'Overjoyed that Asia is finally free - but why has it taken so long?'

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Release International has long campaigned for the repeal of the blasphemy laws. These notorious laws are often used to target minorities and to take out rivals.

Few accused of blasphemy can live in safety, even if they are acquitted. Extremist vigilantes see it as their religious duty to put them to death.

Christians face harassment in Pakistan in a variety of ways. Hundreds of women and girls are abducted each year, and many are forced into marriages with Muslim men. Christians are harassed for wearing religious symbols and have been targeted by Islamic State terrorists and the Taliban. The most extreme case was the Lahore bombing in Easter 2016 of a children's play area, frequented by Christians.

Release is training Christian leaders in Pakistan and teaching villagers to stand firm against persecution and discrimination. Release is also producing and distributing radio programmes and video materials, as well as portions of Scripture.

Through its international network of missions Release International is active in some 30 countries around the world, supporting pastors, Christian prisoners and their families; supplying Christian literature and Bibles, and working for justice.  CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.