Friday, November 26, 2010


What a traumatic story to read the day after Thanksgiving, that a Christian woman is accused of blasphemy and is sentenced to death in Pakistan. And yet, unfortunately, there is really no surprise in it. Ultra-conservative Muslims are sensitive (hyper-sensitive?) to any affront to The Prophet, as we already know from the outrage felt with the publication of The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, or the editorial cartoon in Denmark more recently.

It is a strange charge, though, to accuse a person of 'blasphemy' when (at least in Christian and Jewish circles) this word specifically refers to insults offered to God. The Prophet most emphatically is not divine in Muslim eyes, though in fact specially chosen. Or have I just also 'blasphemed'? I don't know...

The newspaper article implies that the woman's blasphemy was her resistance to pressure that she convert to Islam. On that score, I certainly would also be guilty, by saying the simple word "No."

Needless to say, this kind of law and its application raise the question, again, of the relationship between truth, freedom and charity which has been a hallmark of the writings of Pope Benedict XVI. Recently, too, the Pope spoke out against the forced episcopal ordination of a government-selected bishop in China.

What we have witnessed in the past, and what we are witnessing in the case of this Christian Pakistani woman, is the hijacking of theocracy by extremists who seem dedicated to their own views to the extent of utter contempt and hatred for any and all who differ. This is more than disappointing--it is terrifying. How does one reason with people who reject rational discourse in the name of the conviction that "God is on our side--only!"?

Will her death sentence actually be carried out? Will she be a martyr for our Lord? We do not know the answer to the first question. But the answer to the second is easy: she already is a "martyr," a witness, for His sake who told us only this past Wednesay in the Gospel for Mass: "They will seize and persecute you...they will put some of you to death. You will be hated...but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives" (Lk 21:12-19). May God strengthen the resolve of this woman, and may God soften and anger and hatred of her enemies, and may God send the touch of reason and not resentment to this situation.

1 comment:

  1. I've been mulling over the plight of Christians and Jews since the days of our Lord's agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Two thousand years and countless martyrs later, it is heartrending to learn of continuing desecration and violations to the human race. The fact of our suffering Christ and his triumphant resurrection provides such a glowing light for us as we reach out of the darkness that is ever present in our world.
    Dear God, please pray for us!! Help us to be worthy of your love.....