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Prayer Request from Pakistan (10/26/17)

Please could you pray for the Christian prisoners of Pakistan who have lost their religious freedom and facing persecution by the Inspector General of Prisons Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan. He has stopped the religious syllabus/Bible study, worship services and religious remission for Minorities prisoners. They also have no opportunity to improve their education under rule 215 of the Pakistan Prison Rulers (Jail Manual)  reference to the Writ petition No.599 /1994,dated 01-02-1994 in the Lahore High Court Lahore by Maurice Shahbaz, under articles 37 and 38 of Pakistan’s constitution (1973), a policy of the state to eradicate illiteracy from the country.
On numerous visits and writing to the Government official and other authorities to solve the matter, still, no action has been taken. 
Many Pakistani Christians are routinely persecuted, tortured, raped and murdered by a society that does not tolerate them. I call upon all members of the global Christian community to speak on behalf of the Christians in Pakistan and to highlight the distressing, dangerous and life-threatening conditions we live under. I appeal to you  to help us survive this persecution and to speak on our behalf at the highest religious and governmental levels, worldwide. I pray that the Almighty Lord make you a part of our mission.
Thank you. God bless you.

Key Figure in Fight for Religious Freedom in Egypt Freed, Declares Return to Islam

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(Morning Star News) – After more than two and a half years of unlawful detention and abuse at the hands of the Egyptian government, a prominent convert from Islam to Christianity has issued a public statement declaring he has returned to Islam.

Mohammed Hegazy, also known by his Christian name, Bishoy Armia Hegazy, posted on Saturday (July 30) the statement of Islamic faith known as the Shahadah on YouTube (recorded the previous day) and declared the supremacy of its prophet, Muhammad. Hegazy then said he wouldn’t discuss his return to Islam or speak to the media again.

“I went through an experience with all its good and bad and all that is in it, but it was an experience,” Hegazy said on the video. “But praise be to God who strengthens me in Islam. I am not coming today to talk about specific things, because it was a personal thing between a person and God. But I am coming today because I hurt a lot of people in my family and my friends and caused them a lot of problems.”

Hegazy apologized to family members, who had threatened to kill him after he became a Christian.

The fact that Hegazy declared that he wasn’t speaking under duress but at the same time would no longer speak to media has aroused concern among human rights activists in Egypt that he may have been coerced or threatened to make the statement. More likely, they fear that after Hegazy’s time in prison, where he was subject to a constant stream of beatings, abuse, humiliation and held for more than a year and seven months without charge, he simply succumbed to the pressure and, rather than face a lifetime of indefinite imprisonment, chose to make a public act of conversion.

After Hegazy’s initial release in July, attorney Karam Ghobrial asked that Morning Star News not publish the information to protect his safety. Since then, Ghobrial has declined to talk about the case other than to confirm that he thinks that Hagazy made his confession of faith because he was a terrified and broken man.

He noted Hegazy seemed stilted in he video, and that the statement he gave seemed scripted.

“I personally think that he recorded this video to get out,” he said.

‘Thinking about Suicide’

Hegazy was released on bail on July 23 after spending more than three weeks being transferred from prison to prison across Egypt, under the direct orders of the Ministry of Interior (MOI), according to Ghobrial, Hegazy’s attorney during his imprisonment. It was unclear if he still faces charges.

On June 26 a judge ordered that Hegazy be released from prison, and the next day, after posting a bond of 5,000 Egyptian pounds (US$565), he should have been released. But instead, in what his lawyer said in June was part of an ongoing multi-year effort to break Hegazy’s will and force him to convert back to Islam, the government’s internal security police detained him without charge June 29 at a local jail in Ain Shams. It was the second time the MOI denied Hegazy his freedom in defiance of a standing court order for his release.

Since June 29, security agents from the MOI transferred Hegazy to at least four different prisons or police holding cells no less than six times with no hope of ever being released, and without giving any reason why he was being detained, his attorney said. With each transfer, Hegazy became increasingly suicidal. The last time Ghobrial saw Hegazy, the prisoner was at a breaking point, the attorney said.

“It broke my heart to see him crying at the police station today,” Ghobrial said after a rare visit to see Hegazy. “I couldn’t do anything to help him. He’s lost hope in life and is thinking about suicide.”

‘Here He Is – Kill Him’

After being transported to the jail in the Ain Shams police station, authorities started giving Hegazy the first in what would prove to be a long list of conditions in order for him to be released, according to Ghobrial. The terms seemed designed to keep Hegazy in police custody; they were impossible to complete, or, if successfully completed, would have exposed him to attacks from Muslims still enraged about his leaving Islam.

Among the terms the MOI said Hegazy had to meet before he could be released was providing a valid residential address to security police. In effect, this meant he had to rent an apartment or find some other place to live while detained in jail with no access to any form of communication.

It was a task that would have been difficult to achieve anywhere, but in a country where more than 80 percent of the population thinks the national government should execute apostates from Islam, according to Pew Research Center figures, it was impossible. An alternate condition officials set, and the one that Hegazy finally met, was to return to live with his parents, who were the first people to turn him in to the government for leaving Islam and who have made no secret about their desire to see him dead for converting.

“I feel like [releasing him to his parents] would be the end of Hegazy,” Ghobrial told Morning Star News in July. “Because Port Said is a small city, and it isn’t only his parents who live there but his whole extended family. Port Said is where he converted to Christianity. He will be easy to recognize and easy to kill. I don’t understand the police’s insistence that he live with his parents. It’s basically like saying, ‘Here he is – kill him,’ and then handing him over on a silver platter.”

Trying to Protect his Child

Hegazy, 34, left Islam when he was 16. He began to suffer persecution almost immediately, and in 2002 he was jailed and tortured by the Egyptian internal police, then known as the State Security Investigations services (SSI).

On Aug. 2, 2007, Hegazy filed a lawsuit to force the Ministry of Interior to change the religious affiliation listed on his state-mandated national identification card from Muslim to Christian. Hegazy said in 2007 that he filed the case mainly to protect his soon-to-be-born child from being forced to suffer the same persecution he experienced. In 2008 he lost the case, but never appealed the decision.

In response to the lawsuit, some Islamic leaders in Egypt called for Hegazy’ death, and he suffered through numerous attacks, including having his home set on fire by a group of militant Muslims. Eventually he was forced into hiding.

In 2011, when the “Arab Spring” revolution started in Egypt, Hegazy was able to come out of hiding, convinced that he could enjoy relative anonymity in the chaos that ensued through out the country. Hegazy tried to make a living as a freelance journalist during this time. He could also occasionally be seen on Christian talks shows broadcast by satellite into Egypt, raising his public profile even higher. For some Christians, especially converts in Egypt, he became a symbol of a sort.

During the summer of 2013, one of the worst waves of anti-Christian attacks in the history of Egypt took place. The spree of violence, documented at length by numerous journalists but largely denied by the government, included public kidnappings, assaults, destruction of property and attacks on several church buildings that mobs of militant Muslims burned to the ground. Hegazy went out to document the attacks.

On Dec. 2, 2013 in Minya, 260 kilometers (161 miles) south of Cairo, Egyptian authorities arrested Hegazy at a café at the Agricultural Association and accused him of working for The Way TV, a Coptic Christian-owned, U.S.-based television channel that broadcasts into Egypt via satellite. The government claimed that Hegazy was contributing to a “false image” that there was violence against Christians in Egypt.

From the start, human rights activists said the charges against Hegazy were without merit. In an official complaint filed with the Egyptian government in March 2013, 18 different human rights groups from Egypt and around the world stated that the charges against Hegazy were “clearly related to his religious conversion.”

“Mr. Hegazy’s detention, treatment, and prosecution blatantly violate Egypt’s recently established constitution, which clearly states that ‘freedom of belief is absolute,’” their complaint read. “His case is also a violation of international agreements to which Egypt has been party for decades.”

Internal documents from the MOI obtained by Morning Star News showed that during the time of his arrest, the ministry was employing at least one informant to follow Hegazy. The documents also showed that the MOI had extensively documented Hegazy’ religious life, including his conversion and even details of his baptism. The same documents also showed that, unlike Hegazy, three female journalists arrested with him were all questioned and then released.

Sometime during Hegazy’ detention, security agents from the MOI resurrected inactive blasphemy charges filed against him about the time he went into hiding in 2009. Two lawyers supported by a group of Islamists sued Hegazy for allegedly defaming Islam on the grounds that the very act of leaving Islam cast the religion into ill repute. The lawsuit was never settled and, and according to Ghobrial, passed the Egyptian statute of limitations. A court later struck down the statute of limitations.

On June 18, 2014, six months after he was arrested, a judge found Hegazy guilty on three charges stemming from the 2013 arrest, sentenced him to five years in prison and levied a fine of 500 Egyptian pounds (US$70) against him. Ghobrial immediately filed a request for appeal, and on July 20, 2014, a judge granted the appeal and ordered Hegazy be released on bail. But in the 24 hours that state prosecutors had to comply with the judge’s order, Homeland Security (HS), the post revolutionary successor to the SSI, took Hegazy into custody to be interrogated in Cairo for the 2009 lawsuit.

According to Egyptian law, HS then had to apply for 45 extensions of the detention with a time limit of six months to detain Hegazy in connection with the investigation.

On Dec. 28, 2014 while Hegazy was still in HS custody, an appeals judge upheld the charge of spreading false information meant to “cause harm or damage to the public interest” and sentenced him to a year in prison. He dismissed the two other charges against him.

Because Hegazy had already spent more than a year in prison waiting for his trial to take place and then his appeal to be heard, he should have been automatically released at the conclusion of the appeal hearing for having spent “time served,” according to his attorney. But technically, because HS only had him in its custody for five months, officials kept him in detention for another month. On Jan. 21, 2015, however, when the six-month time period expired and Hegazy should have been released, HS refused to release him and also declined to file charges against him.

In all, Hegazy has spent two years, seven months and 26 days in prison. All but one year of that time, he has been held without charge. During that time, according to his attorney, Hegazy was beaten, had his head shaved by force and suffered through constant harassment to force him to convert back to Islam. All through his ordeal, Ghobrial said, his captors offered him freedom if he would convert back to Islam.

Although the issue of the treatment of converts in Egypt doesn’t receive as much public attention outside of the country as does the persecution of the Coptic Orthodox minority by the Muslim majority, it is one of the most contentious subjects regarding religious freedom inside the country. Numerous Christians in Egypt who have left Islam to embrace their new faith have found themselves living in hiding from relatives in fear for their lives.

Although the Egyptian constitution guarantees freedom of expression and belief, security agents from the Ministry of the Interior routinely harass and arrest coverts who are suspected of leaving Islam.

In June, during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, Al-Azhar Mosque’s Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayyib, arguably the most respected Islamic scholar in the world, said during a daily TV program that leaving Islam was “treason” and that apostates should be executed.

“The penalty for an open apostate, departing from the community, is well stipulated in Sharia,” El-Tayyib said. “An apostate must be pressed upon to repent within a variable period of time or be killed.”

VOP Note:

Please pray for Christian converts who face extreme pressure, even at the hands of their own families. Pray for endurance, patience, a refreshing of faith and hope in the Lord. Pray they will fix their eyes on Jesus and be filled with peace and joy as they put their trust in him.

EUROPE: Report claims one in eight Christian refugees are attacked for their faith

 

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We have been warning of the persecution Christians are facing in refugee centers in Europe, Markus Rode head of Open Doors Germany said, the figures show “fear and panic” among Christians migrants.

Christian refugees have fled refugees centers after extreme intimidation and at times physical violence by Muslim refugees.

“Discrimination and violence against people of different beliefs exist in refugee centres much more extensively than authorities want to believe,” Rode said. “Converts are most exposed. They are seen as traitors by radical Muslims.”

231 Christian migrants residing in Germany were interviewed. The majority being  from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. 42 percent have reported insults, 37 percent said they suffered a physical injury, and 32 percent allegedly received death threats.

According to the survey, 88% said they’ve been targeted by other migrants because of their religion.Nearly half surveyed accused guards of discriminating against religious minorities or harassing them. In Germany’s refugee housing, both the migrants and the security are mostly Muslim.

The L’OBSERVATOIRE DE LA CHRISTIANOPHOBIE reported Cardinal Rainer Woelki said at an ecumenical meeting in Düsseldorf Saturday 13 February, “The fear increases that politicians and the authorities do not take seriously enough such threats [against Christians in refugee centers]. The persecution of Christians is not a thing of past ages.”  He demanded that Germany defend greater religious freedom. For his part, Pastor Gottfried Martens said the “harassment” against the Christian migrants in refugee centers in Germany has increased. He affirmed that Christians were forced to watch beheading videos, were banned from the common kitchen because  they were”unclean”, beaten and Christian necklaces torn from their necks. The pastor suggested Christians and Muslims needed to be housed in separate shelters. “When I talk to politicians, they tell me that the churches do not consider that necessary accommodations are separated and I look ridiculous (…) Our efforts to be tolerant, which is in itself praiseworthy, are not so far allow us to let Christians become a kind of guinea pigs. ”

World Watch Monitor reported Christians among the thousands of Middle Eastern migrants who have fled to Europe have discovered that a familiar burden has followed them: religious harassment.

Voice of the Persecuted shared last August how Christian refugees moved from asylum accommodation after threats by Islamists in Sweden. The Christians feared for their safety after it was demanded that they stop wearing Christian symbols, like crosses around their necks. And that they were not welcome in common areas when the aggressive Muslim group was there. After receiving no help when the atmosphere became intimidating, the Christian refugees dared not stay and decided it would be safer to find other accommodations.

Many Christians have left their homelands fleeing persecution and discrimination. They are already traumatized by their experiences. Imagine what it’s like to realize you will suffer the same discrimination and hate in a place of refuge.

Discrimination follows Christians not only from the Middle East, but those from Asia. Pakistani Christians seeking asylum in Thailand are living through extreme hardships in the UNHCR process which takes years, painstakingly long. Unable to legally work, send their children to school, constant fear of arrest and without a program to aid their basic survival and medical needs. They are trapped in a system that often fails them. Remember the horrific atrocities Nigerian Christians are facing. A staggering amount of Nigerian Christians suffer as internal refugees. They too face extreme discrimination from Muslims in the camps.  Let us shine as the Body of Christ and do more for them. Please consider partnering with us to care for those detained with their children in Immigration Detention Center and in refugee camps. To support those without means to care for their families. To give hope that they have not been forgotten by their brothers and sisters in Christ.

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.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

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

 

Forced To Flee Persecution Christians Continue To Suffer Unfair Treatment

 

 

 

Heartbroken and persecuted in Pakistan

Heartbroked and persecuted in Pakistan

(Voice of the Persecuted) Faisal was a hardworking employee who had been with the company for years. His attention to detail paid off as he successfully managed projects leading the team in the office. Happy with his work, the boss often praised him with a ‘job well done’. In the evening, he made the journey back to his wife who was preparing dinner in their rented home. It was a decent place to raise their 2 children. Faisal’s education and wages offered his family opportunities many don’t have in Pakistan. They were living comfortably and excited about their son’s high marks on the entrance exam at the private school.  Everything seemed to be going in their favor, they never anticipated their lives would soon be turned upside down.

The couple had always been strong in their Christian faith and thanked God for all their blessings.  They raised their children to know the Lord, even helping them to memorize Scriptures. They faithfully attended church and helped the pastor with church programs and missions to the poor. Faisal never hid is faith and freely shared the Gospel to all who would listen. One day, a Muslim friend approached him and they spoke about Jesus. Though somewhat heated at the beginning, Faisal was able to explain the saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His friend returned again and again, hungary to know more of this Savior. Soon, he and his family began following Jesus, along with his in-laws. Months later, a secret evening service was set up at the church for their baptism. 9 people were baptized that night.

The family’s conversion later became known to some Muslims in the community. The family eventually was forced to move to a safe location due to constant threats and pressures, even from their own family members. Faisal became a target as they blamed him for brainwashing his friend. One evening, he was approached by men unknown to him. They called him an infidel and other obscenities. They robbed him and began beating him on the street. They threatened him for spreading Christianity and tried to forcibly convert him to Islam. When he refused, they became so enraged, Faisal thought they would beat him to death and he cried out for help. The men ran way when his cries drew the attention of others who called for the men to stop. A local Christian helped him home. Faisal soon began receiving threats and his home was vandalized. His pastor became very concerned and thought he should move his family to another location.

One day, men came to his home looking for him, but he was out. They threatened his wife. They threatened their church if they kept attending. They threatened to kill them if they aided the conversion of Muslims to Christianity. A few nights later, the windows of their home were smashed. The family shifted to the home of a friend and Faisal chose not go to his job for fear of being assaulted or worse. His extended family members were also approached and asked to give up Faisal’s location. They too were threatened.

Advised by his pastor, Faisal took all their savings and fled to another country to seek asylum with the UNHCR. He wanted to live in a place where his children could worship and grow up without fear. Expenses to survive was much higher than they had expected. It wasn’t long before they’re visa’s expired and they were left penniless. Faisal sought out odd jobs to support his family, but did so at great risk of arrest and being sent to the detention center. If arrested, his wife and children would be left to fend for themselves, as they would not have the means to bail him out. Life became hard and they also relied on charity from others. (Name changed for security purposes)

In the case of a woman who had been left on her own, she struggled to find ways to care for her children. It broke her heart as she heard her children wail with pain from hunger. She was forced to beg in the streets to buy them milk. On Sunday’s, she and her children stood near the steps of a church praying the church members would have compassion for them. Some would give her the equivalent of a dollar or two and on rare occasions $20. But the majority would walk past her, while some shamed her or yelled to get out of their way. This shattered any dignity she had left. But every Sunday, she swallowed her pride and found herself back at the church steps, she had no other choice in this foreign land.

kidnappedAnother danger in places like Thailand is sex trafficking. Thailand is known throughout the world for this booming industry. Many asylum seekers fear for their young daughters, that they may be abducted then sold. Knowing how vulnerable they are, many girls are constantly approached by traffickers trying to lure them in. A few weakened by desperation have fallen for their trap. Some will tell you, “I had no other choice.” How sad it is to lose even one sister to this life of abuse, simply because she could find no compassion from others.

The stories above are not uncommon. Many who have left Pakistan due to persecution have traveled to Thailand for asylum. The Thai government brings further hardships as they don’t recognize asylum seekers, nor the UNHRC asylum seeker certificates that should protect them. When their visa’s expire they are considered illegals. If arrested, they’re thrown into the Immigration Detention Centre, along with it’s horrific conditions. The UNHCR office is burdened by thousands of asylum applications, while the office remains understaffed. The 24 month wait for a scheduled interview is often postponed by the office for another year . We’ve found this to be the case for many Pakistani Christians interview dates. Determination status and transfer to welcoming nations has taken as long as 6 years. That’s an unbearable amount of time for anyone to continue suffering without the means to change their conditions.

As illegals, they’re children are not allowed to go to school. They are not allowed a work permit and arrested if found working. They are given little to no aid and must beg or take risks to survive. It’s even harder for women with children, or those who suffer health conditions which prevent them from finding odd jobs. Many can’t afford medical treatment and medications for their illnesses. They’re unable to take their sick children to a doctor. They suffer in silence, or succumb to their disease.

The refugee crisis in the Middle East has taken over media headlines and government meetings, as they try to deal with the woes it is causing. Churches and organizations are now focusing their attention on these refugees. Based on numbers or rules as to how government grants must be used, many Christian refugees/asylum seekers from the Mid East and elsewhere are falling through the cracks. We see this being the case for the large number of Pakistani Christians in Thailand. We recently heard of a case where a Pakistani Christian had applied for sponsorship of his family with a church in a western nation. The process began very promising as they communicated back and forth. Sadly, the church later informed this brother that they were now only approving sponsorship for those coming from Iraq or Syria. He was heartbroken when the high hopes for his family’s freedom and an end to their ongoing pain in Thailand came crashing down in a single communication.

Thailand has stepped up their efforts and regularly raids low cost housing complexes known to house asylum seekers. The Bangkok Post reported in an article titled, ‘Migrant crackdown steps up’ that the Immigration Bureau claimed to only arrest those who have committed crimes. It’s true that some foreigners have entered with criminal intentions, but this is not the scope of the current situation in Bangkok. They are arresting anyone found with expired visa’s, as in the case of Pakistani Christians. The article states, Some of these refugees were found to be breaking Thai laws by working without permits. But their only crime is waiting on the UNHCR process to move them to a country of refuge, and working odd jobs to feed and shelter their families. It is unjust to expect them to starve to death, when the programs designed to help them are failing. What’s criminal is to expect them to return to a nation where they will face severe persecution, death sentences or lose their lives by the hands of extremists. They cannot return and like many other Christians fleeing persecution, they’re running out of safe places to go. How can we turn our backs on them?

Child arrested with his mother and brought to court in caged police van. Children remain incarcerated along side their parents.

Child arrested with his mother and brought to court in caged police van. Children remain incarcerated along side their parents.

Pakistani Christians make up the largest number of those seeking asylum in Bangkok. To be treated as they are and often prevented from bail outs from the IDC is inhumane. Voice of the Persecuted is caring for a family who took in another family’s children, both parents are locked up at the detention centre. Recently, all the adults but one woman in this family was arrested and taken to the IDC. She now must care for 9 kids on her own. Also alone, another woman has been caring for her 6 children. Her husband has been held in the IDC for 5 months. The struggles they face in Thailand is an unfair burden on the many who have already suffered so much. Voice of the Persecuted would like to see the Thai government do more to work with the UNHCR for the protection of valid asylum seekers, including allowing work permits so they can support their families. We would like to see the UNHCR Bangkok work on solutions to better staff their office and process asylum cases with greater efficiency. For cases to be heard at their scheduled times and no longer postponed. We believe the UNHCR should also be responsible for the education of asylum seeker children.  They are prevented (as illegals) from going to school in Thailand and until these families can be relocated, they remain uneducated.

This unstable situation that will become a regrettable tragedy if continued to be overlooked. If others cannot manage to help them, the Body of Christ (the Church) must step up and care for the least of our brethren in Thailand. Surely this example was set by the first century church, or have we forgotten?

Many new cases are brought to Voice of the Persecuted. Our mission has been designed to stay along side these families to help them endure. But we are a small mission trying to help in a big crisis. It is heartbreaking to not have the means to care for all those needing aid. Each month, we rely on and ask the Lord to provide as we continue covering those we already care for. To give us the ability to add the many other families on our waiting list. We ask for His heart for these dear ones who suffer for their faith in Christ Jesus. We pray for more to partner with us in the mission. As they have had to beg—today, we beg for them. Brothers and sisters, we ask for your help to distribute aid to the persecuted suffering in Thailand.

For more information to aid a persecuted family in Thailand, contact us at info@voiceofthepersecuted.org

Let us not forget them, nor think as the world, ‘someone else will step up to help’. Let us not regret the loss of even one of these ‘family members’ when there is surely a way to share and provide. But any help you can give is appreciated more than you could ever know.

L Kanalos, VOP Founder

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.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

Everyday, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and 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

Article may be reprinted with credit to Voice of the Persecuted.

American Pastor Saeed: 300 Illegal Days in an Iranian Prison

Jay-Sekulow

Yesterday marked the 300th day of American Pastor Saeed Abedini’s illegal imprisonment in Iran – 300 days away from his wife and kids, 300 days of torment for his Christian faith, 300 days and counting.

Nearly a year ago, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard raided the home of Pastor Saeed’s parents in Tehran and imprisoned him solely on the basis of his faith. On account of that same faith, he faced a bogus trial and was convicted and sentenced to a lengthy prison term in Iran’s brutal Evin Prison. He has been subjected to  beatings and harassment  which have caused internal injuries necessitating medical treatment.

Suffering from an internal injury in his stomach, Pastor Saeed has been in need of medical attention for quite some time. On July 20, 2013, he was taken to a private hospital in Tehran for treatment and, for the first time, he was examined by a physician and prescribed  medication for  injuries he sustained from the beatings he endured by prison guards.

On two past occasions, the 33-year-old Pastor Saeed has been taken to the local hospital only to be sent home without examination of or treatment for his injuries. This time, authorities proved that they have heard the international outcry for medical attention.

Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh Abedini, responded to this positive step:

Thank you to all of the individuals who have prayed, written letters, signed petitions, called government officials, run benefit races, tweeted, and shared Saeed’s story. Thank you to all the government officials from around the world who have stood for my husband.  Iran has listened to your pleas.  While I am encouraged that Saeed is finally getting medical care, the fight is not yet over.  It has been a difficult 300 days – 300 days of torment simply because Saeed loves Jesus Christ.  I am hopeful Iran will do the just and honorable thing and release Saeed.

We are pleased that Iranian authorities have taken this important step to see that Pastor Saeed is no longer denied access to necessary medical treatment. It is our hope that the Iranian regime will take additional steps to correct their wrongdoings by giving his case a fair and impartial review in the court of appeals, where his case is currently pending.  A fair and impartial review must result in a decision that continuing to hold Pastor Saeed is a grave violation of Iran’s Constitution and its international obligations.

While Pastor Saeed has received medical treatment, he continues to pay a price for his Christian faith daily through his illegal imprisonment. We hope that this recent update out of Tehran indicates that Pastor Saeed – a U.S. citizen – will  receive just treatment in the coming days and weeks. Most importantly, we hope to see Iranian officials release him so he can return to the  United States where he can make a full recovery in his family’s care.

We continue to work in this country and in the international community to secure Pastor Saeed’s freedom.  And more than 600,000 people around the world now stand in solidarity with Pastor Saeed at SaveSaeed.org.

Raise your VOICE, sign the petition and tell others. You can make a difference. You may save a life! #savesaeed

Standing Together For Human Rights In Iran-with Naghmeh Abedini

Naghmeh Saeed Abedini
Naghmeh Abedini is tirelessly fighting for her husband release from the notorious Evin prin in Iran. Pastor Saeed Abedini, a Christian with dual United States–Iranian nationality, is currently imprisoned at Evin Prison in Tehran, the Islamic Republic of Iran, because he encouraged peaceful assemblies of Christians in private homes.

Pastor Saeed was:

  1. Arrested and imprisoned by Iranian Revolutionary Guards;
  2. Repeatedly beaten in prison.
  3. Continues to be denied access to needed medical care treatment for internal bleeding caused by this abuse. This has been ongoing for months now.
  4. Denied access to his attorney until mere hours before his trial;
  5. Given a sham trial before a judge so notoriously biased and corrupt that he was condemned by the European Union for issuing egregious verdicts;
  6. Disallowed, along with his counsel, from attending the second day of his trial; and
  7. Sentenced to eight years in Evin Prison for exercising his Christian faith. In addition to directly abusing Pastor Saeed and violating his rights, Iranian officials directly threatened an Abedini family friend assisting the family in seeking Pastor Saeed’s release on bail. And the list goes on…
Naghmeh Abedini has started a Facebook page, Standing together for Human Rights in Iran  in hopes of encouraging peaceful demonstrations on June 13th, 2013 at noon in whichever country you are at.  Today, she is at the Airport heading to Geneva to speak before the UN. She has asked for our prayers.

I covet your prayers. I know I am not alone, I have Jesus by my side and I have all of you behind me with your love and prayers. Thank you.

I would like to emphasize again that this is a crucial time to be a voice for Saeed and those imprisoned for their faith in Iran. As Christians or even as humans, we should care about justice and human rights. This is the time to get together one day before the Iranian election (June 13, 2013) to make our voice known to the Iranian government. Please join me and ask others to join by participating in the peaceful demonstration where you live (closest Iranian Embassy near you) and by praying for His Leading in all of this.
Love,

Nagmeh

From the Standing together for Human Rights in Iran, Facebook page:

My Dear Friends دوستان عزیز
I need your support more than ever as I am coordinating a worldwide day of peaceful demonstration at all Iranian Embassies around the world on June 13, 2013 (one day before the Iranian Election) at noon in your …country.
من بیشتر از هر زمان دیگری به حمایت و پشتیبانی شما نیاز دارم زیرا در حال هماهنگ سازی روز جهانی اعتراض صلح آمیز در سفارتخانه های ایران در سراسر جهان در کشور خودتان، ظهر روز 13 ژوئن 2013(یک روز مانده به انتخابات ریاست جمهوری ایران) میباشم.
The Iranian government has tried to silence the Iranian people and has showed no care to respond to any international voices (US, more than 15 countries around the world, the UN and…) in regard to their continued imprisonment of Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American Citizen, and their continued violation of human rights in Iran.
دولت ایران سعی کرده که مردم ایران را ساکت کند و هیچ اهمیتـــــــی نیز به اعتراضات بین المللی (امریکا، بیش از 15 کشور در سراسر جهان، سازمان ملل و …) نشان نمی دهد. همچنین به نقض حقوق بشر و نگه داشتن کشیش سعید عابدینی (شهروند امریکایی ) در زندان ادامه میدهد.
They cannot silence millions of voices all around the world as we unite together to voice our concern for the human rights violation of Saeed Abedini and other political prisoners at Evin Prison.
 و خاموش کنند؛ چنانچه همۀ ما در خصوص اعتراض به نقض حقوق انسانی سعید عابدینی و همچنین سایر زندانیان سیاسی در زندان اوین با هم متحد شویم.

As the Iranian election nears, the Iranian government has used all methods to silence media and the Iranian people. We need to be louder than ever the day before their election and to let them know we care about the tortures and human rights abuse in Iran.
با نزدیک شدن به انتخابات ریاست جمهوری، دولت ایران از هر روشی برای ساکت کردن مردم ایران و رسانه ها استفاده می کند. لازم است که در روز پیش از انتخابات بیش از هر زمان دیگری اعتراضاتمان محکمــتر باشد تا بدانند که ما به شکنجه ها و سوءاستفاده های انسانی در ایران توجه می کنیــــم.

Please join me in coordinating and spreading this great cause.
لطفاً برای هماهنگی، اطلاع رسانی و گسترش این اتفاق مهمّ به من بپیوندید.

The day of peaceful demonstrations will occur on June 13th, 2013 at noon in your country.
اعتراض صلح آمیز در ظهر روز 13 ژوئن 2013 در کشور خود شما می باشد.

In order to make this coordinated effort a reality, I have created a Facebook page to serve as a focal point for invitations and communications. If you are willing to “host” a demonstration at an Iranian embassy or mission in your country, please.
بمنظور تحقق بخشیدن و هماهنگی این روز، یک صفحۀ فیس بوک در جهت برقراری ارتباط و دعوت ساخته شده است. چنانچه می خواهید میزبان این اعتراض در سفارتخانۀ ایران در کشور خود باشید، لطفاً نکات زیر را ملاحظه فرمایید:

https://www.facebook.com/StandingTogetherForHumanRightsInIran?ref=hl

1. Post information on the address of the embassy, UN mission, or consulate and what time you will be there, in your own language, on the page. You can find addresses of Iranian Embassies and Consulates here: http://ir.embassyinformation.com/
1.اطلاعت مربوط به سفارتخانه، سازمان UN یا کنسولگری و همچنین ساعتی که در آنجا حضور خواهید داشت را به زبان خود بر روی صفحه پُست کنید. می توانید آدرس سفارتخانه ها و کنسولگــری های ایران را از این سایت بیابید: http://ir.embassyinformation.com/

2. Spread the word about your demonstration through e-mail, word of mouth, and social media, encouraging others to join you in peaceful demonstration.
2.دربارۀ این اعتراض صلح آمیز می توانید از طریق ایمیل، رسانه های اجتماعی و صحبت با افراد دیگر اطلاع رسانی کرده و آنها را تشویق نمایید تا در این اعتراض صلح آمیز به شما بپیوندند.

3. I would love for this Facebook page to unite us in remembrance of those we know and love whose basic rights of conscience have been violated by the Iranian Regime. To this end, I invite you to post pictures, short stories, and names on the Facebook page to explain the reason you are participating in this peaceful protest and in whose honor you demonstrate your disappointment with the government’s human rights abuses.
3. خواستۀ قلبی من این است که این صفحۀ فیس بوک ما را متحّد و یکدل کند؛ بمنظور یادآوری کسانی که می شناسیم و دوستشان داریم و حقوق ابتدایی عقیدتی آنها توسط رژیم ایران نقض شده است. بدین منظور از شما دعوت می کنم تا با گذاشتن تصویر، داستان کوتاه و اسامی بر روی این صفحه، دلیل شرکت خود در این اعتراض آرام را توضیح دهید و همچنین راجع به اشخاصی مطلب بگذارید که بخاطر آنها می خواهید ناامیدی خود را در این اعتراض نسبت به نقض حقوق بشر دولت ایران نشان دهید.

4. Please avoid violence and insults against the Iranian Regime or specific government leaders. This hostility may endanger those who are currently being held as prisoners of conscience.
4.خواهش می کنم از خشونت و توهین نسبت به رژیم ایران یا رهبران خاصّ دولتـــــــی پرهیز و اجتناب کنید. چنانچه خشونتی صورت گیرد، جان کسانی را که در حال حاضر زندانی عقیدتـــــــی هستند، به خطر می اندازد.

Please contact me with questions and ideas. I look forward to hearing of your action on June 13th.
چنانچه سؤال یا پیشنهادی دارید، با من تماس بگیرید. مشتاقانه منتظر آگاه شدن از فعالیتهای شما در روز 13 ژوئن می باشم.

Kind Regards,
بااحتــــرام،

Naghmeh Abedini

VOP: Please join with our sister, Nagmeh.   Let’s stand together for Saeed and all our brothers and sisters in Iran! STAND – IN SOLIDARITY!!!

We want to bring 600,000 signatures to the U.N. when we present Pastor Saeed’s case for the second time.
Help us meet this goal before May 30th! SIGN HERE

 

For more information on Naghmeh’s husband, American Pastor Saeed Abedini imprisoned in Iran–Click Here

The Perils Of Religious Persecution In Iran

iran

The Islamic Republic of Iran often is in the news, and usually for all the wrong reasons. Tehran is suspected of developing nuclear weapons, though U.S. intelligence agencies see no evidence of an active nuclear weapons program. Iran also has a deteriorating human rights record.

The Islamic state is a particularly inhospitable home to religious minorities—Christians, Baha’is, Jews, Sunni Muslims. Iran is Exhibit #1 for the threat posed by Islamic fundamentalists gaining control of government.

Iran is not the most tyrannical government in the Middle East. America’s ally Saudi Arabia may deserve that title. Syria is the most dangerous, having slid into a full-scale civil war.

Nevertheless, Iranian repression is increasing and the space available to regime opponents is diminishing.  Observed the Washington Post:  “the anti-establishment energy that drove violent protests four years ago has disappeared, quashed by the heavy-handed crackdown in 2009 that followed Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s contested reelection.”

Genuine liberals long have been beyond the pale. Even respected Muslim leaders who differ from the dominant ruling faction face barriers to participating in the political process. Indiana University Professor Jamsheed Choksy recently warned that Iran was “expanding its crackdown on political, religious and social freedoms in advance of the June 14 [presidential] election.”

Even the United Nations has taken note. Last December the General Assembly approved a resolution, its 25th since 1985, criticizing Tehran for its brutal repression.

In February the UN released a highly critical 79-page assessment:  “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”  The Special Rapporteur, Ahmed Shaheed, concluded “that there continues to be widespread systemic and systematic violations of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Reports communicated by nongovernmental organizations, human rights defenders, and individuals concerning violations of their human rights or the rights of others continue to present a situation in which civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights are undermined and violated in law and practice.”

Naturally, the government refused to cooperative.  After the report was published Iran’s Chief Justice Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani denied everything and said ratification of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 had been a mistake.  Unsurprisingly, the Special Rapporteur learned of intimidation and reprisals, when witnesses were tortured and threatened with death for reporting Tehran’s abuses.  Such an environment creates a particularly dangerous environment for any minorities, and especially religious believers whose views are considered to be fundamentally illegitimate.

Among the many groups on the receiving end of the government’s brutality are non-Muslims and even non-traditional Shia Muslims, including Gonabadi Dervishes.  Explained the Special Rapporteur:  “adherents of recognized and unrecognized religions face discrimination in law and/or in practice.  This includes various levels of intimidation, arrest and detention.  A number of interviewees maintained that they were repeatedly interrogated about their religious beliefs, and a majority of interviewees reported being charged with national security crimes and/or propaganda against the state for religious activities.  Several interviewees reported that they were psychologically and physically tortured.”

Iran’s abuses go back to the 1979 Islamic revolution.  Last year the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom noted that Iran was “a constitutional, theocratic republic that discriminates against its citizens on the basis of religion.”  The State Department’s last International Religious Freedom Report, published in 2011, noted simply that “The constitution and other laws and policies do not protect religious freedom and in practice, the government severely restricted religious freedom.”

The abuses are fundamental.  Observed USCIRF: “The government of Iran continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, including prolonged detention, torture, and executions based primarily or entirely upon the religion of the accused. State noted “Reports of government imprisonment, harassment, intimidation, and discrimination based on religious beliefs.” Moreover, both reports found the situation to be deteriorating.

All laws and regulations are to be “based on Islamic criteria.”  The constitution formally accords “full respect” to Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians, who are supposed to be allowed to practice freely “within the limits of the law.” However, these three groups are not to proselytize and conversion from Islam is punished by death. Moreover, the Islamic regime cares little for constitutional niceties.  Warned the USCIRF, “Even the recognized non-Muslim religious minorities protected under Iran’s constitution—Jews, Armenian and Assyrian Christians, and Zoroastrians—faced increasing discrimination, arrests, and imprisonment.”

More vulnerable are non-recognized groups, such as Baha’is, who are considered to be apostates. Noted State, “The government prohibits Baha’is from teaching and practicing their faith and subjects them to many forms of discrimination that followers of other religions do not face.” The Commission also pointed to Sufi Muslims and Jews, who had grown more fearful due to “Heightened anti-Semitism and repeated Holocaust denials by senior government officials.” Sunni Muslims are doubly vulnerable since they typically are ethnic minorities—Arabs, Kurds, and others.

Most threats to religious liberty come from the authorities. Reported State, “the government largely drove abuse of religious freedom.” Overall the situation was bleak. State warned that “Government rhetoric and actions created a threatening atmosphere for nearly all non-Shia religious groups, most notably for Baha’is, as well as for Sufi Muslims, evangelical Christians, Jews, and Shia groups that did not share the government’s official religious views.” The government-controlled media ran “negative campaigns against religious minorities,” who “reported arbitrary arrests, prolonged detentions, and confiscation of property.”

Moreover, “all religious minorities suffered varying degrees of officially sanctioned discrimination, particularly in areas of employment, education, and housing.”  There was social discrimination as well, and “the government’s campaign against non-Shia allowed for an atmosphere of impunity for those elements of society that harassed religious minorities.”  This behavior led to the designation by State of Iran as a Country of Particular Concern.

Increasing political opposition to the regime has intensified religious persecution. Noted the USCIRF:  “Since the disputed 2009 elections, religious freedom conditions in Iran have regressed to a point not seen since the early days of the Islamic revolution. Killings, arrests, and physical abuse of detainees have increased, including for religious minorities and Muslims to dissent or express views perceived as threatening the legitimacy of the government.”  Moreover, religious minorities often are charged with political offenses. Reported Choksy:  “Most of the several hundred imprisoned members of religious minorities stand charged with threatening ‘national security’ and some even face capital punishment at the hands of revolutionary tribunals.”

Several religious minorities have been targeted by the regime. Baha’is, who are not recognized by the Koran and are seen as apostates, may suffer most. The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, called Tehran’s attacks among the most “extreme manifestations of religious intolerance and persecution.”   Human rights Special Rapporteur Shaheed said “Baha’is are the most persecuted religious minority in Iran.”  Seven Baha’i leaders were arrested in 2008 and charged with “insulting religious sanctities” and anti-state propaganda.  They now are serving 20-year sentences.  Several more Baha’is have been arrested in recent months.  Two mothers, Zahra Nik-A’in and Taraneh Torabi, are currently serving prison sentences with their infant children.

But the campaign is much broader.  Iran observer Kamran Hashemi, writing in the Guardian, reported:  “Iran’s state machinery now attacks the Baha’is at every level.  Their leadership has been dismantled, access to higher education is denied, and business licenses are revoked.  Baha’i-owned shops are sealed or burned to the ground, cemeteries are desecrated, homes are raided and property is confiscated.  More than 500 have been arrested since 2004.  Even their efforts to educate their own young were declared illegal.”

Christians are also high on the regime’s enemies list.  In 1990 Rev. Hossein Soodmand, a convert from Islam in 1960 when he was 13, was executed for apostasy.  In 1994 Mehdi Dibaj was sentenced to death for apostasy.  He was freed after international protests, but then Bishop Haik Hovsepian Mehr, who highlighted Dibaj’s plight, was kidnapped—perhaps by state security forces—and murdered.

The situation has been worsening.  Barnabas Aid reported that,

“Persecution against Christians has increased in Iran in recent years to a point not seen since the early days of the Islamic revolution.”  The group ascribed the campaign to concern “at the number of Iranian Muslims turning to Christ,”

which has led Tehran to increase “the number of raids on church services, the harassment and threatening of church members, and the arrest and imprisonment of worshippers and church leaders.”  According to the Hudson Institute’s Nina Shea, “over the past two years more than 300 Christians have been arrested and detained arbitrarily in Iran.”

Internal political tensions with the approaching presidential election may also be to blame.  Kiri Kankhwende of Christian Solidarity Worldwide said that any faith other than Shia Islam is “interpreted as a challenge to the very state itself.”  As a result,

“There has been a noticeable increase in the harassment, arrests, trials and imprisonments of converts to Christianity, particularly since the beginning of 2012.  In October seven members of an underground church in Shiraz were arrested and charged with evangelizing, disturbing the peace, threatening national security, and using the internet to harm the state.  More then 50 Christmas celebrants were arrested in Tehran, though most were released after interrogation.  Rev. Vruir Avanessian, an ethnic Armenian, was taken to the infamous Evin House of Detention, but released the following month.”

Two other Christian ministers have become cause célèbre.  Convert Youcef Nadarkhani was arrested in 2009, threatened with execution if he didn’t recant his faith, and then sentenced to death.  He was ultimately retried and acquitted, released, rearrested, and then again released earlier this year.

Rev. Saeed Abedini, a convert from Islam who became an American citizen in 2010, was arrested in 2005 for his work with underground evangelical congregations but released.  He has visited several times over the years and was detained in 2009, but released after promising to avoid involvement with house churches.  Last year he returned to Iran to visit family and help build an orphanage and was arrested again.  In January he was sentenced to eight years imprisonment—to be served at Evin Prison, noted for its brutal conditions—for threatening Iran’s national security.  Two Christian converts were arrested on December 31, imprisoned at Evin, and charged with threatening national security.

Iran’s small Jewish community suffers through a public environment dominated by anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.  Overt persecution was on display in 2000 when 13 Iranian Jews, including a rabbi, butcher, and teenager, were tried for allegedly spying for America and Israel.  Ten of the 13 were convicted on dubious charges; the only good news was that all received prison terms.  In the preceding 21 years since the Islamic revolution 17 Iranian Jews had been executed for allegedly spying.

Zoroastrianism is Iran’s oldest religion, but that has not insulated it from Islamic radicals.  Although its adherents are thought to number under 100,000, and perhaps under 50,000, reported Choksy, “Communal gatherings are routinely monitored by fundamentalist Muslim authorities who allege that Zoroastrianism ‘threatens national security and subverts the Islamic revolution’.”  Moreover, added Choksy, “Like members of the Christian, Jewish and Baha’i minorities, Zoroastrian activists who protest the theocracy’s excesses are sent to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison on charges of sedition.”

Although based on Shia Islam, Sufism, a more spiritual interpretation, has come under great pressure from the Shia Islamic government in Tehran.  The Menatollahi Gonabadi Sufi order is believed to have more than two million members, and has been called a “danger” to Islam by the ruling faction.  Reported Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:  Members of the Gonabadi order “have come under increasing state pressure over the past four years; three of their houses of worship have been demolished.”

Sunni Muslims have been prevented from building their own mosque in Tehran and have been forcibly prevented from gathering for prayer in rented facilities.  Sunnis report that there situation has been worsening in recent years.

The government also has targeted dissenting majority Shia clerics (as well as women and journalists).  This is the most striking evidence that cynical political objectives are driving some if not much religious persecution.  Over the last four years Shia clerics have been prohibited from questioning the 2009 election or the government’s brutal response to demonstrators.  Moreover, noted the Commission, “a number of senior Shia religious leaders who have opposed various religious and political tenets and practices of the Iranian government also have been targets of state repression, including house arrest, detention without charge, trial without due process, torture, and other forms of ill treatment.”  If that can happen to a member of the majority religious group, the extreme vulnerability of religious minorities is obvious.

The regime even targets lawyers who defend religious minorities.  Last October human rights lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah began serving a nine-year sentence in Evin prison,.  He was convicted for “membership in an association [the Centre for Human Rights Defenders] seeking to overthrow the government and propaganda against the system.”  The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, protested the case.  His spokesman, Rupert Colville, explained that “The case against [Dadkhah] is widely believed to be linked to his work as a human rights defender.”  Dadkhah is the fourth CHRD member imprisoned in the last 18 months.  Previously he was tortured and imprisoned for 74 days in 2009.  Punishing those who defend human rights activists brings back nightmares of the Soviet Union.

The West’s leverage over Iran is minimal.  Some activists have criticized the Obama administration for not doing more, but it is not clear what more could be done, given the sanctions already imposed regarding the nuclear issue.

There may be a better hope of using international popular pressure.  Explained Choksy, “Despite their heavy-handed actions, the Islamic Republic’s hard-liners seek to present their rule as benevolent and humane,” and therefore the regime has been “exhibiting rising concern about negative public perceptions of its rule.”

Individuals, groups, and activists, especially those which have not been at the forefront of the campaign to sanction and even bomb Iran, should press the Iranian government and other entities, from media to business, and protest the manifold violations of human rights.  Visiting officials should be embarrassed by protestors.  The regime should understand that its fight against sanctions for its nuclear activities continues to be undermined by its brutality at home.

Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rappoteur, confirmed that public pressure works.  In March he noted that “At least a dozen lives were saved because of the intervention of international opinion.”  More such action is needed.

Iranians suffered under the Shah’s rule for a quarter century before being liberated by the Iranian revolution.  Which, sadly, imposed an even more oppressive tyranny.  The Iranian people are overdue for a revolution which truly liberates.

Punjab hub of violence against Christians

stopviolence

The Constitution of Pakistan does not provide for any punishment for those who misuse the Blasphemy law. In view of the fact that, since 1990’s there has been a dramatic rise in Blasphemy accusations where as some of these have been dealt with extra-Judicially.

The roots of the Blasphemy laws of Pakistan Penal Code can be traced deep into Indian Penal Code of 1860. The Blasphemy Laws were pioneer by dint of Sections 295-B and 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code at some point in the authoritarian rule of General Zia-ul-Haq.

In the context of a well established Blasphemy law in the country Punjab– the bulkiest province of Pakistan has become home to majority of usage of these laws at the same time as  Punjab is dwelling of almost 81 percent Christians. A bit further than half of Pakistani Christians reside in six districts of Central PunjabLahore, Faislabad, Kasur, Sheikhupura, Gujranwala and Salikot. In keeping with the 1998 Census, a greater part of Christians in the Punjab live in rural areas. What is more, as many as 40 percent of all Christians in Pakistan inhabit Lahore, Karachi and Faisalabad districts; with a momentous mass in urban dwellings.

In line with 1998 Census, the population of religious minorities, in Pakistan, was more or less six Million or 3.7 percent of the overall populace. The Hindus and Christians make up 83 percent of the religious minorities in Pakistan, whilst Hindus outnumbered Christians by a minute edge. 

The seven districts that have put in most to the blasphemy cases are Lahore,  Faisalabad, Sialkot, Kasur, Sheikhupura, Gujranwala and Toba Tek Singh. The entire  population of these districts is 25 Million, out of which five percent are Christians; 50 percent of total Christian population in Pakistan- roughly 2 Million keep their heads above water in these seven districts. But the fact that all of these districts are in Punjab, is an eyebrow raising affair.

A breakdown of 361 cases of blasphemy offences registered by the police between 1986 and 2007 shows that as many as 49 percent cases were registered against non-Muslims.  An aggregation of 21 percent cases was against Christians- and these are those which were judicially tried while at most of times the offender is tried extra-judicially. Out of 361 total cases, in excess of two-thirds cases were found to be originated in the Punjab, The figure of cases and indicted 77 and 69 percent respectively is strangely elevated in the Punjab.  With reference to the 35 districts in the Punjab, police in seven above mentioned districts of central Punjab – had filed 10 or more cases during 1986 and 2007. Thus the districts of Lahore, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Kasur, Sheikhupura, Gujrunwala and Toba Tek Singh contributed most to the controversial list of the Blasphemy accused. 

Forty one percent of all cases registered in terms of Religion embrace 65 percent of suits cataloged against Christians.

Withal, incidents like Shanti Nagar, Gojra, Badami Bagh and Essa Pur Chak 31-10/R flames of anti-Christian riots in Punjab razed properties, houses Churches, Bibles and many lives. This embossed religious intolerance is now beginning to sting the National integration causing fear and disillusion of alienation among the Christians in Pakistan. Majority of them more or less 90% give their consent to abandon Pakistan over the issues of religious intolerance, blasphemy laws and intensifying antagonism in Pakistani society.

by Madeeha S Bakhsh

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