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Indian Pastor arrested in Kuwait faces judgement Sunday


Pastor Shibu Mathew and his family

Kuwaiti authorities have arrested an Indian Pastor after he allegedly spoke against Islam in a Christian-Islam debate group. 

Rev. Shibu Mathew was a participant at a faith debate at Christ Embassy Church in Mangaf (a suburb of Kuwait city), the event was put on by both Muslim and Christian groups in agreement.  However, a few Muslims of Malayalam origins who were apparently unhappy with their inability to defend their own beliefs filed a complaint against their Indian compatriot with the Kuwaiti police. 

One wonders why these individuals would attend such a group if they felt they would be offended by engaging in dialogue about religion. It is shame they have involved the police in their inter-personal conflict and hopefully it will not bring blight on Kuwait's reputation for religious tolerance towards its expat community. 

Pastor Shibu in Kuwait 

BPCA is urging Christians across the globe to pray for Pastor Shibu Mathew who is a married 42 y/o father of four as he waits for a final judgement on his case Sunday November 19th. 

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association said:

"This action by Muslims involved in a debate mutually agreed by proponents of two faiths, illustrates the murky depths some extremists will go to, in order to claim supremacy for their faith.

"The abject fear of debate and the attempts to thwart rational discussion by threats is not a new phenomenon but one that is prevalent in the Islamic world."

"Sadly for Pastor Shibu Mathew this has now put him before a court of law and Christians across the globe must act by praying and calling for his freedom, through their MP's.

"Kuwait is a signatory of the UN Human Rights convention and their law courts must uphold this international law and release Pastor Mathew or they will blemish their favourable reputation for protection of minorities within their midst."

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In a Reuters'  article by Sylvia Westall from March 28, 2012 referencing a blasphemy conviction based on a social media post, blasphemy convictions are said to be "rare" in Kuwait up until that time (click here),  and did not warrant the death penalty under the press and publication law of 1961 (click here).

The following month an effort was made to amend the 1961 law to increase the punishment for blasphemy to include the death penalty particularly if no retraction of is made (click here). The amendment was approved by lawmakers within months of its submission for consideration (click here).  However the Kuwaiti Emire refused to sign it into law even though it was backed by 46 out of a possible 50 votes (click here). 

This action by lawmakers attempting to give blasphemy a capital sentence seemed to have precipitated with the advent of social media.  Charges and convictions  under such circumstances have made a notable increase in news headlines following their efforts. 

An example of this new social malaise was an incident in September 2014, when a Kuwaiti blogger was charged with blasphemy (click here).

Then In April 2016 a Kuwaiti academic was charged with blasphemy for comments made during a television interview on Islamist extremism.  Her complainant claimed they were, "psychologically damaged" by her comments. The victim was said to be at risk of incarceration for up to one year if convicted for her alleged offences and the potential for a trial could be pursued at the discretion of the public prosecutor, who would decide whether to proceed to trial (click here)

Current statistics say there are now 800, 000 Indian expats living in Kuwait (click here). Christianity is said by some to be an integral part of the socio-cultural tapestry of Kuwait (click here)Some counts say there are as many as 400,000 or more Christians living in Kuwait. (click here)

A Gulf News article from February 2012 says that the Kuwaiti constitution guarantees state protection and freedom for individuals to practice the customs associated with their religion and that 20,000 Christians, many of them expats working in the country, attend church services on any given Sunday. In addition the article said that "Churches are open to the external world and that many Christian figures from various denominations regularly visit the country and have contacts within the communities... Tolerance and mutual respect between Christians and Muslims is said to be 'very high'." (click here)

Kuwait has, according to recent reports, has even offered aid to 14, 000 displaced Iraqi Christians extending a kindness not seen by other Gulf States. (click here)     

The UN Human Rights Council passed resolution calling for abolition of the death penalty for blasphemy, and we hope the Emrite will remain resolute in his previous decision not to endorse the death penalty for blasphemy cases and to encourage tolerance between people of different faiths. (click here)

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