Pak: Three Hindu women forced to convert have to go back to their Muslim husbands *Pak: Hindus say judiciary has failed them

April 20, 2012 by  
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Pakistan, April 19, 2012: Pakistan’s Supreme Court rules against all three. Abducted back in February in Sindh province, they were forced to marry Muslim men. Families complain about pressure from powerful Muslim groups. All three received death threats.

Three young Hindu women abducted in February and forced to convert to Islam and marry three Muslim men must return to their husbands, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled. For the justices, the three women freely chose their fate. Their families object that they were placed under huge pressure from Muslim religious groups.

On 26 March, one of the three women, Rinkle Kumari (pictured), told the judges that she wanted to go back to her family. In her statement to the court, she said, “there is justice only for Muslims; there is no justice for Hindus. Kill me here in court, but don’t send me to Darul-Aman (Qur’anic school). All these people are hand in glove, they will kill us”.

The other two women expressed a similar desire to go back to their family.

“This is a great injustice,” said Hindu activist Dilip Kumar. “Three weeks ago, the three women said they wanted to go back to their parents, but the judges chose to send them to prison to put pressure on them.” If they had not returned to their husbands, he believes, Muslims would have killed them.

For Fr Anwar Patras, a priest from the diocese of Rawalpindi, the court bent to the will of Muslim groups who kidnap young Hindu and Christian women to force them to convert and become prostitutes.

“The government must adopt a law against forced conversions,” he said. “It is clear that the young women were put under pressure to convert. The Supreme Court was their last hope and it let them down.”

Rinkel Kumari, a 19-year-old Hindu student was abducted on 24 February in Mirpur Mathelo, a small village in Sindh (southeastern Pakistan), by a thugs hired by a rich Muslim scholar.

The two other women, Lata and Asha, were abducted in Jacobabad and Larkana.

In order to get their daughters back, the parents filed a petition with the Supreme Court to avoid the local Islamic court.

On 26 March, the three women appeared before the court, testifying that they had been forced to convert and that they wanted to go back to their families.

The justices incarcerated them to allow them “to reflect” on their choice without the possibility of meeting their parents.

Each month, 25 to 30 young women are abducted for a total of about 300 forced conversions and marriages a year.

Young Hindu but also Christian women and teenage girls are taken away from their families and handed over to their would-be husbands and torturers.

– asianews

Pak: Hindus say judiciary has failed them


Pakistan, April 19, 2012: Hindus say they have lost their faith in the judiciary after the Supreme Court yesterday opted to allow three young girls at the center of a tug of war case to decide their own futures.

Their families say they were kidnapped, married off to Muslim men and forced to convert to Islam.

The three girls yesterday chose to live with their husbands, after the top court ruled in Islamabad that they were old enough to decide for themselves.

One of them included Rinkle Kumari, whose family had accused a Pakistan People’s Party lawmaker of involvement in her alleged abduction and forced conversion.

The distraught parents of the girls however disputed the court’s decision yesterday, saying they were denied the right to speak to their daughters and that they didn’t make their choice from their own free will.

“They kept pleading but were not allowed to meet the girls. We were denied justice,” said Ramesh Kumar who brought the case to court.

“The country is becoming a land only for Muslims,” the patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council added.

The court sent the girls to a shelter last month to make a decision after one told the chief justice she wanted go back to her parents.

Rights workers criticized the move saying it gave the chance for clerics or police to threaten the girls who they say would have been under immense social and psychological pressure.

– ucan

South Asia: Extremists attacking Christians & Sikhs

April 19, 2012 by  
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South Asia, April 17, 2012: Reports of Islamic extremists attacking people of others faiths in India and Pakistan have been growing in recent years, resulting in beatings and even beheadings.

On March 30, at a Christian church in the West Bengal state of India, a 65-year-old woman widow was beaten after Islamist extremists forced their way into the church, Compass Direct News reported. The 11 or so members of the church were attacked simply for gathering and worshipping Christ, and the Islamists called them “pagans” as they continuously kicked and beat them.

In the same area of Nutangram earlier in March, a 22-year old woman was driven from her predominantly Muslim village after she thanked Christ for being healed from an illness – apparently, even her Muslim parents joined in the subsequent attack by Islamists who wanted her and her beliefs out of the village.

The religious persecution is reportedly just as bad in neighboring Pakistan, where Christians are targeted even by government authorities. Currently, a Christian mother of five, Asia Bibi, is on death row for allegedly blaspheming the name of the prophet Muhammad two years ago, an accusation filed by co-workers at a field she was working on.

Bibi insists all she was doing was defending her Christian faith, but has been jailed nonetheless – and even if the Pakistani court finds her not guilty and releases her, many Islamic leaders have placed a bounty on her head, The New American reported.

Islamic militants have also targeted Sikhs in the same region – according to The Associated Press, atrocities by Muslim extremists against religious minorities in the area are so common that they are at most only condemnation by officials, but rarely punished.

Militants captured three Sikhs returning from Afghanistan to their homes in Pakistan in 2010, demanding a ransom for the victims. Although two of the captives were rescued, 30-year-old Jaspal Singh was beheaded after his family was unable to provide the money for his release.

“That news pierced my heart,” said 62-year old Muhammed Khurshid Khan. “How could Muslims do such harm to such a peaceful community?” he added.

Khan, a Muslim and former government lawyer, took on “seva,” or selfless service, after the news of the beheading and began serving Sikh communities in Pakistan by polishing shoes and cooking meals in efforts to atone for the atrocities of the extremist members of his faith – but violence from militant Islamists against Christians and members of other religions continues to spread throughout the region.

– christian post

Pak: Schoolbooks full of contempt and bigotry against Christians, Hindus & Sikhs

April 11, 2012 by  
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Pakistan, April 05, 2012: Pakistani curricula and textbooks promote extremism and violate minorities’ rights. An NCJP study notes distortions and requests a revision of the educational system, the first source of marginalization. Although minorities are guaranteed the possibility to deepen their own religion.

School textbooks that promote religious fanaticism, discriminate against minorities and trigger religious conflicts: Pakistani schools are – once again – the object of attention and study of Catholic NCJP activists who, in a detailed report, have examined the basic elements of discrimination of sectarian origins. In the report titled “Fanatic Literacy or Education,” the National Commission for Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Church invites a rethink of school curricula, so that even Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and those belonging to minorities in Pakistan can deepen the study of their religion.  Currently they are obliged to learn the basics of Islam, as practiced in some areas of the country, including Punjab.

The report shows that thousands of non-Muslim students are “forced” to study Islam and elements of the Muslim religion, for fear of discrimination. Among these, the decision taken by the Parliament of Punjab – one of the provinces of Pakistan – and approved “unanimously” that makes the study of the Koran mandatory. And non-Muslims “are not offered a viable alternative.” At the same time, even in subjects like social sciences and linguistics about 20% of the content is linked to Islam. Again: the non-Muslim students are given the extra bonus of 20 points, reserved to those who deepen Islamic studies.

AsiaNews has long stressed the importance of education as a factor of redemption and growth for Pakistan, and even devoted a thorough dossier to schooling and education. Peter Jacob, NCJP executive secretary, explains that “education and educational policy in Pakistan” are among the sectors in which sectarian nature of discrimination and violations of basic human rights clearly emerge. In addition there is a chronic “lack of initiatives” and complications caused by “widespread corruption and inefficiency.”

In the study prepared by Christian activists they recall article 20 of the Constitution, which guarantees religious freedom, and article 22 that states that ” no person attending any educational institution shall be required to receive religious instruction, or take part in any religious ceremony, or attend religious worship, if such instruction, ceremony or worship relates to a religion other than his own”. However, the school and education system in general seem to “forget” these two fundamental laws of the Charter of the State, while diligently applying Article 31, under which “shall be binding upon the study of Islam and the Koran” so that – add Christian activists – there are no substantial differences between public institutions and the madrassas, or Islamic schools.

Finally, the report says that religions other than Islam are viewed “with contempt and prejudice.” Faced with a situation that is becoming increasingly critical, Justice and Peace calls for a substantial change in the educational policy and the opportunity for Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and students of other religions to deepen the knowledge of their own faith or, alternatively, have access to ethics and civic education.

– asianews

In Christ’s Passion, redemption of the suffering of Pakistani Christians *Syria: Easter cancelled in Homs after churches bombed

April 10, 2012 by  
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Pakistan, April 07, 2012: All over the country the minority participated in Holy Week religious functions, the Way of the Cross yesterday. Bishop of Islamabad: look to the Cross on Calvary as the place for relief from suffering. Throughout Lent, the faithful promoted charitable activities and Bible study.

In Christ’s sufferings of the Passion and death on the Cross, Christians in Pakistan and around the world find an answer to the suffering and violence of every day, the bishop of Islamabad / Rawalpindi Mgr. Rufin Anthony tells AsiaNews, on Good Friday which precedes the Easter of Resurrection. The local minority is the victim of persecution and targeted attacks, which are the cause of death and marginalization. However, in the difficulties experienced by Jesus in the last hours of his life Christians can find the strength to overcome their suffering. This is why all the parishes and churches in the country promoted a three-hour adoration and prayer, with readings, passages from the Bible, sermons and hymns, then – in the afternoon – the Way of the Cross.

The Bishop of Islamabad recalls that the two most important moments of Christian faith are “Christmas and Easter, celebrating the birth and resurrection of the Messiah […] who died and rose again to give us eternal life.” Msgr. Anthony explains that Christ was a master of “tolerance, forgiveness, peace, and now it is up to us to continue his work.” The prelate added that Easter is an “opportunity to work together with other communities and promote religious harmony.” In the drama of the Passion on Good Friday, he concludes, we see the suffering taking place in the world and that “where else to look there best, if not to the Cross [of Christ] on Calvary.”

The Holy Week celebrations were attended by many faithful in every city of Pakistan. Each parish sponsored meetings, meditations, Masses and prayers. Saqib Masih, a Christian from Lahore, said he had fasted for the whole of Lent and Good Friday, giving up “everything that was not necessary.”

Sadia John, from Islamabad, said that in a time of penance and Lent, the Christian community has sponsored retreats, spiritual exercises, listening to the liturgy and activities of charitable and missionary animation. “I myself gave birth to a project – he tells AsiaNews – to ensure the schooling of children of the slums, without charge, during Lent. The project will continue in the future.”

– asianews

Syria: Easter cancelled in Homs after churches bombed


Syria, April 10, 2012: For the first time in centuries no services were held to mark the festival of Easter in Christian churches of war-torn Homs as the Syria government inflicted a heavy bombardment in defiance of UN-brokered ceasefire talks.

Plans for a negotiated end to fighting appeared on the verge collapse yesterday amid widespread violence and a new unilateral demand from the government for “written guarantees” from its opponents to lay down weapons.

The three principal churches for Christian denominations in the city, which until a few months ago was home to Syria’s third largest Christian community, were virtually abandoned. Other small churches have been destroyed as private homes became the places of worship on Sunday with priests and locals gathering in secret.

All are located in districts have been left devastated by weeks of heavy shelling.

“There is no celebration. For one week, there have been no sounds coming from the churches or the mosques,” said Saleem, a resident speaking from his home in Homs Old City, where most of the churches are located.

“Government forces have shelled the area this morning. It is too dangerous to go outside”.

Homs at Easter used to be a tapestry of colourful parades, said Dima Moussa, a member of the Syrian National Council who recalled years of festive visits to her family in Homs as a young woman.

“You could feel Easter across the whole city. Everybody would put on their best clothes, a the children would parade around their church playing instruments,” said Dima. “We painted boiled eggs and brought them to Church to be blessed.”

“It is a family occasion. Everyone would visit their relatives, bringing with them colourful eggs and chocolate for the children. My grandparents would put on huge meals, often a whole sheep, for the whole family”.

Two weeks ago Moussa’s relatives fled from Homs as government forces began shelling the Christian neighbourhoods of Hamidiyah and Boustan al-Diwan where they lived. Videos of the area show streets riddled with debris, and concrete buildings shattered by shells and bullet holes.

“The windows of my grandfather’s home were shattered by shelling,” said Moussa. “The regime doesn’t care anymore, they are targeting all neighbourhoods, and mosques and churches.”

“It is too dangerous to go to Church, as the regime is even shelling these,” said Saif al Arab, an activist in Homs who claimed to be in contact with Christians in his neighbourhood. “There is not enough food for them to celebrate in the traditional way. This is not a celebration, they gathered to pray for the people who have been killed in the bombardments”.

At the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI implored Damascus to heed international demands to end the bloodshed. He said: “Particularly in Syria, may there be an end to bloodshed and an immediate commitment to the path of respect, dialogue and reconciliation, as called for by the international community.”

– telegraph

Stop Press *Washington DC: Rally for Pak Hindus & Christians *3500 adults baptised at Easter

April 9, 2012 by  
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Karnataka, April 08, 2012: Pastor Rajesh was beaten up by Inspector Janardhan on the Easter morning alleging conversion.The inspector also threatened pastor to vacate the rented house or to face the consequences. More details awaited.

Human Rights activists to rally for Pak Hindus & Christians


Washington DC, April 05, 2012: On Saturday, April 14, a rally will be held in support of human rights and dignity for Hindus and Christians in Pakistan. The event will be from 1:30 to 3:30 PM at 1615 H Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20062 – in front of the U.S.-Pakistan Business Council and across the street from Lafayette Square Park.

Mr. Jeffrey Imm, Coordinator of REAL said that the coalition supports our Universal Human Rights for all people, including freedom of conscience for all people in every part of the world.

The Organizations represented will include: Hindu American Foundation, Pakistan Christian Congress, Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.), and other activist groups and individual human rights activists. R.E.A.L. has submitted an Assembly Notification to the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia.

The coalition objects to the efforts to deny universal human rights and dignity to religious minorities in Pakistan. As reported by human rights groups, there are hundreds of abductions and forced conversion cases of Hindus and Christian women every year in Pakistan which go unreported.

Recent news has reported on a Hindu family reporting the kidnapping of a 19 year old Hindu girl in Sindh, Rinkel Kumari, who was forced to convert from her religion. The Hindu American Foundation has issued an online petition to U.S. Secretary of State Clinton, for those concerned about human rights to sign, calling for the U.S. Government to intervene on behalf of Hindu girls kidnapped and forced to deny their religious beliefs.

According to the BBC report, “Human rights activists say that other reported abductions of members of minority communities in Pakistan, which is overwhelmingly Muslim, have not been properly investigated by the authorities.” The Pakistan Tribune also reports on Hindu and Christian girls who have been forcibly converted to Islam.

The Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) coalition calls for the universal human rights of all people, including their freedom, their freedom of conscience, and their right to human dignity. We urge the Government, courts, and the people of Pakistan to act immediately to end abuse of religious minorities, to stop and punish the ongoing kidnappings, and to stop and punish those who would forcibly deny anyone their universal human right of religious freedom and freedom of conscience.

– pakistan christian post

3500 adults receive baptism at Easter Vigil


Hong Kong, April 07, 2012: This Easter, 3,500adult catechumens in the Hong Kong diocese will receive the Sacrament of Christian Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion) at various parishes at the Holy Saturday Vigil today, April 7.

In his Easter Pastoral Letter 2012, Cardinal John Tong of Hong Kong specially thanks priests, deacons, sisters and laypeople to offer their time and energy in teaching catechism. The catechists “not only carry out the mission of evangelization of the Church, but also strengthen their own faith,” the 72-year-old bishop said.

According to the diocesan statistics of Aug. 31, 2011, there are 39 paid catechists and more than 1,500 voluntary catechists. Local Catholic population comprises 363,000 Chinese and 138,000 non-Chinese.

On March 3, Card.Tong stated evangelization as one of his pastoral concerns. “Certainly, the rise in the number of Catholics is gratifying, but the quality of their faith is equally essential,” he said, hoping his faithful will progress both in the quantity and the quality of faith.

Card. Tong encouraged the new Catholics to grow in faith. He cited a middle-aged volunteer catechist who was baptized three years ago. The catechist was touched by the words of St. Augustine’s words in the “Confessions”: “Oh, too late have I loved thee,… too late have I loved thee.” After baptism, the catechist lives a simple life, and he studied a course on catechetics and became a volunteer catechist. Now, he plans to study more to deepen his faith, the Easter message says.

Among the 3,500 catechumens, Janet Lo, together with her younger brother, are two of them. She told AsiaNews that she finds life, love and peace in the Catholic faith and is happy to promote faith to others.

Janet, who works in marketing field, said they have finished an 18-month catechism class and received anointment scrutiny liturgy (see photo) performed by Card. Tong and the visiting Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Esssen during Lent.

“I especially like a phrase in the Prayer for the Year of Laity of the diocese that says: Love Life, The Gift of God,” Janet said. Their search of faith was inspired by their mother’s struggles with an illness some years ago. That experience brought her whole family closer to God. “My father, though not a practicing Catholic, prayed hard with my mother in those difficult days. My mother got baptized and passed away peacefully.”

– asianews

Pak Christian cleared of blasphemy with help from Barnabas *Gunmen fire on Indonesian church

April 5, 2012 by  
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Pakistan, April 03, 2012: A young Christian man has been cleared of blasphemy in Pakistan with the help of a Christian legal organisation supported by Barnabas Fund.

Dildar Masih (29), a father of two, was falsely accused in June 2011 after an incident involving his nephew, aged around eight, who was set upon by Muslim boys.
The youngster, Sunny Masih, had been pressured by madrasa students from the local mosque to recite theshahada, the Muslim confession of faith. When Sunny refused, the Muslim boys started to beat him severely.

Dildar, who saw this from some distance, shouted and rushed to the scene to rescue his nephew, and then went to work. A few days later, a blasphemy case was registered with the police against Dildar by a Muslim prayer leader. He accused the Christian man of insulting the shahada and offending the passions of Muslims.

Dildar, who lives in Mian Channu, Khanewal district, in Punjab province, was arrested and held in custody.

In November 2011, his father Yousaf Masih contacted CLAAS, a Pakistani Christian legal organisation supported by Barnabas Fund, to request legal help and financial assistance for Dildar’s wife and two children.

CLAAS informed Barnabas Fund on 26 March that it has now succeeded in securing Dildar’s acquittal from the court. It is also providing safe accommodation for Dildar and his family; those accused of blasphemy in Pakistan are very vulnerable to reprisal attacks by Muslims, even after they have been cleared of all charges.

Sadly, the outcome for many people charged with blasphemy in Pakistan is dire. They are often left languishing in prison for months or even years while their case is considered, and if they are eventually released, it is almost impossible for them to return to their former lives because of the threat from hostile Muslims.

Christians and other non-Muslims are particularly vulnerable to malicious, false accusation under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, as the judiciary in the lower courts tend to believe the word of a Muslim over the word of a non-Muslim, in line with the teachings of sharia. And because there is no penalty for false accusation, the law is often exploited to settle personal scores and grudges.

– barnabas team

Gunmen fire on Indonesian church building in latest attack


Indonesia, April 02, 2012: Gunmen fired on an Indonesian church in the latest attack on the building, which has been illegally sealed off by the authorities since 2008.

Two men in their 30s were seen wandering around the site of GKI Yasmin Church in Bogor, West Java, at around noon on 16 March. The pair opened fire using air guns loaded with lead bullets, causing damage to the church windows.

They were arrested, and police found in the offenders’ vehicle a map of the church building as well as information about other targets in different cities.

It is the latest in a long line of attacks on GKI, which has been under sustained pressure from the Bogor authorities and Islamist groups.

The church’s half-constructed building has been illegally sealed off by city chiefs since 2008, forcing the congregation to hold services on the street. Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto has refused to comply with an order by the Supreme Court in December 2010, and a subsequent ruling by the Ombudsman Commission, that the church be reopened. He has used various ploys to prevent the church from gathering publicly, an effort that has been backed by radical Islamists, who have staged repeated protests against the church.

Last month, Indonesia’s main Christian organisations took the matter to the Constitutional Court. Andreas Yewangoe, chairman of the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI), said that there was deep frustration within the Christian community over the state’s failure to make the Bogor authorities comply with the Supreme Court ruling. They are also disappointed that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has promised to “resolve” the matter but has not taken any action.

It seems, however, that there is little the Constitutional Court will be able to do. The chief justice, Mahfud M.D., said that he was similarly frustrated by the government’s inability to enforce the order, adding:

I’m hesitant to say anything new because everyone else – the Supreme Court, the House of Representatives, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah (the country’s two biggest Islamic organisations) – have already pointed out that the ruling is final and should be obeyed.

Bogor’s obstructive mayor has offered a “relocation to a more representative location”, presumably referring to an area that does not have a Muslim majority, and also to buy GKI’s building and land. But the church has said that it will not accept any offer of alternative premises, insisting that the law be upheld.

– barnabas team

Pak: Threats to Christians during Holy Week *Sudan bombs Churches & forces Christians out

April 5, 2012 by  
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Pakistan, April 03, 2012: In Eidgah Colony, Sarghoda District, fanatics defaced signs and sacred images belonging to the minority. Police refuse to file a report on the incident, tell complainants to leave the station. Human rights activists file a writ before the Lahore High Court for violation of religious freedom.

Islamic fanaticism is casting a dark shadow over Easter celebrations this year in Pakistan. The country’s Christian community has already received threats and warnings against celebrating the occasion. Now sources in Sarghoda District in Punjab tell AsiaNews that someone tore down Easter signs and decorations at the Eidgah Christian colony. The unknown attackers also threw black paint on the community’s sacred images and made threats against those present, warning them not to continue in their preparations.

When residents turned to the local police to file a report, no one at the station would do it. Instead, they told the complainants to leave.

With courage and determination, some of the faithful put back the signs and images. However, once again, in the evening of Palm Sunday, fanatics came back for another raid. This time, they threw away the images and threatened punitive reprisals against the Christian colony.

Yasir Masih, a local resident, spoke to AsiaNews about the situation. “For years, colony residents have come together to prepare Holy Week,” he said. Equally, “for years, we have been threatened. Even though we reported it to the authorities, they didn’t take it seriously. This year, they [the fanatics] have come to our streets and threatened us. We are not safe, and we are scared.”

The Masihi Foundation, a humanitarian organisation, condemned the threats and has filed a writ this morning with the Lahore High Court, demanding protection for the Eidgah Christian Colony, and more generally for Christians in Punjab. More specifically, it has called on the authorities to enforce the residents’ right to freedom of religion.

“Christians live Holy Week in terror,” said Fr John Gill, a priest in Sargodha. “The state has failed to provide them security.”

For him, the Punjab has become a hub of violence against minorities. “We urge the authorities to take immediate action to put an end to the senseless violence.”

– asianews

Sudan bombs Churches and forces its Christians out


Sudan, April 03, 2012: Thousands of Christians stripped of their citizenship are now being forced out of Sudan in the wake of the South’s secession back in January 2011.

Christians have until April 8 to either leave the Islamic northern state, or be treated as foreigners under a regime that is openly hostile to non-Arabs and non-Muslims. To date, Sudanese Armed Forces have destroyed 10 churches.

Christians remaining in Sudan after the April deadline may face increased persecution, or forced repatriation; in either case, thousands of refugees to South Sudan will surely trigger a humanitarian crisis.

The Sudanese ultimatum comes as the new state of South Sudan struggles with a food shortage caused by a drought that has ruined its crops. The UN World Food Program estimates that as many as five million people in South Sudan will suffer from malnutrition this year.

Further, South Sudan’s resources are already being strained by the arrival of refugees from South Kordofan and the Blue Nile where 185,000 have already fled the latest genocidal campaign of a dictator demanding a purely Arab Islamic state.

“Despite the end of the long civil war and independence of South Sudan, Christians in both nations continue to suffer grievously,” said Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Aid. “South Sudan is taking the strain as hundreds of thousands of people flee from President Omar al-Bashir’s ongoing brutal campaign to Islamize and Arabize Sudan completely. Our brothers and sisters need our help and prayers as they are forced to leave their homes and rebuild their lives elsewhere.”

After earlier denying that it had bombed civilians, last week Sudanese aerial strikes targeted church buildings and schools in Kauda, South Kordofan state. Antonov aircraft dropped bombs on homes and livestock near churches and schools in an “ethnic cleansing” campaign against non-Arab peoples in Sudan’s multi-ethnic state. As a result, the churches are holding worship services early in the morning and late at night to avoid these aireal attacks.

The U.N. estimates the conflict has created nearly 400,000 refugees, most of them in danger of starvation. Following last year’s secession of southern Sudan, Christians in Khartoum, notably those from the Nuba Mountains, live under uncertainty as they approach the April 8 deadline to either leave Sudan, or become its citizens and live under shar’ia. Sudan’s Interim National Constitution considers Islamic law as a source of legislation for policies that often favor that religion.

– worthynews

Another Pak Christian woman battles *Lebanese-Syrian border humanitarian crisis

April 2, 2012 by  
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Hanifan Bibi, Pakistani ChristianPakistan, March 31, 2012: Hanifan Bibi was segregated at home by her husband who converted to Islam following an extramarital affair with a Muslim woman. He wanted to take the house bought with money earned by his wife. The intervention of NCJP activists has helped justice prevail. Now the court will assess civil damages.

She fought a tough battle against her husband, who wanted to drive her from the house she built over time thanks to the hard earned money of her own work, while the man – converted to Islam in November 2011 – spent his time on women and drinking. Hanifan Bibi’s tenacity and the support of NCJP activists have allowed the woman to get justice in court so she can remain in her home with her children, pending the decision of the civil court in Faisalabad, which is to assess the instance of separation and alimony.

This is the story of suffering, abuse and oppression that emerges from the story of Hanifan Bibi (pictured), a 37 year old Christian, mother of two children, born and raised in a poor family of Gurala Dajkot, a district of Faisalabad (Punjab). For years her husband was abused her, leaving her alone at home with their children to waste his wife’s hard earned money on drinking, women and partying. And when he returned, for short periods, the situation certainly did not not improve, because he beat her brutally.

However, the reality came crashing down four months ago when her husband Sarwar Masih decided to convert to Islam, taking the name of Muhammad Sarwar, following an extramarital affair that had been going on for some time with a Muslim woman, Nasreen Bibi. “Since I have not decided to change faith like him – Hanifan tells AsiaNews – he segregated me in the house” and by March 10 she found herself a prisoner in her own home.

Muhammad Sarwar, after locking up his wife, denounced her illegal possession of the house. With the collaboration of a group of Muslim families he filed a lawsuit in court and threatened the woman if she resisted.

Speaking to AsiaNews, local Christians and Muslims confirm that the man is a “despicable person who does not deserves trust,” because he “engaged in dishonest behavior” and never wanted to work and help support the family. Instead he treated Hanifan like a maid, to “bring home money to feed the families” and ensure a decent life to their children.

Having learned of the issue, the activists of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Church in Faisalabad intervened in defense of women. They obtained the dismissal of Harifan’s trial, while judges have opened a civil case against the man for the separation and compensation. “I continue to receive threats from my ex-husband and his fellow Muslims,” Hanifan Bibi, tells AsiaNews, but she remains steadfast in her faith and intention to see her rights recognized.

– asianews

Humanitarian crisis worsening on the Lebanese-Syrian border


Syria-Lebanon, March 29, 2012: Caritas Lebanon chief says actual refugee numbers higher than official figures. Caritas and other international organisations could run out of supplies. Cor Unum announces fundraiser during Holy Thursday Mass in Rome’s St John Lateran Cathedral.

“The situation is getting worse by the day. The number of refugees is rising constantly. At present, there are more than 20,000 of them; some sources say 30,000 people have crossed the border into Lebanon,” said Caritas Lebanon chief Fr Simon Faddoul.

Speaking to AsiaNews, he explained that most refugees refuse to give their names fearing retaliation back home. It is thus difficult to have accurate numbers. The figure of 9,000 used by the United Nations and the international community to determine the amount of aid is just an estimate and does not correspond to the reality of the situation.

“Refugees have come especially from Homs and surrounding villages, where the worst cases are found: divided families, orphans, old people, sick or those wounded during the bombing,” Fr Faddoul explained. “However, some people have fled other districts like Jableh, in northern Syria, hundreds of kilometers from the Lebanese border.”

“Those who still have money try to cross the border with their cars, using it to pay off security forces and rent a place in Lebanon. Our motorways have been filled with cars with Syrian license plate, especially from Damascus and Alep, for the past few days.”

For the priest, an immediate ceasefire is needed to allow humanitarian aid into Syria to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.

Through Caritas, the Lebanese Catholic Church has collected food, blankets and clothes in parishes at home and abroad for about 2,000 families.

“In recent months, international organisations have joined the effort and set up sites for refugees,” Fr Faddoul said. “However, it is not enough. We are going to launch a new appeal a few days from now asking for more humanitarian aid. It will be read in all the churches of the world.”

Yesterday, the papal charity Cor Unum announced that funds raised during Holy Thursday Mass in St John Lateran in Rome would be devolved to Syrian refugees.

“This is a great gesture on Benedict XVI’s part,” Fr Faddoul said. “It shows that the Church is close to the people of Syria. The amount of money is not important. The initiative is especially important as spiritual support for Catholic volunteers who are moved to donate everything to all these people.” (S.C.)

– asianews

Hindu girl to Pak SC: Rather die than convert to Islam

March 30, 2012 by  
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Pakistan, March 28, 2012: Seized by an influential Muslim, with the “political cover” of an elected official, 19 year old Rinkel Kumari launches a desperate appeal to the courts. “Justice is denied Hindus in Pakistan” and therefore asks to “kill me here” in the courtroom. The family, after reporting to police, forced to leave the village in Sindh. Each year there are 300 forced marriages and conversions.

“In Pakistan there is justice only for Muslims, justice is denied Hindus. Kill me here, now, in court. But do not send me back to the Darul-Aman [Koranic school] … kill me”. This is the desperate, heartbreaking outburst of Rinkel Kumari, a Hindu girl aged 19, who has entrusted her heartfelt appeal to the judges of the Supreme Court in Islamabad. Her story is similar to that of many other young women and girls belonging to religious minorities – Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Ahmadis – kidnapped by extremist groups or individuals, most of the time lords or local mafia, which convert them by force and then marry them . And that is what the girl said on 26 March, before the judges of the capital’s court.

The drama of Rinkel Kumari, a student of Mirpur Mathelo, a small village in the province of Sindh, began the evening of February 24: A handful of men seized her and delivered her a few hours later into the hands of a wealthy Muslim scholar, the man then called her parents, warning them that their daughter “wants to convert to Islam.”

Nand Lal, the girl’s father, a teacher of an elementary school, accused Naveed Shah, an influential Muslim, of kidnapping his daughter. The man has the “political cover” provided by Mian Mittho, an elected National Assembly Member, suspected of aiding and abetting. After identifying the perpetrators of the kidnapping of his daughter, he was forced to leave the area of origin to escape the threats of people affiliated with the local mafia. The father found refuge and welcome in Gurdwara in Lahore, in Punjab province, with the rest of his family.

As often happens in these cases, even the judiciary is complicit: a local judge ordered that the girl should be given to the Muslims, because her conversion is “the result of a spontaneous decision” and also stated the marriage was above board. A claim that was repeated on February 27, at the hearing before the court, after which the girl was “renamed” Faryal Shah.

However, the story of Rinkel is not an isolated case: every month between 25 and 30 young people suffer similar abuses, for a yearly total of about 300 conversions and forced marriages. Hindu girls – but also Christian – who are torn from their family and delivered into the hands of their husbands / torturers.

On March 26, she appeared before the judges of the Supreme Court in Islamabad, while the Hindu community waited with bated breath for the girl’s statements in court. To avoid pressure, the presiding judge ordered the courtroom cleared and – later – the dramatic testimony was relayed: in Pakistan, “there is no” justice, “kill me here but do not send me back” to the kidnappers.

Speaking to AsiaNews Fr. Anwar Patras, the Diocese of Rawalpindi, condemned “with force” the kidnapping and forced conversion. “The Hindus in Sindh – adds the priest – live a hard life. The reality is getting harder for them, they are forced to migrate because the state is unable to protect them and their property.

– asianews

Pak Hindu girl states in supreme court abduction and forced conversion to Islam *Europe bishops slam Saudi fatwa against Gulf churches

March 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia, Pakistan, Persecution, Saudi Arabia

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Pakistan, March 27 2012: The Hindu community in Pakistan’s Sindh province have expressed happiness that their claims about a teenaged Hindu girl, Rinkle Kumari had been kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam, gained credence during a Supreme Court hearing into the case on Monday.”The fact that she told the judge that she wanted to go with her parents has vindicated our stance,” Ramesh Kumar the chief patron of the Pakistan Hindu Council said.The kidnapping and forced conversion case of Rinkle Kumari has served as a catylst to unite the Hindu community in Pakistan with the loudest protests coming from Sindh and its capital city, Karachi which have the largest Hindu population in Pakistan.

The court after the hearing was adjourned ordered that Rinkle be sent to the Darul Aman (women shelter) and announced April 18 as the next date of hearing.

Rinkle was allegedly kidnapped from the small town of Mirpur Mathelo in Ghotki district a month ago by a Muslim landlord’s son backed by a group of religious leaders.

The statement Rinkle registered in front of the court has brought the exchange of salvos between the Hindu community and what one Hindu leader called “society at large” to an end.

Rinkle’s maternal uncle Raj Kumar said even the girl was first afraid she would not get justice in a Muslim country.

Amarnath Motumal of the Pakistan Hindu Panchiyat said the Rinkle case was a very important one as cases of kidnapping and forced conversions of Hindu girls was common in the Sindh province.

He said Rinkle had shown courage in telling the truth and exposing those behind the whole episode.

“She was crying when she was being taken away to the Darul Aman in the police van and kept on repeating she wanted to go with her parents. But we undertstand that the court has sent her to the Darul Aman for security reasons,” he said.


Europe bishops slam Saudi fatwa against Gulf churches


March 26 2012: Christian bishops in Germany, Austria and Russia have sharply criticized Saudi Arabia’s top religious official after reports that he issued a fatwa saying all churches on the Arabian Peninsula should be destroyed.

In separate statements on Friday, the Roman Catholic bishops in Germany and Austria slammed the ruling by Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Shaikh as an unacceptable denial of human rights to millions of foreign workers in the Gulf region.

Archbishop Mark of Yegoryevsk, head of the Russian Orthodox department for churches abroad, called the fatwa “alarming” in a statement on Tuesday. Such blunt criticism from mainstream Christian leaders of their Muslim counterparts is very rare.

Christian websites have reported Sheikh Abdulaziz, one of the most influential religious leaders in the Muslim world, issued the fatwa last week in response to a Kuwaiti lawmaker who asked if Kuwait could ban church construction in Kuwait.

Citing Arab-language media reports, they say the sheikh ruled that further church building should be banned and existing Christian houses of worship should be destroyed.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, chairman of the German Bishops Conference, said the mufti “shows no respect for the religious freedom and free co-existence of religions”, especially all the foreign laborers who made its economy work.

“It would be a slap in the face to these people if the few churches available to them were to be taken away,” he said.

Sheikh V/s King?

At least 3.5 million Christians live in the Gulf Arab region. They are mostly Catholic workers from India and the Philippines, but also Western expatriates of all denominations.

Saudi Arabia bans all non-Muslim houses of prayer, forcing Christians there to risk arrest by praying in private homes. There are churches for Christian minorities in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Yemen.

The bishops conference in Austria, where Saudi King Abdullah plans to open a controversial centre for interfaith dialogue, demanded an official explanation from Riyadh.

“How could the grand mufti issue a fatwa of such importance behind the back of his king?” they asked. “We see a contradiction between the dialogue being practiced, the efforts of the king and those of his top mufti.”

In Moscow, Archbishop Mark told the Interfax news agency he hoped that Saudi Arabia’s neighbors “will be surprised by the calls made by this sheikh and ignore them”.

The Catholic Church has urged Muslim states in recent years to give Christian minorities in their countries the same freedom of religion that Muslims enjoy in Western countries.

There are few Orthodox Christians in the Gulf region, but the Moscow Patriarchate – which was mostly silent during the decades of Soviet communism that ended in 1991 – has become increasingly vocal in defending the rights of Christians around the world.

Bishop Paul Hinder, who oversees Catholic churches in the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yeman, told Catholic news agency KNA that the fatwa had not been widely publicized in Saudi Arabia. “What is worrying is that such statements have influence in part of the population,” he said.

– reuters

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