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Two brutal murders; Is Asia Bibi next?

Written by Peter Youngren on March 15, 2011

Article for St. Catharines Standard newspaper by Peter Youngren.

The brutal killing last week of Pakistan’s only Christian government minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, for which the Pakistan Taliban has claimed responsibility, hit close to home. Bhatti, the Federal Minister for Minorities, was a friend and on several occasions he helped World Impact Ministries, the organization I lead, to obtain permission for Gospel Campaigns in a country where 97% are Muslims. A co-worker emailed, “This is the darkest day for freedom of religion in the history of Pakistan”.

Bhatti, 42, was ambushed in broad daylight by Muslim extremists as he traveled through a residential district, having just left his mother’s home. Before escaping the scene of the crime—and after firing as many as 30 bullets into Bhatti’s vehicle—the assassins made sure, through leaflets left behind, that the world knew why the killing occurred; Bhatti was paying the price for opposing Pakistan’s blasphemy law. The leaflets also warned anyone opposing this law, which makes criticizing Mohammed or Islam a crime punishable by death, that they would suffer the same fate.

Bhatti ominously told a British newspaper in January that extremists had threatened him, but he was ready to die, “I follow the cross, and I am ready to die for a cause, I am living for my community and suffering people, and I will die to defend their rights,” he said. In an interview with the Pakistan Christian Post, Bhatti stated, “I received a call from the Taliban commander, and he said, ‘If you will bring any changes in the blasphemy law and speak on this issue, then you will be killed.’”

Controversy over the blasphemy law has been stirred since Asia Bibi, 45, an illiterate farm worker, and the only Christian woman in her village, was sentenced to hang. She was accused of the blasphemy crime after defending her religious beliefs when several women in her majority-Muslim village questioned her faith. In a brief interview from jail Bibi stated, ”In the village they tried to put a noose around my neck, so that they could kill me”. She now also has a price on her head, as a radical cleric has promised 500,000 Pakistani rupees ($5,800) to anyone prepared to “finish her”.

Bhatti didn’t shy away from taking a public stand in support of Bibi and against this draconian law, and for this he has now paid the ultimate price, but he is not alone. Earlier this year Salman Taseer, the Muslim governor of the state of Punjab, was assassinated by Islamic militants, who openly stated that they were acting to avenge the governor’s opposition to the blasphemy law. Taseer and Bhatti stand in contrast to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto, the former president, who was assassinated in 2007. Zardari has refused to reform the blasphemy law or to pardon Bibi.

Can we do anything? Contact the Pakistani embassies in the United States and Canada and mention your concern about Asia Bibi’s death sentence, blog and write letters to newspapers and engage Muslim friends to do likewise. Remember most Muslims find extremism as abhorrent as Christians do.

Meanwhile World Impact Ministries postponed our Gospel Campaign, which was scheduled for later this month. Why plan a Gospel program in Pakistan in the first place? For one, I don’t think Jesus belongs to any one religion, He is for the world. Though our views on Christ differ, Islam and Christianity are the only major world religions that hold Jesus in a supreme position. According to Islam’s holy book, the Quaran, Jesus was born of a virgin, and is coming back to judge the world; he is a healer, the Messiah and the only sinless prophet. That’s still a long way from the Christian faith that Jesus is the Beloved Son of God, but it’s a start. Muslims and Christians should be able to dialogue. Why not start with your Muslim neighbor.


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~ Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

I really appreciate the good work that pastor Youngren does, and his committment to preaching the gospel while respecting other cultures and religions… a refreshing change from the schlop of fundies world-wide who seem to think Jesus is all about hate.

I am personally familiar with and have a deep respect and love for the Islamic faith… I for one hope Asia Bibi or anyone is not the next target by zealots who get offended because somebody doesn’t agree with their religious tenets… Religion is not immune from insanity…

I pray that Pastor Youngren’s efforts to reach out to Muslims will be met with a spirit of love and grace.

~ Punjab, Pakistan

It’s very easy to say to start dialogue with Muslim neighbor, but question is,

~ Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I will defiantly contact the Pakistani embassy in Ottawa, and i will mention the concern. Thank you Pastor Peter:

On a different note, I have a question for you.  What is your opinion about cultural relativism and Jesus being one among other Gods?
When I ask this question, Christians get nervous. I know it is because, my look & my name doesn’t match with typical Western Christianity they have in mind.  So,  whenever, someone who is different than them, asks a question, they give the person a funny look. The reality is.. the only religion I have always known, is the Christian religion.  It has never occurred to me, looking into other religions. But in recent years, I’ve become increasingly curious about other world religions.

So I’m interested to know your views on cultural relativism and Jesus being one among other Gods. Aren’t we all picking &  choosing what we want to believe? really…
Christians found solace in Christianity…

There are so many other religions today and thousands of religions have existed in the past ..The other religions have their own holy books which says that what they believe is God..Their God is different from Christian God. They have different beliefs on how the world originated and different concepts to explain the after-life, evil etc.
Christianity became world’s largest religion because of the legalization by Constantine and subsequent expansion during colonialism of south America, Africa, different parts of Asia. Otherwise, christianity is just one among several religion and belief systems

Perhaps there are many religions now that are older than Christianity.
When Jesus died on the cross, there were many cultures existing in various areas of the Globe which have no idea where Israel is or who their messiah is! They lived happily with their own belief systems and died..
Now, why do we pick up Christianity and say that only Christianity is the true religion?

Ok..Bible says Jesus is the truth, the way and the life and that he is the son of God and all such things…..But the holy books of other religion say X, tells that their God is the truth and people worshipping other Gods would go to hell
After all no Gods are provable….So, why pick up divinity of Jesus alone ?
Thanking you in advance.

~ Toronto, Ontario, Canada

PS Peter,
MY most of professional friends are muslims.
I have been talking about Jesus to Them.I do not undersand their view is that they are righteous they do not need to be forgiven. main stumbling block for me to introduce Jesus to them.
I applied to work in pakistan as a consultant veterianarin in Rupandehi, Nepal
IF it is will of God He will take me there to share the word with the so many farmers and officials with reagrds to dairy industry.
I see one thing in the persecuted nations (being a christian) Christians are not equip to use the power within them to repel the power of the enemy which works in an dthrough these oppossition parties.
As the power of Jesus 9withing those who are persecuted) is able to repel the those forces against them. If they know how to use the power withing them.

God bless you and use you in these last days to advance His Kingdom here on the earth.

~ Pensacola, Florida, USA

I totally agree. God created man, all men(human kind) and He said to go into all the world and preach the gospel. He did not say, “but, don’ preach to the islams”. My people perish for a lack of knowledge: I take this also to mean, for me, the people He created. The people that are against Christ, most, do not know the truth and have been deceived, we struggle not against flesh and blood, but principalities, powers, rulers of the DARKNESS of this world, spiritual wickedness in high places. God says that He wished that NONE would perish, but that all would repent and come unto Him. God created us for Himself, for relationship, for life not for destruction, hell is made for Satan and the fallen angels not for mankind. ON the day of penticost it is stated that every nation was touched. Every nation.
God bless.

~ Karachi, Pakistan

I agree with Yamima, it is very hard to take place (Dialogue) and also easy to sit far from Pakistan and given advises but who will help the poor Pakistani Christians, we don’t need financial aids we need protection, we need respect, alas there are lots of Christian countries in the world but they do nothing for the poor and helpless people and we are here just for assassinating.

~ Sumbawanga, Tanzania, Africa

I appreciate the work that Dr. Peter and the World Impact Ministries do to rescue people from the mouth of the devil.
Additionally,preaching the gospel without segregating any religious denomination is highly appreciated.
Those who oppose Christianity, try the impossible. Since God, the founder of Christianity is omnipotent, so is Christianity.
Killing the servants of God as what happened in Pakistan (and what is happening elsewhere in the world now)is not the solution.
Tolerance is important. Receiving the real God (Holly Trinity) tis only the solution.

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