Life is short

March 29, 2014 by admin  
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So, think what is good, speak what is kind,
and try to live your best.
Then this world will be bright and beautiful to you.

speak good things

When money is lost nothing is lost.
When health is lost something is lost.
When character is lost everything is lost.

character

Live like a candle, which burns itself,
but gives light to others.

Impose your own terms upon life.
If you don’t you will have to accept the terms of others.

Look backwards with gratitude,
Upwards with confidence,
and forwards with hope.

candles

When you truly care for someone,
you don’t look for faults,
you don’t look for answers,
you don’t look for mistakes,

Care

instead you fight the mistakes,
you accept the faults,
and you overlook the excuses.

 

- fwd: valliamannil mathews

Use of “Blasphemy laws” on the rise; Christians, dissenters penalised

March 29, 2014 by admin  
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LawUnited States, March 27, 2014: An increasing number of countries, mostly ones with a Muslim majority, are enforcing blasphemy laws, which are used to penalise Christian minorities and others with different religious views.

A report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released this month said that such laws are incompatible with international human rights standards because they protect beliefs over individuals. Director of policy and research Knox Thames said:

This trend of greater usage of blasphemy laws will surely lead to increased violations of the freedoms of religion and expression. Governments will jail people, and extremists may kill others in the defence of undefined notions of religious sentiment.

The report said that where an authoritarian government supports an established religious creed, blasphemy accusations are frequently used to silence critics or democratic rivals under the guise of enforcing religious piety.

Pakistan was cited as “the most egregious example” of the increasing use and application of blasphemy laws; 14 people are currently on death row and 19 are serving life sentences. Barnabas Fund has repeatedly raised the plight of condemned Christian mother Aasia Bibi, who is languishing in jail awaiting an appeal against her controversial blasphemy conviction.

In both Pakistan and Egypt, the small Christian minorities are disproportionately affected. There has been a significant increase in the use of blasphemy-type laws in Egypt since the revolution of January 2011. From then to the end of 2012, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights recorded a total of 36 blasphemy cases involving 63 people. Of these, 59% were against Muslims and 41% against Christians, even though the latter comprise only around ten per cent of the population. Four people are currently serving jail terms for blasphemy inEgypt. Among them is Bishoy Kamel, a Christian teacher who was sentenced to six years over cartoons and comments on his Facebook page.

Other countries to invoke blasphemy laws include: Indonesia, where more than 120 people have been detained since 2003; Iran, where “insulting Islam”, “criticising the Islamic regime” and “deviating from Islamic standards” are offences; Saudi Arabia, where the government uses blasphemy charges against those who challenge the lack of separation between religion and the state and champion political and human rights reforms; and Sudan, where blasphemy accusations are likewise used against those opposing the government or expressing dissenting religious views.

Between 1998 and 2011, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which comprises 57 nations with large Muslim populations, lobbied the United Nations for a global blasphemy law. Support for their non-binding resolutions on “combating defamation of religions” steadily fell because of growing opposition from Western and Latin American countries based on their concerns about the threat to free speech.

In 2011, a more general resolution, drawn up with the US and European Union, shifted away from the defamation of religion to combating religious intolerance; this passed unanimously.

Although the OIC has not tried to reintroduce the “defamation of religions” campaign, the Arab League, which comprises 22 members, all of which belong to the OIC, is now taking up the cause. In November 2013, Arab League justice ministers endorsed a model blasphemy law for their region.

So it seems that the increasing use of blasphemy laws is a trend that is likely only to continue, a prospect that bodes ill for vulnerable Christian minorities, especially those in the Arab world.

- barnabas team

Syria: Christian town in attacked by Islamists

March 29, 2014 by admin  
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SyriaSyria, March 27, 2014: The population of a Christian town in north-west Syria was forced to flee when it was besieged by Islamist rebels; 80 people were killed, at least 13 of whom were beheaded, churches desecrated and homes looted.

Militants from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, Sham al-Islam and Ansar al-Sham attacked Kessab on the Turkish border early on Friday 21 March.

Around 3,000 Armenian Christian residents fled for their lives, taking refuge in neighbouring Latakia and Bassit. Some are staying with relatives and friends, but the rest are sheltering in over-crowded church

A dozen or so families with members too elderly to leave remained in Kessab and were subsequently taken hostage.

Barnabas Fund partners in Syria have been helping the displaced Christian families, who fled empty-handed. We are providing food, clothing, hygiene materials and other essentials.

Following the Islamist takeover of Kessab, a strategically important town, the Syrian army launched a counter-offensive in an effort to regain control of the territory, and fighting has continued. Kessab was the last border crossing with Turkey still in Syrian government hands. It had previously been relatively peaceful and was full of refugees who had fled violence in other parts of Syria.

TURKISH INVOLVEMENT

Turkey, which has sided with the rebels in the Syrian civil war and provided access for fighters, money and supplies, allowed hundreds of Islamist militants to cross its border on Friday to attack Kessab.

Tensions between the Syrian government and Turkey intensified when the Turkish military shot down a Syrian fighter jet that crossed its border on Sunday during a battle over the town.

The Armenian National Committee – International condemned the attacks on Kessab and Turkey’s role in them, adding:

For months, we have warned the international community of the imminent threat posed by extremist foreign fighters against the Christian minority population in Syria.

Meanwhile, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has written to US President Barack Obama calling on him to press NATO ally Turkey to stop facilitating attacks by foreign fighters associated with US-designated terrorist groups.

The ANCA said that Turkey’s actions were “a horrifying and bitter reminder” of the Armenian genocide; between 1894 and 1923, more than 1.5m Armenian and Assyrian Christians were killed by the Turks.

- barnabas team

Tamil priest’s candidature doubtful

March 29, 2014 by admin  
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Fr. JesurajTirunelveli, March 27, 2014: Bishop Jude Paulraji of Palayamkottai has reportedly asked an anti-nuclear activist priest of his diocese to refrain from the plans of contesting the parliamentary election from Tirunelveli.

Fr. M. P. Jesuraj, who has been nominated by the Aam Aadmi Party for the Tirunelveli Lok Sabha constituency, sought the bishop’s permission as Church laws explicitly prohibit priests’ political activity.

The Code of Canon Law 287 bars Catholic priests from taking an active role in political parties and in labor unions, unless in the judgment of competent Church authority the “protection of the rights of the Church or promotion of the common good requires it.”

Bishop, the competent authority in this case, has advised the priest to refrain from contesting, The Hindu reported.

If he goes ahead, this 30-yar old priest, a staunch anti-nuclear crusader, will be the first Catholic priest from Tamil Nadu to contest national polls.

He was among those who led the movement against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project. The decision to contest elections on the AAP ticket was a move to carry forward the movement, he had told press earlier.

He said it was the people who wanted him to contest the election. Another reason was the realization that political power is necessary to “bring in policy changes for sustainable development,” he had said while explaining his decision.

Ordained in 2000 at Palayamkottai, Father Jesuraj come from Chettikulam village in Tirunelveli.

- the hindu

EFI : Persecution in MP, Odisha & Chhattisgarh

March 29, 2014 by admin  
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MP: Christians arrested

madhya pradeshState police arrested three Christians on 16 March after the Hindu extremists stopped the Sunday worship meeting and accused the believers of forceful conversion in Betul city. The extremists accompanied by the police and media personnel barged into the Sunday worship meeting of Indian Prayer Hall at about 10 a.m. and disrupted the meeting. The extremists accused Pastor Sagar Ogala and the believers of forceful conversion. Thereafter, the police asked the congregation how much money they received to convert into Christianity.

“All the church members responded that they come to the church by their own accord to pray, that they did not receive any money and that there was no case of forceful conversion.” one church member said. The police thereafter told the extremists to leave the Christians alone, saying “Let them go, they are only poor and simple people”. However, the extremists started pressuring the police to arrest the Christians.

Under pressure, the police took Pastor Sagar Ogale, elder Dilip Mahajan, elder Sagar Shekhar Ogale to the police station, beat them up and registered a case against them and asked them to submit Rs 60,000/- (rupees sixty thousand) to procure their bail. The Christians were sent to the district jail as they were not able to give the required amount for their bail.

The Christians were released on bail on the morning of 27 March after the intervention of the area church leaders. Local dailies published the incident.

Odisha: Tension Grips Christian Village in Kandhamal

odishaChristians continue to suffer discrimination and threats in Ranipada, Gudrikia where one pastor was allegedly burned up and one woman allegedly murdered in the communal riot of August 2008 that took place after the assassination of a Hindu leader, Swami Lakshmanananda. The Maoists claimed responsibility for his death.

Life was never the same for the Christian community after the riot. Christians are boycotted, discriminated and threatened by the Hindu extremists on a regular basis for their faith in Christ.

On March 11, the extremists threatened to physically assault the Christians after they collected some stones to build a church in the area.

At about 9 p.m, the fanatics shouting anti-slogans came to the spot and took all the stones away and threatened to harm the Christians if they try to do any kind of Christian activities in the area. The Christians thereafter locked themselves inside their homes to avoid the attack of the extremists.

Kindly pray as area Christian leaders are approaching the higher authorities to resolve the matter.

Chhattisgarh: Pastor Severely Beaten up

chhattisgarhIn Bhanupratappur, Kanker, Hindu extremists severely beat up a pastor as they accused him of forceful conversion on 5 March.

At midnight, a mob of about 30 extremists forcefully entered into the house Pastor Ramsai Netam from New Mission Church, dragged him out and took him to a cultural hall and beat him up.

The extremists accused the Christian of forceful conversion and of practicing witchcraft and also beat up his two sons who tried to protect him.

At 9 a.m. on the next day, the police reached the spot and rescued Pastor Netam and rushed him to a local hospital. The Christian suffered serious injury on his head.  However, the police recorded the cause of the injury of Pastor Netam as “injury sustained from falling from a tree”.  No FIR has been registered against the assailants.

Chhattisgarh: Sunday Meeting Disrupted

chhattisgarhOn 19 January in Navmuda, Gariyaband, Hindu extremists disrupted the Sunday worship meeting, accused the Christians of forceful conversion and tore Bibles.

The extremists forcefully entered into the worship meeting of Prarthana Bhavan Church, accused Pastor Bhaiyalal Markam and other believers of forceful conversion, tore Bibles, desecrated the altar and spat on the food and drinking water in the church.

The extremists further forced the believers to worship two Hindu women whom they claimed were possessed by their Hindu goddess, Durga. The Christians refused to worship the two Hindu women.

The next day, the extremists verbally abused and threatened Pastor Markam when he was returning home after conducting a worship meeting in Indagoan village. The pastor relocated for safety measure.

Kindly pray for the churches in Chhattisgarh.

Christian forum raises concerns ahead of elections

March 29, 2014 by admin  
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discriminationNew Delhi, March 28, 2014: With general elections round the corner, the National United Christian Forum (NUCF) has called upon the Christians to elect leaders supporting the concerns of the community, including Scheduled Caste status and equal rights for dalit Christians at par with those from the Hindu community.

The forum has requested all member churches to call up on political leaders at their respective constituencies to organize gatherings and make meaningful efforts towards this end.

The NUCF is a forum of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) and Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI).

In a statement, the forum said that anti-conversion laws, enforced in some states, are used to intimidate and harass religious minorities, particularly Christians and there should be religious freedom in the country.

It noted that religious minorities run educational institutions even in the remotest villages as their primary purpose is to educate the poor and the marginalised.

“Minority rights should be upheld in its spirit and the government should continue its support to minority private schools and colleges,” it said.

The forum said that in the process of development and industrialisation, the tribal communities undergo displacement, losing their culture, identity and their livelihood.

It said that policies should be evolved to stop the mass displacement of tribes and protection be given for their livelihoods.

The forum underlined the need to strengthen anti-corruption laws and passage of Prevention of Targeted Communal Violence Bill in the Parliament. It also asked for reservation of 33 per cent seats in Parliament for women.

- ucan

Hillsong Church Pastor Brian Houston Denies ‘Chrislam’

March 29, 2014 by admin  
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Brian C. Houston and Bobbie HoustonAustralia, March 28, 2014: Brian C. Houston, leader of one of the world’s largest Christian churches, is denying allegations that he promotes “Chrislam,” a theological blend of Christianity and Islam, after stating in a December 2013 sermon, “Do you know – take it all the way back into the Old Testament and the Muslim and you, we actually serve the same God. Allah to a Muslim, to us Abba Father God.”

With a firestorm raging online among his critics for more than a week, the influential Sydney, Australian pastor of the 30,000-member Hillsong Church finally issued a statement Thursday night (or late Friday morning his time) regarding allegations that he was promoting “Chrislam.”

Hillsong Church tweeted a link to Pastor Brian Houston’s statement regarding allegations that he preached ‘Chrislam,’ a blending of Christianity and Islam.

“The spirit of the message was exactly the opposite of what some critics are claiming. If you listened to the message in its entirety, my point was that; who a Muslim extremist believes God is, determines what they believe God does, and what they believe God loves,” Pastor Houston insists in the statement, titled “Correction of Misinformation,” which can be read in full below.

Houston attributes his remarks about Muslims and Christians serving the same God made during the 2013 sermon, titled “Living for the Master’s Well Done, Part 1,” to a flubbed delivery. He also expressed doubt that critics would accept his clarification.

“Those propagating these false statements have taken one sentence from an entire message out of context. I realize that some critics WANT to believe their interpretation, but my prayer is that reasonable people will take my comment in context, accept my acknowledgment that I did not explain this sentence as I intended, and judge me on 40 years of pointing people to Jesus – not one sentence,” explains Houston, who recently joined U.S. megachurch pastor Bishop T.D. Jakes at his annual Pastors and Leadership Conference in Miami, Fla.

Original uploads of the Pentecostal pastor’s sermon appear to have been scrubbed from the Internet, although severalcopies were still easily found during a Web search. The troublesome part of Houston’s sermon has him stating:

“Do you know – take it all the way back into the Old Testament and the Muslim and you, we actually serve the same God. Allah to a Muslim, to us Abba Father God. And of course through history, those views have changed greatly. But let’s make sure that we view God through the eyes of Jesus, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the beauty of a Savior, the loving open inclusive arms of a loving God. And that way we’ll lead out of that and you’ll be purposeful about your leadership and you’ll draw people just like the Lord Jesus always does through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Hillsong Church Leader Brian Houston Teaches Chrislam from Now The End Begins on Vimeo.

Vimeo Hillsong Church founding pastor Brian C. Houston suggests Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

Critics have been questioning Houston since early last week when videos of his sermon started circulating. Houston’s accusers claim his remarks on Muslims and Christians indicates that the Assemblies of God leader preaches a Gospel other than the Christian one.

“If Brian Houston does indeed preach the Christian gospel as he claims, then he would know that the Muslim and Christian faiths are incompatible,” states the Hillsong Church Watch website in a viral post on Houston’s sermon. “But we know that he can’t preach the Christian gospel because he doesn’t know it. Brian Houston’s comment is just as offensive to Muslims as it is to Christians and is essentially doing more unjust damage to both faiths.”

The “watch” website, part of several self-declared discernment blogs targeting high-profile Christian leaders and their churches and ministries, states that it was started by “a group of concerned leaders, pastors and elders from various denominations around Australia on Facebook.”

While Islam acknowledges Jesus as a prophet, the Quran denies His deity as well as His crucifixion, an event essential to the Christian teaching on salvation. Despite other theological conflicts, such as the Christian confession of Jesus as the Son of God, advocates of “Chrislam” insist the two faiths are compatible.

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., also has been denying allegations for years that he practices or promotes the syncretistic teaching of “Chrislam,” a movement which reportedly started in the 1980s. Warren, calling the allegation “a lie that won’t die,” occasionally points concerned supporters to documents meant to clarify his fidelity to the Christian faith.

Rick Warren points a concerned supporter to documents challenging accusations that he practices in ‘Chrislam.’

Hillsong Church, founded in 1983 by Houston and his wife, Bobbie Houston, welcomes about 30,000 worshipers every weekend at 11 campuses scattered around the world, with a 12th in Los Angeles in development. In Australia, Hillsong has six campuses and twice as many extension services. The megachurch, also known for its mega-popular and award-winning worship band Hillsong United, states that its mission is “to reach and influence the world by building a large Christ-centered, Bible-based church, changing mindsets and empowering people to lead and impact in every sphere of life.” The Houstons, whose Hillsong Church is affiliated with the Australian Christian Churches (the Assemblies of God in Australia), have three adult children, also involved in ministry.

- christian post

Do we recognise Jesus, when He comes as a…?

March 26, 2014 by admin  
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Pastor Jeremiah Steepek Pastor Jeremiah Steepek transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000 member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning.

He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service…. Only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him.  He asked people for change to buy food… NO ONE in the church gave him change.  He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit at the back.  He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him.

As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such.  When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation……..  ”We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek …”.

The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation….

You do it Unto meYou do it Unto meThe homeless man sitting in the back stood up… And started walking down the aisle. The clapping stopped with ALL eyes on him. He walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment. Then he recited -

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
- Matt 25:34-40

After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame. He then said….

Today I see a gathering of people. Not a church of Jesus Christ.
The world has enough people, but not enough disciples.

When will YOU decide to become a disciple?

He then dismissed service until next week.

Being a Christian is more than something you claim. It’s something you live by and share with others.

May you always have love to share, health to spare, and friends that care.

- fwd: fatima dias

USA: ‘Homeless Jesus’ sparks debate on Christianity

March 26, 2014 by admin  
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Homeless JesusUnited States, March 25, 2014: In a small college town 20 miles north of Charlotte, N.C., “Homeless Jesus” is provoking more conversation than a month of Sunday sermons.

The life-size sculpture depicting a figure asleep under a blanket on a park bench lies outside St. Alban’s Episcopal Church. The nail-scarred feet peeking out from under the blanket are the only indication that Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz is making a religious statement about Jesus.

The hollow, bronze piece bolted to the park bench is a $22,000 gift from a church member intended to support public art.

That’s a small price to pay to get people thinking about what it means to be a Christian — and what it means for “Homeless Jesus” to take up residence in a community of 270 townhomes and single-family homes, said the Rev. David Buck, the rector of St. Alban’s.

“You love it, you hate it, it makes you think,” said Buck, who has been happily overwhelmed by the thousands of responses he’s personally received or read online. “It’s gone viral!”

St. Alban’s neighbor John Chesser, who walked past “Homeless Jesus” on the way to pick up his mail one sunny Sunday morning, had another response: “It’s a little creepy.”

It makes sense that “Homeless Jesus,” a copy of Schmalz’s original work, found a home outside St. Alban’s. Buck says the congregation of 800 members fills a “liberal, high-church niche,” is gay-friendly and embraces the arts and sciences. The church draws a number of faculty, staff and students from Davidson College a mile or so down the road.

Buck, 64, led a Southern Baptist church outside Charlotte until the Southern Baptist Convention grew too conservative for his liking. He switched denominations and says he never dreamed he’d have the chance to serve a church like St. Alban’s.


The saga of “Homeless Jesus” has stirred Buck’s juices more than he could ever have hoped.

With the church in the middle of an upscale community, the congregation agreed that it’s the perfect place to display a piece of public art.

“Homeless Jesus” was bolted down in February beside a bronze plaque with the familiar words from Matthew 25:40 — “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

The news stories started coming almost immediately: The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, The Christian Post, The Huffington Post.

Homeless Jesus_2Public reaction quickly followed on both sides.

Buck said someone attached a note to the sculpture saying this isn’t the way to remember Jesus. A reader posted a somewhat sarcastic response to The Christian Post story: “The Episcopal Church, huh? Shocking.”

Chesser, the neighbor walking to get his mail, calls the piece “dark” and “macabre” — so dark and macabre, it never occurred to him to think about whether it belongs in a community like his. Neighbor Jerry Dawson wrote a letter to the editor at the online davidsonnews.net saying it doesn’t belong.

“My complaint is not about the art-worthiness or the meaning behind the sculpture. It is about people driving into our beautiful, reasonably upscale neighborhood and seeing an ugly homeless person sleeping on a park bench.”

Bob Cameron, president of the St. Alban’s Square Neighborhood Association, said he invited Dawson to air his concerns at a board meeting. Meanwhile, the association has not taken a position on “Homeless Jesus,” and neither has he.

Supporters have spoken up as well, in and out of St. Alban’s.

“It makes us all more aware of homelessness, that there are others who are not as fortunate as we are,” said church member Alice Mietz, who lives about 20 yards from the piece.

As Buck was seated on a bench outside the church, making the case for the sculpture, Mike Schaefer of Roanoke, Va., stopped his car in front of “Homeless Jesus” and jumped out to snap a picture before heading home.

“As Christians, we need to be more aware of the homeless among us,” he said.

- national catholic reporter

Pak: Blasphemy case acquitted gunned down. Asia Bibi remains on death row

March 26, 2014 by admin  
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Advocate Sardar Mushtaq GillPakistan Punjab, March 25, 2014: A blasphemy case acquitted, Ashraf Gola , was gunned down near Pind Dadan Khan, some 250 kilometers from Lahore by unidentified men and died He was with a friend Iftikhar Ahmed in a car while they were traveling.

Sharafat Gola, his brother told the police that Ashraf Gola got threats of dire consequences by those who pursuing him, even after acquittal from blasphemy. Police have registered a case against the unidentified killers. The incident highlights how blasphemy accused are not safe in Pakistan even after being acquitted.

Advocate Sardar Mushtaq Gill,a human rights defender said  that Pakistan’s blasphemy law is often misused to settle personal scores and grudges specially against the weaker minority (Christians) of Pakistan. Last April, Younis Masih acquitted of blasphemy, who was languishing in jail since his arrest on 10 September 2005, was declared innocent by Lahore High Court by the DB of Justice Khaja Amtiaz Ahmed and Justice Khalid Mehmood Khan. Masih had  suffered a heart attack on 8 January ,2013 and he is still a heart patient. Masih said that he was still getting threats of dire consequences and was once also attacked by some unidentified men.

Asia Bibi, the Christian mother of 5 children convicted under the law of blasphemy in 2010 remains on death row in Pakistan and  a cleric in Peshawar had offered a reward of 5,000 euro to anyone who kills her. For now, the uphill struggle continues, the Pakistani court has reopened her appeal against the blasphemy conviction and death sentence which is fixed for tomorrow 26 March 2014 in The DB (Double Bench) of Lahore High Court Lahore.

“We are hoping for the best for Asia Bibi. However, her life will be in danger anyways, as extremist foot-soldiers will try to kill her if she is freed”, said Gill. “We also have the examples of two brothers, Rashid Emmanuel and Sajid Masih Emmanuel, both Christians accused of blasphemy, killed in cold-blood in front of the Court of Faisalabad, during their hearings, in July 2010.”

Here is an appeal to pray for Younis Masih ‘s safety, besides Asia’s acquittal and their safe relocation. It is also a request to to pray for all who are suffering in different Pakistani jails under allegations of the blasphemy law.

- lead

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