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PHILIPPINES – Ten activists killed: Christians to protest against Duterte on Dec. 10th

Bulatlat

“The despotic regime of President Duterte is transforming the whole country into an extermination camp”

(Agenzia Fides) – “Killing a human being means violating his inviolable and inalienable right to life. Killing a priest who is a consecrated person and preventing him from continuing his apostolate in favor of the poor, the excluded and the marginalized is an even graver sin and a crime that shouts to heaven for justice. We live these killings of priests and pastors in the Year of Clergy and Consecrated, a sign of the inestimable gift of life”: this is how Bishop Edwin de La Pena, Bishop of the tortured city of Marawi, on the island of Mindanao, comments to Agenzia Fides the murder of 72-year-old Don Tito Paez, priest of the diocese of San jose, victim of an extrajudicial execution on 4 December 2017. This is the first Catholic priest killed under President Duterte’s government. “I join my voice in denouncing this evil act to prevent him from fulfilling his prophetic task of defending those who are unjustly deprived of their basic human rights”, says the Bishop.

On 3 December, Protestant pastor Lovelito Quiñones, 57, was shot dead in Mansalay, in the province of Eastern Mindoro. On the same day, eight indigenous people (the so-called “lumad”) were killed by soldiers by the Philippine army in the province of South Cotabato in Mindanao.
Civil society groups, Catholic organizations and human rights defenders deplore and condemn the killing of these 10 activists in just a few days, on the eve of the International Human Rights Day, which is celebrated on 10 December. According to the groups, who manifest dissent in various parts of Manila, the killing of civilians and activists, often by “death squads”, recall the time of the dictatorship of Ferdinando Marcos. Among the protest groups there are the civil society forum “Karapatan”, and the “rural Missionaries of the Philippines” who complain about “state terrorism” and have announced a major demonstration in Luneta Parl in Manila on December 10th, International Human Rights Day. Nuns, religious, priests and young Catholics and Protestants will be among those present at the protest.

“The despotic regime of President Duterte is transforming the whole country into an extermination camp”, said Cristina Palabay, Secretary General of “Karapatan”, raising the alarm on human rights violations across the country. “Unarmed civilians have become targets of state security forces” she noted, hoping for “a serious investigation into the murders”.

“Karapatan” attributes the latest attacks against the military program of “counter-insurgency” launched by Duterte, called “Oplan Kapayapaan”, similar to that promoted by the administration of former President Gloria Arroyo, that carried out 1,206 extrajudicial killings, mostly activists and alleged supporters of the Communist armed groups of the “New People’s Army”. In a speech on November 29, Duterte urged soldiers to shoot members of the New People’s Army. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 7/12/2017)

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Government of Pakistan Bows to Islamists on ‘Blasphemy’ Suspects, Critics Say

Pakistan (Morning Star News) – The government’s inability to withstand the violent protests and demands of the upstart, Muslim extremist Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) has also further imperiled religious minorities, especially Christians, as it resulted in the state tacitly agreeing to facilitate registration of blasphemy cases and assuring that officials will show no leniency to blasphemy suspects, they said. “The government’s succumbing to Islamists’ pressure will surely have an adverse effect on Asia Bibi’s case, as her appeal is likely to be taken up by the Supreme Court in December,” said her lead counsel in the high court, Saiful Malook, noting that the Islamist upsurge could influence judges. “It is Asia’s fundamental right to appeal her death sentence, but the naked threats made to judges from the podium at the protest sit-in at Faizabad, in full view of the state, and its subsequent surrender to their demands, does not bode well for Asia and all other people accused of blasphemy as well as their defenders.”

The protest sit-in by Barelvi Muslims led by firebrand cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi under the banner of TLYR started at the Faizabad Interchange, the main highway linking the garrison city of Rawalpindi with the federal capital Islamabad, on Nov 5.

The TLYR’s two main demands were the resignation of Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid over a controversial amendment to the elections bill recently passed by the country’s National Assembly, and the execution of Noreen, waiting a Supreme Court appeal of her death sentence.

Noreen, commonly known as Asia Bibi, was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging in 2010 after an argument with a Muslim woman over a bowl of water. Although international attorneys note that lower courts did not consider which of three statements attributed to her were “blasphemous” nor prove the intent to blaspheme necessary for conviction, the courts upheld her conviction.

Attorney Malook said reverberations of the “deal” signed between the government and TLYR under the army’s pressure will be felt for a long time. Malook, also the special prosecutor in the assassination case of Punjab Province Gov. Salmaan Taseer, has since been on the hit-list of Muslim extremists. A Muslim, he said the government’s capitulation to TLYR has also increased security fears for him, “but I will not withdraw from the case.”

“I took upon Asia’s appeal knowing the risks involved, but I must admit that the recent events in Pakistan have instilled some fear in me,” he said. “The government has not increased my security despite the fact that I am quite vulnerable to extremists. If anything happens to me, what effect will it have on other lawyers defending people accused of blasphemy?”

Rights activist Shakeel Naz said the state had sacrificed the religious minorities just to perpetuate its rule.

“The PML-N [Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz] government has been humiliated, and the military leadership has further improved its standing with sections of the public for helping end the protests, but at what cost to the country and its people, particularly religious minorities?” Naz told Morning Star News.

A menacing precedent has been set by Islamic extremists that will embolden others to take to the streets and do anything they want without impunity, he said.

“It is no exaggeration to suggest that no one is safe in this country now,” he said. “I am still finding it hard to digest – how could the government cave in to such ridiculous demands, knowing very well that it will roll back all the progress that has been made thus far in trying to make Pakistan a religiously moderate country?”

Naz said that by agreeing to TLYR’s demand of inclusion in the text book curriculum-setting committee, the government has conveniently allowed Islamists to push their extremist ideology onto schoolchildren.

PML-N Sen. Kamran Michael, a Christian, and other government-backed politicians shied away from Morning Star News’ requests for comment.

Napolean Qayyum, a minority leader for the Pakistan People’s Party, minced no words in criticizing the PML-N government and the military leadership for ceding to the protestors’ “illogical” demands.

“It’s a known fact that all major incidents of Christian persecution have taken place during the terms of the PML-N government,” he said. “They have always looked the other way when minority settlements were attacked by zealots, and now when their government itself came under attack, they simply caved in to the extremists’ demands.”

Slamming the government for agreeing to drop over 20 cases of terrorism, violent rioting and murder against TLYR members and releasing them from custody, Qayyum questioned whether the government would also show the same magnanimity to Christians by releasing over 40 people accused of violent riots and lynching of two Muslims in the aftermath of the twin suicide attacks in Youhanabad two years ago.

“Isn’t it blatant discrimination against Christians as all Muslims involved in violence and killings are let off without due punishment, while innocent Christians are languishing in jail on terrorism charges?” he said. “Should they not be judged by the same yardstick? Just because our Christian leadership is weak and our representatives in parliament are mere puppets, the government does not even feel a bit concerned about our people. This is a clear manifestation of the discrimination we face as Christians in Pakistan.”

Islamist Demands

The controversial amendment to the elections bill passed by the National Assembly concerned an oath for Muslim lawmakers declaring their faith in the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat (finality of prophethood) of Muhammad. TLYR members believed a “conspiracy” to change the oath was carried out at the behest of the minority Ahmadi sect to enable them to gain entry to parliament.

Pakistani Muslims, in the form of a national identity card or as members of the assembly, have to declare that they are Muslims and believe that Muhammad was the final prophet.

The PML-N government initially reversed the amendment and sought to allay the Barelvi clerics’ concerns by blaming “a clerical error” for the omission in the oath, but the TLYR dug in its heels, demanding the law minister’s resignation, the names of those responsible for the “clerical error” be made public and they be punished, and the hanging of Noreen.

The following are the TLYR demands to which the government conceded:

  • Remove Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid from his position immediately, with the trade-off that “TLYR will issue no fatwa [Muslim decree] of any kind against him.”
  • The report prepared by Raja Zafarul Haq-led committee will be made public within 30 days, and whoever is named in the report for being responsible for the change in the election oath will be acted against under the law.
  • All protestors arrested on Nov. 6 until the end of the sit-in, across the country, will be released within one to three days. The cases registered against them and the house arrests imposed on them will be ended.
  • An inquiry board will be established to probe and decide what action to take against the government and administration officials over the operation conducted by security forces against protestors on Nov. 25. The enquiry should be completed within 30 days, and action will be taken against those found responsible.
  • The federal and provincial governments will determine and compensate the loss of government and private assets incurred from Nov. 6 until the end of the sit-in.
  • The points already agreed to concerning the government of Punjab Province will be fully implemented.

The document ends by crediting Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and his representative team for their “special efforts” that led to the agreement being signed.

“We are thankful to him for saving the nation from a big catastrophe,” it concludes.

Besides the interior minister, the document bears the signatures of TLYR leader Khadim Rizvi, Interior Secretary Arshad Mirza, two other protest leaders and Director General of the Punjab Rangers, Maj. Gen. Faiz Hameed, who facilitated the agreement.

In a revelation that has caused shudders in minority ranks, Muslim cleric Rizvi has claimed that the government has also accepted his following demands:

  • No difficulty will be faced in registering cases under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (blasphemy laws).
  • No leniency will be given to those convicted by courts for blasphemy.
  • Noreen will not be allowed to leave Pakistan in any case, and her execution will be promptly carried out.
  • No ban will be imposed on the use of loudspeakers.
  • The foreign and interior ministries will take steps for the release of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, after taking her mother and sister in confidence.
  • Two representatives of TLYR will be included in the panel assigned to decide changes in the textbook board. The officials will push for inclusion of translation of the Koran and Seeratun Nabi (Life of Muhammad) chapters and information about Muslim leaders.
  • Every year, Nov. 25 will be observed as “Martyrs of Prophet’s Honor Day.”

TLYR was formed after the execution of Malik Mumtaz Qadri in February 2016. Qadri, a Barelvi, was a police commando who assassinated Taseer in January 2011 after the Punjab governor called for the release of Noreen, a Christian mother of two and stepmother to three others.

An Islamist movement group begun in 2015, TLYR registered as a political party in August and contested a by-election on a National Assembly seat from Lahore that fell vacant after the Supreme Court’s disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Papers case on July 28.

The constituency is a stronghold of the ruling Sharif family, and even though Sharif’s wife won the seat, TYLR’s Begum Kulsoom Nawaz managed to bag more than 7,000 votes. That was more than the candidate of the liberal Pakistan People’s Party, which has already sacrificed two officials, Taseer and former Minorities Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, to Islamic terrorism during its term in government.

TLYR’s growing influence among the Pakistani masses, particularly its desire for imposing stricter blasphemy laws, enabled it to hold the federal capital hostage for more than two weeks with hardly a few hundred supporters.

The PML-N government avoided action against the protest sit-in for 20 days despite orders of the Supreme Court and the Islamabad High Court to clear the area of protestors who “openly challenged the writ of the government by making inciting and abusive speeches,” as it feared the protests would grow into a countrywide movement.

On Nov. 25 the Islamabad administration finally launched an operation against TLYR protestors on court orders, but without proper planning and motivation. The botched operation met with fierce resistance from the protestors, resulting in the deaths of at least six protestors and serious injuries to more than 200 people, many of them law enforcement personnel.

At least 150 demonstrators were taken into custody during the riots in Islamabad, which also saw a large number of police and private vehicles torched and property vandalized by frenzied mobs.

The operation’s failure resulted in mass protests in several cities by Islamist groups hoping to take the opportunity to regain their grip on the state by street power. A few hundred Muslim extremists locked down major cities, including Lahore, Peshawar, Karachi and Quetta, as police and other law enforcement officials looked on in despair.

The mobs also attacked residences of several government ministers and lawmakers in Punjab, injuring a PML-N Member of National Assembly Mian Javed Latif in Sheikhupura.

Fearing that the widespread protests could result in the collapse of its government, the beleaguered PML-N sought the help of the Pakistan army in maintaining order. Then it was bitterly surprised when Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa refused to “use force against our own people.” Instead, he “advised” Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to find a peaceful solution to the issue.

Without the army’s support, the PML-N quickly succumbed to the protestors’ demands, dealing a devastating blow to the legitimacy and moral standing of the government and all state institutions.

Pakistan ranked fourth on the World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

PHILIPPINES – A priest killed, a targeted execution: alarm of rural missionaries

Father Marcelito Paez, murdered priest in the Philippines. (Credit: Facebook.)

(Fides Agency) – [72-year-old Father Marcelito “Tito” Paez], an elderly priest of the diocese of San Jose, was killed in the Philippines. As confirmed by Bishop Roberto Mallari, who leads the community of San Jose, in the central part of the Filipino island of Luzon, he was shot by four motorcycle-riding gunmen around 8 pm on December 4 as he was driving through Jaen town. He was rushed to a hospital in the nearby town of San Leonardo and died about two hours later due to gunshot wounds. It was a real execution, that Bishop Mallari “strongly condemns”, asking the authorities “to investigate and do justice to his death “. So far no criminal group has claimed the killing.
As Fides learns, there is strong indignation and disappointment among the faithful in the diocese and throughout the Catholic community in the Philippines. Vigils and spontaneous prayer meetings have brought together the local faithful, whom the Bishop invited to “stay united in prayer for justice”.

Paez was a diocesan priest who served the diocese for more than 30 years and retired in 2015, although he continued his pastoral and apostolic work. In his service to the Church, he was known for his active involvement in the defense of social justice, especially in human rights issues that affected the poor. For many years he had been part of the Commission for the social action of the diocese, at the head of the “Justice and Peace” office.

The priest was currently the coordinator in Luzon of the “Rural Missionaries of the Philippines RMP”, a body that in the Philippines brings together religious men and women and lay people, men and women, founded in 1969 by the Association of Major Superiors in the Philippines, with the idea of offering an active Christian presence in rural areas.

Just on the day he was killed, Paez assisted in facilitating the release of political prisoner Rommel Tucay who was detained in a prison in the city of Cabanatuan. “It is a very serious act. The execution is a brutal act that aims to sow terror among those who oppose the militaristic and despotic nature of Duterte’s government and to silence those who continue to denounce extrajudicial executions and violations of human rights”, says Sister Elenita Belardo, of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, National Coordinator of the “Rural Missionaries of the Philippines” to Agenzia Fides. “We do not know who the perpetrators are and we want a serious investigation to be carried out.

We believe that President Duterte is ultimately responsible for the ongoing attacks against rural missionaries, activists and human rights defenders during this period”, adds the nun, expressing condolences to Fr. Tito’s family and community. “His commitment to serving the poor in rural areas is an inspiration for all of us. He served people until his last breath. He always tried to witness the Gospel and the social teachings of the Church, he defended the rights and interests of the people”.

Sister Elenita concludes: “It is urgent to denounce these atrocities. We live in difficult times when nobody is safe. Let us all come together and raise our voices against the utter contempt for the lives of people, that also the current government encourages”, she concludes. (PA-SD) (Agenzia Fides, 06/12/2017)

Christians in India Praise God in Spite of Police Brutality, Month in Jail

 

Four of the six Christians jailed and charged in Jharkhand state, India. (Morning Star News courtesy of Singhray Kullu)

India (Morning Star News) – Six Christians facing false charges, two of them beaten by police, were jailed for a month for praying for a sick woman in eastern India, they said.

After tribal Gondi villagers in Simdega District, Jharkhand state, attacked the Christians on Sept. 16, officers at the local police station refused to listen to the victims and hit two young men among them, 25-year-old Sajan Majhi and Kalender Majhi, 20, they said.

“The police hit Sajan Majhi and Kalender Majhi repeatedly,” said one of those arrested, 35-year-old Dasrath Karketta. “They didn’t give us a chance to speak. If they inquired of us, we could have explained what happened exactly, but they didn’t; instead, they scarred the face of Kalender Majhi. He bled also.”

The police beating followed the thrashing the Christians received from Hindu extremists in Ghosra village, who attacked them while they were praying for healing for the wife of Bikhru Majhi, sources said. Officers jailed the Christians and charged them with “promoting enmity between classes” and insulting religion. They spent a month in jail before being released on bail.

“We spent one month in jail joyously – we sang hymns, read the Bible, prayed and worshipped together in jail,” Karketta said. “We shared the gospel with other inmates in the district jail. There also, people came to Christ. We strongly felt the Lord was using us for His work and were happy about it.”

Karketta, the two young men and James Ba, 30, Balmuni Kumari, 19, and Jagdish Majhi, 50, went to the home of Bikhru Majhi after he asked them to pray for his wife, Nitu Devi, sources said.

“Bikhru Majhi heard our testimonies,” Karketta said. “He was amazed at how I got healed, and he wanted prayers for his wife.”

Before winning a battle against cancer, Karketta had visited several hospitals for treatment, exhausting his family’s financial resources, he said.

“We spent lot of money to a point that there was nothing left in our house, even no food for our children to eat,” Karketta said. “When I came to Christ, I got rid of all ailments, and now I am working, providing for my family and leading my life in Christ: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”’

Bikhru Majhi is Hindu but believes Christ can heal, and he routinely invites Christians to pray for his wife, who has long been ill, said Singhray Kullu, former pastor of the church in Ghosra village that the arrested Christians attend.

“Bikhru believes the prayers can heal her,” he said.

At around 8 p.m. on Sept. 16, a throng of Hindu villagers surrounded Bikhru Majhi’s house as the Christians prayed for his wife, said the only woman among the six arrested, Balmuni Kumari.

“They surrounded us and started beating the Christian brothers and me,” she told Morning Star News. “We told them it’s not conversion, we only came to pray for a sick woman.”

The villagers were furious, Karketta said.

“We tried telling them, ‘We did not come to murder, or get drunk, or steal, we came to pray at the request of Bikhru, and if this act of us offends you, we ask for forgiveness, please forgive us,’” Karketta said. “We tried our best to make peace, but they did not listen. They beat us, screaming, “Where is your God? Where is your Jesus? What can He do? Call him right now. We also want to see what He can do.’”

At around 11 p.m., police arrived and arrested the Christians, he said. They were taken to T. Tangar Police Station.

“We all are daily laborers, we depend on our earnings each day for our bread,” Karketta said. “From where arises the question of paying people and converting them?”

James Ba and Kalender Majhi of Banspahar village, Jagdish Majhi of Latapani village and Balmuni Kumari of Tukupani Baanstoli village were released on bail on Oct. 16. Dasrath Karketta of Khijri village and Sajan Majhi of Farsapani village were released on bail on Oct. 17.

Women’s Prison 

The 19-year-old Kumari was arrested along with the others at 11 p.m., though arrests of women are not permitted in India after sunset, a legal expert told Morning Star News. He added that if special circumstances require the arrest of a woman after sunset, police are required to assign female police officer.

“No female police constable came for me,” Kumari said. “I was the only woman, and it was frightening. I trusted the Lord.”

Her family came under severe pressure from the Hindus extremists while she was in jail, she said.

“The assailants threatened my mother and father,” she said. “They were asked to leave the village.”

Her brother told Singhray Kullu about the threats in Kumari’s home village.

“The family faced severe opposition because of their faith,” Kullu told Morning Star News. “The Gondis plotted to expel them from the village. Balmuni’s mother went into depression. Things turned normal after her release.”

The time in the women’s jail interrupted her university studies, Kumari said.

“Even in the prison, I prayed and worshipped with other Christians,” she said. “Every Sunday believing sisters from outside visited us and led us in prayer and worship.”

Some of the assailants later apologized to her, she added.

“The people who beat me that day came and asked for forgiveness after my release,” Kumari said. “But there is still bitterness in the hearts of some.”

The Christians were charged with promoting enmity between classes (Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code), punishable by up to three years of prison and/or a fine; maliciously insulting the religion or religious beliefs of any class (Section 295-A), punishable by up to three years of prison and/or a fine; and acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention (Section 34).

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, the hostile tone of his National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), against non-Hindus has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians, religious rights advocates say.

India ranked 15th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the countries where Christians experience the most persecution.

Pakistani Christian family arrested during publicized raid by the Thai Authorities

Thai immigration authorities bring along journalists during raid targeting refugees and asylum seekers.

(Voice of the Persecuted) November 21, 2017- This morning, VOP was notified that the Thai immigration police raided a condominium in Inthamara 44, Soi Pracha Suk, Din Daeng Distrcit in Bangkok and arrested a Pakistani Christian family.

Mr. Asif Ghouri, his wife along with their 3 grown children, son (Alisha Asif) and two daughters (Rebecca and Jasmine), were arrested during the raid around 3pm (local time).

Mr. Asif was surprised with a knock on the door and when they opened it, the officers were there along with journalists to record their arrest. The family was asked to show proof of identity, either passports or UNHCR cards. Their case had been dismissed by the UNHCR in the mid of 2017, hence their cards had been taken away. The UNHCR deemed they would be safe in Pakistan despite it being the 4th most dangerous country for Christians.

The police pressured them into showing proof of their identity. Mr. Asif had no choice but to give them their passports with no updated visas to stay in Thailand as they were living with UNHCR cards since 2014. Ultimately, the family was taken to the Immigration Detention Center (IDC) where they will live in misery and despair, fed nothing but a soupy mixture of cucumber and boiled rice. Based on the UNHCR decision in their case, the family won’t have any chance of being resettled to another country as all UNHCR portals would be inaccessible. They have no other option than to wait while fighting the feelings of hopelessness in finding freedom soon.

The IDC already hosts about 150 Pakistani Christian asylum seekers and refugees. Their arrest would make matters worse as they will have to struggle for space inside. Last month, about 35 refugees from Pakistan and Somalia were arrested from Bangkok including 12 children and 7 unaccompanied minors.

The Thai government claims it to be a crackdown on illegal people who are illegally employed. However, our correspondent in Thailand confirms that neither Mr. Asif nor the 35 arrested last month were working illegally in Thailand. This situation is truly alarming and the people need your prayers.

The actions by the Thai government should be condemned. The issue should be brought to the MPs to do more to bring the persecuted brothers and sisters to the United States and other countries. These countries should also step up to condemn this brutal act against our brothers and sisters in Christ.

UPDATE Dec. 4, 2017:  

Elias Asif ( arrestrd with the family last week) Fiaz Masih ( arrested from Pratunam Market, Phaya Thai District) Asher Ryan ( arrested from outside his apartment at Vivid Tower Pattanakarn 54 district Suan luang).

Two more Pakistani Christians were arrested on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017

VOP representative includes a message for our suffering brothers and sisters in the IDC

Please remember Pakistani Christian refugees seeking asylum in Thailand. Day by day, their situation grows more volatile with greater risks of arrest.

VOP is on the ground in Thailand. Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope. Please consider our mission, this Christmas, to help  care for a family and bring much needed supplies and nutrition to those suffering in the notorious IDC.

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Detailed Report: Christians Targeted for Brutality by ISIS Militants in Philippines

Bombing of Marawi City-Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Civilians on the island of Mindanao paid a high price with dozens killed and widespread destruction of homes and property amid the ‘battle of Marawi’ that pitted the Philippine military against militants allied to the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) between May and October this year, Amnesty International said in a report today.

The ‘Battle of Marawi’: Death and destruction in the Philippines is the first detailed human rights analysis of the conflict, based on a research trip to Lanao del Sur, Mindanao in September. It documents how IS-allied militants targeted Christian civilians for the worst of the abuses, including at least 25 extrajudicial killings, mass hostage-taking, and extensive looting of civilian property.

Philippine armed forces, meanwhile, detained and ill-treated fleeing civilians, and also engaged in looting. Their extensive bombing of militant-held areas of Marawi city wiped out entire neighbourhoods and killed civilians, highlighting the need for an investigation into its compliance with international humanitarian law. 

“Marawi’s civilian population has suffered immensely amid one of the Philippine military’s most intensive operations in decades. Displaced en masse when the fighting began in May, thousands of people are now returning to a city that has been utterly destroyed in places, where civilians have been slaughtered by militants, and both sides have committed abuses,” said Tirana Hassan, Crisis Response Director at Amnesty International.

“The IS-linked militants’ bloody, months-long siege of Marawi took a heavy toll on civilians, with Christians in particular singled out for brutal attacks, including grisly extrajudicial killings.”

Civilians targeted in reign of terror…Read More

Lawyer expects Asia Bibi’s blasphemy case to be heard by year end

Aasia Bibi with her children before blasphemy charges

In October, it was reported that the Supreme Court was likely to hear Aasia [Asia] Bibi’s blasphemy case during the next couple of months.

Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Malook, told The Express Tribune that the court’s additional registrar had conveyed to him that the case was likely to be fixed for hearing in November. However, if for some reason there was a delay, it would definitely be listed in December.

“I have been told that currently the Supreme Court’s special bench is hearing criminal appeals filed in 2015. The Aasia case was listed the same year. Therefore, it will be heard during the ongoing year,” said the lawyer.

Legal experts say it’s unclear if a bench led by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar will resume, or the special bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, will hear her case.

The 51-year-old Christian, has been on the death row since November 2010 after being convicted of controversial blasphemy charges during an argument with a Muslim woman. Aasia’s case gained prominence after then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer pleaded for her retrial and was subsequently shot dead by his guard, Mumtaz Qadri, in January 2011.

In 2014, the Lahore High Court upheld Aasia’s death sentence, but the Supreme Court stayed her execution in July 2015.

The Tribune reported,

The last time her case was taken up was on October 13 last year by a three-judge bench headed by Justice Nisar and comprising Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman and Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik. The hearing was postponed when Justice Rehman recused himself as he was the CJ of the Islamabad High Court when it heard the Salmaan Taseer assassination case. The assassin had cited Taseer’s interest in the Aasia Bibi case as his motive.

Describing her case, Bibi said she was working in a field when she was asked to fetch water. Because she is a Christian, some of her Muslim co-workers objected, saying that she should not touch the water vessel as she would make it unclean. An argue began and harsh words were exchanged. Bibi claims the women later accused her of blasphemy in conspiracy with another Muslim woman. Bibi maintains her innocence.

Read full report

VOP Note: During our recent IDOP prayer conference calls, we prayed specifically for Aasia, including that her case be heard. In discussions on the possibility of her case being heard in December, some are reluctant, as Pakistan prepares for elections to take place. Some fear the case will once again be postponed until after the elections. They also fear if she is released riots would ensue.

Please continue lifting her up to the Lord. In the name of Jesus, let us pray for those proceeding over the case to have the courage to do what is right and release her. Pray for those who would intend to harm these officials, Aasia and her family, or organize mob violence when she is acquitted. Lord have mercy on our sister who longs to reunite with her family.

 

 

Underground Churches in China…A Rare Video Clip

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