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ASIA BIBI HAS LEFT PAKISTAN FOR CANADA


(Voice of the Persecuted) ASIA IS FREE!

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

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

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

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

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

The Guardian quoted her Muslim lawyer, Saif Ul Malook,

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

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

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

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

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

Indonesian student faces jail for blasphemy

Agung Kurnia Ritonga, 22, a student at the University of North Sumatra in Medan, was found guilty of insulting Islam and is facing 18 months in jail. (photo supplied-ICAN)

Prosecutors demand 18-month term for Christian youth accused of mocking the burning of an Islamic flag.

Prosecutors in Indonesia have demanded an 18-month jail term and a $715 fine for a Christian student accused of insulting Islam. 

Agung Kurnia Ritonga, 22, a student at the University of North Sumatra in Medan, is currently on trial for insulting Islam in an Instagram post by mocking the burning of an Islamic flag in October last year. 

Three Muslim youths in Garut, West Java burned a tawhid flag presumed to belong to Hizb ut-Tahrir, a banned militant group on Oct. 21, 2018. 

Ritonga’s Instagram post on Oct. 24, was said to have insulted the tawhid flag that has script describing the monotheistic God in Islam and God himself. 

“What’s the matter if the tawhid flag is burnt? Your God apparently gets burnt also?  So, don’t take many recitations that teach culture, that makes fools. Your God is just silent over there, playing guitar, getting drunk, and writing porn poetry, why are you so busy?” Ritonga wrote. 

He was arrested the next day after hundreds of Muslims surrounded his house in protest. 

During trial proceedings this week, prosecutors told the panel of judges that Ritonga’s actions could have damaged interreligious harmony. 

Muhammad Irwansyah Putra, a local mosque official who made the initial blasphemy complaint, said he was satisfied with the trial’s outcome and agreed with the jail term demanded by prosecutors. 

“I agree with the proposed sentence as it should appease anger and avert possible violence,” he told ucanews.com. 

Hamdan Hasonangan Harahap, Ritonga’s lawyer, said the student had shown remorse and apologized to Muslims. 

“What he wrote did not aim to insult Muslims, he only wanted to debate [with them],” he said. 

Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy director of Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, regretted that such a case required a jail sentence. 

“It was because of pressure from radical Muslim groups,” Naipospos said. 

He referred to the case of a Buddhist woman, also from Medan, who was jailed for 18 months in August last year for complaining about the noise from a local mosque’s loudspeakers during the call to prayer. 

The blasphemy law is discriminatory, he said.

VOP Note: As Christians, we must ask the Lord to give us discernment to choose our words wisely for the glory of His Kingdom. 

Pakistani Christian aquitted of Blasphemy charges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Pakistan Christian Post

Christian Brothers Sentenced to death for blasphemy

(Voice of the Persecuted) Pakistani Christian brothers, Qasir (also shared as Qaisar) and Amoon Ayub, have been sentenced to death in the Talagang District Jhelum court after being accused of blasphemy. Both brothers have been held under the charge of 295-A, B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code in the District Jail Jhelum since their arrest in 2014. Their case was heard on December 13, but due to security reasons, the brothers were not in the courtroom and told of the death sentence ruling from inside the jail. Qasir is married with three children, while Amoon is also married and a teacher at the Cathedral School in Lahore.

The allegations surfaced when they were accused of posting disrespectful material on their website, reported AsiaNews. However, Qasir said he closed his account in 2009 but one of his Muslim friends, Shahryar Gill, somehow managed to restore the website and kept ownership in Qasir’s name.

He had worked at the international office of the Raja Centre in Lahore. While at work in 2010, an argument broke out between his friends and one of them made a comment about another’s sister. The ‘friend’ blamed Qasir and warned him that it was a serious matter in Pakistan. Shortly after, Qasir started to receive death threats from them and he went into hiding. When the situation deteriorated he and his brother fled to Singapore without telling their wives. After a month, they returned to Pakistan and Amoon shared the whole story with his his wife. Yet the situation remained tense, so they left again this time for Thailand. Unable to survive there for very long, they went back to Pakistan in 2012.

After four years on the run they were arrested. A friend told Qasir that the authorities were looking for him. On November 10, 2014, while Amoon was on his way to work, the police detained him. They questioned him about his brother and said a case had been registered against him. Qasir told Amoon to stay hidden. Qasir was later arrested and sent to District jail Jhelum. Fearing for his safety, Amoon again tried to flee the country but was detained by Immigrant Police at the Lahore Airport. Later police sent him to Jhelum District Jail for the same offense as his brother.

Amoon’s wife did all she could to get her husband released, but has failed. She approached the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) for assistance.

(CLAAS) represented Qasir and Amoon and told Voice of the Persecuted that they will challenge the sentence before the Lahore High Court Bench at Rawalpindi as soon as possible. The group believes judges hearing blasphemy cases are threatened by religious fanatics and why those accused of blasphemy are convicted.

CLAAS-UK Director, Nasir Saeed told Voice of the Persecuted,

“This is a very unfortunate situation as because of threats from hardliners, lower courts pass their responsibility to the higher court and then it takes years to prove the accused innocent. In this case the trial Judge did not apply his judicious mind and convicted the accused in a very casual manner.

We have seen this in the recent case of Asia Bibi, who was similarly convicted by the lower court and it took her years to reach to the Supreme Court to get justice. I am afraid now Qasir and Amoon will have to wait years to get justice. It is a sad reality that the present government has no intention even to talk about or to take steps to stop the ongoing misuse of the blasphemy law. Pakistani President Dr Arif Alvi has already said that the government would not amend the law. This means the killing of innocent people will continue despite growing opposition to the law around the world.”

He shared that the Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has been acknowledged by the world for his recent decision of opening the Kartarpur corridor for Indian Sikhs. However, he has no plans for Pakistan’s own minorities. Nasir added that minorities feared Khan’s statements of making Pakistan a Medina-like state.

“Very recently, his statement that there is no mention of Jesus in history, hurting the feelings of Christians not just in Pakistan, but throughout the world,” he also lamented.

The sentence was handed down only two days after America put Pakistan on a religious freedom blacklist, and is expected to again draw attention to the country’s harsh blasphemy laws.

Qasir’s son (14yr.) has been experiencing extreme anxiety since his father’s incarceration. Please keep these brothers and their loved ones in your prayers.

Indonesian Christian governor Ahok set for early release from prison

(World Watch Monitor) Jakarta’s former governor, known as “Ahok”, who was sentenced last year to two years in jail for blasphemy against Islam, is to be released from prison next month, four months ahead of schedule.

The ethnic Chinese Christian, whose real name is Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, was due to be released in May but has been granted early release, scheduled for 24 January, for good behaviour, according to Sri Puguh Budi Utami, Director General for Prison Affairs, as reported by AsiaNews.

Ahok had refused parole in July as he hoped for early release after serving almost two-thirds of his sentence.

Widespread condemnation

Ahok, the first Christian and ethnic Chinese to govern Indonesia’s capital since the 1960s, was charged with blasphemy in December 2016 after accusing his political opponents of using Quranic verses to dissuade Muslims from voting for him in his bid for re-election as Jakarta governor.

In April last year, one day after he lost the election to his Muslim contender, Anies Rasiyd Baswedan, prosecutors downgraded the blasphemy charges against him and recommended he serve no prison time if found guilty. They suggested two years’ probation with a possible one-year jail term if he committed a crime during that period. The judge, however, decided a harsher punishment was called for, telling the court: “Mr. Purnama was found to have legitimately and convincingly conducted a criminal act of blasphemy, and because of that we have imposed two years of imprisonment.”

His sentence received widespread condemnation globally as politicians, academics and rights groups expressed their concerns about the growing threat to religious pluralism in Indonesia.

During the trial, Ahok’s supporters clashed repeatedly with extremist Islamist groups and it was for this reason that the former governor initially decided not to appeal his sentence – “for the sake of our people and nation”.

Politics and fake news

However in February Ahok filed an appealafter a court found a communications professor from Jakarta, Buni Yani, guilty of hate speech for editing the viral video that formed the basis for the allegations against Ahok. But the Supreme Court rejected Ahok’s appeal.

Before Ahok’s trial, in November 2016, Catholic news agency UCAN reported that according to Syafi’i Ma’arif, the former chairman of Muhammadiyah, the second largest Islamic group in Indonesia, there was “no blasphemy” in Yani’s video, and the charges against the Christian governor had been fabricated for political purposes.

During his trial, Ahok told the court he had been the target of racist and religious attacks since he was elected to public office in 2005.

In March it was reported that Ahok may also have been a victim of a sophisticated anti-government campaign of “fake news” and malicious bots. An online jihadist network known as the Muslim Cyber Army (MCA) posted “inflammatory content and messages designed to amplify social and religious division, and push a hardline Islamist and anti-government line”, authorities said.

An Indonesian musician is currently facing a two-year prison sentence for allegedly committing hate speech against Ahok during his bid for re-election in 2017, as World Watch Monitor reported.

Earlier this year, Indonesia’s Human Rights Commission announced plans to publish guidelines to avoid sectarian clashes in the run-up to next year’s national elections as some hard-line Islamic leaders had called on Indonesians to vote only for Muslim candidates.

Blasphemy death sentence appeal hearing postoned

(Voice of the Persecuted) The November 27, 2018 appeal hearing of Sawan Masih, a Pakistani Christian accused and sentenced to death for blasphemy, was postponed. Nasir Saeed, a spokesperson from CLAAS, Sawans’s defense counsel, told Voice of the Persecuted that they have yet to receive a rescheduled hearing date. It’s possible that the court avoided conducting the hearing deliberately because of the present situation in the country after Asia Bibi’s acquittal, he added. 

Sawan is at the center of a case that caused a mob of 3000 Muslim men to attack the Joseph Colony of Lahore, Pakistan in March of 2013. (View report and photos) After a local mosque announced the blasphemy charge over loudspeakers, the vigilantes stormed the Christian community where Masih lived. They burned or ransacked 180 Christian homes, 75 shops and at least two churches during the attack. Mob members threatened to burn the Christians alive if they tried to defend or hide in their homes. Hundreds of families were forced to flee for their lives as the angry mob destroyed their village. 

Masih was accused by his Muslim friend, Shahid Imran. A local bishop said the incident had more to do with personal enmity between the two men than blasphemy. He claimed the men got into a brawl after drinking late one night, and in the morning the Muslim man made up the blasphemy story as payback. Some claimed that Sawan was ‘winning’ their argument. They believe a Christian having the upper hand incensed Shahid Imran to falsely accuse Masih. Please keep praying for Masih and other victims of Pakistan’s blasphemy law.

Blasphemy: Christian death sentence appeal hearing on Nov. 27

Sawan Masih sentenced to death for blasphemy

PAKISTAN: Prayers are needed for Sawan Masih who has been on death row for blasphemy since 2014. Masih was accused by his Muslim friend, Shahid Imran, of making derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad in 2013. A case was registered against him under section 295-C of the Blasphemy Law which has a mandatory death penalty. Masih says the charge is false.

His case became internationally known when a large Muslim mob violently attacked Masih’s residential area, Joseph Colony, in Badami Bagh Lahore. The local mosque broadcasted the accusation via loudspeakers and a mob of more than 3,000 Muslims attacked Sawan’s home, looted and torched 180 Christian homes, 75 shops and at least two churches. Witnesses say the police stood and watched instead of stopping the attackers and protecting local Christians and their property.

Hundreds of families were displaced as the mob threatened to burn Christians alive in their homes unless they left. Sawan Masih was handed over to the police and has remained in custody ever since. See our March 2013 report and photos of the violent mob attack

Mob burns and destroys Christian neighborhood for blasphemy charge claimed to be false.

On March 27, 2014 the Lower Court sentenced Masih to death for committing blasphemy.  Soon after this verdict CLAAS filed an appeal against the conviction in the Lahore High Court, which is scheduled to be heard on Tuesday, November 27, 2018.

Sawan Masih’s wife and three children are very concerned and living in fear. CLAAS is providing free legal aid to Sawan Masih. Prayers have been requested and considered crucial for his safety and release.

Nasir Saeed, director of CLAAS-UK said, “This is a very unfortunate situation as although Asia Bibi was acquitted on October 31 by the Pakistan Supreme Court, she is not allowed to leave Pakistan despite several western countries being willing to accept her and her family.”

He added, “This is because the leader of the Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan has threatened the government, saying if she leaves the country, there will be war. Unfortunately for the last several decades, Islamist groups in Pakistan have become more powerful than the state. Now the situation is that everyone, whether it is the prime minister or the chief justice of Pakistan, they have to proclaim publicly that they equally love the prophet and would sacrifice their life for the prophet.

A review petition and separately a petition to add her name in the exit control list (ECL) has been filed in the supreme court and keeping in view the present situation I don’t think the review petition will be heard very soon.”

Mr Saeed also said, “Pakistan’s President Dr Arif Alvi’s statement that the government will not amend the blasphemy law is not very encouraging as we all know the blasphemy law is often used by Muslims to settle personal grudges and scores against their rivals, and Christians are the main target.  He said the blasphemy law needs change to stop its continuous misuse and the international community needs to remind Pakistan of this regularly.”

HEARING UPDATE HERE

Video: Radicals protest Asia Bibi’s release, Pakistani Christians request our prayers

(Voice of the Persecuted) On Wednesday, protests by the radical group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) against the acquittal of the blasphemy sentence against Asia Bibi has paralyzed daily life in various cities throughout the country. Major cities such as Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar, among others have all been affected. Protesters have forced people to close schools, shops and businesses. They blocked roads causing massive traffic jams, even flights have been delayed as passengers are finding it difficult to reach airports. The Punjab Safe Cities Authority reported protests were being carried out at 25 different locations, effectively blocking roads with intent to shut down traffic across the city. Security is also heightened in areas populated by Christians and for churches as well.

The TLP is now calling for the murder of the Supreme Court judges, mutiny within Army against General Qamar Bajwa, an Ahmadi, and an end to Imran Khan’s government.The government sent the Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Noorul Haq Qadri and Minister for National Food Security and Research, Sahibzada Muhammad Mehboob Sultan to Lahore for the purpose of negotiating with Khadim Rizvi to end his protest.

Pray for the courage and safety of our Pakistani brothers and sisters. For the sake of all, that peace prevails in the country.

We ask that you also pray for those who persecute us, They do not know the Lord and the amazing love He’s offering them. Pray their chains will be broken, for revelation, repentance, that they will be found in Christ to receive the gift of salvation. In the holy name of Jesus Christ, let us pray.

As we rejoice and give thanks to the Lord with our sister, let us pray for her as she adjusts to life united with her family in a new country. We also would like to recognize the Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need, (ACN) grateful for the support they are and have given her family throughout their suffering. Asia and her family are members of the Catholic church.

Quote from the video below: “We have a great God and He answers prayers.”

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