Pakistani Heroes: Muslim/Christian Aitzaz Hassan and Asia Bibi

NOTE: Asia Bibi has been released.

Quite often Christians create strict boundaries around the Christian religion. These boundaries are fences by which we demarcate insiders, separating the “insiders” from the “outsiders.”

A key emphasis of the New Testament, however, is that Christ came to break down barriers between Jews (insiders) and Gentiles (outsiders). The one who preached “blessed are the peacemakers” made peace by melting the glue that keeps the religious fence intact, namely, the fence by which we separate ourselves as insiders from others as outsiders.

The glue that keeps such fences intact is the prince of this world (the evil one) who is enlarged and magnified by fear, hatred, and bigotry.

Aitzaz Hassan

Two Pakistani figures have been the news, internationally, as martyrs and heroes, one a Muslim boy named Aitzaz Hassan and the other a Christian woman named Asia Bibi. (For more on Asia Bibi, see link:  Asia Bibi Article).

Aitzaz Hassan, a fifteen year old boy, thwarted a suicide bomber, who was entering a school in order to detonate a bomb in northern Pakistan, according to the story in the Guardian (click link): Guardian Article

Although the bomb detonated, thus killing him, Aitzaz Hassan’s intervention succeeded to protect a school full of some 2000 students.

Like the parents of the children who died at Sandy Hook, so Aitzaz Hassan’s parents magnified the boy’s generous intentions, celebrating his heroism, rather than nursing grievances or bitterness of their own.

What did this boy die for?

Suicide bombing occurs in this region as a weapon of religious militancy in sectarian warfare between Sunnis and Shi’ites.

The real enemy in the story is neither Shi’ite nor Sunni but the prince of the world or the evil one, who feeds on fear, hatred, and bigotry, the glue that keeps the fence intact, which separates insiders from outsiders.

The militant crusader believes so strongly in this fence, that s/he will kill and self-destruct  (slathering on glue) in order to reinforce it, fortifying the barrier that distinguishes the elect (the insiders) from the reprobate (the outsiders).

The boy Aitzaz Hassan,  himself a Muslim,  stood up for principles of Islam that transcend sectarian rivalries: peace, love, and non-violence. He acted, instinctively, in a generous way that may resonate for Christians as being Christ-like.

From a Christian perspective, the self-sacrificing love exhibited by Aitzaz Hassan imitates that of Jesus.

As Jesus said: “No greater love has this than to give one’s life for one’s friends.” The friends of Jesus are those who follow God’s commandment, the greatest of which is love. Similarly, Aitzaz Hassan died on behalf of  love for his friends. Love is save thousands from the bomb of murder and sectarian rivalries.

Asia Bibi

Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman, is a different kind of martyr, a woman and mother, now in prison on allegations of blasphemy.  Her case has been discussed and publicized for many years.

The Supreme court of Pakistan will be handing down a verdict any day, now. Sadly, the danger of mob violence against Asia Bibi is real even should she go free.

Asia Bibi had engaged in dialogue with some Muslim women, her friends, in a Pakistani town, close to where she lives. In the  course of conversation, she spoke about her own religious beliefs.  She made a comment to the effect that for her, and her family, Jesus Christ is savior not Mohammed.

Consequently, she was arrested on charges of blasphemy, a charge associated with apostasy and treason. Asia Bibi is still in prison. Please see this link for an update on her case: Update Asia Bibi Case

Jesus the Lightworker

From a Christian perspective, this case follows the pattern, again, of Jesus’s Christ’s martyrdom.  Jesus was put to death by the Romans on charges of treason and viewed as an enemy of the state.  Rome at the time mandated emperor worship and penalized prophets who were accused of blaspheming the civic gods or undermining the religious-civic order.

Jesus Christ, the light and the lightworker, shines through acts of self-sacrificial love — whether one is Christian, Muslim, or of another religious or sectarian affiliation.

 

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Acquitted: Update on Asia Bibi Case

Update 10/31: See link

Asia Bibi Acquitted

Please see these links (below) for an update on Asia Bibi’s Case. Two of the videos are updates from ACLJ and one is an interview given by her husband.

Asia Bibi is a Christian woman in Pakistan who has been condemned to death on charges of blasphemy against Mohammed. The case was appealed and the Supreme Court of Pakistan may reverse her conviction.

While it appears that a verdict from the Supreme Court of Pakistan may be issued soon, Asia Bibi remains at risk of mob violence by Islamist extremists if she should be released and declared innocent. The judges in the case are putting their lives in jeopardy. One of her advocates in the government had been murdered, some years ago, in connection with her case. The pressure on the judges to have Asia executed is equally strong.

Thanks to international advocacy, and to moderate Islamist parties who support her, the case has come before the United Nations. Blasphemy accusations are frequent for vilifying religious minorities in Pakistan.

Consider: Jesus himself was falsely accused of treason and blasphemy. The judges in the case were also under pressure from the people, who were set against Jesus though he was innocent. Asia Bibi’s case resembles in basic outline the trial of Jesus.

Please find my earlier post, here: Asia Bibi : Christian Jailed in Pakistan

 

 

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo: Advocate for Gay rights in Uganda

Sadly, anti-gay persecution is quite often legitimated by Christian churches. The penalties can be harsh for advocates of human rights for LGBT people. The film God Loves Uganda chronicles this human rights struggle in Uganda and among Christian missionaries there.

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo has courageously stood up to the majority in offering reconciliation and a message of inclusive love toward all LGBT people — in the name of the Gospel.

The Gospel ought not to be twisted so as to entail judgment, condemnation, and exclusion on the grounds of one’s love-orientation (the struggle is about the right to love not narrowly about sexual behavior). Quite the contrary, the Gospel proclaims that love is sacred and free. Human rights require that we respect those who may be different from us while securing their freedoms as our own.

See links below.

Here’s God Loves Uganda (English with Italian subtitles)

 

Here are clips from interviews with Bishop Christopher Senyonjo

Farkhunda: Martyr from Afghanistan : Crucifixion

In 2015 Farkhunda, a young woman of Afghanistan, was savagely beaten and put to death by a mob. Her alleged crime was that she had burnt the Qur’an: a false accusation. Jesus Christ was crucified and put to death on grounds of religious blasphemy.

Wherever  spiritual freedom is assaulted and crimes are committed against the innocent — on  grounds of religious absolutism — Jesus is crucified, once again. Here’s an article about Farkhunda:

And another:

Martyred in Afghanistan

In the Christian gospel, the resurrection signifies the victory of life — and justice — over against their opposites (death and injustice). Let’s learn from Farkhunda’s martyrdom and support the cause of justice in Afghanistan and around the world.

Here’s one way to give: Women for Women

Or, if you are not able to donate money, learn and care and give as you are inspired to do.

Thomas Paine: Biblical Arguments for the American Revolution and the Thomas Jefferson Bible

Since today is the American Independence day, here is a brief look at the issue of how the founding fathers understood the Bible. In view of our current political challenges, it is worth asking whether the Bible itself supports monarchy or democracy.  (And, as an aside, do we have a new King George, aspirationally or in the making, on our hands. See link: USA Today: King Trump).

Were the founding fathers of America, most of them Deists, opposed to divine revelation or to the inspired quality of the Sacred Scriptures?

Thomas Paine

In his argument for the American Revolution and in his tract Common Sense, Thomas Paine argued, making biblical appeals, that America should accept no King except God. Paine cited Judges 8:23: “And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you.” (KJV). Here is an interesting argument, in this regard, which I quote from the article linked here: Thomas Paine: No King but God

The children of Israel being oppressed by the Midianites, Gideon marched against them with a small army, and victory, thro’ the divine interposition [providence], decided in his favor. The Jews elate with success, and attributing it to the generalship of Gideon, proposed making him a king, saying, Rule thou over us, thou and thy son and thy son’s son. Here was temptation in its fullest extent; not a kingdom only, but a hereditary one, but Gideon in the piety of his soul replied, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you. The Lord shall rule over you. Words need not be more explicit; Gideon doth not decline the honor, but denieth their right to give it; neither doth he compliment them with invented declarations of his thanks, but in the positive stile of a prophet charges them with disaffection to their proper Sovereign, the King of heaven.

Thomas Jefferson 

Thomas Jefferson argued for American democracy on the grounds that Jesus was an exemplary moral teacher, whose principles form the foundation for American democracy.  For Jefferson, in his adaptation of the Bible called the Jefferson Bible, miracles were but superstition.

See this article:  Jefferson Bible. Here’s an article about the Bible that Jefferson must have used in making his own adaptation: Editing Jefferson’s Bible

See this video:

Conversation Snippet: the Bible, the Pope, and the end of the world

Tara believes that we are in the end-times. Her opinion does not matter nor anybody’s opinion. About God and the Bible, what matters is the Truth.

Tara believes we should go to the source for the Truth, not just any source but the King James Version of the Bible. The NIV (New International Version) leaves things out. The Devil has added things to most modern translations.

Tara believes that the Sabbath must be celebrated, regularly, because God said so. The world is in the hands of Satan. People can disobey but God is the authority. Only the few are obedient to God, and reflect Jesus Christ. Discipleship is a lonely road.

Tara believes, too, that the Pope is the anti-Christ, and that the Catholic church devises to take over the world and to make worship of the Pope compulsory.

As Tara says this, her companion, named James, who has been listening quietly, protests: “My relatives are Catholic. Just because you think that Catholics are wrong or misled, that does not mean that the Pope is evil.”

Tara replies, “I don’t care whether your relatives are Catholic. Catholics hold on to human traditions not God’s word. Which Bible are you reading? You must be reading one of those translations, which Satan has filled with lies.  It says in the Book of Revelation: the Pope is the anti-Christ, who will usurp the throne of God and demand worship in place of Christ. Compulsory worship of the Pope is already on its way, in our lifetime.  I can’t say exactly when, but the end times will be soon, in our lifetime. The trouble with these days is that people don’t read the Bible. Modern translations have bent the word of God out of shape.”

James says, “Stop being opinionated. The people who translated the Bible did so out of love, in order to communicate the message of the Bible to people in their own modern languages, in a style that they can understand. You may not like those translations. But honor the fact that the translators are kind not wicked. They performed an act of love.”

Tara brightens. “You think so? So they translated the Bible — even the NIV which leaves things out — in order to help people? You say it’s an act of love to translate God’s word into a human tongue? I see what you mean. Yes. Love. That is an act of love.”

James and Tara come to peace for a moment. This moment of peace is where truth resides, not in their religious quarrels, or within the pages of one Bible translation or another.

“But the King James Bible,” Tara adds, “is the true Bible. The KJV is the one I read and it’s enough to get me out of the mess we’re in. To get me out of this mess. That’s good enough for me.”