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A crowd of Turkish Christians from Andrew Brunson’s Izmir Resurrection Church greeted their pastor with cries of “We love you, Andrew!” as he arrived home under police escort on Wednesday afternoon, 25 July.
(World Watch Monitor) After nearly 22 months in detention, Brunson was released at 5.30pm from Izmir’s Kiriklar maximum security prison and transferred to house arrest following a court order responding to his lawyer’s appeal, which cited health reasons.
However, the pastor will now not be allowed to leave the confines of his home until his next hearing, scheduled for 12 October.
Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for 23 years, has been on trial for terrorism and spying charges – of having links with the Fethullah Gülen movement, which the Ankara government blames for the failed July 2016 coup attempt, and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Last week the Second High Penal Court in the western province of İzmir rejected an appeal to release him in its latest hearing, 18 July, and decided to continue listening to the testimonies of witnesses in the next hearing. Western observers in the court told World Watch Monitor there was not one piece of evidence so far produced to indicate the pastor is guilty of any crime, and that his trial is for political expediency. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wants Gülen to be extradited back to Turkey (the cleric is currently living in the US) to stand trial for the 2016 coup.
Brunson was detained nearly two years ago, in October 2016, and faces up to 35 years in prison if found guilty. The pastor has completely denied all the charges, calling them “shameful and disgusting”.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Vice Chair Kristina Arriaga, who attended the hearing in Aliağa, near Izmir, welcomed his release from prison but said more needed to be done.
“This is welcome news,” she said. “It is good that Pastor Brunson will have some relief after being held in a Turkish prison for more than 600 days. But it is not enough. The Turkish government has deprived this innocent man of his due process rights and liberty for too long, and it must completely release him. If it fails to do so, the Trump Administration and the Congress should respond strongly and swiftly with targeted sanctions against the authorities responsible.”—
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.
A group of liberal clergy gathered at a Fort Worth, Texas abortion clinic to “bless” its staff and patients, sing “Hallelujah,” and support abortion as a woman’s “God-given right.”
The Texas Observer reported liberal clergy organized by the Religious Institute gathered last Thursday, November 9, to pray for God’s blessings over the abortion clinic and counter the narrative “Anti-abortion advocacy is often inextricably tied to religion.”
The pro-abortion prayer event was organized by Kentina Washington-Leapheart, a minister who earned her Master of Divinity degree from the United Methodist-affiliated Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and director of programs for reproductive justice and sexuality education at the Religious Institute. READ MORE
The Hascemite Monarchy says it will renew efforts to protect the existence and identity of Arab Christians.
King Abdullah II of Jordan reiterated during a meeting with Archbishop Justin Welby, Primate of the Anglican Communion, who was received in Amman on Tuesday, May 2. During the conversation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Monarch re-presented Jordan as a model of harmonious coexistence between Christians and Muslims. In the meeting – reports Jordanian media – King Abdullah also argued that recent unilateral regulations put into effect by Israel create hidden dangers for Christian and Muslim Holy places in Jerusalem, reiterating that the Hashemite Monarchy has the intention to reject any attempt to alter the “Arab identity of the Holy City area in which they are concentrated. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 3/5/2017)
In a newly shared CBN report, they describe as shocking, an ordinary French citizen who has been watching the Islamization of Paris decided that the world needed to see what was happening to his city. The report also offers a warning to the West by French politician, Jean-François Copé.
In April 2014, we shared a video report highlighting ‘No Go Zones’ in France. The report Muslim immigrants refusing to assimilate into French society, taking over areas and terrorizing French natives in communities some families have lived in for generations.
A head pastor of a large Canadian church has failed to return from a humanitarian mission to North Korea, and the Canadian government has reached out to try to locate him. Lisa Pak, a spokeswoman for the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in suburban Toronto said that 60-year-old Reverend Hyeon Soo Lim has made hundreds of trips to North Korea, where he helps oversee a nursing home, a nursery and an orphanage in the Rajin region. Pak said they have not heard from Lim since Jan. 31 but were not initially worried because he is an experienced traveler and knows the country well. They also thought he could be caught up by North Korea’s quarantine of foreign travelers who may have been exposed to Ebola.