Pak: Law sought to bar forced conversions *Indonesian Christians: Pentecost in front of the Presidential Palace, for religious freedom

Pakistan, May 30, 2012: Christian lawyers and activists have criticized the Supreme Court for its failure to protect religious minority women from forced conversion and urged the government to adopt specific legal protections.

Peter Jacob, executive director of the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace, said during a consultative meeting with Christian lawyers on Saturday that minority women live under constant threat of abduction and conversion.

“The religious minorities are under threat and hesitant to allow their women to join any profession due to fear of losing a family member,” he said.

He added that the Supreme Court had failed to protect minorities by refusing a petition by the Pakistan Hindu Council calling for a law against forced conversion of minority women.

The meeting in Lahore included Christian lawyers, members of the Salvation Army and human rights activists.

Jacob further noted the court’s failure to act on the abduction and conversion of three Hindu women, who subsequently decided not to return to their families.

The court ruled last month that the three women allegedly kidnapped and married to Muslim men were old enough to decide for themselves whether to stay with their husbands.

“We want to build a bridge between the Christian lawyers and the Church-based organizations to stand and struggle together for the rights and protection of the Christian community,” Jacob said.

According to data compiled by the Episcopal Commission, 1,415 people were forcibly converted to Islam since 2000, including 554 Christians, 220 Ahmadi Muslims, 622 Hindus and 4 Sikhs. An additional 15 people whose religious affiliation was not known were also forcibly converted.

Haroon Suleman Khokhar, a lawyer who attended the consultative meeting, said the country’s blasphemy law is a frequently used tool for forced conversion.

“There is a list of such cases where the victim was pressured to convert to Islam if he or she wants to be released from the allegation [of blasphemy],” he said.

Recommendations by the meeting included the establishment of a three-member committee comprising two Christians and one Muslim to evaluate each case of conversion to determine if it was voluntary.

Participants also supported the adoption of a three- to six-month waiting period for anyone who converts in order to be married.


Indonesian Christians: Pentecost in front of the Presidential Palace, for religious freedom


Indonesia, May 28, 2012: The faithful of the Yasmin Church (YC) and Hkbp Filadelfia celebrated the feast outside the offices of the Head of State. YC Spokesman to Yudhoyono: Open your eyes and take measures to ensure the practice of worship. Also critical to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who in Geneva depicts a country where harmony and tolerance reigns.

The faithful of the Yasmin Church (YC) in Bogor and members of the Hkbp Filadelfia Protestant community celebrated the feast of Pentecost, yesterday in Jakarta, in front of the Presidential Palace. The Christians gathered near the home of the head of state of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono because deprived of their places of worship: both churches, in fact, have been closed by local authorities and areas are the focus of a litigation in progress that has been ongoing for years. And to no avail, so far, the pronouncements of the Supreme Court which established the right of religious minority – Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world – to use the places of worship because they hold rightful ownership.

The Christian community celebrated the feast of Pentecost outdoors under a blazing sun, not far from the Presidential Palace in Central Jakarta. For the second time in a few weeks, the faithful have chosen the home of Yudhoyono as a symbolic place of protest to ask for “justice” on places of worship (see AsiaNews 16/04/2012 Jakarta: Hundreds of Christians ask President for justice on places of worship). Last April’s event was attended by the faithful of the Gki Yasmin Church (YC), the Bogor regency in West Java, and Hkbp Filadelfia Christians, in the regency of Bekasi also in West Java. For three years the YC faithful can not access the place of worship, sealed at the behest of local authorities and the Mayor Diani Budiarto, who has denounced alleged irregularities in the release of the IBM, the permit to build places of worship in Indonesia. A similar situation to that of the Hkbp Filadelfia faithful, who have fought for years in vain against the officials of Bekasi.

The faithful have also condemned the intervention of Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa at the United Nations Council for Human Rights in Geneva (Switzerland). The Indonesian Government head of the diplomacy, according to the Protestant community, should tell the “real” situation in the country regarding religious freedom and practice of religion for minorities, including Christians. Conversely, instead he described a situation of harmony, tolerance and good relations between denominations.

The lack of a place of worship for the Yasmin Church and Hkbp Filadelfia shows that extremist groups are more powerful than the religious minorities, and that the radical movements have the support of local authorities, who do not apply the law, but follow the directives of Islamic fundamentalists. YC spokeswoman Bona Sigalingging spoke at the event strongly calling for “the President to open his eyes and take action.” Her appeal was raised by dozens of groups and human rights activists, including Bungaran Saragih former Minister of Agriculture during the years of President Megawati.


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