SRI LANKA: PASTOR AND WIFE DRAGGED FROM HOME, ASSAULTED BY BUDDHIST-LED MOB
The attack happened in Asgiriya, Kandy district, on 16 February. The 250-strong mob, led by eleven monks from the extreme nationalist organisation Bodu Bala Sena or Buddhist Strength Force (BBS), stormed the couple’s home.
A senior BBS leader warned villagers against such “traitors” and threatened the same treatment for others who supported Christian worship.
SUDAN: PASTOR ARRESTED WHILE PREACHING DURING CHURCH SERVICE
The Rev. Yahya Abdelrahim Nalu was detained on 23 February and held for two days. He was told that he would “face justice” in court if he did not relinquish his position at Omdurman Evangelical Church to a government-appointed committee.
The church leader’s arrest appears to be part of the Sudanese authorities’ plan to take over church properties.
It follows the flattening of a church building in Omdurman on 17 February.
-morning star news
INDONESIA: MUSLIM MOB OCCUPIES CHURCH LAND TO BLOCK ITS BUILDING PLANS
The raid in Talang Kelapa, South Sumatra, happened on 20 February, three days after a stone-laying ceremony to mark the start of church building work.
The Muslim leader who headed the mob said that the church did not have the permit required to build a place of worship.
INDIA: HINDU LEADER CALLS FOR END TO CONVERSIONS FROM HINDUISM
The leader of a fundamentalist Hindu group has called for an immediate end to conversions from Hinduism, or else, he claimed, Hindus, who comprise around 80% of the population, “will [soon] be a minority in India”.
The remarks by Ashok Singhal, leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), at a rally in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, on 22 February, have been criticised by government officials and Christian leaders.
The VHP, which has been behind attacks on Christians and other minorities, is one of a number of groups pushing Hindutva, a militant Hindu nationalist agenda that is striving to make India religiously “pure”.
Their political wing has succeeded in securing “anti-conversion” laws in a number of states; these are sometimes used to prohibit legitimate Christian evangelism.
- barnabas team
Pakistan, March 05, 2014: A Christian girl was shot dead by the Pakistani Taliban in the northern region of the country last week. She was hiding with a male cousin who had converted from Islam to Christianity a few years ago.
Since the conversion, he was declared ‘apostate’ and had been the target of the Taliban. Militants found their hiding place and shot the girl while the man managed to escape.The Christian community expressed outrage and asked for the intervention of civil institutions to defend the rights of minorities and all citizens against Taliban violence.
Pakistan Taliban has been trying to impose its extreme views and has been killing whoever has gone against its diktats. A dialogue between the government and Pakistani Taliban reached a deadlock after Islamic militants told the government that “there is no possibility of peace in the country unless Pakistan changes its political and legal system and officially adopts Islamic law”.
Islamabad had suspended air strikes against the Taliban recently but stated that it reserves the right to “respond to any violent action” carried out by the Pakistani Taliban. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’ government is looking for a “negotiated solution” after years of conflict with militants, but talks were interrupted in February after a series of terrorist attacks.
The Pakistan government has introduced a bill called ‘Policies on national security’ in Parliament that intends to put an end to violence and terrorism in the country. Prime Minister Sharif said that the government intends to “promote dialogue with the Taliban”, but if it does not demonstrate willingness to respect the cease-fire, “the army will respond in an appropriate manner”.
CHRISTIAN PUPIL PUNISHED FOR REFUSING TO TAKE PART IN BUDDHIST RITUAL AT SCHOOL
The head teacher demanded on 17 February that all Christian children observe sil or else leave the school. The following day, all Christian parents were requested to join in as well.
The school was in breach of both Sri Lankan law and the country’s constitution, which state that no child can be forced to observe the activities of other religions.
TWO ZANZIBAR CHURCHES TARGETED IN BOMBINGS
On Monday (24 February), explosives were detonated at the main entrance of the historic Christ Church Anglican Cathedral. The blast caused damage to a wall and vehicles parked outside the building, including the bishop’s car, but nobody was injured. The cathedral normally hosts a nursery school, but it had been transferred to a different location because of construction work; the children might otherwise have been caught up in the blast, as it happened at around 1pm, when they leave.
The previous day, an Evangelistic Assemblies of God Tanzania church was bombed as the Sunday service was coming to a close. The explosion shook the building and alarmed the congregation, but they escaped unharmed.
Mercury’s, a seafront restaurant and bar, was also bombed on Monday. It is not known who carried out the attacks.
PRO-ISLAMIST OPPOSITION DEFEATS SECULAR PARTY IN LOCAL ELECTIONS
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Jama’at-e-Islami (JI) took 40 and 11 sub-districts respectively out of 97 in the polls on 19 February. They had boycotted the country’sgeneral election last month, which resulted in the returning to power of the secular Awami League.
The JI and other Islamists, backed by the BNP, launched a violent uprising last February; they have been calling for Bangladesh to become an Islamic state and for an anti-blasphemy law that carries a death sentence for those who insult Islam or Muhammad. Christians and other minorities have been targeted in associated violence.
PRIVATE SCHOOLS BARRED FROM EXPOSING MUSLIM CHILDREN TO OTHER RELIGIONS
Brunei, February 25, 2014: Representatives from private education institutions in Brunei have been warned that they face up to five years in jail and/or a fine of up to US$20,000 if they expose a Muslim or atheist child to religions other than Islam.
Under a new sharia penal code set to be introduced in April, it is an offence to “persuade, tell, cause, offer payment to, influence, incite, encourage or permit” such a child to accept non-Islamic teachings. It is also a crime for an institution to expose the child to any ceremony, act of worship or activity of any non-Islamic religion or to participate in any activity held for the benefit of other religions.
Brunei is introducing the new law in phases. Offences punishable by fines, imprisonment or both are part of the first phase; the second phase will see harsher penalties for hudud crimes, such as the amputation of limbs for stealing; the death penalty is expected to come into force in the third phase.
- barnabas team
Indonesia, February 25, 2014: Sharia laws will be extended to non-Muslims in the Indonesian province of Aceh under a controversial new bylaw.
Elements of sharia are already in force in the territory but are applied only to Muslims. On 13 December, a new behaviour-governing bylaw (Qanun Jinayat) was approved by Aceh’s legislative council and signed by Governor Zaini Abdullah.
Councillor Abdulah Saleh said:
The qanun does indeed oblige everyone in Aceh to follow sharia without exception.
It would be unfair if Muslims were punished while non-Muslims were not, just because sharia violations are not stipulated in the Criminal Code.
The bylaw was submitted to the Home Ministry on 2 February; the central government department needs to verify the qanun before it can be enacted, and this process can take up to 60 days.
But sharia police have already started reprimanding non-Muslim “offenders”. Women were told to wear a headscarf and men who were dressed in shorts told to wear trousers. Three-time violators of the dress rules could be publicly caned.
Other sharia laws that are in force in Aceh include the prohibition of alcohol and affectionate contact between unmarried couples.
As well as being extended to non-Muslims, the rules will also be applied to visitors to the province. Under the new Qanun Jinayat, the Islamic police will have the power to detain suspects and confiscate and raid their property.
Non-Muslims violators of Aceh’s Criminal Code will be given the option of being tried by a sharia court or a regular court. But if the matter in question is not covered by the Criminal Code, they will automatically be tried in a sharia court. Even if acquitted by a sharia court, the defendant will be required to undergo “rehabilitation”.
The new Qanun Jinayat has been denounced by the secretary general of the Aceh Clerics Association, Faisal Ali, who said that it was a political ploy ahead of this year’s elections. He said that it reflected a poor understanding of both religion and the law:
It is impossible for Islamic law to regulate the lives of non-Muslims, since they do not adhere to Islam.
The introduction of sharia in Aceh was authorised in 2001 as part of a “special autonomy” deal aimed at ending a lengthy separatist war. Provincial legislators have since passed four sharia-based criminal bylaws. Islamic police based on Iran’s “vice and virtue” patrols enforce the rules. As religious conservatives become more powerful, sharia is being imposed more strictly, to the detriment of women and religious minorities in particular.
The head of legal affairs at the Aceh provincial secretariat said that the administration would seek to implement a more comprehensive sharia-based criminal code in the future.
- barnabas team
Syria, February 27, 2014: Payment of “protection” fee, ban on Christian signs and restoration of churches and monasteries. The group “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” accused by other Damascus opponents of playing into the hands of Assad. An ultimatum of five days.
A jihadist group linked to al -Qaeda has released a set of rules of submission for Christians of Raqqa. These include a protection fee, the order to practice their faith in the privacy of their homes and a ban on wearing any obvious sign of Christianity.
The rules (termed “Agreement”) were drawn up and are being imposed by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a group linked to al- Qaeda in Iraq and which aims to create a single caliphate that spans the Middle East, North Africa, Andalusia and southern Italy, the ancient Arab and Islamic lands.
Raqqa city in northern Syria had 300 thousand inhabitants before the start of the civil war in March 2011. Of these, 1% was Christian. Now many people have fled and the city is in the hands ISIL, which released the text of the Agreement on jihadist websites.
Under the threat of violence, Christians must pay a “jiziya”, the ancient mandatory fee for non-Muslims.
Rich Christians have to pay a sum equal to the value of 13 grams of pure gold (half an ounce), those of the middle class half of the sum, and the poor a quarter.
Christians are banned from displaying crosses or symbols of their faith in areas frequented by Muslims and especially the market; they must not use loudspeakers for the call to prayer; they must perform their rituals behind closed doors in buildings of worship.
The group also demands that Christians comply with the rule for modest dressing that is imposed on all inhabitants.
Christians are forbidden to carry weapons and they are also forbidden to restore any of the churches or monasteries in the area that have been damaged. Those who does not adhere to these rules, will share in the destiny of those “people of war and rebellion”, in short they will be killed .
ISIL is part of the Islamist extremist fringe in opposition to Bashar Assad. Since January last a merciless war between secular and Islamist opposition groups has been ongoing, as well as among moderate and less moderate Islamists. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights , the clashes between the two camps have caused the death of at least 3300 people, of which 924 among the members of SIIL.
Opponents are coalescing against ISIL, accused of “playing into the hands of Assad”. Just yesterday, the Al- Nusra Front (Al Qaeda in Syria) launched a five-day ultimatum against ISIL to put an end to the internal conflict and appear before a religious court.
Christian Man Tortured And Killed By Police In Pakistan
Pakistan, February 14, 2014: A 24-year old Pakistani Christian man, Sabir Masih, was in the custody of police when he was reported to have ‘hanged himself.’ Masih’s parents demanded an autopsy that confirmed their son died from “severe internal injuries” caused by “torture and abuse” he received under police interrogation after he was arrested on unfounded charges of theft.
•Pray for the healing and comfort of the family of Sabir Masih
•Pray justice will brought upon those who brought injustice to Sabir Masih, and others
•Pray Pakistan will rise above this intolerance and bring equality to the people
Generations Of Blasphemers: A Christian Family’s Struggle To Endure Persecution In Pakistan
Pakistan, February 13, 2014: A Pakistani family, from father to two sons, have been followed by blasphemy accusations over a course of 13-years. In 2000, the father refused to convert resulting in the forced conversion of his family. Regardless of going into hiding, extremists found the eldest son, kidnapped and tortured him into converting, and now the family awaits the trial of the youngest son, who was accused of sending blasphemous texts.
•Pray for this family that they will be renewed in strength and healing
•Pray the youngest son will not suffer or be harmed while incarcerated
•Pray for all Christians in Pakistan that their government will rise above intolerance
200 Killed In Week Of Boko Haram Violence In Nigeria
Nigeria, February 19, 2014: Ranging from mass execution by gunfire, slitting throats, bombings, fires and kidnappings; these increasing violent attacks in Nigeria, by suspected Boko Haram members, have resulted in 200 Christian ‘reported’ deaths in one week. William Stark, regional manager for Africa at ICC remarked, “If action is not taken, the slaughter of Christians in northern Nigeria could reach genocidal levels in the near future.”
•Pray for the speedy recovery, comfort, peace and protection of those harmed and in danger of persecution
•Pray the governments will work together to stop the intolerance and bring justice to the persecutors
•Pray for all Christians in Nigeria
Kidnappers Target Christian Children In Egypt
Egypt, February 18, 2014: In two years,150 Christians have been kidnapped in the Minya province. According to Todd Daniels, regional spokesman for ICC, 69 kidnappings were reported in Minya province last year, with 61 of those cases extorting ransom from $7,000-$500,000. Based on reports by ICC, kidnapping numbers have not changed, but younger victims are being targeted to possibly increase the likelihood of families paying.
•Pray those kidnapped are not harmed and returned to their families without consequence to their loved ones
•Pray authorities will provide more service and protection to the Christian people
•Pray for all Christians in Egypt
Kuala Lumpur, February 12, 2014: Ecumenical solidarity towards the Church of Malaysia is growing. Shocked and dismayed, the World Methodist Council hopes to see the “rather troubling” court ruling overturned. The latter would allow only one religion to take ownership over a universal term. The United Nations also weighs into the issue, calling it a violation of religious freedom.
Catholic and Protestant Churches around the world have expressed their support for Christian leaders in Malaysia, who have come under attack and increasing pressure as a trial approaches against non-Muslim Malaysians using the word Allah.
The World Methodist Council (WMCI) is the latest body to express its solidarity, shocked and dismayed by the Court of Appeal’s ruling in October to bar the Catholic weekly, Herald, from using the word.
In a letter addressed to the Christian Federation of Malaysia, WMC general secretary Bishop Ivan Abrahams wrote that the decision was a “rather troubling” attempt by the courts in Malaysia to allow one religion to take ownership over a universal term.
The World Methodist Council represents over 80 million people, spread over 130 countries around the world.
“The verdict has the possibility to create unnecessary division between Christians and Muslims in Malaysia,” Bishop Abrahams said.
The prelate further noted that the use of the word God in a believer’s mother tongue was “not something that authorities should be seen as politicising”.
The children of Abraham share the same God, and a claim to exclusive ownership over the name would constitute a divisive action.
The prayers of millions of WMC members follow the solidarity expressed last week by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which stated in a letter, “This is not just a matter of faith, but also a reality of history and language.”
ELCA leaders slammed Malaysian authorities for last month’s raid when they seized300 copies of the Bible.
Even the United Nations weighed in on the Allah issue in Malaysia, when its Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, called on the Malaysian government to reverse the court’s decision to ban the Catholic weekly from using the word.
The problem is not only terminological. Recently, Malaysia’s Catholic community has come in for direct attacks, with gravestones and tombs desecrated in a cemetery and Molotov cocktails thrown at a church.
The dispute over the use of Allah’s name by non-Muslims broke out when the government took to court the Herald, a Catholic weekly, and its editor, Fr Andrew Lawrence.
In October last year, a Court of Appeal ruled against the Catholic paper using Allah’s name.
An appeal was filed against the decision and the case is scheduled to be heard on 5 March.
The appeal is not only designed to uphold minority rights, but also restore harmony and promote peaceful coexistence among the nation’s ethnic groups.
In Malaysia, a nation of more than 28 million people, mostly Muslims (60 per cent), Christians are the third largest religious group (after Buddhists) with more than 2.6 million members.
A Latin-Malay dictionary published 400 years ago shows that the word ‘Allah’ was already in use to describe the Biblical God in the local language.
Islamabad, February 14, 2014: As a second round of talks between the TTP and the government gets underway today, the country continues to suffer from attacks and violence. Extremists are pushing for a progressively more “Islamised” state. Exasperated, more and more ordinary Pakistanis are favourable to a military operation.
The Pakistani Taliban can count on more than 500 women suicide bombers, and more than 1,300 young students from Qur’anic schools, who are ready to blow themselves up in order to achieve the fundamentalists’ goal, namely the introduction of Sharia, or Islamic law, in the country.
In recent weeks, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has carried out a series of suicide attacks against sensitive targets, including members of the police and security forces, to avenge the death of comrades and people associated with the extremist movement. According to its latest statements, the violence will continue until their demands “are met”.
The government appears inclined to accommodate them. So far, it has shown that it still wants to continue talks to achieve a ceasefire, despite the growing desperation of a large part of the population and civil society, exasperated by the violence and opposed to the gradual “Islamisation” of the state.
The Taliban said that they would agree to a ceasefire if a certain number of non-negotiable preconditions were met, namely the introduction of Sharia law in the country; an Islamic educational system; the release of all terrorists and fighters, including the killers of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti; the handover of all the tribal areas and the withdrawal of the army, the end of the interest-based banking system, the end to support for the US war on terror; and the replacement of the democratic model with an Islamic regime.
As part of peace talks that got under way earlier this month, government officials and Taliban representatives held a second meeting today. However, the talks have already raised serious concerns and generate a fierce controversy in the country.
Many Pakistanis are in favour of the talks, and want to see a deal that would end the fighting, targeted attacks and bloody bombings. Many others however are pushing for a military operation, blaming the court system for its inability to prosecute felons.
Despite the military’s decision to halt drone operations and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s determination to pursue the path of dialogue, the TTP continues to launch bloody attacks across the country. Just in the last little while, fundamentalist fighters have claimed responsibility for at least seven attacks, including the explosion of a police bus in Karachi that killed 12 officers.
Extremists have also targeted a tribal community of a few thousand people living in the Kalash Valley. For centuries, its members have lived in this remote area of northwest Pakistan, on the border with Afghanistan. Of a peaceful nature, they are polytheist. And their leader strongly supports education in the region, peaceful coexistence and dialogue among residents. Yet, the Taliban warned them to “convert to Islam or be beheaded.”
For the current Taliban leadership, today’s Pakistan – which is based on a model and on ideals embodied by the historic speech the country’s founder Ali Jinnah made to parliament in 1947 (one based on pluralism, religious freedom, a secular state, equal rights for Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, etc.) – is unpalatable.
Their first goal is precisely a radical change to the country’s constitution and legal system, which they believe should be based on Sharia.
For many analysts and liberal-minded Pakistanis, such a vision will end up “having a psychologically devastating impact on Pakistan.”
With their constant attacks, many against police and government facilities, TTP leaders have created the impression that they are more powerful than the state, and that they can strike anyone. And this is feeding a sense of insecurity and fuelling tensions, a situation that tends to have a crushing effect on innocent victims first.
Paul Bhatti, chairman of the All Pakistan Minority Alliance, an umbrella organization of religious minorities, as well as the Shahbaz Bhatti Memorial Trust, told a Pakistani cable channel on Saturday that he has moved to Italy in order to save his life.
“Punjabi Taliban dropped pamphlets at my office in Lahore and warned me of dire consequences for pursuing the murder case of my brother,” he said.
“I will not give up this case despite the threats,” he said.
He criticized the Interior Ministry and police for not providing him with security despite repeated requests.
Shahbaz Bhatti, the former minority affairs minister and outspoken critic of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, was gunned down outside his residence in Islamabad in March 2011. Two gunmen sprayed the minister’s car with bullets and dropped pamphlets next to his body, describing him as a Christian infidel.
Last September, Islamabad police arrested two suspected terrorists, Hammad Adil and Umer Abdullah, and charged them with the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti. The pair later confessed their involvement.
The trial is currently being held in an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi
Paul Bhatti played an active role in the release of teenage Christian girl Rimsha Masih in a blasphemy case. He later challenged the acquittal of Qari Khalid Jadoon, who falsely accused Rimsha of burning pages of the Qu’ran.
Christian killed, others attacked by Islamists in Bangladesh
Bangladesh, January 15, 2014: A young Christian man was murdered and other Christians were attacked by Islamists in Bangladesh in violence related to the country’s general election.
Ovidio Marandy was killed on Saturday (11 January) in Gobindoganj, Gaibandha district. Islamists had previously torched his village to punish the Christian residents who had voted in the parliamentary elections, which were marred by controversy and violence, on 5 January.
After the fire, Ovidio organised a protest against Islamist violence; his family believe that this is why he was murdered.
Proshanto Gomes, a local church leader, told Asia News:
Ovidio was very brave, and was famous in his community. We are shocked by what happened. Christians have the right to vote. Why are Islamists attacking us?
Christians in the districts of Jamalpur and Sherpur were also attacked for taking part in the election.
The brother of a bishop was among the eight injured in Jamalpur; the victims were beaten and their houses vandalised. The assailants threatened to return, burn what was left of their property and seize their land.
Many Christians and others belonging to minority groups in Bangladesh did not vote because of threats from Islamist extremists.
The elections were boycotted by the country’s main opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, (BNP) as well as other smaller parties. Prior to the poll, the BNP launched aggressive strikes, blocking roads, railways and waterways to cause disruption. At least 200 polling booths were torched, and on voting day, at least 26 people were killed.
The BNP boycotted the poll because it wanted a non-party caretaker government to oversee elections; this was a constitutional requirement until 2011, when the governing Awami League (AL) removed it.
The absence of the opposition in the general election gave AL a hollow landslide victory. The turnout was only around 20%.
Bangladesh has been rocked by political tensions for almost a year; Christians and other minorities have been targeted in associated violence.
Islamists, backed by the BNP, launched a violent uprising in February over war crimes trials of leading Islamists for their part in the country’s 1971 War of Independence. A number have been sentenced to death, each verdict triggering further unrest. The secular AL government has cracked down hard on protestors, escalating tensions further. Over 500 people were killed in political violence in 2013.
The clashes have resulted in the country becoming more and more polarised along Islamist and secularist lines. Islamists have become increasingly emboldened; they have been calling for Bangladesh, which is 90% Muslim, to become an Islamic state and for an anti-blasphemy law that carries a death sentence for those who insult Islam or Muhammad.
The BNP was expected to win the general election after routing the AL with Islamist support in mayoral elections in the summer.
- barnabas team
Blasphemy law in Pakistan Challenged
The following is being considered
- Should blasphemy law,295 B and C of PPC applicable on Christians and other Non-Muhammadan?
- Is the only death penality for 295 C of PPC is the right verdict of the FSC.
- Are Pakistani Christians enjoying equal rights under these laws?
- Are you agree with LEAD to file petition against this verdict of the FSC?
- Would you agree that first should be defined what is blasphemy regarding 295 C of PPC.
Issuing its verdict, the court noted that in its ruling of 1990, the FSC had clarified that the mention of life imprisonment with death sentence should be removed from the blasphemy law under section 295 C PPC.