Church welcomes assurances on tackling misuse of Blasphemy Law

The Church of Scotland welcomed assurances given by Baroness Warsi, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office , that she would continue to raise concerns with the government of Pakistan over the misuse of their Blasphemy Law.

The minister was responding to a letter received last month from the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland – the Right Reverand Lorna Hood – in which she expressed “deep concerns” over a recent ruling from Pakistan’s Federal Shariah Court, saying the death penalty should be the only punishment for anyone convicted of blasphemy.

Mrs Hood said: “I welcome Baroness Warsi’s assurance that she and the government continue to raise the issue of the misuse of the Blasphemy Law with the authorities in Pakistan.

“The Church of Scotland has campaigned for this for a number of years and, through the work of partners in Pakistan and the UK, continues to support advocacy work and people who have suffered from the misuse of this law.

“We will continue to raise this with the Westminster and Holyrood governments and the authorities in Pakistan.”

For over 150 years, the Church of Scotland has been present in Pakistan.

Through the Church’s World Mission Council, support is given for various programmes, including health and education.

The Church of Scotland is concerned about the use and abuse of the Blasphemy Law in Pakistan to settle scores, exact revenge or inflame religious extremism. Of particular concern is the fact that, since 1991, anyone found guilty under Section 295 (C) of the Pakistan Penal Code faces a mandatory death sentence.

The Blasphemy Law is too often misused to settle scores. Between 1927 and 1986 there were only seven reported cases but since 1986 up to 4,000 cases have been reported. Since 1988 half of the people charged under this law have been non-Muslims even though they make up only 2% of the population.

The Church of Scotland has made representations to the Government of Pakistan on individual blasphemy cases, and has also urged it to repeal the Blasphemy Law, which it feels goes against the traditions and teachings of Islam, and is at odds with the culture of the majority of Pakistanis.