A woman praying in a Catholic church in Youhanabad, Pakistan.
A Christian couple in Pakistan on death row for seven years were acquitted yesterday (Thursday, 3rd June) in a landmark judgement.

Shagufta Kausar and her husband, Shafqat Masih, from the Punjab town of Gojra, were sentenced to death in 2014 for allegedly sending a local imam blasphemous text messages insulting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

But in Lahore High Court yesterday Justice Syed Ali Rizvi and Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh acquitted the couple on appeal.

Immediately after the judgement, the couple’s lawyer, Khalil Tahir Sandhu, told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), which campaigns for persecuted Christians: “I have to confess that after the justices had given their verdict I wept.

“There were times when I wondered if, after so long, justice would ever prevail in this case.”

He said that, after hearing the arguments, the justices noted what he called “inconsistencies” in the case against the couple.

Mr Tahir said the judges disputed the validity of evidence given while the couple were in handcuffs and questioned who owned the sim in the mobile phone allegedly used to make the supposedly offensive remarks.

Shafqat Masih and Shagufta Kausar.
Shafqat Masih and Shagufta Kausar (© Khalil Tahir Sandhu)

He said extremists would continue to demand the couple be killed and that the two would be forced to stay in hiding unless they could start a new life in a country in the West.

Mr Tahir said Shagufta has been held in the same 4ft x 6ft cell in Multan Women’s Jail formerly occupied by Asia Bibi, another Christian woman, whose blasphemy conviction was overturned on appeal in October 2018.
Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director, Aid to the Church in Need (UK), said: “For eight years, Shagufta and Shafqat have struggled to win justice in the teeth of fierce opposition from extremists who are opposed to Christians.

“At last, they have been acquitted – thank God – but there will be difficulties. Extremists still want them dead, we fear they will never be truly free in their own country.”
 ACN is committed to helping the National Commission for Justice & Peace (NCJP) in Pakistan, which funds legal representation of Christians falsely accused of blasphemy, and provides basic food and medicine for their families, and those forced into hiding by the mob.
Read more here
Nigeria Appeal
Water, Witches and Money Worries
The Sisters of Our Lady Star of the Sea in the Niger Delta are not facing extremism – but the challenges of witchcraft, poverty, reaching far-flung villages by waterways and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Read more here.
Livestream Mass at Farm Street Church

To mark ACN’s first-ever ACN Benefactors’ Day, join us on 11th June at 5pm for a special, livestreamed Mass from Father Dominic Robinson, ACN UK’s Ecclesiastical Assistant at Farm Street Church, Mayfair. The livestream link for this is here.
Livestream Mass from Dunkeld Diocese
Bishop Robson of Dunkeld Diocese will be celebrating Mass the day before, 10th June, at 10am for ACN Benefactors’ Day. The livestream link for this is here.
ACN Shop
Father’s Day – 20th June
As a special Father’s Day gift why not offer, in this year dedicated to St Joseph, our special offer St Joseph Rosary, in its own white leather-look pouch with a descriptive leaflet. Blessed by Pope Francis, this Rosary will make a wonderful spiritual gift. Buy it here.
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