold. Knowing that these words are written by a successful king, surrounded by the pomp and ceremony of political power and religious ritual, the three attitudes he mentions seem counter-intuitive.
The first is humility (verse 1). To know my place. To accept the limitations of my perspective. To know that there are things I don't know. I come to God not on the basis of power and pride, but of humble self-awareness. To enter his presence, I leave my awards and achievements at the door. The second is stillness (verse 2a). There is movement and activity to be stopped, and there are noises to be silenced. Unless I create a space in which to meet God, I will not meet him. This is the meaning of Sabbath - sacred space carved out from our stressful and self-focused activities. 
The third is trust (verse 2b). David, the warrior-politician, chooses the unexpected image of a baby in the arms of its mother. Fed, satisfied, replete, the child leans with total trust into the mother's embrace. Without such trust, how can I come into God's presence? 
In the place of pride, I come humbly. In the hunger of my soul, I trust. Such is the spirituality of the poet-king. Such is his desire for the nation (verse 3), and such is the promise of Jesus: 'Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.' [Matthew 11:28-29 NRKJV]
'In the frenzy of a frantic day, 
I shape a space called silence. 
Only moments long 
but wider than the world, and deeper. 
Meet me here, my God.' 

[1] [1] Gerard and Chrissie Kelly, "Intimate With the Ultimate," Authentic, 2009

[2] [1 About Scripture Union
Scripture Union is an international mission movement that was founded over 140 years ago. We work in over 120 countries making God's good news known to children, young people and families and encouraging people of all ages to meet God daily through the Bible and prayer. Our goal: that all may come to a personal faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, grow in Christian maturity and become both committed church members and servants of a world in need.
They have websites for all over the world; here's  Scripture Union Canada

Gurth Whitaker
Calgary, Alberta

Monday, November 22, 2010

Christ the King Sunday - "Hallelujah!"

Yesterday was the day of Christ the King the last Sunday in the Anglican Church Calendar; next week is Advent which is the first Sunday of the calendar.

Advent has found its way into the English language to mean: an arrival or coming, especially one which is awaited, and in the Church Calendar it is four Sundays before Christmas and is the season when we look towards the arrival of the birth of Jesus.

As Christians we are thinking about the birth of Jesus, and reflecting on the change that Jesus has had in our lives and in the lives of countless millions throughout history.

As part of our celebrations of  Christ the King, how appropriate that our Pastor played this wonderful video after his sermon:
Opera Company of Philadelphia
 "Hallelujah!" Random Act of Culture

Isaiah foretold the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and Handel put it all to music. The Hallelujah Chorus celebrates the Kingship of Jesus Christ

For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
For ever and ever, forever and ever,

King of kings, and Lord of lords,

And Lord of lords,
And He shall reign,
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings, forever and ever,
And Lord of lords,
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Opera Company of Philadelphia "Hallelujah!" Random Act of Culture

Gurth Whitaker
Calgary Alberta