Pakistan gives Christian man death sentence over alleged blasphemy on whatsApp

September 20, 2017 by admin  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Pakistan, September 18, 2017: A Pakistani court has sentenced a Christian man to death after he was accused of texting a blasphemous poem to a Muslim friend through WhatsApp.

Nadeem James, who was arrested during the summer of 2016 and charged with the capital crime of insulting the Muslim prophet after a Muslim friend named Yasir Bashir complained to the police about an alleged message received through the mobile app, was officially sentenced to capital punishment last Thursday, according to his defense attorney.

James was charged under section 295-C of the Pakistani criminal code, which calls for those who insult Muhammad to be punished with death or life imprisonment.

“James was handed a death sentence by the court on Thursday on blasphemy charges,” James’ attorney, Anjum Wakeel, told AFP.

The lawyer added that James’ trial was held inside of prison because local Muslim clerics had threatened James and his family.

Wakeel vowed that James, who maintains that he was falsely accused of the crime because he married a Muslim woman who converted to Christianity, will appeal the sentence to the nation’s high court. Wakeel asserted that his client “has been framed.”

Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the London-based humanitarian charity British Asian Christian Association, told The Christian Post on Monday that under Pakistani law, those who have been sentenced to death for blasphemy must wait at least five years before they can appeal.

“The frightening aspect of this case is that despite the safety of a trial in prison, a district magistrate has ruled that Nadeem, an obviously innocent man, is guilty. This provides little confidence that Nadeem can ever see justice in Pakistan and we all know what that sadly means,” Chowdhry said in a statement. “Nadeem James was an innocent man who fell in love with a local woman. After he married her, all he wanted was to settle down and have children, then to provide for them — all perfectly acceptable goals.”

James joins the likes of Christian mother Asia Bibi, who was also sentenced to death by hanging for alleged blasphemy in 2010 and recently nominated to receive the European Union’s prestigious Sakharov Prize.

“It’s become a palpable reality that [James] could be hanged, but it doesn’t [give much hope] to Asia Bibi either,” Chowdhry stated.

Bibi has been sitting in Pakistani prison for years. Although she requested an appeal last year, her appeal hearings have continued to be delayed by the nation’s Supreme Court.

“I don’t believe a Supreme Court judge is going to exonerate Asia Bibi,” Chowdhry told CP. “Any judge that would be brave enough to do that — it should be a responsibility of every judge — would in essence be facing his own death sentence in Pakistan because of the sheer intolerance and hatred towards minorities.”

“Her solicitor was calling for a hearing in April and it was rejected by the courts. Asia Bibi is sick. She is ill. She is coughing blood in prison. She is in a dingy cell and she is losing her sanity,” he continued.

“It may well be that courts are simply delaying things so that they don’t have to face the consequences in their country for exonerating Bibi, which would mean riots in every state, or they condemn Asia Bibi to death and face international scrutiny and animosity from the whole of the West who are watching with anticipation for her freedom.”

Pakistan ranks as the fourth worst country in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians, according to Open Doors USA’s 2017 World Watch List.

One contributing factor to that ranking is the abuse of the country’s blasphemy laws by some Muslims looking to settle personal scores with religious minorities.

“Until this draconion law is removed from Pakistan, no Christian can feel safe. It is not abuse of the law that is the problem — it is the law itself,” Chowdhry said in a statement. “No man-made law is ever required to protect God. As Christians, we believe He is omnipotent. However, this seems a theological concept too difficult to decipher for Muslims in Pakistan, who continue to espouse blasphemy laws despite no basis in quranic scriptures.”

The British Asian Christian Association launched a petition calling for an end to blasphemy laws in Pakistan.

- christian post

Philippine soldiers rescue priest from Islamic militants

September 19, 2017 by admin  
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Manila, September 18, 2017: A Catholic priest held hostage for almost four months in besieged Marawi, a southern city in the Philippines, has been rescued hours after a deadly battle between Philippine soldiers and Islamic State-allied militants.

Father Teresito “Chito” Soganub was found abandoned with another hostage near a mosque early September 17.

Marawi is among three militant strongholds that have fallen to government forces over the past several days.

Father Soganub had been held captive since militants attacked his Saint Mary’s Parish during the siege of Marawi on May 23.

On May 30 he appeared in a propaganda video pleading for his life and asking the military to cease aerial bombardments.

The Philippine forces have held back launching a full-scale attack on rebel strongholds, fearing for the lives of Father Soganub and several hundred other hostages.

Some hostages who escaped or were rescued said the militants forced them to convert to Islam, cook food and carry wounded fighters.

Some women were forced to marry militants.

The rescue came after the Philippine military said some militants had sent text messages saying they were prepared to surrender, after receiving promises they would not be killed and would be treated humanely.

“We are trying to convince them to release all their hostages – if not all the hostages, just the women inside the main battle area,” said Colonel Romeo Brawner, the deputy commander of a Marawi taskforce.

“If they surrender we will not shoot them. That’s our arrangement,” he said.

Since hundreds of heavily armed militants flying the black flag of Islamic State seized the city of 300,000 on May 23, they have engaged security forces in ferocious street-to-street battles that have left more than 800 dead, reports smh.com.au.

Philippine military chief General Eduardo Ano described as “enormous” gains made by his soldiers over the weekend.

Militants fled the Bato Mosque which the militants were using as a control center after a fierce five-hour battle.

“As follow-up and clearing operations continue, we expect the enemy to yield more occupied positions but not without a fight,” General Ano said.

Philippine military officers have been saying for weeks they expected to regain control of the city within days but the militants have proven far better armed and trained than first thought.

The siege has prompted fears that Islamic State-linked extremists will gain a foothold in the southern Philippines.

A large part of Marawi has been destroyed in the fighting.

- sydney morning herald

Christians, Muslims unite to protest against Myanmar’s rohingya crisis

September 17, 2017 by admin  
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Myanmar, September 16, 2017: As thousands of civilian Rohingya Muslims are fleeing what the United Nations has called “ethnic cleansing” in northern Myanmar, India’s Christians and Muslims and people of other faiths got together in the central Indian city of Lucknow on Friday to protest and call for an end to the ongoing “genocide.”

The protesters, who gathered after Friday prayers at the Aishbagh Eidgah mosque in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state, used strong language on placards, including “United Nations should boycott the Myanmar government” and “Those putting Hindus and Muslims of Rohingya to torture are terrorists,” according to The Time of India.

The ethnic Rohingya Muslims have faced discrimination and statelessness in Buddhist-majority Myanmar for decades, and torture and killings in recent years. About 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh due to Myanmar’s military attacks on them in Rakhine state since since Aug. 25, when the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, allegedly a “separatist” group, launched an attack on police posts and a military base in Rakhine state.

Those fleeing are having to walk for more than a week to cross the border.

At least 62 Rohingya villages have been burned down, according to Human Rights Watch.

“It is appalling that the country’s own government is conducting atrocities on the innocent Hindus and Muslims of Rohingya area that only proves systematic ethnic cleansing,” Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahali, the imam of the mosque, was quoted as saying after the protest. “Officials responsible for such heinous crime against the communities, should be booked and tried under the international criminal law.”

More than half of the Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar in the past three weeks are children, including hundreds who traveled without family members, putting them at particular risk in cramped, muddy camps in Bangladesh, The New York Times reports, quoting aid workers.

Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Peace Prize laureate, has sent a letter with the signatures of 12 Nobel laureates to the U.N. Security Council, urging it to take immediate action to stop the military attacks on civilians. “The arguments that the Myanmar government is using to deny Rohingyas their citizenship are ludicrous,” the letter said.

While Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is the de facto leader of the country, its the generals who continue to control national security policy.

Suu Kyi has also been widely condemned by the international community for not speaking out against the ongoing violence.

Elsewhere along Myanmar’s borders, where ethnic rebel groups and government troops have been fighting, civilians from other ethnic and religious minorities have also been forced to flee for safety over the last few monhts.

Tens of thousands of Christians took refuge in Malaysia earlier this years.

- christian post

Chinese government bans children from attending church

September 15, 2017 by admin  
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China, September 15, 2017: In one of its more drastic moves to date, China’s ruling Communist Party has issued notices warning Christian parents not to take their children to church or they “will be dealt with severely.”

In their latest attack on Christianity, authorities have told more than a hundred Christian churches that children are now forbidden from attending church services and joining Christian groups. The latest move may respond in part to a new study from the University of Shanghai, which found that more than 60 percent of students are interested in learning more about Christianity and that young catechumens in official and underground Christian communities have been steadily increasing in number.

In August, communist officials issued “notices” to over a hundred churches in Wenzhou, within the largely Christian Zhejiang province, informing Christians that children are no longer permitted to enter any church. The notices stated that minors attempting to enter a church would be turned away at the door, even if accompanied by their parents.

Along with students, school teachers have also been banned from attending church. The Yonglin district instructed schools that “the higher authorities strictly forbid all secondary and primary school teachers, students and toddlers to join Catholic or Protestant churches.”

Chinese authorities have justified their action by alleging that church attendance and religious instruction keep young persons from developing “a correct worldview and set of values.”

“Minors receiving religious education and formation too early in churches would seriously affect the normal implementation of the education system,” the Ouhai district’s notice declared.

Authorities further warned church leaders that government inspectors will “launch open and undercover investigations” on Sundays in both state-sanctioned churches and underground communities to enforce the ban.

“There have also been attacks on Sunday school,” a pastor told the Vision Times. “It is very serious… This is very disrespectful to human rights, and we are firmly opposed… We really don’t know why authorities are doing this.”

The new norms not only forbid children from attending church service, but also prohibit minors from joining any Christian group, taking part in any religious activities or listening to sermons. The Communist authorities have also ruled that Christians may no longer run summer camps for children.

The new measures are part and parcel of China’s draconian policy on religion, and against Christianity in particular.

According to the International Religious Freedom Report (IRFP) released in August, the Chinese Communist government “physically abused, detained, arrested, tortured, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups” thoughout 2016.

The abuse of people of faith in their religious practice included members of unregistered Christian churches (also known as “house churches”), the State Department’s annual report added.

The IRPF noted that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues to exert absolute control over religious activities in the country. “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,” the report stated.

This means that any religious group that does not submit to state control, such as the Roman Catholic Church or Christian “house churches,” has no official status in the country and is subject to regular sanctions and arbitrary harassment.

Since 1999, the U.S. State Department has designated China as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act for having engaged in or tolerated “particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

- breit bart

Pakistani boy called ‘Filthy Christian, demon’ when killed by Muslim classmates

September 14, 2017 by admin  
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Pakistan, September 14, 2017: As Christians in Australia prepare to hold a candlelight vigil on Friday for Sharoon Masih, the 17-year-old Pakistani boy who was killed for his faith in August by his Muslim classmates, details about the case have revealed that he was called a “filthy Christian” and a “demon” by students.

“On his first-day, Sharoon was slapped and told to stand outside the class for an entire day for not wearing the school uniform. His parents say he didn’t wear the uniform because they simply didn’t have the money to buy it,” the British Pakistani Christian Association reports.

“As he was beaten he was called a ‘filthy Christian,’ a ‘demon’ and a chura (a derogatory word for Christians). The insults continued until his last breath, literally. For days Muslim pupils refused Sharoon access to drinking water from a cooler,” it added.

“None of the school staff took Sharoon to the hospital [but] some pupils took his dead body some hours later.”

The boy was beaten to death by a number of students on Aug. 27, his fourth day at the MC Model Boys Government High School in the Vehari area in Punjab.

The BPCA announced that the candlelight vigil will take place at the parliament of New South Wales on Friday, and is also using the occasion to highlight the persecution of Christians in Pakistan.

It is also calling for the Australian government to give Pakistani Christians asylum in a new petition.

The petition urges the government to support the joint application for Approved Proposing Organisation on the Community Support Programme for humanitarian entrants, and lists out the deeply troubling statistics concerning persecution in Pakistan:

“Seven-hundred Christian girls are kidnapped, raped and forced into Islamic marriage every year.

“Five terrorist attacks in four years have decimated the Christian community, killing over 300 victims and injuring over a thousand more.

“Fifteen percent of all blasphemy allegations are placed against Christians though they make up a mere 1 percent of Pakistan’s population.

“Ninty-five percent of sewage workers are Christians paid a pittance without social service benefits, bullied at work and deployed without safety equipment resulting in 100s of deaths.

“One million Christian slaves work for Muslim lords despite the country having anti-slavery laws since 1992.”

BPCA urged concerned Australians to sign the petition, which calls for approval of their APO Status proposal.

Riaz Bibi, the mother of the 17-year-old boy, meanwhile said that her son had been warned not to mix in with the Muslim students.

“My son was a kind-hearted, hard-working and affable boy,” the mother was quoted as saying.

“He has always been loved by teachers and pupils alike and shared great sorrow that he was being targeted by students at his new school because of his faith,” Bibi explained.

“Sharoon and I cried every night as he described the daily torture he was subjected to. He only shared details about the violence he was facing. He did not want to upset his father because he had such a caring heart for others,” she added.

“The evil boys that hated my child are now refusing to reveal who else was involved in his murder. Nevertheless one day God will have His judgement.”

- christian post

Four arrested on charges of blasphemy in Pakistan

September 13, 2017 by admin  
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Pakistan, September 13, An anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Pakistan has charged four persons for allegedly publishing blasphemous content on the social media.

The court has also directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to produce evidence against the suspects, who pleaded not guilty.

All the four suspects arrested by the FIA are in jail on judicial remand.

The court also dismissed the bail plea of one of the suspects, a college professor.

Earlier, a Christian man hailing from the Kharian tehsil of Gujarat city in Pakistan was arrested by the police on a blasphemy charge.

He was arrested and moved to another place instead of the lock-up after rumours started to circulate that religious groups intended to attack the police station.

The complaint was filed by Nadeem Ahmed in Dinga town, who said that his friend Ishtiaq Ahmed Jalali had told him that a sweeper working at a private hospital had allegedly uttered provocative remarks about the Holy Prophet.

Nadeem claimed that when he spoke to the sweeper to verify the allegation, the latter repeated the remarks.

The case against the suspect has been registered under Section 295-C (Use of derogatory remarks, etc, in respect of the Holy Prophet) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

The blasphemy law is very contentions in Pakistan with several lawmakers calling for its reform.

Pakistan has also launched a crackdown on the blasphemous content on social media.

- outlook india

Detained Wenzhou Bishop resurfaces in Beijing hospital

September 12, 2017 by admin  
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Hong Kong, September 12, 2017: An underground bishop disappeared by Chinese security officials has resurfaced in a Beijing hospital but it is unsure if he remains under state control.

Using a WeChat account, detained Bishop Shao Zhuming of Wenzhou in Zhejiang Province said he was in hospital to have ear surgery on Sept. 11.

Bishop Shao who was taken away from his diocese by security officials in April, urged people not to visit him but to keep him in their prayers.

“Many thanks for all who pray for me, especially for the smoothness of my surgery today,” said Bishop Shao’s WeChat account.

An earlier photo of the bishop dressed in pajamas and sitting on a bed in a hospital setting went viral on the internet beginning Sept. 8.

A church source told ucanews.com, the photo was taken at Beijing Tongren Hospital where the bishop was to have ear surgery.

The source was not able to confirm the bishop’s status regarding if he remains under state control.

“He needs to take half year to recuperate after the surgery as there is something installed in his head,” said the source who believed that the government will not take care of the bishop’s post-surgery.

Bishop Shao was taken away by security officials a few days before Easter. It is the fourth time he has been detained since the Vatican confirmed him as Bishop of Wenzhou last September, following the death of his predecessor Bishop Vincent Zhu Weifang.

The government has urged Bishop Shao to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA) — which would then lead to his being recognized by the authorities. The CPA advocates an independent church principle, which is incompatible to Catholic doctrine.

If Bishop Shao was to join the CPA, he runs the risk of cutting himself off from 80,000 Catholics in the underground community of Wenzhou. The diocese has 50,000 Catholics in the open church community.

Church media outside China reported that the authorities are also demanding Bishop Shao persuade the Vatican to appoint a priest in the open church community as his coadjutor bishop. The source said the government then wants the new coadjutor bishop to replace Bishop Shao.

The Vatican issued a statement on June 26, saying it was saddened with the situation of the disappearance of Bishop Shao. The German government also publicly expressed the hope that the bishop may be released.

The Chinese government spokesman, Lu Kang said the Vatican’s statement was “not the reasonable and correct thing” to do. Lu said that China opposed any country using so-called individual cases to interfere in its internal affairs.

Not allowed to attend funeral

Though Bishop Shao could receive medical treatment, the government did not allow him to attend the funeral of Father Wang Zhongfa, an underground priest of Wenzhou, who died Sept. 2 aged 86.

Before Father Wang passed away, Bishop Shao was allowed to visit him in hospital under the supervision of religious officials.

Secret police also took away Father Paul Jiang Sunian, chancellor of the diocese, to prevent him from taking part in Father Wang’s funeral. As a brother, Wang spent 12 years in labor camps in Inner Mongolia for his religious beliefs during the Mao years. After he was released during the late 1960s, he was still confined to Inner Mongolia for a further 20 years.

When he returned to his home village near the city of Wenzhou, southeastern Zhejiang province, he was 47-years-old. In 1980, he was ordained by Bishop Zhou Weidao of Shaanxi, and preached extensively. In 1990, he established the Sisters of Sacred Heart of Jesus in Wenzhou.

- ucan

New regulations on religions: Annihilate underground communities, suffocate official communities

September 11, 2017 by admin  
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China, September 9, 2017: The new regulations on religious activities are aimed at annihilating underground communities and stifling official communities, making it impossible for any outward mission. This is evidenced by the recently published text on the site of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA). They should come into force on 1 February 2018.

A draft of the new regulations had been published last September.

The new text does not change much from the draft, but – if possible – it is even worse. The few articles added (we counted three) worsen the list of alleged threats and deviations that may come from religions.

In Chapter VII on “Legal Responsibility”, Article 63 has been added, which states: ” Advocating,supporting, or funding religious extremism,or using religion to to harm national security or public safety, undermine ethnic unity, divide the nation,or conduct terrorist activities and separatism or terrorist activities, infringing upon citizens’ rights in their persons and democratic rights, impeding the administration of public order, or encroaching upon public or private property… “. The article also provides punishments for “criminal responsibility in accordance with law “, “administrative penalties in accordance with law “, “compensation” for losses to citizens “in accordance with law “.

In China, you can count the number of attacks of a “religious” matrix on the fingers of one hand and are often subject to several sects with a few thousand adherents, compared to over 500 million believers of different religions. Yet the article – whose list of bad actions is repeated here and there in the text, for example, among the “prohibitions” – gives the impression that religions tout court are not only “the opium of the masses,” as Marx said , but the plague of the peoples.

The text reiterates that only a top-down control of religious affairs at all levels – national, provincial, county, city or village – renders a religion livable and acceptable. Representatives of religious offices at all levels are urged to “work”, “organize”, “test”, “control” the work of the community of the faithful (see Articles 6, 26, 27) . This emphasis goes hand in hand with the testimonies that we receive from China: cameras placed at all religious sites; police checks in celebrations; dog-units for anti-drug checks! It should be noted that such checks are carried out even for official communities recognized by the state that behave according to the ministry’s instructions.

Under the new regulations, the underground communities should not even exist. As a result any activity that takes place in unregistered places and with unregistered staff results in massive fines: between 100 and 300 thousand yuan for “unauthorized” activities (Article 64); 50,000 yuan per activity in an “unauthorized” site; 50,000 yuan for providing an “unauthorized” site (Article 69); between 20,000 and 200,000 yuan for “unauthorized” travel abroad, even if it is for religious education or pilgrimage (hajj) (Article 70); up to 10,000 yuan for individuals involved in “illegal” religious activities (Article 74). These fines are very high, if you consider that the minimum wage in a city like Shanghai is 2300 yuan. In addition to the fines, the closure of the sites that hosted “illegal” activities and their sequestration and forfeiture to state assets are also included.

Even before the regulations become the norm, for several months now police and representatives of the Religious Affairs Bureau have been meeting priests and lay faithful from underground communities for “a cup of tea” and “advising” them to register in the community official. In particular, priests are faced with a difficult choice: registration at the Religious Affairs Bureau automatically implies membership of the Patriotic Association, which, through its aim to build an “independent” Church, is “inconsistent” with Catholic Doctrine (Benedict XVI ).

Another article added  to the definitive text of the regulations is 70b. It states: “Where there is proselytization, organizing of religious activities, establishment of religious organizations, or establishment of religious activity sites in schools or educational institutions other than religious schools; the organ of review and approval or other relevant departments are to order corrections to be made within a certain time and give warnings; where there are unlawful gains, they are to be confiscated; where there circumstances are serious, order that enrollment is to be stopped and cancel education permits…. “

It concerns religious activities in state schools, whose measures have already been enforced before the promulgation of the regulations: students were expelled from schools because they were found praying privately in university buildings.

According to research by the University of Shanghai, at least 60% of students are interested in knowing about Christianity and there is a growth in the number of young catechumens in official and underground communities.

The fact that the new regulations have added a new article aimed at punishing “proselytism” in schools is a sign of the vastness of the phenomenon. But all this is perhaps a symbol that applies to all of the articles of the regulations: it proclaims control, but China’s religious awakening is now beyond control.

- asia news

Two foreign Christian preachers denied entry into Singapore

September 10, 2017 by admin  
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Singapore, September 9, 2017: Two foreign Christian preachers, who applied for short-term work passes to speak in Singapore, have been denied entry.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said the reason is that the duo had made “denigrating and inflammatory comments of other religions” in the past.

Its statement came after Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam cited the cases at a forum earlier yesterday. Shanmugam said the Government takes “an equal approach” to all religions.

“Just as I have banned Muslim scholars or preachers from coming into Singapore, the most recent banning has been (for) Christian preachers. They were very Islamophobic in their statements outside of Singapore, and we decided we will ban them,” he said.

One of the preachers described Allah as “a false god”, and called for prayers for those “held captive in the darkness of Islam”, MHA said.

He also referred to Buddhists by a Hebrew word – Tohuw – meaning “lost, lifeless, confused and spiritually barren”. The Straits Times understands this is American preacher Dutch Sheets.

The other preacher referred to “the evils of Islam” and “the malevolent nature of Islam and Muhammad”. He called Islam “not a religion of peace”, “an incredibly confused religion”, interested in “world domination” and “a religion based on… adhering to uncompromising and cruel laws often focused on warfare and virtual slavery”.

Such teachings are unacceptable in multiracial, multi-religious Singapore, said MHA.

Running down of religions or the spreading of ill will among religions is not allowed, so as to safeguard Singapore’s social harmony and cohesion, it added.

The two preachers had applied to the Manpower Ministry for their Miscellaneous Work Passes, which are for foreigners who speak at seminars and religious workers.

The granting of such passes is “a privilege accorded to a foreigner and not an entitlement”, said MHA.

Shanmugam also said that a review of the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act is under way.

– the straits times

Lahore Archdiocese bans political speeches in churches

September 8, 2017 by admin  
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Lahore, September 5, 2017: After a former Pakistani premier’s daughter made a controversial speech inside the Catholic cathedral in Lahore, acts and speeches deemed political are now banned in church buildings throughout the archdiocese.

Father Francis Gulzar, vicar general of Lahore Archdiocese issued the directive Sept. 4 after Maryam Nawaz, daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif visited Sacred Heart Cathedral on Sept. 1.

It was the second church that Maryam visited during her election campaign for the seat in the National Assembly that was vacated after her father, the three-time premier was disqualified from holding public office July 28 for failing to declare some assets in his nomination papers.

“Pakistan does not need a change of prime minister but a change of judicial system,” Maryam said addressing worshippers inside the cathedral. She called on worshippers to support her father and criticized her political rivals.

Photos of the event quickly went viral.

“In just two days, 6,000 people shared them on Facebook alone. Those who reacted or commented on them were in the thousands,” Samuel Pyara, the Christian chairman of the Implementation Minority Rights Forum, told ucanews.com.

Social media users strongly condemned her for holding such an event inside the cathedral. Many commented negatively about how Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore blessed Maryam during her visit.

Father Gulzar via a circular said federal minister Kamran Michael, provincial minister Khalil Tahir Sindhu had requested Archbishop Shaw on behalf of Maryam who wanted to visit the church to pray for the recovery of her mother.

“Considering that the house of God is the house of prayer, church administration gave permission. With mutual consent, it was decided that she would thank Christian schools for her family members’ education in Christian schools,” said Father Gulzar.

“But after expressing the gratitude, her discourse became political. Her political speech at the Sacred Heart Cathedral has vexed us as well as all of you. Our sentiments have been hurt,” he stated.

“His Grace Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw, himself, and church administration apologizes for this. It has been decided that although the doors of the church are open for everybody to pray, the church will not be used for political purposes by anyone in future.”

However, Father Bonnie Mendes former secretary of the Pakistani Catholic bishops’ National Commission for Justice and Peace, described the incident as “a grave error.”

Lahore Archdiocese is based in the Punjab provincial capital with the same name. About 80 percent of the Christians in Pakistan live in Punjab, the most populous of the country’s four provinces.

- ucan

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