VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

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Pakistan: Islamic groups threaten Supreme Court judges ahead of Asia Bibi ruling

(World Watch Monitor) Radical religious groups in Pakistan have called for mass protests and threatened the judges of the country’s Supreme Court in Islamabad ahead of their ruling in the blasphemy case of Christian woman Asia Bibi.

The hardline Islamic party, the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), threatened the judges in a press conference on YouTube, saying that if Aasiya Noreen, commonly known as Asia Bibi, were to receive clemency, the justices would meet a “horrible” end, reported AFP.

Meanwhile another religious group, the Red Mosque in Islamabad, asked the Supreme Court to order that, if Asia Bibi is released, she would not be able to leave the country.

“Western forces are trying to get Asia Bibi out of the country but she should be hanged,” the petitioner, Hafiz Ihtesham Ahmed, told AFP.

The TLP also announced it would hold a rally on Friday, 12 October, and on social media radical voices call for Asia Bibi to be hanged.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court heard the much-delayed appeal of Asia Bibi, on Monday, 8 October. It did not announce its decision, saying it would ‘reserve judgment’ for several days or possibly weeks.

The story of Asia Bibi

Noreen received the death penalty in 2010 after she allegedly made derogatory comments about Islam’s prophet Muhammad during an argument with a Muslim woman.

In June 2009, Noreen, then about 38, was picking berries in the fields as a day labourer in Sheikhupura, outside Lahore in eastern Pakistan. It was hot. She brought water to a female co-worker, who objected that the touch of a Christian had made the water haram, or religiously forbidden for Muslims. The woman apparently told Noreen to convert to Islam in order to become purified of her ritual impurity. Noreen’s rejoinder was perceived as an insult to Islam. She was arrested, accused of blasphemy against the Prophet and the Qur’an, and has been in prison ever since.

The Muslim woman, with her sister, were the only two eyewitnesses in the case, but the defence failed to convince the appeals judges that their evidence lacked credibility.

In the Lahore High Court appeal hearing in October 2014, Bibi’s then-lawyer, Naeem Shakir, argued that the main complainant in the case, the local Muslim cleric Mohamed Salaam, had not heard Bibi blaspheme, and that his original complaint had been lodged only five days after the women’s quarrel. Shakir argued that, during her 2010 trial, the only reason given for this delay was “deliberation and consultation”, and said that Salaam had acknowledged this in court.

Salaam was filmed by an international film crew for a film about Bibi in 2014, saying that it is his religious obligation to defend the dignity of Muhammad and that is why he decided to be a witness before the court. He only heard Bibi allegedly confess to blasphemy when she had been brought before a village council several days after the quarrel.

Her other main accuser, Mohamed Imran, owner of the field in which Noreen worked, was not present at the time of the quarrel either; he was away from the village.

However, the High Court ruled that it had no choice but to let the conviction and death penalty stand, based on the way the country’s laws are written, and on what it characterised as an inept trial defence.

At the same time, the court asked Pakistan’s lawmakers to craft legislation that would empower trial courts to apply a test that would make future blasphemy convictions much more difficult to achieve.

Noreen’s lawyer then filed an appeal with Pakistan’s Supreme Court and in July 2015 it agreed it would hear Noreen’s case.

Commentators praised the Court for its courage to hear the appeal in the face of strong public sentiment against anyone seen to denigrate Islam, with some calling it a “historic day for Pakistan”.

However, the appeal stalled in late 2016 when one member of the three-judge panel recused himself.

In April 2018 Pakistan’s chief justice, Saqib Nisar, told Noreen’s lawyer, Saif-ul-Malook, that he would hear Asia’s appeal soon.

Since then Malook, who was the prosecution lawyer in the case of the murder of Punjab Governor Taseer, has been under 24-hours protection. Ahead of the hearing in Islamabad on 8 October he told AP News, “I have lost my health. I am a high blood pressure patient, my privacy is totally lost. You have to be in hiding,” as everyone knew his identity. “They look at this house and they know this is the home of a person who can be killed at any time by angry mullahs,” he said.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court is the last possibility for Noreen to see her death sentence repealed or she has to appeal to the President for mercy.

International attention

Bibi’s case has attracted global attention, much of it critical of Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws, which critics contend are routinely abused as a pretext to settle personal scores.

In 2011 two prominent Pakistani politicians, Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, were assassinated after they spoke publicly in Bibi’s defence.

Following the killing of Taseer, Governor of Punjab, Bibi’s husband said she was “very afraid”. “She knows the Muslims have announced a price on her head and would go to any lengths to kill her,” he said. Authorities increased her security and moved her to an all-women facility, Multan Prison.

In May 2018 another politician who has championed the country’s minority communities, Ahsan Iqbal, survived an assassination attempt by a gunman protesting against the country’s blasphemy laws.

Pope Benedict XVI made a public plea for clemency and the EU’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, Jan Figeľ, told Pakistani officials that the renewal of their export privileges to Europe would depend on the release of Asia Bibi.

  • June 2009  Aasiya Noreen, commonly known as Asia Bibi, mother of five, is arrested on charges of blasphemy
  • November 2010  Noreen convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. Her lawyer appeals verdict.
  • January 2011 Salmaan Taseer, governor of Punjab Province who supported Noreen and called for reform of the country’s blasphemy laws, is assassinated by one of his bodyguards. As a result authorities increase security for Noreen and she is moved to the all-women Multan Prison.
  • March 2011 Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minister for Minority Affairs who supported Noreen’s case and was outspoken critic of country’s widely condemned blasphemy laws, is assassinated.
  • October 2011 News emerges that Asia has been beaten by prison officer.
  • March 2014 Lahore High Court starts appeal hearing but case keeps circulating among several judges who postpone its hearing, allegedly for fear of reprisal from extremist elements.
  • October 2014 The Lahore High Court confirms Noreen’s death sentence
  • November 2014 Noreen’s lawyer files appeal with Pakistan’s Supreme Court.
  • February 2015 Noreen’s husband speaks out about how family’s lives are under constant threat following her conviction and sentencing five years ago.
  • July 2015 Supreme Court decides to hear Noreen’s appeal.
  • October 2015 Noreen is moved to solitary prison cell because of fears for her security after Supreme Court upholds sentence against former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer’s murderer.
  • October 2016 About 150 top Muslim clerics from radical Islamist group Sunni Tehreek call for Noreen to be hanged.
  • April 2017 Mufti Muhammad Haneef Qureshi renews call for Noreen’s execution.
  • October 2017 Noreen nominated for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
  • November 2017 Three European Parliament members visit Noreen’s family in Pakistan.
  • December 2017 The EU’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, Jan Figeľ, tells Pakistani officials that renewal of export privileges to Europe depends on Noreen’s release.
  • February 2018 Noreen’s husband and daughter meet Pope Francis in the Vatican.
  • April 2018 Chief Justice Saqib Nisar announces he will hear Noreen’s appeal soon.
  • May 2018 Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan’s interior minister and supporter of the country’s minority communities, survives assassination attempt after meeting prevent her from Christians in his constituency.
  • October 8, 2018 Supreme Court hears Noreen’s case but delays ruling.
  • October 10, 2018 Radical religious groups threaten judges over possibility of releasing Noreen, and ask High Court to leaving the country.

 

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High Court hears Asia Bibi’s final death sentence appeal, but holds back verdict

 

Asia Bibi was the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and her case is one of the most controversial

(VOP) There is much speculation about the outcome of Asia Bibi’s final appeal heard today by a special three-member bench of Pakistan’s Supreme Court, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel. They will decide whether or not to confirm the death sentence of Asia Bibi. The chief justice warned the media and those present against commenting on or discussing the case until the court’s detailed judgement has been issued. No date is given when the Supreme Court will announce it’s decision.

Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of 5, was accused of blasphemy in 2009. In 2010, she was sentenced to death by hanging and spends her time in solitary confinement cooking her own meals to prevent an assassination attempt. Asia firmly denies the blasphemy allegations against her. If you are unfamiliar with the charges and details of her case, please read: What you need to know about Asia Bibi’s trial

Covering today’s appeal, Fides News agency shared that Christians in Pakistan await with bated breath, immersed in prayer and the conclusion of this final hearing. In the report Fr. James Channan who runs the ‘Peace Center’ in Lahore shared,

“It is good to know that, after such a long time, Asia Bibi’s case is brought to trial. Many people are praying for her release in Pakistan and around the world. It is our firm hope that, thanks to continuous prayer, she can be released. I am sure that the panel of judges will examine the case without prejudice and that justice will be done, without being influenced by external pressures. I pray that Asia may be released soon and may reunite with her family members who have lived many years of pain and anguish. If she is released, it will also give great relief to all those who, in the world, have felt deeply involved in this case, praying for her, so that this innocent woman may finally have justice. Moreover, if she is proved innocent, it will be necessary to punish those who falsely accused her, abusing the controversial blasphemy law”. He concluded, “Today we also remember those who were killed because of the support given to Asia Bibi: former governor of the Punjab province, the Muslim Salman Taseer and the Catholic leader Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minister for Minority Affairs. We hope their sacrifice was not in vain”.

Some are expecting the verdict to be announced within a couple of days, others believe that the risk of national riots and violence may delay the court’s verdict for sometime. Speaking to Voice of the Persecuted, a Pakistani Christian shared,

“The government doesn’t want her to be there anyways but the pressure from hardliners is keeping them from releasing her. There could be a national revolt if she is released so nobody has been willing to take the risk. If she is executed then Pakistan will face huge international humiliation. It needs to go through the due process and it will be a very tough decision.”

Asia is expected to ask the nation’s president for clemency if her appeal is rejected by the Supreme Court. Dawn News reports, “If that fails, she could become the first person in Pakistan to be executed for blasphemy”.

Asia’s husband and youngest daughter are in the U.K. as guests of the Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need. Her husband told the Catholic News Service that they visited Bibi in Multan Prison on Oct. 1. He declared she was in good health, psychologically, physically and spiritually strong, contrary to reports that she was developing dementia. He relayed that Asia had a message that the international community must remember her in their prayers and that those prayers would open the prison doors for her soon release. He also said that while Asia is praying, she feels Jesus encouraging and supporting her, that she was ready and willing to die for Christ and would never convert to Islam.

She has suffered so long. Please keep our dear sister, Asia, in your prayers. May God have mercy on her. Pray also for Pakistani Christians and the nation of Pakistan.

The movie below was filmed in 2014 in Pakistan, France and Italy. It features Asia Bibi’s family, her lawyers, journalists and friends, all actively engaged in campaigning for her release. It also includes an interview with Anne Isabelle Tollet, the journalist and author of the book Blasphemy, helping to bring public attention to Asia’s case.

Gujranwala’s Christian suffers ‘serious’ injuries in male acid attack

According to (CIP) a young Pakistani Christian suffered life-changing injuries during an acid attack, a crime most often seen against women. Gujranwala’s Faraz Baddar was attacked by unknown men and details emerged that Faraz has been attacked previously and tortured by the attackers.

Faraz is employed at a local hospital in Gujranwala. He worked as manager in the hospital. Purportedly, the attack is a result of religion based dislike. Social media reports claim that the attack comes as a result of extreme emotional hatred due to his Christian faith. It is speculated that he was disliked, because his co-workers did not like being working under the authority of a Christian.

Please pray for his safety and healing.

Christian Loses Sight in One Eye in Attack by Muslim Neighbors

Vikram John. (Morning Star News)

Pakistan (Morning Star News) – A young Christian man in Karachi, Pakistan lost sight in one eye when armed, Muslim neighbors attacked his family, his father said.

Vikram John, 25, lost sight in his left eye after Muslim neighbors who had pressured his family to leave the neighborhood with months of harassment beat him and other family members on the night of Aug. 18, his father Alvin John told Morning Star News by phone.

“After exchanging a few hot words with the Muslim youths led by a political activist named Ihsan, Vikram came inside the house,” Alvin John said. “Moments later, bricks and stones came smashing through our window glass and hitting our gate. The attackers threatened us, saying to move out of the neighborhood if we wanted to stay alive as they hurled curses and abuses on us.”

Earlier in the evening, Vikram John was involved in a minor altercation with Muslim neighbors who had teased his 18-year-old sister, said his father, who 10 months ago moved the family to Karachi’s Mehmoodabad No-II neighborhood from Sahiwal District in Punjab Province.

“This wasn’t the first time they had harassed her,” he said. “For months we had been requesting the boys’ families to stop the hooliganism, but it seems that they had found this to be an effective tool to intimidate us, so the harassment continued unabated.”

The Muslims have been harassing and intimidating the family, who belong to an Assemblies of God church, since they moved into the rented house, he said – teasing his children when they stepped out the doorway and mocking them for being Christian.

Although there is a sizeable Christian population in the Mehmoodabad area, the John family is the only one on their street of 15 to 20 Muslim families, he said, adding that the neighbors tried various antics to force them out.

“Soon after the Muslims started harassing us, I had made up my mind that I would not let my children suffer in this environment,” he said. “I was waiting for the 12-month rental agreement to finish so that we could relocate to some other area or even go to Lahore and start afresh. I wish I had the financial means to leave that neighborhood earlier.”

Alvin John said that when a group of Muslims started pelting their home with stones the evening of Aug. 18, they broke window panes and damaged the gate.

He said that the Muslim leading the assailants, Ihsan, was affiliated with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a Karachi-based political party notorious for supporting gangs of assassins and extortionists in the financial hub of the country.

“After the attackers left the scene, I told some neighbors who had gathered there that we were going to launch legal action and sought their assistance in the matter,” he said. “However, around 11 p.m., some 30 armed Muslims attacked our house again, this time forcing their way into our home. Someone had informed them about our intention to approach the police, so they had come to ‘teach us a lesson.’”

He said that the assailants beat him and his two sons as his wife and daughter screamed in panic.

“They beat Vikram mercilessly while my younger [22-year-old] son Sunil and I made frantic efforts to save him,” he said. “The Muslims beat us too, but our injuries are not serious. The attackers also broke the furniture and ransacked our other belongings.”

Police and other security officers eventually arrived and took them to Jinnah Hospital, where they learned that Vikram John, a chemical engineering student, had lost sight in his left eye, besides serious injuries to other parts of his body, he said.

Alvin John said he suspects police have made no arrests because of the Muslim gang’s political backing.

“I was contacted by the brother of a senator belonging to the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, who assured us of support in registering the case and bringing the assailants to justice, but so far there has been no progress in the arrests,” he said.

Mehmoodabad Police Inspector Muhammad Sarwar told Morning Star News that police were making efforts to arrest the accused persons.

“No one, including MQM or any other political or religious group, can go scot-free after committing such crimes,” he said.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Sen. Saeed Ghani told Morning Star News by phone from Karachi that he had been informed about the incident by PPP Christian lawmaker Anthony Naveed.

“My brother Farhan Ghani, who is the chairman of the local municipality in Mehmoodabad, is already extending full cooperation to Naveed in helping the Christian family seek justice,” Ghani said. “It is against Islam’s preaching to target people belonging to minority communities, and PPP has always condemned religious extremism and persecution.”

Pakistan is ranked fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 Word Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Police in Pakistan Kill Young Christian Man in Raid, Relatives Say

Body of Waqas Masih. (Morning Star News)

Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Poor Christians in Pakistan commonly see police target them for extortion on false charges, and last week such a case ended in the death of a 24-year-old Christian, relatives said.

On the assumption that Christians with few legal resources can be targeted with impunity in the 96-percent Muslim country, policemen on May 29 killed Waqas Masih when his uncle refused their demand for money after they threatened to file false charges, the relatives said. Police are now pressuring the family to drop the murder case, they said.

The slain young man’s mother, a widow who belongs to a Pentecostal church, told Morning Star News that three policemen forced their way into the home of her brother, rickshaw driver Saleem Masih, in in Punjab Province’s Haider Colony, Gujrat District. Saleem Masih had recruited Waqas Masih and other relatives to help him with a construction project at his residence.

“Around 6 p.m., I was informed that three policemen had beaten my son to death,” Khalida Bibi, a sweeper at a hospital, told Morning Star News. “The police are now mounting pressure on us to ‘reconcile’ with their accused colleagues. They were initially reluctant to even arrest the accused, but eventually they had to take them into custody when we threatened to launch protests.”

Saleem Masih’s son, Emmanuel Saleem, told Morning Star News that he and other relatives were sitting in the courtyard of their home when three officers identified only as Shoaib, Shehbaz and Saqib forced their way in around 5:15 p.m.

“We asked them what they wanted, to which they said that they had information that we are drug peddlers and that they had raided the house to recover the narcotics,” he said, adding that the allegation was frivolous as the three policemen were notorious for blackmailing poor people in the area.

“We are poor Christians, but we earn our livelihood with honesty and integrity,” Emmanuel Saleem said. “We knew that the policemen were there for extorting money, but since we had done nothing wrong, my father chose to confront them rather than succumb to their blackmail.”

A heated argument ensued between his father and the police, and they began threatening to file false charges against him and other family members, he said.

“This must have panicked Waqas, who ran outside the house,” Emmanuel Saleem said. “The three cops ran after him, as did my other cousins, Qaiser and Dawood. The cops got hold of Waqas soon after and started hitting him mercilessly with punches, kicks and gun butts. Qaiser and Dawood tried to save Waqas from the police torture, but they were pushed back and warned not to intervene in the beating.”

His two cousins had returned to the house to tell his father what had happened when the policemen arrived and told them to check on Waqas Masih, saying he was “feigning illness,” Emmanuel Saleem said.

“We immediately rushed toward Waqas and saw him lying on the street, motionless,” he said, adding that he had already died by the time they arrived.

Waqas Masih worked as an assistant gardener at a government-run, rural health center. Asked why he had run from the house, Emmanuel Saleem said police often target poor Christians for extortion and file fake charges against them when they don’t have anything to pay. He said this was not the first time local police had illegally entered a home and beat Christians.

“Waqas was a very honest and hard-working young man who had no criminal history,” he said. “I guess he got frightened after the policemen threatened to implicate the cousins in fake cases.”

He confirmed that officials were pressuring the family to “pardon” the accused and give statements in their favor.

“We have even been offered money, besides threats to withdraw the FIR [First Information Report], but we have decided to hold our ground,” he said.

Police Denial

Gujrat District Police Officer (DPO) Jehanzeb Nazeer, however, denied that the accused officers were pressuring the family.

“I immediately ordered the registration of the FIR, and the three accused officials were taken into custody within 72 hours of the incident,” he said, but he added that the officers have not been formally charged with murder as the initial post-mortem report did not reveal the cause of death.

“The initial post-mortem report does not state any injury marks on the deceased’s body or the cause of death, therefore we are now waiting for a full report from the Punjab Forensic Science Agency [PFSA] before reaching a final conclusion about the incident,” he said.

Initial investigation showed the three officers raided the house on a tip that drug peddlers were present, he said.

“Waqas fled when the officials sought to frisk him, resulting in a chase,” he said. “The boy reportedly fell on the road, and one constable claims that he only kicked him twice in anger. The boy died on the spot, and the officials fled the scene.”

When asked if the deceased had any criminal record, the police chief said that they had not found any case registered against him.

Nazeer denied that the three accused officers extorted money from citizens.

“Since the matter involves a minority community, I took immediate action so that no one tries to exploit the situation for their ulterior motives,” he said. “Action will be taken in accordance with the law if the PFSA report points to police high-handedness.”

The three officders were taken into custody so that they could not influence the investigation or fabricate evidence against the victim, he added.

Pakistan is ranked fifth on Open Doors’ 2018 Word Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Pakistan: Christians told they can’t have a church in Muslim-majority village

The church in Nayya Sarabah (Chak 336) village was built in 2012 (World Watch Monitor)

Christians in a village in Pakistan’s Punjab province have been told to remove every visible sign of Christianity from their church, six months after being forced to sign a form pledging they would no longer hold services, reports World Watch Monitor.

The 40 Christian families in Nayya Sarabah (Chak 336) village, part of Toba Tek Singh district near Faisalabad, haven’t held a service since before Christmas.

Muslim resident Hajji Muhammad Siddique told World Watch Monitor that, as “Muslims are in the majority in the village, we can’t allow a church here”.

“Now we are working with the civil administration to give a piece of land to Christians outside the village,” said Siddique, 73, who runs a dispensary. “When it is done, we will make the Christians write an agreement that they will sell this current church building or at least dismantle the church structure and crosses.”

“Most of the Christians of the village work as brick-kiln labourers,” he added. “It is only Rafaqat Masih, who, being a retired army personnel, is trying to be a leader and has helped build a church in the village.”

The church is run by Pastor Samuel Masih, but it is Rafaqat Masih, a union councillor for minorities, who has been at the forefront of efforts to resolve the matter.

“Muslims are in the majority in the village, so we can’t allow a church here.”

Most of the Christians are poor labourers. The church belongs to Full Gospel Assemblies, an evangelical group working in Pakistan, and was built on land belonging to 70-year-old Christian named Rafiq Masih.

“Rafiq is childless, so he bequeathed this property for the construction of a church building,” Rafaqat Masih told World Watch Monitor. “The construction began in 2012 and we had been holding worship services since then. But in December 2016 the local Muslims objected over it and filed an application against us in the local police station. At that time, a compromise was reached and we again started holding services. But, again, in December 2017, they submitted an application in the police station, after which we were called in and were told to sign an agreement.”

The police station in the nearby town of Rajana brought together Muslims and Christians of the village on 14 December 2017, and had them sign an agreement according to which the Christians would “hold religious ceremonies in their houses. There will be no programme in the church. If anyone will violate this agreement, then legal action will be taken. [Christians] will not gather in any house for a religious programme. If there will be any violation of this, legal action will be taken”.

That same month, the Muslims submitted an application to close down the church, and the local police and civil administration told the Christians that, as their church was not included on the official list of churches that must be provided with security on Sundays, they could no longer hold services.

(Due to the rise of terrorism, all gatherings in Pakistan are provided police security. Churches are provided security on Sunday or any other given day that Christians request police protection. However, in this case, the police told them that the church is not part of the authorised list of churches, so they cannot be provided security. Now, because security cannot be provided, they cannot come together. So in the name of security, they stopped the Christians from gathering in the church, and also from worshipping in any house.)

The Christians in the village have therefore not held a service this year, but have made frequent visits to the civil administration to either permit them to hold services in their church or to provide them with an alternative venue.

‘We are being forced to demolish the church’

Christian and Muslim villagers were called together for another meeting on Saturday, 2 June, held in the presence of Deputy Superintendent of Police Muhammad Tahir.

After the meeting, Rafaqat Masih told World Watch Monitor: “We are being forced to demolish the existing church structure and, in lieu of this, they would let us build a church on a piece of government land outside the village which is already dedicated for a school.

“They haven’t even given any documentary proof that this piece of land would be transferred to Christians. Then another issue is that we worked for several years to construct this church building. Now who is going to pay for building from scratch?”

Masih, who runs a small shop in the village, told World Watch Monitor that he had submitted an application to the Toba Tek Singh Deputy Commissioner for including the name of the church in the list of the churches which are provided security.

“The civil administration tells us that they cannot provide us security, so it is in our benefit that they have stopped us from holding a church service,” he said.

On 22 February, the Toba Tek Singh Deputy Commissioner wrote a letter to the district police chief, a copy of which World Watch Monitor has seen, saying: “Priest (sic) Samual (sic) and others of Chak No. 336/GB (Nia Saraba) Tehsil and District Toba Tek Singh has informed the [respectable] Deputy Commissioner that they have established a church in said village and the police has not permitted them to offer their prayers… I have been directed by the [respectable] Deputy Commissioner to convey you that the tension between both the parties/communities may cause an untoward situation. In view of the sensitivity of the issue, you are requested to please look into the matter at personal level and resolve the issue, to avoid any law and order situation, which may result in disturbing the peace and tranquillity of society.”

Deputy Superintendent Muhammad Tahir told World Watch Monitor that the Christians being forced to pledge to end services was not legal. “We are trying to amicably resolve this matter,” he said.

Rasheed Jalal, a member of the district council belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, said the Christians were “not being treated equally”.

He said he had met with several senior government figures, including the Provincial Minister for Human Rights and Minority Affairs, National Assembly members and Muslim clerics, but that “nothing worked”.

“Christians are peace-loving people,” said Full Gospel Assemblies Principal Dr. Liaquat M. Qaiser. “We don’t desire any conflict. If the local Muslims do not want Christians worshipping among them, then they should provide them an alternative place. They are poor people and do not have resources to buy another place and build a church once again.”

According to the Pakistan’s constitution, a person’s security is the responsibility of the state. The constitution also provides special protections for religious minorities in religious, social and economic matters. However, contrary to these constitutional protections, churches are often forced to provide for their own security, which is primarily the responsibility of the state.

Pakistani Christian youth being arrested without cause

Voice of the Persecuted Asian correspondent – Since March 2018, the Christian area of Youhanabad in Karachi city, Pakistan has been raided 3 times by secret agencies who arrested 24 young Christian males. The first raid was conducted on March 30 in which four people were arrested,  followed by another raid on April 15th with six people arrested. 14 more were taken into custody during the latest raid on May 8th. Each time, the raids were conducted between 2 – 5am when people are sleeping in the comfort of their homes.

Most of those arrested were educated males as young as 15 years old. Christians in the area shared horrific accounts where secret agents forcefully entered their homes by climbing over the walls or cutting through the locks. The agents verbally abused the women, while the young men were lined up in the street to be identified by a local named ‘Shiraz’. Apparently Shiraz had an inclination towards criminal activities and was arrested for those activities prior to the the raids. Some claim Shiraz had been asked to identify and falsely accuse the young Christian men with possession of arms and robberies.

Khurram Shahzad, a dental technician, was arrested on May 8. His wife told the press that when her husband tried to ask the grounds of his arrest, they beat and dragged him out. Witnesses claim a police mini truck with no license plate on the vehicle was used in the raid.

Akash Younus, a 15 yr. old Christian boy, was arrested on April 15, but it’s suspicious that the FIR (first incident report) was registered on April 20th. He said he had been taken to a secret location and subjected to brutal torture during his detention. He claimed that he was beaten with clubs and electrocuted as they tried to force him to admit to false charges of burglary and the possession of illegal weapons. 3 days later, he was released on bail.

Imran Robin, also a 15 yr. old, was arrested along with his elder brother, Kashif Imran, who is a 10th grade student going through board exams when he was arrested. It is believed all those arrested were likely being forced to admit to the false charges.

UCA News reported that Christian residents of Youhanabad held a protest outside St. John’s Church in Karachi against police raids on May 15. A lawyer has been hired and a report filed to contest the police claims.

Fearing more raids, parents of the Youhanabad Christian community stopped sending their children to school, or moved their youth elsewhere to protect them.

There are approximately 70,000 missing people in Pakistan, according to Defence for Human Rights Pakistan. ‘There are no formal applications against the missing persons thus forcefully disappeared.’ Source Wikipedia.

Please continue to pray for Pakistani Christians as the state continues to use gruesome tactics to subdue the community.

Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) is on the ground in Thailand offering relief for Pakistani asylum seeker families. We’ve also initiated support for brothers and sisters suffering inside the Immigration Detention Center (IDC). We intend to send in more food, hygiene products and the much-needed sundry items not offered to them by the detention centre. Donations, whether large or small, aid in our ability to carry out this mission which is highly appreciated by our persecuted family. Go with us to Thailand sharing your blessings with these dear brothers and sisters who have suffered so much. God bless you and your families.

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Candlelight vigil held for Christians killed in Quetta

On May 5, Saturday a candlelight vigil was held for the Christians who fell prey to terrorism in Quetta. This vigil was organized by ARZ Foundation, in collaboration with several Christians. On this occasion, prayers were offered for Christians who were killed in Quetta. At the same time, prayers were offered for persecuted Pakistani Christians, reports Christians in Pakistan.

RZ Foundation strongly condemned attacks on Christians in Quetta. In the month of April six Christians lost their lives in terror attacks. Incidents of persecution of Christians reported from Sialkot, Lahore, Karachi and Sahiwal were also condemned. Congregants offered prayers for the families of the victims.

Those attending this vigil lit candles in the memory of the victims and expressed sympathies with their families. Addressing the assembly, Nafees Bhatti director of ARZ Foundation, Advocate Sooba Bhatti, Mrs. Rukhsana Sooba, Rashid Pervaiz, , Bashir Nawab, Munawer Rajput, Barkat Bernard and Mrs. Saleema termed these recent attacks on Pakistani Christians as an attempt to create hatred and discord on religious grounds.

All of them demanded that in the wake of attacks on Pakistani Christians government must ensure special security measures for churches and Christians. They said that in keeping with the orders issued by the Supreme Court back in 2014. The participants said the government must take steps to implement the apex court’s ruling regarding the religious minorities. They chanted slogans against terrorists; towards the end of the ceremony they appreciated the efforts of ARZ Foundation.

On April 15, Sunday when the worshipers from Seventh – day Adventist church were going back to their homes, unidentified gunmen on motorbikes opened fire at a group of Christian worshipers outside the church. A local police official told AFP that “Four men on two motorbikes opened indiscriminate fire, killing two people while injuring three others”. The deceased included Rahib Khalid and Azhar Iqbal who were rushed to the hospital but succumbed to their injuries.

Earlier on April 2, a day after Easter four Christians; all members of same family were gunned down by terrorists in Quetta’s Shah Zaman Road. The victims included a woman, died on the spot. Police confirmed that unidentified attackers were riding motorbikes, and opened indiscriminate fire on the four outside their house.

Please remember them in your prayers.

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