Pakistan: Christians suffer discrimination in prisons *The Church in Vietnam

November 21, 2011 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia, Pakistan, Persecution, Vietnam

The Catholic lawyer Moazzam Aslam Bhatti

The Catholic lawyer Moazzam Aslam Bhatti

Pakistan, November 16, 2011: The Catholic lawyer Moazzam Aslam Bhatti, who works in Faisalabad, has told the International Catholic Charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), that Christian prisoners in Pakistani gaols are subject to particularly severe discrimination. He pointed out that Christians are marginalised and disadvantaged everywhere in Pakistani society, but their situation in the prisons is particularly precarious. Along with the Dominican fathers who provide prison pastoral care in the Diocese of Faisalabad, Bhatti regularly visits Christian prisoners and provides legal aid. Those in jail in the city include shopkeeper Imran Masih who was sentenced to life imprisonment in January 2010 under the country’s Blasphemy Laws for allegedly burning pages of the Qur’an. Mr Masih denied the charge. It is alarming to note, the lawyer said, that many people jailed for minor offences could have been released if they had been able to pay the fines imposed on them. Those affected also include children who are compelled to stay in prison together with their mothers. Christians are also disadvantaged in the distribution of food, clothing and medicines, as well as in their ability to practise their religion. This situation must change, Bhatti demanded. As a rule, Christian prisoners have no lawyer on account of their poverty and low social position. More legal aid must be provided to them in order to improve their situation. Bhatti, who studied in England, told ACN: “Despite receiving good job offers abroad, I returned to Pakistan in order to do whatever is in my power to help the people.” Although he can do little to change the situation, he is “proud to be able to do something for the people in this part of the world where Christians are oppressed and pushed to the margins.” According to the Dominican Father Iftikhar Moon, who is responsible for prison pastoral care in the Diocese of Faisalabad, the city of Faisalabad has a prison population of 5,000, including 85 to 100 Christians.

– aidtochurch

The Church in Vietnam


Fr. Nguyen Van PhuongVietnam, November 12, 2011: Vietnamese Catholics are currently praying and celebrating Mass in memory of their country’s 117 martyrs, who were canonised by John Paul II on 16 June 1988. The various communities, especially those of Hanoi, are also commemorating today’s martyrs, those who are oppressed, those who have lost their jobs or are discriminated against because of their religion, those who pray and work for justice and peace, as well as those who proclaim the Word of God. The latest case is on 3 November, when hundreds of police agents and soldiers broke down the church’s main door, tried to pick a quarrel with the vicar and parishioners present and threatened to kill members of the Redemptorist Order. The attack came after local authorities tried to force the Redemptorists to give up part of parish land they have owned since 1928 in order to build a water treatment plant for the nearby hospital. After the attack, the vicar called on the authorities to drop their plans and return the land they had seized from the parish. Between 2008 and 2009, the parish lost 41,455 m2 of the 61,455 it owned. The whole thing ended in a phoney trial that saw. “We agree with the local project to improve the life of the community,” Fr Nguyen Van Phuong, vicar to the Thai Ha Parish Church, said. “However, this should not mean looting out congregation.” Redemptorists rented Church land to local authorities during the war. The latter used it and now should return it to us and allow us to perform our pastoral and charitable activities for the 20,000 people of this community,” the clergyman explained. “Both Catholics and non-Catholics need the Redemptorists.” “Our prayers are meant to express our gratitude to God,” Fr Nguyen noted. “Suffering and persecution help us see the truth. When we endure injustice, we can deal with them by loving our neighbours more.” “We are all here,” he added, “to pray for Thai Ha Parish, committed to the dangerous task of seeking justice and truth.” Thousands of candles illuminate the opening of the Jubilee of the Vietnamese Church The ceremony on the day the Church commemorates the 117 Vietnamese martyrs canonized by Pope John Paul II.

– radiovatican

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