(World Watch Monitor) A 16-year-old Christian boy has been accused of committing blasphemy by “liking” and sharing a post on Facebook which “defamed and disrespected” the Kaaba in Mecca, the building at the centre of Islam’s most sacred mosque.
Most of the Christians in the boy’s village have since fled their homes for fear of an angry backlash against them.
At around 3pm on Sunday (18 Sep.), several police vans raided Nabeel Masih’s house in Dina Nath village – in the Kasur district of Punjab province, 30 miles southwest of Lahore. There are at least 300 Christian homes in the village.
The complainant, Akhtar Ali, filed this accusation at the nearby Phoolnagar Police Station: “On 18 September, I was with my friends Bakht Khan and Saddam … We took our friend Waqar’s mobile phone and started seeing pictures of his various friends on Facebook. But when we opened Nabeel Masih’s profile, there was a picture posted in which the Kaaba is defamed and disrespected. Seeing that picture, our religious feelings were hurt.”
Nabeel’s cousin, Imran, 24, told World Watch Monitor that Nabeel had nothing against Muslims and meant no harm.
“It was only a mistake by him and he clearly stated that he did not intend to hurt but to condemn the post,” Imran said. He added that Nabeel is illiterate and works as a labourer in a nearby ghee factory.
Pastor Samuel Masih, who was visiting his sisters in the village, said that, although everything seemed calm, “many of the Christians have left the area due to fear of security”.
Phoolnagar Police Station head, Shahbaz Ahmed Dogar, reiterated that everything was under control and urged Christians to return.
“There was no announcement from mosque loudspeakers or any gathering of people,” he said. “Those who have left the area have taken only precautionary measures and I would encourage them to return to their houses.”
In several instances in the past, Christian neighbourhoods in Pakistan have been targeted following blasphemy allegations, resulting in the looting, ransacking and burning of Christian homes. In 2009, more than 100 Christian homes were ransacked and set on fire in Gojra, near Faisalabad, while in March 2013 another 150 Christian homes were set on fire in Lahore’s Joseph Colony.
VOP Note: We remember the Joseph colony very well as we were in contact with Pakistani Christians at the time of the attack on their community. The aftermath was heartbreaking. It’s quite disturbing how entire villages are ransacked, burned as the innocent are beaten by violent mobs. There are even times when the accused is arrested and jailed, yet the attacks continue. Imagine living with a fear that you will be beaten or ‘taught a lesson’ for something you are not of part of and because you are associated simply by faith. These are fear tactics to keep the Christian community suppressed and inferior (second-class citizens) in a country predominantly Muslim and increasingly radical.
Christians attacked after Friday prayers
Meanwhile, a poor Christian neighbourhood in a remote village 20 miles south of Faisalabad came under attack after Muslim Friday prayers on 16 September.
Five people were hospitalised, including two women who also faced public humiliation after their clothes were torn, but police said the injuries were not sufficient for the formal registration of a case.
At least 20 men armed with sticks and firearms attacked the Christian neighbourhood – in the village of Chajwal, in the Samundri district. The incident took place only the day after the Punjab Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Affairs, Khalil Tahir Sandhu, told local media that “minorities in Pakistan are more secured (sic) than [in] other countries of the region”.
Villager Razaq Masih, 55, lodged a formal complaint at the Samundri Saddar Police Station, in which he named six alleged attackers. He said that, at around 4pm on Friday, those six, alongside 30-35 others, came to the village, “yelling that today they would teach a lesson to these ‘chuhras’* … [and] attacked the Christians”.
Masih added that the assailants had stormed into the house of a Christian woman, Sharifan Bibi, “torn [her] clothes” and “while beating her, dragged her … out of the house”.
Parveen Bibi said she was also beaten as she tried to protect her two sons – Shahbaz, 25, and Zahid, 23.
“My sons are labourers and they had just returned from their work,” she told World Watch Monitor from her hospital bed. “I [pleaded with the attackers] and tried to save my sons, after which they beat me with clubs and attacked us with bricks.”
Arif Masih, 55, who also works as a labourer, was returning home from a wedding when he was beaten.
“I could not even understand why they were beating me,” Masih told World Watch Monitor at the hospital.
Hundreds of Christians from the village gathered together on Sunday evening (18 Sep.) and resolved to seek justice. They told World Watch Monitor the attackers must have had support from local politicians, which is why the police had refused to officially register the case, and said they were fearful of further attacks.
“About 300 to 400 Christian households are in Chajwal, whom the influential community of Gujjars [an agricultural caste] have been trying to suppress for a while,” said Shahid Masih Paul, chairman of Christ Assemblies International, a Pentecostal group. “The Gujjars are influential in the area. Decades ago, these Christians were dependent … on [these] landlords, but over time their number has decreased and most of them work as labourers in the city.”
What sparked the attack?
Razaq Masih told World Watch Monitor that he had been sitting with a Muslim man in front of some Christian homes, when some Gujjars, as well as people from the Julaha (weavers) caste, arrived and wanted to beat up the man.
“They had a grudge against him because of a relationship he had a year ago with a young woman, who was also Muslim,” Masih explained. “The Christians intervened and said that if the relationship had ended, then why should he be beaten? Within no time, about 30 men arrived, yelling that we will teach these ‘chuhras’ a lesson for raising their heads [to defend the Muslim].”
Chairman Paul said that the Gujjar and Julaha communities had long wanted to direct their sewerage water into the cesspit beside the Christian community, but that “Christians have been refusing because they think that the pond would then overflow and their houses would be inundated. That is the core issue. It is not bearable for the Gujjar and Julaha that these poor Christians, who have long been their tenants, have started to resist them.”
Razaq Masih said all the Christians live on government land. “They have not been able to buy the land, but for decades they have been living there. If the [Gujjars] are allowed to channel their sewerage water there and it inundates the Christians’ houses, they would then have to leave the village.”
Rao Kashif, provincial parliamentarian for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, told World Watch Monitor that he could not confirm whether or not the Christians were beaten up.
“I regularly come to my office but how can I know if none of them has come to me?” he said.
The Christians complained that since the incident no parliamentarian has yet raised their case. In the past, many incidents of violence against Christians have taken place, which have been seen as a precursor for later evicting them from the government land they live on.
Christians continue to be regarded as lower-class citizens and are often forced to live in the less desirable parts of an area, such as close to sewerage-filled ponds. This attitude towards them is reinforced from schooldays onwards.
A recent report by Pakistan’s National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) says the government has failed to keep its promise to eradicate religious “hate material”, including against minority Christians, from textbooks used in schools.
After the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in Dec. 2014, the government introduced a 20-point National Action Plan to discourage religious extremism and to provide a counter-narrative to promote religious harmony, saying an “end to religious extremism and [the] protection of minorities will be ensured”. However, the NCJP report, “Freedom from Suffocating Education”, claims that no curriculum reforms have so far been adopted at the school level, aside from the production of a few booklets.
This backs up the findings of another recent report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which concluded: “The trend toward a more biased curriculum towards religious minorities is accelerating. These grossly generalized and stereotypical portrayals of religious minority communities signal that they are untrustworthy, religiously inferior, and ideologically scheming and intolerant.”
The NCJP report, which focused on textbooks used in the 2015-16 school year, noted that “hate material” previously identified had not been removed from the curriculum yet.
* “Difficult to translate, the word connotes dark skin, low social status and un-touchability” (Pakistan Herald, Sep. 2016) – the term “chuhra” (“dirty”/”filthy”) is considered by some Pakistanis as almost synonymous with “Christian”. It’s linked with “bhangi” and “jamadar” (sweepers or sanitary workers), the lowest-caste occupations still overwhelmingly populated by Christians.
Please pray for Pakistan.
Cameroonian immigrant has been put on trial in Spain for the murder of six fellow occupants of a flimsy migrant boat because of their Christian religious beliefs.
Survivors of the hellish 2014 crossing from Morocco to the southern shore of Spain described how the accused, the Muslim captain of the inflatable craft identified as Alain N. B., blamed Christian passengers for the onset of a storm and forced six men off the boat to a certain death.
According to some of the 29 survivors from the more than 50 sub-Saharan migrants who boarded the boat near Nador, northern Morocco, the accused “blamed the rough seas which were rocking the boat on the prayers led by a Catholic pastor on board”.
Read survivor accounts of what transpired in the Full Report
Urgent Prayer Request: Pray for Christian Prisoner, Ibrahim Firouzi and His Mother Hospitalized with Cancer
(Voice of the Persecuted) It has been brought to our attention that the mother of imprisoned Iranian Christian, Ibrahim Firouzi is in the hospital with cancer that has spread to her brain. VOCIR shared in a report that after her son converted to Christianity, he was arrested on August 25, 2013 and convicted of evangelizing, colluding with “anti-regime” foreign networks, launching a Christian website, and in short, working against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Although his prison term was supposed to end on January 13, 2015, authorities continued holding him illegally, and on March 8 sentenced him to serve another five years “in very difficult conditions.”
Will you pray, today?
Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death, remain here and keep watch with me.” Matthew 26:22
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Keeping their eye on the situation, World Watch Monitor shared the Nigerian government has, for the first time, disclosed its failure to secure the release of girls kidnapped by the radical Islamist group Boko Haram from the northern town of Chibok in April 2014. On 16 September, Nigeria said that negotiations have gone on since July 2015, shortly after President Muhammadu Buhari took office.
Three times the negotiations were derailed, once at the last minute even after the president had agreed to free imprisoned Boko Haram fighters. Another time, talks failed because key members of Boko Haram’s negotiating team were killed.
President Buhari, criticised by parents and activists, appealed for the parents’ trust.
In August, Boko Haram released a video which appeared to show some of the 218 girls looking physically weak and traumatised. It showed a masked man demanding the release of militants in exchange, and one girl, who calls herself Maida Yakubu, asking her parents to appeal to the government.
Maida’s mother Esther reacted to this latest government statement: “There had been such promises since Day 1 of the abduction up till today… If I see my baby back, I hold her in my arms, we embrace each other, then fine. But for now, I don’t think so”.
Most girls were Christian and were reportedly forcibly converted to Islam. It’s feared that many have been sexually abused and forced into “marriage” by their captors. A report, “Our Bodies, their Battleground”, detailed this kind of treatment of minority Christians in northern Nigeria going back to 1999.
WWM list their source as: New York Times
In Nigeria and often in the west, the media often only shares portions of the abuse Christians are facing, or doesn’t mention them at all. We must stand with our brothers and sisters and speak out. Pray for the Chibok girls and for the huge numbers of girls who’ve been abducted by the Boko Haram. Their captors treat them as property and sex slaves, including girls as young as 8yrs. old. Many have faced horrors that a too hard for most to imagine. Pray for their families whose hearts are breaking for their children.
Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) is on the ground helping to care for the persecuted in Nigeria through our aid program, ‘Project 13:3’. They have suffered much, so many lives have been lost or forever changed by the insurgency. Many suffer from unbearable heartbreak. Living conditions for the displaced brings extreme hardship and too often disease and illness. Their physical, emotional and Spiritual needs are immense. We’ve been notified of a heartbreaking case where the love of the Body of Christ is greatly needed. We’ll soon be able to share their story when measures to secure them are in place.
We are committed to being a VOICE for persecuted Nigerian Christians and bring them comfort, relief, and encouragement. We have committed to a long-term mission in Nigeria. When they are able to return home, we will be there to encourage and help rebuild villages and their lives. They will not be forgotten!
We want you to know that even in great hardship, they thank God and feel extremely blessed that He has kept His hand on them. They’re so encouraged and thank God for each one of you who have joined this mission through prayer and your support.
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
Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and to 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:
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If the Lord is placing it on your heart and you are able, please help us to continue the mission in Nigeria. Donations always desperately needed
Poza Rica (Agenzia Fides) – In a statement the Mexican diocese of Papantla confirmed the violent death of two priests: Fr. Alejo Nabor Jiménez Juárez and José Alfredo Suárez de la Cruz. According to information gathered by Agenzia Fides, a first report of the Office of the Attorney General of Veracruz state indicates that the two priests were kidnapped last Sunday evening, September 18, from the parish of Nuestra Senora de Fatima, in the extreme outskirts of the city of Poza Rica, in the northern part of the Veracruz state. Their lifeless bodies were found yesterday morning, Monday, September 19, at the side of the road that connects Papantla to Poza Rica. A collaborator of the priests, who worked as a sacristan and driver, was also kidnapped, and fortunately was found alive. The area was the scene of violent clashes between drug cartels for years, but it is still not clear why the two priests were killed.
“We are dismayed by this news and we pray for their eternal rest – writes Mgr. José Trinidad Zapata Ortiz, Bishop of Papantla, in the statement for the tragic death of the two priests -. Once more we see that violence and insecurity have taken root in our society”. The Bishop hopes that the loss of the two priests will help bring long-awaited peace and priestly vocations to continue the evangelizing mission of the Church. “We condemn all forms of violence and pray for the conversion of those who forget that we are brothers and cause suffering and death – writes Mgr. Zapata Ortiz -. The path of violence and crime generates even more violence. God does not want death, neither violence nor injustice. God wants life, God wants everyone to live in justice, dignity and peace”. (CE) (Agenzia Fides, 20/09/2016)
Note: The following is a book review of The Last Supper: The Plight of Christians in Arab Lands, by Klaus Wivel. A shorter version of the review first appeared in the Middle East Quarterly (Fall, 2016, vol. 23, no. 4).
Danish journalist Klaus Wivel is to be commended for shedding light on an important but ignored topic, the plight of present-day, Arabic-speaking Christians. His firsthand discussions with an assortment of Christians offer helpful insights. Among these are the cultural differences between Copts, Greek Orthodox Palestinians, and Maronites, who are often conflated as “Mideast Christians.” His discussions with an Egyptian teacher and Iraqi politician are especially useful: Public schools in their countries have removed Christianity from history texts so that indigenous Christians are now seen as foreigners.
The book, however, ultimately fails to deliver. Its ambitious subtitle—“The plight of Christians in Arab Lands”—is misleading. Of the twenty-two Arab states, the book covers only Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, and the West Bank-Gaza. It does not mention the chronic persecution of Christians in Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Sudan, Arab nations where, according to a 2016 study, Christians fare far worse than the places the author visited. Lebanon—which takes up one quarter of Klaus’ account—doesn’t even receive a ranking.
In addition, the work is outdated; originally published in Danish in 2013, the genocide against Christians under ISIS receives no mention.
Finally, Wivel’s ubiquitous use of first person makes the book read more like a travel memoir. While detailed descriptions of atmospheric meetings in restaurants are well and good in some books, they come off as superfluous at best in a book on this critical topic. The following, overly dramatic account of the author’s experiences following a meeting is standard:
We say our goodbyes and walk outside; the rain in Beirut is even heavier now. As he strolls off, he uses his umbrella as a cane again. I walk down Sidani Street, past a hyperrealistic painting on the gable of a building; it depicts a bald person with full lips and an intense, friendly expression. It’s impossible to tell whether it’s a man or woman, black or white.
Such space could’ve been better utilized.
Those looking for useful and current information about “The Plight of Christians in Arab Lands” need look elsewhere.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Middle East and Islam specialist and author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007). His writings have appeared in a variety of media, including the Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst, Middle East Quarterly, World Almanac of Islamism, and
Chronicle of Higher Education; he has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, C-SPAN, PBS, Reuters, Al-Jazeera, NPR, Blaze TV, and CBN. Ibrahim regularly speaks publicly, briefs governmental agencies, provides expert testimony for Islam-related lawsuits, and testifies before Congress. He is a Shillman Fellow, David Horowitz Freedom Center; a CBN News contributor; a Media Fellow, Hoover Institution (2013); and a Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow, Middle East Forum . Ibrahim’s dual-background — born and raised in the U.S. by Coptic Egyptian parents born and raised in the Middle East — has provided him with unique advantages, from equal fluency in English and Arabic, to an equal understanding of the Western and Middle Eastern mindsets, positioning him to explain the latter to the former.
Paul and Silas were beaten, and thrown in prison for teaching Christ. Look at what they did. They praised God and prayed. A soul was saved because of their persecution. We never know what our trials will produce if we Praise God even in the darkness. The persecuted will tell you the same thing. Stand up for them, praise God and pray like your life depends on it…. BECAUSE THEIRS DOES!
And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:
24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.
27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.
28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.
29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,
30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.