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Noman Masih, left; Asma Gulfam and her husband Gulfam Masih, right. (Photos credit: Morning Star News)

Christian Man Sentenced to Death for 'Blasphemy'; Christian Mom Beaten, Confined by Muslims

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Two heartbreaking examples of persecution against Christians are making headlines in Pakistan.

Morning Star News reports a 22-year-old Christian man, Noman Masih, was sentenced to death under the country's blasphemy law Tuesday by a court in Bahawalpur. 

Lazar Allah Rakha, the attorney representing Masih, told the outlet the court announced its verdict even though the prosecution failed to provide any evidence of the blasphemy charge against him.

Masih was convicted of blaspheming the founder of Islam, which carries a mandatory death sentence under Pakistan's blasphemy statutes.

"I'm extremely disappointed by the conviction because there was absolutely no case," Rakha told Morning Star News. "There was no proof against Noman, and none of the witnesses produced by police could corroborate the blasphemy allegation against him."

"Despite so many contradictions in the case, I'm at a loss to understand why Bahawalpur Additional Sessions Judge Muhammad Hafeez Ur Rehman sentenced Noman instead of acquitting him," the attorney said. "This is murder of justice."

Rakha said the court would issue its written verdict in a day or two, after which he would appeal the conviction.

A separate trial for another blasphemy charge against Masih in Bahawalnagar has also concluded. That court is expected to announce a verdict this month, the attorney told Morning Star News

Noman's father, Asghar Masih, told the outlet the family was shocked by the verdict, but "we are standing firm in our faith and looking to God for Noman's freedom."

Police cited "secret information" and filed cases against Masih and his cousin Sunny Waqas from Bahawalnagar after arresting them both in 2019.

According to the complaint, upon questioning, Waqas told police that Noman Masih had shared allegedly sacrilegious images with him on WhatsApp. 

As CBN News has reported, under Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws, anyone accused of insulting Islam or Muhammad can be sentenced to death. Although no one has ever been executed for blasphemy, dozens of people have been killed by mobs for just being accused of it, and many other lives have been ruined.

Pregnant Christian Mother of 5, Beaten, Reportedly Held Hostage for 8 Days

Meanwhile, in a separate incident, a Christian housekeeper claims she was beaten and held hostage for eight days by her Muslim employers after telling them she was quitting her job.

Asma Gulfam, a 28-year-old Catholic maid in the Paka Ghara area of Sialkot District, Punjab Province, told Morning Star News she had worked for Huda Adnan for five years. Gulfam said she informed Adnan in early April that she was five months pregnant and could no longer work due to a medical condition. But Adnan said she had to stay and continue working.

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On April 18, Adnan accused her of stealing 1 million rupees (U.S. $3,490) that had been left in a bathroom a few days before. 

When she denied taking the money, Gulfam said Adnan dragged her into a room where police assistant sub-inspector Ijaz Ahmed, and three other policemen were waiting with Adnan's husband, Mian Adnan.

"As soon as they saw me, the policemen led by Ijaz started hurling abuses and curses at me," Gulfam told Morning Star News. "They threatened to tear my clothes if I did not admit to the alleged theft. But when I refused, they pulled my hair and started beating me up mercilessly. During the torture, Ijaz also tried to pull my nails." 

She told the outlet the beatings continued for the next several days. Her attackers told her she could not leave unless she confessed to the theft. 

When her husband, Gulfam Masih, went to Civil Lines police station to report her missing, the officers arrested him, she told Morning Star News

Masih was held by the police for a week and was released on April 26 when his wife's condition worsened. He rushed her to a hospital. An examination revealed she had been physically abused, but doctors were able to save her unborn child.

Gulfam reported the physical attack and illegal confinement to a Sialkot District police officer on May 10. The District Police Officer ordered an investigation, but officers dismissed her complaint without even questioning her, she told Morning Star News

Her attempt to obtain justice angered her former employers, who registered a theft charge against her and her husband on May 17, she said. 

Imran Sahotra of the Maseehi Bedari Tehreek (Christian Awakening Movement) said his group was able to secure interim bails for the couple on May 23.

"The Muslim family used its influence to discharge Asma's complaint against her torture and then registered a false FIR against the couple to 'teach them a lesson,'" Sahotra told Morning Star News. "The case shows how the vulnerable Christian community does not have access to justice in Pakistan."

Pakistan is listed as No. 7 on Open Doors' 2023 World Watch List of countries where it is dangerous to be a follower of Jesus Christ. The country was listed No. 8 on the list last year. 

On Nov. 20, 2022, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken re-designated Pakistan as a "Country of Particular Concern" (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for severe violations of religious freedom. 

Pakistan was listed in the State Department's newly released 2022 Report on International Religious Freedom

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