Child killed, two injured in explosion in Balochistan’s Chaman

December 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Pakistan, December 01, 2017: A 7-year-old child was killed and two others injured in an explosion outside the gates of the Christian Colony in Chaman Friday evening, Balochistan police officials told DawnNews.

The injured were rushed to the Chaman Hospital for medical treatment.

“The blast smashed windows in nearby homes,” SHO Gul Mohammad said, adding that the explosion was caused by a hand grenade lobbed near the colony’s gates.

Police and Frontier Corps personnel reached the spot and an investigation went underway.

This is the third deadly attack reported in the country amidst celebrations of Eid Miladun Nabi.

It was preceded by an attack on an educational institute in Peshawar and a landmine explosion targeting soldiers posted in South Waziristan agency.

– dawn

Six-year-old Christian girl killed in shooting in Pakistan

December 6, 2017 by  
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Pakistan, December 4, 2017: A Christian family in Pakistan were shot at and harrassed, and a six-year-old child killed by a gang of money lenders.

On 28 November the Christian family were attacked when they were unable to pay back monthly interest on a loan they had taken from a Muslim group of money lenders. The lenders, with an armed mob, attacked the family home and a six-year-old girl was killed.

Shots were fired after Waris Masih requested more time to make a payerment. Waris’s six-year-old daughter Sicilia, who was shot in the incident, died in hospital. a case was registered against the money lender but there were no arrests.

– global christian news

7-Y-O Christian boy killed in Pakistan terror attack; believers in ‘Great fear’ ahead of Christmas

December 5, 2017 by  
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Pakistan, December 5, 2017: A watchdog group has accused the government of Pakistan of pushing hate and demonization of Christians in the country following a terror attack that killed a 7-year-old Christian boy.

The British Pakistani Christian Association reported on Monday that the boy, Lucky Saleem, died after a grenade struck the Christian village of Baluchistan, which also injured another child, and caused major damage to a number of homes.

Police explained that they suspect Islamic terrorists are behind the attack, with the grenade launched at the main gate of the community.

The incident reportedly occurred on Sunday, two days after nine people were killed and another 35, mostly students, were injured in a terror attack at an agricultural research center in Peshawar.

Pakistan Today reported last week that the three terrorists involved in that attack were all killed before they could detonate their suicide vests, potentially killing even more people. The militants were also armed with 20 grenades and other weapons and ammunition.

Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the BPCA, argued that the significant differences in the government’s response to the two attacks is very telling.

“Despite the lives affected by the attack on the Christian community in Pakistan, Pakistan’s media was suppressed by the government of Pakistan,” Chowdhry said.

“The attempted shut out of any news of this attack which killed an innocent Christian life of only 7 years, illustrates the low worth placed on Christians. Especially when you see the huge coverage made of the attack on the agricultural college.”

He added that the Taliban has taken responsibility for the attack on the agricultural college, apparently because it has links to Pakistan’s military.

“This is no justification of the attack but is important to note, as the attack on Christians was simply because of the pariah status they have in Pakistan,” Chowdhry continued.

“A consequence of years of hate ideology having been inculcated in the minds of young people in Pakistan, through the use of media and a national curriculum that demonizes minorities.”

He said that Christians in the nation are living in “great fear,” as Islamic extremists often target Christmas, Easter, and other large celebrations.

“The failure by the government of Pakistan to suppress the Taliban and IS factions mean that every Pak-Christian celebration will be tainted with anxiety and I am certain there will be even more pain and suffering to be experienced yet,” he warned.

The BPCA has started an appeal to pay for the funeral of the boy, and help with repairs to the houses affected by the grenade.

One of the most devastating attacks on Christians during the holiday seasons occurred in Easter 2016, when at least 75 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a park in Lahore.

While both Muslims and Christians died in the bombing, the attackers specifically targeted believers of Christ celebrating Easter Sunday, with the majority of victims being women and children.

– christian post

Pakistan Christians flee homes after blasphemy accusations

December 3, 2017 by  
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Pakistan, December 3, 2017: Five Christian families have been forced to leave their village in Pakistan’s Punjab province after a Christian teenager was accused of “blasphemy” against Islam on social media, Christians told BosNewsLife.

Sonu Arshad, an 18-year-old from the village of Sukheki, was accused on a Facebook website page designed to resemble a news channel, Christians said.

The page displayed a picture of Arshad and urged local Muslims to “burn his church and give him the death penalty.”

On November 10, after news of the “blasphemy” accusation spread, an angry Muslim mob reportedly gathered in the village following Friday prayers.

FAMILIES HIDING

Although police intervened, Sonu’s family and four others fled, fearing for their safety, activists told BosNewsLife.

The Pakistan-based charity Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance, and Settlement (CLAAS) said it received reports that the families “went into hiding.”

Pakistan’s government has come under international pressure to change controversial blasphemy laws that critics say have been used to settle personal disputes and to accuse people, including minority Christians, falsely.

Police reportedly launched an investigation into who set up the Facebook page accusing the teenager, but it was not immediately clear when or if arrests were made.

– bos news life

Christians leading Muslims to Jesus in Asia say teaching the Trinity is a major challenge

November 30, 2017 by  
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Asia, November 30, 2017: Christians leading discipleship programs in Southeast Asia have said that expanding efforts are helping hundreds of Muslims learn about and accept Christ.

Persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA posted a report on its discipleship programs in the region on Monday, though it did not identify the specific Southeast Asia country in question, and used changed names for security purposes, given the dangerous circumstances for believers.

One believer named Paulus, who is leading more than 20 lay leaders to teach the Bible to Muslim background believers, said that the first and most important step is following Jesus.

“You can’t expect a new believer to understand the Bible without proper guidance. Chances are they’ll get confused, or worse, mislead themselves because of self-interpretation,” Paulus explained.

Open Doors pointed out that one of the major problems new believers have is grasping the Christian understanding of the Trinity, which is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

“It’s not easy to teach this,” one Christian said. “In Islam, they were taught that the Trinity is three gods, not one.”

The watchdog group has been sponsoring discipleship classes for 18 Muslim background believers in a number of house churches in the region, though the impact has been far greater.

“One of Paulus’ lay leaders, Pramudya (45), and his wife, Sri (47), disciple more than a hundred people, ranging in age, education and cultural background. More than a decade ago, God gave him a vision to serve Him among the MBBs,” the article explained.

“As a result, Paulus resigned from his secure position as a pastor of an established church to serve in house churches instead.”

Pramudya shared that disciplining Muslim background believers is his calling.

“Jesus did so as an example. He took off His divine robe and became human with flesh and bones so that He could touch people and be with people. I am just modeling my Savior,” the Christian added.

The lay leaders reportedly meet twice a week for teachings and evaluations, where they also talk about the various challenges they face in their efforts to minister to Muslim background believers.

As part of its efforts, Open Doors has also been distributing new discipleship training called “The Straight Journey,” which is a series of 12 books written by a well-known Bible theologian and expert on Islam.

The program is aimed at tackling some of the major questions surrounding Christianity, and helping those struggling with the concept of the Trinity.

“These topics, even though they are heavy and difficult, challenge us to think and work harder than before,” Paulus said. “It is also helping us to prepare lessons in the right order, where before we would randomly select our topics. This will help us to grow in our capacity as leaders and teachers.”

A previous report from Open Doors in September on believers with Muslim and Buddhist backgrounds revealed that they are the most persecuted Christian groups in China.

The watchdog group found that many such believers are heavily monitored by the Communist government, which is opposed to the growth of Christianity. The Christians there have also said that they are in “burning need” of Bibles in minority languages such as Uyghur, Kazakh, and Tibetan.

Other groups, such as Christian Freedom International, have said that despite heavy persecution, the number of Muslims converting to Christianity in Bangladesh is on the rise.

CFI reported in July 2016 that as many as 91,000 Muslims across the country have decided to follow Christ in the last six years, even though apostasy in many Muslim cultures is punishable by death.

– chrisian post

As priest goes missing in Bonpara, fear grows among Catholics on the eve of papal visit

November 29, 2017 by  
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Bangladesh, November 29, 2017: Fr Walter William Rozario, 41, has been missing for the past two days. According to his parish priest, he might have been kidnapped.

The clergyman’s disappearance on the eve of the pope’s arrival of in Bangladesh, is a source of concern. Fr Walter is the headmaster at the St Louis High School, and assistant pastor in Borni (diocese of Rajshashi, northern Bangladesh).

“He went to the Bonpara church,’ his pastor, Fr Subroto Purification, told AsiaNews. “He then went to the market for some publications and other duties for the parish, but he did not come back and his phone has been turned off.”

“We are very worried for him. We are praying for his return in good conditions. Now I am at the police station for help,” he said by phone. “We want my assistant back as soon as possible.”

Fr Subroto added that he received a ransom call for the priest. “They want 300,000 Taka (more than US$ 3,600) for his release. We’re collaborating with the police.”

Bonpara is a small town where people go for printing and other things. It was here, last year, that a Catholic worker who often helped the Church, Sunil Gomes, was killed by some militants. Some suspect that his killers were also responsible for the attack at the Gulshan Café.

A Catholic policeman who preferred not to give his name spoke to AsiaNews. “I think the abduction of Fr Walter is a conspiracy because Pope Francis will come to Bangladesh tomorrow.”

“When we heard the news of my brother’s disappearance we visited all hospitals and many other places, but we did not find him,” said a tearful Premol Rozario, the priest’s older brother. “We can’t sleep from all the worry.”

He did not say more about the kidnapping but added that he did not feel safe. Like him, many in Borni parish now live in fear. Some have doubts about taking part in the activities associated with the papal visit.

“From what I heard the assistant to the pastor has disappeared,” said one parishioner. “I do not feel safe to attend the meeting with the pope on 1st December”.

The local police said that they were doing their best to find Fr Walter.

– asia news

Beijing bans tours to Vatican amid strained ties

November 28, 2017 by  
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China, November 27, 2017: The Chinese Communist Party has warned the state-controlled tourism industry not to send tour groups to the Vatican, amid growing diplomatic tensions between Beijing and the Holy See.

Travel agencies have been sent a directive ordering them to delete or cancel the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica from their list of destinations, Radio Free Asia reported an employee at Phoenix Holidays International Travel Agency in China as saying.

“Any travel agency found to be advertising these destinations in their promotional literature or other products will be fined up to 300,000 yuan [US$45,430],” the directive said.

The move is the first time Beijing has tried to stop its nationals from visiting the city state.

Relations between Communist China and the Holy See Ties have been strained ever since a Catholic priest was jailed for complicity in an alleged plot to assassinate then supreme leader Mao Zedong in 1950.

The Holy See also maintains diplomatic relations with the nationalists who fled to Taiwan after losing a bitter civil war in 1949. Ties have also been strained over the appointment and ordination of bishops in China.

“We can’t do it any more, because we don’t have diplomatic links with the Vatican,” the Phoenix Holidays employee said. “All of this has been decided by the State Tourism Bureau.”

“These are policies that have been handed down to us by the government.”

An employee at the Chengdu branch of the same firm confirmed the directive.

“There won’t be any [tours to the Vatican] from now on, because of the international situation,” the employee said. “Travel agencies are no longer including them in itineraries.”

Employees at other travel agencies confirmed they had received similar orders.

Chinese officials were unavailable for comment.

– ucan

Pakistan’s army ‘favors dialogue’ with Islamists over blasphemy row

November 27, 2017 by  
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Pakistan, November 26, 2017: On Sunday, Islamist activists clashed with police for a second day outside the capital, Islamabad.

Pakistan’s government on Saturday called on the country’s powerful military to be deployed in Islamabad after deadly clashes broke out between police and religious hardliners. But Pakistani media reported Sunday that after a meeting with the civil administration, military officials decided not to “use force” against the protesters and instead engage in political negotiations with them. Local media said the civilian administration was in agreement with top military officials on that.

There has been no official confirmation of the development, although Major General Asif Ghafoor, head of the military’s public relations department, tweeted Saturday that the country’s army chief, General Qamar Bajwa, advised PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to resolve the issue peacefully.

Violent clashes

At least seven people were killed and more than 200 people were injured — around 137 of whom were security personnel during clashes on Saturday and Sunday — when violence broke out as police moved to break up an Islamist blockade, which had paralyzed the capital for weeks.

Security forces fired rubber bullets and tear gas while protesters burned police vehicles and reportedly hurled stones at security forces.

Some 8,500 police and paramilitary troops in riot gear launched an operation Saturday to clear at least 2,000 protesters who have blocked a main junction between Islamabad and Rawalpindi for almost three weeks.

Police have arrested at least 150 protesters, according to local media.

Hardliners belonging to the Barelvi sect of Islam have reportedly demonstrated against police operation in other cities, including Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar.

On Saturday, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) ordered private TV channels to go off air, citing security concerns. Pakistani media is not allowed to broadcast live coverage of a security operation. Coverage was restored Sunday.

Michael Kugelman, an analyst at the Washington-based Wilson Center, told the Agence France-Presse news agency the success of the protest was “highly disturbing.”

“It speaks to the clout and impunity enjoyed by religious hardliners in Pakistan,” he said.

The ‘finality’ of Prophet Muhammad

The controversy erupted in October, when the government amended electoral laws, including the wording for the swearing-in of lawmakers, who must recognize the Prophet Muhammad as God’s final prophet. After protests from religious groups, the government restored the oath in its original form, which was seen as slightly more legally binding.

“Our sole demand is the authorities act against those members of parliament who amended the constitutional clause related to the ‘finality’ of Prophet Muhammad,” Hafiz Ullah Alvi of the hardline Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah Pakistan party told DW.

“The government said it was a clerical error. We don’t think it was the case. It was done deliberately by the West’s agents, who are also members of our parliament,” Alvi said.

“We will not leave. We will fight until end,” Ejaz Ashrafi, the spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Labaik party, told Reuters on Saturday.

Many Islamic groups in Pakistan are against parliamentary democracy and want it replaced by the Islamic Shariah model.

Since November 8, the Tehreek-i-Labaik party’s followers have blocked a main motorway interchange that connects Islamabad to Rawalpindi, causing severe traffic jams and inconvenience to the capital’s residents. Fearing the hardliners could storm government offices in Islamabad, the authorities, too, sealed off several roads, which worsened the traffic situation.

Usman Azam, an Islamabad resident, told DW the blockade was causing problems for citizens.

“Protest is the fundamental right of every citizen, but these protesters should not put the city under siege,” Azam told DW.

The main demand of the protesters is that Law Minister Zahid Hamid resign from his post, as by tampering with the oath, they claim, he has committed blasphemy.

“We will not unblock the roads and keep Islamabad under siege until our demands are met,” Alvi said.

Blasphemy ‘politics’

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive topic in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, where around 97 percent of its 180 million inhabitants are Muslim. Rights advocates have long been demanding a reform of the controversial blasphemy laws, which were introduced by the Islamic military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s.

Rights groups say the laws have little to do with blasphemy and are often used to settle petty disputes and personal vendettas. Religious groups oppose any change to blasphemy law and consider it necessary for Pakistan’s Islamic identity. Blasphemy allegations have often led to violent riots and vigilante justice in the country.

The ruling Muslim League of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is already under pressure from the judiciary after Sharif was ousted on corruption charges in July. While opposition politician Imran Khan is demanding early elections, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the leader of the Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan party, has also seen his popularity rise in the past few months.

In September, Rizvi entered mainstream politics and, to the surprise of political observers, won more than 7,000 votes in a Lahore by-election for the seat vacated by Sharif.

Experts say that the protection of blasphemy law is central to the Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan party’s political agenda. The outfit vows to continue the legacy of Mumtaz Qadri, who was hanged in February 2016 for murdering Salman Taseer, a governor of Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province. Qadri shot Taseer 28 times in broad daylight in Islamabad on January 4, 2011, and was sentenced to death in October the same year. Qadri said he had murdered the former governor for his efforts to amend the country’s blasphemy laws.

“We will not return [from Islamabad] until certain members of parliament tender their resignations,” Qari Sarfraz Ahmed Rizvi, a protester, told DW earlier this month.

Bowing to pressure

The government initially did not want to use force against the protesters. Senator Raja Muhammad Zafar Ul Haq, the leader of the ruling party in the upper house of parliament, told DW he hoped the standoff would be resolved through negotiations.

But Haq said the law minister and other members of parliament were unlikely to step down.

“We can’t punish the entire parliament that worked on the reforms bill,” he added.

Fatima Atif, an Islamabad-based activist and liberal analyst, says the government is powerless when it comes to confronting Islamic groups.

“The ruling party is already in hot water because of its conflict with the military establishment. Even if the government wants to confront the protesters, it lacks the political power to do that,” she told DW.

Pakistan’s credibility

Pakistan’s liberal analysts and activists say the government shouldn’t concede more political space to Islamists than they already have.

Tauseef Ahmed, a former professor at an Islamabad-based university, believes the “mainstreaming of jihadi outfits” in Pakistan could harm the country’s international reputation further.

“The military establishment is dividing Pakistani society along religious and sectarian lines. This policy has harmed the country. The generals do not realize that the international community is observing the situation,” Ahmed told DW.

“By mainstreaming such groups, Pakistan has put all its credibility at stake. Why should the international community accept our claims that we are fighting extremists?” Ahmed said.

But Islamic groups say the country’s constitution allows them to take part in politics, contest elections and oppose laws that they deem “un-Islamic.”

– dw

Ahok’s accuser is convicted of hate speech

November 24, 2017 by  
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Jakarta, November 16, 2017: The district court in Bandung, capital of West Java province, sentenced Buni Yani (pictured) to 18 months in prison for making discriminatory remarks against Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, Jakarta’s former governor.

Buni Yani was found guilty of altering a September 2016 video in which Ahok warns residents of the Thousand Islands Regency against those who use Qurʾānic verses for political gain.

Once the tampered tape was posted online, Buni posted comments that were tantamount of hate speech. This sparked violent protests by radical Islamic groups and contributed to Ahok’s defeat even though he was the favourite in last April’s elections for the governorship of the Indonesian capital.

Following pressure s from extremists, Ahok was tried and found guilty of defaming Islam and sentenced to two years in jail on May 9 at the end of a controversial trial.

Chief Judge M Saptono’s sentence was lighter than the one demanded by the public prosecutor: two years in prison and a fine of US$ 7,400.

During the 19 hearings, the accused refused to admit his guilt, despite the fact that his comments caused sectarian violence between different religious communities.

Lawyers for Jakarta’s former governor slammed the 18-month sentence for hate speech as too lenient. “Buni Yani caused chaos. In light of this ruling, Ahok should not have been punished at all,” said Wayan Sudirta. Teguh Samudra also found it hard to believe. The sentence Buni’s “should have been longer than that of Ahok!”

– asia news

13 Christians detained, questioned after Chinese police raid worship service

November 23, 2017 by  
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China, November 21, 2017: Thirteen Christians were detained and taken to a police station in China’s Guangdong province earlier this month after authorities raided their Sunday morning worship service.

According to nongovernmental Christian nonprofit organization China Aid, a team of police officers and officials from a government religious affairs bureau raided the Qingcaodi Church, a small house church in Jingmen, on Nov. 5.

China Aid, which provides legal support to persecuted Chinese Christians and helps expose the abuses of the communist government, reported that officers confiscated Bibles and other church-owned materials before they detained 13 worshipers and transported them to a police station in Xincheng, where their information was taken and they were questioned.

Zhai Lili, a Christian woman who provided the church with the home venue, was given an administrative detention sentence. According to China Aid’s report from last Friday, Lili had not yet been released.

A local source told China Aid that the details about Lili’s detention are unknown within the Christian community.

As noted by China Aid, the situation involving Qingcaodi Church represents the second time in a one-week span that authorities in the town have detained members of the Christian community.

Previously, Pastor Li of Wanahua Fengle Church had his home raided and was forced to go down to the station for four hours of questioning. During the raid, the authorities confiscated Bibles and Christian poetry from the home.

The detainment of Christians at Qungcaodi Church and Wanahua Fengle Church is far from the first time that government officials in China have arrested house church participants, as hundreds of Christians have been detained for worshiping in house churches in the last few years.

China currently ranks as one of the top 50 worst countries in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List.

Last week, it was reported that Christians in an impoverished region of Southeast China have been told to replace pictures of Jesus with pictures of Communist Party Chairman Xi Jinping in order to receive government assistance.

The U.S. State Department called out China for its restriction of religious freedom in the agency’s annual report on international religious freedom, released earlier this year. China has also been designated by the State Department as a “country of particular concern ” — a designation given to countries that engaged in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.”

“The People’s Republic of China’s constitution states citizens have freedom of religious belief but limits protections for religious practice to ‘normal religious activities’ and does not define ‘normal.’ The government continued to exercise control over religion and restrict the activities and personal freedom of religious adherents when these were perceived to threaten state or Chinese Communist Party (CCP) interests, according to nongovernmental organization (NGO) and international media reports,” the State Department report reads. “Only religious groups belonging to one of the five state-sanctioned ‘patriotic religious associations’ (Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant) were permitted to register with the government and officially permitted to hold worship services.”

In August, a Chinese government spokeswoman condemned the State Department report and stated that the U.S. should focus on its own racial issues instead of China’s religious freedom abuses.

– christian post

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