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Pastor Saeed’s Wife, Naghmeh Abedini writes Open Letter to President Obama

Saeed-Obama

(Voice of the Persecuted) This morning, I could not hold back the tears as I recall the roller coaster ride of emotions the Abedini family has been on since Pastor Saeed’s arrest for his Christian faith in 2012 by the Iranian government. During a face to face meeting earlier this year, President Obama promised the family to do all he could to bring Saeed out of the dangerous Rajai Shahr Prison, a deadly jail notorious for housing violent murderers and rapists in Iran. He also promised Jacob, Saeed’s 6 year old son, that he would try to fulfill his request to have his father home for his birthday—which was on March 17th.

Since his imprisonment, Saeed has been in very poor health and bleeding internally due to the beatings he has received. The necessary medical attention and surgery he needs has been denied.

As the US proceeds with nuclear talks to negotiate and seal a deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran, an American pastor/citizen sits in an Iranian prison cell, is tortured and abused and considered a criminal because of his Christian faith. Three other Americans are being held in the country, yet their release has not been obtained nor negotiated as part of the ‘deal’.

In a piece by Charles Krauthammer at the Washington Post titled Obama’s Nixon doctrine: anointing Iran, he shared,

Last week, Obama preemptively caved on the long-standing U.S. condition that there be no immediate sanctions relief in any Iranian nuclear deal. He casually dismissed this red line, declaring that what is really important is whether sanctions can be reimposed if Iran cheats. And it doesn’t stop there. The Wall Street Journal reports that Obama is offering Tehran a $30 billion to $50 billion signing bonus (drawn from frozen Iranian assets) — around 10 percent of Iranian GDP.

Those tears turned into a full on cry as I felt the searing disappointment/abandonment Naghmeh and their children must be experiencing, today. The talks with Iran could be one of the few opportunities the US ever has to bring all 4 Americans home. Hundreds of thousands have called on the Obama Administration to secure their release, but our cries appear to go unheard.

It is hard to understand how our government would not demand the release of these Americans before sitting down at the table with Iran. It is appalling that the US would consider offering a ‘good faith gesture’ in the form of a huge signing bonus, as Americans are unjustly detained, tortured and their lives endangered at the hands of the Iranian regime.

Below is the transcript of the open letter from American Pastor Saeed Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, to President Obama urging his Administration to do more to free her husband and the other wrongfully imprisoned Americans held in Iran.

President Obama, 

When you met with my children, Rebekka and Jacob, and I in January, you promised that you would do everything you can to get my husband — their father — out of prison. You told our family that securing my husband’s release is a “high priority.” I know that this is a very difficult thing to do, but I ask that you, Secretary of State John Kerry, and your Administration to do everything they can to have our fellow U.S. citizens freed before any deal is finalized with Iran.

In your address on April 2nd you stated, “These are matters of war and peace, and they should be evaluated based on facts and what is ultimately best for the American people.” The fact is that my husband, who is being held simply because of his Christian faith, and the 3 other wrongfully held U.S. citizens are Americans and they need to be released.

Mr. President, as the US continues its negotiations with Iran, will you please demand the immediate release of Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati, Robert Levinson, and my husband, Pastor Saeed Abedini – this direct ask needs to be priority front and center not pushed to the sidelines. These Americans deserve to be freed and returned to their families immediately.

Please pray and sign the petition for their release. And please continue to remain a VOICE for Pastor Saeed until he is returned to his family on American soil.

By L. Kanalos, VOP Advocate

Voice of the Persecuted

Increasing Christian Persecution – Our Responsibility To Protect And Halt Genocide

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(Voice of the Persecuted) In this month of April, the commemoration days of 3 past genocides take place.

April 7th marked the anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide. The 1994 genocide resulted in the systematic massacre of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in less than 100 days. The events occurred while the international community closed its eyes.

Last week, April 15th marked the observance of the Jewish Holocaust, genocide inflicted on Jews by one of the most dreaded tyrants in history, Adolf Hitler. When the Nazi’s assumed power in 1933, they used propaganda, persecution, and legislation to deny human and civil rights to Jews. They used centuries of antisemitism as their foundation. By the end of the Holocaust, six million Jewish men, women and children had perished in ghettos, mass-shootings, in concentration camps and extermination camps.

Today, it is very sad that when asking the question “Have you heard of Adolph Hitler?”—many of our youth/young adults don’t know him, nor the atrocities he committed.

It is also disturbing how many claim the Jewish and Armenian Holocaust never happened. With these horrible and permanent scars on humanity, one would believe mankind would learn from it and ‘Never again, would mean never again. But sadly, genocide kept happening—Cambodia-1975, Bosnia-1991 and Rwanda-1994 to name a few. What massacre will the future hold?

This Friday, April 24 marks the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide also known as the Armenian Holocaust, Armenian Massacres and the Red Sunday. Traditionally, it’s known by Armenians, as Medz Yeghern the “Great Crime” which was the Ottoman government’s systematic extermination of its minority Armenian subjects inside their historic homeland, within the territory constituting the present-day Republic of Turkey. The total number of people killed as a result has been estimated at between 1 and 1.5 million. Though it began much earlier, the starting date is conventionally held to be 24 April 1915, the day Ottoman authorities rounded up and arrested some 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople. The genocide was carried out during and after World War I and implemented in two phases: the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and subjection of army conscripts to forced labor, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian desert.

At least 500,000 Greeks, up to 750,000 Assyrian Christians throughout Mesopotamia were also eliminated. Turks must bear most of the guilt, but Kurds and Arabs were also involved.

Little known fact: Armenia became the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion, in between late 3rd to early years of the 4th century (the official date is 301 AD), becoming the first Christian nation. (source)

In the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin, Elizabeth Kendal wrote an excellent article, GENOCIDE: THEN AND NOW.

She touched on the point that Britain’s economic interests in keeping the Ottoman Empire united and strong for the purpose of free trade and believed was the key to world peace. And geo-strategic interests in keeping Russia hemmed in. So Britain and France entered the Crimean War on the side of the Ottoman Turks. In exchange for British support the Sultan agreed to enact reforms aimed at improving the situation of his Christian subjects. The reforms, guaranteeing religious freedom and equality before the law, were aimed at bringing an end to the Christians’ status as dhimmis (second class citizens, without rights).

She shared that Muslims rejected these reforms as anti-Islamic. And removing of jizya(protection money) was seen as permission for jihad.

In 1860 some 20,000 Christians were slaughtered in Syria and Lebanon. In 1876 up to 25,000 Eastern Christians were massacred in the ‘Bulgarian horrors’. In 1895-96 as many as 200,000 Armenians were murdered in Turkish Armenia. Keen to maintain its pro-Muslim policies, Britain adopted a ‘conspiracy of silence’ regarding the killings, along with running a campaign of propaganda vilifying Eastern Christianity. So the killings continued.

Then in 1915, as World War I raged and the Ottoman Empire unravelled, Turkish authorities exploited the chaos to launch an orchestrated campaign of ethnic-religious genocide, knowing full well that it was not in the interests of any Western power to stop them.

After the war the remnant Christians were denied their right of self-determination by pro-Muslim European powers who were convinced that the best way to modernise and soften Islam was to ‘dilute’ it with Christians. So it is a story not only of genocide, but of abandonment and betrayal, and the stoking of God’s wrath. Read full article here

Each year, Armenians across the globe remember the dead. Over 20 nations will join them, including Argentina, Canada, Italy, France, Russia, and Sweden, to name a few. The U.S. with the second-largest population of Armenians outside of Armenia—does not. US congressmen—representatives Robert Dold of Illinois, Adam Schiff of California, David Valadao of California, and Frank Pallone of New Jersey—introduced a bipartisan resolution to formally recognize the Armenian genocide at the federal level. Per the press release, the Armenian Truth and Justice Resolution “calls upon the administration to work toward equitable, constructive and durable Armenian-Turkish relations based upon the Republic of Turkey’s full acknowledgement of the facts and ongoing consequences of the Armenian Genocide.”

During his 2008 campaign, Obama promised to recognize the 1915 Turkish massacre of Armenians who were mainly Christians.

He stated,

“The Armenian genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence,”  “As president I will recognize the Armenian genocide.”

This month, forty-nine members of the US House of Representatives wrote a letter to US President Barack Obama urging him to finally recognize the mass killings of the Armenians by the Ottomans in 1915 as genocide.

Rep. Robert Dold, the initiator of the letter said, “As the world’s greatest advocate for freedom, the United States’ has an obligation to fully acknowledge one of humanity’s most horrific crimes. An unequivocal statement of recognition would not only reinforce our own resolve, but it would also help prevent future genocides by reaffirming that we will not tolerate affronts to human dignity.” View letter HERE

To this day—disappointing many, Obama has not kept that promise. And this year will be no different.

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Chairman, Ken Hachikian said, “President Obama’s surrender to Turkey represents a national disgrace. It is, very simply, a betrayal of truth, a betrayal of trust,”

“With the world’s attention drawn this April 24 to worldwide Armenian Genocide Centennial commemorations, President Obama will, tragically, use the moral standing of our nation not to defend the truth, but rather to enforce a foreign power’s gag-rule. He has effectively outsourced America’s policy on the Armenian Genocide to Recep Erdogan,” said Hachikian.

“As Americans of Armenian heritage–despite the repeated surrender of President Obama to foreign pressure–we will, with our allies, continue to work, with increased vigor and determination, to build American support for a truthful and just resolution of the Armenian Genocide,” he added.

According to Jake Flanigan, a journalist who writes about foreign affairs and human rights reported,

what’s kept the US government from recognizing the Armenian genocide all these years is: the Republic of Turkey. The successor state to the Ottoman Empire has adamantly denied the Armenian genocide for decades—preferring to characterize the violence as part of the broader chaos that broke out in the wake of World War I. (Read the full report here)

Time does not erase the scars of mass murder. If mankind is to to affirm, “Never Again,” devoted to preventing future genocide—knowledge, remembrance and support are imperative for all generations. And silence is not an option.

Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel said, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

In 1996 Gregory Stanton, the president of Genocide Watch, presented a briefing paper called The 8 Stages of Genocide at the United States Department of State. In it he suggested that genocide develops in eight stages that are “predictable but not inexorable”.  

The Stanton paper was presented at the State Department, shortly after the Rwanda genocide and much of the analysis is based on why that genocide occurred. The preventative measures suggested, given the original target audience, were those that the United States could implement directly or use their influence on other governments to have implemented. source

The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was signed in December 1948, and has been in force since January 1951.[1] Article II of the convention defines genocide as ANY of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such:[2]

(a) Killing members of the group.

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.

(e) Forcibly transferring children of one group to another group.

The United States ratified the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1988.[3]

Many fear we will witness a Christian genocide. And some believe it has already begun.

Last Friday, a conference was held at the United Nations titled, “Not Peace but a Sword: The Persecution of Christians in the Middle East as a Threat to International Peace and Security. Religious leaders also attended and the threat of genocide was discussed. Recorded conference (5:20:56) 

Silence-in-the-face-of-evilQuoting in part the Pope’s recent statement regarding the execution of Ethiopian Christians in Libya, he said,

“It makes no difference whether the victims are Catholic, Copt, Orthodox or Protestant,” The Pope added to his message, “Their blood is one and the same in their confession of Christ!”

Every Christian should be concerned for ALL believers in Christ suffering in the world, today. They are our ‘family’ in Christ. We should ardently defend, support and bring hope through aid for their survival. We must be their VOICE when their cries are not heard. We must work to shield them from a possible genocide. The rest of the world may remain silent, but we cannot.

The numbers of persecuted are staggering. Too many are still unaware that Christians are persecuted or at risk of extreme persecution in these modern times. Sadly, too many Christians know nothing of their brethren suffering to the extreme or losing their lives. Yes, it can be tough to hear of the abuse or read the news of a new attack. But we can no longer look away. And we certainly must remember them daily in our prayers. When we have been injured, we do what we can to care for and protect the wounded body part. Folks, the Church is being attacked. We, as the Body have been injured and the wound must be tended, not ignored.

We are our brother’s keeper.  Stand as ONE with them! 

thebodyofChrist1 Corinthian:s 12:12-24

12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.-

13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

14 For the body is not one member, but many.

15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?

20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.

21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:

23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.

24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked.

25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.

26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

Voice of the Persecuted

Pope: Blood of Ethiopian Christians ‘cries out to be heard’

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(Voice of the Persecuted) Yesterday, Ethiopians began three days of national mourning for more than 20 Ethiopian Christians killed by Islamic State militants in Libya. ISIS once again singled out Christians and documented their savagery in a video where they brutally beheaded and shot the believers in Christ.

The Islamic State – aka ISIL/ISIS/IS/Daesh – has taken over parts of Iraq and Syria in recent months. The militant terror group has established a caliphate and carried out mass persecutions of minority populations, primarily Christians and Yazidis. They have also published videos as a warning to countries that have militarily intervened and a way to control civilians through fear.

The discriminate murders have horrified Ethiopians and spurred international calls for condemnation.

The leader of the Catholic Church shared his anguish of the mass execution and offered his condolences to patriarch of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church, Abuna Matthias.

Pope Francis lamented,

“With great distress and sadness I learn of the further shocking violence perpetrated against innocent Christians in Libya. I know that Your Holiness is suffering deeply in heart and mind at the sight of your faithful children being killed for the sole reason that they are followers of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

He also stated,

“It makes no difference whether the victims are Catholic, Copt, Orthodox or Protestant,” Pope Francis said in his message. “Their blood is one and the same in their confession of Christ!”

He offered hope amidst the darkness, noting the Easter season of joy in the knowledge that “Christ has risen from the dead.”

“This year, that joy – which never fades – is tinged with profound sorrow. Yet we know that the life we live in God’s merciful love is stronger than the pain all Christians feel, a pain shared by men and women of good will in all religious traditions.”

The Pope offered “heartfelt spiritual solidarity” and assurances of “closeness in prayer at the continuing martyrdom being so cruelly inflicted on Christians in Africa, the Middle East and some parts of Asia.”

Voice of the Persecuted is praying that more Christian leaders across denominations, will inform their congregations of the modern-day persecution taking place against Christians, encourage them to pray and care for the persecuted, and use their voices to advocate for and stand with our suffering brothers and sisters, worldwide. #WeAreOne

parish_meeting1If you are a church leader raising awareness and praying for the persecuted, we would be very encouraged to hear from you! If you are a leader who would like to begin sharing with your congregation, contact us at info@voiceofthepersecuted.org with Pastor for the Persecuted in the subject line. We’d be happy to help you in the process.

Voice of the Persecuted

 

 

PAKISTAN – The state of human rights in the country worsens

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Lahore (Agenzia Fides) – The human rights situation in Pakistan is strongly deteriorating: is what the latest Report of the “Human Rights Commission of Pakistan” (HRCP) says, one of the largest NGOs in Pakistani society, with a widespread network in the country. In the document sent to Agenzia Fides, titled “State of Human Rights 2014″, we note that the attack of militants against the military school in Peshawar, November 16 that killed more than 130 children, effectively symbolizes the situation of human rights in Pakistan.

According to the Report, the attack is somehow a “turning point”, as it seems to have created a broad consensus against fanaticism in Pakistan. However Zohra Yusuf, President of the HRCP noted: “It is a shame that such consensus at a national level against the Taliban and other extremist groups has remained a military affair”.
According to the document, 1,723 Pakistanis were killed and 3,143 were injured during 2014 in 1,206 terrorist attacks, 26 of them were suicides.

The fight against terrorism, joins the campaign for freedom: “The restrictions on freedom of expression did not decline in 2014″, notes the Report. Pakistan has been defined as “the most dangerous country in the world” for freedom of press, with 14 journalists and media workers killed in 2014.

With regards to the condition of religious minorities, it is stated that “religious extremism continued to increase in 2014: 11 buildings, including Hindu temples and churches, were damaged in the southern province of Sindh, while two attacks were carried out against the minority Zikri in Baluchistan”. Last year there were 144 reported incidents of sectarian violence, 141 of which were terrorist attacks and three were sectarian clashes, says the Commission.
“Blasphemy” remains a very sensitive topic in the nation, where 97% of the 180 million inhabitants profess Islam. The HRCP remarks that “in the past, murders for blasphemy were not as frequent as they are now” and “religious intolerance has increased considerably in the South Asian country in the last ten years”. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 22/04/2015)

AMAZING GRACE – THE REASON FOR HOPE

Amazing-Grace

Via The Olive Branch by Marianne Bernard

With all the bad news and crisis situations in the news, believers need to pause and reflect on the truth that we are being made ready for a heavenly kingdom that will have no end. All of our troubles and struggles are working out a divine heritage for us as joint heirs with Jesus Christ. This world is not our end. It has no power to defeat a true child of God. What God allows, he does so for an eternal purpose. We are being molded and shaped into the image of Christ. We are being trained to be royalty.  Most importantly, our light and momentary troubles are working out a far greater good. We encourage you to read the full article HERE

Muslims Attack Christian Village Celebrating Easter, Stab Priest, Destroy Bibles and Crosses in Bangladesh

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During last Easter, a Catholic Christian village made up of tribal Khasia people living in Bangladesh was attacked by Muslims.

Syed Ara Begum, a Muslim owner of a tea plantation, along with a Muslim mob,  attacked the Christian village as its population was celebrating Mass for Easter Monday.   The plantation owner reportedly seeks to seize the Christians’ land.  Hearing the cries of his flock, Fr. James Kiron Rozario ran to the site of the attack.  Once there, the crowd of Muslims attacked him with a knife, seriously wounding him and threatening to kill him.

The Muslim mob went on to steal items worth 33,900 taka (4,134 EUR).  They also destroyed Bibles, crosses, holy pictures, musical instruments and homes — and slaughtered goats and chickens.

According to Msgr. Bejoy N. D’Cruze OMI, Bishop of Syleht, “We live in fear….  We want justice and security for our priests and our faithful. We hope that the government will find a peaceful solution and that our people can live free from tensions…. They [Catholic Khasia] are a very peaceful community but often fall victims of the Bengali [Muslim] majority.”

Raymond Ibrahim

ISIS shoot and behead Ethiopian Christians in Libya

 

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(Voice of the Persecuted) The Islamic State (IS/ISIS/Daesh) has released a shocking new video titled ‘Until It Came To Them – Clear Evidence’. The unverified video highlights the slaughter of at least 30 Ethiopian Christians (migrant workers) in Libya.

A masked militant pledged to kill Christians if they do not convert to Islam, ‘Muslim blood shed under the hands of your religions is not cheap. To the nation of the cross we are now back again.’  The footage also includes how Syrian Christians have been given the choice to convert to Islam or pay a ‘special tax’.

The Ethiopian Christians are divided into two groups and identified by the Islamic State militants as the ‘followers of the cross from the enemy Ethiopian Church. Approximately 12 men were beheaded on a beach, the remaining shot dead in the desert.

An Ethiopian official, denounced the killings saying, “We strongly condemn such atrocities, whether they are Ethiopians are not.”

In February, IS released the video of them beheading 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya. IS is using video media for their propaganda campaign to instill fear in the hearts of men to control and recruit them.

Chaos and unrest has wracked Libya since the U.S. led attack in 2011 that toppled Kadhafi. IS has taken advantage of it’s destabilization expanding it’s presence in the country.

In 2011 when Obama addressed Americans and the world to justifying NATO involvement in Libya,  we heard the following:

  • “This is a New generation refusing to be denied their rights any longer”
  • “Change will make the world more complicated for a time.”
  • “Justice & Human Dignity will be upheld by all.”
  • “We will stand alongside those who believe in the same core principles as us.”
  • “History is on the move in the Middle East and North Africa and the youth are leading the way.”
  • “Our own future is safer if all mankind uphold these values.”

In the mission to uproot leaders deemed murderous and tyrannical, the west has aided to put something far worse in it’s place. Now multiple Libyan jihadist groups and those in other nations have pledged allegiance to IS.

IS marches forward with their tremendous funds, it’s own news agency, even issuing drivers licence and ID cards in the quest to redraw the map and create a caliphate—a new world governed by strict Sharia Law.

The’Christian Winter’ continues and intensifies.

PRAYER POINTS

  • Pray for the families of these precious soul’s.
  • Pray for God’s mercy and protection for his children.
  • Pray for endurance.

We are reminded of a young Christian girl in Thailand who had fled persecution in Pakistan. She said there is no need for her to curse anyone who blaspheme’s Christ or our God. She said our God is big enough to defend Himself.  Vengeance is mine saith the Lord. We can find comfort in this tribulation as the Faith of these Christians in these lands are growing stronger, even in persecution.

Revelation 6:9-11  When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.

 

 

 

 

 

Burned Christian Boy Dies Mysteriously, Pakistani Media Covers Up Christian Persecution

Nauman Masih, the 14-year-old Christian burnt alive

Nauman Masih, the 14-year-old Christian burnt alive

Following the mysterious death of Nauman — a 14-year-old Christian boy attacked and burned by Muslims for his faith — some in the Pakistani media have changed the narrative, suggesting he was attacked over a family feud, not religion.

However,  Christian lawyer Aneeqa Maria Anthony, coordinator of the NGO “The Voice Society,” says these are all lies: “Nauman gave his explanation of the fact [before he died]. His was attacked by two strangers when he said he was a Christian. The rest are rumors and false leads,” said the lawyer.

Nauman’s uncle, Nadeem Masih, filed report (FIR no. 308/15) at Gulshan-e-Ravi Police Station, in the presence of police, family members and political and religious leaders, when his nephew was still in hospital.  He wrote:

As stated by my nephew, today [Friday 10 April], when he was returning to the shop [where he worked] at about 12.30pm, two unidentified men on a motorbike came. They stopped my nephew and inquired about his faith, at which he told them that he was Christian. Then the two men doused him with petrol and set him on fire.

Moreover, the boy’s death is controversial:  ”We are shocked,” said Anthony.  ”The death of Nauman Masih, the 14-year-old Christian burnt alive by a group of Muslims, is surprising. Two days ago the doctors said that despite the severe burns, the boy would survive, because no internal organs were damaged…. We are waiting for the coroner’s report and the autopsy. His sudden death is not convincing. A thorough investigation is needed. Nauman said he was able to recognize his attackers, who now go unpunished.”

by Raymond Ibrahim

 

Pastor Saeed Faces New Psychological Torment: Surrounded by Executions, Threats, and Demands He Recant

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(ACLJ) American Pastor Saeed Abedini was permitted to have a visit with an Iranian family member [Wednesday] in the prison. It was the first visit in the last five weeks.

He continues to suffer for his faith, wrongfully imprisoned in Iran for being a Christian. The prison guards have become increasingly hostile. He faces a near constant demands that he recant his faith in Christ and become a Muslim.

Iranian officials are also psychologically tormenting him, telling him that he will face an extended sentence even after he completes his current eight-year sentence—a reality he has seen come true for other cellmates.

Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, explained the increasingly dangerous situation this way:

Last week had been quite difficult for Saeed. He has been under a lot of pressure and attack from the hardliners. The guards have also been threatening Saeed that he will never go free and additional charges (and years) will be added to his sentence (which they have done to other Christians and fellow inmates). They continually threaten Saeed that the only key to his freedom is denying Christ and returning to Islam. Saeed refuses to deny Christ and continues to be a light and witness in that dark prison. These threats coupled with the fact that there have been mass executions during the last week in Rajayee Shahr prison, have really taken their toll on Saeed. He asks for prayer for continued strength.

Yet in all his turmoil, Naghmeh, shares this message from Pastor Saeed: “He wanted to thank you all for your continued prayers. Knowing that he is not forgotten and believers around the world continue to remember him in prayer and advocate for him has encouraged him to continue in this difficult journey and to hold on to hope.”

True to his faith, Pastor Saeed had an Easter celebration of his own within the walls of his prison cell. But as Naghmeh, explains, “Saeed desperately missed being with our family on Easter, but new Easter traditions were created in prison!”

In the face of overwhelming adversity, through the pain he sufferers as a result of prison beatings, through the constant psychological torment, Pastor Saeed is staying strong in his faith though God’s strength.

But as he suffers, as fellow U.S. citizens, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we must not be silent.

In less than a week, April 21st, the U.S. government will once again be seated across the table from Iran in ongoing nuclear negotiations. Our government must do everything in its power to bring Pastor Saeed home. It is absolutely critical that the Obama Administration and the State Department continue to demand that our innocent citizens – especially Pastor Saeed who is suffering only because of his religious beliefs – be returned home.

He suffers from injuries. He is separated from his family. He is persecuted for his faith. He is surrounded by fellow inmates being dragged to the gallows. The thought is unbearable.

It’s time to bring him home.

Take action with us as we fight for his freedom. Sign our petition: Don’t Leave Pastor Saeed Behind.

Confusion around Pakistani Christian boy’s burns death, amid communal tensions

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(World Watch Monitor) A 14-year-old Christian boy, who was first reported to have been doused with petrol and set on fire because of his faith, died on Tuesday (14 April) in Lahore, Pakistan. Despite a special medical team formed to oversee his treatment and skin graft surgery a day before his death, and the fact that he was at one stage well enough to talk to visitors, Nauman Masih died of his injuries.

Masih had burns to 55 per cent of his body when he was taken to Mayo Hospital, the city’s largest teaching hospital, on the afternoon of Friday 10 April.

For the usually poor Christian minority, it can be notoriously difficult to register a crime with the police, but in this case the Masih family’s cause was aided when the Chief Minister of the Punjab, Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, ordered the police to make the case a priority.

“The chief minister took notice of the incident in the evening and ordered the police to proceed on merit, after which they recorded Nauman’s statement and registered the first information report [FIR] accordingly,” Christian parliamentarian Shahzad Munchi told World Watch Monitor.

Masih’s uncle, Nadeem Masih, filed the report (FIR no. 308/15) at Gulshan-e-Ravi Police Station, in the presence of police, family members and political and religious leaders, with his nephew in hospital.

He wrote: “As stated by my nephew, today [Friday 10 April], when he was returning to the shop [where he worked] at about 12.30pm, two unidentified men on a motorbike came. They stopped my nephew and inquired about his faith, at which he told them that he was Christian. Then the two men doused him with petrol and set him on fire.”

However, confusing conflicting reports then emerged. A prominent English-language newspaper, the Express Tribune, reported instead that the investigating officer said that the FIR was filed by Masih’s paternal grandfather, Heera Masih, who accused the uncle, Nadeem, and his wife of “ordering the attack”.

“The couple wants to kill Nauman to get his house,” the officer is reported to have said.

A similar interpretation of events was recorded by Dunya News. However, no local media reported what Nauman himself had been able to witness to police.

World Watch Monitor understands Nauman’s parents separated and divorced, and his mother remarried. Her new husband did not want Nauman and his sister to live with them, so they went to live with their father’s brother and his wife. Later, his father died: reports say he left his house to his son, Nauman.

Senior police have rejected all media reports that the boy was set alight by two Muslims for his faith (though Nauman himself is reported to have told police this happened); they say the realmotive behind the incident is not yet clear.

Police also denied recording the boy’s ‘dying declaration’ at the hospital, saying the contradictory statements of three people – Nauman’s maternal uncle Nadeem, his tailor Muneer (for whom Nauman worked) and maternal grandfather Heera Masih – had made the investigation complicated.

“No dying declaration/statement was recorded by police due to the life-threatening condition of the boy,” Acting Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Rana Ayaz Saleem, head of the investigations wing, told respected newspaper, Dawn. Dawn also reported that the grandfather has been pressured by family to withdraw his FIR.

It remains unclear at publication whether the allegation against the uncle and aunt has any truth, but it has started to appear that the current climate of fear and inter-faith tension may have provided a ‘cover reason’ for a family property dispute crime.

That the Pakistan Christian community fear there may be a media conspiracy to suppress the ‘killed for his faith’ motive is indicative of its nerve-stretched state, full of anxiety and tension, after recent events.

Discrimination against Christians?

Pakistani Christians often complain that they are discriminated against, on social and mainstream media.

One recent example of this was the reporting that followed the church bombings of 15 March, when at least four terrorists, two of them wearing suicide jackets, attacked two churches in Youhanabad, the main Christian district of Lahore.

The bombings were timed to cause maximum damage: more than 2,000 worshippers were in the two churches for Sunday services. But prompt action by church volunteer ‘guards’ prevented the attackers from entering the buildings. Still, the incidents left 20 people dead and another 80 injured.

Angry protestors against the government’s perceived insufficient security measures took to the streets and snatched two suspects from a police van, beat them, killed them and then set their bodies on fire.

Police had detained the two as suspected bomb attackers, but the reaction of the mob turned the focus away from the bombings and back onto the Christian community. Soon, across social and mainstream media, the two suspects were declared “innocent Muslims”, killed only “because they had beards”.

Dr. Shahid Masood Khan, a surgeon and talk-show host of ‘Live with Dr. Shahid Masood’ on the News One TV Channel, was one prominent figure to quickly declare the two men “totally innocent”.

“If the matter had stopped [with the bombings], then it would have been a gold mine for a few people,” he said on 17 March. “There are many ‘aunties’ who wander around and [talk about] NGOs, dollars, [the] Christian community … You know dollars are sent when such things happen. These ‘aunties’ come out clamouring that injustice has taken place for religious minorities … They start sighing with pain … But their enthusiasm was dampened because they [the mob] – the Christians or God knows who they were – killed two innocents; they were totally innocent.”

Another TV journalist, Dr. Moeed Pirzada, a former scholar of the UK government’s prestigious Chevening scheme, in which young elite visit the UK, posted on Facebook on 18 March:

“International Media never heard that Pakistani Christians burn Muslims alive? … I did an internet search this morning using different constructions of the sentence (Christians, burn Muslims, Pakistan) but no stories turn up that have a head line or key words that match … Christians in Lahore lynched Muslim men because they had beards.”

Meanwhile a picture circulated on social media, appearing to show Pakistani Christians burning the Pakistani flag. (The picture actually showed an earlier protest by Christians burning an effigy while holding the country’s flag in the background.)

On the Qutab Online talk show (on Samaa TV), aired directly from Youhanabad on 18 March, its host, Syed Bilal Qutab, stressed that no one would tolerate burning of the national flag.

Christian reaction

In Pakistan, the lynching of the two men overshadowed the deaths of the Christians and the plight of those suffering mental and physical trauma after the bombings.

Christians also felt that the mainstream media failed to present a balanced view of events.

Talking to World Watch Monitor, Irfan Jamil, Bishop of Lahore, said that the Christian community categorically condemned the lynching of the two men, no matter who the two suspects were, “because violence has nothing to do with Christian teachings”.

“The media should have played a balanced role and should have given equal coverage to the Christian community to explain how they saw the lynching and burning of the men, but the media drove a wedge between the Muslim majority and Christian minority,” he said.

Christians are also disappointed at the way in which they feel the actions of terrorists are often disassociated from Pakistanis.

After the Youhanabad attacks, Punjab Chief Minister Sharif was reported to have said that “terrorists have no religion”. (In Pakistan media, it’s usually implied that terrorists are foreign agents from countries such as Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.)

The media and the state did little to expose those behind the church bomb attacks in Yahounabad. Conservative newspaper Nawa-e-Waqat ran a story about the arrest of Ghulam Hussain, the alleged mastermind. But this report had already been discredited by the Dawn newspaper, as “absolutely a (sic) false information”.

Knock-on effect

On the evening of the second day after the attack on the churches, Muslims from the surrounding area started to pour into the ‘Christian enclave’ of Yahounabad, having seen televised images of Christians blocking a road, attacking a bus terminal, and attacking passers-by as well.

Residents report that the police avoided attendance that evening; the situation also deteriorated in adjacent areas and Christians were afraid, after hearing unfounded rumours of possible attacks.

By the Friday after the Sunday bombs, a text message circulated that Bahar Colony, another nearby Christian slum, would be attacked after Muslims’ Friday prayers. Christians started to flee.

Also, since most Christians are dependent on the majority for their subsistence, negative media coverage about the minority had a significant impact.

On 17 March, for instance, a young Christian seminarian posted on Facebook:


Government reaction

Two days after the two men were killed, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Khan told the National Assembly that their deaths at the hands of a crowd of young Christian men was “the worst form of terrorism”.

“The Christians of Punjab have finally stood up and the rest of us are afraid,” said one journalist, Hashim bin Rashid in The News International.

The government’s reaction against the alleged perpetrators of the ‘mob justice’ was strong.

Thousands of Christians fled Youhanabad to avoid arrest or rumoured attacks from extremists.

Still, there were reports that the police rounded up about 200 suspects after the lynchings.

Asad Jamal, a Lahore-based lawyer who has written on legal issues in Pakistan’s English-language media, told World Watch Monitor, “Having met with those picked up by the police and other law enforcement agencies, I can confidently say that the police have used illegal detentions and torture both as a means to extract information and confessions, and to instil a feeling that they are ‘inferior’ in terms of caste, class and political status.

“These illegal detentions and torture of the Punjab police followed the Federal Interior Minister’s statement in the Parliament, which was later echoed in the statement of the Punjab chief minister.”

Several similar instances of mob violence have taken place in Pakistan in recent years, but the government’s response has rarely been so impassioned.

The most recent example was the lynching of a Christian couple in Kot Radha Kishan, south of Lahore, in November last year.

In July 2012, a reportedly “deranged” man, whose identity and religion were never disclosed, was accused of throwing pages of the Qur’an onto the street in Bahawalpur, further south. He was locked up in prison, but a frenzied mob broke in and dragged him onto the street, “doused him in petrol and set him on fire”, The Express Tribune reported.

A much earlier example was recorded by Amnesty International in April 1994:

“Dr Hafiz Farooq Sajjad was stoned to death in Gujranwala after the loudspeaker of the mosque (wrongly) announced that a Christian had burned a copy of the Holy Qur’an. He was dragged from the police station while officers stood by and his body was set on fire while he was probably still alive, tied to a motorbike and dragged through the streets. He was believed to have been a devout Muslim but mistaken for a Christian.”

The government pursued neither case, nor did it pursue the attacks against Christians in Joseph Colony (2013) and Gojra (2009).

The 2011 Pew Research Centre report, Rising Restrictions on Religion, characterises Pakistan as the third least tolerant country to religious diversity, while another of its reports, Muslim-Western Tensions Persist: Common Concerns About Islamic Extremism, says that only 16 per cent of Pakistanis hold a positive opinion of Christians.

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