Your freedom or your faith? That’s the question being posed to dozens of Christians currently awaiting trial in a prison in Pakistan.
Forty-two Christians were arrested in 2015 for allegedly being involved in the hanging of two Muslims. The two Muslim Pakistanis were killed following two bomb blasts that occurred on Easter Sunday of the same year, killing 15 and injuring more than 70, according to a report by CBN News.
The hangings occurred after Christians, who make up a small minority of the population in Pakistan, took to the streets to protest against their treatment. It is believed the two murdered Muslims were involved in the deadly Easter bombings.
The 42 Christians that now stand trial for their alleged involvement in the murder of the two Muslims were arrested by Pakistani authorities following a series of house raids in a Christian neighborhood.
CBN News reports Joseph Francis, the executive director of the Center for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement, claims many of the Christians standing trial for murder are now being given a choice to either continue facing charges or convert to Islam.
“He told them if they embrace Islam, he can guarantee them their acquittal in this case,” Francis said.
Reports by CBN News and Russia Today claim the prosecutor in Pakistan initially denied he had ever made the offer, which Francis says wasn’t the first time he suggested the deal. After being confronted with evidence to the contrary, the prosecutor acknowledged the deal had been done, according to a report by Express Tribune, a publication in Pakistan.
CBN News reports the Christian prisoners have refused to take the deal.
Pakistan is predominantly composed of Muslims, and Islam is the official state religion. Only 1.6 percent of the population identifies as Christian, which is the second-largest religious minority. Hindus are the largest religious minority in the country, making up about 2 percent of the total population.
BBC News reports most Christians in Pakistan are very poor, with many belonging to families who originally converted from Hinduism to Christianity during British rule.
Christians have suffered significantly in certain regions in Pakistan because they are said to be guilty of “blasphemy.” In 2013, a suicide bomb attack killed about 80 Christians while they were in church. In 2009, close to 40 Christian houses were burnt to the ground in Punjab.