A certain Pakistani mullah thinks he is poised to destroy Bishop Timotheus Nasir, the bishop of the Siloam Presbyterian Churches and president of Faith Theological Seminary in Pakistan.
The mullah, clearly outmatched in terms of wit and knowledge of the Bible and Quran, has sued BishopbNasir for defamation of character in the Sindh High Court of Karachi for 100 million rupees.
Certain mullahs, as we know from our experience with Islamo-fascism, do not like to be questioned or challenged. They especially do not like to be bested in theological
arguments. The mullah in question lost intellectually and theologically to Bishop Nasir in terms of arguments about Biblical events, and he has resorted to a lawsuit. But it is more than a lawsuit; it is a "setup" for Bishop Nasir to be assassinated en route to this court, which is some 1,200 miles from the bishop`s home. The mullah has undoubtedly invited his fanatical followers to knock off the bishop for "seventy-two black-eyed virgins" or whatever passes for paradise among people who know nothing of God.
I have news for the mullah and the government of Pakistan, however. The world is watching these proceedings. Ultimately, it is not Bishop Nasir who will be on trial, it will be Pakistan itself.
The world is going to see whether or not a Christian can speak his mind in Pakistan without being imprisoned, sued or killed. The world is going to see if the Pakistani government is serious about protecting the rights of the Christian minority.
If the government of Pakistan allows a spiteful mullah to kill or destroy the life of Pakistan`s leading advocate for Christians, the world will know that Pakistan is not an ally in the Global War On Terror, but is actually just an enemy in disguise. Pakistan
will then be seen not as part of the solution for the War on Terror, but as part of the problem.
If Bishop Nasir is killed or dispossessed of his property, American Christians will press for the cessation of all aid to Pakistan, both economic and military. We know this, because we will lead the effort to have all aid to Pakistan cut off. We cannot
support a government that sanctions the oppression--and even the killing--of Christians.
Bishop Nasir is prepared to surrender his Pakistani citizenship. He will not surrender his citizenship lightly; after all, he fought for Pakistan as an officer in its army. He served his country while this mullah did nothing in the way of military service. Bishop Nasir is prepared to make a point, however: if Christians have no rights in Pakistan, then
citizenship for them is meaningless.
In 1948, Pakistan voted for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights during a crucial United Nations vote. Then, in the 1980s, Pakistan abrogated the Declaration through passage of a series of "blasphemy laws." Since those laws were passed, both Christians and Muslims have been prosecuted as the result of false accusations by persons with vendettas against the victims of these laws. If the Sindh High Court rules against Bishop Nasir for simply defending his religious views, then Pakistan has abandoned even the
pretense of fair treatment for Christians.
Pakistan is a nuclear power, and therefore all civilized nations have an interest in Pakistan not becoming a fundamentalist theocracy. If Pakistan is to avoid this fate--which would result in the proliferation of nuclear weapons among terrorist
groups--then it must take a stand against the hardline mullahs. President Musharraf must be willing to confront these mullahs and tell them that while Pakistan may be an Islamic republic, it must treat religious minorities with fairness and some semblance
of equality--or it must face condemnation from the West and loss of both trade and aid.
Islam will also be on trial. The world is watching to see if a Christian can get a fair trial in an Islamic country. If Islam is used to justify an unfair verdict against a Christian, e.g., by saying that a Christian`s word is only half as good as a Muslim`s, then Islam will earn the dubious distinction of having its own "Spanish Inquisition."
Is this what the Muslims of Pakistan want? Do they want to be viewed as brutal oppressors of Christians? What happened to the Muslims who were able to live in
harmony with Jews and Christians? Why do Muslims need blasphemy laws to protect their religion?
American Christians do not understand the need for blasphemy laws or lawsuits to silence those who practice other faiths. In the United States, you would never see a Muslim arrested on "blasphemy" charges for not confessing Christ as his Lord and
Savior. You would not see an imam sued for defamation of character because he differed with a Christian pastor over some event described in the Old Testament.
Whether you claim to be Jewish, Christian or Muslim, if you are unwilling to look deep inside your faith, you cannot be said to have a deep and abiding faith. Blind faith is not faith at all: it is fanaticism. And fanaticism is the message that the blasphemy laws
and this mullah`s lawsuit is sending to the world.
President Musharraf: we will be watching these proceedings very closely. If Bishop Nasir is allowed to come to harm, or if a miscarriage of justice results in a judgment against him, then you can expect a firestorm of protest from the United States. We
will question--in the very strongest of termsÃ¢â‚¬"the continuation of aid and trade with a nation that so openly oppresses Christians. You cannot be part of the Global War on Terror if you institutionalize religious terror in your own country.
James R. Reese
(Mr. Reese is the former Grand Prior of the Sovereign
Military Order of Christian Knights Templar