(Voice of the Persecuted) The November 27, 2018 appeal hearing of Sawan Masih, a Pakistani Christian accused and sentenced to death for blasphemy, was postponed. Nasir Saeed, a spokesperson from CLAAS, Sawans’s defense counsel, told Voice of the Persecuted that they have yet to receive a rescheduled hearing date. It’s possible that the court avoided conducting the hearing deliberately because of the present situation in the country after Asia Bibi’s acquittal, he added.
Sawan is at the center of a case that caused a mob of 3000 Muslim men to attack the Joseph Colony of Lahore, Pakistan in March of 2013. (View report and photos) After a local mosque announced the blasphemy charge over loudspeakers, the vigilantes stormed the Christian community where Masih lived. They burned or ransacked 180 Christian homes, 75 shops and at least two churches during the attack. Mob members threatened to burn the Christians alive if they tried to defend or hide in their homes. Hundreds of families were forced to flee for their lives as the angry mob destroyed their village.
Masih was accused by his Muslim friend, Shahid Imran. A local bishop said the incident had more to do with personal enmity between the two men than blasphemy. He claimed the men got into a brawl after drinking late one night, and in the morning the Muslim man made up the blasphemy story as payback. Some claimed that Sawan was ‘winning’ their argument. They believe a Christian having the upper hand incensed Shahid Imran to falsely accuse Masih. Please keep praying for Masih and other victims of Pakistan’s blasphemy law.
PAKISTAN: Prayers are needed for Sawan Masih who has been on death row for blasphemy since 2014. Masih was accused by his Muslim friend, Shahid Imran, of making derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad in 2013. A case was registered against him under section 295-C of the Blasphemy Law which has a mandatory death penalty. Masih says the charge is false.
His case became internationally known when a large Muslim mob violently attacked Masih’s residential area, Joseph Colony, in Badami Bagh Lahore. The local mosque broadcasted the accusation via loudspeakers and a mob of more than 3,000 Muslims attacked Sawan’s home, looted and torched 180 Christian homes, 75 shops and at least two churches. Witnesses say the police stood and watched instead of stopping the attackers and protecting local Christians and their property.
Hundreds of families were displaced as the mob threatened to burn Christians alive in their homes unless they left. Sawan Masih was handed over to the police and has remained in custody ever since. See our March 2013 report and photos of the violent mob attack
On March 27, 2014 the Lower Court sentenced Masih to death for committing blasphemy. Soon after this verdict CLAAS filed an appeal against the conviction in the Lahore High Court, which is scheduled to be heard on Tuesday, November 27, 2018.
Sawan Masih’s wife and three children are very concerned and living in fear. CLAAS is providing free legal aid to Sawan Masih. Prayers have been requested and considered crucial for his safety and release.
Nasir Saeed, director of CLAAS-UK said, “This is a very unfortunate situation as although Asia Bibi was acquitted on October 31 by the Pakistan Supreme Court, she is not allowed to leave Pakistan despite several western countries being willing to accept her and her family.”
He added, “This is because the leader of the Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan has threatened the government, saying if she leaves the country, there will be war. Unfortunately for the last several decades, Islamist groups in Pakistan have become more powerful than the state. Now the situation is that everyone, whether it is the prime minister or the chief justice of Pakistan, they have to proclaim publicly that they equally love the prophet and would sacrifice their life for the prophet.
A review petition and separately a petition to add her name in the exit control list (ECL) has been filed in the supreme court and keeping in view the present situation I don’t think the review petition will be heard very soon.”
Mr Saeed also said, “Pakistan’s President Dr Arif Alvi’s statement that the government will not amend the blasphemy law is not very encouraging as we all know the blasphemy law is often used by Muslims to settle personal grudges and scores against their rivals, and Christians are the main target. He said the blasphemy law needs change to stop its continuous misuse and the international community needs to remind Pakistan of this regularly.”
Police detained radical Islamic cleric and (TLP) chief, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who led protests that brought daily life to a halt following the Supreme Court acquittal of Asia Bibi. On Friday, authorities began a nationwide crackdown and arrested over 1000 leaders and supporters of the Islamist party. The cleric’s arrest ignited violent clashes with police and several people were injured. A majority of the arrests took place in the province of Punjab, headquarters of the extremist Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party. They alleged the crackdown against the party and its leadership was to prevent them from protesting the acquittal.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry dismissed those claims. He explained that Rizvi had been placed under “protective custody” because he refused to withdraw a fresh call for street protests on Sunday and turned down offers to organize the rally at a place proposed by the government. “It’s to safeguard public life, property and order and has to do nothing with Asia Bibi case.” The minister called for the public to remain “peaceful and calm and “the law shall take its course and it cannot be left to individuals.”
The charity Aid to the Church in Need stays in contact with Asia’s family. The charity spokesman, John Pontifex , relayed that the situation is constantly changing. In a recent conversation, the family told him that people were going door-to-door showing their pictures and asking if people had seen them.
Asia is currently in protective custody, pending an appeal lodged by the religious extremist TLP party against her acquittal.
Eisham Ashiq spoke publicly for the first time from a safe house in Pakistan since her mother was acquitted of blasphemy. Please keep Asia, her family, Christians in Pakistan and the nation in your prayers.
Inspiring Bible Verses for Thanksgiving
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.
Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High,
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
Scripture Quotes on Being Thankful
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.
What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
What the Bible Says About Giving Thanks
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
What is your favorite Bible verse for Thanksgiving? Share it in the comments below and encourage others in our community!
To all our brothers and sisters, we thank God for you! May the Lord provide all your needs, strengthen, bless and keep you.
The Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) and Persecution Watch Teams
Informed sources reported to Mohabat News that “Behnam Ersali, a Christian convert living in Karaj, traveled to Mashhad and was arrested by security guards at a friend’s home on Friday, November 16, 2018 and taken unknown location.
Six plain-clothed security officers entered the house without a legal decree and arrested him along with the another person. The second was released a few hours later.
Behnam Ersali, was a former member of the Assemblies of God church in Tehran. Mohabat New also reported that several years ago Ersali had been fired from his job because of his Christian faith.
Davood Rasooli, known among the believers as “David”, was also arrested on Friday by two plain-clothes officers on in front of his home in Karaj. He too was transferred to an unknown location. Informed sources, quoted by the Christian convert’s family, say that the officers returned to the house two hours later with Rasooli. They searched his home and confiscated some of his books and personal belongings.
MEC reported that Rasooli had planned to meet Ersali in Mashhad that same day. It’s believed that Iranian intelligence had intercepted their calls and learned of the arrangement.
Since the arrest of these two Christian converts there has been no contact with their family members. Mohabat news shared that no information is yet available on the cause of their detention or where they are kept. According to MEC, friends of Rasooli believe that he is in solitary confinement and undergoing interrogation in Rajai Shahr Prison.
Mohabat news shared that reports indicate Iran’s intelligent agencies have summoned and arrested a number of believers in the northern cities of the country. There are still no details on this issue, but it is said that some of them were released on their recognizance’s.
The Islamic Republic is under international pressures, and government officials are at an impasse, but they continue to harass religious and ethnic minorities without any understanding of their own conditions. It seems that there is a new wave of arrest and pressure against Christians.
The United Nations Human Rights Council has recently adopted a resolution indicating the increase in the number of executions, especially executions of criminals under the age of 18, violations of the right to freedom of expression and violations of the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, repression of protesters and journalists, torture and ill-treatment in prisons, detention and the condemnation of dual nationality and the violation of women’s rights in Iran, and that the human rights situation has become worse in Iran. However, Iran’s President, Hassan Rowhani, has claimed that he intends to improve the situation of religious and ethnic minorities./FARSI
Where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were preserved in the midst of a blazing furnace fire in the presence of the Lord. A land where God saved Daniel when he sent his angel to shut the mouths of the lions. Today, this same land has one of the fastest growing number of Christians in the world—second only to China. Please keep our Iranian brothers and sisters in your prayers.
India (Morning Star News) – Five families in eastern India were at a worship service last month when they received a phone call telling them to return to their homes immediately.
The Christians rushed nearly four miles from their church in Lisiya village to their homes in Durula, West Singhbhum District in Jharkhand state, where they found the shanty of one of the families in ruins. Villagers under the influence of tribal movement Adivasi Ho Samaj had left the home of Sidiu Bari and his family in shambles.
Members of the Adivasi Ho Samaj, which in turn had come under the influence of Hindu extremists to join forces against the spread of Christianity, persuaded villagers that they must drive the five Christian families out, area resident Subod Sinku told Morning Star News.
“They damaged Bari’s roof, threw away their clothes and utensils and took away a sum of 20,500 rupees [US$280],” Sinku said. “Even after all this, they were not done. There was lot of verbal abuse and verbal grilling that continued for at least a week after the [Oct. 18] incident.”
Threatened with expulsion from the village and with seizure of their farmland, three of the five families converted back to the tribal religion, Sarnaism, he said.
“Pastors and Christians from Lisiya and surrounding village churches tried to encourage them to continue in the Christian faith in these testing times,” Sinku said. “But we were only able to get Sidiu Bari to write a complaint and report the matter to a local police station.”
Police advised against filing a First Information Report (FIR), telling the Christians to try to settle the matter “amicably,” he said.
Another source said on condition of anonymity, “The situation in Jharkhand is turning worse since the Ho Samaj joined hands with the RSS [Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh], holding meetings to instigate the tribal population against their own brethren for choosing to follow Christ.”
Sinku, 25, said that in his home village of Deoghar District, his family has warned him that he will be thrown out of his parents’ home and will not receive his share of land if he continues in his Christian faith.
“Putting faith in Christ is a matter of heart, and gradually as a new convert from the Adivasi religion grows in fellowship with other Christians, one’s entire lifestyle gets transformed,” Sinku said. “You learn many things. You become particular about hygiene, your intake of food, dressing, and you are not afraid to move to the city for education and get a job. This is not how indigenous tribes live. And, they think that we can afford the clothes, food and education from the supposed amount we received because of conversion to Christianity. It is completely false.”
Church Building Converted
In Ranchi District on Oct. 20, Sarna members broke a lock and barged into a church building while Christians were away attending a burial service of a young female member at another site, area residents said.
In the absence of anyone at the church building in Garh Khatanga, Hindu and tribal religion extremists surrounded the structure. Outside elements had instigated the villagers, who joined the extremists in breaking a cross on the building and chanting slogans against Christianity, Pastor Amandeep Bodra told Morning Star News.
Church members heard about the attack but, occupied with comforting family members who had lost a child, they decided not to try to stop them and thus avoided a fight, the pastor said. The next day they reported it to police, who have taken no action, he said.
“The Sarna activists had removed the cross and had set up a signboard saying, ‘Sarna Bhavan[Sarna Complex],’ and the police tell us to compromise with them,” he said.
The church purchased land and constructed its building on it about six months ago, and no one objected, he said. The now 70-member church had begun meeting in 2014.
The tribal animists have put their own lock on the building, which they have not been using, and they do not let the church use it, the pastor said.
“If we also break open the land and claim it back, the situation will get worse,” he said. “Police will not wait long to book severe cases against us, and there will be physical violence against us.”
Church leaders told the village president that they are willing to forfeit the land and requested the official show them another plot for construction of a church building, Pastor Bodra said. They have not heard back from him and are worshipping in a congregation member’s home.
In Surlu village, dozens of RSS members and tribal animists on Oct. 5 met to plan how to punish villagers for becoming Christians.
“The village president agreed to the propaganda put forth by them,” said area resident Nirmal Boraiburu. “Their plans were very harmful. They decided that Christians should not be allowed to go into the open fields to answer the call of nature. How can a human survive in such conditions?”
The Hindu extremists and Adivasis later told the Christians that they can farm their fields, but that they cannot pass through others’ fields to get to their own, Boraiburu said.
“Which means there will not be a path for us to walk to our field,” he said. “How can we plough or grow a crop when we can’t even enter the field? The entire village joined hands against us that nobody would give us work. But what prompted us to vacate the village was that some women made an announcement that now that these Adivasis have converted to Christians, they are no longer our tribe’s, and that Adivasi men are free to rape Christian women.”
The Christians have fled to Odisha state, Boraiburu said
“The pastor and believers here helped us build some huts to take shelter,” he said. “There in Surlu, women are usually alone at home after men go to work; it is not safe anymore. My two sisters are pursuing their studies, and dad works, in Chaibasa District. I left the property and everything in Surlu for their safety.”
As a handful of Christians among the majority Sarna adherents, they would have risked provoking the entire Adivasi community against them by reporting them to police, he said.
Earlier in Bokaro District, Hindu extremists used an elderly, bed-ridden man to give a false police statement of forcible conversion against Christians, sources said.
The ordeal began when pastor Sikandar Ravidas received a phone call from a police inspector telling him to bring documents related to church construction, on the request of revenue authorities.
Pastor Ravidas went to the police station near Lal Mithiya village, along with his father, Mahabir Das, and Binod Ravidas. There the inspector insisted they go with him to Chandrapura police station, said the pastor’s uncle, Manoj Ravidas.
“We received a phone call after he was taken into custody in Chandrapura,” Manoj Ravidas said. “He called us saying to pick up the documents, as they are being sent to jail the next day. After reaching the police station, we learned that police wanted to frame Binod Ravidas, former president of Lal Mithiya, in a case.”
A village official who is a staunch supporter of the RSS and the Hindu extremist Bharatiya Janata Party used the elderly Mani Ravidas to give a false statement to police that Christians were involved in forced in conversions, Manoj Ravidas told Morning Star News.
“The complainant, Mani Ravidas, is a bed-ridden old man,” he said, adding that the official obtained his thumb prints to sign an FIR against Binod Ravidas. “He brought the pastor into picture to make the case stronger under the state’s anti-conversion laws.”
Eight Christians, including the pastor, Ajay Ravidas, Lakhi Devi, Hiralal Shaw, Motilal Shaw, Robert Edward, were booked on Sept. 26 under Section 298 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for wounding religious feelings, and under Section 4 of Jharkhand’s “Freedom of Religion Act” (anti-conversion law). Under the law, forcible conversion can be punished with up to four years of prison and a fine of 100,000 rupees (US$1,370).
“Pastor Ravidas’ wife and their 3-year-old are now under the protection of believers in Lal Mithiya village,” Manoj Ravidas said. “Even their own relatives can’t meet her or provide any sort of help as, the official might plot against them as well. He has a criminal history.”
Ajay Ravidas was taken into custody after he tried to report Hindu extremists chasing him on motorbikes, Manoj Ravidas said.
“He went to the police station to report against the bikers, but police arrested him instead,” Manoj Ravidas said. “He discovered in the police station that he also has been booked in the same FIR filed on Sept. 26.”
The initial judge and an additional district judge have rejected bail petitions.
“We are urging the church members to be united and strong, but they are very upset that the pastor has been in jail for more than 40 days now,” he said.
The coordinator of legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom-India’s Jharkhand unit, Sandeep Tigga, said it is sad that lower courts refuse to take cases booked under the anti-conversion law, so the file gets passed to appellate courts, where matters remain in litigation for so long.
“Christians avoid taking legal course of action in most cases as they fear revenge attacks from extremist groups,” Tigga added. “Most of the Christian youth are the first generation getting into education, and they don’t want court cases to be an impediment to their studies, and even if they take a courageous step to report, police advise them to settle with the help of a village council.”
ADF-India organizes sessions for pastors, youth leaders and Christians in Jharkhand to make them aware of their rights and provisions in the law, Tigga said. ADF undertakes legal advocacy for religious freedom in several countries.
The group notes in its campaign celebrating the 70th anniversary of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights that it is sadly ironic that Christians are persecuted in India, a country with a long tradition and legal framework of freedom of religion. Article 18 of the U.N. declaration asserts that believers have the freedom to practice their faith “in teaching, practice, worship and observance,” ADF notes in its campaign to obtain signatures supporting the Geneva Statement on Human Rights at www.ImHumanRight.org.
The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist BJP, against non-Hindus, has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, religious rights advocates say.
(Voice of the Persecuted) Speaking at a church during a prayer service for Asia Bibi in the Netherlands, her lawyer, Saif-ul-Mulook, described his last visit with her at the Multan women’s prison on Oct. 10th, 2018. Pakistan’s Supreme Court had just heard her death sentence appeal but the judges delayed the announcement of ruling in Bibi’s case. Saif-ul-Malook said he was amazed by her wonderful mood, how happy she was and that she showed no signs of depression. Asia shared with him about a dream she had two days earlier (Oct. 8th), the same day the court hearing was taking place.
“Sir, I saw in the dream that all the prison doors were opened and I worried the if the jail superintendent comes, then she’ll be very furious. Sir from my dream, I’m very, very certain that my appeal is going to be accepted and I’m going to be free. I have such a firm faith in God that I have strong feeling that nobody can hurt me.”
Then she told him not to worry for he too would be provided the same protection.
He announced at the church service, “I have never seen a stronger woman in my life, or read in any book story. Who is behind the bars for more than 9 nine years leaving behind two daughters, one [with mental disabilities] and still, to be so strong. I tell her many times, if I was in prison in your place, I could have broken in 6 months and might have decided to commit suicide.”
Mulook, who is also a Muslim, could also be called one of the bravest of Pakistani men. Prior to taking Asia’s case, Mulook’s was targeted when he was the special prosecutor in the high-profile murder case of Punjab governor Salman Taseer. The governor was shot and killed by his own bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, in 2011. Qadri killed Taseer over his call for blasphemy law reform and his support of Asia Bibi. Islamists called Qadri a hero. Mulook was the only lawyer willing to prosecute the former police bodyguard who was convicted and sentenced to death by execution. Tens of thousands called for Bibi’s death when Qadri was sentenced, then again after his execution. Many were to fearful to take Asia as their client. When Mulook chose to defend her, other attorney’s told him, “You have hammered the last nail into your coffin”. His colleagues and even friends shunned him. “We don’t go out to meet relatives or friends. They don’t come here to meet us.”he told the AFP.
Already condemned when he successfully prosecuted Qadri, he thought it cowardly to give up on Asia. “I said to myself, look, you have already done the damage. It is time to stand up for this poor woman.”
Due to recent death threats, Saif-ul-Malook fled to the Netherlands. The Dutch Foreign Ministry made an official offer to him to join a special program for the human rights activists under pressure in their home countries. Reports claim the Pakistani attorney has not yet filed an asylum application to stay permanently in the country.
Asia and her family were taken to an undisclosed location and under the protection of police and Pakistan’s military. Multiple countries have offered asylum to Asia. However, her husband had requested for asylum in Canada, the U.K. or the USA.
Today, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed to the AFP that his government was in discussions with Pakistan about granting her asylum and bringing her to Canada.
“There is a delicate domestic context that we respect which is why I don’t want to say any more about that, but I will remind people Canada is a welcoming country,” Trudeau said.
Canada’s opposition Conservative Party supports this decision and has urged Mr Trudeau to “use every mechanism at his disposal to offer the Bibi family asylum”.
It was a joy to hear this news as we prayed for Trudeau and his government on yesterday’s Prayer Conference Call event. We also prayed for the continuation of persecuted Christians to be granted asylum in the country. We’d like to recognize Canada for welcoming many of these Christians in the last decade, and to acknowledge the Canadian churches along with their members who have stepped up to sponsor these families. May the Lord continue to bless them.
Video of Saif-ul-Malook at prayer service shared on the social media service Facebook.