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Court in Pakistan Validates Forced Conversion, Marriage of Christian Girl to Muslim

Pakistan (Morning Star News) – A high court ruling in Pakistan validating the marriage and forced conversion to Islam of a 14-year-old Christian girl has heightened fears that it will encourage others to commit such crimes, sources said.

The High Court in Sindh Province on Feb. 3 dismissed a petition to have the marriage and forced conversion of a Catholic girl overturned, ruling that both were valid since a girl under sharia (Islamic law) can marry after her first menstrual cycle.

Huma Younus was taken from her home in Karachi’s Zia Colony on Oct. 10 while her parents were away and was forced to marry the man who abducted her, identified as Abdul Jabbar of Dera Ghazi Khan, Punjab Province, her attorney said.

“The hearing on Feb. 3 lasted only five minutes,” the family’s attorney, Tabassum Yousaf, told Morning Star News. “The court, in just a few words citing the sharia, has justified the violation of the girl’s body since she has already had her first period.”

Yousaf added that the family was prohibited from seeing Huma because police said her life would be at risk if she was brought to the courtroom.

He said the family challenged Huma’s marriage and forced conversion under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013, which declares marrying a person under 18 years old an offense punishable by up to three years in prison.

Although the Sindh government takes credit for becoming Pakistan’s first elected assembly to pass a bill on child marriage in April 2014, the law is still poorly implemented, sources said.

Yousaf said he submitted Huma’s baptismal and school documents in court that proved she was 14 years old, but nevertheless Sindh High Court judges Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro and Irshad Ali Shah ruled that the marriage was valid based on her menstrual cycle.

The legal battle has been going on for months with constant delays and excuses cited so as not to present the underage girl in court, sources said.

The family has filed an appeal to the Court of Justice in Sindh Province, and Yousaf said a hearing is scheduled for March 4. Police will thus have more time for medical tests to determine Huma’s age, he said.

Guardian Consent Needed

The girl’s parents were informed via text message that Huma had converted to Islam and had married Jabbar “of her free will,” sources said.

Since forced conversions are not illegal in Pakistan, her attorney said he believed the case hinged on Huma’s age.

Prominent Supreme Court Advocate Saiful Malook told Morning Star News that even though sharia allows marriage of a minor girl if she has her first period, the marriage has to be validated by the girl’s guardian.

“In no way can any court of law endorse an underage marriage unless it is supported by the girl’s guardian,” Malook said. “Marriage is governed by the Contract Act, wherein no minor can enter into a contract or agreement without the explicit approval of her guardian. In this particular case, the court must take into account whether the girl’s legal guardian has consented to her marriage even if it’s judging the act under the sharia.”

He added that a 14-year-old minor cannot be deemed mature enough to change her religion by her own will, considering the fact that she could have been coerced or blackmailed into renouncing her faith. Huma reportedly filed an affidavit declaring that she married of her own free will, but Yousaf has said that such an affidavit can’t be filed legally until she obtains an identity card at age 18.

The high court must order Huma to record a statement in the courtroom, Malook said.

“If the police are not producing the girl before the court on various pretenses, the court should be wise enough to see through the police’s mala fide and hand the custody of the minor back to her parents,” he said.

Malook, who represented Pakistan’s most high-profile blasphemy convict, Aasiya Noreen, better known as Asia Bibi, before the Supreme Court and won her freedom, said that abducting for the purpose of forced conversion and underage marriage is a major problem in Pakistan. He added that legislation effective in curbing the practice is long overdue.

Christian rights activists believe that the ruling of the Sindh High Court will encourage more perpetrators of such crimes to hide behind sharia. Pakistan Center of Law of Justice Executive Director Napoleon Qayyum told Morning Star News that the high court’s ruling would result in a surge in cases of forced conversion and underage marriages of Christian girls.

“Another Christian girl aged 14 was recently abducted and gang-raped by some Muslim youths in Bihar Colony area of Lahore,” Qayyum said. “The victim is a student of grade nine and was abducted by four or five boys on her way to a local tuition center on Jan. 16, 2020. The abductors not only raped her but also obtained her signatures and thumb impressions on some papers.”

Police were able to recover her on Jan. 19, but Qayyum said he fears the suspects will use her signed documents to produce a fake marriage certificate and religion conversion letter in a bid to escape abduction and rape charges.

“This is common modus operandi of Muslims to confuse the court and avoid justice,” he said.

In nearly all such cases, he said, the rapists threaten to harm the girls’ families if they reveal the truth.

“Moreover, the girls are also forced to give false statements in court that they have changed their religion of free will and had married of their own choice,” Qayyum said. “Girls belonging to minority communities often succumb to pressure and consideration for their family’s security, which has further emboldened the men belonging to the majority faith.”

Most victims of forced conversion and marriage in Pakistan are reportedly Christian and Hindu girls and women forced to marry Muslim men who are much older than them. According to the Centre for Social Justice, at least 159 such cases were reported between 2013 and 2019.

The Sindh legislature in 2016 passed a law outlawing forcible conversions and conversions before the age of 18 but, under pressure from Islamic extremist groups, the governor declined to sign it. Each year about 1,000 Christian and Hindu women in Pakistan are forcibly converted to Islam and then married off to their abductors or rapists, according to the National Commission of Justice and Peace and the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Pakistan ranked fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors 2020 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, and on Nov. 28, 2018, the United States added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom.

Photo: Huma Younas, 14, was abducted and forced to convert to Islam, her parents say. (Morning Star News courtesy of family)

Genocide of Christians Reaches “Alarming Stage”

Christian persecution ‘at near genocide levels,’” the title of a May 3 BBC report, cites a lengthy interim study ordered by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and led by Rev. Philip Mounstephen, the Bishop of Truro.

According to the BBC report, one in three people around the world suffer from religious persecution, with Christians being “the most persecuted religious group”; “religion ‘is at risk of disappearing’ in some parts of the world”; and “In some regions, the level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN.”

British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt is also quoted on why Western governments have been “asleep”—his word—concerning this growing epidemic:  “I think there is a misplaced worry that it is somehow colonialist to talk about a religion [Christianity] that was associated with colonial powers rather than the countries that we marched into as colonisers.  That has perhaps created an awkwardness in talking about this issue—the role of missionaries was always a controversial one and that has, I think, also led some people to shy away from this topic.”

Whatever the merits of such thinking, the fact is, many of the world’s most persecuted Christians have nothing whatsoever to do with colonialism or missionaries.  For example, those most faced with the threat of genocide—including Syria’s and Iraq’s Assyrians and Egypt’s Copts—were Christian several centuries before the ancestors of Europe’s colonizers became Christian, let alone went missionizing.

The BBC report highlights “political correctness” as being especially responsible for the West’s indifference, and quotes Hunt again in this regard: “What we have forgotten in that atmosphere of political correctness is actually the Christians that are being persecuted are some of the poorest people on the planet.”

Although the BBC report has an entire heading titled and devoted to the impact of “political correctness,” ironically, it too succumbs to this contemporary Western malady.  For while it did a fair job in highlighting the problem, it said nothing about its causes—not one word about who is persecuting Christians, or why.

For instance, it is well established that the overwhelming majority of Christian persecution occurs in Muslim majority nations.  According to Open Doors’ World Watch List 2019, which surveys the 50 nations where Christians are most persecuted, “Islamic oppression continues to impact millions of Christians.”  In seven of the absolute worst ten nations, “Islamic oppression” is the cause of persecution.  “This means, for millions of Christians—particularly those who grew up Muslim or were born into Muslim families—openly following Jesus can have painful consequences,” including death.

Among the worst persecutors are those that rule according to Islamic law, or Sharia (which academics such as Georgetown University’s John Esposito insist is equitable and just).  In Afghanistan (ranked #2), “Christianity is not permitted to exist,” says the WWL 2019, because it “is an Islamic state by constitution, which means government officials, ethnic group leaders, religious officials and citizens are hostile toward” Christians.  Similarly, in Somalia, (#3), “The Christian community is small and under constant threat of attack. Sharia law and Islam are enshrined in the country’s constitution, and the persecution of Christians almost always involves violence.”  In Iran (#9), “society is governed by Islamic law, which means the rights and professional possibilities for Christians are heavily restricted.”

Equally telling is that 38 of the 50 nations making the WWL 2019 are Muslim majority.

Perhaps the BBC succumbed to silence concerning the sources of Christian persecution—that is, succumbed to “the atmosphere of political correctness” which it ironically highlighted—because it did not rely on the WWL in its own report.  The problem with this interpretation is that the study the BBC did rely on, the Bishop of Truro’s, is saturated with talk concerning the sources of Christian persecution.  In this regard, the words “Islam” and “Islamist” appear 61 times; “Muslim” appears 56 times in this comprehensive review on persecuted Christians.

Here are a few of the more significant quotes from the Bishop of Truro’s report:

  • “The persecution of Christians is perhaps at its most virulent in the region of the birthplace of Christianity—the Middle East & North Africa.”
  • “In countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia the situation of Christians and other minorities has reached an alarming stage.”
  • “The eradication of Christians and other minorities on pain of ‘the sword’ or other violent means was revealed to be the specific and stated objective of [Islamic] extremist groups in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, north-east Nigeria and the Philippines.”
  • “[T]here is mass violence which regularly expresses itself through the bombing of churches, as has been the case in countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, and Indonesia.”
  • “The single-greatest threat to Christians [in Nigeria] … came from Islamist militant group Boko Haram, with US intelligence reports in 2015 suggesting that 200,000 Christians were at risk of being killed…  Those worst affected included Christian women and girls ‘abducted, and forced to convert, enter forced marriages, sexual abuse and torture.’”
  • “An intent to erase all evidence of the Christian presence [in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, north-east Nigeria and the Philippines] was made plain by the removal of crosses, the destruction of Church buildings and other Church symbols. The killing and abduction of clergy represented a direct attack on the Church’s structure and leadership.”
  • “Christianity now faces the possibility of being wiped-out in parts of the Middle East where its roots go back furthest. In Palestine, Christian numbers are below 1.5 percent; in Syria the Christian population has declined from 1.7 million in 2011 to below 450,000 and in Iraq, Christian numbers have slumped from 1.5 million before 2003 to below 120,000 today. Christianity is at risk of disappearing, representing a massive setback for plurality in the region.”

The BBC should be commended for (finally) reporting on this urgent issue—even if it is three years behind the times.  As the Truro report correctly observes,  “In 2016 various political bodies including the UK parliament, the European Parliament and the US House of Representatives, declared that ISIS atrocities against Christians and other religious minority groups such as Yazidis and Shi’a Muslims met the tests of genocide.”

At the very least, it may be hoped that the BBC has stopped trying to minimize  the specter of Christian persecution, as it did in 2013, when this phenomenon was just starting to reach boiling point.

Malaysian Federal Court refuses four people their right to affirm Christian identity

Palace of Justice Putrajaya Photo: by Gryffindor, Wikimedia Commons

(World Watch Monitor) Malaysia’s highest court dismissed an appeal today (27 February) against four appellants who wanted to be formally recognised as Christians.

The five judges of the Malaysian Federal Court ruled that in matters of conversion away from Islam, it was necessary for them to consult the Islamic Sharia courts.

The president of the court, Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, said the decision was unanimous.

He added that even though there are no specific provisions in the Sharia ordinance over conversions out of Islam, the religious court still has legal authority on what he termed “apostasy”.

Raucous, unruly scenes and shouts of “Allahu akbar” (“Allah is the greatest”) greeted the decision as a mob surrounded the Catholic Archbishop of Kuching, Simon Peter Poh, outside the court complex. He was jostled while being escorted to his car amid fears that he might be assaulted.

Three of the appellants had previously converted from Christianity to Islam when they married Malay-Muslim spouses, but now want to affirm their Christian identity again. The fourth is a Malay-Muslim who embraced the Christian faith and was baptised in 2009.

The Federal Court, sitting in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak state, yesterday (26 February) heard the joint appeal of the four appellants who want their conversions legally recognised. The judges then adjourned their decision to today.

The lawyer for the appellants, Baru Bian, an opposition politician and a campaigner for the customary rights of indigenous Malaysians, many of whom are Christian, had been optimistic that the judges would base their decision on the substance of the country’s civil law.

He said the argument of the state was that Sarawak Shariah Court Ordinance 2001 “has provisions on conversion into Islam”. Since there is no provision for those who want to leave the faith, he argued that the civil court should have jurisdiction.

Three of the appellants – Mohamed Syafiq Abdullah, who has taken the name Tiong Choo Ting; Jenny Peter, who was formerly Nur Muzdhalifah Abdullah; and Salina Jau Abdullah – converted to Islam in order to marry Muslims. All four were asking the Federal Court to have their names and their faith changed on their national identity cards.

In 2006 Jenny Peter divorced her Muslim husband and re-embraced Christianity. The Muslim husband of Salina Jau divorced her in 1992, and she too returned to Christianity. In the case of Tiong Choo Ting, he began to practise Christianity after his Muslim wife died in 2007.

The fourth appellant, Syarifah Nooraffyza Wan Hosen, is ethnic Malay and was raised as a Muslim. In her declaration she said she no longer practises Islam and was baptised in 2009. She wants her identity card to record her new faith and a new name, Vanessa Elizabeth.

According to local media, all four were required to undergo counselling for renouncing the Muslim faith. But they have remained adamant they want to renounce Islam, and have signed statutory declarations expressing this desire.

All four remain Muslims as far as official documentation is concerned.

Critics accused the court of failing to understand its powers to rule on an individual’s choice of religion. “It means that freedom of religion, which is a constitutional right and a matter for the civil court, is subservient to Islamic laws,” one Christian human-rights campaigner said.

Some social-media users said they felt disappointed by the Federal Court’s decision. Some even nicknamed the case the Sharia Court’s “Hotel California” clause, recalling the 1970s song by The Eagles about a hotel you could check into but never leave.

Islam is considered intrinsic to the identity of Malaysia’s majority Malay people, and under Sharia (Islamic law), renouncing Islam is viewed as apostasy, a crime, although liberal Muslim theologians argue that conversion is a matter for the individual. Many of the country’s sizeable Buddhist, Christian and Hindu populations are of non-Malay heritage.

In recent decades Islamists have become increasingly vocal in their demands that Malaysia be governed as a Muslim state, and analysts say the spread of a more conservative interpretation of Islam lies behind the rise in attacks on churches and church leaders.

At the same time, civil courts have handed jurisdiction over Islamic religious matters to the Sharia court system and at times taken a policy of non-interference between the two courts. This has left people wishing to leave Islam in legal limbo.

According to Malaysia’s constitution, the country is a secular state with Islam as its main religion. However, Islamists refute this, saying that the colonial-era charter of rights is no longer valid, and they demand the precedence of religious law.

Nigeria: Kebbi Christians face latent pressure to abandon faith

Kebbi-4456

Danbango village in the Yauri Local Government Area was traditionally an animist community, but many converted to Christianity following the visit of missionaries in 2012. More recently, visits from Muslim evangelists have seen many convert to Islam. The Christians there say they also faced pressure to do so.

One Christian villager said they were promised boreholes, schools and clinics if they converted.

Another said: “When my son became very sick, I took him to hospital, but the doctors said they would treat him only if I gave up my Christian faith. I refused and took him home. Some days later he died.”  (more…)

When Family Becomes Enemy Number 1: Egypt’s religious divide forces women and Christians to pay a high price

A street in a neighbourhood of Tamia, Egypt, where the romance began. World Watch Monitor

A street in a neighbourhood of Tamia, Egypt, where the romance began.
World Watch Monitor

(World Watch Monitor) Not for the first time in Egypt, a romance between a Muslim divorcee and a Copt eventually ended in tragedy late last year, when the woman, who had ‘converted’ to Christianity, was killed by members of her family.

Many parts of the story seem inexplicable: how a romance between a Muslim woman and a Christian man could end in marriage in a country where Sharia makes this legally impossible; and how a mother could pay with her life for being with a Christian, while her killers remain at large. There appears to be a pattern of collective punishment, favouring the strong against the weak. It’s a sectarian twist to a notoriously familiar ‘honour-killing’ scenario plaguing many Islamic cultures.

It all began in 2013, when a romance started between Marwa Mohamed, 26, and her Coptic neighbour, Karim Eid, 27, in the town of Tamia, 87 km southwest of Cairo.

The Muslim mother of two (Sahar, eight, and Omar, six), used to frequent a nearby Christian jeweller’s shop where Eid was working.

“The frequent visits by Marwa to meet Karim at the shop gave reason for Karim’s employer to dismiss him,” explained George Fahmi, a relative of Eid and a resident of their home town of Tamia.

“During the summer of 2013, the couple made it secretly out of Tamia to Alexandria [280 km away].”

Marwa’s desperate family tried unsuccessfully to locate her. Their attempts included storming the local St. George church and the priest’s home, according to Fahmi.

Unable to bear the shame of his daughter’s elopement with a Christian, Marwa’s father, together with her mother and siblings, left Tamia for Cairo, where he earned a meagre living as a concierge.

During this time, according to Fahmi, Mohamed converted to Christianity (a ‘conversion’ not backed by official papers), and lived with Eid in Alexandria for nearly 30 months, during which time she became pregnant and they had the baby aborted.

‘Honour’ killing with religion twist

On 6 November last year, Eid took Marwa back to see his family in Tamia. Sahar, Marwa’s daughter from her previous husband is said to have spotted her mother. Eid might have thought Marwa’s now quite changed appearance, with Western clothes and without a headscarf, would mask her identity.

Word spread quickly, and as male guardians of the family’s honour – in absence of her father in Cairo – Marwa’s cousins took it upon themselves to storm Eid’s home, where they assaulted his mother and forcibly took Marwa away to her parents in the capital. Eid was not in at the time.

Another uncomfortable fact is that Eid then escaped for his life. For, following constant taunting by the community, the incensed relatives retrieved Marwa from her parents’ Cairo home back to Tamia, where she was killed.

“Marwa stayed in hiding with us for 10 days until her uncle and his two sons found her in my house,” recalled Ahmed Mohamed, Marwa’s father. “They took us all back to Tamia, where they abused us. Early on Wednesday, 18 November, they killed her in front of me, and her mother and sister.”

Marwa’s younger sister was made to slit her older sister throat, “as a way to deter her from following in her footsteps”, Egyptian media quoted sources as saying. Another version of the story said, however, that Marwa was strangled.

After the body was dumped near a cemetery, Marwa’s parents reported her uncle and their nephews to the police for murdering their daughter. But these men are still at large and no charges have been filed against them. (Egyptian courts are known to look with leniency upon perpetrators of ‘honour’ killings, especially when a convert is involved.)

Community ‘justice’

A conciliatory meeting was convened between the Muslim woman’s clan and Eid’s family. In the presence of the local priest and under the auspices of high-ranking security officials, “it was agreed that the Christian family would sell their homes and leave the town for good, and never set foot therein”, sources told Egyptian media.

Ten days were given for Eid’s immediate family to relocate from their hometown, in order to “avert a sectarian incident”.

“Whenever one party is a Christian, such extrajudicial measures are resorted to,” said human rights activist Adel Shafiq. “Christian families are forced to relocate. The weaker side bears the brunt.”

Read more: Egypt — A timeline of ‘forced relocations’ of Copts

“In scores of incidents, Christian properties were attacked. Often Copts, related to the incident merely by religious association, have been victimised. Offenders are seldom brought to justice,” added Mina Milad, a lawyer and member of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organisation.

“When the romance is the other way round, i.e. a Christian woman converting to Islam for the sake of a Muslim lover, or to escape family pressures, the state deals with it very differently. In this case, the conversion is made legal and paperwork is expedited, even in cases of underage girls,” journalist Nader Shokri wrote on the website, Copts United.

Apparently ISIS is a mentality which puts the knife to the neck of this country

While these issues are not new, one Muslim journalist bemoaned the trend.

“Apparently ISIS is a mentality which puts the knife to the neck of this country,” said Ali Aweiss, suggesting many ordinary Muslims might think or behave in ways not so different from the jihadist movement whose theologically-justified atrocities have made headlines around the world.

“Two lines into the heart-wrenching story of Marwa, one reads right next to it, ‘German family openly convert to Islam’… with a picture showing a man, his wife and two children, mother and daughter clad almost totally in black,” added Aweiss, writing for the Egyptian news site, Misr Times.

“I wonder, would this [German] family be equally hunted down by their relatives and their whole community back home for having departed from their religion of birth?”

VOP Note: Please pray for our brothers and sisters who have converted from Islam. We are in touch with converts in Egypt and it is a hard life for them. But they are not willing to turn back after finding their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They have been filled with so much joy, they are sharing the Gospel and starting ‘churches’. Oh Father, protect these dear ones. Guide them with wisdom and without fear to be fruitful in Your Kingdom purposes and will. In Jesus holy name, we pray.

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IRAQ – Teachers in the Nineveh province rebel against school programs imposed by jihadists

iraq-map--1

(Agenzia Fides) – More than thirty teachers working in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh, currently under the control of the jihadist Islamic State (Daesh), were stopped and arrested in the last hours for refusing to follow the new education programs imposed by jihadists in the schools of the region. The news of the arrests of “rebel” teachers was reported by local sources to the Kurdish media that monitor the north of Iraq, such as News Agency Ara. The teachers arrested will be judged by the Islamic court established by the jihadist regime, that in Iraq has its stronghold in Mosul. The judicial body may order the replacement of the teachers arrested with more docile teachers.

After the conquest of Mosul and the establishment of the Islamic State, the militants of Daesh have adopted to change the school curriculum to transform education institutions in bases for jihadist indoctrination of the younger generation. Philosophy, chemistry, biology and mathematics lessons have been banned, replaced by courses on Sharia and jihad. As reported by Agenzia Fides (see Fides 13/09/2014), already at the beginning of the school year 2014/2015 schools in Mosul and Nineveh Plain that had Christian names had to change, and the teaching of the Syriac language and culture and that of Christian religious education had been abolished.

The teachers’ revolt is still viewed by observers as a signal of the population’s intolerance towards the regime of the self-proclaimed Caliphate. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 07/01/2016)

Case in Malaysia Could Decide if Sharia Supersedes Constitution

Penang-Malaysia

(Morning Star News) – A case involving the constitutional position of sharia (Islamic law) courts in the Malaysian legal system could strengthen the power of the courts to block Malay conversions from Islam.

In the potentially landmark case, that had been scheduled to be heard today, the Federal Territory Islamic Council claims that sharia courts are separate from and not subject to Malaysia’s federal court system.

Malaysia has two legal systems: the sharia courts and the federal courts. The sharia courts settle family matters (such as divorces), inheritance questions and violations of the pillars of Islam. These courts can impose limited punishments (six months’ imprisonment and fines up to about $1,300). They apply exclusively to Muslims – only Muslims can bring cases to these courts, and until 2006 only Muslims testified in them.

A Christian lawyer, Victoria Martin, noticed that it was difficult to resolve interfaith disputes in sharia courts, so she obtained a diploma in sharia from the International Islamic University Malaysia. In August 2009, she applied to the Federal Territory Islamic Council (Majilis Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan, or MAIWP) for permission to practice in sharia court.

Her application was not processed because she was not a Muslim; rule 10 of the Sharia Court Rules Act (1993) states that sharia lawyers must be Muslims. By contrast, Singapore, which has a similar legal heritage, allows non-Muslims to practice in sharia courts.

In October 2009, Martin sued in Malaysian court requesting a judicial review of the rejection of her application. She lost, but later she won on appeal. The appeals court cited section 59(1) of the Sharia Court Rules Act (1993), which states that anyone with “sufficient knowledge of Islamic law” may be an advocate (attorney) in sharia courts.

Both the Malaysian Attorney General and the MAIWP have challenged Martin’s argument that her constitutional rights have been denied. Their case was due to be heard in the Malaysian Federal Court on Aug. 13, pitting constitutional rights against sharia. The ruling was expected to be delayed, however, over political issues.

The Islamic Council holds that because Islamic law always prioritizes the rights of the community over those of an individual, such laws should not be subject to freedoms that are part of the Malaysian Federal Constitution.

A decision for Martin would affirm the supremacy of the Federal Constitution. A decision against her, however, would mean that Islamic laws supersede federal laws. This would place the sharia courts beyond the reach of the federal courts.

If the position of the sharia courts is beyond review of federal courts, Malaysia’s 15 million ethnic Malays would be affected immediately, because all Malays are defined in the Constitution (Article 160) as Muslims. As “sons of the soil” (bumiputeras), they are given special affirmative action types of privileges.

One consequence of bumiputera status is that it is not possible for a Malay to convert to any other religion without changing ethnic status. Only sharia courts can change a person’s religious (and ethnic) status. A decision against Martin in the case thus would strengthen the sharia courts’ power to impede Malays converting to other faiths.

In short, the Martin case will be critical in defining the position of the sharia courts with respect to the federal court system. The placement of one system over the other will rest on the decision.

Bible College, Churches Shut Down as Boko Haram Claims Territory in NE Nigeria

Nigeria persecuted

Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Leaders of northeastern Nigeria’s Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN) said Boko Haram attacks that have killed more than 300 Christians in the past week have forced the temporary closure of Kulp Bible College and many churches.

In an emergency prayer message sent Saturday night (Sept. 6) to Morning Star News among others, EYN President Samuel Dali said the headquarters of the church is under grave threat from the Islamic extremist insurgents who seek to impose sharia (Islamic law) throughout the country.

“Boko Haram violence has been getting worse every day, and our members are fleeing the area by the thousands,” he said. “Recent attacks in Borno and Adamawa states where are our churches are located have seen Boko Haram take over the Army base. As a result, about 350 Christians have been killed.”

Following a recent online video declaration by Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau that Boko Haram was establishing an Islamic caliphate in Borno state’s Damboa and Gwoza towns and Yobe state’s Buni Yadi, including their surrounding villages, Boko Haram has killed more Christians and burned down more churches, Dali said.

Church leaders fear the EYN headquarters in Kwarhi, near Mubi in Adamawa state, could be attacked, he said.

“Every night at the EYN headquarters, our staff and their families go to bed with hearts bound in fear for their lives,” Dali said. “This has forced them to be prepared to flee at any time of the night in an event an attack occurs during the hours of darkness.”

The attacks in the past week took place in the Gwoza, Chibok, Uba and Bama areas of Borno state – with Boko Haram threatening to attack the capital, Maiduguri – and in the Gulak, Michika and Madagali areas of Adamawa state, he said.

Dr. Rebecca Dali, wife of the EYN president, said in a text message to Morning Star News that Boko Haram has attacked villages in Adamawa state in a bid to take over the Madagali area.

“We are still under turbulence because of Boko Haram – last week they captured a lot of villages in the Madagali areas,” she said. “Five days ago they overcame the soldiers, occupied the army barracks, and killed more than 350 Christians. Yesterday and today (Sept. 5 and 6) the Boko Haram insurgents were in Gulak, killing a lot of Christians.”

A pastor at an EYN chuch in Gulak was traumatized, she said.

“He told us that they vandalized the church and his own property. He also said the gunmen killed a lot of Christians who are from Shuwa, Michika, Watu, and others,” she said. “The survivors are running, while others have been running to mountains to take refuge. We are closing Kulp Bible College for now. Pray for us please.”

The Bible college is also located in Kwarhi, near Mubi, Adamawa state. As of Saturday night (Sept. 6) Boko Haram terrorists were fewer than 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the Bible college and EYN headquarters, according to church leaders.

Sources said that thousands of Christians were trapped in towns and villages captured by Boko Haram, including Gwoza, Damboa, Askira/Uba, Marte, Chibok, Konduga, Dikwa, Bama, Gulak, Madagali and Michika.

A Christian survivor from Gulak told Morning Star News by phone that Boko Haram, loosely translated as “Western education is a sin,” had seized the town.

“They went from house to house shooting and killing those they came in contact with,” Luka Sabo said. “I have seen bodies of some of those killed, but it is difficult to say how many have died.”

Emmanuel Kwache of Michika told Morning Star News by phone that the Boko Haram attack had left many Christians dead and thousands of others displaced.

“We are trapped here and don’t know where to run to, please pray for our rescue,” he pleaded.

An attack on Madagali on Aug. 23 resulted in the death of many Christians and the displacement of thousands of others, Christian leaders told Morning Star News. James Abawu, chairman of the Madagali Local Government Council, said that Boko Haram rebels killed Christians and destroyed their houses before hoisting Islamic flags in several villages.

“The Boko Haram insurgents came to the villages in large numbers and, using rocket-propelled launchers, explosive devices, and bombs, invaded our communities in Madagali,” he said. “They killed, maimed people and destroyed houses before hoisting  their flags in different locations in the villages.”

Most Christians have been forced to flee, he added.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs recently reported that about 1.5 million Nigerians have been forced to flee their homes by Boko Haram in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, where the Nigerian government has declared a state of emergency.

Christian leaders in the three affected states told Morning Star News that most of the displaced people are Christians. In addition, they said Christian clinics and schools have been shut down, and food for survivors has become very scarce.

Christians who escaped from the attacked areas told Morning Star News that those remaining in the Boko Haram areas were being forced to convert to Islam and conscripted into fighting for Boko Haram.

Borno Gov. Kashim Shettima, on Friday (Sept. 5) expressed concern over the attacks in a broadcast.

“In recent days and weeks, we have come under renewed and augmented attacks, waged against all of us, by an armed minority that seeks to impose on us a doctrine that is completely at variance with the religion of Islam, which they claim to promote; a doctrine that negates the dignity and existence of humanity on earth, despite Allah’s decree in the glorious Quran, that He has dignified the human creature, prohibited unjust killings and made the religion of Islam that which does not sanction compulsion in a multi-faith society like ours.”

He confirmed that several communities in Gwoza, Damboa, Askira/Uba, Marte, Chibok, Konduga, Dikwa and the most recently Bama, have been killed.

“Young and old, amongst them children, weak old men and women, [have been] killed in cold blood, their homes destroyed and thousands forced to flee, with some trekking over hurtful distances to become refugees within and outside Borno state,” he said. “Our capital city of Maiduguri is today facing a heavy influx of refugees from the local government areas in Borno. Borno citizens have been forced to take refuge in parts of Gombe and Adamawa states mainly on account of man’s inhumanity to fellow man in the gratuitous name of religion. These acts are absolutely condemnable in the strongest of terms.”

Adamawa state government secretary Liman Tukur confirmed that Gulak and Michika towns have been taken over by the Boko Haram insurgents.

“It has come to the attention of the Adamawa state government that insurgents are now in Gulak, the headquarters of Madagali Local Government Area, and have killed and displaced scores of people,” Tukur said. “The concomitant effects of the insurgency, like displacement of whole villages and towns, create multitudes of internally displaced persons whose management and welfare the government is left to bear.”

Morning Star News

“Christians, but also Muslims, flee from Boko Haram” say local Church sources

“Christians but also Muslims flee from Boko Haram” say local Church sources
Abuja (Agenzia Fides) – “Several churches are in ruins and tens of thousands, mainly Christians, are running to escape Boko Haram” Fides was told by Fr . Patrick Tor Alumuku, Social Communications officer in the archdiocese of Abuja. “I spoke to priests in Maiduguri (capital of Borno State north east Nigeria where the Islamist sect is most active) who speak of terrifying happenings” Fr Patrick said. “Boko Haram is determined to eliminate every sign of Christian presence and many churches have been destroyed or torched. Last week in a village in the area of Maiduguri, Boko Haram took over the parish for its local headquarters”.

According to information sent from the Bishop of Maiduguri, Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme, “in areas where Boko Haram is active Christians are fleeing by the thousands ”. The bishop says that at least 90.000 Catholics are displaced.
“However among the crowds of Christians in flight there are also Muslims,” Fr Patrick told Fides. “Some are chiefs of villages and towns, others are Muslim religious leaders (Emirs) who cannot identify with what is being committed by Boko Haram”.
“Unfortunately a good number of these displaced persons cannot escape from the combat areas and getting humanitarian aid to them is very difficult. Only people outside these areas can reached by assistance” the priest continued. “If a city like Maiduguri with a population of more than one million were to be attacked by the Boko Haram offensive, the result would be an extremely serious humanitarian disaster” concludes the Social Communications officer of the archdiocese of Abuja. Agenzia Fides

VOP Note: Remember Nigeria and the faithful in your prayers. Together with your generous support, we can reach the goal to alleviate their suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.
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