Illiterate Christians Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy


Shagufta and Shafqat
Photo: World Watch Monitor

A 43-year-old crippled man was sentenced to death, alongside his wife, in April of 2014 for allegedly committing blasphemy the previous year. Shafqat Emmanuel, who is paralyzed from the waist down, filed an appeal at the Lahore High Court in an attempt to seek bail due to his deteriorating health. "I have developed bedsores and may die in jail, as there is no possibility of better treatment here," he states.

Shafqat and his wife Shagufta, the parents of four children, are from the city of Gojra, Punjab, in eastern Pakistan. Even though there was no sufficient evidence in support of the charge, the pressured judge rendered them guilty of sending blasphemous text messages, something which they deny on account that they are both illiterate.

"There was no evidence that the text messages came from a phone owned by the couple," explains Farukh Saif, an official of World Vision in Progress, an organization defending the Christian couple. "In the first place, they had lost the phone some months before July 2013 and, secondly, there was no SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card in their names."

Since fracturing his backbone in an accident during 2004, Shafqat has been restricted to a wheelchair due to the paralysis of his lower body. After the accident, Shagufta then worked as a cleaner at a local missionary school in order to support their impoverished family. The Lahore court is set to hear the petition on March 5th. To review VOMC's initial report on their situation, click here.

May God's ministering presence provide needed strength, protection, provision and encouragement to Shafgat, Shagufta and their four children during this extremely trying time. Pray that their accusers -- as well as the judicial authorities involved -- will extend compassion and mercy to this already suffering family. Ask God to work mightily in their accusers' lives, turning "hearts of stone" into "hearts of flesh" (Ezekiel 11:19), so they will be receptive to His conviction and leading. Also pray for the couple's legal representative that he be divinely protected and filled with great wisdom while preparing for the upcoming March appeal hearing. In the meantime, may Shafgat receive proper health care and experience overall improvement of his physical condition. Let's stand with this family by trusting in God's promises and faithfulness to work all things together for good (Romans 8:28).

An informative three-minute video clip is also available here.

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