UCAN needs your support
You are why we do what we do - report, describe, comment, review. It is to bring to your eyes just what life is like for believers across Asia that we publish UCAN.
But as you know, the effort needs to be sustained if it is to have continuing effect.
UCAN publishes some 150 stories a week in four languages across six websites. We are grateful to benefactors in Europe and the US who support us. But those countries and the Church there are under increasing financial strain and their generosity no longer covers our costs.
We need financial help from our readers to sustain our efforts. Our reporters, editors, video producers and photographers all have families and we need to support them. They do excellent jobs, but they can't do their jobs for nothing.
Will you help us to sustain UCAN? Please click here to help.
Thanks in anticipation.
Fr. Michael Kelly SJ
Harsh laws create spiritual bonds
Blasphemy law victims are 'closer to God'College students enrolling as volunteers for Catholic Bishopâ€™s National Commission for justice and Peace.
- ucanews.com reporter, Lahore
- July 17, 2011
Passed in 1986, the laws are fearsomely stringent. To defile a sacred place or object, to insult the Quâ€™ran or the prophet Muhammad, are all offenses punishable by death.Â The laws are also open to the widest range of interpretations, which leads opponents to claim that they are often manipulated and used unfairly, to settle scores or make personal gain.
And they are almost invariably accompanied by harassment, threats, beatings and worse.
One of their earliest victims was Catherine Shaheen. She was the principal of a government school in Rangpur, Punjab, when she became the first Christian woman to be accused of blasphemy, in 1995.
To avoid being imprisoned or killed, she fled and lived in hiding for four years, until she escaped to the USA where she was granted asylum.Â Now she is briefly back in Pakistan, trying to arrange a US visa for her adopted daughter, although she has to take extreme care and largely remain in hiding. She spoke frankly to ucanews.com.
â€śI still remember my 3,000 students,â€ť she says. â€śProfessional jealousy was the real motive behind my being accused byÂ four of them.Â One of them was the daughter of a Muslim teacher atÂ my school.â€ť
Now settled, living and working as a teacher in Virginia, she says she has come a lot closer to God through her ordeal. She frequently speaks of Jesus, referring to him as her Savior, and now spends her Friday evenings sharing bible sessions with a Muslim Bangladeshi friend.
â€śShe is interested in searching for the truth and I try to reply all the questions she gathers during the week,â€ť says Catherine.
In 2002, she was joined for a while by Ayub Masih who fled the country Â after spending six years in prison for blasphemy. Amnesty International, who took up his cause, believes that the true reason behind his prison sentence was a land dispute.
â€śHe always used to say that he was suffering for his family. I insisted that only Christ could die for others,â€ť says Catherine.
The ferocity of the law has prompted Pope Benedict XVI to call for its repeal, but the government announced in January that there would be no amendment. Meanwhile, it continues to wreak havoc; politicians Salmaan Taseer Â and Shahbaz Bhatti were both assassinated for their outspoken criticism of it, while Asia BibiÂ still waits to hear if she will be the first womanÂ to be put to death for blasphemy.
â€śWe cannot return to our home or even keep a mobile phone. I have to take care of our 12 year old daughter who was born with a deformed leg. We appeal for prayers,â€ť said her husband. But he too feels that the experience has brought God more into their lives and says the prayers that have been said for them have helped them to survive in hiding. "Now we pray for Asia and wait for the bishops to negotiate with the authorities," he said.
Blasphemy protest gathers strength
Court frees all Gojra suspects