Pakistani Christians on death row

LAHORE, Pakistan (BP) – A couple from Pakistan’s Christian minority was sentenced to death April 4 for allegedly sending blasphemous text messages, bringing the number of Christians on death row to four.

The sentence for Shafqat Emmanuel and Shugufta Emmanuel in Pakistan’s Punjab province came eight days after a court in Lahore sentenced Sawan Masih to death for allegedly insulting Islam’s prophet Muhammad.

The case against Masih, a street sweeper, stemmed from an alleged drunken conversation with a Muslim friend that sparked an outbreak of violence in Lahore’s Joseph Colony. The March 2013 flare-up left 180 Christian-owned homes and shops destroyed; an anti-terrorism court subsequently freed 133 Muslim suspects in spite of video evidence against them.

Also on death row: Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five. Imprisoned since 2009, Bibi was convicted after a dispute with local Muslim women who accused her of insulting Muhammad.

Pakistan’s small Christian community makes up less than 3 percent of the country’s 180 million people, with less than 1 percent considered evangelical/followers of Christ.

Wheelchair-bound Shafqat Emmanuel, 43, and his wife Shagufta, 

The Emmanuels were accused of sending blasphemous text messages on June 18, 2013. Charges against the couple included insulting Muhammad, punishable by death, and insulting the Quran, punishable by life imprisonment.