VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

Category Archives: Asia

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Islamic Clerics Warn Against Spread of Christianity in the Most Islamic City in Iran

Qom, arguably the most Islamic city in Iran, is a socially and religiously conflicted city where house churches are hunted down and conversion to Christianity is viewed as an action against national security.

Mohabat News reports Christianity has been growing at an exponential rate in the last couple of decades in Iran, causing the Islamic government a great deal of concern. In a most recent expression of their distress, one of the high profile Islamic seminary officials, Ayatollah Alavi Boroujerdi, stated “accurate reports indicate that the youth are becoming Christians in Qom and attending house churches”.
However, this is not a new development. Earlier reports had also shown a surprising rise in the number of Iranians turning away from Islam and converting to Christianity.

One of the most senior Islamic Shi’ite clerics who has repeatedly expressed his concern over the spread of Christianity among the youth in the country is Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi. He, as well as most of his colleagues blame the foreign influence for the conversion of young Iranians to Christianity. The question that comes up however, is that what could be the real cause for Iranian youths’ rejection of Islam and its principles, despite the serious risks involved with conversion to Christianity in an Islamic country such as Iran?

This high rate of conversion of Iranian youth to Christianity is in spite of rigorous Islamic indoctrination of the youth in their families and educational system. The Islamic government of Iran dedicates massive budgets to the support of Islamic organizations that promote Islam among the youth within and without Iran’s borders. Such efforts to attract Iranian youth is much more noticeable in Islamic cities such as Mashhad and Qom. Regardless of such efforts, Iranian youth seem to become increasingly distant from Islam, which is a cause of great concern for the Iranian Islamic government.

Last year, after Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi expressed his deepest concern over the popularity of Christianity in the suburbs of Mashhad, the city’s religious and political officials immediately sent a vast number of Islamic teachers and preachers to Mashhad’s suburbs in order to turn the youth away from Christianity. The next phase in dealing with this matter was to crack down on the youth who refused to turn back following the efforts of Islamic teachers and preachers. The Iranian law enforcement and intelligence ministry got involved and began waves of arrests and harassment of Christian converts, facing them with long term prison sentences and heavy bails for their temporary release.

Another Iranian Ayatollah, Wahid Khorasani expressed concerns over the spread of Christianity in the country. He said he had received reports about the exponential increase in popularity of Christianity amongst the youth in the Islamic city of Qom. He criticized government authorities “for their negligence in preparing counteracting strategies to stop the spread of Christianity. In his remarks eight years ago, he had encouraged the government authorities to develop a coherent strategy to eradicate Christianity in Iran.
Another Ayatollah, based in Tabriz, stated he had received reports that at one time, 600 residents of one of the cities in Khorasan province had converted to Christianity.

These harsh remarks years ago, led to a rigorous crackdown campaign against the Iranian Christian community, resulting in arrests, imprisonments and disbanding of a number of house church gatherings.

— Failure of Islamic Authorities’ Efforts to Stop the Spread of Christianity

The Iranian Islamic government implemented a two fold plan to stop the spread of Christianity in the country, and it has failed on both fronts.
The first front was the allocation of millions of dollars for Islamic propaganda across the country, which over the years has proven to be ineffective as Iranian youth seem to be distancing themselves from the Islamic lifestyle the Iranian government wishes to spread.
The second front, in which the Iranian government’s Islamic agenda has failed is their crackdown campaign on newly converted Christians in order to plant fear in those who are interested in learning more about Christianity and possibly becoming Christians themselves. This failure is obvious as Iranian Islamic authorities continue to express their concern over the rapid growth of Christianity in the country.

In recent years many Iranian Christian converts have been arrested. However, the rate of growth of house churches in the country has been exponential, despite a mass exodus of Iranian Christians.
In this regard, Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani, one of the high profile Iranian Islamic figures, wrote in a paper a few years ago, “There was a time when Islamic institutions in Qom were sufficient to counter the spread of Christianity in our city. However, today we do not have any Islamic institution in Qom that can stop Christian evangelism effectively”. In his remarks he also referred to the son of one of the Islamic clerics as having become a Christian.
In a report released seven years ago, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards identified 200 house churches in the Islamic city of Mashhad. Other reports indicate this number has grown significantly ever since. Mashhad is known as the Islamic capital of Iran and the Shi’ite Muslim world. Other cities having a record number of house churches in Iran include Rasht, Tehran and Karaj.

In Tehran there are many house churches that meet on a regular basis. One of Tehran’s Imams said in an interview, “today Christians present their gospel to our youth in the most appealing way. They gather in many neighbourhoods across the city, including Bani Hashem neighbourhood (in Tehran) where tens of homes have been turned into house churches which evangelize their neighbours”.

One of the visible effects of the Iranian government’s crackdown on Christians has been the closure of numerous churches, including the Central Assemblies of God (AOG) church and Janat Abad church in Tehran and the AOG church in Ahwaz. Additionally, Christian converts were banned from entering official churches and Farsi services were forced to cancel permanently across the country in all churches. Publication of anything related to Christianity or any material referring to Christianity was also restricted and books about Christianity already in the market were confiscated./ Farsi

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Pastor suspects arson in Pakistan church fire

 

 

 

UCN News shared with Voice of the Persecuted a report of a mysterious fire that damaged a Protestant church in a Pakistani town rocked by blasphemy protests two months ago.

Gospel of Jesus Mission Church is in a narrow street of a Christian basti (slum) in Shahdara town near Lahore, the capital of Punjab province.

The remains of burnt holy books, an offering bag and a chimta (music tongs) lay near the half-melted pulpit of the building, which has been under construction for more than three years.

Pastor Yousaf Aziz John filed a police complaint on April 15 at Shahdara police station, where a peace agreement between local clerics and Christian leaders was signed on Feb. 21 after an angry mob protested against Patras Masih, 18, who allegedly shared an anti-Islam photo on Facebook.

“We are a poor community and had been building the House of God with donations. We strongly believe that unknown miscreants have committed this evil. The losses amount to about 50,000 rupees (US$430). We demand an immediate remedy for the wounds of the whole Christian community,” Pastor John told ucanews.com.

Police sub-inspector Rana Amir visited the site on April 16 and recorded statements from the community.

“The forensics department collected samples the same night. A report will be released this week revealing the cause of the fire. A security plan has been chalked for the 14 churches of Shahdara registered with the police station, but no forces are appointed for unregistered ones,” he said.

Churches not registered with the Auqaf Department, which supervises important religious monuments and holy places, are deemed illegal by the government. In January, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province closed but later reopened six home-based churches in Abbottabad.

Police have warned that they will not take any responsibility for any mishaps at prayer gatherings in residential areas. Home-based churches are common in Christian ghettos and their surroundings. Youhanabad, the largest Christian settlement in Pakistan, has more than 100 unregistered churches usually comprising a single room or a hall.

Khalid Shahzad, a Catholic activist based in Shahdara, slammed police for filing the Shahdara case as an accidental fire.

“Only the sections regarding vandalism and loss of property have been nominated in the first information police report. They deliberately skipped the blasphemy clause 295 which deals with acts intended to insult religion or religious beliefs of others. This loophole will help in bail for the accused if arrested,” he said.

“The community was already living in fear after the recent blasphemy case in an adjoining village.” Read more

 

2 dead, others injured in attack on Christian community near church in Quetta

Blood on the ground following an attack at a church in Quetta, Pakistan

Pakistan: We received information that two members of the Christian community were killed and between 5 to 9 others injured in a shooting incident near a church in Quetta. The incident occurred when worshipers were leaving the Sunday service at a church in Essa Nagri area of the provincial capital, DawnNews reported.

In a drive-by shooting, gunmen opened fire on the members of the Christian community and managed to flee the scene. Victims were rushed to a Quetta medical center, but two of the worshipers succumbed to their injuries. Screams and wailing was heard as the two bodies were brought in covered with white sheets at the Hospital.

A day after Easter Sunday, four members of a Christian family were also killed by gunmen while travelling on Quetta’s Shah Zaman road to celebrate with relatives. Later, the Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack. Officials confirmed the Christians were targeted for their faith.

In December, nine people were killed and 30 injured when  suicide bombers attacked the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church on Quetta’s Zarghoon Road. At least two suicide attackers had struck the Bethel Memorial Church while Sunday service was ongoing. There were 400 worshipers inside the church when the assault started. The Islamic State also claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Islamic State (ISIS) has created a branch in Pakistan and Afghanistan by recruiting established militants.

Pakistan is experiencing a continuing rise of aggression and violent persecution against the Pakistani Christian community. The latest incident is the second attack deadly on Christians in the area, this month. Please pray believers in Pakistan.

VOP is on the ground in Thailand helping Christian asylum seekers who’ve 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.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

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

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

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

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Hard-line Hindu Confesses to Attempted Murder of Pastor in Southern India, Police Say

Pastor Madira Koti Reddy recovering in hospital. (Morning Star News)

India (Morning Star News) – A hard-line Hindu has confessed to attempting to murder a pastor in southern India as the Christian leader was praying at night, according to police.

Pastor Madira Koti Reddy, who leads a house church in Rentachintala village, Guntur District in Andhra Pradesh state, on March 29 had gone to his room to study the Bible and pray at about 10 p.m. after eating dinner with his family, his wife told Morning Star News. Madira Shanti said she was in the backyard with their daughter doing dishes at the time.

At about 10:30 p.m., the assailant stealthily entered the house and went to the 55-year-old pastor’s room, where he slashed his arms and head with an axe, she said.

“I heard my husband screaming and ran into the house,” Shanti told Morning Star News.

With just one light bulb on, she couldn’t see the attacker clearly, but she followed him and saw him standing outside the house with the axe, she said.

“He looked to his right and left and quickly ran away,” Shanti said.

House church pastor Madira Koti Reddy was attacked with an axe. (Morning Star News)

Police Inspector Koteswara Rao was patrolling the area at around 11:30 p.m. when he got word about the attack from villagers and rushed to Pastor Koti Reddy’s house, where he found him bleeding profusely.

“I immediately took him to the government hospital nearby, but given the severity of his condition, shifted him to a private hospital in the neighboring town,” Rao told Morning Star News.

After questioning family members and neighbors, police took 11 suspects into custody, he said. Key eyewitnesses informed them that one suspect, Manne Shiva Narayana, also known as Shivayya, was seen walking outside the pastor’s house with an axe that night.

Officers searched his house, seized the axe and took him into custody, Rao said.

“He is a staunch devotee of Shiva,” one of the principle Hindu deities, the inspector said. “He confessed that he wanted to ‘finish’ the pastor that night. He said he was offended by the pastor’s routine of sharing the gospel in the village.”

Shiva Narayana has deep-seated hatred toward Christianity, Rao said. Though police found no affiliation with any Hindu extremist groups, Shiva Narayana confessed that it was ‘hate’ that drove him to attack the pastor, the police officer said.

Villagers who requested anonymity told Morning Star News that Shiva Narayana is a self-proclaimed Shaiva Sadhu, a Hindu “holy person” identified by orange dress like that of Hindu ascetics known as Aghori. They said he is 34 and single.

He frequently travels to the Mallikarjuna Jyothirlinga temple, dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva and wife Parvati, in Srisailam, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) from Rentachintala, villagers said.

“He is very well known in his circles there,” one said.

Pastor Koti Reddy’s son-in-law, John Paul, told Morning Star News that the pastor spoke a few times to the family about the Shaiva Sadhu getting the pastor into religious arguments on faith, and that he requested the family pray for him.

“He was in trouble a couple of times because of boldness in professing Christianity,” he said. “He was several times confronted by people who opposed him distributing gospel tracts, but he never stopped.”

The pastor’s wife said he would write biblical verses on the walls of people’s houses, and that if people objected, he would stop and go away. Inspector Rao said police went to all the places in the village the pastor would visit in a day, and “nobody expressed opposition to the biblical verses on their walls, since this area is mainly dominated by Hindus converted to Roman Catholicism.”

Rao said that, in the jail cell, Shiva Narayana immediately objected to the picture of a cross that an inmate had drawn long ago and asked officers to transfer him to another cell.

“We were able to observe in the Shaiva Sadhu high levels of intolerance,” Rao said. “He did not want to be even physically present in a room where a cross is drawn on the wall.”

Shiva Narayana was charged with attempted murder, punishable by imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine, with the possibility of imprisonment for life.

Loss of Blood

Pastor Koti Reddy was unconscious when he was brought to the hospital, Dr. Sudheer Bhargava Reddy told Morning Star News.

“If he had been brought in 30 minutes later, we would not have been able to save him,” he said.

At least twelve units of blood were intravenously transfused into Pastor Koti Reddy’s body, Bhargava Reddy told Morning Star News.

“The loss of blood was excessive,” he said. “We first attended to the cuts, and there was urgent need for blood transfusion. He is responding well to the treatment, and as the blood clots clear up, we are operating on him.”

Surgery on Friday (April 6) to repair the pastor’s right arm was successful, and the same operation, involving plates and screws, will take place this week on his left arm, Bhargava Reddy told Morning Star News.

“It would take at least 45 days for the patient to move his hand, and in order to be able to use his hand very well, he needs to rest for at least 75 days,” he said.

He said that a CAT scan shows no major damage to the pastor’s head, and that his frequent headaches can be minimized with medicines and rest.

Pastor Koti Reddy’s wife said God allowed him to live.

“God did not let the blows be very hard and heavy,” she said. “God lifted him up and held him in His hands safe. This attack is only to bring glory to God.”

The couple’s children were deeply disturbed to see their father’s condition at the hospital, Shanti said.

“I am trying to be strong for them,” she said.

The member of the Legislative Assembly from Guntur West, Phillip C. Tocher, visited the pastor and his family in the hospital on Tuesday (April 3). After doctors briefed him on the pastor’s condition, he told the family that the ruling Telugu Desam Party would pay all the expenses for treatment, they said.

Evil Spirits

Originally from Giddalur in Prakasam District, Pastor Koti Reddy moved to Rentachintala village 20 years ago with his wife and children, where he now leads a house church.

“My husband comes from a Hindu family whose house was less a home to live in than like a temple or a dwelling place for Hindu deities and devotees,” Shanti said. “Their family would host several pujas [prayer rituals] and yaagas [ritual offerings] every year, and he was totally involved in idol worship.”

When ill in his youth, he was subject to a shaman’s “tricks,” she said, but he was completely healed after receiving prayer at a Christian church service. Having been freed of evil spirits, she said, he devoted himself completely to Christ, and “it was then through a pastor my parents fixed my marriage with him.”

The couple moved from Krishna District to Rentachintala village after Pastor Koti Reddy told his wife that God was calling him to serve there, she said.

“He saw Rentachintala in a vision God gave him when he prayed about his calling,” she said. “The village was exactly how he described it to me.”

The pastor bicycled around the village sharing the gospel, she said.

“He distributes gospel tracts, and if people show interest, he would have deeper discussions with them, and pray with them even on the road,” Shanti said.

The pastor habitually began his days at 5 a.m. and would spend at least three hours in the morning on his knees worshipping the Lord, she said.

“In my 25 years of marriage, I had never seen him picking fights or arguing with anyone,” she said. “As our boys grew up, several times when they would get into fights with their friends, and their parents came to complain, he would accept that it was his sons who were wrong.”

The family requested prayer for healing for the pastor and strength for them.

The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, 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.

Concerns Grow over Iranian Christian Prisoner’s Health Condition

Mohabat News — Iranian Christian prisoner, Mr. Naser Navard-Goltapeh’s family have expressed their growing concern over his health as he is suffering from a severe case of gum infection which requires immediate medical attention.

One of his family members told Article 18 ministries in an interview, “if he does not receive immediate medical attention we are afraid he might lose all of his teeth.”

Mr. Navard-Goltapeh was admitted to the notorious Evin prison on January 20, 2018 to serve his 10 year sentence and is currently being held in ward 8 of the prison.

Mr. Navard-Goltapeh was arrested on June 24, 2016 in a private gathering with three believers from Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani believers arrested were identified as Eldar Gurbanov, Yusif Farhadov and Bahram Nasibov, members of the “Word of Life” church in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital. All those arrested were held in solitary confinement for two months as they went through intense interrogation. They were all eventually convicted in court for “illegal gathering and collusion against the Islamic regime through evangelism”.

All four Christians, including Naser Navard-Goltapeh, were temporarily released on a heavy bail (approx. 35,000 USD) after four months in jail. All three Azerbaijani Christians forfeited their bail and returned to their own country, Azerbaijan, immediately after their release.

Naser Navard-Goltapeh, however, stayed in Iran and waited to appear in court where he was found guilty in branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court.

Judge Mashallah Ahmadzadeh sentenced him to 10 years in prison for “Action against national security and establishing house churches”. The judge based his ruling on evidences produced by the Ministry of Intelligence. None of the referenced evidence was presented during the court session or given to Mr. Navard-Goltapeh’s attorney to review.

Mr. Navard-Goltapeh appealed the sentence. However, an appeals court upheld the 10 year term on November 12, 2017, making it final./ FARSI

Iranian Christian Convert Denied Bail in Court

Mohabat News — Iranian judicial authorities denied Iranian Christian, Hadi Asgari, temporary release on bail, ordering him to be kept in the infamous Evin prison until his appeals court hearing.

Asgari’s family made every effort in their ability to secure his temporary release before Norouz (Persian New Year). However, Iranian authorities postponed any review of his case to 20 days after the Persian new year. He has been held in jail for 19 months without leave.

Asgari’s family had to overcome financial challenges in order to gather enough resources to post bail for their loved one’s release. Now that they have enough to post the bail, authorities hinder his temporary release.

Spokesperson for Article 18 ministries, Kiarash Aalipour told Mohabat News, “Previously, Hadi’s family did not have sufficient financial ability to post the heavy bail required for his release. Now that they have pulled their resources together and have their finances ready the judge brings various excuses to postpone his release on bail.” His family had hoped he would be temporarily released until he is called to the appeals court where he hopes his 10 year sentences will be re-considered.

Hadi Asgari was tried in branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran on July 3, 2017. He was found guilty of threatening national security through evangelism and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Additionally, after serving the 10 year term in prison, he will be banned from leaving the country for 2 years.

Another Christian convert arrested at the same time as Hadi Asgari is Amin Afshar Naderi who was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Both these Christians prisoners went on a hunger strike to protest unfair handling of their cases. Naderi is currently released on bail.

During the raid to arrest Naderi and Asgari, 13 more Christians were arrested in a gathering in a garden in Firuzkuh in August 2016. While investigation of their case was still underway, Naderi and Asgari spent 82 days in solitary confinement in the notorious 209 ward of Evin prison. Later they were transferred to ward 4 of the prison.

It is common for political prisoners and prisoners of conscience to be released on bail before the Persian new year. This year also many political and religious prisoners were released on bail but Hadi Asgari was not allowed to post bail for his release to celebrate the new year with his family.

The Islamic regime of Iran is regularly criticized for violating religious rights of its citizens, especially Christian converts and Baha’is. Christian converts have been facing continuous persecution from the government since the Islamic Revolution of 1979./FARSI

 

4 Christians killed for faith by Islamists in Pakistan

(Voice of the Persecuted) A day after Easter Sunday, four Pakistani Christians were killed when attackers opened fire on the rickshaw they were riding on Monday evening in the city of Quetta in Pakistan’s Balochistan province. Three of the victims were family members who were traveling to visit relatives to celebrate the Easter holiday. The driver was also a Christian. Soon after the attack, their bodies were transferred to Civil Hospital Quetta.

Dawn News reported that, Police official Muhammad Anwar Khokhar said unidentified attackers riding a motorbike opened fire on a rickshaw which resulted in the death of four members of the Christian community. A minor girl was also injured in the attack, he added.

Another report shared Provincial Police Chief Moazzam Jah Ansari as saying, “All four died on the spot while a woman was injured and rushed to a hospital.” He added that her father and three cousins were killed in the firing.

Officials confirmed the Christians were targeted for their faith.

In a statement released today by its Aamaq news agency, the Islamic State terror group claimed responsibility for the attack on the Christians.

The Baluchistan region is afflicted by violence of Sunni Islamist groups associated with the Taliban, al Qaeda and Islamic State. Islamic State has branches in both Afghanistan and Pakistan through Islamist militant groups who support their radical sectarian views.

Please pray for Christians experiencing continued persecution in Pakistan.

 

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.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

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

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

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

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

 

 

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