Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Non-Muslim children in a Malaysian primary school were forced to have lunch in the facility’s change room whilst their classmates fasted during Ramadan. Pictures of ethnic Chinese and Indian (usually Christian or Hindu) children were posted on the internet by one of the mothers, Guneswari Kelly, causing an uproar among politicians and Muslims opposed to unhygienic segregation.
On her Facebook page, Kelly Guneswari wrote that staff at the Sri Pristana School, in suburban Kuala Lumpur, told non-Muslim children to eat in the school’s bathroom and not in the canteen. “Is this fair? Can [a national school] treat [non-Muslim pupils] like this” during Ramadan?
After being informed, Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin ordered an investigation into the matter, saying he would take action.
School officials have not released any statement, but Jehan Bakar, a Muslim woman lawyer and mother of two, said she was “horrified” by the segregation of non-Muslim children. Our “religion does not dictate this,” she insisted.
In fact Islam does not ask non-Muslims to fast or hide, but in many Islamic countries, Christians, Hindus or people of other religions are asked (and sometimes forced) not to eat in public or are not allow to eat at all during the fasting period, which runs from dawn to dusk.
In Malaysia, there are often signs of impatience towards Islamic rules that are often applied in a very restrictive way. Recently, a Chinese couple was accused of sedition for posting online a Ramadan greeting that showed them eating pork, which is forbidden in Islam.
In 2010, the principal of a secondary school in the state of Kedah accused ethnic Chinese students of being insensitive towards their Muslim classmates because they ate at school during Ramadan, telling them to “return to China” if they could not respect the culture of other ethnic groups.
BOONE, N.C. — Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse issued the following statement:
“Religious intolerance continues to threaten the lives of Christians in Iran—even when those Christians are Americans. For more than 300 days now, Pastor Saeed Abedini has been in prison. But not just any prison; Pastor Saeed was sentenced to eight years in Iran’s notoriously brutal Evin Prison. The Iranian government claims he was convicted of endangering national security. But Pastor Saeed’s family and attorneys say that in reality, he was sent to prison for one simple reason—because he is a Christian.
I recently spoke with Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh. She shared how frightening it is to hear reports from family in Iran that her husband is being beaten and tortured. Naghmeh worries that she and her two young children may never see Saeed again. She’s also discouraged by the fact that our own government seems to have abandoned them. President Obama has been silent on the issue as an American Christian endures the horrors of Evin Prison.
I’m thankful that Secretary of State John Kerry finally called for Pastor Saeed’s release six months after his arrest. Sadly, since then our government appears to have done little to pressure Iran to release a fellow American citizen.
Pastor Saeed was in Iran trying to help children. With the permission of Iran’s government, he was working to build an orphanage. But his humanitarian mission led to an arrest on bogus charges and nearly a year of inhumane treatment simply because he loves Jesus Christ.
Many in the international community are expressing outrage over this blatant example of religious intolerance. I ask that our government do the same and demand that Pastor Saeed Abedini be released and allowed to return home to his wife and family in the United States.
Sept. 26 marks the one-year anniversary of Pastor Saeed’s imprisonment. Please join me in praying for Pastor Saeed and his family. I also encourage churches and people everywhere to join the hundreds of thousands of others who are showing solidarity with this courageous man of faith at SaveSaeed.org.”
The idea of secretly transporting Bibles from the free world into the hands of believers living in closed countries is not a new one. For as long as the Bible has been printed or transcribed in any form governments and social groups have sought to block the spread of God’s Word. 477 years ago William Tyndale was strangled and burned at the stake in Belgium for his efforts to distribute the Bible in the English language.
Today the Bible remains very difficult, if not impossible, for millions around the world to obtain. China is no exception. With more than 1.3 billion citizens and an estimated 130 – 140 million Christians the market for Bibles in China is tremendous. Many argue that China prints more than enough Bibles for its own people, but what few understand is that the distribution of those Bibles is highly controlled by the Communist Party. In fact it’s believed that the majority of Bibles printed in China are actually exported around the world for profit rather than sold to the Chinese themselves.
Why we Must Continue Bible Smuggling into China
For the past several decades the fact that Christianity is growing in China at a tremendous pace has been well known. On a recent trip to the country ICC was told by one long-time observer of the house church movement that as many as 20,000 new believers join the church body every day. With this tremendous growth comes tremendous need and our partners constantly report not being able to fill all of the requests for new Bibles. Just recently we heard from one pastor who was able to give all of the children in his congregation their very own Bible. These children had never owned a personal copy of the Word of God and were excited to receive one.
First-Hand Account of Bible Smuggling
The following is a short first-hand account written by an individual who recently assisted ICC in smuggling a shipment of Bibles into China. Every day smugglers like this individual voluntarily move God’s Word across the border at the risk of having the Bibles confiscated and possibly their visa into China revoked. Confiscated Bibles are usually returned when leaving the country.
This morning five people crossed the border into China. Four of us filled up backpacks with small Chinese Bibles, and one carried a load of flattened cardboard boxes. We spent several minutes praying together, and then took the metro towards the Chinese border.
When I first started this work, I worried a lot about what to do or say while going through customs. But, I’ve rarely said anything at all, so it has rarely been an issue. What matters most is keeping a good attitude, and listening to the Holy Spirit. I’ve had Bibles confiscated nine different times, and eight of those times were actually very positive experiences. The one bad experience I had was when I had a bad attitude, and got irritated at the officer who took the Bibles.
The guy carrying the cardboard boxes had no trouble going through the customs checkpoint. When my large backpack was scanned, I just picked it up and kept walking. But the other three guys were stopped at the scanner.
The morning is not a good time for Bible smuggling into China. Fewer people are crossing the border, security is tighter, and everybody’s luggage gets scanned. Practically speaking, late afternoon is the best time to go. But, nobody is more practical than the Holy Spirit. So, among other things we pray for, we always ask God for guidance about when to go, what bags to use, how many Bibles to pack, etc. And if we love God and listen to Him, then even if all we have is confiscated, it can only be for our good and God’s glory (Romans 8:28).
So, one guy was stopped, and then another shortly behind him. Their passports were taken, and they had to lay out their bags on a giant metal desk. The female officer asked how many Bibles were in their bags—one had about 25, the other 20. She was getting ready to confiscate them, but said something to her colleague. He seemed to think it was no big deal, and told her to let them go. Finally, after some hesitation, she gave them back their passports, and let them go. When the next guy who was Bible smuggling came along several minutes later he was let through as well. Thanks be to God!
When we arrived at our drop-off location, we quickly packed our boxes for a shipment. Then we had to work quickly in order to avoid suspicion, as we filled up a van with 60 boxes (2,520 Bibles) that we had brought across the border during the past few days. The van driver then took the Bibles to a private shipping center, and we headed back across the border.
Bible smuggling is often unpredictable and messy, but filled with grace and miracles. Please pray for us!
Reported by International Christian Concern (ICC)
The San Antonio City Council is proposing an updated non-discrimination policy that effectively bans any city council member from being elected if he or she has ever “demonstrated a bias.”
“No person shall be appointed to a position if the city council finds that such person has, prior to such proposed appointment, engaged in discrimination or demonstrated a bias, by word or deed, against any person, group or organization on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age, or disability,” the ordinance reads.
According to Pastor Charles Flowers of Faith Outreach International, the amended ordinance includes two new categories to the policy: sexual orientation and gender identity. Judging by the vague language of the draft, the ordinance could effectively ban Christians, many of whom believe homosexuality is a sin, from serving on the city council if they have expressed that belief publicly.
“The ordinance also says that if you have at any point demonstrated a bias — without defining what a bias is or who will determine whether or not one has been exercised — that you cannot get a city contract,” Mr. Flowers told OneNewsNow. “Neither can any of your subcontractors [who have demonstrated a bias] sign on to the contract.”
The pastor is calling on people to voice their opposition to the news rule.
“They said they’ve never seen this kind of language in any other ordinance in any other city that they’ve dealt with,” he added. “It is unprecedentedly wrong — and of course the citizens of San Antonio must stop it.”
Karachi – Pakistan’s small Catholic community has been shaken again by another case of violence. An influential Muslim businessman in the district of Sanghar has repeatedly threatened a Catholic nurse who has refused to marry him, filing a case against her when she became engaged to another man. Despite the threats, the situation seems under control for now. Police, which so far aided and abetted the Muslim man, have been forced to provide protection to the Catholic woman thanks to pressure from Christian groups and moderate Muslims.
It all began when Ghulam Muhammad decided he wanted to marry Nazia Masih (pictured), a Catholic nurse from Padri-Jo-Goth, Sanghar District, who works at Cheniot Hospital.
Muhammad approached her with a proposal to marry him and convert to Islam. After she turned him down, he threatened to abduct her and disfigure her with acid.
Regrettably, Muhammad has a certain reputation in the district as someone who has already abducted, raped and forcibly converted local Hindu women to Islam. Those who dared sue him for rape were in fact unable to obtain justice.
On her way home on 10 May, Nazia Masih was approached by four armed men who warned her to accept Muhammad’s proposal or else. After harassing her, they drove away. Frightened, she sought help at work but hospital authorities refused.
The girl’s parents decided then to anticipate her engagement to Ejaz Joseph, a local Christian, on 26 May. However, Ghulam Muhammad interrupted the ceremony accompanied by several police officers who, without evidence of any crime, tried to arrest the couple.
Luckily, after the involvement of village elders, police took her father and brother away, but released them a few hours later. Eventually, Nazia’s persecutor decided to change tactic and tried to pressure Joseph with dire consequences if he do not leave the nurse.
The girl’s family decided again to ask the authorities for help and filed a complaint at the police station in Sanghar. Once more, Muhammad’s influence thwarted an investigation into the matter.
In fact, police told Nazia that her tormentor now claimed that she was his wife, and that a family court would have to sort things out. This in turn caused an uproar in the Christian community and among moderate Muslims. The court eventually decided not to intervene in the case of false marriage.
Still, Ghulam Muhammad did not give up and began threatening not only Nazia’s relatives but also Sister Maria Khurshid, the head nun at Saint Teresa Hospital in Mir Purkhas and a close friend of Nazia. The nun called on the authorities to provide the nurse with protection, but failed even to get them to issue a warning against the Muslim man. The situation is now at an impasse.
On Saturday, Muhammad filed another complaint to get police to force Nazia to marry him.
“I feel unsafe and face many problems and threats,” Nazia Masih told AsiaNews. “I am also angry because my family is in danger as a result of that person’s behavior. We are Christians and poor. That is why these things always happen to us. In Pakistan, our honour and property are not safe.”
“This is shameful,” said Fr John James, from the diocese of Karachi. “Such incidents should be strongly condemned by society. Countless Hindu girls are abducted every month from the interior of Sindh, and the authorities are silent about it. They need to do something to protect them. We call on the authorities to provide protection to Nazia Masih and her family.”
A 29 year old, Christian man in recent times sentenced to life in prison by a local court for allegedly sending blasphemous text messages, although the prosecution’s substantiation was said to be very much doubtful. Additional District and Sessions Judge Mian Shahzad Raza of Toba Tek Singh district ruled that Sajjad Masih a lifetime imprisonment fined him 200,000 Rupees. However, the second major questionable facet of this case is the charges brought against Sajjad Masih.
According to reports, prosecutors claimed that Sajjad Masih used the cell phone of his ex-fiancé Roma to text a Muslim cleric with blasphemous messages in 2011. The complainants also assert that Sajjad did this to trap Roma, seeking revenge against her after their relationship suspended.
As reported by an international News Wire; The Times of India, Sajjad Masih was at first charged with breaching a section of Pakistan’s “Telegraph Act.” Telegraphic Act is a compilation of communication rules created in 1885. Times of India added exclusively, that he was charged with violating Telegraph Act section 25B, titled “Theft of Telegraph Line.”
Telegraph Act Section 25B says:
“If any person commits theft of a telegraph line, copper wire, cable or cable accessory,” the law states, “he shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which is not less than one year and not more than seven years and also with fine.”
Despite the fact that prosecutors claimed initially that Sajjad Masih’s stealing of his fiancé’s phone was liable to be punished under Telegraph Act Section 25 B, nonetheless they eventually chiselled out accusations a greatly more severe charge: blasphemy. Under Act XLV, section XV of Pakistan’s Penal Code; anyone who speaks offensive utterances about Prophet Muhammad is punishable by fine, life imprisonment or death.
Act XLV Section XV says:
“Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine,” the 150-year-old law mandates.
This adjustment of charges by the prosecution and their inability to present any evidence against Sajjad Masih yet sentenced to life in prison are all doubtful appearances of this case.
Yesterday marked the 300th day of American Pastor Saeed Abedini’s illegal imprisonment in Iran – 300 days away from his wife and kids, 300 days of torment for his Christian faith, 300 days and counting.
Nearly a year ago, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard raided the home of Pastor Saeed’s parents in Tehran and imprisoned him solely on the basis of his faith. On account of that same faith, he faced a bogus trial and was convicted and sentenced to a lengthy prison term in Iran’s brutal Evin Prison. He has been subjected to beatings and harassment which have caused internal injuries necessitating medical treatment.
Suffering from an internal injury in his stomach, Pastor Saeed has been in need of medical attention for quite some time. On July 20, 2013, he was taken to a private hospital in Tehran for treatment and, for the first time, he was examined by a physician and prescribed medication for injuries he sustained from the beatings he endured by prison guards.
On two past occasions, the 33-year-old Pastor Saeed has been taken to the local hospital only to be sent home without examination of or treatment for his injuries. This time, authorities proved that they have heard the international outcry for medical attention.
Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh Abedini, responded to this positive step:
Thank you to all of the individuals who have prayed, written letters, signed petitions, called government officials, run benefit races, tweeted, and shared Saeed’s story. Thank you to all the government officials from around the world who have stood for my husband. Iran has listened to your pleas. While I am encouraged that Saeed is finally getting medical care, the fight is not yet over. It has been a difficult 300 days – 300 days of torment simply because Saeed loves Jesus Christ. I am hopeful Iran will do the just and honorable thing and release Saeed.
We are pleased that Iranian authorities have taken this important step to see that Pastor Saeed is no longer denied access to necessary medical treatment. It is our hope that the Iranian regime will take additional steps to correct their wrongdoings by giving his case a fair and impartial review in the court of appeals, where his case is currently pending. A fair and impartial review must result in a decision that continuing to hold Pastor Saeed is a grave violation of Iran’s Constitution and its international obligations.
While Pastor Saeed has received medical treatment, he continues to pay a price for his Christian faith daily through his illegal imprisonment. We hope that this recent update out of Tehran indicates that Pastor Saeed – a U.S. citizen – will receive just treatment in the coming days and weeks. Most importantly, we hope to see Iranian officials release him so he can return to the United States where he can make a full recovery in his family’s care.
We continue to work in this country and in the international community to secure Pastor Saeed’s freedom. And more than 600,000 people around the world now stand in solidarity with Pastor Saeed at SaveSaeed.org.
Raise your VOICE, sign the petition and tell others. You can make a difference. You may save a life! #savesaeed