VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Representative Franks and Others Around the World “Adopt” Pastor Saeed

Last week, one of the strongest supporters of American Pastor Saeed Abedini in Congress, Representative Trent Franks (AZ-8), once again spoke out for the imprisoned pastor on the House floor.

Representative Franks is one of a number of Members of Congress who has “adopted” Pastor Saeed through the bipartisan Defending Freedoms Project.  This is a similar effort to one we told you about last month on a global scale to have world leaders and elected officials “adopt” a prisoner of conscience.

Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini

Pastor Saeed – a U.S. citizen – has been illegally imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith for over 300 days apart from his wife and two young children.

As Representative Franks noted, “Pastor Abedini’s case is a demonstration to the world of the far-reaching implications of even a single instance of human rights abuse.”

The world is taking notice. In just the last few months we have seen two more significant actions from world nations demanding that Pastor Saeed be released.

Recently, during Canada’s “Iran Accountability Week,” Member of Parliament David Sweet spoke before the House of Commons, urging Pastor Saeed’s release. Likewise, Australia formally passed a motion calling for Pastor Saeed’s release last month.

These recent actions and Iran’s recent steps to provide Pastor Saeed much needed medical care are renewed confirmation of the powerful effect people are having on Pastor Saeed’s case. Continue to pray, share his story, and sign the petition for his release at SaveSaeed.org.

(ACLJ)

Thank you, Representative Trent Franks! We will keep you in our prayers, as you stand up and give our brother a VOICE!

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Muslim attackers vandalize Church and Christian colony Shad Bagh in Lahore city

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Lahore: July 30, 2013, Muslim mob equipped with lethal arms attacked the Christian Colony Shad Bagh in a metropolitan area of Lahore on July 28, 2013. The mob vandalizing a Catholic Church and homes of Christians injuring one Christian with bullet wound in broad day light, reports CLAAS, a non-governmental organization.

According to the CLAAS report issued here today,

“On Sunday July 28, 2013 at about 4:00 pm, a local resident Martian Javed Michel (Social Activists) informed CLAAS about the overwrought situation of Christians and Muslims in Shad Bagh Amir Road near Joseph Colony Lahore. It was also informed that an infuriated mob of Muslims attacked on the houses of the local Christians and one Catholic Church with deadly weapons. CLAAS team including Mr. Sohail Habel (Finance Manager) Mr. Asher Sarfraz (Field Officer) and Saleem Gabriel, Samuel Paraya rushed to the occurrence place to help the Christians and find out the real facts”

The Christian residents told CLAAS team that a Muslim Television Cable Operator named Faisal Butt who has a criminal background and has a worse attitude towards Christians. He used to take some extra fee charges of TV cable connection from Christians. About a month ago Faisal Butt and his companions had a dispute with a Christian woman/widow and beat up the woman and her children on the demand of extra fee of cable. Faisal Butt was using the place of Babu Younis (a Christian) for railing the boasters of cable connection in this area for last many years and he has about 3 helpers in his work.

On July 28, 2013 at 2:00 pm one of his helpers named Asad was collecting the cable fee in the Christian Colony Shad Bagh. He also came to Babu Younis house and asked for the fee. He informed Asad that they are using his house to fix the Cable Boaster to supply the connection. Asad forced to Babu Younis to pay the money as a cable fee, then Babu said that it should be a free cable connection for him, otherwise they will remove this boaster from his house. Asad became furious and started to beat him. Neighbor Christians gathered there to help and saved Babu and they thought the matter was resolved.

An hour later, Faisal Butt returned with a group of about 30-35 persons armed with deadly weapons. They began to open fire in the air and also started throwing stones and bricks at the Christians houses. They also attacked the Catholic Church and broke the glass of the church windows. They were calling the names of Christians loudly and using a derogatory language for them.

Riaz Masih s/o Babu Younis received a gunshot wound to his leg and was severely injured. Vejay Masih s/o Niamat Masih who was already a cancer patient, was injured by butt of pistol to his forehead. There were few others who were also injured.

They fired on the Christian houses for one hour. They left the place with severe threats to burn the Christians houses the same as in the attack on Joseph Colony in March, if they tried to take legal action against them.

Local residents shared with the CLAAS team that Chaudhry Shahbaz MPA (Member of Provincial Assembly) Muslim League -N ruling party in Pakistan is supporting Faisal Butt in his criminal activities. The team went with Babu Younis to the police station in Shad Bagh Lahore to lodge a legal case FIR (First Information Report) against Faisal Butt and his companions for this violent attack. On the same day, police arrested the main accused, Faisal Butt while others were absconded.

Please pray for the injured Christians! Pray the Lord our God will cure the wounds of the innocent victims of this violent attack. The above said information is based on the preliminary facts of the incident and the CLAAS will share its full and detailed report soon.

Source

Hindu nationalists persecute Tribals to regain power, says Christian leader

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Mumbai (AsiaNews) – “The Hindu ultra-nationalists of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are desperate and are trying to bring to their side the tribal people of Karnataka, persecuting them by any means,” said Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). He blames the main right-wing Hindu party of fuelling tensions and supporting attacks against minorities in the state despite its defeat in the last local elections.

The latest incident occurred on 25 July, and involved a Christian tribal community in Arsikere (Hassan district). At 10:30 am, some members of the BJP, led by a man named Byresh, broke into Rev Raju’s Pentecostal church when he was conducting a prayer service with 40 members.

The attackers started screaming, accusing the religious leader of practicing forced conversions. When they saw that the Christian were preparing lunch, Byresh and his men threw mud at the food.

Eventually, they went to a nearby police station, to file a complaint against the clergyman for converting Hindus to Christianity in exchange for money. Soon after, Rev Raju filed a counter complaint against the attackers, who remain at large.

Sajan George told AsiaNews,

“This is not an isolated incident. For some time, there have been cases of persecution and attacks during prayer services. In Arsikere, part of the population is tribal. Most people are poor and landless. It is important to note that most local Tribals are not Hindu.”

The local tribal communities have suffered such attacks before. The most serious one took place in October 2012 when Hindu ultra-nationalists tried to force some Christians to pay taxes to the local Hindu temple. Faced with the latter’s refusal, the extremists beat up five people, sending them to the hospital.

“Now that the Congress (a secular and democratic party) is in government,” the GCIC president said.

“Our hope is that these extremists will be brought to justice and that Karnataka will be able again to celebrate religious freedom.”

Please keep Indian Christians in your prayers!

Guards Raid Cells of Christians in Evin Prison

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Prison guards in Evin and Karaj raided cells of Christians being held there, damaging facilities and stealing personal belongings.

According to Mohabat News, early in the morning on July 18, 2013, one hundred and fifty prison guards in Evin prison raided ward 350, pulled prisoners from their cells, physically inspected them and began searching there. During their searching operation, the guards broke and stole prisoners’ belongings. Ward 350 holds mainly political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.

According to a message Mohabat News received from inside the prison, other than political prisoners’ cells, cells of Christian prisoners were raided as well. Christian prisoners held in that ward include Farshid Fathi, Mostafa Bordbar, Alireza Seyyedian and the American-Iranian pastor, Saeed Abedini. In addition to their personal belongings, prison guards damaged facilities in their cells, including cooling systems, electric wires, etc.

To carry out the attack, prison authorities in Evin prison requested support from Ghezel-Hesar prison. The operation was led by Mr. Ghobadi, Chief of Security of Evin prison. The guards used handheld scanners and also physically inspected prisoners’ bodies in a disrespectful fashion.

This sort of humiliating and aggressive attack is unheard of. The guards violated the prisoners’ privacy and searched their personal belongings which resulted in the loss of several items belonging to the prisoners.

EvinPrisoners-combine

It is worth mentioning that Christian prisoners in ward 350 of Evin prison are imprisoned merely for their Christian faith and no other offense. Farshid Fathi and Alireza Seyyedian were sentenced to six years in prison and Pastor Saeed Abedini was sentenced to 8 years of imprisonment. All three of these Christian prisoners are serving their sentences. The other Christian prisoner, Mostafa Bordbar, is waiting for a verdict from his trial which was held earlier. He has been held in prison for eight months now.

Prison Guards Raid Behnam Irani’s Cell in Karaj Prison

BehnamIn this latest incident, Iranian authorities raided the cell of Behnam Irani, a prisoner of conscience, and his cellmates in Karaj prison, inspecting their cells and damaging their personal belongings.

As authorities raided his cell, Behnam Irani objected to their behavior. As a result, he was threatened to be put into solitary confinement. According to the report, such inhuman and violent attacks are often carried out against Mr. Irani and his cellmates. It is reported that his cell was raided 10 times in the past two months alone.

This is not the first time that prisoners of conscience have been harassed for insisting on their beliefs. The Islamic regime’s inappropriate and violent behavior towards these prisoners has been consistently criticized and condemned by Human Rights activists and the International Community.

It is noteworthy that Mr. Behnam Irani is a member of a non-Trinitarian Christian group who has been sentenced to six years in prison and is currently serving his sentence in ward two, hall seven of Karaj prison. Iranian security authorities had arrested him in his house in March 2010.

Pray for Tunisia

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Many consider the city of Kairouan, in the center of Tunisia, the 4th most holy city in Islam. It was once the center of Islamic teaching in North Africa and is home to the oldest minaret in the world (730AD). Father, just as the apostle Paul was once passionate for the traditions of his fathers, transform the worldview of many zealous Muslims in Kairouan through an encounter with Jesus.

I you would like to find out more about Christianity in Tunisia, read testimonies of Tunisian Christians, and learn how to help and pray for them, click here.

Challenging Pakistan’s blasphemy laws takes Courage

injustpakistan

Shahbaz Bhatti knew death was a risk that came with the role of being the minorities’ minister but he never shirked from criticising the blasphemy laws and calling injustice, what it was.

It is very unfortunate that during his recent visit to the UK Paul Bhatti said Pakistan’s blasphemy laws were not a problem. Bhatti is the brother of the late Shahbaz Bhatti, the heroic Pakistani minorities’ minister who was tragically murdered by extremists because he dared to criticise Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. In an address at the House of Commons last week, Bhatti played down the link between the blasphemy laws and the intense persecution of Christians in Pakistan.

For anyone aware of the situation facing minorities in Pakistan, such a position is astonishing. This is because the blasphemy laws have been instrumental in some of the most upsetting examples of injustice against Christians. Take for example Aasia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who is being dragged through a gruelling appeals process to overturn her death sentence for blasphemy, a process which has already gone on over three years and could take many more before any final decision is handed down from the Pakistani courts.

rimshaMost recently there was the case of Rimsha Masih, a 14-year-old with a lower mental age who was falsely accused of blasphemy by an imam. Only a few weeks after the case against her made international headlines, it came to light that the imam, her principal accuser, had in fact concocted the evidence himself. The life of a young girl could have been ended because of his lies.

Yet cases like these are not rare. These are simply the most notorious and the ones that gained international attention. There are many more cases of blasphemy against Christians that never get heard of outside Pakistan. Rimsha was extremely lucky because her case went global and drew worldwide condemnation at the political level. Having been given sanctuary in Canada, she and her family are safe for the time being from Pakistan’s unjust laws. But other Christians are not so lucky. Those who remain in Pakistan get up each day and go about their business knowing that at any time they could be subjected to false accusations of blasphemy by disgruntled Muslim neighbours or colleagues who see an easy way of getting one over them. With the law and the authorities on their side, what have they got to lose?

Every Christian in Pakistan is at the risk of a false blasphemy charge and all that it entails: mob justice, hostile courts, indefinite detention without trial, lengthy prison sentences, or a death sentence. Although no one has been executed so far for blasphemy in Pakistan, the appeals process to have the sentence overturned takes years, in which time the accused languishes behind bars, as much at risk of being killed there as they are outside prison.

Many Christians accused of blasphemy have been forced to spend years behind bars before their case has even gone to trial. Savan Masih, of Badami Bagh, Lahore, is currently in jail awaiting trial for blasphemy. Another accused, Martha Bibi, has fled to Sri Lanka where she is applying for asylum. Zaffar Bhatti, also accused of blasphemy, has been denied the right of representation in the courts after the Rawalpindi Bar passed a resolution stating that no lawyer would defend him.

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Then there are Christian villages and colonies that have been rampaged through and torched by extremists, where innocent bystanders have been brutally murdered and homes and businesses callously destroyed. All because of spurious blasphemy allegations. And despite the wanton destruction, the Muslim perpetrators are let off the hook time and time again and in some cases, it is the Christians who are arrested by the authorities for agitation.

Paul Bhatti is either seriously ill-informed or taking a ‘gently, gently’ approach to speaking out on behalf of Pakistan’s beleaguered religious minorities. I’m afraid Pakistan is not the kind of country where that approach works. Nor will it be very effective in raising awareness of the situation outside Pakistan where there are many lobby groups and human rights campaigners all clamouring for the attention and intervention of western governments. A strong and unequivocal voice is needed both within Pakistan, where arrogant Islamists think they have the right to trample all over minorities, and outside Pakistan where the world is so often busy and self-engaged.

In his talk at Parliament last week, Bhatti blamed the persecution against Christians on religious education in schools and the anti-minorities language in textbooks. This is, of course, a factor, but to try and suggest that this is the primary cause of persecution in Pakistan is a serious misinterpretation of the facts. Human rights campaigners at last week’s talk were left scratching their heads and wondering if Bhatti, the current chair of the Pakistani minorities’ alliance, is the man for the job of defending the country’s minorities.

Shahbaz Bhatti knew death was a risk that came with the role of being the minorities’ minister but he never shirked from criticising the blasphemy laws and calling injustice what it was. That same determination is not yet apparent in his brother but Paul Bhatti should have on his mind the lives that were lost already for the cause: Shahbaz Bhatti, Salmaan Taseer, Bishop John Joseph, Naimt Ahmer, Tahir Iqbal and many more. There are mothers who have lost sons, children who were orphaned, wives who are now widows, and homes that have been forever destroyed. Being a Christian in Pakistan is not easy. Therefore, it goes without saying that speaking up for Christians in Pakistan is also not going to be easy. But if no one musters the courage to do it, things are never going to change. Even the Lord himself had to pay a heavy price to tell the truth to a fallen world but eventually enough people listened and things changed; the Rome Empire fell. Paul Bhatti is in the position to speak to those who cannot only listen but also effect real change. But the question is: will he use it?

by  Nasir Saeed, Daily Times Pakistan

39 Eritrean Christian Students Imprisoned for Their Faith

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Open Doors reports that according to a statement on the official Eritrean Ministry of Information website, 17,000 students of the 26th national service intake graduated on July 13. According to the announcement, all these students had successfully completed eight months of academic studies and four months mandatory military training. These students will now proceed to Senior Secondary school to complete grade 12.

A group of 39 students, including 11 female students of the same intake who also completed the training, have been excluded from the graduation ceremony and have instead been placed under harsh military punishment at Sawa Military training center. Sources told Open Doors that the arrests came as a result of the students’ “Christian beliefs and for their commitment to Christ.”

The youths are now enduring beating, forced hard labor and insufficient food and water. Sources said authorities are also threatening the students with long imprisonment and exclusion from university should they “fail to renounce Christ.”

Since the beginning of the year Christians belonging to groups outside of the government sanctioned Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran churches have faced a widespread arrest campaign. More than 200 men and women of various ages have been arrested since the beginning of the year and are being detained without charges under harsh circumstances.

One 85-year-old woman is being held in a shipping container and has contracted pneumonia. She is still being refused medical attention because she will not agree to camp authorities’ terms for receiving medicine. Military training forms part of the Eritrean curriculum. But after completing school all Eritreans must also do national service.

Source

Islamist Assault: ‘Saturday Kill Jews, Sunday Kill Christians’

LelaGilbert

JERUSALEM, Israel (CBN) — Persecution of Jews and persecution of Christians: Is there a link between the two? Journalist Lela Gilbert says yes.

Gilbert has written extensively about the global assault on Christians around the world. She recently spoke with CBN’s Scott Ross about her latest book, Saturday People, Sunday People.

The California author arrived in Israel during the 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon for a three-month visit. Today, she spends much of her time in Jerusalem. She shared with Ross about radical Islamic plans to first rid the Middle East of Jews and then of Christians.

But first, she said she has noticed that persecution by Islamists is not the only challenge for Christians in Jerusalem.

Disunity Among Christians

Ross: There are many Christian sects, denominations, etc, in this Land, how are they doing with one another?

Gilbert: Not too well. They’re not doing much better than the ones in America.

Ross: It was Nehemiah that said, look we’re divided on the wall one from another and how are they going to do battle if they don’t have one mind and one strategy, one approach to everything? One! Jesus prayed it.

Gilbert: You know you’ve got Christians arguing about prophecy, I mean, evangelicals arguing about all kinds of things, much less the old churches who have ancient rifts within themselves – that go back to the fourth century. So it’s not surprising but what we know is that we all look pretty much the same through a jihadi rifle site. And maybe we need to remember that.

Ross: Are you hopeful?

Gilbert: I’m hopeful because of my faith in the Lord and in His way of working things out. Politically, I can’t understand what’s going to happen…my hope is in Him…He’s worked in my life in so many miraculous ways that I have to believe He’s going to work amongst His people and bring them together and protect them.

Her New Book

Ross: And now out of all this, a book. I was fascinated by the title define that significance.

Gilbert: It’s graffiti from radical Islamists that appears throughout the Middle East. In the best terms it says, “First comes Saturday, then comes Sunday.” But there’s a flag, a photo of a flag in the book that says, “On Saturday we kill the Jews, on Sunday we kill the Christians.” And that’s where I got the title.

Gilbert said even though many of the world’s Muslims are not violent, their voice is drowned out by radical elements.

Watch the full interview on The 700 Club, July 26, or check CBNNews.com after 10 a.m. ET.

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