For the brave souls in Pakistan that believe so strongly in Christianity that they are willing to die for their beliefs, it is vital for their plight to be recognized by the international mainstream media.
Seema Bibi, a Christian woman, was dragged out of her house by a mob of 30 residents in a village in the Punjab province for what they describe as "anti-Islam views" this past week, according to residents and police officials. The thugs tortured her, shaved her head and "paraded her in the streets", according to the Hindustan Times. She and her family were forced to flee, following the assault.
According to resident Aslam Masih, "She and her family had been facing threats from a group of extremist villagers. She left the village as she had no other option." Regional Police Chief Muhammad Amin told reporters that 26 people had been arrested on charges of torturing Seema, and hopefully justice will be served.
Shahbaz Bhatti, Assassinated
Sadly, there are many other stories of Christians being persecuted around the world. 02-Mar-2012 marks the year anniversary of the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistani politician and elected member of the National Assembly. He was the recipient of death threats since 2009, when he supported the Christians that were attacked in Gojra, a town also in the Punjab province. Forty houses and a church were set ablaze. Eighteen people were injured and seven people burned to death, including a child, according to Aljazeera. That attack was instigated by an alleged desecration of a Quran by a Christian boy. That particular assault came only a month after yet another attack, where 100 homes were burned down.
Shahbaz Bhatti made his fatal error by defending Asia Bibi, the 45-year-old mother of five who has been sentenced to hang for her Christian beliefs. Mr. Bhatti was killed in the morning of 2 March 2011 on his way to work, his body riddled with some 30 bullets. According to the report, "for months, the authorities tried to cover up the affair, blaming the murder on a family dispute and later, on financial matters." The story continued, "So far, it is unclear who carried out the attacks, but the murder was immediately claimed by an extremist Pakistani faction. Police acknowledge that they are still in the dark."
Salmaan Taseer, Assassinated
Punjab Governor, Salmaan Taseer, another prominent politician, was also murdered after he appealed for Asia Bibi's release. According to an article by the BBC, "Mr Taseer, 66, was shot repeatedly at close range by his Elite Force guard as he got into his car at the Kohsar Market, a shopping centre in Islamabad."
This brave man was under pressure to relent on his support, he tweeted shortly before his death, "I was under huge pressure sure 2 cow down b4 rightist pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I'm the last man standing."
He is a hero.
Asia Bibi is a relatively high profile case, which may be why she has not yet been hanged. However, she is still in prison, awaiting death. Radical Islamic groups vow to riot on the streets if she is released.
Shahbaz Bhatti and Salmaan Taseer died when they could have looked the other way, knowing that their lives were at stake.
It is reminiscent of the Christians who gave Jewish people safe haven during the Holocaust. These brave people should be admired and supported.
If the international community puts pressure on Pakistan to encourage tolerance, perhaps less innocent lives will be taken. The heartbreaking story of Asia Bibi and an online petition appealing for her release can be found here.