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Muslim lawyer on Asia Bibi: “I’ve never seen a stronger woman in my life”

Aasia Bibi with her children before blasphemy charges

(Voice of the Persecuted) Speaking at a church during a prayer service for Asia Bibi in the Netherlands, her lawyer, Saif-ul-Mulook, described his last visit with her at the Multan women’s prison on Oct. 10th, 2018. Pakistan’s Supreme Court had just heard her death sentence appeal but the judges delayed the announcement of ruling in Bibi’s case. Saif-ul-Malook said he was amazed by her wonderful mood, how happy she was and that she showed no signs of depression. Asia shared with him about a dream she had two days earlier (Oct. 8th), the same day the court hearing was taking place.

She said,

“Sir, I saw in the dream that all the prison doors were opened and I worried the if the jail superintendent comes, then she’ll be very furious. Sir from my dream, I’m very, very certain that my appeal is going to be accepted and I’m going to be free. I have such a firm faith in God that I have strong feeling that nobody can hurt me.”

Then she told him not to worry for he too would be provided the same protection.

He announced at the church service, “I have never seen a stronger woman in my life, or read in any book story. Who is behind the bars for more than 9 nine years leaving behind two daughters, one [with mental disabilities] and still, to be so strong. I tell her many times, if I was in prison in your place, I could have broken in 6 months and might have decided to commit suicide.”

Mulook, who is also a Muslim, could also be called one of the bravest of Pakistani men. Prior to taking Asia’s case, Mulook’s was targeted when he was the special prosecutor in the high-profile murder case of Punjab governor Salman Taseer. The governor was shot and killed by his own bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, in 2011. Qadri killed Taseer over his call for blasphemy law reform and his support of Asia Bibi. Islamists called Qadri a hero. Mulook was the only lawyer willing to prosecute the former police bodyguard who was convicted and sentenced to death by execution. Tens of thousands called for Bibi’s death when Qadri was sentenced, then again after his execution. Many were to fearful to take Asia as their client. When Mulook chose to defend her, other attorney’s told him, “You have hammered the last nail into your coffin”. His colleagues and even friends shunned him. “We don’t go out to meet relatives or friends. They don’t come here to meet us.”he told the AFP.

Already condemned when he successfully prosecuted Qadri, he thought it cowardly to give up on Asia. “I said to myself, look, you have already done the damage. It is time to stand up for this poor woman.”

Due to recent death threats, Saif-ul-Malook fled to the Netherlands. The Dutch Foreign Ministry made an official offer to him to join a special program for the human rights activists under pressure in their home countries. Reports claim the Pakistani attorney has not yet filed an asylum application to stay permanently in the country.

Asia and her family were taken to an undisclosed location and under the protection of police and Pakistan’s military. Multiple countries have offered asylum to Asia. However, her husband had requested for asylum in Canada, the U.K. or the USA.

Today, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed to the AFP that his government was in discussions with Pakistan about granting her asylum and bringing her to Canada.

“There is a delicate domestic context that we respect which is why I don’t want to say any more about that, but I will remind people Canada is a welcoming country,” Trudeau said.

Canada’s opposition Conservative Party supports this decision and has urged Mr Trudeau to “use every mechanism at his disposal to offer the Bibi family asylum”.

It was a joy to hear this news as we prayed for Trudeau and his government on yesterday’s Prayer Conference Call event. We also prayed for the continuation of persecuted Christians to be granted asylum in the country. We’d like to recognize Canada for welcoming many of these Christians in the last decade, and to acknowledge the Canadian churches along with their members who have stepped up to sponsor these families. May the Lord continue to bless them.

Video of Saif-ul-Malook at prayer service shared on the social media service Facebook.

Thai immigration separate Christian families moving mothers and children to another facility

(Voice of the Persecuted) by VOP Thai correspondent—Pakistani Christian women and young children have been moved from the Immigration Detention Center (IDC) in Suan Phlu to another detention camp near Don Mueang airport on the outer suburbs of Bangkok.

The women and children were moved on Friday, November 2nd 2018 about 30 km away from the initial detention center.

Not only deprived of liberty and abode but denied the basic and decent life, every human being deserves. Inhumane treatment of Pakistani Christians in Thailand is a huge question mark towards the UN and other aid agencies.

Earlier this month, all bails were cancelled except women with minors. Majority of the bails were granted in 2015 with the condition that bailed individuals would report every two weeks to the IDC with their guarantor.  Now with essentially all bails cancelled, the numbers inside the IDC have soared.

There are no reports about the condition in the new detention camp but this move has robbed them of the opportunity of seeing their loved ones during daily visits.

Daily visitation from individuals and charities gives the families some time to meet their loved ones who are held in separate areas. This is also the only time when detainees are allowed to get out of the shady and horrendous room which they share with more than 200 people.

During visiting hours, visitors submit an application to meet with one detainee and are given one hour in a hall separated by a metal fence while  shouting to hear one another over other voices. The meeting area provides an opportunity to fathers, sons, husbands to meet their children, mother and wives during that hour.

Family day, which was scheduled once a month, also provided time for to families to meet and cherish some memories. Men and women are kept in separate areas in the facility.

We’re not denying that lowering the numbers in one facility would improve the environment of an already horrific place at normal capacity. However, with the women and children in another detention center, the hope of seeing their loved ones seems very bleak.

What is the Immigration Detention Center?

The main Immigration Detention Center is a small, two story building in the heart of Bangkok’s embassy district. The rooms are designed to hold overstayed migrants in small rooms. Refugees, though internationally protected, are considered illegal under Thai law,  arrested and incarcerated in the detention center for an indefinite period of time.

Pakistani Christians in Thailand have been deeply traumatized by the Thai Immigration crackdown on illegal migrants. In one of the largest overhaul of migrants, refugees had to flee for their freedom, essentially their lives, as living in IDC is described as hell. Many had to seek shelter with their friends, locals and expats, to try to escape the wrath of the Immigration police.

Pakistani Christians need your prayers. Pray for their safety, security and safe resettlement to countries where they can live and practice their faith in Christ freely and call it home.

Project 133 relief mission

Please pray for them to remain steadfast in holding onto their faith. VOP is on the ground in Thailand. Join hands with us to spread the love of Jesus.  Please consider helping our mission to cover these expenses and donate, today. Nutritional items, baby milk and diapers will be high on the list of needs. We may not be able to cover all expenses, but let us cover as many as we can! Your donations, whether large or small, aid in our ability to carry out this mission and are gratefully appreciated by our persecuted family. Go with us to Thailand through your blessings to share with these dear brothers and sisters who have suffered so much. Keep us in your prayers as we try to raise the needed funds for the relief mission.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.

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!

Judge Rules in Favor of Group of Asylum Seeking Iranians

Advocates for a group of nearly 90 Christian and other religious-minority refugees from Iran are praising a ruling by a federal judge in California earlier this week that forces the Trump administration to reconsider their asylum requests after issuing a blanket denial of all of them earlier this year.

(Mohabat News)  The refugees and U.S. human rights activists representing their interests say the decision is a break-through in a troubling case that has left the group of Iranians marooned in Vienna and has earned the sympathy and attention of a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress, as well as high-level Trump administration officials.

Since the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) denied their asylum applications en masse in February, the group has been left in limbo in Vienna, unable either to return to Iran out of fear of further persecution and possible death or to reunite with family members or other sponsors in the U.S.

“It’s a step in the right direction, and we’re happy that the court recognizes that the government can’t just use whatever terms it wants [to deny these applicants]. It has to follow what Congress intended this program to be—to give heightened protections to these Iranian Christians and Mandaeans and other religious minorities,” Mariko Hirose, who serves as the litigation director for International Refugee Assistance Project in New York, told the Washington Free Beacon.

The Iranian individuals and their family members applied for refugee resettlement in the United States under the Lautenberg Amendment, a law Congress first passed in 1989 to facilitate refugee admission of Jews fleeing the former Soviet Union. Lawmakers expanded the program in 2004 to include religious minorities in Iran.

The Iranians had traveled to Vienna from Tehran at the invitation of the U.S. government to complete their applications as part of this unique Lautenberg refugee program.

The program has quietly admitted an estimated 30,000 persecuted Iranians, mainly Jews and Christians, but also Mandaeans, Zoroastrians, and Baha’is, over the last decade at a near 100 percent acceptance rate without incident, according to U.S. lawmakers familiar with the acceptance record.

However, the Obama administration first started imposing a new vetting process for all asylum applicants in 2016, the first roadblocks for the group of nearly 90 Iranians.

Then in February, after the individuals had already spent nearly a year waiting at an intermediary vetting facility in Vienna—the same facility used for years for the Lautenberg program without incident—the DHS flatly denied the group without providing the reasons behind the decision.

The DHS denials said only that the applicants were being barred from resettling in the U.S. as “a matter of discretion.”

A State Department spokeswoman earlier this year did not elaborate on why DHS had denied the group of Iranians, saying only the “safety and security of the American people are paramount,” and that “Iranian refugee applicants under this program are subject to the same security vetting processes that apply to refugee applicants of other nationalities considered for admission to the United States of America.”

U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman on Tuesday ordered DHS to disclose individual reasons for the denials within 14 days of her ruling, which allows the claimants to appeal. The refugees have 90 days to file their appeals, which could reopen their cases.

If they are once again denied, DHS would have to follow their own regulations and provide a substantive reason for the denials, according to Hirose.

In addressing the unique aspects of the Lautenberg Amendment, which governs this group’s applications, Freeman wrote that DHS “retains an enormous amount of authority and discretion to adjudicate refugee applications, but they do not have the discretion to violate the law.”

The vague DHS denial notices, the judge said, leaves the applicants in an untenable position.

“Without a reason for the denial, the applicants are left to guess at which factors and circumstances DHS considered,” she said. “Any meaningful review of the denials becomes impossible because plaintiffs are effectively shadowboxing against themselves.”

Evidence that applications of at least 38 of the individuals denied admission in February received “identical notices of ineligibility raises the inference that the denials were not, in fact, individualized,” she continued.

Hirose says Congress was very clear when it passed the Lautenberg Amendment that if the U.S. government denies an asylum claim, it must provide a reason “to the maximum extent feasible.”

The mass denials were such a devastating blow because the group of Iranians had already uprooted from their home country, leaving jobs and selling possessions and expected a smooth transition to the United States.

After previous asylum seekers left Iran, they were able to travel onward to the United States in just a few months, Hirose said.

“That’s how this program used to be, and it was really a surprise and completely unprecedented when these mass denials happened in February,” she said.

The group’s plight has attracted the attention and support of key lawmakers in Congress who called on Vice President Pence to intervene on their behalf in late January.

Reps. Randy Hultgren (R., Ill.) and James McGovern (D., Mass.), co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in Congress, sent a letter to Pence arguing that the Lautenberg Amendment requires DHS to presume that all Iranian religious minorities are eligible for refugee status in the United States.

“DHS and State must make every effort to continue to accept thousands of Iranian religious minorities currently waiting in Iran and take steps to prioritize and expedite any relevant security checks,” they added.

They also highlighted Pence’s and other Trump administration officials’ repeated promises to come to the defense of persecuted Christians in Iran and throughout the Middle East.

“You have made clear that the Trump administration will take the lead in helping to end these persecutions,” they wrote. “In Vienna, Austria, there are 100 victims of persecution waiting for the United States to act. Thank you for doing what you can to move DHS and State to accept these refugees.”

A White House official told the Free Beacon in January that the administration is paying “careful attention to the issue” and was working to find a solution.

“High-level administration officials are monitoring the progress,” the official said. “Certain complexities exist that the administration has to work through, including human-rights concerns and national security. But the administration is certainly engaged.”/The Washington free beacon

In the midst of Evil: Christian describes how they endure persecution

 Being a Christian has never been easy. It has brought suffering, pain and persecution for those who stand firm in their faith. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” John 15:18. Despite the challenges and hurdles, Christianity has grown over the centuries and the Bible holds wonderful promises for the ones who are suffering; “Blessed are those who are persecuted.” Matthew 5:11

(Voice of the Persecuted) Pakistan is a nation which persecutes Christians and is known as the 4th most dangerous country to be a Christian. The blasphemy law is used as a tool to settle personal vendettas against Pakistani Christians. It’s a place where Christians can be lynched publicly upon false religious allegations. Thousands of minority girls are kidnapped, raped and forcibly converted to Islam. Christians in Pakistan live in fear, many afraid to even speak with Muslims about their faith.

Thailand, a popular tourist hot spot, has been one of the major destinations for Christians fleeing persecution in Pakistan. But they fled to Thailand without the full knowledge of the dangers that lie ahead. Thailand, not being a signatory of the UN refugee rights convention, regularly arrests asylum seekers and refugees. The nation considers them to be illegal migrants despite them having UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) documents. Hundreds are in the notorious Immigration Detention Center and have been living in a deplorable situation for several years. The Immigration Detention Center is designed to hold about 50 detainees at a time. Presently, there are close to 200 people which leads to lack of space, sanitation and serious health concerns. They are at risk of contracting highly infectious diseases such as, tuberculosis, skin infections, among other air/water borne illnesses. They’re malnourished due to a diet of nothing more than rice and cucumber soup. Please pray for them to remain steadfast in holding onto their faith.

Pakistani Christian asylum seekers brought to court caged in police vans.

“Faith in Christ plays an important role in the life of a persecuted Christian”

Many have been wondering if they could endure the atrocities our brothers and sisters suffer in restricted nations. Christian Malik, our Thailand representative, knows the hardships of persecution very well. He recently shared about the role faith plays in his life and that of other Christian refugees. Last month, during Q&A on our November prayer conference call event, one of the participants asked what advice he had for those in the west when persecution comes knocking at our door. He told us,

“Faith is all that is keeping us alive. In Thailand, every second holds an uncertainty about the future. One second, we might be free, the next second we might be behind bars. Under such circumstances, we pray and ask God for his mighty intervention in our lives and to keep us protected from all harm and danger. We are not allowed to work here which means we are unsure about securing food and other necessities for our daily needs, but our Father in Heaven is mighty and has great promises for us.

Matthew 7:11 mentions, ‘If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!’ Amen. Our Father in Heaven is indeed merciful and gracious.  He provides for us from His riches. The bible states, ‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.’ When we are need, we ask God, we seek, and we find it. We knock at the door and it is opened for us. There has never been a time when God denied, He provides for us according to His time.

Faith in Christ makes things possible, not easy. We know the journey will be hard, but we have surety from God that it would be possible. In the dictionary of Faith, the word impossible doesn’t exist. Our God is a living God and He never leaves us alone. The suffering in Thailand has brought us closer to God and our lives here have become a living sacrifice.”

Persecution always results in the dispersion of believers and the spread of Christianity. Persecution will grow the Church in the 21st century as well. “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews.” (Acts 11:19).”

VOP message on IDC relief package

This Christmas, let’s stand strong with our brothers and sisters and uphold them in our prayers. Let us also bless them with their needs as faith without deeds is incomplete. “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2: 15-17

VOP is on the ground in Thailand. This Christmas, join hands with us to spread the love of Jesus. We’re planning an outreach for a large number of asylum seekers and refugees in Bangkok. We have only 4 days left to deliver Christmas relief packages, much needed supplies and nutrition to those suffering in the notorious IDC, Immigration Detention Center.

Keep us in your prayers as we try to raise the needed funds to complete this Christmas mission. If you feel led to help, please consider our mission and donate, today. Go with us to Thailand through your blessings to share the joy of Christmas with these dear brothers and sisters who have suffered so much. God bless you and your families. May your Christmas be filled with much joy as you celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our dear Lord and Savior.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.

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

Donations always desperately needed

45 Christian Refugees arrested in Thailand

Dec. 2015: Child arrested with his mother and brought to court in caged police van. Children remain incarcerated along side their parents.

Dec. 2015: Child arrested with his mother and brought to court in caged police van. Children remain incarcerated along side their parents.

Thai immigration authorities raided and arrested 45 Pakistani Christian asylum seekers, including (approx. 22) children, who hold United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) asylum seeker cards. They will be brought to court tomorrow, likely put into the horrific conditions at the Immigration Detention Centre IDC. With only 15 days until Christmas, the entire community is devastated.  (more…)

EU High Court rules against deportation of Christian converts to Iran, urges grant of asylum

iranian-christian9253

Religious and human rights groups are applauding a European court decision that ruled governments must grant a fair evaluation of Christian converts before they are denied asylum and sent back to Iran.

Mohabat News _  This week, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights ruled in the case of F.G vs. Sweden that the Swedish government would be violating Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protect life and safeguard against inhumane treatment if it deported the applicant.

“The lower chamber (of the court) underestimated the severe danger to this convert’s life,” Robert Clarke, director of European Advocacy for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International, told the Catholic News Agency (CNA).

“The Grand Chamber rightly noted that Christian converts are one of the most persecuted religious minorities in Iran. Moreover, the Islamic regime governing Iran has systematic mechanisms in place to identify all Christian converts – even those practicing in secret,” Clarke added.

Roger Severino, director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, said: “Asylum should be granted to individuals who are being persecuted and fear for their lives because of converting to a different religion.

“Iran’s anti-conversion laws violate the fundamental human right to be able to choose your own religion and live out your beliefs, which includes the right to change your religion without the government threatening imprisonment or in the case of Iran, death for apostasy,” he told CNA.

In 2009, an Iranian citizen reportedly applied for asylum and a resident permit in Sweden after suffering political persecution. Two years later, the Swedish Migration Office denied his request, which he appealed.

The lower chamber of the court ruled in January 2014 that Sweden’s denial was “justified” because the applicant’s life was reportedly not in jeopardy since Iranian authorities were unaware of his conversion and he could keep his faith private.

The ADF, however, filed a brief on behalf of the Iranian citizen with the European Human Court of Human Rights, arguing that the lower court’s decision “violated his religious freedom” and that converts to Christianity face numerous threats in Iran.

The judgment states: “The applicant’s conversion to Christianity is a criminal offence punishable by death in Iran. In addition to the risk of social persecution as a Christian, the applicant risks criminal prosecution for the crime of apostasy. The order for the applicant’s deportation to Iran, where he could be tried under the above-mentioned criminal and procedural law, equates to a violation of principles deeply enshrined in the universal legal conscience.”

Iran ranked as the ninth worst country for Christian persecution. It considers conversion from Islam a crime punishable by death.

Clarke warned that if a convert to Christianity is identified by the Iranian government, he or she is very likely “to suffer substantial harm, deprivation of liberty, assaults and continual harassment. In the worst case the individual could face severe ill-treatment or death.”

In its 2014 religious freedom report, the U.S. State Department indicated that “Christians, particularly evangelicals, continued to experience disproportionate levels of arrests and high levels of harassment and surveillance.”

The U.N. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran also reported “that authorities held at least 49 Protestant Christians in custody, many for involvement in informal house churches,” according to CNA. /.Christian today

URGENT PRAYER REQUEST: Thailand Government Arresting Christian Asylum Seekers

VOP UrgentPrayerRequest

(Voice of the Persecuted) This morning, we were notified by our partners in Thailand that over 200 Christian asylum seekers have been caught by Thai authorities during a raid in Bangkok. Women, children, nursing mothers, the elderly and sick were among those arrested.

The Thai government does not have a working relationship with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. They do not recognize the Asylum Seeker certificates issued to these refugees by the UNHCR. Persecuted Pakistani Christians go to Thailand because it is easier to obtain a visa, or they cannot afford to go further. Many are unaware of the dreadful living conditions, or the lengthy process of receiving asylum status—not measured in months, but years simply to get an interview. The entire process can be as long as 6 years before placement into another country.

During the wait, their visa’s expire and they become illegals who are constantly at risk of being arrested and put into the horrific conditions of the Thai detention centers. Unable to legally get a work permit, the little funds they have is quickly depleted and they are forced to beg or starve. If they choose to find illegal work, they are at even greater risk of detention and possibly deportation. Persecuted Christians deported back to Pakistan are in danger of a prison sentence, or losing their lives at the hands of extremists.

Until the UNHCR grants them refugee status and resettles them in another country, they are living a nightmare. They describe it as leaving one hell for another.

VOP NOTE TO PAKISTANI CHRISTIANS: PLEASE DO NOT GO TO THAILAND WHEN SEEKING ASYLUM! You will not receive basic aid from the UNHCR and end up in an unbearable situation.

We will keep you updated as reports come in. PLEASE PRAY and ask others to pray with you!

Together with your generous support, 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 mail your gift to:

2740 Third St
P.O. Box 122
Trenton, MI. 48183

give-love-with-open-hands

France Offers Asylum To Iraqi Christians

Iraqi-Christians-flee-Mosul

(Voice of the Persecuted) Hundreds of years before the Muslim prophet began receiving ‘revelations’ around 600AD, the beginnings of Islam, Christians have lived in the Iraqi city of Mosul for nearly 2,000 years.

ISIS militants imposing harsh Sharia law in Mosul (Iraq’s second largest city) gave Christians a 24 hour ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a steep tax in submission, leave, or be executed. Thousands of terrified Iraqi Christians evacuated their homes—many headed towards Kurdistan for protection. Unconfirmed reports claim only 20 Christian families still remain. About 100,000 Christians had resided in the city 10 years ago, but their numbers have diminished as they became targets of Islamic hardliners and ongoing violence.

CT reports the Vicar of Baghdad’ Canon Andrew White who visited the UK over the weekend said an ISIS presence was also in Baghdad. He added, “They just go around and shoot the odd person dead.”

“I can’t do anything. I can’t go and visit my people any more.”

“The only answer is that we stay together, we keep loving each other and loving God, that is all we can do. There is no solution in a place where you cannot even have a government.”

“Are we seeing the end of Christianity? We are committed come what may, we will keep going to the end, but it looks as though the end could be very near.”

He called on the British government to do more to help Christians fleeing Iraq.

On Monday, French ministers offered asylum to the thousands of Mosul Christians forced from their homes.

The offer was made in a statement, by Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, and Bernard Cazeneuve, the interior minister, who said they were shocked by the persecution of the minority.

“France is outraged by these abuses that it condemns with the utmost firmness,” the statement said. “We are ready, if they so desire, to help facilitate asylum on our territory.”

Present-day Mosul encompasses the site of the ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh, where, the Bible teaches, the Prophet Jonah preached. Although this is disputed, a tradition holds that Jonah was buried within the city, on Tell Nebi Yunus, or Hill of the Prophet Jonah.

An Assyrian church stood over the tomb for centuries. After the Muslim conquest, the church became a mosque.

Last week, ISIS prevented worshipers from entering the mosque and using explosives reduced it to rubble, as a crowd looked on.

Scholar, Sam Hardy, told the Washington Post that the destruction of the tomb shows that ISIS is willing to destroy “pretty much anything in the Bible.”

The violent jihadist group is part of the Salafi movement, a Sunni branch of Islam trying to cleanse the area of anyone who won’t follow an extreme form of Sharia, Islamic law. The movement rejects the centuries of subsequent developments in Islam as unjustified innovations–pagan accretions that adulterated the faith. The veneration of the tomb is considered by them as a kind of idolatry.

Salafi Islam is widespread in Saudi Arabia, where it enjoys the patronage of the royal family. On the Arabian Peninsula, as now in Iraq, Salafis have destroyed the tombs of Islamic holy men. When the Saudi royal family captured the city of Medina in the 19th century, Salafis systematically destroyed the tombs of several of the Prophet Mohammed’s companions and family members, leaving only the Prophet’s tomb. Some think that the Saudi government plans on dismantling even that tomb, but hesitates to do so because of the uproar it would cause.

The fighting between the Sunni Muslim militant group and the Shia-dominated Iraqi military gives us a glimpse into the wider sectarian war plaguing the country. For years, Sunnis and Shiites have been in disagreement with each other about everything from politics to religion to shares of national wealth, and have fought for power. That infighting is now presenting itself on the frontlines in the form of ethnic cleansing — a crime against humanity punishable under international law.

Ethnic cleansing is not easy to define, especially during wartime. At times, it is indistinguishable from forced emigration and it also merges with aspects of deportation and genocide. A 1993 report to the U.N. Security Council, during the Bosnian war, defined ethnic cleansing as “rendering an area ethnically homogenous by using force or intimidation to remove persons of a given group from the area.”

ISIS, now calling themselves IS (Islamic State) has been instilling fear by executing innocent civilians and sharing the atrocities on video.

Where is the moderate majority of Muslims doing more to stomp out the radical factions of Islam and protect minorities, throughout the Islamic world. To not take on this responsibility is consent of the extreme intolerance and violence and they will see the extremism continue to spread. One day, they too will find themselves forced to join the radicals or face the same type of oppression we’re witnessing today.

Please keep Christians, others being persecuted and the nation of Iraq in your prayers.

By L. Kanalos, Voice of the Persecuted

 

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