VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

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Monthly Archives: November 2015

Send A Christmas Message To Pastor Saeed #savesaeed

Send a Christmas message to encourage Pastor Saeed

Send a Christmas message to encourage Pastor Saeed

IMPRISONED IN IRAN REMEMBER PASTOR SAEED THIS CHRISTMAS

(Voice of the Persecuted) Pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen has been imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith, since September 2012. Practically without representation, the Iranian government sentenced Pastor Saeed to eight years in prison after convicting him of “undermining” the government by spreading his religious beliefs. Saeed had previously worked with house churches in Iran.

In a prior detainment, the Iranian government had Pastor Saeed sign a document promising he would not proselytize and he upheld his side of the bargain. Having a heart for orphans, Saeed was organizing board members for a government approved orphanage that he was starting for Iranian children regardless of their faith. During this trip, he was taken by Iranian Revolutionary Guards and eventually sentenced to 8 years in prison. Many don’t survive this long in Iranian prisons.
Since his detainment, Pastor Saeed has endured psychological and physical torture, because he will not deny his Christian faith. These beatings have caused him to suffer internal bleeding,  but medical treatment has been minimal leaving him at risks. Abedini’s health is of great concern. He continues to experience pain as he is continually denied necessary treatment, including surgery recommended by prison doctors.
In November 2013, Saeed was transferred from Evin Prison, a facility for political prisoners, to Rajai Shahr Prison, one of the deadliest prisons in Iran. He is now held where hardened prisoners have unfettered access to him. Saeed is languishing not only in the horrific conditions at the prison, but in grave danger at the hands of cellmates. He has received death threats, beaten and tortured by prison guards along with other prisoners.
We encourage you to write a personal message of encouragement and Christmas greetings to Pastor Saeed. Younger children may participate by sending a drawing, encouraging him in this time of trial. You can personalize the message by sharing a photo of a Christmas card. Photos may be sent to: info@voiceofthepersecuted.org (Please include Christmas Message for Saeed in the subject line)
Your help is crucial in making this mission a success to encourage our brother and let him know he’s not forgotten!
PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH YOUR FAMILY, FRIENDS, PASTORS/CHURCHES, MINISTRY GROUPS, ORGANIZATIONS, CLUBS, COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL MEDIA SITES SUCH AS FACEBOOK AND TWITTER.
Share often, motivate others to care, you CAN make a difference and bring joy in this world! Help us spread this mission around the world to send love and light to Saeed in a very dark place in Iran.
Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Hebrews 13:3  
Remember Pastor Saeed and his family in your daily prayers. God bless you and Merry Christmas.

Calling Out America’s Pastors: If You Talk The Talk, Walk The Walk Or Return To Silence

The Western Church has been silent way too long on Christian Persecution. Christian Leaders in Iraq say the silence of the West has condemned Christians to death. I couldn’t agree more, the silence has been deafening. Since our leader claimed it shameful to consider Christians for migration to the US, some in the church have jumped on the bandwagon totally ignoring the genocide in the blindness and refusal to admit this from our President. They now call for America to open it’s arms to Syrian Refugees regardless of their backgrounds.  All feeling quite guilty to follow Christ’s commands to care for each other and care for the widows and children.

I am not going to debate this, but will say the ludicrous accusations from our President that we want a test for religion is just that, Ludicrous.  …an age old manipulation technique to turn the tables on truth to shame others.

After two pages of personal information on the application for asylum in the U.S., it asks about religion.  Here is a snippet of the first question on part B:

app-for-assylum

Click to enlarge

Here is another question that I found very strange:

CLICK YO ENLARGE

Click to enlarge

Really, how many will withhold information if it would put acceptance in jeopardy? Is it any wonder that legitimate Asylum seekers paperwork is buried under the hundreds of thousands of other paperwork?

My point is this, Church’s in the West, including America, have been deafeningly silent about Christian persecution. Seemingly refusing to acknowledge that they are suffering at the extent which is taking place.  I hear daily from Pakistani Christians in Thailand asking for help from the Church here.  Help for either sponsor their stay, or for aid to pay their rent and food costs…let alone medical costs.  Shame on the church.  Here is a actual message from a persecuted Christian in Thailand:

I am a Christian Asylum Seeker here in Thailand and I am sure you already know a lot about what is going on here. Recently, pressure by Thai government has made many people go back to Pakistan. What their condition is once they go back is not known. I know I cannot go back whatever happens because I would be arrested at the airport and put in jail and eventually killed. My families life, along with my own life is very precious. I am proud to be a Christian and although I lost everything that I worked for yet I am proud that I was able to help the less fortunate Christians in Pakistan. I did what I needed to do and have no regrets, but what is going to happen to us now. I have a request to please see if there is any church or organization that could help sponsor us, I know it is a difficult request but I know that if Jesus wants it to be so it will happen. I am asking in his name who can do the impossible. Please try and see if anything is possible, people like you are our only hope. Christmas is just around the corner and we are preparing to welcome our Saviour, but we at the same time are praying that we will remain safe and that he will protect us. I hope you do not think I am being bossy but it is just that at this time we are feeling neglected and forsaken. God Bless you and have a Holy Advent. Regards___

It’s only one of many.  I have learned that their faith grows in this darkness.  I’ve come to know their pain and suffering and it breaks my heart.  This is a little of the sufferings I listen to daily and then I see the indifference and silence by our church leaders is disheartening to me me.  One retired minister told me that the church he now attends is also silent with no reports shared on the Missions from their own denomination.  He took it upon himself to hang a poster of the missions around the world, trying to raise awareness in the congregation.

If you’re unable to sponsor a family to come to the U.S.  at least sponsor one family suffering, like in Thailand, every month. Provide food, housing and medical.  You would be surprised what only $200.00 American dollars would provide.  How can you remain silent when Jesus commanded we care for our brethren?  You would rather jump on the wagon for our government than take care of our own???  Shame on you! If you are going to talk about it, put your money where your mouth is or go back to your silence.  We will be judged not only as Christians but as a Nation turning our back on God’s people.  If your church wants to sponsor a Christian in any way, we can make that happen.

It’s time to actually live what you speak.  Look at the picture below, it’s from the Central Jail in Thailand. Christians in shackles for fleeing darkness in Pakistan are now treated with this type of darkness.  Keep this image in your mind this Holiday season, Would I be faithful if this were me???  Help them!

thailand-christians

 

Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

Everyday, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
You may also send your gift to:

2740 Third St
P.O. Box 122
Trenton, MI. 48183

 

Police in Pakistan Downplay Signs of Arson in Fire at Christian TV Station

Sarfraz William of Gawahi cable TV channel is interviewed following fire at station office. (Morning Star News via Gawahi Facebook)

Sarfraz William of Gawahi cable TV channel is interviewed following fire at station office. (Morning Star News via Gawahi Facebook)

Islamist threats, broken locks, witness statements discounted

Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Police are downplaying several signs pointing to arson in a fire reported at 3 a.m. on Tuesday (Nov. 24) at the office of a Christian cable TV station in Karachi, sources said.

Gawahi Television chief Sarfraz William said the fire at the popular Christian channel’s office in Akhtar Colony was an act of sabotage. William said he suspected arson because computers and other instruments were damaged, probably as a result of some chemical being thrown on them, while wooden materials in the office remained unscathed. Computer hard disks were also stolen.

Station personnel had received threats from suspected Islamic militants who warned the station to stop preaching Christianity, William said. Other local sources told Morning Star News that residents of the building complex had seen masked men fleeing the site after setting fire to the building, statements police initially put aside.

Another station official told NBC News that the channel’s security camera had been stolen, probably prior to the fire. The channel’s two-room office is located on the first floor of a residential building.

Action Committee for Human Rights (ACHR) Coordinator William Sadiq told Morning Star News said that unidentified men broke into the locked Gawahi TV office and set computers, Christian literature and office records on fire.

“Police officials are claiming that the fire could be the result of a short circuit, but they are at a loss to explain how the locks were broken,” he said.

He added that witnesses who saw men fleeing the office would have difficulty identifying them because the assailants’ faces were covered.

Sadiq said the fire alarmed the sizeable Christian community in the area.

“Pakistan’s largest church, St. Peter’s, is also located nearby,” he said. “The church holds a Mass of nearly 5,000 worshippers at a time, and the burning of Gawahi TV has caused immense concern among them.”

Gawahi TV has never spread propaganda against believers of other faiths, Sadiq said, adding that law enforcement officials were “trying to brush the matter under the carpet.”

Mehmoodabad Police Chief Inspector Sarwar Commando told Morning Star News that Fire Brigade officials said an initial probe determined the fire resulted from a short circuit.

“The fire was caused by a short circuit,” Commando said. “Although the TV management is claiming that they were under threat by suspected militants, the organization had never reported any security threats to the police prior to this incident.”

But Muhammad Bashir of the Mehmoodabad Fire Brigade told Morning Star News that fire officials had yet to write a preliminary report on the incident.

“We haven’t finalized our report as yet, so it would be premature to say what caused the fire at the channel’s office,” he said, declining to reveal further details.

Police Chief Inspector Commando said police have taken note of local residents’ statements that they saw masked men near the premises, and that police would obtain CCTV footage from the nearby St. Peter’s church to investigate the claims.

The ACHR’s Sadiq rejected police assertions that the incident was caused by a short circuit.

Gawahi TV, established in February 2013 as a joint venture of Catholic and Protestant churches, aims to “spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to people of all religions who live in Pakistan.” The channel broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and William said it has a viewership of more than 12 million in Pakistan and abroad.

The Rev. John Arif of the Catholic Diocese of Karachi said that it was disheartening to see the entire building and all equipment burned.

“The channel was set up to communicate the Word of God,” he said. “There have been threats, and now the matter is under investigation. We hope to soon see the channel on air again. We pray for peace and tolerance.”

IRAQ – Chaldean Patriarch: Pray For Liberation of Mosul And The Entire Nineveh Plain

 

Iraq

Baghdad (Agenzia Fides) – In all the Chaldean churches in the world, during Advent and during the daily celebrations, the faithful will pray to invoke the gift of liberation of Mosul and the entire Nineveh Plain, and ask for the rights of religious minorities living in Iraq to be guaranteed. These are the two prayer intentions that Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I suggested to Chaldean Catholics in Iraq and those in the scattered communities in the diaspora, with a message issued on the first Sunday of Advent.

In the text, sent to Agenzia Fides, the faithful are invited to pray so that the liberation of the Iraqi territories conquered by the jihadist of the Islamic State (Daesh) allow the displaced persons to return to their homes, and it is hoped that the desired protection of the rights of religious minorities materializes also in the modification of the law on the Islamization of minors (the legal text, strongly contested by religious minorities in Iraq, which effectively imposes the automatic transition to the Islamic religion of minors even when only one of the parents converts to Islam).

The city of Mosul has fallen under the control of the jihadists of Daesh since June 9, 2014. Almost two months later, on the night between 6 and 7 August 2014, the jihadi militias conquered many cities and villages in the Nineveh Plain, causing even the flight of tens of thousands of Christians, Chaldeans, Syrians and Assyrians. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 30/11/2015)

PAKISTAN – Appeal of Jurists to Repeal Unfair Blasphemy Law

 

blasphemy

People accused of violating Pakistan’s draconian “blasphemy laws” face proceedings that are glaringly flawed, said the ICJ in a new report published today.

“Pakistan’s blasphemy laws fly in the face of Pakistan’s international legal obligations, including the duties to respect the rights of freedom of expression and freedom of religion and belief,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia Director. “But even worse, those facing accusations of blasphemy suffer through trials that are often fundamentally unfair.”

In the 60-page report On Trial: the Implementation of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws, the ICJ has documented in detail systematic and widespread fair trial violations in proceedings related to blasphemy offences in Pakistan, particularly in trial courts.

Some of the problems documented in the report include:

  • Intimidation and harassment of judges and lawyers that impede on the independence of the judiciary and the right to a defense;
  • Demonstrable bias and prejudice against defendants by judges during the course of blasphemy proceedings and in judgments;
  • Violations of the right to effective assistance of counsel;
  • Rejection of bail and prolonged pre-trial detention;
  • Incompetent investigation and prosecution that do not meet due diligence requirements under the law;
  • The prosecution and detention of people living with mental disabilities;
  • Inhumane conditions of detention and imprisonment, including prolonged solitary confinement.

Pakistan’s laws on “offences related to religion” – sections 295-298-C of the Penal Code that are commonly known as “blasphemy laws” – include a variety of crimes including misusing religious epithets, “defiling” the Holy Quran, deliberately outraging religious sentiment, and using derogatory remarks in respect of the Prophet Muhammad.

Sentences for these offences range from fines to long terms of imprisonment, and in the case of defamation of the Prophet Muhammad (section 295-C), a mandatory death sentence.

“Section 295 is a relic of the British colonial system that lends itself to human rights violations, including in Pakistan, India, Myanmar, and elsewhere,” Zarifi said. “In Pakistan, General Zia-ul-Haq made additions to the laws that made them truly draconian.”

Based on the analysis of over 100 judgments of the high courts and courts of first instance from 1986-2015 as well as interviews with defendants in blasphemy cases, their families, and defense counsel; judges, lawyers and police officials; and human rights activists, the report found:

  • In 19 out of 25 cases under section 295-C (defamation of the Prophet Muhammad) studied by the ICJ, high courts have acquitted individuals convicted for blasphemy by trial courts. Glaring procedural irregularities and mala fide complaints are the grounds for acquittal on appeal in over 80 per cent of cases;
  • Even in cases that ultimately result in acquittal, blasphemy proceedings suffer from undue delay – proceedings in trial courts can take on average three years, and appeals can take even longer, more than five years on average;
  • Individuals accused of blasphemy under section 295-C are frequently denied bail even though they meet requirements under the law;
  • Individuals detained pending trial or convicted for blasphemy are often kept in prolonged solitary confinement, at times, over a number of years.

The report also confirms concerns recently raised by the Supreme Court of Pakistan that individuals accused of blasphemy ‘suffer beyond proportion or repair’, in the absence of adequate safeguards against misapplication or misuse of such blasphemy laws, the Geneva-based organization says.

The ICJ has also made a number of recommendations to the Pakistani executive, legislative and judicial branches to address the defects in the framing of the blasphemy laws as well as of the shortcomings at the investigative, prosecutorial, procedural, administrative and judicial levels highlighted in the report to minimize the misuse of the blasphemy laws and ensure that those accused of blasphemy have a fair chance at defending themselves.

“It’s time Pakistan and other countries got rid of these noxious laws, which continue to stifle freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief, and instead promote extremism and intolerance,” Zarifi added.

 

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) – In Pakistan it is necessary to repeal the blasphemy law: this is what the “International Commission of Jurists” an organization consisting of more than 60 eminent jurists from around the world, with headquarters in Geneva ask for in a report sent to Fides. The organization criticized this legislation defined as “cruel” also for the punishment it provides: life imprisonment or death penalty.

The jurists are asking the government to “modify it because so it is in line with international standards on freedom of expression; freedom of thought, conscience and religion”, pointing out that the abuse of the law, used to resolve private disputes, regarding business or property is very common in Pakistan.

According to data of the “Justice and Peace” National Commission, 200 Christians, 633 Muslims, 494 Ahmadis, 21 Hindu have been charged with offenses related to “blasphemy” since 1987. But, given that religious minorities represent a very small percentage of the majority Muslim population “the number of Christians and members of other religious minorities accused is massively disproportionate to the number of Muslims accused, although the number of Muslims accused is overall higher”.
Out of 25 cases of appeals at the High Court for blasphemy, the International Court of Justice – the report notes – found that in most cases (60%), the applicants were acquitted after judges ruled that the charges brought against them were “fabricated or used for personal or political reasons.”
The Commission of Jurists immediately asks for the abolition of the death penalty for crimes of blasphemy and the urgent need to establish with certainty the intent of the offender, before condemning him. It also denounced the extrajudicial killings, remained unpunished, victims of whom are often those accused of blasphemy, although innocent. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 30/11/2015)

Nigeria: Intelligence Reports warn Boko Haram planning attacks on churches, mosques, markets

nigeria-boko haram

Based on intelligence reports, the Department of State Services, DSS, alerted Abuja residents of plots by Boko Haram to attack churches, mosques and markets, using girls disguised aid workers as bombers.

In a memo addressed to the National Presidents of Jama’atu Nasril Islam and the Christian Association of Nigeria by the Director of Security Services, Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Ibrahim, he urged religious bodies to put their members on the alert. It also asked residents to report suspicious elements around places of worship to the authorities.

The letter which was also sent to  the FCT Minister, the FCT Permanent Secretary and the acting Secretary, Area Councils Services Secretariat included,

“Intelligence reaching this office revealed that insurgents are planning to attack the Federal Capital Territory. Their main targets are worship centres and markets with the use of young girls as members of aid groups to carry out their planned attacks.

‘It is in view of the foregoing, I am directed to inform you to communicate the content of this letter to all mosques, churches and markets across the FCT for extra vigilance, particularly unknown persons dressing as aid workers loitering around the worship areas and markets’.

TURKEY: Will schools respect parents’ and pupils’ freedom of religion or belief?

turkey-map

(Forum 18)Turkey has twice, in 2007 and 2014, lost cases concerning its compulsory Religious Culture and Knowledge of Ethics (RCKE) classes at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), as they do not respect parents’, guardians’, and pupils’ freedom of religion or belief, Forum 18 News Service notes. In September 2014 the ECtHR stated that “Turkey had to remedy the situation without delay”, yet the only action so far has been the Education Ministry preparing an action plan involving wide consultation with civil society on the RCKE courses. This is awaiting government approval after the elections. Another systemic violation of freedom of religion or belief in the education system are optional lessons in Islam, which many have found are in reality “compulsory optional”. Fear of discrimination and harassment from teachers and other pupils, as well as the slowness of the legal system, are the main reasons many people have not taken legal action to protect their rights. Unless effective protection of freedom of religion or belief in education is implemented, the state will continue to lose such cases before the ECtHR.

Turkey has twice, in 2007 and 2014, lost cases at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg, as the country’s education system fails to respect parents’, guardians’, and pupils’ freedom of religion or belief, Forum 18 News Service notes. Yet Turkey has still not taken steps to prevent these and other human rights violations reoccurring. ECtHR judgments require such steps to be taken in order to prevent similar violations from happening, for example by changing laws and state practices, and this process is supervised by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

On 16 September 2014 the ECtHR found in the case of Mansur Yalcin and Others v. Turkey (Application no. 21163/11) that Turkey’s compulsory Religious Culture and Knowledge of Ethics (RCKE) classes, and its education system did not respect the convictions of parents by not being either objective or respectful of pluralism. The RCKE course includes, despite changes made by the Education Ministry, still compulsory religious instruction in Islam with only a very limited exemption system that is difficult to take advantage of (see F18News 23 August 2011 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1603).

The ECtHR found that “no possibility for an appropriate choice had been envisaged for the children of parents who had a religious or philosophical conviction other than that of Sunni Islam, and the very limited exemption procedure was likely to subject those parents to a heavy burden and to the need to disclose their religious or philosophical convictions in order to have their children exempted from the religion lessons.” This requirement for parents and pupils to disclose their beliefs is not compatible with the European Convention for the Protection of compulsory religious instruction in Islam and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR). Read More

West Has Betrayed Middle East Christians — Syriac Patriarch

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Syriac Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan

(AINA) It is “a big lie” to suggest Islamic State could be defeated with airstrikes, according to the head of the Syriac Catholic Church, who has accused Western governments of betraying Christians in the Middle East.

“All Eastern patriarchs, myself included, have spoken out clearly to the West from the very beginning,” Syriac Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan insisted, warning western governments: “Be careful, the situation in Syria is not like that of Egypt, Tunisia or Libya — it’s much more complex, and conflict here will create only chaos and civil war.”

Criticising how the cautioned governments maintained that the rebellion would be short and that Bashar al-Assad’s government would fall within months, he said, “As I predicted, that hasn’t happened, and five years later, innocent people, especially Christians, have no support. The West has betrayed us.”

While French and Russian airstrikes have increased since the Paris and Beirut bombings, the patriarch said these retaliations were ineffective as the well-financed leaders of the so-called Islamic State had infiltrated local populations.

“Western democracies have conspired against Syria and produced the destruction of the nation’s infrastructure, the demolition of houses, towns, villages, monuments and archaeological sites,” the Beirut-based patriarch said, castigating how Western politicians, especially in the U.S., Britain and France, appeared to favour “an endless conflict in Iraq and Syria”, while Western media had proved “silent, cowardly and complicit” by failing to “defend truth and justice”.

Although the Syriac Catholic leader praised the Pope for being “a defender of justice” and appealing for solidarity with Middle East Christians, he said threatened Catholic communities needed “not words but deeds”, lamenting that the West “has abandoned Christians to this situation”.

In the United States, meanwhile, Church leaders have challenged political attempts to block refugees from the Middle Eastern crisis from entering the country. Republicans in the House of Representatives won a 289-137 veto-proof majority on a bill blocking Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and governors of at least 30 states have called for an end to Syrian resettlement until security concerns can be addressed in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.

Cardinal O’Malley said “The barbaric attacks in Paris, which demand a strong response and require policies that as best possible prevent recurrence, should not be used to efface the memory of Syrians and others from the Middle East and Africa who are desperately in need of shelter, support and safety.”

Pray for our brothers and sisters feeling abandoned by the West.

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