November 24, 2018

Thanksgiving & Death for Blasphemy

This Thanksgiving weekend in America it’s important to ponder Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman imprisoned for eight years under allegation of blasphemy against Islam. She’s been formally acquitted but still under detention for her own safety as demonstrations across Pakistan demand her death.

Bibi’s lawyer has already left Pakistan for his own safety. Protests have also demanded death for the judges who acquitted Bibi. Certainly she and her family have no future in their own country and will have to flee to the West.

Meanwhile the Pakistani government has detained several hundred Islamists to hinder further violent protests. Yet the prime minister has been accused of pandering to the protests by not yet permitting Bibi’s departure.

Pakistani law stipulates death for blasphemy but has avoided actual executions. So sometimes mobs and assassins do what the government declines to implement.

Bibi was arrested after resentful neighbors accused her of attacking Islam’s Prophet after disputing at a village well. Though ultimately declared innocent she spent most of a decade in prison.

Americans, especially Christians, should consider living in a society where malevolently gossipy allegations can result in prison, where the law stipulates death for insulting Islam, where even after exoneration thousands of your countrymen demand your death, creating a political crisis, and ultimately forcing you, your family and your defenders to flee your own nation, likely forever.

Pakistan is not terribly unique. Bibi could have faced similar horrors in many other societies. Religious freedom, free speech and rule of law are historically exceptional.

Thanksgiving recalls the Pilgrims, who like Bibi had to flee their own country because religious beliefs placed them under threat. America’s religious freedom was achieved after centuries of struggle for which many suffered and perished. We should cherish this liberty of conscience above all else.

Yet any Americans do not. Even Christians in America often seem, at least in their public chatter, ungrateful. Christian activists on the left loudly denounce America as incorrigibly racist and oppressive. Even Thanksgiving has been denounced as a celebration of colonialism. (The few score Pilgrims who landed on Plymouth Rock after escaping their own government likely didn’t feel very colonial.)

Christian voices on the right sometimes deride America as almost irretrievably decadent and secular, on the precipice of a war against Christianity. There are real threats against religious liberty, faced by almost every generation. Yet our freedoms remain strong and vibrant relative to most of history and the rest of the world.

No American faces imprisonment or death because neighbors accuse them of blasphemy. Such a prospect is so alien to the American experience that we cannot even fathom, much less relate to Bibi’s still ongoing ordeal.

But the Pilgrims, most of whom died during the one year before the first Thanksgiving, would better understand Bibi’s plight. Let’s recall their legacy, esteem our freedoms and pray for Bibi. In different historical circumstances, all of us could have been Bibi.


7 Responses to Thanksgiving & Death for Blasphemy

  1. David says:

    The Pilgrims, a term unknown until the 1880s, spent a time in the Netherlands which had freedom for “Jews, Turks, and Egyptians.” The primary reason for their coming here was to set up a theocracy for the suppression of others and to make money. While not historically accurate, Mark Twain remarked that the Pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving for being saved from the Indians, and we celebrate Thanksgiving for being saved from the Pilgrims. Indeed, the Pilgrims’ church was the last tax-supported official church in the US that was not disestablished until about 1833. For religious freedom, we must look to places such as Pennsylvania and the Dutch colony, now New York, and especially to the village of Flushing.

    • Mike says:

      I think someone needs to do a better reading of history. Although the Pilgrims had freedom of worship in the Netherlands, they were concerned that their children were losing their heritage as English and becoming converted to Dutch ways, and they longed for a place where they could be their own people and worship in their own way. The New World was just the place for that. They hardly came to a land that was foreign and unknown just to “set up a theocracy for the suppression of others and to make money”. I believe that they had more noble desires than those.

      • William Heath says:

        Agree with you Mike. The pilgrims called themselves pilgrims and not to be confused with the Puritans. The 1st Thanksgiving was a time of alliance, friendship, and celebration for the pilgrims and Indians which lasted between William Bradford and Sachem Massasoit for 40 years. This peaceful way the Christ following pilgrims set the example for our nation to remember – which Abraham Lincoln remember during the heat of the Civil War to proclaim as a national holiday every year for the nation.

  2. William says:

    “Suppression of others” — you mean 21st century Muslims, of course.

  3. Susan Smith says:

    The New World was just the place for that.

  4. cynthia says:

    Blasphemy is the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence to a deity, or sacred … Blasphemy is treated as a capital crime

  5. John Smith says:

    I agree with you exactly “Suppression of others” — you mean 21st century Muslims, of course.

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