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Tonight on Persecution Watch: Nations of Brutal Dictatorships and Severe Religious Oppression

Prayer ministry of Voice of the Persecuted

(Voice of the Persecuted) Looking back, our first prayer letter of 2019 we want to praise and thank the Lord for giving Asia BiBi her release from prison and safe conduct into a country where she can be a Christian without fear.

Again, we want to lift-up two persecuted witnesses for the Lord and pray for Leah Sharibu and Alice that this year will be the year where they will be set free.

As we start a new year, I feel it would be prudent to pray for some of the countries with the most:

  • Brutal dictatorships
  • High level of Islamic oppression

North Korea – Population: 25.6 million; Christians: about 300,000

Eritrea                                  5.2 million;               about  2.5 million

China                                    1.4 billion                         97.2 million

  • Pray for the protection of the secret believers.
  • Pray for the secret believer who are sharing the good News.
  • Pray that for the Christians that suffer, being tortured and being kept under inhuman prison conditions.
  • Pray to the Lord that He will exercise His power and bring about a change in government.
  • Pray specifically for Pastor Wang YI.

Yemen         Population: 28.9 million      Christians: a few thousand

Iran                                 82.1 million                         about 800,000

Afghanistan                   36.3 million                        a few thousand

Pakistan                        200.8 million                             3.98 million

Nigeria                          195.9 million                            91.12 million

 

  • Pray Believers from Muslim backgrounds, particularly for those who have been shunned by their families and community upon conversion.
  • Pray to the Lord that the constitution that promises religious freedom will be fully implemented and that the laws banning Christian practices will be abolished.
  • Pray that Christians Internet messages and websites will reach deep in the Muslim communities and encourage Christians.
  • Pray to the Lord that the believers will have courage, wisdom and boldness to reach out to Muslim neighbors.
  • Pray to the Lord that He will appear to many Muslims in their dreams and connect them with believers.
  • Pray to the Lord that believers will love and forgive their persecutors
  • Pray that the Lord will build His church by adding daily to the number of believers.

You are invited to join us on Thursday, January 3 in a prayer conference call for the persecuted church.

Many blessings,

Andy, Prayer Call Moderator

Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday 

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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.

“They Asked Him to Deny Christ” Muslim Persecution of Christians, August 2019

St. Theodoros Trion in Turkey, vandalized with genocidal slogans against Christians.

(Raymond Ibrahim) Hate for and Violence against Christians 

Cameroon: Militant Muslims reportedly connected with the Nigerian based Islamic terror group, Boko Haram, “reached new heights” of depravity, according to a report: after devastating the Christian village of Kalagari in a raid, they kidnapped and fled with eight women.  Some of the women were later released—but only after having their ears cut off (image here).  The report adds that  Boko Haram “has terrorised Christian communities in Nigeria for the last decade and has now splintered and spread its violent ideology into Cameroon, Niger and Chad.”

Nigeria: On August 29, Chuck Holton, a CBN News reporter, aired a segment on his visit with Christian refugees who had fled Boko Haram’s incursions into their villages.  Among the stories of death and devastation, the following, spoken by a young man, stood out: “On 29 September 2014 was the day that they attacked my village. Around ten I had a call that they have killed my dad. They asked him to deny Christ and when he refused they cut off his right hand. Then he refused [again], they cut to the elbow. In which he refused, before they shot him in the forehead, the neck, and chest.” “Many of the 1,500 Christians living in this camp have similar stories,” adds Holton.

Indonesia: A Muslim preacher in a Christian majority region referred to the Christian cross as “an element of the devil,” prompting outrage among Christians and some moderates.   Sheikh Abdul Somad made the comment during a videotaped sermon when he was asked why Muslims “felt a chill whenever they saw a crucifix.”   “Because of Satan! Was his response: “There’s an evil jinn in every crucifix that wants to convert people into Christianity.”  Christians and moderates condemned his words.  Even so, “I can’t imagine the reaction if it had been another preacher of a different religion insulting an Islamic symbol,” observed one moderate. “There would have been a tsunami of protests, with the perpetrator severely punished.”  Sheikh Somad responded by releasing another video; his excuse was that he was unaware that non-Muslims might hear his words: “The Quran reciting session was held in a closed mosque, not at a stadium, a football field, nor aired on television,” he explained. “It was for Muslims internally. I was answering a question about statues and the position of the Prophet Isa (Jesus) relative to Muslims.”

Burkina Faso: Although most mainstream media downplay the religious element in Muslim on Christian violence in Africa, attacks on the Christians of Burkina Faso have become so flagrantly based on religion that the Washington Post published a report on August 21 titled,  “Islamist militants are targeting Christians in Burkina Faso.”  Its author, Danielle Paquette, explained that “A spreading Islamist insurgency has transformed Burkina Faso from a peaceful country known for farming, a celebrated film festival and religious tolerance into a hotbed of extremism.”  She noted that the jihadis have been checking people’s necks for Christian symbols, killing anyone wearing a crucifix or carrying any other Christian image.   In a separate report discussing several deadly attacks on Christians and their churches, Bishop Dabiré said, “If this continues without anyone intervening, the result will be the elimination of the Christian presence in this area and — perhaps in the future —in the entire country.

Egypt: Authorities reinstated Sheikh Yasser Burhami, a notoriously “radical” cleric and hate preacher, to the pulpit (minbar) despite strong opposition.  Burhami had previously issued numerous fatwas—edicts based on Islamic scriptures—that demand hate and hostility for non-Muslims, most specifically the nation’s largest and most visible minority, the Christian Copts, whom Burhami has referred to as “a criminal and infidel minority,” and has invoked “Allah’s curse” on them.  He once went so far as to say that, although a Muslim man is permitted to marry Christian or Jewish women (ahl al-kitab), he must make sure he still hates them in his heart—and show them this hate—because they are infidels; otherwise he risks compromising his Islam.  Burhami has also stated that churches—which he refers to as “places of polytheism (shirk) and houses of infidelity (kufr)”—must never be built in Egypt.  He issued a separate fatwa forbidding Muslim taxi and bus drivers from transporting Christian clergymen to their churches, an act he depicted as being “more forbidden than taking someone to a liquor bar.”  Burhami’s fatwas also include calling for the persecution of apostates, permitting Muslim husbands to abandon their wives to rape, permitting “marriage” to 12-year-old girls,  and banning Mother’s Day.  In a video, Dr. Naguib Ghobrial, a Coptic activist, politician, and head of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights Organization—which over the years has lodged 22 separate complaints against Burhami—repeatedly questioned Egypt’s leading religious authorities’ decision to reinstate the hate preaching sheikh:

Is what Burhami teaches truly what Islam teaches—is that why no one has done anything to him [in regards to the 22 complaints lodged against him]?  Truly I’m shocked!  Please answer Sheikh of Al Azhar; please answer Grand Mufti: are the things Burhami teaches what Islam teaches?  Is this why none of you oppose him or joined us when we lodged complaints against him?… Why are you so silent? Amazing!

The Slaughter of Christians

Pakistan: “A ten year old Christian child who chose to work in a dangerous scrap factory so he could support his mother who had to fend for a family of two boys and a drug-addict husband, was raped and tortured before being killed by his Muslim employers,” according to a report (with photos).  Badil, 10, worked at the men’s factory in order to support his impoverished mother, Sharifa Bibi:

I worked hard for many hours just for the sake of my two sons so that they would not have to suffer as I have suffered without education.  My son Badil couldn’t bear to see the struggle of his mother and insisted on working to help the family—despite my insistence that he avoid work till he was older.  Badil was such a responsible son.  Daily before leaving for work he asked me what should bring in the evening from his wages.  I insisted that he kept his money for himself, but he brought groceries like sugar, rice, flour, ghee daily.

Badil had to walk long distances and work for many hours a day to earn the equivalent of one dollar a day.  Soon his employer began to cheat him on his wages.  His mother insisted that he quit, but the boy persevered; at one point he took his younger brother, 9, with him to help.  When the employers refused to pay his brother anything for his contribution, Badil finally decided to quit—which angered his Muslim employer.  His younger brother recalls:

As Mr Akram heard this he ran to hit Badil but Badil ran from the shop and Akram gave chase.  However, A friend of Akram was standing nearby on his motorcycle and told Akram to sit behind him, then both men chased Badil till they caught up with him. Akram then got off the motorcycle and dragged Badil back to the store.  They took Badil inside the store which is full of scrap.  For half an hour I was completely unaware of what was happening with Badil inside.  Eventually both men came outside and pretended as if nothing had happened inside.  I thought my brother had also left the store from another exit so I went to look for him.  I searched vigorously for 15 minutes and then saw my mother [approaching to walk the boys home], so I rushed to her to tell her what had happened.

Sharifa and her younger son searched frantically for Badil and finally found him collapsed on the ground near their home.  They rushed to him, thinking he was exhausted from the day’s work and subsequent thrashing, but quickly realized that he was barely breathing: “At this point the whole situation was too much to bear for Sharifa who began to scream and wail hysterically,” the report notes.  Badil was taken to a hospital where, seven hours later, the boy was pronounced dead. His brother “has been traumatised following his brother’s death and hasn’t left his house since and often screams in terror thinking the men responsible will take him too.”

Cameroon: A Bible translator “was butchered to death on Sunday morning [August 25] during an overnight attack while his wife’s arm was cut off,” according to a report:  “Bible translator Angus Abraham Fung was among seven people said to have been killed during an attack carried out by suspected Fulani herdsmen sometime during the early hours of Sunday morning in the town of Wum, according to Efi Tembon, who leads a ministry called Oasis Network for Community Transformation.”  Fulani herdsmen are Muslim and the chief persecutors of Christian farmers in Nigeria.  “They went into houses and pulled out the people,” Tembon explained: “They attacked in the night and nobody was expecting. They just went into the home, pulled them out and slaughtered them.”  Fung’s wife, Eveline Fung, who had her arm hacked off was last reported as receiving a blood transfusion at a local hospital.

Attacks against Apostates and Evangelists

Iran: Authorities sentenced a 65-year-old woman, a Muslim convert to Christianity, to one year in prison, on the charge that she was “acting against national security” and engaging in “propaganda against the system.”  According to the report, “The hearing was owing to her arrest shortly before Christmas when three agents from Iranian intelligence raided her home and took Mahrokh to intelligence offices where she endured ten days of intensive interrogation before she was released after submitting bail of 30 million Toman (US$2,500).”  Friends of the woman said that “the judge was very rude and tried to humiliate Mahrokh after she disagreed with him.”

Separately, a Kurdish bookseller in Bokan, Western Azarbaijan province, was arrested for selling Bibles.  According to the August 27 report, “Mostafa Rahimi was arrested on 11 June on charge of selling bible[s] in his bookstore, and he was released later on bail until the court issued his sentence. Hengaw Organization for Human Rights has learned that Rahimi is sentenced to 3 months and 1 day imprisonment.  Later in mid-August he was arrested again, and he is currently at the central prison of Bokan.”  Another report elaborates: “Iran’s government is officially Islamic, and authorities actively restrict access to Bibles and other Christian literature. Sharing one’s faith is categorized as a criminal offense, usually of the national security nature. The authorities often pressure Christians so extensively, routinely violating their human rights, that they are given no choice but to escape their country.”

Somaliland: An August 16 report shares the experiences a married Muslim woman, 32, underwent after her husband discovered a Bible in her possession.

“I told my husband that I found the Bible in Nairobi and wanted to read it,” the woman responded. “He just pronounced the word talaq [Arabic for divorce] to me. I knew that our marriage had just been rendered null and void because I joined Christianity, so without wasting time I left the homestead….  There and then he took our two daughters [ages 4 and 7] away from me and divorced me.  He gave me a stern warning that I should not come close to the children, and that if I do, he will take the Bible to the Islamic court and I will be killed by stoning for becoming an apostate.”

Her former husband proceeded to expose the clandestine Christian to her Muslim family. “My brothers beat me mercilessly with sticks as well as denying me food,” she said. “I feared to report the case to the police or the local administration, because they will charge me with a criminal offense of apostasy in accordance with the sharia.”  She has since relocated to an undisclosed location: “God has spared my life, and my fellow underground Christians in other regions of Somalia have received me and shared the little they have, but I am very traumatized.”  According to the report,

Somalia’s constitution establishes Islam as the state religion and prohibits the propagation of any other religion, according to the U.S. State Department. It also requires that laws comply with sharia (Islamic law) principles, with no exceptions in application for non-Muslims.  Somalia is ranked 3rd on Christian support group Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Pakistan: After opening a summer education program for the youth, a Christian family was “terrorized” and forced to shut down on the accusation that they were clandestinely trying to convert Muslim children to Christianity.  According to a family member: “We started a project for interfaith harmony and education teaching marginalized children from different faiths about a year ago. In June, we started a summer camp that provided a free program for children that have dropped out of school. The design of this program was to provide guidance for these children to become civilized and tolerant.”  Two weeks into the summer program, a group of men, two of whom were armed, stormed into the academy, did violence to the property and harassed the children, and beat one of the instructors: “They threatened us with consequences if the academy was not shut down.  They alleged that we were promoting Christianity and were doing Christian evangelism.  For safety and security, we had no other choice but to obey the extremists and shutdown the academy….  I don’t want to lose my son or any family member. This terrorizing incident has already put us into trauma.”

In a separate incident in Pakistan, around 4 a.m. of August 2, seven Muslim men stormed into a parish house, where they tied up and savagely beat two young priests, Fr. Anthony Abraz and Fr. Shahid Boota, all while they “humiliated and abused them for preaching the Gospel in a Muslim-majority neighborhood.”  The invaders also vandalized the building—including by breaking windows, bookshelves, and cupboards—and desecrated Christian objects, including Bibles, Christian literature, and icons. Afterwards, “We were told we will have to face consequences if this house is not vacated,” Fr. Abraz reported. “They said, ‘We don’t want a Christian center near the mosque.’”

Finally, increasing numbers of Christian girls continue to be targeted for kidnapping, rape, and/or forced conversion in Pakistan.  According to one report,

In August, Yasmeen Ashraf, age 15, and Muqadas Tufail, age 14, were kidnapped and raped by three men in Kasur. The pair of Christian girls were taken when they were on their way to work as domestic workers.  Also in August, another young Christian girl, named Kanwal, was kidnapped, raped, and forcefully converted to Islam by a group of Muslim men and a cleric in Lala Musa, located in the Gujart District. After reuniting her family, Kanwal shared that she had been beaten, sexually assaulted, and threatened with the deaths of her brothers if she refused to convert to Islam.

In the previous month of July, at least three similar cases occurred.  “Oppression exists in different layers for Christian girls in Pakistan. They are suffering on the bases of gender, religion, and class. It has been documented that young Christian girls face higher levels of sexual harassment and are persecuted for their Christian faith,” Nabila Feroz Bhatti, a human rights defender in Lahore, said in response to the aforementioned incidents.  Similarly, the Pontifical charity, Aid to the Church in Need, announced in August that it “is sounding the alarm on the plight of young Christian women, and even teenagers, in Pakistan who are forced to convert to Islam.”  “Every year at least a thousand girls are kidnapped, raped, and forced to convert to Islam, even forced to marry their tormentors,” elaborated Tabassum Yousaf, a local Catholic lawyer.

Meanwhile, those who try to protect Christian girls are punished.  On August 16, Maskeen Khan and two other Muslim men attacked the home of Bahadur Masih, a Christian.  While holding a knife, Khan and his partners tried to rape Masih’s daughter, Rachel, but were prevented by the rudely awoken family that immediately and desperately responded.  “Since the Christian family was defending themselves, Khan also got some injuries,” Ahsan Masih Sindhu, a local Christian political leader, reported. “The family handed Khan over to police and he got medical treatment. However, he later died in police custody.”  Police arrested and charged four members of the family with murder, even though they were in their own home protecting their daughter from violent intruders.  Other members of the family have gone into hiding due to threats from the dead would-be rapist’s relatives.  “We are sad about the death of Khan, however, the Christian family did have the right to defend,” Sindhu explained. “The police must conduct a fair investigation into this incident.”  Instead, police are denying the family the “right to defend” itself.

Attacks on Churches

Algeria: On August 6, police barged into a church during worship service, evacuated reluctant worshippers, and sealed the church building off.  “I am deeply saddened by so much injustice – it breaks my heart,” Messaoud Takilt, the pastor said.  “This is not surprising since other Christian places of worship have been closed and sealed as was the case today. But anyway, we will continue to celebrate our services outside while the Lord gives us grace for a final solution.”  When police denied, with a veiled threat, his request to at least let the worship service conclude,  “The assembly finally yielded and agreed to leave the premises, but with much pain.  Some went out with eyes full of tears. ”  Police proceeded to empty the premises of all furniture and sealed off every door before the distressed pastor (picture here).  Responding to this latest church closure the World Evangelical Alliance issued a statement on August 12 calling on Algeria to cease closing and instead reopen churches. A portion follows:

We deeply regret that two additional churches were forcibly closed by administrative decisions, in May and in August 2019 in the city of Boudjima, northeast of Tizi-Ouzou in Kabylie Region.  This brings the number of forcibly closed churches to 6, including one house church…. Many more churches are threatened with closure, amid denial of formal registration and recognition by authorities.

Indonesia: Muslim protestors compelled local authorities to revoke a permit for and cease construction of a Baptist church in Central Java.  On August 1, residents went to the partially constructed church and padlocked its fence.  A meeting was later held between the church, local residents, authorities, and others.  Although the pastor displayed the governmentally issued permit to build a church, Muslim residents insisted that it was wrongly given, leading to a standstill in negotiations.  In the previous month, July, two other churches were shut down in Indonesia following local protests.

Turkey: St. Theodoros Trion, an abandoned, historic church—the original Greek congregation of which was purged by the Ottoman Empire—was vandalized, including with genocidal slogans.  According to the report,

The vandals sprayed hate speech across the church’s walls. The vandalism was largely a reference to the secularism that Ataturk, modern Turkey’s founder, had forced into the governmental structure….  Just a few years ago, the same church was targeted by Islamist vandals who wrote slogans such as “the priest is gone, he went to the mosque” — a reference to the country’s genocide and the forced conversions which occurred during this time. There are no Christians attending this church. All of the congregants were victims of the genocide. They faced death, deportation, and forced conversions. Those few who survived have since fled the country. The church currently stands as a historic monument to the Christianity that once was commonplace in the region.

Egypt: A Christian toddler was the latest, if inadvertent, victim of Egypt’s draconian restrictions on churches.    According to an August 21 report, Youssed Ebid, a 4-year-old Christian boy (photo), was struck by a tractor while waiting outdoors for a bus to take him to church in another village.  His own village is currently denied one, forcing its Christian residents to travel long distances to attend church.  Many Christians in Egypt are in the same situation, and accidents during their long treks are not uncommon.

Raymond Ibrahim, author of the new book, Sword and Scimitar, Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

About this Series

The persecution of Christians in the Islamic world has become endemic.  Accordingly, “Muslim Persecution of Christians” was developed in 2011 to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that occur or are reported each month. It serves two purposes:

1)  To document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, persecution of Christians.

2)  To show that such persecution is not “random,” but systematic and interrelated—that it is rooted in a worldview inspired by Islamic Sharia.

Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; apostasy, blasphemy, and proselytism laws that criminalize and sometimes punish with death those who “offend” Islam; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam;  theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (financial tribute expected from non-Muslims); overall expectations for Christians to behave like cowed dhimmis, or second-class, “tolerated” citizens; and simple violence and murder. Sometimes it is a combination thereof.

Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicities, languages, and locales—from Morocco in the West, to Indonesia in the East—it should be clear that one thing alone binds them: Islam—whether the strict application of Islamic Sharia law, or the supremacist culture born of it.

Posted on Gatestone Institute

EU Envoy’s threat of trade sanctions played crucial role in Asia Bibi’s freedom

EU Envoy on religious freedom, Jan Figel, meets with Asia Bibi’s lawyer Saif ul Malook in Lahore, December 2017. (Photo: Jan Figel)

World Watch Monitor—Freed Pakistani Christian Aasiya Noreen, known to the world now as Asia Bibi, has pleaded for the many others like her accused of blasphemy who, she says, are still “lying in jail for years – their decisions should also be done on merit. The world should listen to them.

“The way any person is alleged (to have committed) blasphemy without any proper investigation, without any proper proof, that should be noticed. This blasphemy law should be reviewed and there should be proper investigation mechanisms while applying this law. We should not consider anyone sinful for this act without any proof.”

She made this appeal from her refuge in Canada through a series of answers she provided to the UK’s Sunday Telegraph.

Shortly afterward, the European Post released a video that it says was provided by Noreen, in which she speaks in her native Urdu about her faith and urges fair treatment for anyone accused of a crime.

It’s hard to get a specific tally of the numbers known to be imprisoned, either awaiting trial -sometimes for years – for blasphemy, or already convicted. Many are Muslims. One figure World Watch Monitor saw quoted but could not get confirmed, after Asia Bibi was finally freed in May, was that Christians make up 17 of the 40 current ‘blasphemy’ prisoners. Christians form around 2% of Pakistan’s total population according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, its Co-Director Gina Zurlo told World Watch Monitor.

One couple who hit the spotlight immediately after Asia Bibi’s acquittal was Shafqat Emmanuel and his wife, Shaguftah, of Gojra, Punjab, both accused of sending blasphemous text messages. Shafqat has to use a wheelchair and has a catheter, after his backbone was fractured in an accident in 2004. Shaguftah was the main breadwinner for their four children.

Lawyer Saif ul-Malook, who – at the risk of his own life – defended Asia Bibi and successfully argued her appeal in Pakistan’s Supreme court, then promptly left Pakistan for the Netherlands (he was reported to have said that he was forced to flee) but said that he would return if her successful appeal was challenged. At the same time, he said he would now take up Shafqat and Shagfuftah’s case.

‘Justice and dignity for all Pakistanis’

The Sunday Telegraph article also referred to the crucial role for Asia Bibi’s freedom played by the EU Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB), Jan Figel, from Slovakia, who’s worked tirelessly on her case, as well as for prisoners in Sudan and other countries.

He told World Watch Monitor that he had tried to visit Pakistan in his new role ‘from the start’ but that it had taken a year until a Pakistani high-level delegation (Minister of Trade and Attorney General) had visited his Brussels office. They invited him to Pakistan.

(In May 2018 Pakistan’s then-Minister for Interior, Ahsan Iqbal, who is known to support minority groups, survived an assassination after meeting with a group of Christians. Seven years earlier both the then-Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, and the Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti were targeted and killed for defending Asia Bibi). That particular Islamist network has many members outside Pakistan.

Following her acquittal Asia Bibi was detained for another seven months. Mr. Figel told the Sunday Telegraph “I think Imran Khan’s government and Pakistan’s military used this delay to get the situation in the country under real control.”

In December Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau publicly announced willingness to offer asylum at the Peace Centennial of World War I.

In January, in Pakistan’s capital, the “Islamabad Declaration” signed by over 500 Muslim clerics, publicly condemned terrorism, violence committed in the name of religion and fatwas (sacred edicts) widespread by radical Islamic leaders. Fides reported that “observers said it represents a turning point especially in the attitude towards religious minorities and sects such as Ahmadi Muslims. In fact, Fides wrote, ‘the Declaration recognizes that Pakistan is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, and notes that “it is the responsibility of the government to ensure the protection of the life of non-Muslim citizens in Pakistan”’.

In February, Pakistan’s Attorney-General again visited Brussels where he again met Jan Figel; the latter tweeted that he raised the fact that Asia Bibi, now freed by the Supreme Court, was still detained in effective ‘house arrest’.

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Pakistan’s Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari also visited Brussels. Figel liaised with Asia Bibi herself via Muhammad Amanullah, a human rights activist.

The EU Envoy confirmed directly to World Watch Monitor that the UK was not on the list of possible countries for her asylum, but that ‘there were a lot of rumours and problems around this’.

Asia Bibi was announced to have finally left Pakistan on 8 May, although it was not clear for a few days whether she had in fact joined her daughters who were already in exile in Canada.

Figel told WWM “Canada deserves international acknowledgement for its spirit of solidarity and real hospitality, also for the professionalism of its diplomacy and its immigration services. Security conditions are crucially important for Asia Bibi and her family”.

On June 25, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, signed the Fourth EU-Pakistan Strategic Engagement Plan (SEP) with the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini in Brussels.

Amongst points relevant to Asia Bibi’s plight were to “Develop mutually agreed co-operation on the implementation of the UN Security Council on Women, Peace and Security”, and (under ‘Democracy, Rule of Law, Good governance, and Human Rights’) the plan mentioned “Working together to ensure…protection of human rights at national and international levels” and “Enhancing…inter-faith dialogue and understanding to promote tolerance and harmony”.

EU Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief – role

Jan Figel, a former EU education and culture commissioner, was appointed in May 2016 when the post was created by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Twice extended for an additional year, Figel’s current mandate ends next month.

A report by Polish MEP Andrzej Grzyb, accepted by the European Parliament, but yet to be formally implemented, argued that Figel had “developed effective working networks” within the EU institutions and praised him for “continuous engagement and co-operation and complementarity of actions with the EU Special Representative for Human Rights”.

It also recommended that the Special Envoy’s role needs to be substantially reinforced, and that his new remit should include extending his term to match that of Commission’s five-year term, and “consolidated with sufficient human and financial resources”.

Figel does not currently have a budget and formal status in the EU institutions, beyond serving as a special advisor to the EU’s Development Commissioner. His staffing budget covers minimal assistance, less than the German government’s Commissioner for Global Freedom of Religion.

Campaigners also argue that freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) is not given the importance it deserves in the EU institutions.

The MEPs’ report also recommends the setting up of a “regular advisory working group of member states’ FoRB institutions and European Parliament representatives, together with experts, scholars, and representatives of civil society, including churches and other faith-based organisations”.

After the US, Canada was among the first countries to appoint a Special Envoy who could focus on the issue of Freedom of Religion or Belief, Andrew Bennett, although his role per se did not last into Justin Trudeau’s government. Since then, the UK has appointed Lord Ahmad to the first-ever UK FoRB role, the need for which has recently been highlighted by the Bishop of Truro’s independent review into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s response to the persecution of Christians globally.

This summer, the Netherlands has appointed its own Ambassador with an emphasis on FoRB, Jos Douma, a former Ambassador to both Iran and the Holy See.

Illegally Detained Christian Tortured to Death in Custody in Pakistan, Family Says

Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Police in Lahore, Pakistan tortured to death the Christian father of 14-day-old and 7-year-old sons, relatives said.

Officers on Aug. 28 illegally detained 28-year-old Amir Masih on a false charge of theft and tortured him for four days before he died in a hospital on Sept. 2, his brother Sunny Masih told Morning Star News.

Interrogating officers in the 96-percent Muslim country “urinated on Amir’s face and body and mocked his Christian faith” while trying to torture him into a false confession, Masih said.

After filing an application with police on Aug. 31 alleging forced disappearance of Amir Masih, a member of the Church of Pakistan, relatives were informed that he had been taken into custody by a sub-inspector identified only as Zeeshan in connection with a theft case. Their repeated attempts to meet Sub-Inspector Zeeshan were blocked. They did know of Amir Masih’s whereabouts until an officer phoned Sunny Masih on Sept. 2 to tell him that his brother was not well and that they should come and take him to the hospital, Masih said.

“We rushed to the police station, where we were handed a semi-conscious Amir,” he said. “He was beaten up mercilessly, and his body was full of bruises. While we were taking him to the hospital, Amir told us that Inspector Nasir Baig, Sub-Inspector Zeeshan and four unidentified constables had tortured him continuously for four days.”

Sunny Masih said that while police released without a scratch all other employees who worked with Amir Masih, a gardener, after they were summoned about the alleged theft, his brother was subjected to severe torture because he was a poor Christian whom police believed could be coerced into a false confession.

“He told us that the police officials had urinated on him while cursing him for being a Christian and tried to force him to confess to the crime,” he said. “But my brother was innocent, and he refused to admit to something that he had not done, which further infuriated his interrogators. They increased the intensity of the violence, also subjecting him to electric shocks.”

Doctors at Services Hospital tried to save his life, but he succumbed to his injuries after a couple of hours, Masih said.

Working as a gardener in PAF Colony, Amir Masih was summoned to North Cantt Police Station in a phone call from Zeeshan regarding a theft case registered by his employer, Rana Mohammad Hanif, Masih said.

“Amir was present at Hanif’s house when he received the inspector’s call,” he said. “The watchman of the house told him that all employees had been summoned by the police to record their statements, and he should do the same. My brother went to the police station of his own will, but when he reached there the cops seized his phone, bundled him into a vehicle and spirited him to some unknown place.”

When he did not return home that evening, Sunny Masih and other relatives went out to search for him, he said.

“When I reached Hanif’s house to inquire about Amir, the watchman told me that he had been summoned by Sub-Inspector Zeeshan to record his statement,” he said. “For the next two days, we continued to search for both Amir and the police officer but failed to find any trace of their whereabouts.”

Autopsy

A post-mortem report on the death states that torture marks were visible on his hands, feet, back and arms. His ribs were also broken.

After news of the killing in custody spread on mainstream and social media and drew public ire, Punjab Inspector General of Police Captain Arif Nawaz Khan ordered registration of a case against Inspector Nasir Baig, Zeeshan and four other police officers and ordered a detailed report on the case.

Police have taken Baig and Zeeshan into custody, but the four other officers accused are still at large as no serious efforts have been made to arrest them, Masih said. Police at the same station where his brother was tortured registered his complaint for murder, illegal detention and torture.

Both Punjab Minister for Minorities and Human Rights Aijaz Alam Augustine and Shunila Ruth, a member of the National Assembly, said that they were making efforts to ensure justice for the grieving family of Amir Masih. Both officials are Christians.

Augustine said that he had visited the family and was in contact with police officials to ensure arrest of the absconding accused.

“This is a grave crime, and the accused police officers will be severely punished,” Augustine said, adding that the government would not show any leniency in cases of torture and custodial killings.

Ruth, who visited the victim’s family along with Punjab Gov. Muhammad Sarwar, said she would raise the matter in the National Assembly.

“The family’s claim that Amir was subjected to torture because of his Christian faith is not unfounded,” she said. “Unfortunately, there are segments in our society who continue to be prejudicial towards members of the marginalized communities.”

The two Christian officials said they believe they’ll be able to bring the perpetrators to justice, but attorney Saiful Malook, who gained fame for securing freedom for high-profile Christian blasphemy convict Aasiya Noreen (commonly known as Asia Bibi), said he feared the case would be swept under the carpet after the media hype dies because “police are known to protect their own.”

“Amir Masih’s murder in police custody is not only a serious crime but also a severe violation of the constitution,” he said. “Therefore, it should be taken up very seriously, and the police alone should not be trusted in this regard.”

Malook said that the First Information Report of the case also should have included the names of the deputy superintendent of police of the zone and the station house officer, as they were the supervisory officers and it was their responsibility to ensure that no citizen was subjected to illegal detention and torture.

“I’m sure the police misguided the complainant into naming only the six accused in order to save their seniors,” he said. “I am ready to provide pro-bono legal assistance to Amir Masih’s family, because I believe that they deserve justice on merit.”

Pakistan ranked fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors 2019 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, and on Nov. 28, 2018, the United States added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom.

ASIA BIBI HAS LEFT PAKISTAN FOR CANADA


(Voice of the Persecuted) ASIA IS FREE!

Dawn News reports that Asia Bibi is free, has left the country and traveled on her independent will.

After nine years on death row, Asia Bibi was acquitted of blasphemy by Pakistan’s Supreme Court on October 31, 2018. Following widespread Islamic hardliner protests and death threats, she was released from Multan women’s prison on November 7th and flown to Islamabad to an undisclosed location amid tight security.

Khadim Hussain Rizvi, leader of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) who is also a radical cleric, instigated country-wide protests following the high court ruling and demanded she be hung. The protests halted daily life in major cities throughout Pakistan. Schools, shops and businesses were forced to close. The group also called for the murder of the Supreme Court judges.

Authorities began a nationwide crackdown and arrested the radical leader and over 1000 other leaders and supporters of the Islamist party to end the radical protests. The cleric’s arrest ignited violent clashes with police and injuries were reported.

After 9 years of affliction for her faith in Christ, repeated death threats and living under protective custody since November, Pakistani government officials have confirmed she has left for Canada.

The Guardian quoted her Muslim lawyer, Saif Ul Malook,

“It is a big day. Asia Bibi has left Pakistan and reached Canada. She has reunited with her family. Justice has been dispensed.”

He said that Bibi’s safe arrival in Canada was the result of hard work by activists, foreign diplomats and others who stood by her in hard times and worked for her freedom.

Click here to read how Saif Ul Malook’s described Asia’s amazing faith, strength and a dream she shared with him. Be encouraged!

From the time Malook agreed to defend Asia, his life has been constantly under threat. He was forced to flee Pakistan for the Netherlands in December 2018.

Asia is finally free to be reunited with her family, heal from the horrible injustice against her and worship freely. Let us praise the LORD for this outcome and pray no harm will come against her or her family. Rest in HIS arms, dear Asia. Please keep our Pakistani brothers and sisters in your prayers.

Pakistani Christian aquitted of Blasphemy charges

Attorney Aneeqa Maria, chief of The Voice Society, who pled the case of Pervaiz Masih released facts about his freedom from blasphemy charges in a statement shared with Pakistan Christian Post.

Pakistani Christian Pervaiz Masih, of Garhewala District Kasur, was accused of blasphemy on September 1st 2015. After 20 days of the submitting an appeal of innocence, he was granted bail. This case was different as rarely is bail ever granted to the accused. From start to finish, his trial took three years to be concluded.

Pervaiz Masih and his family suffered much even the loss od their three year old daughter. The statement claimed that Masih’s accusers murdered his little girl by drowning her in a well and later declared to have committed the murder to punish Pervaiz and his family for uttering derogatory remarks about their Prophet.

The report claims Pervaiz’s wife was tortured and received severe injuries while police interrogated her about her husband. Her bones were broken and she lost the ability to walk or stand straight. Pervaiz and his family were forced to stay in hiding during the 3 years after the blasphemy accusation.

The Honorable Court of Mr. Ejaz Ahmad Bosal accepted the application of acquittal filed by the Voice’s legal panel. However, he also gave a second chance to the complainants to re-open the case whenever they wish to do so. The Voice Society chief shared,

“For now, I am happy that he is free from his allegations, and if the complaints do not go for appeal against his acquittal he will always be free legally. But still he is a blasphemer and this allegation will follow his fate and it will be hard and challenging for him to survive this allegation.

People thought that after Asia’s release the situation will be different, or the attitude of the courts will be different. But I cannot find any difference in any sort of attitude. The things are the same as they were before, Pervaiz is released in three years because there was no evidence, and his case was pursued seriously.”

She thanked those who supported the case with their prayers and concerns. “I must say that it is because of their prayers that The Voice have got this opportunity to thank God and rejoice in him. Thank you for supporting this cause with your prayers.”

VOP Note: We rejoice with the news of this brother’s release. Please pray for his family, justice for those accused of blasphemy, the abolishment of the blasphemy law and protection for our brothers and sisters in Pakistan.

Photo: Pakistan Christian Post

Christian Brothers Sentenced to death for blasphemy

(Voice of the Persecuted) Pakistani Christian brothers, Qasir (also shared as Qaisar) and Amoon Ayub, have been sentenced to death in the Talagang District Jhelum court after being accused of blasphemy. Both brothers have been held under the charge of 295-A, B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code in the District Jail Jhelum since their arrest in 2014. Their case was heard on December 13, but due to security reasons, the brothers were not in the courtroom and told of the death sentence ruling from inside the jail. Qasir is married with three children, while Amoon is also married and a teacher at the Cathedral School in Lahore.

The allegations surfaced when they were accused of posting disrespectful material on their website, reported AsiaNews. However, Qasir said he closed his account in 2009 but one of his Muslim friends, Shahryar Gill, somehow managed to restore the website and kept ownership in Qasir’s name.

He had worked at the international office of the Raja Centre in Lahore. While at work in 2010, an argument broke out between his friends and one of them made a comment about another’s sister. The ‘friend’ blamed Qasir and warned him that it was a serious matter in Pakistan. Shortly after, Qasir started to receive death threats from them and he went into hiding. When the situation deteriorated he and his brother fled to Singapore without telling their wives. After a month, they returned to Pakistan and Amoon shared the whole story with his his wife. Yet the situation remained tense, so they left again this time for Thailand. Unable to survive there for very long, they went back to Pakistan in 2012.

After four years on the run they were arrested. A friend told Qasir that the authorities were looking for him. On November 10, 2014, while Amoon was on his way to work, the police detained him. They questioned him about his brother and said a case had been registered against him. Qasir told Amoon to stay hidden. Qasir was later arrested and sent to District jail Jhelum. Fearing for his safety, Amoon again tried to flee the country but was detained by Immigrant Police at the Lahore Airport. Later police sent him to Jhelum District Jail for the same offense as his brother.

Amoon’s wife did all she could to get her husband released, but has failed. She approached the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) for assistance.

(CLAAS) represented Qasir and Amoon and told Voice of the Persecuted that they will challenge the sentence before the Lahore High Court Bench at Rawalpindi as soon as possible. The group believes judges hearing blasphemy cases are threatened by religious fanatics and why those accused of blasphemy are convicted.

CLAAS-UK Director, Nasir Saeed told Voice of the Persecuted,

“This is a very unfortunate situation as because of threats from hardliners, lower courts pass their responsibility to the higher court and then it takes years to prove the accused innocent. In this case the trial Judge did not apply his judicious mind and convicted the accused in a very casual manner.

We have seen this in the recent case of Asia Bibi, who was similarly convicted by the lower court and it took her years to reach to the Supreme Court to get justice. I am afraid now Qasir and Amoon will have to wait years to get justice. It is a sad reality that the present government has no intention even to talk about or to take steps to stop the ongoing misuse of the blasphemy law. Pakistani President Dr Arif Alvi has already said that the government would not amend the law. This means the killing of innocent people will continue despite growing opposition to the law around the world.”

He shared that the Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has been acknowledged by the world for his recent decision of opening the Kartarpur corridor for Indian Sikhs. However, he has no plans for Pakistan’s own minorities. Nasir added that minorities feared Khan’s statements of making Pakistan a Medina-like state.

“Very recently, his statement that there is no mention of Jesus in history, hurting the feelings of Christians not just in Pakistan, but throughout the world,” he also lamented.

The sentence was handed down only two days after America put Pakistan on a religious freedom blacklist, and is expected to again draw attention to the country’s harsh blasphemy laws.

Qasir’s son (14yr.) has been experiencing extreme anxiety since his father’s incarceration. Please keep these brothers and their loved ones in your prayers.

Blasphemy death sentence appeal hearing postoned

(Voice of the Persecuted) The November 27, 2018 appeal hearing of Sawan Masih, a Pakistani Christian accused and sentenced to death for blasphemy, was postponed. Nasir Saeed, a spokesperson from CLAAS, Sawans’s defense counsel, told Voice of the Persecuted that they have yet to receive a rescheduled hearing date. It’s possible that the court avoided conducting the hearing deliberately because of the present situation in the country after Asia Bibi’s acquittal, he added. 

Sawan is at the center of a case that caused a mob of 3000 Muslim men to attack the Joseph Colony of Lahore, Pakistan in March of 2013. (View report and photos) After a local mosque announced the blasphemy charge over loudspeakers, the vigilantes stormed the Christian community where Masih lived. They burned or ransacked 180 Christian homes, 75 shops and at least two churches during the attack. Mob members threatened to burn the Christians alive if they tried to defend or hide in their homes. Hundreds of families were forced to flee for their lives as the angry mob destroyed their village. 

Masih was accused by his Muslim friend, Shahid Imran. A local bishop said the incident had more to do with personal enmity between the two men than blasphemy. He claimed the men got into a brawl after drinking late one night, and in the morning the Muslim man made up the blasphemy story as payback. Some claimed that Sawan was ‘winning’ their argument. They believe a Christian having the upper hand incensed Shahid Imran to falsely accuse Masih. Please keep praying for Masih and other victims of Pakistan’s blasphemy law.

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