Finland and the European Union have condemned the sentencing of Pastor Zafar Bhatti. Bhatti is a Pakistani man, who has been sentenced to death for allegedly sending a series of blasphemous text messages in 2012. Pakistan has one of the most notorious blasphemy laws in the world, with three levels of severity described. The third, (295-C) commands a death sentence if the accused is convicted.
The European’s decision to condemn Bahtti’s death sentence is absolutely correct. The letter by Miika Niikko, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament of Finland, questioned whether the sentence was truly justified considering the severity of the offense and the fact that Bhatti had already spent the last 10 years in jail for the alleged crime.
“Here in Europe, there is no contrast between religions of people in our justice system. We treat people equally because it’s the right thing to do in the eyes of God and of a human. As you know, we have may Muslims here, in Europe. We are working to build tolerance and peaceful coexistence. We intervene if Muslims are oppressed…” the letter said. “Violations against human rights and religious freedom cannot be tolerated anywhere…” the letter continued.
While Finland may not have an unblemished record of its own around religious freedom, the condemnation by Mika Niikko is welcomed by most of the free world. Individuals like Zafar Bhatti are regularly persecuted in countries like Pakistan, and we must continue to demand every individual have the right to practice their faith in a manner in line with his or her conscience.