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Monthly Archives: March 2018

5 Who Tried to Stop [Christ’s True Mission]… and Failed

Ecce Homo (“Behold the Man”), Antonio Ciseri’s depiction of Pilate presenting a scourged Jesus to the people of Jerusalem. Created: between circa 1860 and circa 1880

Have you ever thought about how many people tried to stop Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, whether for good or bad? Some wanted Jesus dead, and they thought His words were blasphemous. Others looked out for their own interest and rule, but there were some who wanted to protect Jesus—and they were distraught at His death. But God is sovereign over all, and He knew the path that His Son must follow in order to save mankind once and for all. Here are 5 who tried to stop Jesus’ life, death, or resurrection and failed according to God’s plan: read more

Court in Pakistan Acquits 20 Muslims Suspected in Brick-Kiln Killing of Christian Couple

Attack victims,Shazad Masih and his wife Shama Shazad Masih were brutally beaten and senselessly murdered and thrown into a brick kiln fire by a huge mob

Yet another travesty of justice and devastating blow for Christians in Pakistan. Morning Star News reports that an anti-terrorism court in Lahore, Pakistan on Saturday (March 24) acquitted 20 Muslims suspected of involvement in the killing and burning in a brick kiln of a Christian couple in 2014, sources said.

A frenzied Muslim mob of hundreds, incited by announcements made over a mosque loudspeaker, tortured and killed Shahzad Masih, 26, and 24-year-old Shama Masih in November 2014 after they were accused of blasphemy in Punjab’s Kot Radha Kishan area. In 2016 five Muslims were sentenced to death for the killing and eight others were sentenced to two years in prison for their involvement, but Christians believe Saturday’s verdict dashes hopes of complete justice for the family of the slain brick-kiln workers.

The mob tore the clothes off the couple, struck them, broke their legs, dragged them behind a tractor and threw them into the burning furnace of a brick kiln – even though Shama Masih, a pregnant mother of four, was illiterate and could not have known even if koranic verses were among debris that she had burned. Under Pakistan’s widely condemned blasphemy statutes, intent must be shown for a conviction of desecrating the Koran. Read VOP’s  report of the brick kiln mob attack and call for justice.

Attorney Aneeqa Maria, who is representing Shama Masih’s family, said the court acquitted the 20 men on Saturday (March 24), giving them the benefit of the doubt. She said the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) had already granted bail to the lead suspect, Yousaf Gujjar, in April 2016, raising doubts about the Punjab government’s intention to deliver justice to the family.

“The government itself is complainant in the case, while the police officials present on the scene witnessed the entire incident and identified the accused,” she said. “Yet, we were appalled when Gujjar walked out on bail, and now more suspects have been let off by the court due to insufficient evidence.”

She added that of 140 suspects named, police had been able to arrest 81, while 59 were still absconding.

The police First Information Report (FIR) filed at the time said between 500 and 600 people were in the mob that burned the couple in Chak 59 village, Kot Radha Kishan, Kasur, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Lahore.

Gujjar’s name was on top of the list of 52 suspects that police believed were directly responsible for the incident. The investigation at that time found Gujjar and his son “guilty of egging on a prayer leader to declare Shama and Shahzad guilty of blasphemy from the loudspeaker of a mosque.”

Five relatives of Shahzad Masih, including his two brothers, however, told the ATC that Gujjar was not present at the crime scene. A police official who is the complainant in the case also retracted his statement in court regarding Gujjar’s presence at the time of the incident. Shama’s family insists that Gujjar had played a major role in the lynching, as he had forcibly stopped the couple from leaving the kiln since they owed him money.

Senior Supreme Court Advocate Saiful Malook told Morning Star News that the acquittals showed that police had intentionally built a weak case.

“This case could have been a watershed moment for the Pakistani government to regain confidence of its minorities and the international community regarding concerns over the violence perpetrated in the name of blasphemy, however the developments in the case are very disappointing,” he told Morning Star News.

Malook, who is pleading the appeal in the Supreme Court of Christian mother Aasiya Noreen (commonly known as Asia Bibi) against her death sentence under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, said that violence against minority communities, particularly Christians, cannot be contained unless the government fulfills its responsibility completely.

“The government made an unprecedented move by becoming complainant in the case,” he said. “It should have ensured that the case was watertight so that no accused would be able to escape justice, however grant of bail to the lead suspect and acquittals of several others shows the government lacked the commitment to follow the case in the first place.”

The gruesome incident prompted the Pakistani government itself to become the claimant against the double murder, the first such move by the government in a blasphemy case, but it slowly began to lose interest in the case, attorney Maria said.

In the November 2016 convictions, the ATC also directed the convicts – Muslim cleric Hafiz Ishtiaq, Mehdi Khan, Riaz Kumboh, Irfan Shakoor and Muhammad Hanif – to pay 100,000 rupees (about US$1,000) each as compensation to the heirs of the victims.

The eight convicted of aiding and abetting the crime are Muhammad Hussain, Noorul Hasan, Muhammad Arsalan, Muhammad Haris, Muhammad Muneer, Muhammad Ramazan, Irfan and Hafiz Shahid.

Christian on Death Row Acquitted

Separately, a Christian sentenced to death in a blasphemy case in Gujranwala two years ago was acquitted by the Lahore High Court on March 13.

Attorney Riaz Anjum told Morning Star News that a division bench of the high court comprising Justices Mazahar Ali Naqvi and Mushtaq Ahmad had ordered Anjum Naz Sindhu’s release as the prosecution had failed to produce evidence in support of its allegations that his client had blasphemed.

“The judges pointed out irregularities in the police investigation and also the fact that there was no proof to suggest that Sindhu had engaged in any religious discussion with the co-accused,” said the lawyer.

Anjum said that in its verdict, the court had also pointed out the absence of a voice recognition report to prove that the alleged blasphemous remarks were made by Sindhu.

“Although the police had obtained a transcribed form of the alleged blasphemous conversation from the forensic laboratory, they could not authenticate the voices on the recording,” he said, adding that the judges had termed it “a case of no evidence.”

Sindhu, a 65-year-old Catholic owner of a prominent chain of schools in Gujranwala, was sentenced to death on June 27, 2016, following conviction for blasphemy – as were the two men convicted of blackmailing him. Javed Naz, a Christian, and Naz’s Muslim friend Jaffar Ali, were also sentenced to death for concealing or otherwise handling a recording of remarks that allegedly blasphemed Muhammad, the prophet of Islam.

Naz and Ali had told police that Sindhu had committed blasphemy during a speech at Locus Science School last year, which Naz said he recorded on his cell phone, according to the FIR.

Sindhu’s brother, Asif Sindhu, had previously told Morning Star News that Naz, who worked at one of the schools that Anjum Sindhu owned, used the blasphemy law to take vengeance because Sindhu had fired Naz from the school for leaking examination papers.

“Later Naz, with the help of his friend Jaffar Ali, started blackmailing my brother and started demanding extortion by claiming that they had an audio recording in which he had committed blasphemy,” Asif Sindhu said. “They uttered blasphemous words in my brother’s voice to get revenge for taking action against Javed Naz and later started demanding extortion.”

As any unsubstantiated blasphemy accusation can land an accused person in jail for months while awaiting trial under Pakistan’s widely condemned blasphemy statutes, Anjum Sindhu on May 15, 2015 paid 20,000 rupees (US$190) in extortion money to the two men, who then demanded another 50,000 rupees (US$475) from him.

Attorney Arif Goraya, who represented Sindhu during the trial, had pointed out several irregularities in the police investigation during his arguments in court.

“During the proceedings, I repeatedly brought to the court’s notice that there is no direct evidence against my client, and that there are several gaps in the investigation that make the entire process suspicious,” he said.

Goraya had said that the forensic laboratory report notified the court that the lab lacked the equipment to make a 100 percent match of the voice on the audio clip with that of Sindhu. The court thus made its ruling largely on the basis of a transcript obtained from the audio recording, which does not directly incriminate Sindhu, the attorney said.

VOP is on the ground in Thailand helping Pakistani Christians who fled persecution in Pakistan. Please Join hands with us to spread the love of Jesus. Keep us in your prayers as we try to raise the needed funds for the relief mission. If you feel led to help, please consider our mission and donate, today. Go with us to Thailand through your blessings  to share with these dear brothers and sisters who have suffered so much. God bless you and your families.

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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.

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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!
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Heroic Christian girl boldly refuses to deny her faith when threatened by Boko Haram

As Holy Week begins and we prepare for Resurrection Sunday, a 15 yr. old girl from North Nigeria is standing firm while clinging to Christ in a Boko Haram terrorist camp. Leah Sharibu, Liya in the Hausa language, was among over 100 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram insurgents from a school in Dapchi, Northern Nigeria  on Feb. 19. The militants released 104 of the schoolgirls on March 22, 2018, with the exception of Leah, the only Christian in the group. Boko Haram members gave Leah an option to gain her freedom, renounce her Christian faith and become a Muslim. However, she refused to deny her faith in Jesus Christ and Leah is still being held captive by the Boko Haram,

During interview with a soldier, one of the released girls relayed information about Leah.

Q. Where is that Christian girl (Leah)?
Dapchi Schoolgirl: We left her there.

Q. why?
Dapchi Schoolgirl: It’s because she refuses to be a Moslem.

Q. Was she crying while you were leaving?
Dapchi Schoolgirl: Yes, I even begged Leah to accept Islam but she refused and said she can’t live with herself if she came back. So she will not that its better to be killed by Boko Haram.

There’s one old man from Damaturu who is also a Boko Haram that brings us water. He also asked Leah to convert to Islam but she said “no.” Where by the news reached to their commander that there is one Christian girl that refused to accept Islam so they brought her before him. She repeated the same thing, and he said “we will kill you.” He showed her one temporary zinc and ordered her to go and sit inside.

Press Statements from the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) President & ECWA President called for her immediate release from an unjust Boko Haram captivity. They sent out a call to prayer in all Churches on the 25th that should continue until her release.

Naturally, the news of the girls release brought great joy for many parents. Though Leah’s parents are happy for the others, they’re grieved ;;

The following is a portion of the transcript of interview with Leah’s parents shared on Facebook “I AM LEAH” (A page dedicated to Leah)

Leah’s Father

IAMLEAH Interviewer: What message do you have for your daughter?

Father: I want Leah from now henceforth not to deny Christ in any situation of suffering and I want her to endure with what she started to the end.

IAMLEAH Interviewer:  What’s your message to the government?

Father: I am pleading for the government to do the right thing and help, as they do before, for bringing the rest to their parents, to do so to our daughter.

IAMLEAH Interviewer:  What’s your message to those that are praying for Leah?

Father:  I want the Christians to continue praying for Leah, for it is because of the Christians’ faith in prayers that is why Leah stands in the faith, and I want the Christians not only to pray for Leah, but also the family.

Leah’s Mother

#IAMLEAH Interviewer: How do you feel about Leah’s courage?
Mother: I am happy because Leah is doing the right thing. Even if they shoot Leah there, we believe that she will be with Christ Jesus.

#IAMLEAH Interviewer: What does Leah want to become in the future?
Mother: Leah wants to be a scientist. She always wants to read science.

IAMLEAH Interviewer:  What’s your message to the terrorists?

Mother: I said that even if we are told today that they’ve shot Leah, I thank God that Leah is still Christian, and that one day I will see her again.

IAMLEAH Interviewer:  What message to those praying for Leah?

Mother: May God accept and answer all their prayers.

The courage of this young girl is touching not only those in Nigeria, but globally. Christians are taking notice of her strength of faith and examining their own.

  • I have been silent on the issue of the kidnap, and the release of some of the victims yesterday. I just decided to pray more in this season and trust God to help our nation. However, couldn’t hold my peace when the news of the only Christian girl amongst the kidnapped victims wasn’t released because she refused to recant and deny her faith in Jesus Christ, as her Lord and Saviour. Am not here to talk about the politics or the drama involved in the whole saga, but to talk to Christians and the Christendom in Nigeria.
    I am of the opinion that, if a fifteen (15) years old girl in the far northeast, with very little knowledge of our so called ‘revelations of the Bible’, access to our various and sophisticated study materials, tapes, audios, Christian channels etc; even our ultramodern buildings and gadgets can refuse to deny Jesus, even though that was the only condition giving to her to secure her freedom. And she willingly risked her life for her faith, then we really need to ask ourselves again, “what did she believe”? “Can what we claim to have believed produce the same kind of conviction, boldness and courage”? Especially, we pastors, can we boast of such quality of a disciple as the product of our messages and tutelage?
    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, i think this girl’s action is an indictment on us, and should send a very urgent message to us as a whole. It is a call to introspection! Let us look inward again, to reevaluate our motives and messages. No wonder it seems that darkness became powerful in Nigeria overnight or all of a sudden? No, it is either we have built wrongly or majored in the minor!!
    Let our Christianity not only be bogous and loud, let it also have depth. Churches everywhere, yet no depth. It is time to launch into the deep; for deep calleth into the deep now!!!
    I am personally praying first, for myself, reevaluating to see if what i have believed can deny Jesus in the face of death or endure to the end. Oh Lord, help your Church in Nigeria and the world at large. Please, lets keep praying for her, for strength, courage and ultimate release.
    I see an end time army rising, a breed without greed, the remnant that hasn’t bowed to Baal; they will deculturize the present terrain. Yea, i see a new Nigeria! 
    Selah!!
  • It seems Christians are more willing to suffer for their faith in places where they are minorities. Liya (Leah) Sharibu, the only Christian among the kidnapped Dapchi schoolgirls, was held back by Boko Haram reportedly because she refused to be forcefully converted to Islam. A little girl is willing to pay the ultimate price for her faith. This is a country where Christians have reduced their faith to collecting anointing oil and anointed handkerchiefs for “miracles”. We are more fired up by prayers and testimonies over contracts, cars and mansions. Liya has thrown a challenge: there is something deeper worth living and dying for. Vanities. – –
  • Another Shedrach Meshach and Abednego in Nigeria. Dare to be a Daniel.

On Monday, President Muhammadu Buhari  hosted the family of late activist Martin Luther King Jr. in the State House, Abuja. Naomi Barbara King, presented the president with the first Black History Month National Black Excellence and Exceptional African Leadership Award.

Prof. Iyorwuese Hagher, former Nigeria’s Ambassador to Mexico, shared an article titled, “Leah Sharibu: The Shaming Of A Nation”

March 26, 2018 one of the biggest historical ironies of all time took place at Aso Rock, Abuja. His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari hosted the family members of Martin Luther King Jr. the World’s greatest champion of freedom, justice and equality ever known.

The timing and the optics were hilarious at best, but deeply ominous.  While Dr. Mrs. Naomi Barbara King was posing with the Nigerian President and turning her cheek for a presidential kiss, in far away North Eastern Nigeria, a defiant fourteen year school girl child, Leah Sharibu, was left in the hands of her captors, the dreaded behemoth of evil called Boko Haram: vicious blustering, gloating and imperious terrorists.

Her schoolmates, her school and her government abandoned Leah.  Alone in the hands of her captors, Leah did not flinch nor beg for mercy but defiantly refused to convert to Islam from her Christian faith.  Her God alone is with her now as she faces death, threats of death, slavery, or other horrendous possibilities of mutilation, defilement, and transgression.

Each second is life and death to this child while the nation gleefully celebrates the return of her Muslim mates and the government congratulates itself.

The shame of the nation is that we are too blind and too deaf and dumb to perceive that a star is born, a new World icon of no less significance than Martin Luther King Jr. Rosa Parks, and Malala Yousafzai, whose actions and conduct changed the World. The Christians who are clamoring for the speedy release of Leah have sadly missed the point. She is now also a symbol of defiance of the moderate Muslims too who are against extremism. Leah is now a World icon. The whole World should rise up and demand for her release. Read more

In regards to the article, one man shared his frustration with the government and what he believed to be a plan using Boko Haram and the Fulani Herdsmen to increase the spread of Islam in the nation. He was also disturbed by the Church body as a whole.

The silence of Christians over the very True CHILD OF GOD, Leah Sharibu’s agony in the den of terrorists exposes the kind of Christians we have. Has any met with Buhari to appeal to him for her freedom? Has any asked Christians to fast and pray for her freedom? Funny enough some churches are promising her scholarship and property in port Harcour.

Who ever gives Buhari peace award needs to delete the meaning of peace from the Dictoinary. Bloody peace or starvation peace? The Martin Luther family has just told the world that they have sold honour and fame for a pot of porridge.

Christians and all Nigerians must reexamine our consciences and values. We may be a brood of vipers or better still new generations of Pharisees. For the Nigerian government and its expansionist wars for the spread of Islam covertly, it is God’s will that will [be] done, not man’s.—

Her mother also shared that her daughter told her schoolmates that if they made it home successfully, they should inform her parents to continue to help her pray for God to protect her and bring her home safely as well; that whether she survived or not, she still needed prayers.

PLEASE pray with us for Leah and share her story with others, be her voice. Ask your church and prayer teams to join with you in lifting this courageous little sister up to the Lord. Let’s continue to pray until she is released!

 

 

 

Christian Widow, Bereaved Father Show Reality behind Herdsmen Attacks in Nigeria

Chanka Amos, 4, was wounded in March 8 attack. (Morning Star News)

Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Crestfallen, the 48-year-old Christian sat in his house in Miango, central Nigeria, where three of his children were killed a week before.

“These series of attacks have been carried out against us Christians in this area for some time now by these armed herdsmen, and we don’t know precisely why they are doing this to us,” Joseph Gah Nze told Morning Star News. “In spite of these attacks on us, what I can is that we are dependent on God for grace to overcome these challenges. We have no other option than to pray, seeking the face of God, and for these herdsmen to come to know Jesus Christ, as it is only when they know Jesus that they can stop attacking us Christians.”

A member of Evangelical Church Winning All in Nzharuvo village, Miango, near Jos in Plateau state, Nze said Fulani herdsmen broke into his house on at 10 p.m. on March 8 and killed his three children – 12-year-old twins Christopher and Emmanuel, and 6-year Peace Joseph – and 18-year-old nephew Henry Audu. Wounded and receiving hospital treatment was 4-year-old nephew Chanka Amos.

Peace Joseph, 6, slain in attack in Miango, Nigeria on March 8. (Morning Star News)

“My house is located in the outskirts of this area, and so it became the first to be attacked,” he said. “But because the sound of gunshots in my house alerted the other Christians around here, they quickly mobilized themselves and repelled the attackers, forcing them to retreat.”

His wife managed to escape.

In the Klah area in Miango, the Fulani herdsmen terrorized another house that night. Jummai Samaila, a 45-year-old mother of nine children and a member of the ECWA church in Tudun Wada, Miango, was hiding in her house when her husband was shot and killed.

Samaila Isa, 55, was a Fulani Christian.

Jummai Samaila, whose house is located at a Christian mission high school built by SIM missionaries, told Morning Star News in an interview at her home that her husband was resting and listening to news on a radio. She said she had gone to sleep in their bedroom while he remained in front of the house.

“I was woken up by heavy sounds of gunshots,” Samaila said. “The herdsmen shot at our windows, and as I woke up I saw dust all over the room. The room was covered with dust, and I could not see anything.”

Her small child was sleeping with her on the bed.

“I had to move my hand around in the dark in search of my child. I eventually found my child and held tight to it,” she said.

It occurred to her that her husband might still be sitting in front of the house.

“There was shooting going on all around our house, and the whole house was shaking,” she said. “I quickly ran to the children’s room to ensure they were safe, and I found that they were safe. I wanted to go running out of the room, but one of my sons told me not to do so. The window in their room was opened. I lifted the curtain of the window slightly, and outside I saw six armed Fulani herdsmen.”

They were talking in the Fulani language, which she could understand since her husband spoke it, she said.

“I moved away from the window and tried getting out, only to find that my husband was shot and was lying on the floor,” she said. “I could not move since the herdsmen were still in our house. I hid myself in a corner and watched as they carried my husband. Two of them carried his legs, while another two carried him from the chest up. One of them had a torchlight which was switched on to show them the way out of our house.”

They took the family’s goat as they left, she said.

“As they made their way out of our house carrying my husband with them towards a stream just behind our house, my son urged me to open the door so that we can run out to seek for help,” she said. “I opened the door, and we ran out.”

They fled to a house near their church building where other Christians also had taken refuge, and they stayed there until morning, while her 20-year-old son, Yusuf Samaila, remained in their home. When the herdsmen returned to their house that night, she said, one entered a room where Yusuf Samaila was but could not see him in the dark.

Samaila Isa, 55, killed in attack in Miango, Nigeria on March 8. (Morning Star News)

Another herdsman outside ordered the one inside to shoot at anything in the room, but he replied that he couldn’t see anyone in the room and walked out, she said.

“The herdsman outside, not satisfied, placed his gun through the window to shoot inside the room, and then my son, Yusuf, who was overhearing their discussion while hidden in a corner in the room, grabbed the barrel of the gun and used a machete to cut the hand of the man holding the gun,” Samaila said. “There was a painful cry from the herdsman, and the herdsmen immediately left without returning.”

In the morning her husband’s corpse was found near a stream behind their house, she said.

“His father, Mallam Isa, now an octogenarian, is a Muslim Fulani man who decades ago became the first Muslim Fulani man to convert from Islam to Christianity,” she said. “All his children, including my husband, became Christians like their father, and all are married to Christian women in Miango. The Isa family abandoned herding cattle and have lived here in Miango as Christian farmers.”

Faith in God

The Rev. Sunday Zibeh of the ECWA church in Nzharuvo, Miango, told Morning Star News that he and others were standing at the back of the church auditorium at about 10 p.m. on March 8 when the armed herdsmen suddenly began shooting at them.

“We ran as they pursued us and were shooting at us at the same time,” Pastor Zibeh said. “We ran to the area where the district headquarters of ECWA church is located here in Miango. The herdsmen, after a while, withdrew from pursuing us and retreated to the bush where they had emerged.”

The assailants had divided themselves into two groups, he said, one to attack the area behind the ECWA/SIM’s Kent Academy and mission guest-house, and the second to attack close to the ECWA Secondary School.

“It was after the herdsmen had retreated that I was alerted that they killed some children in one of my member’s house,” he said. “I rushed to the house to find that four children were killed in the house, and one was taken to the hospital.”

Pastor Zibeh said he was saddened by the lukewarm attitude of the Nigerian government regarding herdsmen attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria.

“I feel very sad that these attacks against Christian communities have continued without end, and yet we have security agencies in this country whose duties are to protect the people,” he said. “In view this, I can only say that we only have faith in God to give us the grace to surmount these difficult times we are now facing.”

All they can do is pray, he said.

“If all that is happening to Christians at this time is within the plans of God for us his children, then let His will be fulfilled in us, but if this is not the case, I have faith that God will raise he who will rescue us from these attacks of the herdsmen,” he said. “I plead with other Christians to please stand in the gap for us and other Christians facing persecution in northern Nigeria. I also want to plead that should there be others who are being led by the Holy Spirit to help displaced Christians in northern Nigeria, they should please do so.”

Christians are highly disappointed with the government, he added.

“Christians are being attacked and hunted by herdsmen, and nothing is being done to curtail these attacks,” he said. “The irony too is that, even military personnel brought to the affected areas are helpless as they are not able to confront the armed herdsmen for fear of the Nigerian president, who’s a Fulani man just like the herdsmen.”

The attacks coincided with the arrival of President Muhammadu Buhari to Jos on March 8 for a two-day visit. Over the next week, killings in the Basa and Bokkos areas (Miango is in the Bassa area ) followed in which herdsmen were reported to have killed at least 100 people. In turn, Fulani herdsmen reported attacks by ethnic Irigwe militia that killed five people and displaced hundreds.

“In spite of the shortcomings I see in our government in Nigeria, I believe God will rescue us from this calamity,” Pastor Zibeh said. “God alone can wipe away our tears in this part of Nigeria. As Christians, all we need do is to remain faithful to Jesus Christ, and this we can do by getting on our knees and being prayerful.”

Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.

Please continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria.

Pakistan Christian still on death row, five years after his ‘blasphemy’ sparked Joseph Colony attack

At the fifth anniversary of the arson attack on a Christian neighborhood in the Pakistani city of Lahore, the mother of the Christian man convicted of blaspheming against Islam – and so provoking the attack – says she still prays for his release.

Sawan Masih*, a 30-year-old sanitation worker, was accused by a Muslim friend of making blasphemous remarks against the prophet Muhammad on 9 March 2013, for which he was sentenced to death in 2014. His appeal is still pending reports World Watch Monitor.

Following the initial accusation against him, an over 3,000-strong mob descended on Joseph Colony, setting fire to over 150 houses, including the Masih family’s home.

An anti-terrorism court last year acquitted every one of the more than 100 suspects accused of involvement in the attack, but Masih, a father of three, is still being held in the Central Jail in Faisalabad, 140km west of Lahore, awaiting the outcome of his appeal at the Lahore High Court.

His wife and children have moved in with her family. His mother, Billo Bibi, 50, says the authorities are considering moving her son to a jail in Sahiwal, a city even farther away from them. “Travelling to another city was already tough. Now they are sending him farther away,” she told the Catholic news agency UCAN.

“I used to call him Buri. We still pray for his release. My elderly husband has developed breathing complications since his arrest. He does not speak anymore,” she added.

Protest of the Christian persecution experienced by the Joseph Colony where an entire village was set on fire by a large Muslim mob. -Photo by Sunny Gill (used with permission)

Protests against blasphemy law

On 9 March an annual candlelit vigil in commemoration of the Joseph Colony attack was held, while on the same day protestors gathered in front of the Punjab Assembly in Lahore to protest against misuse of the country’s blasphemy laws.

In an effort to stop the abuse, Pakistan’s Senate Special Committee on Human Rights recommended last week that those who falsely accuse someone of blasphemy should receive the same punishment as those convicted of blasphemy.

There is, however, strong opposition from right-wing political groups against any changes being made to the law.

Critics of the law say it has often been misused to settle personal scores, while procedural “loopholes” have also led to the filing of false charges, as happened in the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman on death row for blasphemy since 2010.

In the case of the attack on Joseph Colony, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has suggested the land on which the colony was set up could be the prime reason it was targeted, because it belonged to the government and is surrounded by huge factory complexes. Weeks before the incident residents had been threatened by a “group from the land mafia in the city’s Misri Shah [scrap] market”, according to the President of Pakistan Minority Front’s Lahore Chapter. “The issue was to move these people so that the scrap market could be extended,” he said shortly after the attack.

*The name ‘Masih’, which derives from ‘Messiah’, has been used for whole Christian communities for many years in Pakistan. Bibi, meanwhile, is a respectful term for a married or older woman in Pakistan and other parts of South Asia. 

These two little ones needed immediate medical attention for a horrible skin rash. They’ve recovered! VOP also helped to cover their nutritional needs for the month.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

Voice of the Persecuted is on the ground in Thailand helping to care for Pakistani Christian asylum seekers who’ve fled persecution in Pakistan. They’re legally unable to work, children are not allowed to attend school and facing brutal hardship in a harsh country. Many are being denied by the UNHCR claiming it’s safe to return to Pakistan. see our report.

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. Please consider our mission to help  care for a family and bring much needed supplies and nutrition to those suffering in the notorious IDC.

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!
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Ahok victim of cyber jihad against Indonesian government

Effigy used in recent protests against Jakarta’s Christian Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama falsely accused of blasphey.

The Christian former governor of Jakarta who was jailed may have been a victim of a sophisticated anti-government campaign of “fake news” and malicious bots, reports World Watch Monitor.

Indonesian police believe they have uncovered a clandestine “fake news” operation designed to destabilise the government and corrupt the political process, the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported today.

Authorities have made a series of arrests across Indonesia in recent weeks linked to an online jihadist network known as the Muslim Cyber Army (MCA).

Damar Juniarto, of the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network, said the MCA comprised groups or networks with links to opposition parties, the military, and an organisation of increasingly influential Islamists. Police have not revealed who is financing it.

The Guardian said one network it had identified “was created for the sole purpose of tweeting inflammatory content and messages designed to amplify social and religious division, and push a hardline Islamist and anti-government line”.

Digital strategist Shafiq Pontoh, from the data consultancy firm Provetic, told the Guardian: “The first victim in the polluted [digital] ecosystem was the governor election, Ahok,” adding of the controversial blasphemy conviction: “It was all because of fake news, bots, black campaigns, prejudice and racism.”

A bot is software that performs simple and repetitive tasks and is often used for malicious purposes such as posting defamatory content on social media platforms.

The Guardian reported that a cluster of bots in the Indonesia Twittersphere, used to pump out anti-Ahok material last year, stopped tweeting two days after the gubernatorial election.

Savic Ali, online director at Indonesia’s largest Islamic group, Nahdlatul Ulama, suggested the Muslim Cyber Army was not about the true values of Islam but “about power”.

Ahok, a Christian politician of Chinese descent, was sentenced to two years in prison last May following a string of protests organised by conservative Muslim groups while he campaigned for re-election.

He was convicted on the basis of a video in which he argued against use of the Quran for political purposes – comments for which he was later adjudged to have committed blasphemy. Six months later a communications professor from Jakarta, Buni Yani, was found guilty of tampering with the video on which Ahok appeared and which turned public opinion against him.

Meanwhile a spokesman for Indonesia’s Supreme Court has said the review of Ahok’s case may be fast-tracked because of the case’s high profile.

The spokesman, Agung Abdullah, suggested the court may consider speeding up the process of the case review, “because the case receives widespread public attention”, the Jakarta Post reported last week.

North Jakarta District Court’s head of public relations, Jootje Sampaleng, confirmed that the documents from Ahok’s ten-minute appeal hearing on 26 February had been signed and sent to the Supreme Court.

Indonesian Catholics on alert for Holy Week

People clear away rubble from the entrance to St. Zachary Chapel in South Sumatra’s Ogan Ilir district after it was vandalized on March 8. (Photo supplied by Sacred Heart of Jesus Father Felix Astono Atmojo)

In a report ucanews shared with Voice of the Persecuted, Catholics in Indonesia were warned by church officials to stay alert in the run up to and during Holy Week following a number of attacks on churches in several parts of the country.

Holy Week begins on March 25 this year.

On March 8, six men smashed their way into a chapel in Ogan Ilir district in South Sumatra and burned statues and liturgical ornaments before escaping.

A month earlier on Feb. 11, a man armed with a sword burst in on a Sunday Mass at a church in Yogyakarta’s, Sleman district and attacked a Dutch priest and three parishioners.

“We call on each parish and mission station to stay alert ahead of the observance of Holy Week and Easter. This is very important,” Sacred Heart of Jesus Father Felix Astono Atmojo, vicar-general of Palembang Archdiocese in South Sumatra, said on March 13.

“We don’t want the church attack to reoccur,” he said. Read full report here

UN ‘failing’ Eritrea’s detained Christians

“Thousands” of Christians are facing detention as “religious freedom continue[s] to be denied in Eritrea” – UN Watch (Photo: David Stanley)

Eritrea’s human rights record was again in the spotlight at the UN Human Rights Council earlier this week. Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in her opening remarks that over 100 people were arrested in Eritrea in 2017 for practising religions not officially recognised by the state, reports World Watch Monitor.

A monitoring group for the UN, United Nations Watch, said “thousands” of Christians are also facing detention as “religious freedom continue[s] to be denied in Eritrea”. The group also asked why the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, “failed to closely assess this situation”.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a religious freedom and human rights advocate, mentioned the arrest of dissidents and their family members and noted that the Commission of Inquiry had found that “Eritrea had committed crimes against humanity”.

The Special Rapporteur did highlight the detention this month of hundreds of perceived opponents, some as young as 13, following the death, in custody, of a 93-year-old school director who defied government orders, as Reuters reported.

Haji Musa Mohamednur was the director of a private Islamic school in the Eritrean capital, Asmara. The government orders that he disobeyed included a ban on the veil and stopping of religious teachings.

His arrest in October led to student protests on the streets of Asmara – a rare sight in the strictly governed East African nation.

Video: During peaceful protest, PFDJ shot at civilians as they marched against the dictatorship for their rights. Approximately 28 people were killed.

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