VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

Home » Victories

Category Archives: Victories

Archives

40 Pakistani Christians freed after almost 5 years in prison on trial for ‘terrorism’

Location near where a mob burnt alive two men in angry reaction to twin church suicide bomb attacks in Youhanabad, March 2015. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

(World Watch Monitor) Forty Pakistani Christians, who’ve been on trial for the murder of two men during a violent protest following Easter suicide attacks on two churches in Youhanabad – a majority-Christian area in Lahore – have been freed by the Lahore Anti-Terrorism Court. Two others, arrested with them, have already died, allegedly due to a lack of access to medical treatment.

The twin suicide bombings, on 15 March 2015, which killed 17 and injured another 80, were claimed by a splinter group of the Taliban, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. The death toll would have been much higher if church volunteers on ‘security duty’ had not acted quickly to defend worshippers.

In riots that erupted following the bomb blasts, a mob killed two Muslim men whom they believed had been involved in the attacks. In the end 42 Christians went on trial for their murder, but two died in prison before 2018. The other 40 have been waiting for their appeal to be heard by the Lahore High Court. Meantime, the group have reached a financial settlement with the families of the two men, which under Pakistani law allows for all their acquittal.

The Anti-Terrorism Court announced the verdict on 29 January, acquitting all, including those who had died, after recording the statements of the victims’ families, who told the court that they had arrived at an agreement with the suspects and would have no objections over their acquittal.

A local reacted: “As we give thanks as Christians in Pakistan, one cannot get away from the brutal realities of what this means. The journey of physical, emotional and spiritual healing ahead is a long one. Pray for the right people to be positioned alongside them.

“We also reflect on the lives and deaths of the two [who died in prison]. If they had not, the release of the 40 would not have happened. Their deaths acted as catalysts and became an advocacy bridge for pushing for action and justice”.

Background

In 2015, the Christians of Yohanabad had been angry in the immediate aftermath of the twin suicide attacks on their churches because in 2014, Pakistan’s Supreme Court had ordered the creation of a special police force to protect minority worship places – but this had been later scrapped. Punjab Human Rights and Minority Affairs Minister, Khalil Tahir Sandhu, had said “there was no need of raising another force for this purpose” because the protection of worship places “was quite satisfactory in the Punjab and reasonable security was being provided”.

Napoleon Qayyum, who lived 100 yards from one of the bombed churches, said police were not providing security to the church: “The local police station had been requested to provide a walk-through gate for security, but no such measure was put in place.”

A Catholic nun, Sister Arsene, who had reached one church 30 minutes after it had been bombed, tried to explain to the BBC why the subsequent anger had spilled out of control. “We’re treated as second class citizens. We’d like the government to give Christians our due place and due right. That’s why the angry youths reacted.”

At the time, there were conflicting reports about the two men set upon by the angry mob. Some reports said the two carried weapons, other reports said they had been firing them.

The two, who had been arrested and put into a police vehicle, were apparently forced out of the vehicle, beaten up and eventually burned alive on Ferozepur Road. Some social media reported they were suspects thought to have attacked the churches. Other reports said they were, separately, planning to attack another small church in Khaliqnagar, a Christian settlement next to Yahounabad.

However, some days later, they were finally identified as Muhammad Naeem, a local glasscutter, and Babar Nauman, a hosiery worker from Sargodha; it appeared that they had had nothing to do with the church attacks.

News of their murder filled the Pakistani media, somewhat overshadowing the deaths of the 17 Christians and injury to 80 more. As gory images of their lynching ran on TV and more details emerged, for many Pakistanis earlier sympathy with the Christian community slowly turned into animosity. One young Muslim commented on a Facebook post:

“Christians (Chuhras) have set on fire two Muslims today. I am only sad about their death.” (“Chuhra” is a pejorative term often used to describe Christians).

Easter 2015 suicide attacks repeated Easter 2016, but foiled in 2017

“The Tehrik-e-Taliban Jamaatul Ahrar accepts responsibility for the [2015] attacks on the churches in Lahore,” its spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan later told reporters. “We promise that until an Islamic system is put into place in Pakistan, such attacks will continue. If Pakistan’s rulers think they can stop us, they can try.”

In March 2016, on Easter Sunday, the Pakistani Christian community experienced the deadliest terror attack in the history of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous, and most Christian, state when the same Jamaat-ul-Ahrar bombed a popular children’s park in Lahore as families thronged to enjoy their holiday. At least 76 died, many of them children, with over 300 injured.

(Christians make up just 2 per cent of overwhelmingly Muslim Pakistan. They are somewhat more prevalent in Lahore, which has about 10 million people, about 5 per cent of whom are Christian).

At Easter 2017, Pakistan’s security forces said they prevented a “major” terror attack on Christians in Lahore over the same weekend. The police caught the attackers in time, killing one suspect, Ali Tariq, and making two arrests during a Good Friday raid at the Punjab Housing Society in Lahore. Two suicide vests and four grenades were recovered from the scene.

Earlier, police had released a memo warning the city’s residents: “Reliable sources have informed us that two suicide bombers of an unidentified terrorist organisation have entered Lahore with the intention of carrying out attacks in churches or parks on 16/17 April. They have been equipped with suicide jackets and will target areas where the presence of Christians will be high.”

One of those arrested was a 20 year old woman, Naureen Leghari, who’d been to join Islamic State group in Syria. The medical student confessed to returning to Lahore with the intention of carrying out a suicide bombing against a church during Easter 2017, according to an interview broadcast on local television.

Police later released her, saying that she had undergone rehabilitation and that IS had deceived her.

Prosecutor offered 40 their freedom if they converted to Islam

In May 2017, it came to light that the Lahore deputy district public prosecutor Syed Anees Shah had told the 40 Christians that they would be freed if they converted to Islam. He was later found guilty of proselytism and suspended.

Shah was criticised for his alleged comment by Malik Muhammmad Ahmed Khan, then-special assistant to the chief minister of Punjab, who said the offer “is not just shameful but a heinous crime … We are all set to end the extremist mindset and steer the country to a tolerant and moderate society. Therefore, we cannot tolerate anyone in the government machinery with this mindset”.

Pakistan’s Senate Special Committee on Human Rights said almost two years ago that “terrorism charges against the [Christians] arrested should be dropped and they should be tried in civil courts”, as Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported.

At that time (May 2018), then-Senator Farhatullah Babar said: “[Three] years ago, two churches were targeted in Youhanabad, as a result of which [many] Christian citizens died. People in the area conducted protests to condemn the deaths of their fellow citizens – as is their right. These people were charged with terrorism and have been rotting in jail.”

In September, 2013, a suicide bomber had blown himself up outside a 130-year-old church in Peshawar after Sunday Mass, killing around 80.

The group’s acquittal came on the same day that the most well-known Pakistani Christian, Asia Bibi, published her biography (in French only, ‘Enfin Libre’ (Free at Long Last), written with French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet, author of two previous books with the woman who survived 9 years in prison on false charges of blasphemy.

“You know my story from the media, perhaps you have tried to put yourself in my place to understand what I suffered,” Asia Bibi was quoted saying in a press release announcing the new book. “But you are far from understanding my day to day existence in prison, or my new life, and that is why I tell you everything in this book.”

VOP Note: The public launch for the new book will happen on 1 February. Translation into other languages will soon be available as well.

Andrew Brunson Speaks to European Parliment, Releases Book and Records Song Written in Prison

Pastor Andrew Brunson suffered exteme persecution at the hands of the Turkish government – Photo: Fady Gergis Youtube capture

(Voice of the Persecuted) American Pastor Andrew Brunson recently spoke to members of the European Parliament in Brussels. Andrew shared what it was like to live as a pastor in Turkey since 1993. He described those 25 years as “twenty-three by choice, two by force in the prisons”, and as spending those combined years telling people about the Good News of Jesus Christ. Though he and his wife suffered in Turkey, Andrew said they still loved the Turkish people and have no regrets they went there and did the work that made him a target for persecution. Andrew started several churches and had done this openly, with nothing to hide, in front of Turkish authorities. “It wasn’t a job for me. I fully believe in what we did, and I don’t try to hide that my call is to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. I believe He is the only way of salvation and I don’t apologize for saying that. We spent 25 years in Turkey not to undermine the system in any way but to bring God’s offer of eternal life.”

Turkey has a large unreached people group who have never heard the Gospel of Christ, which is why Brunson agreed to go when asked all those years ago. It may surprise you that the Turkish people are often forgotten in prayer, but Pastor Brunson’s imprisonment has changed that. During his incarceration, Brunson was told about the unprecedented prayer movement taking place on his behalf. He said he didn’t feel worthy of it, but certainly needed prayer and was very grateful. As basically an unknown, he wondered why millions of people were praying for him. He concluded that God was using this with intentions to pour prayer into Turkey. “I rode a wave of prayer out of Turkey but…there was a tsunami of prayer that crashed into Turkey that is going to bring great blessing to that country…God was using my imprisonment for good in that way.”

Background: In 2016, the Brunson’s had believed they were called into the local police station to receive long term visa’s, but instead told there was an order for their arrest and they would be held for deportation. It was an unusual detainment for a Westerner who would normally be notified weeks in advance about deportation. They spent 13 days in the center under total silence without knowing why they had been detained and no legal or consular services. Andrew said that he remembers seeing the U.S. Consulate being turned away at the gates of the deportation center. They repeatedly asked what was happening and when they would be deported but only told, Ankara will decide. At the end of the 13 days, his wife, Norine was released but Andrew was imprisoned for “terrorism” for more than two years. Not wanting to leave him, Norine remained in Turkey during his imprisonment.

Attempts by Ankara to use Brunson as a political pawn for the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed. The U.S. responded to the imprisonment and false espionage and terror-related charges against Brunson with sanctions. On August 1, 2018, the U.S. Department of Treasury imposed sanctions on two Turkish government officials who were involved in the detention of Brunson. Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu had their assets frozen in the United States, they were prohibited from traveling to the U.S., or engaging in any financial transactions with American citizens. On August 9, the Trump Adminstration raised tariffs on Turkish products. Erdogan followed with tariffs on U.S. products. The U.S. sanctions proved to put a greater pressure on Turkey and on October 12, 2018, Brunson was convicted on the charge of aiding terrorism, but sentenced to time served. He was released from Turkish custody and immediately returned to the United States.

During the European Parliament meeting, Andrew thanked the MEP’s for there concern about religious freedom and using their position to advance it. He also warned of the heightened level of pressure now being experienced by Christians in Turkey. Many lies were often shared about Brunson in the Turkish media supported and controlled by Erdogan’s Islamic government. He some what became the face of Christianity in Turkey. Andrew said there’s been a significant increase of hate speech, tension and distrust since his case.

“I think the environment has been created so when there is increased persecution against Christians, now most Turks are conditioned to say, They deserve it,” he added.

As we at Voice of the Persecuted asked you to pray for Andrew from the beginning of his detention, we now plead with you to keep Christians in Turkey as well as the Turkish people in your prayers.

During the session, Andrew also told the MEP’s about an interesting dream he had in prison about Turkey, Iran and Russia. Andrew said he believed it was God inspired. Voice of the Persecuted highly recommends that you watch the video below of Brunson’s full speech in the European Parliament.

Inspiring

In his most difficult time as a prisoner in Turkey, Andrew wrote a song in Buca Maximum Security Prison only two weeks after the Turkish government falsely accused him of being a spy and helping to lead a coup attempt. These new charges carried an automatic three life sentences in solitary confinement with no parole. Andrew sang this song every day for the remainder of his two years in prison. Listen as Andrew’s explains the story behind the song.

With the help of Fady Gergis, Andrew’s song titled, Worthy Of My All – is now available as a free download. He recorded it at International House of Prayer in Kansas City (IHOPKC). Gergis said, “This song carries such a powerful testimony of continuing to believe that Jesus is worthy while almost having no hope of getting out of prison.” You can download it for free at this link. Fill in your email address, and you will receive a link for the download.

 

Andrew recently published book. You can preview and purchase God’s Hostage: A True Story of Persecution, Imprisonment, and Perseverance here.

British Court Upholds Right of Christians to Freely Express Their Faith – Felix Ngole

Wikimedia Commons

After four years, a Christian student won his appeal in a UK appeals court after he was expelled from college for expressing his faith on sexual ethics in a debate on social media, according to CBN News.

Felix Ngole was dismissed from the University of Sheffield in 2016 where he was studying to become a social worker.

He was expelled for his participation in a 2015 Facebook discussion opposing same-sex-marriage. Being a devout Christian, he quoted biblical verses confirming the traditional Christian views on marriage.

A complaint was filed against Ngole by an anonymous source several months after the Facebook discussion. He was told by the university that he “lacked insight’ into the effect of his Facebook posts. The expression of his Christian views was found to be unacceptable by the university, and he was required to stay silent on the subject while attending the school.

Ngole was also told not to express his Christian views in public, including a church. He could never express his viewpoint in a work situation even if directly asked.

In their decision, the Court of Appeals rebuked the university saying that people should not live in fear when expressing their views. The court said, “The mere expression of religious views about sin does not necessarily connote discrimination.”

Ngole was represented by religious rights attorney, Paul Diamond, who objected to the university’s disciplinary process of silencing speech.

The student took to Facebook and expressed gratitude for his victory, writing:

“You say something that your employer doesn’t like and they expel you. And we know that type of thing that you would say that would lead to that. Most of it is just expressing your faith which as a Christian country we should be able to do that.” Read More

ASIA BIBI HAS LEFT PAKISTAN FOR CANADA


(Voice of the Persecuted) ASIA IS FREE!

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

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

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

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

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

The Guardian quoted her Muslim lawyer, Saif Ul Malook,

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

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

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

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

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

Pakistan court upholds Asia Bibi blasphemy acquittal. She is free!

Pakistani Christian aquitted of Blasphemy charges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Pakistan Christian Post

The most precious Gift, Merry Christmas from VOP!


In the darkness of night, Christ was born to bring hope and light into the world. He did what no other could accomplish; salvation to all who believe, love and follow Him. Joy to the world, no other gift can compare!

This Christmas, let us reflect not on the trials, but on all God’s blessings in our lives. Let us thank the Lord for His faithfulness to bring hope to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners. We thank God for comforting all who mourn, giving them strength and peace. For the ability to praise in the midst of trials, He goes with us in every storm.

As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, please take a moment to remember and pray for those who are suffering for their faith in Jesus. All over the world, persecuted believers are worshiping God for the greatest gift ever given to mankind, salvation through Christ alone. They’re counting their suffering as worthy to be in Him as part of the Body of Christ.

To all our persecuted brothers and sisters, our advocates and workers in the field, supporters and friends of Voice of the Persecuted, Rejoice! In the name of the Lord, Rejoice! Christ is King and Savior of the world. May Peace be your gift at Christmas and your blessing all through the year. We thank you for standing with us in the ministry!

God bless you,

From the Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) Team

SC accepts Asia Bibi’s appeal against execution, orders immediate release!

The Supreme Court on Wednesday acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman condemned to death on blasphemy charges after accepting her 2015 appeal against her sentence.

“The judgement of the high court and that of the trial court is reversed,” Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar said, reading out the verdict. He added that Asia Bibi should be set free if she is not wanted in any other case.

“Her conviction is set aside and she is to be relieved forthwith if not required in other charges,” the judgement read. (Dawn)

All glory to GOD in the Highest!

We congratulate to Pakistan for their courage!

%d bloggers like this: