The past few weeks have unveiled some horrific stories of human rights abuse. The world was first shocked by the death sentence handed to Meriam Ibrahim, the then pregnant Christian mother in Sudan convicted of apostasy and adultery. We then learned of two Ahmadi Muslims in Saudi Arabia who could also face the death penalty for apostasy - though, in reality they never left Islam, but simply the Islam endorsed by their government. The world then cried #BringBackOurGirls after the kidnapping of hundreds of school girls in Nigeria by Boko Haram. Religious intolerance and extremism was compounded in India by extreme social prejudice after two young girls in India were gang raped and hanged to a tree because of the caste they were born into.
If none of these were enough to question our faith in humanity, any one of a hundred similar stories from the past few weeks could be added. For example, the dishonour killing - as there is no honour in killing - of the poor Pakistani woman by her family outside the Lahore High Court. Stories emerging from Myanmar told us about the dying children and disadvantaged Muslims from the Rohingya community who faced persecution and wilful neglect by even medics. Finally, a man, who I happened to meet in London only a few days before he returned to his motherland on a humanitarian trip, was shot dead in Pakistan. His crime? Being an Ahmadi doctor, daring to help those in need.
Not all the reports have been bad though. With enough attention and determination, we have managed to respond and stop some of these abuses or bring those responsible to account. The latest reports suggest that due to international pressure and condemnation, Sudan has decided to release Meriam. Public outrage has caused authorities in India and Pakistan to throw the book at both those accused - and those responsible - for the death of women belonging to the two nations. We also hear of individual stories of compassion, such as the Christian priest in the CAR sheltering some 1000 Muslim refugees in his church. Without his act of bravery and kindness, many of them would have perished in the genocide. The message is clear; if the governments, media and peace loving public take a stand, we can make a change.
However, are we doing enough? Rohingya and CAR remain a stain on our collective conscience. The world has largely turned its back on Asia Bibi in Pakistan and the two young Ahmadi men in Saudi; they are all long term victims of blasphemy and apostasy laws. They spend day and night in dark cells for the crime of choosing their own faith. A right which is so enshrined in our lives that we don't think twice about it.
As for Dr. Mehdi Ali, the US based cardiologist killed in Pakistan, there is a complete silence from the Pakistani ruling elite and large sections of the media. The same people who are apparently outraged by (dis)honour killings. There are some notable exceptions in the media, but as for politicians, the less said the better. Recognised as a top cardiologist in the US, Dr. Mehdi's only aim was to offer his time and expertise to the poor. He was treating patients free of charge after taking a sabbatical from his work; he even paid for heart stents out of his own pocket in order to help the needy.
Dr. Ali wasn't in Pakistan to discriminate between his patients, they were all equal to him. But discrimination is what he endured, both in his murder, and, sadly, the response to his death. No politician dares to speak out, lest it affect their popularity. Similarly, in 2008, a suicide bomber who was apprehended - suicide vest strapped and Kalashnikov in hand - was allowed to walk by authorities after killing and maiming hundreds of Ahmadis.
Dr. Mehdi Ali's family deserves better. One hopes that the mental scars of his 3 year old son, who witnessed his murder, will be healed by the memory of a truly selfless and compassionate father. Dr. Mehdi's son would have every right, however, to ask if the world responded in a way that would protect other children from ever having to witness the same. The family of the Saudi Ahmadi men will also ask the same, as will the children of Asia Bibi. And the children of Rohingya and the C.A.R, do we have an answer for them?
It's been 40 tiring years and counting since anti-blasphemy laws were enacted into Pakistani law to stop Ahmadi Muslims practising their faith. If they were originally intended for Ahmadi Muslims, they have now become a weapon of abuse wielded against one and all, particularly members of minority communities such as Asia Bibi. Governments across the world continue to import and implement twisted variations of the Pakistani blasphemy and apostasy laws. If the world still doesn't respond, things will only get worse. There will be hundreds of Mehdi Alis and Asia Bibis.
The case of Meriam Ibrahim has proved that when we confront the tyrants of the world with a single voice, the most empowering results are achieved. Now let's ensure it was not a one off. Let's unite and stand up for humanity and freedom of choice. #Love4AllHatred4None