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Praying for the Persecuted in Pakistan

(Voice of the Persecuted) You are invited to join us on Saturday 13, November 2021 in a prayer conference call for the persecuted church hosted by Persecution Watch.

Let us pray once again for Pakistan.  The Word tells us to keep praying, keep asking and keep seeking.  We will not be weary of coming to the just Judge with our petitions.

The population of Pakistan is about 200 million, with about 4 million identifying themselves as Christians.

This country is over 95% Muslim. The source of persecution is mainly from Islam.  Converts from Islam face a very high level of persecution.  Many Christian girls and young women have been abducted and forced into an oppressive marriage.  Blasphemy laws have been a tool of oppression, using it to unfairly target Christians.  Churches are sometimes attacked with little or no repercussions. Christians are considered second class citizens and are discriminated against in society, especially regarding employment, and also education.

  • Pray that Pakistani Christians will not be discouraged; that they would feel the presence of God and know that this is not their home.
  • Pray for fellowship with other believers, as iron sharpens iron.  Let them be in unity.
  • Pray for access to the Word through whatever means:  written Bibles, story tellers, internet, broadcasts.
  • Pray for the protection of girls and young women to not be abducted.
  • Pray for those in forced marriages to be protected from violence; pray would keep the Lord in their hearts; give them much wisdom on how they could be able to communicate secretly with other believers and/or read the Word.
  • Pray for angelic protection over the churches.
  • Pray for pastors:  for protection, wisdom, be able to disciple, encourage and teach other believers; pray as well for their families.
  • Pray for new believers:  against intense pressure to recant their faith, protection against murder and other violence, against spirit of rejection; for shelter if and when they are thrown out of their homes.
  • Pray Evangelists would be raised up; Christians would continue to boldly proclaim the Good News with wisdom and clarity.
  • Pray the Lord would give Christians special gifts that would make room for them and improve their economic status.
  • Pray for their health and divine healing when not having access to medical care and living in unsanitary conditions.
  • Pray for blasphemy laws be eliminated.
  • Pray for justice in the courts and for victims not to be prosecuted as perpetrators; pray for the release of those in prison for the Word.
  • Pray the Lord would build His kingdom in Pakistan.

We will also remember these dear ones:

Leah Sharibu and Alice that they will be set free from Boko Haram captivity.

  • Leah Sharibu was kidnapped along with 109 other students on February 19, 2018 when Boko Haram attacked a boarding school in the city of Dapchi, Maiduguri Diocese, in north-eastern Nigeria. A month later, some of the girls died in captivity and all the others were released, except Leah. She was the only Christian in the group
  • Alice Loksha Ngaddah was kidnapped during the Rann attack on March 1, 2018. She was a nurse working with Unicef and is a mother of two.
  • Pastor Wang Yi to be released from prison, for his family, the children, and the church in China. Pastor Wang Yi who is currently serving his prison sentence.
  • Anita an Iranian Christian, persecuted by the Islamic regime seeking asylum.
  • Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani from Iran, for his release and his family as their persecution continues. At present he is serving his six-year sentence. 

Valerie, Persecution Watch Prayer Call Moderator

Prayer Conference Call Details

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday

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If you are experiencing any difficulties joining the call, please let us know.

What is Persecution Watch?

Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern time in the United States (please check your time zone). Blaine also served as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted, and the missions became one. Brother Blaine passed into glory on December 26, 2019. It was truly a blessing for all of us to serve alongside this dear man of God and he will be greatly missed. The prayer mission of Persecution Watch remains an important part of our mission. Voice of the Persecuted is committed to continue the prayer conference call for the persecuted along with the dedicated Persecution Watch prayer warrior team.

Prior to the passing of Brother Blaine, he confirmed the passing of the torch as prayer conference call leader to Nadia Dybvik. Nadia has a burdened heart for the persecuted and is a prayer warrior standing in the gap for them. She joined the Persecution Watch prayer team in 2013 and has been part of the core ever since. Before becoming the prayer call leader, she served in the role of prayer moderator since 2015. Blaine chose Nadia for her faithfulness to pray for the persecuted and her strong commitment to the Persecution Watch mission. We are blessed not only with her gift of prayer, but her genuine love for every brother and sister in Christ that comes on the call to pray. May the Lord continue to bless Nadia and the prayer team in the mission and their personal lives.

“Pray for us” is the number one request that we hear from the persecuted. As the members of the first century Church were moved by the Holy Spirit to pray, we too must continue to serve those suffering persecution by lifting them up to the Lord through prayer.

On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the conference call to share the trials they are facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer. Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.

Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone.

We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you. If you are new to the call and cannot find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ. We can all be prayer warriors on this call!

God bless and protect you in your faithfulness to serve.

Lois Kanalos, Founder, Voice of the Persecuted, Nadia Dybvik, Persecution Watch Prayer Call Leader and the Persecution Watch Prayer Team

NOTE: Please fill out the form in the sign up link below to be included in our distribution list to receive urgent prayer requests, prayer points, notification of special prayer events and special guest speakers.

Note to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) readers: The Persecution Watch prayer team is also the prayer team of Voice of the Persecuted. SIGN UP today.

If you are experiencing any difficulties joining the call, please let us know.

Muslim Gunmen in Pakistan Wound at least Four Christians

Pregnant woman said to be among those injured.

Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Muslims in an area of Lahore, Pakistan on Monday (Sept. 6) fired high-powered weapons at the homes of Christians, wounding a pregnant woman and at least three other people, sources said.

A wounded Christian resident in the Shamsabad locality of Lahore’s Sherakot area, Asif Masih, said he heard shouts followed by bursts of gunfire from fully automatic assault rifles after he returned home from work that afternoon.

“When I was telling my kids to get inside, I saw a group of heavily armed men firing indiscriminately at a church located on the street,” Masih told Morning Star News. “They then trained their weapons on the homes of neighboring Christians and fired volleys of bullets at them.”

Gunmen eyeing him opened fire on him, wounding him in both thighs, he said.

“I barely managed to drag myself into my house and locked the gate, but they did not stop firing,” Masih said. “I could hear them shouting that they would not spare Christians living in the area and would also burn down our church.”

The assailants, identified as Dilshad Dogar, Butt Gas Wala and Chand Khencha, fired hundreds of bullets from Kalashnikov (AK-47) rifles and other weapons into homes in the area where more than 300 Christian families live, he said. Bullets pierced the gates of several homes, wounding three women identified as Nirma Bibi, Maria Kashif and Samina, and other Christians, he said.

“One of the injured women is six months pregnant,” Masih said. “She was hit in the leg by one of the several bullets fired at their gate, but fortunately her family members were able to secure her inside.”

Many people called the police emergency helpline after the shooting started at 2:30 p.m., but officers did not arrive until 8 p.m., he said, adding that local police have been lax in prosecuting the suspects as they were influential people. Masih was one of the complainants in the case against the gunmen.

“Our entire street has been riddled with bullets, and people have been injured, but the police have not included the sections related to terrorism in the FIR [First Information Report],” he said. “Moreover, I had stated in my application to the police that the accused had continuously threatened to burn the church and harm us, but even these facts were missing in the formal FIR.”

Registered the day after the attack, the FIR states that it arose out of a dispute between a Christian, Asghar Masih, and Dogar. Asif Masih denied the police version, saying officers were trying to protect the suspects.

“Ask them why Dogar and his accomplices opened fire on the homes of Christians and injured innocent people like us if they had just a personal dispute with an individual?” he said. “The police have been protecting the accused since day one because they are Muslims, and we are poor Christians.”

Attorney Javed Gill, a senior leader of the Christian Lawyers Association of Pakistan, said there were conflicting reports about the motives for the shooting.

“Several residents have claimed that the accused were opposed to the presence of a church in the locality and had been pressuring them to stop worship there, while some are saying that the incident was an outcome of a dispute over a girl,” Gill told Morning Star News. “Nonetheless, even if it was a dispute between two people, how can anyone justify the targeting of the entire Christian neighborhood with automatic weapons?”

Several hundred bullets were fired from various illegal weapons resulting in injuries, yet police failed to include Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act in the FIR, which would have made the attack a non-bailable offense, he said. Gill said police were also unable to explain why they did not intervene timely while gunmen were shooting innocent people and damaging property.

“Thank God no one lost their life in the gruesome attack, but the manner in which the accused acted shows that they would not have desisted from murdering any person who came in their way,” he said.

Police Response

Muhammad Azeem, station house officer of the Sherakot police station, declined to comment on whether officers were protecting the suspects and could not explain why they were delayed in reaching the site.

“We have arrested three men while raids are being conducted to arrest the other accused,” he said, sidestepping the question about the delay.

He also had no comment on why anti-terrorism sections were not included in the FIR when high-powered weapons resulted in injuries and kept panic-stricken people locked in their homes.

Asked why police failed to include in the FIR the anti-Christian comments the suspects made as stated by the complainants, Azeem said only that the case was registered on Tuesday (Sept. 7), “because we wanted to get to the bottom of the issue.” He said preliminary investigation showed the shooting was rooted in a personal dispute, but “further investigation will reveal the facts.”

“They [Christians] are our brothers, and we will protect them from any element who wants to disrupt peace in the area,” he said. “The incident has been noticed by the government, and all efforts are being made to bring the culprits to justice. It is not a religious issue as is being projected by the Christians.”

The U.S. State Department in December re-designated Pakistan among nine other “Countries of Particular Concern” for severe violations of religious freedom. Previously Pakistan had been added to the list on Nov. 28, 2018.

Pakistan ranked fifth on the Open Doors 2021 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Photo: Asif Masih was shot when Muslim gunmen attacked Lahore, Pakistan’s Sherakot area on Sept. 6, 2021. (Morning Star News)

Pakistan: Another Christian woman accused of blasphemy for forwarding a text

In a report shared with Voice of the Persecuted, Shagufta Kiran, a Christian woman from Islamabad, has been accused of blasphemy for simply forwarding a message. Shagufta was arrested on July 29 by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and still in their custody under investigation.

Shagufta’s husband, Rafique Maish, told the Pak Christian News (PCN) that armed police raided their home and arrested his wife and two sons accusing them of violating Pakistan’s blasphemy law by forwarding a WhatsApp post which included blasphemous content.

He said: “They harassed my family and took possession of our telephones, computer and other valuable items. The police were armed with firearms instructed us not to move and to keep our hands up. They arrested Shagufta and my two sons without prior information or an arrest warrant.

“They took my wife and sons to the police station, charged Shagufta under 295-A and 295-B of Pakistan’s blasphemy but later on freed my sons.”

He said that they fled Islamabad because of fear and threats and have moved somewhere they feel safer.

Rafique further shared that Shagufta was arrested because she was a member of a WhatsApp group where someone allegedly shared a blasphemous message, which Shagufta forwarded to other persons without reading and knowing the consequences.

“Shagufta knew nothing about the post, she was not even the author of the post in question but was accused of passing it on,” Rafique explained.

Nasir Saeed, Director of the CLAAS-UK expressed his concern over the ongoing misuse and abused of the blasphemy law against poor and illiterate members of the religious minorities.

He said: “This is not the first time that someone has been charged for sharing a post on the social media, but there are several examples like Patras and Sajid and a young boy Nabeel who was recently granted bail, but the case against him is ongoing and he must prove himself innocent. Meanwhile the police have failed to find and arrest the authors of such posts.

“Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar have recently been released after seven years of blasphemy charges and have safely reached the Netherlands.

Their case was another which broadly followed the pattern of the case of Asia Bibi, who was acquitted by Supreme Court in 2018 but not everyone is lucky like them. Several are languishing in prison for years, but nobody speaks about them.

 “I don’t know how many years it will take for Shagufta Kiran to prove herself innocent.”

The European Union parliament has adopted a resolution in April for Shagufta and Shafqat Emmanuel, demanding that Pakistan allow space for religious freedom and urged the EU authorities to review the GSP Plus status for Pakistan.

Death Threats Force Christian to Abandon Job Promotion

Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Riaz Gill was working in his office at one of Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest government hospitals last week when a group of Muslim doctors stormed in and attacked him.

“How can a Chuhra and Bhangi dare to work on the same level as us?” the assailants said, using the pejorative terms for Christians as they dragged the middle-aged Gill out of his office, kicking and beating him.

Serving in the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center (JPMC) as office superintendent for the last six years, Gill had been promoted as deputy director on April 8. Death threats from his colleagues against him and his family had already forced him to resign his new post the week before and return to his former job, but the attacking doctors appeared to want him gone from the hospital altogether.

On Wednesday (June 23), Dr. Usman Zafar, anesthetist Sikandar Hayat and their aides entered Gill’s office and began manhandling him and breaking office furniture, said Gill, a member of the Church of Pakistan.

“We will fix you for good today…We will see how you continue to work at this hospital,” the doctors said as they dragged him on the floor, kicked and beat him, according to Gill.

“They cursed and abused me and said they would first drag my body in the entire hospital and then burn me alive,” Gill said. “I kept shouting for help, but no one came forward to rescue me from them.”

Two armed Sindh Rangers and a constable of the Karachi Police were also present and witnessed the incident, but they just looked on, he said. Eventually hospital security staff rescued him and pushed the assailants out of the office.

The doctors then attacked the office of JPMC Medical Director Seemin Jamali, but she was able to lock the door from inside just in time, Gill said.

“Frustrated by their failure to storm her office, the doctors started hurling abuses at her from the outside and threatened her, saying to terminate my services otherwise they would teach her a lesson too,” Gill said.

No one from the hospital called police, he said. After Gill twice called the police emergency helpline, officers arrived and rescued Dr. Jamali, he said.

“It seems that the entire Muslim staff had turned against me and were protecting the attackers,” he added.

Since his promotion, leaders of the doctors’ union had threatened and harassed him daily, telling him to give up his new position, he said. Gill, his wife and five children, and his elderly mother live in a residence allotted by the government on the hospital premises.

“They started sending armed gangsters to my home as well as office and threatened that they will kill me and my family if I don’t resign,” he told Morning Star News. “They also started a vitriolic social media campaign against me and filed a writ petition in the high court against my promotion.”

Compelled to Resign

The harassment and threats against him and his family became so serious that on June 16 he was compelled to resign his post as deputy director, Gill said.

He filed a complaint against Zafar, Hayat and others with Saddar Police, but it was registered after a delay of two days, and no arrests had been made at this writing.

Despite CCTV evidence of the entire incident and footage aired by several mainstream TV channels that day, police are still slow to take action against the assailants, Gill said.

“They have clearly been influenced by the doctors, and my pleas for safety and protection for myself and my family are being given a cold shoulder,” he said. “I’ve already filed a formal letter for withdrawal of my promotion as deputy director, what else do they want from me now? They are continuing to harass me and my family, but no one is paying attention to our persecution.”

Gill said that he had informed law enforcement agencies and the appropriate government offices, including the Sindh chief minister’s office, of the threats to his life, but there has been no response so far.

“I am an honest and hardworking man,” he said. “The promotion was given to me on the basis of merit, but I never thought that my progress would be judged on the basis of my Christian faith.”

Repeated attempts to contact Jamali for comment went unanswered.

Rash of Persecution Cases

Many Christians – who make up about 2 percent of Pakistan’s population – are children of converts to Christianity from the downtrodden “untouchable” Hindu tribal caste. This “untouchable” caste status is at the root of such attacks and several blasphemy charges against Christians.

Although Article 27 (1) of Pakistan’s Constitution forbids discrimination on grounds of race, religion, caste, sex, residence or place of birth, there have been several cases of persecution against Christians, especially those working in the health sector.

On April 9, two Christian nurses complying with a supervisor’s orders to remove stickers at a government hospital were arrested in Faisalabad after a Muslim employee attacked one of them with a knife over the removal of a sticker bearing Koranic verses.

Nurse Mariam Lal and student nurse Navish Arooj were charged under Section 295-B of Pakistan’s blasphemy statutes against “defiling the Koran” after an Islamist mob demanded “death to blasphemers” inside Civil Hospital, their attorney said. Conviction under Section 295-B is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine.

The two Roman Catholic nurses are in judicial custody while their families have gone into hiding out of fear of Islamist mobs.

On Jan. 28, Tabeeta Gill, a nurse at a Karachi hospital and a gospel singer, was slapped, beaten and locked in a room by a violent mob after a Muslim co-worker baselessly accused her of blaspheming Islam. Police initially cleared her of denigrating Muhammad but later succumbed to pressure of an Islamist mob and charged her with insulting Islam’s prophet, punishable by death under Section 295-C.

False accusations of blaspheming Islam in Pakistan are common, often motivated by personal vendettas or religious hatred. The highly inflammatory accusations have the potential to spark mob lynchings, vigilante murders and mass protests. Currently, 26 Christians are in prison due to blasphemy charges. They are defendants in 22 blasphemy cases at various levels of the judicial process.

The U.S. State Department in December re-designated Pakistan among nine other “Countries of Particular Concern” for severe violations of religious freedom. Previously Pakistan had been added to the list on Nov. 28, 2018.

Pakistan ranked fifth on Open Doors 2021 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Photo: Police deployed at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center day of attacks in Karachi, Pakistan, on June 23, 2021. (Morning Star News screenshot)

Islamists in Pakistan Forcibly ‘Convert’ Catholic, Threaten Family

Social media post announcing ‘conversion’ of Adnan Bashir. (Morning Star News)

Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Members of an Islamic extremist political party in Pakistan have forcibly converted a mentally challenged Catholic and are pressuring his family to renounce their faith, a relative said.

Adnan Bashir, 40, wandered out of his home in Gujjar Khan, Punjab Province on April 14 and inadvertently walked into a sit-in protest of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), said his brother, Fayyaz Bashir.

“One Mumtaz Ahmed and some others forced him to publicly recite the Kalima (proclamation of Muhammad’s prophethood, signaling conversion to Islam) and converted him to Islam,” Fayyaz Bashir told Morning Star News, adding that his younger brother has been under treatment for a mental disorder since 2018.

A few hours later acquaintances informed him by telephone that a video of his brother reciting the Kalima at the TLP demonstration was going viral on social media, Fayyaz Bashir said. Back home that evening, Adnan Bashir told his brother and other family members that he was watching the protestors when Ahmed, his former employer, offered him sherbet on the condition that he join the demonstrators.

“Mumtaz is also a local leader of the TLP, and he used the opportunity to force my brother to say the Kalima in the presence of the charged mobs,” Fayyaz Bashir said, adding that they renamed him Khadim Hussain after his “conversion.”

Safdar Chaudhry, chief executive of prisoner welfare group Raah-e-Nijaat Ministry, a Christian organization based in Rawalpindi, said Adnan Bashir has denied converting to Islam.

“When Adnan’s family contacted me for support, I brought him to Rawalpindi and admitted him to a hospital for treatment. When I asked Adnan about his conversion to Islam, he outright denied it, saying he’s a Christian,” Chaudhry told Morning Star News. “It’s obvious that Mumtaz Ahmed exploited Adnan’s mental condition for ulterior motives, but this has put the entire family and community members at serious risk.”

Fayyaz Bashir said his brother had been hospitalized in 2018 at the Government Benazir Bhutto Hospital in Rawalpindi after his condition was discovered. Married with two children, Adnan Bashir began working at a shop owned by Ahmed after he was discharged from the hospital.

“Adnan left the job after some months after his condition again deteriorated,” Fayyaz Bashir said. “We live in a joint family, and it was decided that we would financially support Adnan and his family so that he doesn’t have to suffer from work-related mental stress.”

After the video spread on social media, the family started receiving phone calls from Muslim acquaintances and some unknown callers, he said.

“The callers congratulated us over Adnan’s conversion and asked when the rest of us would also embrace Islam,” he said. “Some others are threatening us with serious consequences in case we ‘force’ Adnan to revert, warning that apostasy is punishable with death in Islam.”

The family is facing a serious security threat as TLP members are monitoring their movement, Fayyaz Bashir said.

“Our lives have become miserable due to the threats and surveillance by TLP activists,” he said. “Our children keep asking what will happen to them, as their Muslim friends keep raising this issue. We can neither seek help from the police or any other government or religious leader, because everyone is fearful of the TLP, and also because this matter can easily be turned into a religious issue.”

Rise of TLP

The TLP was founded by hard-line Barelvi cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi after the 2011 assassination of former Punjab Gov. Salmaan Taseer.

Taseer was gunned down by his police bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, for speaking in favor of Pakistan’s most high-profile blasphemy convict, Aasiya Noreen, better known as Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to die before she was acquitted. Since its inception, TLP members have engaged in violent protests across the country and are a driving force behind the increase in blasphemy cases and related attacks in Punjab and Sindh provinces.

The violent organization has not only forced government officials to surrender to its demands on several occasions but has also found support within the armed forces of Pakistan. On April 12 police, acting on orders of the federal government, arrested TLP chief Hafiz Saad Rizvi, son of Khadim Rizvi, who had announced that the group would besiege the federal capital on April 20 for failing to act against France over caricatures deemed blasphemous to Islam last year.

Protests erupted in several Muslim countries last year over France’s response to the killing of a history teacher beheaded by an 18-year-old man of Chechen origin for showing cartoons of Muhammad, prophet of Islam, in a class on freedom of speech. At the time, the Pakistani government signed a deal with TLP promising to present a resolution in parliament by April 20 seeking expulsion of the French ambassador and boycotting French products.

Saad Rizvi’s arrest plunged Pakistan into chaos for nearly a week as charged mobs blocked major highways and roads, attacked government and private property, killed at least five policemen and seriously injured more than 850 others.

In retaliation, the federal government declared TLP as a proscribed organization and announced it would ask the Supreme Court to revoke the party’s registration with the Election Commission of Pakistan.

The government on April 14 issued a statement that it has “reasonable grounds to believe that the TLP is engaged in terrorism, [has] acted in a manner prejudicial to the peace and security of the country, [was] involved in creating anarchy in the country by intimidating the public, caused grievous bodily harm, hurt and death to the personnel of law enforcement agencies and innocent by-standers, attacked civilians and officials, created wide-scale hurdles, threatened, abused and promoted hatred, vandalized and ransacked public and government properties including vehicles and caused arson, blocked essential health supplies to hospitals, and has threatened, coerced, intimidated, and overawed the government [and] the public and created a sense of fear and insecurity in the society and the public at large.”

The government move failed to deter the TLP, and though hundreds of members were taken into custody, the party continued to hold several cities hostage by blocking roads and entry and exit points. Prime Minister Imran Khan repeatedly claimed that the government would not succumb to the TLP’s demands, but he ultimately capitulated and released Rizvi and all other TLP members in custody.

The prime minister has since filed a resolution in parliament for debate over expelling the French ambassador from Pakistan.

The U.S. State Department on Dec. 7 re-designated Pakistan among nine other “Countries of Particular Concern” for severe violations of religious freedom. Previously Pakistan had been added to the list on Nov. 28, 2018.

Pakistan ranked fifth on Open Doors 2021 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Life Sentence for Pakistani Christian Changed to Death Penalty

Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Ruling in favor of an Islamist legal group’s petition, the Lahore High Court on March 10 changed a sentence of life imprisonment to the death penalty for a Christian convicted of sending a blasphemous text message in 2011.

The high court’s approval of an appeal for the criminal code revision filed by the Khatam-e-Nabuwwat Forum (KNF, or Movement for the Finality of the Prophethood) seeking the death penalty for such violations has raised fears of a surge in convictions under the controversial laws, sources said.

Relatives of Sajjad Masih, the convicted 36-year-old Christian, said Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan ruled in favor of the revised sentence and then sent Masih’s appeal to a division bench.

“Justice Shahzad has forwarded the appeal to a division bench to avoid pressure from KNF lawyers, and it’s most likely that this appeal, like other similar appeals, will continue to be delayed due to the fear factor,” one source said.

Masih’s appeal of the conviction has been pending with the Lahore High Court for the last seven years.

A trial court sentenced Masih, a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Gojra town, Punjab Province, to life imprisonment in July 2013 for sending a controversial text message to a Muslim in December 2011, though there were several gaps in the prosecution’s case, according to his lawyer. Masih was also ordered to pay a fine of 314,500 rupees (US$2,010).

A large number of KNF lawyers swarmed the courtroom during a hearing on both Masih’s appeal and the KNF petition, an intimidation tactic designed to obtain convictions and harsh sentences, according to sources speaking on the condition of anonymity due to security fears.

“They told the judge that capital punishment was the only sentence for blaspheming against Islam’s prophet, and that Sajjad must be executed without delay,” said one source.

Pressure Tactics

Masih was charged under Section 295-C of the blasphemy laws, which states that “Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”

In 1991, however, the Federal Shariat (Islamic) Court fixed death penalty as the only possible punishment for blasphemy, prompting attorney Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, president of the KNF, to assert, “The punishment for blasphemers is only death. There is no alternative.”

Since the KNF was founded 20 years ago, the number of blasphemy cases filed against Christians and other minorities in Punjab Province has greatly increased. Chaudhry says his group is representing almost every complainant in cases across Punjab.

“Hundreds of Khatam-e-Nabuwwat lawyers are using their expertise and influence across Punjab voluntarily to ensure that anyone insulting Islam or the Prophet Muhammad is charged, tried and executed,” he told Morning Star News.

Supreme Court Advocate Saif Ul Malook, a Muslim lawyer who has won freedom for Pakistan’s most high-profile blasphemy convict, Aasiya Noreen (better known as Asia Bibi), represents other Christians on death row. He agreed that Chaudhry and his group of lawyers were behind the increase in blasphemy cases, especially in Punjab.

Few Muslim lawyers are willing to put their life at risk by defending a person accused of blasphemy, particularly if they belong to a minority community, Malook said.

“The conduct of Khatam-e-Nabuwwat lawyers is very intimidating,” he said, adding that a crowd of lawyers once left him hardly any space to stand and shouted slogans as he tried to present his case to a judge.

The KNF has instilled fear in lower and higher courts with such pressure tactics, he said.

“I am defending a death-row couple, Shagufta Kausar and her paralyzed husband Shafqat Emmanuel, but their appeal against the conviction has been delayed by the high court on one pretext or the other for the past six years,” he said.

‘No One Safe’

No one in Pakistan has been executed for blasphemy so far, but jails are filling up with those sentenced to death.

False accusations are common and often motivated by personal vendettas or religious hatred. The highly inflammatory accusations have the potential to spark mob lynchings, vigilante murders and mass protests.

Church leaders and human rights defenders say the government’s failure to curb the misuse of the blasphemy laws was emboldening false accusers and outfits such as the KNF. Currently, 24 Christians are in prison due to blasphemy charges. They are defendants in 21 blasphemy cases at various levels of the judicial process.

“The blatant abuse of the law has imperiled the lives of all Pakistanis irrespective of their faiths,” Bishop Azad Marshall, president of the National Council of Churches in Pakistan, told Morning Star News. “While Christians and other minorities are more vulnerable, Muslims themselves are also targeted with fake allegations. Mere allegations are enough to destroy the lives of the accused and their families.”

Calling for an equally harsh punishment for false accusers, Marshall said that blasphemy allegations must be promptly and thoroughly investigated by an independent and impartial authority.

“The law should be amended so that the FIRs [First Information Reports] in all blasphemy cases are registered only after permission from the concerned government before the courts can take cognizance of them,” he added.

The bishop said that the government continually claims that it intends to curb misuse of the laws but has yet to make any concerted efforts.

“We will keep highlighting this issue during official meetings and at inter-faith dialogues, but it’s time the government realizes its long-term consequences for the country,” he said.

A Senate Special Committee on Human Rights and the Islamabad High Court in 2018 recommended that those making false blasphemy accusations be given the same punishments as those for blasphemy convictions, but the government dismissed the recommendation. The recommendation also stated that anyone registering a blasphemy case at a police station must bring two witnesses.

While punishment for blasphemy ranges from several years in prison to death in Pakistan, a person making a false accusation faces potential punishment of only six months in prison or a fine of 1,000 rupees (US$6). Successive governments have acknowledged that the blasphemy laws are blatantly misused, but little effort has been made to stop the abuses.

Rights activists say it’s unlikely that any government will move to repeal or amend the blasphemy laws due to fierce Islamist sentiments in the Muslim-majority country. They say Pakistani authorities must be urged to immediately implement effective procedural and institutional safeguards at the investigative, prosecutorial and judicial levels to prevent abuse of these laws.

The U.S. State Department on Dec. 7 re-designated Pakistan among nine other “Countries of Particular Concern” for severe violations of religious freedom. Previously Pakistan had been added to the list on Nov. 28, 2018.

Pakistan ranked fifth on Open Doors 2021 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Persecution Waych: Praying for Believers in Pakistan

3/18/2021 Pakistan: (Voice of the Persecuted) Population 208.4 million, Christians: 4, 05 million

Christians in Pakistan face extreme persecution in every area of their lives. Believers who have converted from Islam face the greatest levels of persecution, but all Christians are considered second-class citizens in this strongly Islamic country. They are given jobs perceived as low, dirty, and dishonorable, and can be victims of bonded labor. There are some Christians among the middle classes, but they are still considered inferior to their Muslim counterparts and often face severe workplace discrimination.

Christian girls are at risk of abduction, rape, and are often forced to marry their attackers and coerced into converting to Islam. [Annually up to 1,000 young Christian and Hindu girls aged between 12 and 25 are abducted by Muslim men, forcibly married and converted.] Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws are used to target Christians, and Islamic extremist groups vehemently “defend” these laws, including attacking or killing those believed to have contravened them.

Christian churches do exist, but those that are active in outreach face severe persecution from society. Pakistan remains one of the hardest places to live as a Christian, and violent persecution against Christians and church buildings continues to be particularly bad. Who is most vulnerable to persecution? All Christians are at risk of persecution in Pakistan, particularly those from a Muslim background. Open Doors raises prayer support for persecuted believers in Pakistan.

  • Pray to the Lord that His Holy Spirit will convict the religious rulers and that the infamous blasphemy laws will be invalidated.  Death penalty for defaming Mohamed.

 

  • Pray for courage for Christians in Pakistan to speak about their faith, despite their fears that their words may be used against them. Pray for wisdom for them, and that God will give them the right words to say.

 

  • Pray for protection over Pakistan’s churches, especially around holidays such as Christmas and Easter, when terrorist attacks have happened in the past.

 

  • Pray for protection for young Christian women and girls. Pray for those who have already been abducted and forced to convert and marry, that God will comfort them and give them strength. Pray they will know His love, even in their terrible circumstances

 

  •  Pray to the Lord that the Holy Spirit will guide the accused Christians in their defense as the blasphemy law which is often is misused to target the innocent. If you stay silent, they start suspecting. If you try to answer their allegations, they twist your statements. It must end.”

 

  • Pray that Believers have access to the Christian broadcasts and the internet.

 

  • Pray for Bible translation, as only 7 out of 70 languages have a NT. Many Urdu and Sindhi translations are old and outdated.
  • Pray to the Lord for unity among Christians for united prayer and cooperation.

 

  • Pray for spiritual leadership in the churches. Pray for humble and committed leaders with a passion to serve.

 

  • Pray to the Lord for more audio recordings of the word – officially literacy is 50 plus%, but more realistic is 30 plus % – depending on socio-economic and religious group.

 

  • Pray to the Lord for those who are responsible for the killings of Christians to be convicted with the fear of the Lord.

 

  • Pray that the NGOs will be protected. Pray that the Lord will make a difference as they minister to the persecuted Christians.
  • Pray the Lord will enable Christians to forgive their persecutors.

 

  • Pray that the Lord will raise up a vibrant church, that the forces of darkness can’t harm or hinder the growth of the church.

Again, we want to lift up persecuted witnesses to the Lord:

  •  Leah Sharibu, prisoner of Boko Haram since 2018, pray for her release.
  • Alice Loksha Ngaddah, kidnapped February 2019. She is a mother of two, working as a nurse for UNICEF. Pray for her release.
  •  Pray pastor Wang Yi to be released from prison.
  • Pray for Anita, a Christian convert facing a long prison term who escaped and now waiting for a visa to go to a country where she can express her faith openly.
  • For the release of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani from Iran, and his family as their Persecution continues. Pastor Nadarkhani is serving the second year of his six-year sentence, recently reduced from ten years.

Andy, Persecution Watch Prayer Call Moderator

Prayer Conference Call Details

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday

From any location on your phone

Time:

9:00 PM Eastern

8:00 PM Central

7:00 PM Mountain

6:00 PM Pacific

Call in number: 712 775-7035

Access Code: 281207#

Recommended: For those who may be subject to added charges for conference calls. Please download the app, it’s free!

MOBILE APP: Free Conference Call HD also provides a quick and easy way for you to dial into conference calls without having to remember the dial-in credentials. Save all of your conference call dial-in numbers and access codes using this free app. With the Free Conference Call HD you can instantly dial into a conference call via 3G/4G data network and or regular mobile carrier. Google Play link or App Store – iTunes

If you are experiencing any difficulties joining the call, please let us know.

What is Persecution Watch?
Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God.

The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern (please check your time zone). Blaine also served as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted and our missions became one. The prayer mission of Persecution Watch is an important part of our own.

With the passing of Blaine into glory on December 26, 2019, Voice of the Persecuted is committed to continue the prayer conference call for the persecuted along with our dedicated prayer warrior team.

On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the call to share the trials they’re facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer.

Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.

Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone. We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you.

If you’re new to the call and can’t find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ. We can all be prayer warriors on this call!

NOTE: Persecution Watch has a new email address for the prayer team and those who would like to receive urgent prayer requests, weekly call prayer points and notification of special prayer events and special guest speakers.

Please fill out the form below to be included in our new distribution list to receive this important information. We are grateful for your prayers and to the Lord for guiding us as we continue the Persecution Watch prayer call mission.

Note to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) readers: The Persecution Watch prayer team is also the prayer team of Voice of the Persecuted. SIGN UP today.

 

Father Recovers Forcibly Converted/Married Daughter

Police found Farah Shaheen, 12, chained in a home in Faisalabad, Pakistan on Dec. 5, 2020. (Morning Star News)

Kidnapped 12-year-old Christian girl in Pakistan was found chained in home of ‘husband.’ 

Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Asif Masih beamed with joy to have his 12-year-old daughter back home on Tuesday (Feb. 16) in Faisalabad, Pakistan following her alleged kidnapping and forcible conversion and marriage to a 45-year-old Muslim.

“Praise God, for He has answered our prayers and rescued my daughter,” Masih said hours after Faisalabad Session Judge Rana Masood Akhtar ordered that Farah Shaheen be released from a government shelter “because she wants to go with him.” In a Jan. 23 hearing, Farah had told the court that she wanted to live with her so-called husband, Khizar Hayat – a statement made under threats and pressure at the shelter, her lawyer said.

The court verdict states that since the marriage between Farah and Hayat was not registered and a Nikahnama (Islamic marriage contract) was not verified by the area union council, she could not be kept in the shelter indefinitely.

“She’s deeply traumatized and fearful, but my child is very happy to be back in her family,” Masih told Morning Star News. “Just when we thought that we had lost her, this miracle happened. May God keep all daughters in His protection.”

Masih, a Roman Catholic daily wage laborer, had fought for Farah’s recovery since she was allegedly kidnapped by three Muslims from the family’s home in the Ahmedabad area of Faisalabad in June. The child was allegedly raped, forcibly converted to Islam and forced to marry Hayat.

Although intercourse with a girl below age 16 is statutory rape in Pakistan, in most cases a falsified conversion certificate and Nikahnama influences police and courts to pardon kidnappers.

Hayat was taken into custody and released on bail, but he has yet to be charged for alleged kidnapping or rape, and fears for Farah’s security remain.

Police found Farah chained in the suspect’s home on Dec. 5 after Masih reported she had been kidnapped on June 25, and a judge ordered her to be kept in police custody; she was then sent to a government-run shelter home while her case went to court.

Church leaders and rights activists said they fear that such shelter homes, police and courts were facilitating the forced conversions of Christian girls.

Rights activist Lala Robin Daniel told Morning Star News that Hayat and his alleged accomplices would remain a threat to Masih and his family until they are taken into custody and punished.

“All those who were involved in this case should be given exemplary punishments so that people have a fear of the law,” Daniel told Morning Star News. “Unless stern legislation is brought against forced conversions of minor girls and the accused are punished, there is little hope for safety of our children.”

Legislation on Religious Conversion

A parliamentary panel on minorities has forwarded key legislation to the government on curbing forced conversions of minority girls in Pakistan, recommending that only adults should be allowed to change religion and only after appearing before a senior district judge.

The Parliamentary Committee to Protect Minorities from Forced Conversions on Tuesday (Feb. 16) recommended that the Stymie Forced Religious Conversion Bill be forwarded to the Senate, which will decide whether to forward the draft to the relevant ministry.

The bill includes recommendations for validating conversion, stating, “Any person who is not a child and able and willing to convert to another religion will apply for a conversion certificate from the additional sessions judge of the area where the person ordinarily resides.”

The bill calls for an application form that would include conversion candidates’ current religion, age, gender, national identity number, reason for conversion and details of parents, siblings, children and spouse if any.

The committee suggested that the additional sessions judge shall set a date for an interview within seven days of receipt of the application for conversion.

“On the date provided, the person shall present himself/herself before the additional sessions judge who shall ensure that the conversion is not under any duress and not due to any deceit or fraudulent misrepresentation,” the bill states.

The additional sessions judge may, upon the conversion candidates’ request, arrange his/her meeting with religious scholars of the religion the person wishes to convert to, according to the draft. A clause also empowers the additional sessions judge to grant 90 days to the person to undertake a comparative study of the religions and return to the office of the judge.

“Only after satisfaction, the additional sessions judge may issue the certificate of change of religion,” the draft states.

Skepticism

Church leaders endorsed the recommendations in the bill but questioned the will of the government to address the issue.

“This is not the first time such practical recommendations have been proposed to the government, but unfortunately all such pro-minority legislations are either put on the back-burner or outright dismissed under pressure from religious groups,” said Pakistan National Council of Churches President Bishop Azad Marshall.

The Senate’s Standing Committee on Religious Affairs recently rejected a bill seeking protection for Pakistan’s minorities against religiously motivated violence.

Committee chairman Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, of the far-right Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, claimed in a Feb. 2 meeting that minorities in Pakistan already enjoyed “unprecedented religious freedom” and that therefore there was no need for more legislation. Sen. Sirajul Haq of the hard-line Jamaat-e-Islami derided the bill as part of the agenda of Non-Governmental Organizations.

Bishop Marshall said it was unfortunate that some religious leaders have created hindrances to such crucial legislation over the years.

“Forced conversions, misuse of blasphemy law, hate speech and religious violence are real issues affecting the minority communities that need to be tackled together as a national cause,” he said.

Former parliamentarian and rights advocate Mary James Gill said the protection for minorities bill introduced by her Muslim party colleague, Sen. Javed Abbasi, was a sincere effort to curb forced conversions and other issues facing non-Muslim citizens, especially Christians and Hindus.

“It’s time that the government and opposition parties should rise beyond party lines and seriously work on these issues,” she said. “Intolerance and extremism are increasing in our country, and if we don’t stop them now, this fire will eventually devour all of us.”

Gill lauded the recommendations made in the religious conversion bill but, like Bishop Marshall, she too voiced concern over how Islamist parties and groups would react to it.

“Religious leaders need to understand that legislation for protection of minorities does not mean an attack on their faith,” she said. “Matters like forced conversion and misuse of blasphemy laws are serious human rights issues, and all of us need to take a firm stand against it.”

Pakistan led the world in forced marriages, with about 1,000 Christians married against their will to non-Christians from November 2019 to October 2020, according to Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List report. In terms of abductions, the report listed Pakistan as fourth with an estimated 100 kidnappings.

Overall, Pakistan was ranked No. 5 on the 2021 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

According to the Center for Social Justice, 162 questionable conversions have appeared in the media since 2013. About 52 percent of allegedly forced conversions occurred in Punjab Province, and 44 percent in Sindh Province, while 1.23 percent each were reported in the federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa areas. One case was reported from Balochistan Province.

The data show that 54.3 percent of the girls and women were Hindu, 44.4 percent were Christian and 0.62 percent belonged to Sikh and Kalash communities.

More than 46.3 percent of the victims of forced conversion were minors – with 32.7 percent between the ages of 11 and 15 – while only 16.7 percent of the victims were above 18 years old, though lower courts did not always verify those ages through records of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and schools.

VOP Note: Please pray for the many Christian girls who are kidnapped, forced to convert and married to their abductors. They suffer horrific abuse with physical and mental injuries.

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