(Photos courtesy of Bos News Life/Pakistan)
Pakistan (MNN) ― There's another blasphemy case in Pakistan involving a teen.
This time, it's a 16-year-old Christian boy named Ryan Stanton. Late last week, according to a BosNewsLife report, Stanton, his sister, and his parents went into hiding in Pakistan.
Police had just charged him with blasphemy against Islam's prophet Mohammed through text messages, while an angry crowd burned their home. Stanton claims a friend borrowed his phone and used it to send text messages that abused the prophet.
He began getting angry phone calls and death threats, but the situation turned frightening when a mob formed outside the family home. With no one home, angry Muslims allegedly looted and set fire to the house.
According to the BosNews account, the family was spirited out of the danger zone by other Christians. Police officially charged Ryan with making "derogatory remarks" towards "the holy prophet," a charge that carries the death penalty. Investigators say he also faces charges for violating Anti-Terrorism legislation and the country's Telegraph Act. Soon after, Stanton's mother lost her job.
Pakistan's blasphemy laws are controversial because they're often used to settle personal scores, or abused in other ways. As a result, Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs say there are at least 15 people on death row facing similar blasphemy allegations.
This case bears similarities to that of 11-year-old Rimsha Masih, a Pakistani Christian girl who was falsely accused of blasphemy. Baptist Global Response Executive Director Jeff Palmer notes, "When something like this happens, there are all kinds of spin -offs and backlash things happening. People have a lot of fear."
Although her innocence has been proven, that didn't stop enraged mobs from attacking the neighborhood where the Masih's lived.
Other Christian families were driven from their homes, too. Palmer says, "They want to flee, and they do, away from their homes, and they seek shelter in places." As many as 600 families evacuated the neighborhood, many of them taking refuge elsewhere with other Christians.
The Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund responded with food, blankets and other aid needs which were distributed by Baptist Global Response partners. The team also prepared meals for some of the displaced, many of whom have returned home, says Palmer.
As the meals were served, Christian leaders were able to pray with the traumatized families and share Bible stories that helped them understand how to live out Jesus' command to love one's enemies. Palmer adds, "When Jesus talked about the cost of discipleship, He said, ‘People will hate you on My account. There will be persecution.' However, we can't be shy and non-forward to share our resources and share our faith with those who are in need."
"It's such a privilege to be able to help people who find themselves suddenly in desperate need," said Francis Horton, who with his wife, Angie, directs work for Baptist Global Response in South Asia. "When this story broke in the international news, many people in the United States were shaking their heads, wondering what to do about a crisis like this. Southern Baptists can celebrate that their partners were actually on the scene, helping people in need. And they were able to respond because Southern Baptists give generously to their World Hunger Fund."
Palmer agrees. "In the midst of these crises, there are always opportunities not just for the physical expression of Christ's love, but...to share truth that's in the Gospel as well."
The first line of defense, though, is prayer. "Pray for wisdom for those responding--local believers and [BGR ministry] partners.... Pray for wisdom and knowledge as they respond [and] show compassion. And pray for those that are actually doing the persecuting. The best that could happen here would be a heart change."