Pakistan returns 12-Y-O Christian girl who was forced into Islamic marriage back to her parents

February 14, 2018 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Pakistan, Februray 13, 2018: A court in Pakistan has given custody of a 12-year-old Christian girl, who was abducted by a Muslim and forced into an Islamic marriage, back to her parents.

The order was handed down by the Islamabad High Court last Thursday, according to the Pakistani English newspaper Dawn.

The outlet reports that the ruling came after the unnamed girl, who was born in May 2005, was unable to convince the court that she had willingly converted to Islam.

According to court documents, the girl gave a Muslim name when she was first asked to state her name in the courtroom. Additionally, the girl explained that she had only embraced Islam “for the purpose of marriage only.”

The girl reportedly declared that Jesus was her prophet. She was not able to name any other prophet — including the Muslim Prophet, Muhammad — when asked to do so.

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui wrote in the court order that he wasn’t sold on the claim that the girl had embraced Islam and married on her own free will. The justice argued that it is more likely that the girl’s conversion and marriage to the man was a “result of inducement and compulsion.”

“How the girl has become Muslim when she does not know even about Prophet Muhammad?” the court ruling asks, according to PakistanToday.

According to Dawn, the judge explained that it appears that the Muslim man and his father plotted to abduct the girl.

Siddiqui directed police investigators to review the matter. The judge also ruled that the validity of the girl’s marriage to the man was questionable and needed to be resolved in family court. Upon conclusion of the hearing, the girl agreed to return home to her parents.

“I am constrained to observe that this sort of act of abduction and taking [the] shelter of Islam is totally uncalled for and unacceptable,” Siddiqui wrote, according to Dawn.

The judge also declared that everyone in Pakistan — Muslims and Christians alike — have equal protections under the nation’s constitution.

However, that principle is not applied consistently across the nation.

Pakistan ranks as the fifth worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2018 World Watch List.

A 2014 report by the NGO Movement of Solidarity and Peace estimates that between 100 to 700 Christian girls in Pakistan are abducted, assaulted and forced into marriage every year.

Additionally, Muslims who have abducted Christian girls and women and forced them into marriages have, in many cases in the past, been treated a level of impunity by local authorities.

However, Pakistan passed a law last year that increases punishments for those who force minor children and religious minority women into marriages.

Last April, Fouzia Bibi, a Christian mother of three who was abducted and forced into an Islamic marriage with her boss, was granted freedom and a divorce by a family court in Lahore.

The ruling came nearly two years after Bibi was first abducted. It also came after her family was previously pressured by local authorities to return Bibi to the Muslim boss’ home after she had escaped.

If Bibi’s family didn’t return her to the Muslim man, members of her family could have been arrested, the London-based British Pakistani Christian Association reported at the time.

– christian post

Hindu extremists try to burn husband along with body of deceased wife

February 14, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Punjab, February 8, 2018: Pastor Jeewer Joeswa wasn’t sure what to think when a massive, chanting Hindu throng in northern India brought the corpse of a Christian woman to his church site – then set the building on fire.

Seema Devi, 23, had put her faith in Christ several months before, after the pastor had offered up healing prayer for her. Now, on Jan. 16, Pastor Joeswa was surrounded by a Hindu mob administering last rites and burning her body on church premises in Sehal Village, in Jammu and Kashmir state.

“A mob of men and women, at least 1,000 in number shouting, ‘Jai Sri Ram, Jai Sri Ram [Hail Lord Ram],’ brought Seema’s body to the church,” Pastor Joeswa told Morning Star News.

The mob alleged that Pastor Joeswa had prayed for Devi and so was responsible for her death, Chittaranjan Tandy, secretary of the Friends Missionary Prayer Band, Jammu Region, told Morning Star News. He said that her husband, Rinku Kumar, was kept in police custody for his own security after the mob tried to burn him alive alongside his deceased wife.

“The police from Nowshera police station tried to control the mob, but they put fire on the church building, vehicles of believers parked near the church, church equipment, furniture and every object in sight, including the food grains,” Tandy said.

In the violence at the village in Rajouri District, the mob alleged that Devi and her husband had been forcibly converted, he said.

“There was no forced conversion,” Tandy said. “The couple voluntarily attended the church and accepted Christ. In fact, they had experienced the healing and were strong in faith.”

Superintendent of Police Popsi Malik told Morning Star News that Devi and her husband had been attending church but were still practicing some Hindu rituals.

“They were in the rudimentary phase, thinking whether to continue as Hindu or Christian,” Malik said. “It was the assumption of the mob that the couple got converted by force. Before her death, the couple were attending their church in Punjab state. People have presumed that he was converted to Christianity forcefully. But that was not true.”

Malik said police brought the mob under control, though not before both Christians and Hindus were injured in the altercation.

Prayer and Witchcraft

Pastor Joeswa said his congregation had prayed for Devi long before she died on Jan. 15.

“It was months ago, when her mental health was degrading, the church prayed for her and she got healed completely,” he said. “She became an active believer who would never miss a prayer meeting, whether it be on Sunday or weekdays.”

When there was a need to pray for the sick, she would accompany the pastor, his wife and others to pay home visits, he said.

After attending the Christmas Day service, she had gone to her mother’s house, he said.

“After she went to her maternal house, we heard that they forced her to join them in idol worship,” Pastor Joeswa said. “Now I can recall Seema telling me often, ‘Pastor, I share the gospel with my parents. My mum shows little interest, but my papa never listens. Please pray for him. My family worships idols, I want them to know Jesus Christ.”’

Tandy said that during her previous illness, her husband refused to take her to a witchdoctor, known locally as a tantric. Her parents tied her hands and legs with ropes and took her to Pouni village, Reasi District, for treatment from the witchdoctor, he said.

“The driver of the auto rickshaw, a resident of Kangri village, stands as eyewitness to this,” Tandy told Morning Star News. “Our church members were moved hearing the news of Seema being taken to religious places and to a tantric for treatment; many of them tried to go to Pouni village to pray for her.”

Devi’s parents did not allow them in to pray for her, Pastor Joeswa said.

“The tantric had beaten her brutally,” the pastor said. “Ten days after realizing the witchdoctor’s treatment was not working, the parents gave up. They handed Seema to her husband Rinku. Finally, Rinku moved with his wife to Jalandhar [Punjab state] for treatment. She was already in the worst health condition.”

She and her husband had enjoyed fellowship with Pastor Joeswa’s church for nearly eight months, he said. They were visiting the church anew from Jalandhar when he last saw her on Christmas Day.

Quest for Justice

For four days after the Hindu mob descended on the church property, Christians in Sehal village stayed in relatives’ houses fearing for their lives, Tandy said.

“There was a threat to their lives also,” he told Morning Star News. “With the help of Christian advocacy groups, we joined together as 25 pastors from Jammu region and represented the matter before the chief minister of the state, Mehmooba Mufti. We are praying and hoping for funds to be released for the construction of the church.”

The total loss has been estimated as 2.5 million rupees (US$38,850), he said.

“As pastors in Jammu and Kashmir region, we go through many difficult situations, but God has always made a way,” Tandy said. “It is only by His grace that our people came out alive from the burning church building. We request for prayers. We are hoping our Lord will do a massive work, that He will shake Jammu and save the unbelieving.”

Kumar is safe but in hiding as his life is under threat, according to Police Superintendent Malik.

A First Information Report (FIR) was registered at Nowshera Police Station against the assailants – who came from Kangri, Bhajwal, Sunderbani and Sehal villages – upon receiving a complaint from Pastor Joeswa.

“The police took into custody some eight assailants, but they were released on the same day,” Tandy told Morning Star News.

The cause of Devi’s death has not been revealed, as no one has yet received a post-mortem report, he said.

Area residents said that on Jan. 15 in Jalandhar, she woke up early and completed chores, then suddenly, at 7:30 a.m., she fainted and collapsed to the floor.

“Rinku and their neighbors in Jalandhar thought Seema might have slipped into coma, at first, but she passed away,” Pastor Joeswa said. “She was put through a lot.”

Tandy said local politicians are trying to politicize her death by announcing compensation of 200,000 rupees (US$3,108) to Girdhari Lal, Seema’s father, and a government job for Devi’s sister.

The assailants’ allegations were baseless, he said.

“We prayed as a church for Seema when she was sick, and we are still praying as a chain – hundreds of us have begun praying for the revival of the church, and for safety of Seema’s husband, Rinku, also,” he said.

The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), against non-Hindus, has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, religious rights advocates say.

India ranked 11th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians experience the most persecution, up from 15th the previous year, and ahead of Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Egypt.

– morning star news

Hindu hardliners attack Indian Christian schools

February 14, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Madhya Pradesh, February 13, 2018: Hindu hardliners have stepped up intimidation of Christian educational institutions in India, not least Catholic colleges.

In one recent case, sheer numbers were used to break through a security cordon with the aim of performing a nationalistic ritual.

Braving wintry early January winds, armed police guarded St. Mary’s College in Vidisha of Madhya Pradesh state in central India.

Some 800 young Hindu men entered the campus, some by scaling walls, but police managed to stop them performing a purportedly patriotic ritual in front of students.

The Bharat Mata Aarti ritual can entail a personification of Mother India represented by the Hindu goddess Durga.

However, Archbishop Leo Cornelio, head of the Catholic Church in the troubled state, said the attempt really had nothing to do with patriotism.

Attempts to discredit church institutions were aimed at gaining control over them, he warned.

The archbishop noted that Catholic schools and colleges run on secular lines are allowed under the nation’s constitution.

“No one can take that right from us,” Archbishop Cornelio said.

Hindu militants were trying to impose their own distorted version of nationalism on others in order to create social rifts for political gain, he told ucanews

On Jan. 16, nearly 200 police stood guard at St. Joseph Convent School in Ratlam district of Madhya Pradesh in the face of threatened protest action.

Hindu activists had accused the school of suspending students for chanting the patriotic slogan “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” (Hail Mother India).

The school maintained that the students were only asked not to chant slogans in an inappropriate manner and had not been barred from attending classes.

In recent months there have been a series of attacks on Christian schools across northern India as well as those in the central region.

Christian leaders see the trend as part of a Hindu strategy to portray Christians as lawbreakers who do not respect Indian traditions.

Militants have alleged that Hindu students, who are a majority at church-run schools, are not able to worship the goddess of learning, Saraswati.

G.S. Markam, a leader of indigenous minority people in Madhya Pradesh, said Christians constitute soft targets in divisive communal politics.

He said hard-line groups sought to split Christians and non-Christians to ensure that upper-caste Hindus continue to live in luxury.

Hindu groups, guided by their umbrella organization RSS or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps), sought total Hindu domination, he said.

The RSS is the ideological mentor of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which rules most northern Indian states, including Madhya Pradesh, as well as nationally.

The BJP has been accused of endorsing various pro-Hindu fanatics.

Fight to block empowerment of poor

Bishop Anthony Chirayath of the Syro-Malabar Eastern Catholic Church said Hindu hardliners do not believe in equal treatment for poor tribal people or Dalits, formerly known as untouchables.

So they sought to destroy or tarnish the image of educational institutions that increased awareness of the needs of the poor, he added.

The Catholic Church runs nearly 15,000 colleges and schools in India, more than 40 percent of the total provided by all Christian denominations.

Christians are also widely engaged in the provision of medical services and social welfare.

“If these institutions are tarnished, Christians can be tainted,” Bishop Chirayath explained.

An ecumenical forum called Persecution Relief says that 736 hate crimes were recorded against Christians in India in 2017.

Christian institutions were targeted in at least 10 percent of these cases, said the forum’s founder, Shibu Thomas.

Hindu fundamentalists had been working to “grab land” and other property from various church groups, Thomas added.

Another trend was for “fringe elements” to gain publicity by attacking Christians in order to advance their state or national political ambitions.

Thomas complained that hooligans masquerading as patriots are protected by law enforcement agencies when they demonize minority religions.

– ucan

After stopping Haj subsidy, BJP offers to send Christians to Jerusalem — for free

February 14, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

New Delhi, February 14, 2018: Just about a month after canceling government subsidised Haj pilgrimages+ , the BJP is offering Christians free trips to Jerusalem if elected to power in Nagaland, reported northeastern news outlets.

It’s unclear if the BJP is offering this to all of India’s Christians, or only to Christians in the northeast, or only to Christians in Nagaland.

The BJP’s offer comes in the run-up to elections in three northeastern states – Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura – later this month. In Meghalaya, almost 75 percent of the population is Christian. In Nagaland, 88 percent of the population is Christian.

“The BJP has made an election promise to send Christians to Jerusalem on a free trip, if elected to power in Nagaland,” tweeted news outlet WeTheNagas. UNI news agency reported that the free Jerusalem trip has only been offered to Christians in Nagaland.

The BJP’s offer, some said, smacked of hypocrisy and opportunism, especially considering the cancellation of Haj subsidies.

“BJP promise to send Christians on a free trip. I was right, BJP continues with subsidy if it suits its electoral needs. This is (what BJP means by) ‘India first’ “, tweeted AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi.

When announcing the end of haj subsidies last month, Union minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the BJP-led Centre believes in empowering the minority community with dignity and not appeasement.

“We believe in empowerment without appeasement…Development with dignity is what we believe in. The haj subsidy will be used for educating girls,” said Naqvi.

After this decision was announced, Left party CPM said that they were in principle opposed to subsidies for all religious pilgrimages, but were not in favour of the government abruptly stopping the haj subsidy, considering the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that it should be phased out over a 10-year period.

AIMIM MP Owaisi said he had always been in favour of ending the haj subsidy but sought parity in norms for pilgrims of all religions. The Hyderabad MP lashed out at the government for its discriminatory decision, ending Haj subsidy but allowing subsidies to continue for Hindu pilgrimages like the Mansarovar Yatra.

The Israeli press was a tad amused by the BJP’s offer to send Christians on a free trip to Jerusalem. It called the BJP’s announcement a campaign promise and alluded such promises were often overblown.

“Campaign promises around the world are legendary, from ‘a roast in every pot,’ to ‘I’ll cut your taxes,’ to ‘vote for me, and I’ll set you free’ “, wrote The Jerusalem Post.

– times of india

Vietnamese Christian brutally beaten, banished from village vows to return, share gospel with oppressors

February 12, 2018 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Vietnam, February 12, 2018: A Vietnamese man, who was brutally beaten and banished from his village because he converted to Christianity, hopes to one day return and share the Gospel with his oppressors.

The Christian persecution advocacy organization Open Doors recently shared the story of Vang Atu, a 28-year-old father to two children. A practicing animist, Vang, along with the other members of his village in Vietnam, once worshiped different spirits asking for luck, wealth, good health and food.

After embracing Christianity in 2013, Vang completely abandoned his animistic beliefs and devoted himself to evangelizing other villagers. Before long, at least four families — including three members of his own family — began to follow Jesus. However, it wasn’t long before Vang began to experience backlash for his newfound faith.

“On April 17, 2016, me and other believers in my village were having a prayer gathering at my house,” he told Open Doors. “Later that day, the local authorities knew about it and prohibited us from worshiping together. The first time they went to my house they didn’t say anything. But an hour later, they came and told us to stop the worship or else they will destroy my house.”

Without warning, Vang was attacked by four villagers, led by one of his brothers.

“My brother took a club, it was about one and a half meters long, and used it to hit me on my arms,” Vang recalled. “I raised my arm to block it. Blood dripped all over me. Now, my arm is fractured. My arm’s bone cracked and then the other people started destroying my house.”

Threatening death, village leaders then forced Vang and his family to move out from their village.

“If I continue to live there, something will happen to me,” he said. “With what they said, I decided I must move to Central Vietnam.”

Weeks after the incident, Vang Atu, with other persecuted believers, traveled to Central Vietnam and met Pastor Trang, a pastor supported by Open Doors. The ministry provided a house for Vang and his family, where he currently lives.

“I thank God for everything,” Vang said. “I now have a house to live in.”

Though he’s now able to freely practice his faith in Central Vietnam, Vang dreams of one day returning to his village to preach the Word of God to his oppressors. Open Doors is calling on Christians to pray for Vang’s situation and for his spiritual growth.

“Pray that I will never give up in believing in Jesus until I meet Him in Heaven,” he said.

Vietnam is ranked no. 18 on Open Doors’ World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most severe persecution for their faith and has a Christian population of about 8 million.

While the majority of Vietnam’s more than 94 million people practice Buddhism, more than 1 million practice the Cao Dai or Hoa Hao faiths. Smaller numbers are Khmer Krom Buddhist, Muslim (including ethnic Cham Muslims), Baha’i, Mormon, and Falun Gong, as well as several local religions or other forms of traditional worship.

Converts to Christianity from Buddhist or ethnic-animist backgrounds face the strongest persecution, which comes not only from the authorities, but also from families, friends and neighbors,” an Open Doors factsheet on Vietnam states. “Protestant Christian believers tend to gather in house-churches, and their members face discrimination at various levels of society.”

– christian post

RSS frowns at proposal for Christian University in Kerala

February 12, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Thrissur, February 13, 2018: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has raised objection to a proposal put forth by the National Commission for Minorities to establish a Christian University with headquarters in Kerala.

The Sangh Parivar organisation is learnt to have expressed its resentment over the move of the Commission which comprises of BJP-nominated members.

The Kerala state unit of the RSS has hinted that they may intervene at national level if the Commission goes ahead with its proposal. They are of the opinion that there is no need for a university with a religious tag, either in Kerala or in India.

RSS Prantha Karyavahak P Gopalankutty alleged the country had witnessed the Aligarh University, which was established for minority community, later turning into a centre of anti-national activities. The law of the country provides freedom to individuals to study in any educational institution of their choice, he added.

He said there is no discrimination existing in the country as to forbid any minority community member from studying in educational institutions where majority community studies.

The Minority Commission floated the idea of Christian University in Kerala in the wake of the Centre’s decision to establish universities in regions where the minority population dominates.

– mathrubhumi

Choose between Trishul and Cross: Nagaland Baptist Church

February 12, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Kohima, February 12, 2018: Nagaland’s biggest church organisation, the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC), has asked believers to choose between ‘Trishul’ and ‘Cross’, reports News18.com.

The church organisation asked believers to not surrender Christian principles and faith for the sake of money, development into the hands of those who seek to “pierce the heart of Jesus Christ.”

The NBCC, in an open letter to presidents of all political parties in Nagaland, stated that India had experienced its “worst persecution of minority communities” in 2015-2017 under the BJP government.

“We cannot deny that the Hindutva movement in the country has become unprecedentedly strong and invasive in the last few years with BJP, the political wing of RSS, in power,” the NBCC general secretary observed in the letter.

“God must be weeping when Naga politicians are running after those who seek to destroy Christianity in India,” he added.

Strongly opposing what it called the “invasion” of Hindutva forces in Nagaland, Rev Keyho said that the party in power at the Centre is fighting tooth-and-nail to assert its presence in Nagaland, a Christian-majority state.

The letter went on to state, “Our people are fond of propaganda and because of this we often miss reality. India has experienced its worst persecution ever in 2015-2017. You will be fully aware that persecutions have been tripled in recent years. Pastors, evangelists and missionaries are dragged openly in the streets, harassed, insulted and many made to suffer.

Their homes destroyed and children discriminated in schools. Worship places were burnt down and believers are often disturbed and harassed. The Bible is openly burnt and confiscated.”

Elections in Nagaland are usually fought on tribal issues, given that most of the candidates are mostly Christian. It is in this respect that this letter is viewed as unprecedented for its openly political-religious tones.

The Nagaland BJP is yet to reply to the open letter.

Some political observers claim that the BJP has been on the backfoot in both Nagaland and Meghalaya for issues like ‘beef ban’ and atrocities against minorities, particularly Christians.

The state elections in Nagaland will be held on February 27 to elect 60 representatives. Counting of votes will take place on March 3 .

– news 18

Indian govt admits rise in religion-based hate crime

February 12, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

New Delhi, February 11, 2018: India’s pro-Hindu government has presented detailed data in parliament showing a surge in religion-based violence since it came to power four years ago.

The statistics, revealed on Feb. 6, confirm a long-standing allegation by rights groups that the situation is worsening.

In 2017, 111 persons were killed and at least 2,384 injured in 822 cases of sectarian violence, the highest figure in the past three years.

In 2016, 86 persons were killed and 2,321 injured in 703 incidents of religion-based violence.

Parliament was told that the highest number of sectarian incidents was reported in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, which has 200 million people, some 40 million of them Muslims.

The state, where the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept to power in last year’s provincial elections, witnessed 195 incidents of religion-based violence in 2017, claiming 44 lives and injuring 452 people.

Rights groups and civil society have been accusing the BJP, which leads the federal coalition government, of fanning the flames of intolerance. They also allege the administration is supportive of Hindu groups’ violence against religious minorities like Muslims and Christians in its desire to make India a Hindu-only state.

Some BJP leaders’ active promotion of Hindu nationalism resulted in the spike in communal violence in India since it came to power in 2014, says a report by the Mumbai-based Center for Study of Society and Secularism.

The failure by authorities to investigate or prevent such attacks, often led by extremist groups acting as vigilantes for cow protection and moral policing, have “created a climate of impunity” and might lead to continued attacks, says the report.

A video clip that went viral on Feb. 7 shows a young man slapping a middle-aged Muslim man more than 25 times, asking him to say “Jai Shri Ram” (hail lord Ram). Media reports said police have arrested 18-year-old Vijay Meena.

BJP parliamentarian Vinay Katiyar told reporters in New Delhi on Feb. 7 that Muslims have no business being in India and should go to Pakistan or Bangladesh. He also blamed Muslims for partition of the subcontinent in 1947.

Pew Research Center, a U.S.-based think tank, in its 2017 analysis ranked India as among the worst in the world for religious intolerance. The nation of 1.3 billion trailed only behind Syria, Nigeria and Iraq.

“Over the past three years, the space for liberal discussion in the country has become narrower. This has been shown by repeated incidents of threats, assassinations and lynching, along with the banning and burning of books,” said Murali Krishnan, a veteran Indian journalist who reports current and social affairs in South Asia.

Colin Gonsalves, a Supreme Court lawyer and founder-director of the Human Rights Law Network, said sectarian incidents, even if they happened in far-flung villages, were part of a “national conspiracy” and damaged the basic tenets of the constitution.

“Sectarian violence, like terrorism, should not be seen only as a law and order problem. Hate speech, like a terror incident, may happen in a village but the conspiracy has to be uncovered nationally,” he said.

Hindus form 80 percent of India’s population or some 966 million. The 172 million Muslims and 28 million Christians are the two main religious minorities, followed by Sikhs, Buddhists, Zoroastrians (Parsis) and Jains.

– ucan

Pakistan unveils historic fatwa against ‘blasphemy’ vigilantes

February 8, 2018 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Pakistan, February 8, 2018: The Pakistan government this month unveiled an historic fatwa (religious ruling) condemning Islamic extremism and vigilante “blasphemy” attacks, in a potentially positive development for the country’s minority Christian community.

By issuing the fatwa with the support of 1,829 religious leaders – who are signatories to the document officially released on 16 January – the Pakistani government is addressing extremism from a religious perspective.

The fatwa declares that terrorist activity against the state, and in particular suicide bombings, are haram (forbidden under Islamic law). It also states: “We believe that spreading sectarian hatred, armed sectarian conflict and imposition of one’s religious ideologies by force are contrary to the Shariah/teachings of Islam.”

There is a “religious obligation” to confront “evil” extremist ideology, according to the Fatwa.

The notion of “extremism” in the context of the ruling is defined as views deemed to be outside the body of mainstream Islam – this differs from typical Western definitions, which define “extremism” in relation to issues such as democracy, human rights and freedom of religion.

The document also says it is “unacceptable in Islam” that any group “takes [the] law into its own hands, [and] declares people infidels” – a statement which is understood to refer to the country’s controversial “blasphemy” laws.

Instead, the fatwa asserts that “Only the State has right to implement punishments on citizens.”

Some of the most vocal opponents of politicians who have proposed changes to the “blasphemy” laws are among the signatories to the fatwa. But it remains to be seen whether their support of the religious ruling will result in real and lasting change to the treatment of Christians and others accused of “blasphemy”, or reduce the number of spurious allegations.

This fatwa is based on the teaching of classical Islam that only the proper Islamic ruler can declare jihad or enforce punishments, such as the death penalty for apostasy and blasphemy. However, classical Islam still holds all of these as articles of faith.

– global christian news

Meghalaya Christians seek Sushma Swaraj’s intervention after Baptist leader’s visa rejected

February 8, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Shillong, February 8, 2018: Christians in poll-bound Meghalaya are upset with the ruling BJP-led NDA government after it rejected the visa application of the Baptist World Alliance Chief, Reverend Paul Msiza, to attend the 150 years of Christianity in Garo Hills region.

Member of Parliament from the state, Conrad K. Sangma of National People’s Party which is an ally of ruling BJP, has written to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj seeking her intervention into the Visa requirement of the Baptist preacher to attend the sesquicentenary celebrations of Christianity.

The Garo Baptist Convention is celebrating 150 years of Christianity at Rajasimla in Meghalaya’s East Garo Hills from February 8-11. The Baptist Church set foot in Garo Hills at Rajasimla in 1867.

“The Christians communities, especially from Baptist community in Garo Hills are very upset with the central government for rejecting the visa of the Baptist World Alliance Chief, Paul Msiza to attend a four-day celebration of 150 years of Christianity in Garo Hills region,” Vice President of Asia Pacific Baptist Federation, Bijoy Sangma said.

He said that the Visa application of Msiza was rejected by the Consulate General of India in Johannesburg, South Africa on Feb 7.

“It was shocking to get the news of rejection of the Visa by the Indian Consulate. We are extremely disappointed that we are going to miss the Global head of the Baptist Christian community on this historic occasion.

The BWA President for us is the Pastoral head of the Baptists Community worldwide like His Holiness the Pope of the Catholic community,” the Baptist leader said.

Upon hearing of the delay in issuance of Visa by the Indian Consulate in Johannesburg, Bijoy said some of enthusiastic faithful and social workers followed up the matter two days back with few top Indian politicians both in Centre and State including Conrad K. Sangma for their intervention, but it did not yield any result.

“This is not the only case; many of our foreign friends have been denied visa in the last three years despite the fact that they have been coming here on earlier occasions,” of Garo Baptist Convention General Secretary, Reverend Janang R Sangma, said.

“They (NDA government) should realise this is a celebration, not a mission programme and has nothing to do with conversion. Visa for such religious functions should not be denied,” Janang said.

The BJP which is trying to unseat the ruling Congress party from power in Christian-dominated state of Meghalaya on February 27 assembly elections, have refused to comment on the matter.

– the indian express

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