Protests against killing of two Christians in Pakistan

April 18, 2018 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Pakistan, April 16, 2018: The leaders of the Christian community have launched a protest against the killing of two Christians near a church by four unidentified gunmen who opened fire at them in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, officials said.

Provincial police chief Moazzam Jah Ansari said that a group of Christians had come out of the church on Sunday when the four gunmen appeared on two motorcycles from a nearby lane and opened fire on them.

“Two people were killed on the spot while six others were injured and rushed to a hospital,” he said.

The deceased have been identified as Azhar Masih and Rohail Masih. They were residents of Essa Nagri which houses a large population of the Christian community.

The attack has been claimed by the Islamic State terror group.

Ansari said that it appeared that the purpose of the attack was to spread panic and fear in the province.

“These terrorists are targeting security forces and now minorities to spread fear and panic because of the ongoing operation against them in the province,” he said.

The Christian community staged a protest demonstration against the provincial government and called for the immediate arrest of the attackers. They also urged the government to provide protection to all members of the Christian community in Quetta.

Pakistan has been battling armed groups, including the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The attacks often target Pakistan’s minorities, including Shia Muslims as well as Christians, Hindus and members of the Ahmadiyya sect.

Earlier this month, four members of a Christian family travelling in a rickshaw were killed in a firing incident on Quetta’s Shah Zaman road. The Christian family belonged to Punjab Province and had come to Quetta to see relatives.

In December last year, nine people were killed and 30 injured in a suicide attack on the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church on Quetta’s Zarghoon Road.

At least two suicide attackers had struck the Bethel Memorial Church while Sunday service was ongoing. There were 400 worshipers inside the church when the assault started.

– times of india

Lahore Christians protest against cemetery confiscations for real estate speculation

April 13, 2018 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Lahore, April 13, 2018: A group of more than a hundred Christians protested against the occupation of a cemetery that belongs to the local Church.

At the cry of “Down with Punjab government” and “Down with encroachment mafia”, protesters on Tuesday blocked the road in front of the Lahore Press Club for more than two hours.

The Gora Qabrastan (cemetery) Action Committee (GQAC) organised the rally to oppose the confiscation of the Christian cemetery in the heart of the provincial capital.

For the past two years, the committee has been demanding the removal of the family of the retired graveyard guardian, Munawar, who has been using three residential buildings (more than 500 sq metres).

GQAC deputy chancellor Khalid Shahzad told AsiaNews that “the family is trying to sell the houses with fake documents.”

“Both the Catholic and Protestant bishops sent the former guardian an eviction notice, but the family refuses to leave. We have organised innumerable meetings with district officials, but our complaints remain buried under the bribes.”

In August 2017, the Supreme Court of Pakistan “conveyed its displeasure” to its Human Rights Cell “with direction to submit report within two weeks” about the affair.

Illegally grabbing Church-owned land is nothing new in the country. At least three cemeteries are currently illegally occupied in the archdiocese of Lahore alone.

According to real estate website, Pakistan’s real estate is soaring as house prices have more than doubled in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad.

In 2012, the Lahore Development Authority bulldozed more than 8,000 sq metres of land that housed the Gosh e Aman missionary institute, a chapel, a Caritas laboratory and other social welfare buildings operated by the Catholic Church.

In 1972, the Pakistani government nationalised all Church schools and colleges in Punjab and Sindh provinces.

They were denationalised between 1985 and 1995 without compensation. Several missionary schools are still under government control.

“Instead of paying us rent for 35 years, Churches have had to pay to take back control of their institutions,” said Colonel (retired) Azim Ilyas, coordinator of the Lahore Diocesan Board of Education, Church of Pakistan.

A lot of money was “spent in the renovation of dilapidated buildings which affected the quality of education in once esteemed institutes. Those still in government possession have turned into ruins.”

– asia news

Christian family shot dead in southwestern Pakistan

April 11, 2018 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Pakistan, April 3, 2018: Four members of a Christian family were gunned down in southwestern Pakistan on Monday, police said, in the latest attack on the minority community.

The family was travelling in a rickshaw when armed men on a motorcycle intercepted them and opened fire in Quetta city, the capital of Baluchistan province.

A woman was rushed to hospital. Her father and three cousins were killed.

“It appears to have been a targeted attack,” provincial police official Moazzam Jah Ansari told Reuters. “It was an act of terrorism.”

The attack comes a day after Pakistan’s Christian community celebrated Easter on Sunday. Around 2 percent of Pakistan’s population are Christians.

Minority religious festivals are a security concern in the majority Sunni Muslim country where there have been a number of high casualty attacks on Christians and Shi’ite Muslims.

Baluchistan, a region bordering Iran as well as Afghanistan, is plagued by violence by Sunni Islamist sectarian groups linked to the Taliban, al Qaeda and Islamic State. It also has an indigenous ethnic Baloch insurgency fighting against central government.

In December, a week before Christmas, two suicide bombers stormed a packed Christian church in southwestern Pakistan, killing at least 10 people and wounding up to 56, in an attack claimed by Islamic State.

The family killed on Monday had come to visit relatives in Quetta’s Shahzaman road area, where a large number of the city’s Christian community lives.

Rome’s ancient Colosseum was lit in red for an evening in February in solidarity with persecuted Christians, particularly Asia Bibi, a Catholic woman who has been living on death row in Pakistan since 2010, when she was condemned for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Islam.

– channel news asia

Christian parents praying for son on death row in Pakistan for ‘Blasphemy’

March 15, 2018 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Pakistan, March 15, 2018: The Christian parents of a 30-year-old Pakistani man who has been sentenced to death on the charge of blasphemy are continuing to pray for his release.

Billo Bibi, Masih’s mother, said in a report Wednesday that her son, who’s a father of three, is in Central Jail Faisalabad awaiting an appeal against the death sentence he received in 2014.

Masih was convicted of insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad while arguing with a Muslim friend of his in 2013, in an incident which also led to a 1,000-strong mob to burn down his home in Lahore’s Joseph Colony neighborhood.

The mob attack also led to 116 houses and two churches being destroyed.

“I used to call him Buri. We still pray for his release. My elderly husband has developed breathing complications since his arrest. He does not speak anymore. My daughter-in-law [now lives with] her parents,” Bibi said.

“The prison authorities are planning to relocate Masih to Sahiwal [over 105 miles from Lahore]. Travelling to another city was already tough. Now they are sending him farther away,” she added.

The mother also said she attends a candlelight vigil every year on March 9 on the anniversary of the mob attack at the gates of Joseph Colony, with believers offering prayers for the churches in the area.

Christian leaders, such Church of Pakistan Bishop Azad Marshall of Raiwind, have also marked the anniversary of the attack by attending gatherings, while Rawadari Tehreek, a movement promoting pluralism, held a hunger strike in front of the Punjab Assembly.

Persecution watchdog groups, such as International Christian Concern and the British Pakistani Christian Association, have warned that for many years now Christians have been targeted by blasphemy laws as a way to settle personal scores and falsely accuse them of insulting Islam.

Those accused of blasphemy have been imprisoned and even placed on death row by authorities, while radical mobs have burned down homes, and on occasion killed followers of Christ

One of the most famous cases that continues drawing international attention concerns Christian mother of five Asia Bibi, who since November 2010 has been on death row, after being accused by Muslim co-workers of insulting their faith.

Despite several appeals and hearings, Asia Bibi’s fate in prison remains uncertain.

Major international bodies, such as the European Union, have spoken out on Asia Bibi’s case, and have threatened to impose heavy economic consequences for Pakistan unless it agrees to release the Christian mother.

Jan Figel, the special envoy of EU for the promotion of religious freedom worldwide, told the Pakistani government during a recent visit to the country that the fate of Asia Bibi is going to directly affect trade favors the EU bestows upon Pakistan, with hopes that the warning could persuade the government to free the mother.

– christian post

Catholic church in China has crosses removed

March 13, 2018 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Hong Kong, March 13, 2018: Crosses on Shangqiu South Church (Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) in China have been removed by the district government.

It is the first Catholic church in Henan province to have crosses removed. Officials later installed new ones but they were much smaller in numbers and size.

A source who asked to be unnamed told that street office and district committee officials on March 8 asked the church to remove its crosses.

“The officials said the largest one at the highest point of the cathedral had to be removed but church staff disagreed,” the source said.

Church staff reported the incident to both the municipal and district religious affairs bureaus. They also disagreed with the crosses’ removal but the street office and the district committee insisted.

Officials from both bureaus visited district officials, who refused to listen and removed the crosses on March 9 by using a crane.

The South Church comprises an old small church, a cathedral and a gate tower. A total of 10 crosses were removed — six above the cathedral, one above the door of the cathedral, and three above the old church next to the cathedral.

After their removal, a few Catholics went to the cathedral and prayed outside. An old lady was seen crying.

The source said someone reported the incident to the provincial National People’s Congress (NPC) and the provincial Chinese People’s Political Consultation Conference (CPPCC).

Under pressure from the two organizations, the street office erected new crosses on March 10.

Only three crosses instead of six were placed above the cathedral, while one was put above the door of the cathedral and one instead of three on the old church.

The central cross above the cathedral had been three meters in height but its replacement was only half that size.

Father John of Henan province said the cadres’ action was “brutal” and misunderstood the recently revised regulations on religious affairs.

A Catholic who works in the provincial NPC and CPPCC said the cathedral is legal but the removal of crosses was illegal and should be suspended. He asked why the original heritage crosses were not reinstalled.

Several incidents have targeted Christianity in Henan recently, including the removal of crosses and the posting of signs prohibiting minors to enter churches, but Father John believes Henan is not a particular target.

“Since the newly revised regulations on religious affairs were enforced, such incidents have happened nationwide,” he said.

The crackdown on religious groups such as Eastern Lightning started in Henan and then had an impact on Christianity, he said.

– ucan

Christian religious freedom campaigner: ‘Dark days for China’ as it abolishes presidential term limits

March 11, 2018 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

China, March 11, 2018: A Christian religious freedom campaigner has said China’s parliament approving the removal of presidential term limits has paved the way for continued Christian persecution in the country that may worsen.

The National People’s Congress’ nearly 3,000 hand-picked delegates endorsed the constitutional amendment on Sunday, voting 2,958 in favour with two opposed, three abstaining and one vote invalidated.

It means President Xi Jinping can rule indefinitely.

Benedict Rogers, East Asia team leader at religious freedom charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said the vote is an “extremely significant development, which will in all likelihood mean a continuing crackdown on human rights generally, and religious freedom in particular”.

He added: “The past five years since Xi Jinping became president have seen the most severe and widespread crackdown on human rights since the Tiananmen massacre of 1989.

“In particular we have seen the arrest and disappearance of human rights lawyers, many of whom are Christians or have been involved in defending religious freedom, and increasing restrictions on religious freedom, including the destruction of thousands of crosses in Zhejiang province, the destruction of several churches, increasing persecution of other religious groups such as Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong, and the introduction of new regulations tightening rules on religious practice.”

The amendment overturns a system enacted by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1982 to prevent a return to the bloody excesses of a lifelong dictatorship typified by Mao Zedong’s chaotic 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution.

The constitution had until now limited presidents to serving only two consecutive terms.

Rodgers told Premier that now Xi Jinping is President for life and his power-base is strengthened, Christians in China can expect to see “continuing, perhaps increasing, repression”.

He added: “We also expect to see China to use its increasing power to act to prevent progress on human rights around the world. These are very dark days for China – with very serious implications for the world.”

A number of prominent Chinese figures have publicly protested against the move, despite the risk of official retaliation.

– premier

Pakistan Senate calls for punishments for false “blasphemy” allegations

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

Pakistan, March 8, 2018: Punishments should be imposed for false ‘blasphemy’ allegations, according to a key recommendation from the Pakistan Senate’s influential Special Committee on Human Rights earlier this month. The Committee also said that anyone wishing to register a case of blasphemy with the police should bring multiple witnesses.

Lawmakers stressed however that they were “not trying to make changes” to the “blasphemy” laws, but only to prevent misuse; the laws are repeatedly exploited to target Christians and also used to settle personal grudges.

The calls from the Senate committee were openly challenged by one member from the Islamist Jamiat Ulema Islam party, who described them as “an attempt to sabotage the blasphemy law”. Previous suggestions that the laws would be amended have led to violent street protests.

In 2016, riots broke out in Islamabad when a police guard who had murdered a politician who advocated reforming the “blasphemy” laws received the death penalty.

Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab was shot dead in 2011. He had highlighted the case of Aasia Bibi, who is still in prison on death row, having been sentenced to death for “blasphemy” in 2010.

– global christian news

Pakistani churches demand justice for christian cousins accused of blasphemy

March 6, 2018 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Pakistan, March 4, 2018: Protestant and Catholic churches in Pakistan have come together to start a movement to call on the government to ensure justice for Christian cousins accused of blasphemy, one of whom recently survived a jump from a fourth floor after being told to perform oral sex on his cousin durning interrogation.

More than 200 churches gathered in front of the Punjab Assembly in Lahore on Friday to demand an independent inquiry into the case and a fair trial, according to ucanews.

The rally was organized by a new group, Pakistan Christian Action Committee, which was formed a day earlier during a meeting of Christians at the National Council of Churches in Pakistan.

“The committee will function as a permanent ecumenical entity to counter the increasing cases of violence against minority Christians. Peaceful protests will be carried out all over the country until the Christian youths get justice. The ongoing persecution has become a national issue. We are also ready for martyrdom,” said group convenor Pastor Amjat Niamat was quoted as saying.

Patras Masih, 17, and his cousin, Sajid Masih, 24, a sweeper at a school, are the accused in the blasphemy case. The complainants are members of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah and other religious parties. They claimed that Patras had posted a blasphemous photo to a Facebook group.

Last week, Sajid was called by the Federal Investigation Agency in Lahore, the capital of Punjab Province, for interrogation. He was first beaten inside a bathroom at the agency’s cybercrime wing, and then asked to perform oral sex.

“They told us to insult each other by using the word ‘Laanti’ (men under a curse), my frightened young cousin complied under great duress,” Sajid told his lawyer in the hospital where he was admitted after he jumped off the fourth floor. “They asked me to remove my cousin’s trousers and have oral sex with him. I refused outright. I explained that I can’t have oral sex with him because he is my brother, but my pleas made them angry. They then started shouting loudly at both of us. I saw a window in the room and quickly jumped out of it.”

Al Jazeera reported Saturday that Sajid is at an intensive care unit in critical condition. Doctors are waiting for him to stabilize before they do surgeries on his neck, face and legs. Both of his legs are in casts.

“We are all Sajid and Patras Masih. Do not push us to the wall. Sexual harassment by police is both immoral and irreligious. Sajid is a kid and a Pakistani. We demand proper medical treatment for him,” Bishop Azad Marshall of Raiwind said at the protest rally on Saturday.

His cousin Patras’ lawyer, Aneeqa Maria, told Pakistan Today earlier that a group of about 15 people led by the prime complainant, Hafiz Awais, attacked her client outside the district courts where the police had taken him for seeking remand last Friday, the day Sajid jumped off the fourth floor.

“The complainant and his accomplices slapped and punched Patras when the police brought him out from the courtroom. Later the police handed over his custody to the FIA and the IO (investigating officer), Khalid Saeed, asked the complainant party to also reach the FIA HQs for recording their statements.

“We requested the police to provide security to the accused and his family as we feared that the complainant party might attack them again, but our appeal fell on deaf ears. Even at the FIA office, I requested Khalid Saeed to ensure the security of Patras’s family, but he said it was not his responsibility. Hardly a few minutes after we left the FIA building, we were informed that Sajid had ‘fallen off’ the fourth floor …”

A few days earlier, hundreds gathered outside Patras’ home in Lahore’s Shahdara area, calling for him to be executed and even beheaded. One man held up a sign that reads: “Wicked Christian Patras should be punished for committing blasphemy!”

Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws are embedded in Sections 295 and 298 of the country’s Penal Code. The laws carry the death penalty with no provision to punish a false accuser or a false witness of blasphemy. Allegations of blasphemy often stem from the Muslim accuser’s desire to take revenge and to settle petty, personal disputes, according to Christian groups working in the country.

– christian post

Robbers attack missionary nuns in Bangladesh

March 4, 2018 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Dhaka, February 28, 2018: A group of robbers attacked two missionary nuns in northeast Bangladesh on Feb. 26 and made off with a large sum of money the nuns were carrying for an orphanage they help run.

Sister Madeline and Sister Venesa from the Missionaries of Charity congregation were traveling to the Home of Mercy orphanage by auto rickshaw in the Kulaura area of Moulvibazar district from a bank.

They had 100,000 taka (US$1,200) in cash collected as donations for charity work. The average monthly wage in Bangladesh is about $US134 according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.

Four people, riding two motorbikes, blocked their vehicle and ordered the nuns to hand over the money. They stabbed Sister Madeline in the left hand when the nuns refused and fled with the cash.

“Sister Madeline had serious wounds to her left hand. We have not filed any case yet, but we have informed local police verbally,” Oblate Father Robi Robert Rozario, parish priest of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Kulaura told ucanews.

Shamim Musa, the Kulaura police station chief said police were investigating the incident.

“Recently, we have seen a surge in muggings in the area and we suspect the attack on the nuns was another example. Although no formal case has been filed, we are investigating and trying to arrest the culprits,” he told ucanews.

– ucan

European Union, Pope bring renewed hope for Asia Bibi

March 2, 2018 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Lahore, February 27, 2018: The family of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman imprisoned now for nearly nine years on blasphemy charges has renewed hope that new pressures on the Pakistani government may lead to her release.

Bibi’s husband Ashiq Masih, and her 18-year old daughter met with Pope Francis at the Vatican this past weekend. The meeting occurred as the Roman Colosseum was bathed in red light at 6:00 pm on February 23 in recognition of Christian martyrs of the faith.

The meeting was reportedly emotional, and Pope Francis prayed with Ashiq, Eisham, and Nigerian Rebecca Bitrus, who was kidnapped and held by Boko Haram jihadists for two years.

After meeting with the pope, Eisham told a reporter that she believes her mother will soon be released from prison, but the family must then flee Pakistan or they will be killed.

Asia Bibi was jailed in June 2009 after her Muslim co-workers became upset over her use of a drinking cup. Angry words were exchanged and they accused her of committing blasphemy against Mohammed.

She was convicted and sentenced to death. In October 2016, Bibi appealed her case to the Pakistan Supreme Court. She’s still waiting for the appeal to be heard.

Once again, Asia Bibi’s case focuses attention on Pakistan’s antiquated blasphemy law.

Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association said the timing of the papal meeting was important. It comes as the European Union warns the Pakistan government that the outcome of Bibi’s case is going to be directly linked to trade benefits the EU gives the country.

“It seems to me everything is happening at a particularly good point where all these different ends are coming together, putting enough pressure on

Pakistan to make them make a correct decision and free Asia Bibi who is an innocent woman who committed absolutely no blasphemy.”

Chowdhry made the remarks in an interview with CBN’s Gary Lane and also detailed the case of Patras Masih, a Christian teen arrested February 19th on false charges of possessing blasphemous images on his Facebook page uploaded via his stolen mobile phone.

He said Masih is the fourth Christian teen arrested and charged with blasphemy in Pakistan in the past six months.

“For me, a law to be misused in this fashion is simply a poor indictment of any nation,” Chwodhry said.

– cbn

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