By Dan Wooding (Assist News) The Roman Colosseum will be illuminated by red lights later this month to draw attention to the persecution of Christians around the world, and especially in Syria and Iraq.
On Saturday, Feb. 24, at 6 p.m. the Colosseum will be spotlighted in red, to represent the blood of Christians who have been wounded or lost their lives due to religious persecution, according to Crux.
Simultaneously, in Syria and Iraq, prominent churches will be illuminated with red lights. In Aleppo, the St. Elijah Maronite Cathedral will be lit, and in Mosul, the Church of St. Paul, where this past Dec. 24, the first Mass was celebrated after the city’s liberation from ISIS.
The event, sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) — follows a similar initiative last year, which lit-up London’s Parliament building in red, as well as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris and the cathedral in Manila, Philippines. In 2016, the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome was lit.
Alessandro Monteduro, director of ACN, told journalists on Feb. 7 that the “illumination [of the Colosseum] will have two symbolic figures: Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian condemned to death for blasphemy and whose umpteenth judgment is expected to revoke the sentence; and Rebecca, a girl kidnapped by Boko Haram along with her two children when she was pregnant with a third.”
“One of the children was killed,” he said, “she lost the baby she was carrying, and then became pregnant after one of the many brutalities she was subjected to by her captors.”
Once she was freed and reunited with her husband, she decided she “could not hate those who caused her so much pain,” Monteduro said. [Read Voice of the Persecuted’s (VOP) report: Held Captive For 2 Years By Boko Haram: Rebecca’s Story and the relief sent to them through VOP’s aid mission, Project 133 Nigeria here.]
Aid to the Church in Need released a biennial report on anti-Christian persecution Oct. 12, 2017, detailing how Christianity is “the world’s most oppressed faith community,” and how anti-Christian persecution in the worst regions has reached “a new peak.”
The report reviewed 13 countries, and concluded that in all but one, the situation for Christians was worse in overall terms for the period 2015-2017 than during the prior two years.
“The one exception is Saudi Arabia, where the situation was already so bad it could scarcely get any worse,” the report said.
China, Eritrea, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Syria were ranked “extreme” in the scale of anti-Christian persecution. Egypt, India, and Iran were rated “high to extreme,” while Turkey was rated “moderate to high.”
The Middle East was a major focus for the report.
“Governments in the West and the U.N. failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway,” the report said. “If Christian organizations and other institutions had not filled the gap, the Christian presence could already have disappeared in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.”
The exodus of Christians from Iraq has been “very severe.” Christians in the country now may number as few as 150,000, a decline from 275,000 in mid-2015. By spring 2017 there were some signs of hope, with the defeat of the Islamic State group and the return of some Christians to their homes on the Nineveh Plains.
The departure of Christians from Syria has also threatened the survival of their communities in the country, including historic Christian centers like Aleppo, ACN said. Syrian Christians there suffer threats of forced conversion and extortion. One Chaldean bishop in the country estimates the Christian population to be at 500,000, down from 1.2 million before the war.
Many Christians in the region fear going to official refugee camps, due to concerns about rape and other violence, according to the report.
ACN also discussed the genocide committed in Syria and Iraq by the Islamic State and other militants. While ISIS and other groups have lost their major strongholds, ACN said that many Christian groups are threatened with extinction and would likely not survive another attack.
A spokesperson for Aid to the Church in Need, said, “We invite everyone to attend, either in person or in spirit, on February 24, 2018 at around 6 p.m. in Largo Gaetana Agnesi, Rome.”
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 77, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 55 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan has written numerous books, and his most recent reporting trip for ANS was to Kurdistan in Northern Iraq.
HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED
VOP is on the ground helping persecuted Christian refugees from Nigeria and Pakistan. Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope. Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and to further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
Being a Christian has never been easy. It has brought suffering, pain and persecution for those who stand firm in their faith. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” John 15:18. Despite the challenges and hurdles, Christianity has grown over the centuries and the Bible holds wonderful promises for the ones who are suffering; “Blessed are those who are persecuted.” Matthew 5:11
(Voice of the Persecuted) Pakistan is a nation which persecutes Christians and is known as the 4th most dangerous country to be a Christian. The blasphemy law is used as a tool to settle personal vendettas against Pakistani Christians. It’s a place where Christians can be lynched publicly upon false religious allegations. Thousands of minority girls are kidnapped, raped and forcibly converted to Islam. Christians in Pakistan live in fear, many afraid to even speak with Muslims about their faith.
Thailand, a popular tourist hot spot, has been one of the major destinations for Christians fleeing persecution in Pakistan. But they fled to Thailand without the full knowledge of the dangers that lie ahead. Thailand, not being a signatory of the UN refugee rights convention, regularly arrests asylum seekers and refugees. The nation considers them to be illegal migrants despite them having UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) documents. Hundreds are in the notorious Immigration Detention Center and have been living in a deplorable situation for several years. The Immigration Detention Center is designed to hold about 50 detainees at a time. Presently, there are close to 200 people which leads to lack of space, sanitation and serious health concerns. They are at risk of contracting highly infectious diseases such as, tuberculosis, skin infections, among other air/water borne illnesses. They’re malnourished due to a diet of nothing more than rice and cucumber soup. Please pray for them to remain steadfast in holding onto their faith.
“Faith in Christ plays an important role in the life of a persecuted Christian”
Many have been wondering if they could endure the atrocities our brothers and sisters suffer in restricted nations. Christian Malik, our Thailand representative, knows the hardships of persecution very well. He recently shared about the role faith plays in his life and that of other Christian refugees. Last month, during Q&A on our November prayer conference call event, one of the participants asked what advice he had for those in the west when persecution comes knocking at our door. He told us,
“Faith is all that is keeping us alive. In Thailand, every second holds an uncertainty about the future. One second, we might be free, the next second we might be behind bars. Under such circumstances, we pray and ask God for his mighty intervention in our lives and to keep us protected from all harm and danger. We are not allowed to work here which means we are unsure about securing food and other necessities for our daily needs, but our Father in Heaven is mighty and has great promises for us.
Matthew 7:11 mentions, ‘If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!’ Amen. Our Father in Heaven is indeed merciful and gracious. He provides for us from His riches. The bible states, ‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.’ When we are need, we ask God, we seek, and we find it. We knock at the door and it is opened for us. There has never been a time when God denied, He provides for us according to His time.
Faith in Christ makes things possible, not easy. We know the journey will be hard, but we have surety from God that it would be possible. In the dictionary of Faith, the word impossible doesn’t exist. Our God is a living God and He never leaves us alone. The suffering in Thailand has brought us closer to God and our lives here have become a living sacrifice.”
Persecution always results in the dispersion of believers and the spread of Christianity. Persecution will grow the Church in the 21st century as well. “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews.” (Acts 11:19).”
This Christmas, let’s stand strong with our brothers and sisters and uphold them in our prayers. Let us also bless them with their needs as faith without deeds is incomplete. “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2: 15-17
VOP is on the ground in Thailand. This Christmas, join hands with us to spread the love of Jesus. We’re planning an outreach for a large number of asylum seekers and refugees in Bangkok. We have only 4 days left to deliver Christmas relief packages, much needed supplies and nutrition to those suffering in the notorious IDC, Immigration Detention Center.
Keep us in your prayers as we try to raise the needed funds to complete this Christmas mission. If you feel led to help, please consider our mission and donate, today. Go with us to Thailand through your blessings to share the joy of Christmas with these dear brothers and sisters who have suffered so much. God bless you and your families. May your Christmas be filled with much joy as you celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our dear Lord and Savior.
HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED
Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.
Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and to further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
You may also send your gift to:
2740 Third St
P.O. Box 122
Trenton, MI. 48183
Donations always desperately needed
CCTV footage (added below) shows gunmen attacking Pakistan church in Quetta
(World Watch Monitor) Pakistani Christian mourners today (Monday) are burying their dead only days before they should be celebrating Christ’s birth.
Worshippers were lining up to take the Holy Communion when at least two men, armed and wearing suicide vests, attacked Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in western Pakistan’s restive city Quetta on Sunday morning. They left at least eleven dead and more than 50 injured, many in a critical condition, unofficial local figures say.
“It was a pleasant morning. We had sung songs and children had presented a Christmas program. Pastor Simon Bashir had finished his sermon and we were moving towards the altar when we started hearing gunfire outside the church,” said Sohail Yousuf. His 13 year-old daughter Mehak lost her life; her 16 year-old sister Wasiqa is critically ill after an operation in Quetta’s Combined Military Hospital (CMH).
Yousuf, a manager in an insurance company, migrated 16 years ago to Quetta from Punjab after his wife, a government schoolteacher, was posted there.
“We bolted all the doors and were praying that God would protect each of us. Then a suicide bomber blew himself up at the main door. The explosion shattered the door and injured many inside. When some rushed outside, they were injured by gunfire as the terrorists were on the church lawn. But soon the situation was brought under control by the volunteer church security guards and police present there.”
Caritas Executive Director Sheezan William told World Watch Monitor that the first person killed was the church security guard George Masih, who tried to stop the men advancing towards the church.
“I came to know what was happening while the exchange of fire was taking place. I phoned two youths in the choir. I could hear gunfire on the phone and then rushed to the church,” he said.
Leading Pakistani newspaper ‘Dawn’ also confirms that police intervened after the church security guard scuffled with one attacker. About two hundred congregants were inside the church, beautifully decorated for Christmas, when the terrorists unleashed their attack. Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility but provided no evidence for this claim.
“The injured were taken to the Civil Hospital, CMH, Akram Hospital and other private hospitals. Relatives picked up two bodies from the church and took them away, which is why they are not counted in official numbering.”
Retired Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf, a political analyst who is close to security agencies, told World Watch Monitor the attackers were four in number. “They were equipped with ample ammunition supply and were aiming to take worshippers hostage and kill them one by one, prolonging the scene of terror as much as they could.”
Video footage shows a church security guard was quick to close the door when he saw two men approaching. This provided more time for local security personnel to plan.
“One terrorist was shot in the compound before he could blow himself up inside the church. Meanwhile, the other one rushed to the church entrance where he blew himself up,” said Sharaf. “The agencies chased the other two who fled, and a search operation is ongoing.
“The incident has taken place close to the sad day in the country’s history, December 16 [when Pakistani forces were defeated in 1971, leading to East Pakistan becoming Bangladesh]. Our enemy keeps reminding us of our history. This time Christians are targeted who stand united with other Pakistanis against the menace of terrorism.”
William added: “A team of about 70 youths is working day and night to provide blood supplies, food or any other assistance to the injured, and coffins for the burial.” He told World Watch Monitor that seven families living in the church compound, including that of Pastor Simon Bashir, were told to vacate their houses. “All of them have moved to relatives until the area is given clearance.”
Al-Jazeera reports Moazzam Jah Ansari, police chief of Balochistan province, as saying: “We have cleared the immediate area around the church, and we are now clearing a peripheral area”.
Balochistan, the largest province of Pakistan, is situated along the Afghan border. The mineral rich, mostly hilly, region – the least populated area in the country – is where an insurgent separatist movement has long been going on. Most Christians in this province have migrated from Punjab but mostly remain unharmed by the separatists, though the separatists are against Punjabis, believing they are doing an injustice to them by controlling their land and resources.
The Quetta Methodist church, established in 1959, came under the control of the Church of Pakistan in 1971 after six Protestant denominations, including the Methodist Church, united as one denomination.
Ten days ago, a seven-year-old boy and two others were killed during a hand grenade attack on the gates of a Christian colony in Chaman, also in Balochistan, south-western Pakistan.
Punjabi Christians staged a protest, about the way they feel the government does not do enough to protect them against radical Islamic militant extremists, outside the Lahore Press Club a few hours after the Quetta attack.
Last week, the EU Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Jan Figel, was in Pakistan, and took part in the set-up of an inter-faith advisory commission. Its main aim is to help stop misuse of the blasphemy law.
Since 9/11, Christians are the main religious minority that has come under both communal attacks on the pretext of blasphemy, and by terrorist attacks on their places of worship. Immediately after 9/11 there were six attacks on churches, Christian hospitals and educational institutions. Such attacks re-surfaced again in 2013 with the suicide attack on All Saints’ Memorial Church in Peshawar province, which is also on the Afghan border. About 90 people died in that incident, including many children.
Then on 15 March 2015, just before Easter, two churches in a Christian neighborhood in Lahore came under twin suicide attacks. About 25 people died. In 2016 in Lahore, Punjab – where the largest Christian population lives – a suicide attack took place on a park, killing mostly Christians as they celebrated Easter. This year, security was on high alert at Easter. In March, Pakistan’s military agency, to prevent an attack, killed a husband and arrested his wife, who’d been trained in Syria by IS. (She was later released by security agencies.) Security agencies are on high alert for Christmas.
The worst attack in Pakistan’s history (which changed the course of the country by triggering new anti-terrorism laws after showing the population how ruthlessly Islamist militant radicals could behave), took place exactly three years ago in Peshawar when terrorists raided an army public school, massacring 141, including 132 children.
Pakistan (Morning Star News) – The government’s inability to withstand the violent protests and demands of the upstart, Muslim extremist Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) has also further imperiled religious minorities, especially Christians, as it resulted in the state tacitly agreeing to facilitate registration of blasphemy cases and assuring that officials will show no leniency to blasphemy suspects, they said. “The government’s succumbing to Islamists’ pressure will surely have an adverse effect on Asia Bibi’s case, as her appeal is likely to be taken up by the Supreme Court in December,” said her lead counsel in the high court, Saiful Malook, noting that the Islamist upsurge could influence judges. “It is Asia’s fundamental right to appeal her death sentence, but the naked threats made to judges from the podium at the protest sit-in at Faizabad, in full view of the state, and its subsequent surrender to their demands, does not bode well for Asia and all other people accused of blasphemy as well as their defenders.”
The protest sit-in by Barelvi Muslims led by firebrand cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi under the banner of TLYR started at the Faizabad Interchange, the main highway linking the garrison city of Rawalpindi with the federal capital Islamabad, on Nov 5.
The TLYR’s two main demands were the resignation of Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid over a controversial amendment to the elections bill recently passed by the country’s National Assembly, and the execution of Noreen, waiting a Supreme Court appeal of her death sentence.
Noreen, commonly known as Asia Bibi, was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging in 2010 after an argument with a Muslim woman over a bowl of water. Although international attorneys note that lower courts did not consider which of three statements attributed to her were “blasphemous” nor prove the intent to blaspheme necessary for conviction, the courts upheld her conviction.
Attorney Malook said reverberations of the “deal” signed between the government and TLYR under the army’s pressure will be felt for a long time. Malook, also the special prosecutor in the assassination case of Punjab Province Gov. Salmaan Taseer, has since been on the hit-list of Muslim extremists. A Muslim, he said the government’s capitulation to TLYR has also increased security fears for him, “but I will not withdraw from the case.”
“I took upon Asia’s appeal knowing the risks involved, but I must admit that the recent events in Pakistan have instilled some fear in me,” he said. “The government has not increased my security despite the fact that I am quite vulnerable to extremists. If anything happens to me, what effect will it have on other lawyers defending people accused of blasphemy?”
Rights activist Shakeel Naz said the state had sacrificed the religious minorities just to perpetuate its rule.
“The PML-N [Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz] government has been humiliated, and the military leadership has further improved its standing with sections of the public for helping end the protests, but at what cost to the country and its people, particularly religious minorities?” Naz told Morning Star News.
A menacing precedent has been set by Islamic extremists that will embolden others to take to the streets and do anything they want without impunity, he said.
“It is no exaggeration to suggest that no one is safe in this country now,” he said. “I am still finding it hard to digest – how could the government cave in to such ridiculous demands, knowing very well that it will roll back all the progress that has been made thus far in trying to make Pakistan a religiously moderate country?”
Naz said that by agreeing to TLYR’s demand of inclusion in the text book curriculum-setting committee, the government has conveniently allowed Islamists to push their extremist ideology onto schoolchildren.
PML-N Sen. Kamran Michael, a Christian, and other government-backed politicians shied away from Morning Star News’ requests for comment.
Napolean Qayyum, a minority leader for the Pakistan People’s Party, minced no words in criticizing the PML-N government and the military leadership for ceding to the protestors’ “illogical” demands.
“It’s a known fact that all major incidents of Christian persecution have taken place during the terms of the PML-N government,” he said. “They have always looked the other way when minority settlements were attacked by zealots, and now when their government itself came under attack, they simply caved in to the extremists’ demands.”
Slamming the government for agreeing to drop over 20 cases of terrorism, violent rioting and murder against TLYR members and releasing them from custody, Qayyum questioned whether the government would also show the same magnanimity to Christians by releasing over 40 people accused of violent riots and lynching of two Muslims in the aftermath of the twin suicide attacks in Youhanabad two years ago.
“Isn’t it blatant discrimination against Christians as all Muslims involved in violence and killings are let off without due punishment, while innocent Christians are languishing in jail on terrorism charges?” he said. “Should they not be judged by the same yardstick? Just because our Christian leadership is weak and our representatives in parliament are mere puppets, the government does not even feel a bit concerned about our people. This is a clear manifestation of the discrimination we face as Christians in Pakistan.”
The controversial amendment to the elections bill passed by the National Assembly concerned an oath for Muslim lawmakers declaring their faith in the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat (finality of prophethood) of Muhammad. TLYR members believed a “conspiracy” to change the oath was carried out at the behest of the minority Ahmadi sect to enable them to gain entry to parliament.
Pakistani Muslims, in the form of a national identity card or as members of the assembly, have to declare that they are Muslims and believe that Muhammad was the final prophet.
The PML-N government initially reversed the amendment and sought to allay the Barelvi clerics’ concerns by blaming “a clerical error” for the omission in the oath, but the TLYR dug in its heels, demanding the law minister’s resignation, the names of those responsible for the “clerical error” be made public and they be punished, and the hanging of Noreen.
The following are the TLYR demands to which the government conceded:
- Remove Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid from his position immediately, with the trade-off that “TLYR will issue no fatwa [Muslim decree] of any kind against him.”
- The report prepared by Raja Zafarul Haq-led committee will be made public within 30 days, and whoever is named in the report for being responsible for the change in the election oath will be acted against under the law.
- All protestors arrested on Nov. 6 until the end of the sit-in, across the country, will be released within one to three days. The cases registered against them and the house arrests imposed on them will be ended.
- An inquiry board will be established to probe and decide what action to take against the government and administration officials over the operation conducted by security forces against protestors on Nov. 25. The enquiry should be completed within 30 days, and action will be taken against those found responsible.
- The federal and provincial governments will determine and compensate the loss of government and private assets incurred from Nov. 6 until the end of the sit-in.
- The points already agreed to concerning the government of Punjab Province will be fully implemented.
The document ends by crediting Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and his representative team for their “special efforts” that led to the agreement being signed.
“We are thankful to him for saving the nation from a big catastrophe,” it concludes.
Besides the interior minister, the document bears the signatures of TLYR leader Khadim Rizvi, Interior Secretary Arshad Mirza, two other protest leaders and Director General of the Punjab Rangers, Maj. Gen. Faiz Hameed, who facilitated the agreement.
In a revelation that has caused shudders in minority ranks, Muslim cleric Rizvi has claimed that the government has also accepted his following demands:
- No difficulty will be faced in registering cases under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (blasphemy laws).
- No leniency will be given to those convicted by courts for blasphemy.
- Noreen will not be allowed to leave Pakistan in any case, and her execution will be promptly carried out.
- No ban will be imposed on the use of loudspeakers.
- The foreign and interior ministries will take steps for the release of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, after taking her mother and sister in confidence.
- Two representatives of TLYR will be included in the panel assigned to decide changes in the textbook board. The officials will push for inclusion of translation of the Koran and Seeratun Nabi (Life of Muhammad) chapters and information about Muslim leaders.
- Every year, Nov. 25 will be observed as “Martyrs of Prophet’s Honor Day.”
TLYR was formed after the execution of Malik Mumtaz Qadri in February 2016. Qadri, a Barelvi, was a police commando who assassinated Taseer in January 2011 after the Punjab governor called for the release of Noreen, a Christian mother of two and stepmother to three others.
An Islamist movement group begun in 2015, TLYR registered as a political party in August and contested a by-election on a National Assembly seat from Lahore that fell vacant after the Supreme Court’s disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Papers case on July 28.
The constituency is a stronghold of the ruling Sharif family, and even though Sharif’s wife won the seat, TYLR’s Begum Kulsoom Nawaz managed to bag more than 7,000 votes. That was more than the candidate of the liberal Pakistan People’s Party, which has already sacrificed two officials, Taseer and former Minorities Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, to Islamic terrorism during its term in government.
TLYR’s growing influence among the Pakistani masses, particularly its desire for imposing stricter blasphemy laws, enabled it to hold the federal capital hostage for more than two weeks with hardly a few hundred supporters.
The PML-N government avoided action against the protest sit-in for 20 days despite orders of the Supreme Court and the Islamabad High Court to clear the area of protestors who “openly challenged the writ of the government by making inciting and abusive speeches,” as it feared the protests would grow into a countrywide movement.
On Nov. 25 the Islamabad administration finally launched an operation against TLYR protestors on court orders, but without proper planning and motivation. The botched operation met with fierce resistance from the protestors, resulting in the deaths of at least six protestors and serious injuries to more than 200 people, many of them law enforcement personnel.
At least 150 demonstrators were taken into custody during the riots in Islamabad, which also saw a large number of police and private vehicles torched and property vandalized by frenzied mobs.
The operation’s failure resulted in mass protests in several cities by Islamist groups hoping to take the opportunity to regain their grip on the state by street power. A few hundred Muslim extremists locked down major cities, including Lahore, Peshawar, Karachi and Quetta, as police and other law enforcement officials looked on in despair.
The mobs also attacked residences of several government ministers and lawmakers in Punjab, injuring a PML-N Member of National Assembly Mian Javed Latif in Sheikhupura.
Fearing that the widespread protests could result in the collapse of its government, the beleaguered PML-N sought the help of the Pakistan army in maintaining order. Then it was bitterly surprised when Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa refused to “use force against our own people.” Instead, he “advised” Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to find a peaceful solution to the issue.
Without the army’s support, the PML-N quickly succumbed to the protestors’ demands, dealing a devastating blow to the legitimacy and moral standing of the government and all state institutions.
Pakistan ranked fourth on the World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
In October, it was reported that the Supreme Court was likely to hear Aasia [Asia] Bibi’s blasphemy case during the next couple of months.
Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Malook, told The Express Tribune that the court’s additional registrar had conveyed to him that the case was likely to be fixed for hearing in November. However, if for some reason there was a delay, it would definitely be listed in December.
“I have been told that currently the Supreme Court’s special bench is hearing criminal appeals filed in 2015. The Aasia case was listed the same year. Therefore, it will be heard during the ongoing year,” said the lawyer.
Legal experts say it’s unclear if a bench led by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar will resume, or the special bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, will hear her case.
The 51-year-old Christian, has been on the death row since November 2010 after being convicted of controversial blasphemy charges during an argument with a Muslim woman. Aasia’s case gained prominence after then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer pleaded for her retrial and was subsequently shot dead by his guard, Mumtaz Qadri, in January 2011.
In 2014, the Lahore High Court upheld Aasia’s death sentence, but the Supreme Court stayed her execution in July 2015.
The Tribune reported,
The last time her case was taken up was on October 13 last year by a three-judge bench headed by Justice Nisar and comprising Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman and Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik. The hearing was postponed when Justice Rehman recused himself as he was the CJ of the Islamabad High Court when it heard the Salmaan Taseer assassination case. The assassin had cited Taseer’s interest in the Aasia Bibi case as his motive.
Describing her case, Bibi said she was working in a field when she was asked to fetch water. Because she is a Christian, some of her Muslim co-workers objected, saying that she should not touch the water vessel as she would make it unclean. An argue began and harsh words were exchanged. Bibi claims the women later accused her of blasphemy in conspiracy with another Muslim woman. Bibi maintains her innocence.
VOP Note: During our recent IDOP prayer conference calls, we prayed specifically for Aasia, including that her case be heard. In discussions on the possibility of her case being heard in December, some are reluctant, as Pakistan prepares for elections to take place. Some fear the case will once again be postponed until after the elections. They also fear if she is released riots would ensue.
Please continue lifting her up to the Lord. In the name of Jesus, let us pray for those proceeding over the case to have the courage to do what is right and release her. Pray for those who would intend to harm these officials, Aasia and her family, or organize mob violence when she is acquitted. Lord have mercy on our sister who longs to reunite with her family.
Jesuit Father Henri Boulad, an Islamic scholar of the Egyptian Greek Melkite rite, held no punches in an interview concerning the motives of Islamic terror and Western responses to it. “Islam is an open-ended declaration of war against non-Muslims,” declared the priest, and those who carry out acts of violence and intolerance are only doing what their creed requires. The report continues:
Those who fail to recognize the real threat posed by Islam are naïve and ignorant of history, he said, and unfortunately many in the Church fall into this category. Citing a letter he wrote last August to Pope Francis, Father Boulad said that “on the pretext of openness, tolerance and Christian charity — the Catholic Church has fallen into the trap of the liberal left ideology which is destroying the West.” “Anything that does not espouse this ideology is immediately stigmatized in the name of ‘political correctness,’” he said. The priest went so far as to chastise Pope Francis himself—a fellow Jesuit—suggesting that he has fallen into this trap as well. “Many think that a certain number of your positions are aligned with this ideology and that, from complacency, you go from concessions to concessions and compromises in compromises at the expense of the truth,” the priest wrote to Francis. Christians in the West and in the East, he wrote the Pope, “are expecting something from you other than vague and harmless declarations that may obscure reality.” “It is high time to emerge from a shameful and embarrassed silence in the face of this Islamism that attacks the West and the rest of the world. A systematically conciliatory attitude is interpreted by the majority of Muslims as a sign of fear and weakness,” he said. “If Jesus said to us: Blessed are the peacemakers, he did not say to us: Blessed are the pacifists. Peace is peace at any cost, at any price. Such an attitude is a pure and simple betrayal of truth,” he said. The priest also stated his belief that the West is in an ethical and moral debacle, and its defense of Islam is a denial of truth. “By defending at all costs Islam and seeking to exonerate it from the horrors committed every day in its name, one ends up betraying the truth,” he wrote.
June’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Muslim Attacks on and Desecration of Christian Churches
Philippines: On June 21 in the village of Malagakit, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)—which earlier pledged allegiance to the Islamic State—vandalized a Catholic church. Describing the desecration as “wicked,” the chief police inspector said the “crucifix and images of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ were destroyed while the sacred hosts were thrown all over the floor.” Cardinal Quevedo, who condemned the sacrilege in the strongest terms possible, challenged the leaders of the BIFF to punish its men who desecrated the chapel: “If the BIFF wants to have an image as a respecter of all religions, it must punish its members who perpetrated the odious desecration and educate all its members in strictly respecting other religions,” said the prelate. “Last month, terrorist gunmen also desecrated St. Mary’s Cathedral in Marawi, some 150 kilometers from Cotabato,” notes the report. “The gunmen were seen on a video [here] destroying religious images and burning the cathedral.”
Egypt: An Islamic terror cell consisting of six members, two of whom were described as “suicide bombers, was planning on bombing yet another Coptic Christian church in Alexandria, but was exposed and arrested by police before they could launch their attack. According to a statement from the Egyptian Interior Ministry, “one attacker had planned to detonate an explosive vest inside the church and the other to blow himself up when police arrived to the scene.” Several similar and successful attacks on Christian churches in Egypt in the months before had left about 100 church goers dead and hundreds more severely wounded.
Separately, authorities raided a church-owned building that was being used by the local Coptic Christian community for worship; after police removed furniture, Christian iconography and other items from the building, they chained down the doors to prevent Christians from accessing the building. Christians had for some time tried to have the building legally recognized as a church, only to face a backlash from both local Muslims and authorities. According to a local Christian, “During the early hours of Friday, June 16, we [Christians] were surprised to find the furniture, rugs, icons, pictures, and worship utensils … had been thrown outside and the building closed down with seals and chains. We took the belongings into our homes. We don’t know why the police did that.” When dozens of church leaders met with the local governor insisting that they need a place to worship, he responded by telling them that the building they were using had been found to be in a state of disrepair and need to be demolished.
Algeria: On 9 June, the state oversaw the demolition of the Catholic church located in Sidi Moussa, 15 miles from Algiers. According to Kamel Abderrahmani, an Arab journalist who covered the incident, “Algerian authorities found a very shallow argument to justify this anti-Christian act. According to the authorities concerned, the church was listed in the red category by the technical inspection services. The legitimate question that arises from this is, since the building was deemed in danger of collapse, why was it not restored and listed as part of the national heritage? The statement of the mayor was of unprecedented clarity. He had announced the construction of a mosque and a Quranic school on the same site. Such statements caused outrage, as many saw the demolition as an act of vandalism.” Kamel also noted how the Algerian government had demolished other churches on other pretexts, and concluded by calling Muslim governments and activists “hypocrites”: “If the mayor of Paris or Rome had destroyed a mosque to build a church, what would have happened? Sunni Muslims would have shouted scandal and Islamophobia! This question shows the hypocrisy of Islamists and their double standards. They defend freedom of worship in the West in order to ban it in their homeland. They fight to build mosques in someone else’s homeland whilst destroying churches and synagogues where they have power.”
Iraq: In June 2015, when Mosul was under the Islamic State’s control, the group had announced it was converting St. Ephraim Church into a “mosque of the mujahedeen.” The cross from the dome was accordingly broken off, and all Christian symbols were purged from within the house of worship. Now, months after Mosul was liberated, the occupied church was exposed as being used as a sex-slave chamber where approximately 200 Yazidi girls and women were abused by the Islamic State. A report recounts “ISIS’ depravity towards Yazidi women and girls. On the floor of the iconic house of worship lie tiny pieces of pink and yellow underwear and flower headbands belonging to the very young Yazidi sex slaves the barbaric terrorist group took captive.” The June 14 report also notes that “Last week, according to local activists, ISIS publicly caged and burned alive 19 Yazidi girls for refusing to have sex with ISIS fighters, according to local activists. Yazidi leaders last year showed Fox News photographs of the Islamic jihadists burning babies to death on a slab of sheet metal, photos that show tiny, roasted bodies side by side as flames engulfed them….The butchered Christian building and its Yazidi remnants serve as chilling reminders of the genocide experienced by the two religious minorities.”
Spain: A Muslim man stormed a Christian church during a marriage ceremony, started shouting “Allahu Akbar”—“Allah is greater”—and “tried to throw liturgical objects around him to attack the priest and churchgoers,” says a report. A number of wedding attendants managed to apprehend the 22-year-old Moroccan and hand him over to police, who reportedly charged him with “disturbing public order, crime against religious feelings and threats.” Police also investigated the church for potential explosives before permitting the wedding ceremony to resume. According to the officiating priest, the incident began when a “group of young troublemakers” started making offensive noises at the back of the church. “Suddenly, someone started to shout and charged at the altar. A lot of people, including the bride’s mother, were crying, and there were people who had already jumped out of the pews because we did not know whether this person came alone or not, or if he was armed.”
Turkey: The Erdogan government seized at least 50 Syriac churches, monasteries, and Christian cemeteries, many of which were still active, in the Mardin province, and declared them state property. According to the report, “The Syriacs have appealed to the Court for the cancellation of the decision.” The Chairman of Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation—a 1,600 year-old monastery that was still in use and also seized—said “We started to file lawsuits and in the meantime our enquiries continued.”
The Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Pakistan: A Chinese Christian couple—Lee Zing Yang, 24, and his wife Meng Lisi, 26—were abducted in Quetta and executed on the accusation that they were preaching Christ to Muslims; the Islamic State claimed responsibility for their killing and released “video footage showing the bloodied body of the Chinese man, Lee Zing Yang, taking his last breaths,” says a report. The Pakistani government cited the murdered couple’s “misuse of the terms of a business visa” as playing a major role in their deaths: “instead of engaging in any business activity they went to Quetta and under the garb of learning Urdu language … were actually engaged in preaching.”
Kenya: Armed Muslims connected to neighboring Somalia’s Islamic terrorist group, Al Shabaab, walked into an elementary school compound in Garissa and shot a Christian teacher to death. When a Muslim teacher interfered with their attempts to abduct another Christian teacher, “Al Shabaab got angry,” reported another anonymous teacher, “and told the teacher, ‘We are going to teach you a lesson for protecting the infidels,’ and immediately the two were carried away to unknown destination”—but not before the Somali militants proceeded to “beat Muslims of Somali descent at the school for housing Kenyan Christians.”
Philippines: More news and revelations concerning the jihadi uprising that began in late May in the Islamic City of Marawi appeared in June. The eight or nine Christians originally reported as being tied together and shot dead, execution style, had apparently been first ordered to recite the Islamic confession of faith, which they refused, leading to their execution. “Their bodies were reportedly thrown into the ditch, and a signboard was placed beside them reading ‘Munafik,’ which means traitor or liar,” says a report. “The assailants also asked Police Senior Inspector Freddie Solar to recite the Muslim creed, and as a non-Muslim [Christian] he too declined and was killed.” Seventeen otherswere found ritually decapitated or butchered by the Islamic State-affiliated militants. A priest and 13 parishioners from the St. Mary Cathedral were also kidnapped; the priest “appeared in a propaganda video on Tuesday (May 30) pleading for his life.”
Egypt: More eyewitness details concerning the Islamic State massacre of 29 Christian pilgrimstraveling to a Coptic monastery in the Egyptian desert in May 2017 emerged. One ten-year old boy, who witnessed the slaughter of his father, recounted how “We [he and his 14-year-old brother] saw dead people, just dumped on the ground. They asked my father for identification then told him to recite the Muslim profession of faith. He refused, said he was Christian. They shot him and everyone else with us in the car…. Every time they shot someone they would yell God is great [Allahu Akbar].” Although President Sisi had depicted the terrorists as “foreigners,” the ten-year-old said that the fifteen assailants “had Egyptian accents like us and they were all masked except for two of them … They looked like us and did not have beards.” The same report states that, a month after the massacre, the Egyptian government had failed to provide adequate security for the residents of Dayr Jarnous, a Christian village that was home to seven of those killed, “and has done nothing to help the victims’ families.”
Muslim Attacks on Christian Religious Freedom
Pakistan: A new blasphemy case was registered against yet another Christian. After Mohammad Irfan refused to pay a repair bill to Ishfaq Masih, a Christian who fixed his bicycle, the Muslim denounced the Christian of blaspheming against Islamic prophet Muhammad, leading to the Christian’s arrest. According to Masih’s cousin, “During the argument, Irfan said that he obeys only one master, Prophet Muhammad, to which Ishfaq said that he was a Christian and his faith ends at Christ. Upon hearing this, Irfan raised a clamor that Ishfaq had blasphemed against Muhammad. Soon a mob gathered at the spot, and someone called the police, who took Ishfaq into custody.” Mohammad Irfan also rallied a number of other Muslims—including Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Naveed, and Mohammad Tahir—who claimed that they “heard Ishfaq Masih say derogatory words against the Muslim prophet.” According to the Christian’s lawyer, only one of the four “witnesses” was even present during the altercation. Instead, “Irfan had gathered the other men, including the complainant Mohammad Ishfaq, and they then concocted the allegation against Ishfaq Masih and got him arrested…. The FIR [First Information Report] is quite weak, as it does not contain any specific blasphemous words that my client may have allegedly said…. It also shows that the police did not even bother to investigate the charge before registering a case against the poor man. This is the routine practice of the police in blasphemy cases, and it’s a shame that nothing is being done to stop it.”
Separately, after a Christian couple was slaughtered for preaching Christ among Muslims (see Slaughter section), a South Korean Christian was arrested for allegedly also engaging in “illegal preaching activities.” Authorities revoked his visa and ordered him to leave the Muslim nation.
Philippines: A Muslim teacher in the Muslim majority island of Mindanao forced Jen-Jen, a young Christian schoolgirl apparently of Islamic origins, to pray Islamic prayers in class or else fail the class. According to the report, “Despite being uncomfortable, Jen-Jen learned the words of the prayer to recite to the teacher. But rather than asking Jen-Jen to say the words in an oral test, the teacher later announced students would be required to go to a mosque and pray the prayer aloud.” When the girl and another Christian classmate told the teacher that praying in a mosque contradicts their faith in Christ, the Muslim teacher “ignored the request and told them to turn away from Christ,” adding: “You must comply or else you will fail in this subject. You should revert to your Islamic faith.” The girl was then “forced to complete the long walk to the mosque while wearing a traditional Muslim dress and veil covering, despite burning up with a fever.” She “got so sick, however, that she lost consciousness and blacked out. Even as she came back to, the teacher refused to excuse her from listening to the entirety of the Muslim imam’s message. Since the day at the Mosque, Jen-Jen has been pressured to conform to many other Muslim practices, such as fasting during the month of Ramadan…. [O]ther students have also teased and bullied Jen-Jen because of her faith, sometimes bombarding her as she walked to and from school and pushing her or insulting her.”
Malaysia: The Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy—the statement of purpose of which is to define and promote “Human rights from the Muslim perspective”—asserted that all forms of Christian evangelicalism should be banned. According to the CEO of the Centre, Azril Mohd Amin, “It is a fact that the groups that are spreading Christian propaganda to Malaysians, especially Muslims, will keep up their efforts as they believe that there is no effective law that can stop them.” Jo-Anna Henley Rampas, a leading member of a more progressive and inclusive party, responded by saying this move is “reflective of the erosion of religious freedom in the country” thanks to the “federal government’s failure to instil [sic] proper understanding, tolerance and harmony among citizens.”
Muslim Contempt for and Abuse of Christians
Pakistan: A Christian sanitary worker died after pious Muslim doctors who were fasting for Ramadan refused to touch the “unclean” infidel’s body. Thirty-year-old Irfan Masih had fallen unconscious along with three other sanitary staff while cleaning a manhole on June 1. He was rushed to a governmental hospital where the doctors refused to treat him; he died hours later. “The doctors refused to treat him because they were fasting and said my son was napaak [unclean],” said the mother of the deceased. A few weeks later, a court, responding to complaints from hospital officials accusing the family and friends of Irfan of terrorizing the hospital, ordered police to register a complaint against them. “The hospital has levied a false charge against us in order to save themselves,” explained a cousin of the deceased, who also works in sanitation. “The doctors were responsible for Irfan’s death, because he would have been alive today had they not refused to treat him immediately. Our outburst against the doctors was natural, but we did not damage or steal anything from the hospital. It is a lie, and even the police know it.” A senior police official admitted that “we believe that the hospital is making frivolous accusation against these people….. The hospital is ostensibly trying to pressure the family to withdraw their case.”
Egypt: Suzan Ashraf Rawy, a 22-year-old Christian woman, was reportedly kidnapped on the morning of June 5 while walking to the Coptic Orthodox church she worked at. “When she did not return home that evening, her mother called the church,” an area Christian leader explained. “That is when she discovered Suzan did not arrive at the church in the morning. It is expected that she has been abducted.” She is the third Christian woman in the area of Al Khosous, a predominantly Christian town on the outskirts of Cairo, to disappear since May 30, when a Copt accidentally shot and killed a Muslim bystander during a quarrel with someone else. “Since then, the Muslims started to wage revenge attacks on the Christian community living there, especially the women,” the Christian leader said. According to the report, “Two other young Coptic Christian women disappeared without a trace after the May 30 incident. The families of the women suspected to have been kidnapped have received no communication from alleged kidnappers, the sources said. Area Muslims have long disfigured Christian women for not wearing veils by throwing acid on them, but there has been a surge in such attacks in the past few weeks, sources said…. Fear has seized Coptic Christians in the area, with women afraid to leave their homes. One of the church women’s meetings, which Rawy attended, has been suspended until further notice out of fear for the safety of the participants.”
Bangladesh: Three Muslim men sexually assaulted a 20-year-old Catholic girl in the village of Madarpur on June 18. Her loud cries drew the attention of village locals who came to her rescue, prompting the rapists to flee. After her parents filed a complaint, they began to receive threatening messages to withdraw it or else. “Last year her family was involved in a land dispute,” adds the report. “The violence – a premeditated attack – was also witnessed by the police, deployed by the Muslims who wanted to expropriate the land. The young woman, along with her parents, was forced to leave the house and live in a slum.”
Pakistan: The home of a journalist who extensively covers the plight of religious minorities in the Muslim nation was vandalized. When Rana Tanveer, chief reporter of The Express Tribune, went to the police, they failed to register a formal complaint. Days later, an unidentified vehicle intentionally ran over Tanveer, while he was riding his motorcycle in Lahore on Friday, June 9. According to the report: “Tanveer underwent surgery for a fracture in his pelvic bone on Saturday. His recovery may take months and he has expressed fears for his safety as well as that of his family…. Tanveer says that his work on exposing the poor treatment meted out to the country’s religious minorities like the Ahmadis and the Christians has made him a target of extremists.”
Sudan: A court in El Gedaref fined a number of Christians for selling food and tea during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting: “This is a clear discrimination against Christians and contrary to the slogans of religious coexistence launched by the Sudan Government for the international community,” contended one defense layer. About a dozen people were each fined $2,000 Sudanese dollars ($298 USD).
Iraq: “[T]roubling issues related to discrimination and even violence targeting ethnic and religious minorities” are widespread in Kurdish-ruled territories, one report found, adding, “Christian citizens of the KRI [Kurdish Region of Iraq] have issued complaints and held protests against Kurdish residents for attacking and seizing their land and villages in the provinces of Dohuk and Erbil…. Some Assyrian Christians accuse Kurdish government and party officials of taking lands for personal use or financial gain. These Christians believe they are specifically targeted as part of a policy to Kurdify historically Christian areas…. Minorities continue to fear growing extremism in the majority population, which they believe could threaten them in the long term.” Most Kurds are Sunni Muslims.
Nigeria: A presidential order replaced Christian education with Islamic Studies in Secondary Schools. While the subject, “Christian Religious Knowledge” no longer exists, Islamic, Arab, and French studies have been introduced in the new curriculum. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), which protested the new changes in front of the presidential palace, currently filled by a Muslim, described the change as “a time-bomb, obnoxious, divisive and ungodly…. To us in CAN, its introduction is an ill-wind that blows nobody any good for so many reasons.” According to the report, “The end result [of these changes] is that a Christian student will be left with no option than to settle for Islamic Arabic Studies since French teachers are more or less non-existent in secondary schools,” all of which “will deprive pupils of moral trainings which CRK [Christian Religious Knowledge] offers.” The Christian Association of Nigeria further denounced this move “to force Islamic studies down the throats of non-adherents of the religion,” as being an “agenda deliberately crafted towards Islamization.”
Separately, a Christian priest and his companions who were abducted by Islamic militants in April told of their experiences in June, when they were released. Fr. Sam Okwuidegbe identified his “kidnappers as Fulani herdsmen, an Islamic radical group that has killed thousands of people in Nigeria, including many Christians, in the past couple of decades” notes the report. That he was unable to recall any phone numbers for the Islamic terrorists to call to negotiate a ransom for his release “triggered a series of beatings,” says Fr. Sam; “they huddled me up, hands and feet tied to the back with a rope like a goat before a kill. They removed my cassock, then my shirt, threw me into the dirt on the ground, and began to beat me with the back of their guns, they’d kick me hard on my sides, slap across my face, push and pull me hard across the ground … one of them said ‘We are going to burn you alive!’” Another man in captivity did manage to recall a phone number, a ransom was set, and the men were eventually released.
Due to the ongoing bleeding of Nigeria’s Christian population—increasingly at the hands of Muslim Fulani herdsmen and not just the Islamic terror group, Boko Haram—a number of leading Nigerian churches issued a statement calling on the government “not to abdicate its responsibility of protecting all Nigerian citizens.” According to the communique: “We are worried that the murderous activities of Fulani herdsmen have continued unabated and unchecked. The recurring and orchestrated killings of Christians in Southern Kaduna, mass killings in parts of Benue State and others across the country have increased suspicion that the so-called herdsmen are an extension of terrorist groups carrying out an evil agenda of ethnic and religious cleansing. Characteristically, these mindless attacks are often unprovoked.” Earlier in January, Bishop Diamond Emuobor, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, said that, because Christians are facing increasing dangers at the hands of extremists, so “Christians should defend themselves and he who has no sword, should sell his coat and buy one to defend himself. We are all human beings, nobody should catch you like a snail and slaughter because you believe in Jesus Christ.”
About this Series
The persecution of Christians in the Islamic world has become endemic. Accordingly, “Muslim Persecution of Christians” was developed to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that surface 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 third-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.