Pakistan, October 10, 2012: A Christian-Muslim march to demand an end to the violence against religious minorities, respect for human rights and an end to the personal attacks against journalists, women and innocent workers. It is an initiative promoted by civil society of Faisalabad (Punjab), under the motto “Non-violence for a peaceful coexistence.” Supporters of the march include Peace and Human Development (Phd Foundation), led by Christian leader Suneel Malik, and the Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (Awam), led by Christian Naseem Anthony.
The demonstration in the streets of the city (pictured) was held on October 2, coinciding with the celebration of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, World Day for peace and non-violence , held for the first time in 2007, according to the guiding principles of the Indian leader who was assassinated by a Hindu extremist in 1948.
The demonstrators, both Christians and Muslims, together condemned all forms of violence, torture and discrimination perpetrated in the name of religion. They also condemned the attacks on the sensibilities of the faithful, citing the case of anti-Islamic film “The innocence of Muslims” that sowed death and destruction around the world.
Speaking to AsiaNews, the leader of Phd Foundation Suneel Malik points out that “the State must promote peace and harmony” and to achieve the goal needs “a table of negotiations” between the various factions. Naseem Anthony, of Awam, denounced “the murders of journalists who try to tell the truth behind the facts” and stressed that the profession is now considered a harbinger “of death” in Pakistan.
The Muslim politician Arif Ayaz appeals to the government, to “respect and promote the of ethnic, religious, linguistic and cultural diversity ” that make up the country, to create a true “climate of harmony.” Nasreen Bukhari, of the Muslim union, said that “a culture of non-violence can be made possible only if each individual – and all society – aims” for peace and social harmony. Finally activist Asghar Shaheen, of the Islamic faith and committed to the defense of workers’ rights, affirmed “the State must ensure compliance with the law” and at the same time “protect the rights of marginalized groups such as minorities, workers, women, children and disabled. ”
Pakistan, October 5, 2012: Khuram Masih, a Christian accused of blasphemy was under the custody of police behind the bars and his bail petition is pending in next date of hearing is 8 October 2012 in the court of Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, a judge of the High Court.
Lawyers of the Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD), which followed his case, said the 23-year-old man was physically worn out but overjoyed that he survived. He has not stopped thanking God for allowing justice to triumph. On 5 December 2011, there was registered a blasphemy case FIR No. 1211/11 at Police Station Shahdara Town Lahore against one poor
Christian young man Mr.Khuram Masih was alleged of burning pages of Quran and was arrested same day and put behind the bars, he was physically beaten by police officials during the custody.
Lawyers of the Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD) followed this case and filed bail petition in session court Lahore and the same was dismissed on dated 3 January 2012 by Judge Anjum Raza Sayyed, additional and session judge and a second bail was filed in Lahore High Court in which Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, a judge of the High Court, ordered and gave direction of conclusion of trial within three months.
On dated 8 August 2012 again after nearly seven months lawyers of the Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD) filed bail
Petition in the same court of Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, a judge of the High Court and are very hopeful that the bail will be granted. And he will be released very soon and be united with his family, same way as Rimsha Masih was released on bail.
The president of PCC of Lahore District and National Director of LEAD Missionary Pastor and Advocate Mushtaq Gill urged to Pakistani
Government to take some strong measures against the abuses of Blasphemy laws against the Christians in Pakistan, he also requested
a judicially policy that the accused of blasphemy laws be granted bail till the final disposal of the case and it should be made statutory right of accused of such religious offences and blasphemy accused. They also demanded that the trial of such cases always should be conducted in the Jurisdiction of High Court rather than Lower Courts.
Pakistan, September 25, 2012: A church, Christian school and library, and the homes of two pastors and the head teacher, were looted and torched in Muslim riots against the anti-Islam film in Pakistan.
Friday (21 September) was declared a national holiday, “Love for the Prophet Day”, by the Pakistani government amid violent protests over Innocence of Muslims that have hit around 20 countries. The government encouraged peaceful demonstrations in Pakistan, but the day descended into clashes between protestors and police that left at least 20 people dead.
The compound of St Paul’s Lutheran Church in Mardan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, was set upon by hundreds of rioters armed with clubs and sticks. They looted the church building and smashed furniture before setting the premises alight.
They raided the adjacent church-run school, taking newly-installed computers, and also torched that building. Because the day had been declared a national holiday, none of the school’s 500 primary and secondary pupils were present.
A library on the site containing more than 3,000 books about the Bible and more than 6,000 books about other religions, including Islam, was burned down by the protestors in an act that would itself be considered blasphemous under Pakistani law.
The homes of two church leaders and the head teacher, within the compound, were also destroyed, along with a car and nine bikes.
The attack continued for more than three hours, with minimal efforts by the authorities to stop it.
The local church leader said that he thought it was pre-planned because the assailants had arrived with petrol and other materials to start a fire.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari condemned the attack on the church compound, saying that such incidents portrayed the country and Muslims negatively. Interior Minister Rehman Malik ordered an inquiry into the attack and promised that security would be provided to all churches in the country.
Around 64 suspects have been arrested in connection with the incident.
Christians in Pakistan have shown solidarity with Muslims by publicly condemning the film, which depicts Muhammad as fraudulent and depraved, and have even joined in peaceful protests against it. But this has not prevented them from being targeted by those wanting revenge for Innocence of Muslims. At one peaceful protest outside a church in Hyderabad on 16 September, men on motorbikes shot at Christian and Hindu demonstrators.
In another incident on 18 September, Christian workers at a hospital in Hyderabad were threatened by protestors who damaged doors and windows to the building. A Christian-run hospital in Quetta had to close its gates when a mob of hostile Muslims gathered outside.
Blasphemy is a highly sensitive subject in Pakistan, where the penal code prescribes the death penalty for defiling the name of Muhammad and life imprisonment for desecration of the Quran.
- barnabas team
Pakistan, September 12, 2012: Rimsha Masih, the Christian girl detained for blasphemy in Pakistan, has been freed on bail but remains “at grave risk”; meanwhile attacks on vulnerable young Christian girls in the country continue.
The 14-year-old with Down’s syndrome was granted bail on Friday (7 September) by a court in Islamabad after three weeks in a high-security prison. Amid fears that Islamic hard-liners would try to attack Rimsha, she was bundled, head covered, into a helicopter as heavily armed police stood guard. She was flown to a secure location to be reunited with her family.
Rimsha is the first person accused of blasphemy inPakistan to be granted bail; it is not a bailable offence, but the judge was swayed by pleas over her juvenile status and the insistence of the investigating officer that the Christian girl had been framed. Imam Khalid Jadoon Chishti is alleged to have planted evidence on her to “get rid of Christians” from Maherabad.
But Rimsha’s terrible ordeal is far from over. The charges against her have not been dropped, and it has not yet been decided if she will have to stand trial. Even if she is cleared, the youngster will remain vulnerable to attack by Muslim extremists; people who have been accused of blasphemy have been killed by vigilantes following their release. She may have to remain under armed guard for the rest of her life.
Raja Ikram, one of the lawyers defending Rimsha, said:
She is at grave risk in the sense that the people who managed this whole drama and fabricated the evidence against her most certainly wish her harm.
The case has sparked widespread condemnation of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and calls for them to be reformed. But most analysts consider it highly unlikely that there will be any change, leaving Christians open to further malicious and devastating accusations.
Rimsha’s plight has also drawn attention to the abuse of Christians in Pakistan, but this also continues unabated.
One particularly savage incident, which happened on 14 August, involved the gang-rape and murder of a 12-year-old Christian girl, Muqadas Kainat, by five Muslim men in a field.
In another case, a ten-year-old Christian girl was raped by a 60-year-old Muslim man on 25 August. He lured the youngster to his home in Faisalabad, where he brutally assaulted her.
- barnabas team
Pakistan, August 15, 2012: Pakistan has 2.7 million Hindus in a majority-Muslim population of 180 million.They represent those who chose to stay after the sectarian blood bath that accompanied the 1947 partition of the subcontinent at the end of British rule.
The Pakistani Hindus’ allegations of persecution and expressed desire to stay in India pose a diplomatic quandary for the New Delhi government: Should India welcome them and open the floodgates? Or should it stay aloof, treating this as an internal Pakistani matter — and shielding itself from allegations of Muslim mistreatment in India.
“As far as we know, the families have come on a pilgrimage. So far, no family that is based in Pakistan has approached us for asylum,” Preneet Kaur, India’s deputy foreign minister, told the Headlines Today news channel in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Kaur noted that India and Pakistan had agreed in 1972 not to interfere in each other’s internal affairs. But she added, “However, we do request Pakistan, on humanitarian grounds, to look after the interests of minorities.”
India does not have a national refugee law; it deals with arrivals from neighboring countries on an ad hoc basis. Thousands of Pakistani Hindus who have come here in the past two decades have still not received Indian citizenship.
But the country may be unable to maintain that detachment for long, in view of the steady stream of Pakistani Hindus who say they are being harassed by new Muslim fundamentalist groups in Pakistan’s Sindh province.
“They barge into our homes in broad daylight, snatch jewelry from the women, money from our shops, and kidnap Hindu girls and convert them to Islam,” Mukesh Kumar Ahuja, a young Hindu from Pakistan, told Indian reporters in the northern state of Punjab. “We want India to let us stay and ease visa rules for our relatives who are still in Pakistan.”
Tejinder Goggi, a hotel owner and peace activist in Punjab, said he saw at least 100 Pakistani Hindus arrive last week with bedding, pots and pans stuffed into jute sacks and cardboard cartons.
“They are worried about their daughters because 20 girls were kidnapped and married to Muslim boys in the past year,” Goggi said.
An immigration officer said that only half of those who have come to India in the past year have returned to Pakistan.
“They come for pilgrimage on a 30-day visa, and they keep extending it,” the officer said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the politically sensitive issue. “They produce medical certificates to say they are ill, or report a marriage or death in the family.”
On Monday, several Indian lawmakers raised the issue in Parliament and urged the government to take it up with Pakistan.
“If persecuted Hindus don’t come to India, where will they go?” asked Prakash Javadekar, spokesman for the Hindu nationalist opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.
Hindu protests have been growing in Pakistan. Last week, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari set up a three-member panel to address the Hindus’ grievances, and Interior Minister Rehman Malik has promised to examine the situation. “The government will first look into the matter and then allow them to leave Pakistan,” Malik said of those seeking visas. He did, however, question why India had given such a large number of visas to the Hindus.
Not all Pakistani Hindus want to leave. “I was born in Pakistan,” Kanhaiya Nagpal, a retired professor, said in a telephone interview from Karachi. “I like to live here. This is my country.”
Nagpal said he had participated in a demonstration organized by several Hindu groups Monday to protest harassment. But he added: “The solution is not to run away. If the rule of law is followed in Pakistan, then everything will be all right.”
- washington post
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.
Christian couple acquitted in Lahore over false blasphemy charges *Indonesia: Church attacked with stones, urine
Pakistan, May 21, 2012: Charged in December 2008, they were initially given life in prison. After four years behind bars, they were acquitted. A Muslim man had accused them in a personal vendetta over a row among children. For the judges, the accusations were a frame-up over a personal dispute.
“The court took a brave decision by releasing the married couple. They were unfairly accused and jailed for a crime they never committed,” said Fr John Mall. The priest from the Diocese of Lahore welcomed the ruling by the High Court that acquitted Munir Masih and his wife Ruqayya for lack of evidence. The parents of six children had originally received a life sentence.
In the first trial held in Kasur in 2010, the court dropped the charge of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, which carries the death penalty. It was clear even then, that the couple was not guilty of any crime. However, they had to wait four years before the second charge was also thrown out.
“No one testified against the couple on the matter of blasphemy,” the couple’s lawyer Chaudhry Naeem Shakir said. The contradictions in the complaint against 32-year-old Munir and his wife were apparent.
Their accuser, Muhammad Yousaf, had said that they had used the Qur’an for exorcism. The court found his story too inconsistent, ruling that it was made only in revenge in a “personal dispute”.
A quarrel between the Christian couple’s children and those of Muhammad Yousaf, from Kasur in Punjab, drove the latter to use the ‘black law’.
Muhammad Yousaf induced his driver, Muhammad Nawaz, to bear false witness and accuse the Masih of blasphemy on the basis of sections B and C of Article 295 of Pakistan’s penal code. Seven other people were also named as witnesses to the crime.
Following the Lahore High Court’s decision, Munir Masih was released on bail. The charges against him were deemed weak from the start. His wife’s release from the Sahiwal Women’s Prison is expected shortly. She should be then reunited with her husband and six children (two boys and four girls).
“The court took a brave decision,” Fr John Mall told AsiaNews. “The blasphemy law is used to settle personal scores, especially in Punjab,” he exaplined. “The Catholic Church has appealed several times to the government to act against its abuse.”
“Many cases of blasphemy have occurred and many acts of violence have been perpetrated against minorities in the area,” said Fr Amir Romail, a priest in Kasur.
In view of this outcome, he said that he hopes to see judges making similar decisions “in other cases where the accused languishes in prison for years waiting for a judgement.”
Indonesia: Church attacked with stones, urine
A leader of the Batak Society Christian Church (HKBP) of Philadelphia in West Java has urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to take action against religious intolerance after radical Muslims were accused of throwing stones and urine at a church congregation.
Reverend Palti Panjaitan said almost 100 Protestants were subjected to hate speeches and murder threats on Thursday during a service to celebrate Ascension Day at a half-built church in Bekasi district.
More than 400 police and military personnel deployed to secure the service had asked church-goers to worship at a government-designated building 10 kilometers from the site to avoid a standoff with a crowd of 300 Muslim protestors.
“That was the time when the group threw stones, bags of urine and ditchwater at us,” said Rev Panjaitan, adding that the congregation had to halt the service because of the incident.
He warned the authorities that hatred between religious communities would escalate “if such religious intolerance is not resolved immediately.”
Rev Andreas Anangguru Yewangoe, chairman of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, accused President Yudhoyono of failing to address the problem.
“It is inhumane. We are tired of facing such incidents,” he said. “If we want this state to be united, the only way is to maintain religious freedom.”
HKBP Philadelphia has been waiting for five years to gain permission to build a church in Bekasi district after submitting an application in 2007.
In December 2009, the district administration issued a letter banning congregations from worshiping on the site but in July last year the Supreme Court overruled the decision, saying the church was eligible for a permit.
HKBP Philadelphia says this has still not been issued, however.
A historic Hindu temple in Peshawar, Pakistan, which was reopened on the orders of a court last year, was vandalized today, police said.
The attackers burnt pictures and damaged a ‘shivling’ inside Gorakhnath Temple and took away idols from the shrine located within an archaeological complex in Gor Gathri area, leaders of the Hindu community said.
The shrine’s custodian told the media that this was the third attack on the temple in north-west Pakistan in the past two months.
Police officers visited the temple to probe the incident.
Hindu leaders urged police to put in place better security measures to prevent such incidents.
The temple’s custodian told police that he had seen a group of eight men inside the temple when he arrived there at 6.30 pm.
The men started burning pictures and holy books before fleeing with some idols, he said.
Members of the minority Hindu community rushed to the temple.
Footage on television showed burnt papers and utensils lying strewn on the floor of the temple.
The 160-year-old temple was reopened for Hindus last year on the orders of the Peshawar High Court.
It had been closed since Partition.
The temple was reopened after Phool Wati, the daughter of the shrine’s cleric, petitioned the high court.
A British Red Cross operative working in Pakistan was found beheaded at the weekend.
Khalil Dale, 60, was kidnapped in January. His body was found yesterday wrapped in plastic near the city of Quetta in Baluchistan where he had been based for about a year.
He was working as a health program manager on secondment to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) when he was grabbed from a clearly marked vehicle near his home. He was not seen alive again.
Police said his body was found with a note attached saying he had been killed because a ransom had not been paid to his captors, believed to be the Pakistani Taliban.
“The ICRC condemns in the strongest possible terms this barbaric act,” Yves Daccord, director general of the ICRC, said yesterday.
“All of us at the ICRC and the British Red Cross share the grief and outrage of Khalil’s family and friends. We are devastated.”
Dale, who was from Dumfries in Scotland, was a convert to Islam. He had worked for the Red Cross and ICRC for many years, previously in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.
Colleagues in Quetta described him to agencies as a “humble and tireless humanitarian.”
He was awarded an MBE in 1994 for his work in Somalia.
“I utterly condemn the killing of Mr Dale,” British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said. “This was a senseless and cruel act, targeting someone whose role was to help the people of Pakistan.”
A Pakistani Christian falsely charged with “blasphemy” after rescuing his 8-year-old nephew from a beating at the hands of Muslim boys has been cleared of the charge.
Dildar Masih, a 27-year-old father of two young children, was acquitted on March 26 after prosecutors failed to produce any evidence against him, he said.
“I was produced in court three times during the case proceedings, but not one accuser ever turned up at the hearings,” Masih told Compass by phone. “You cannot imagine my joy when the prison officials told me that I had been acquitted by the court. I had not been taken to the hearing that day; only my lawyer, Javed Raza, and father were present in the courtroom.”
His nephew, Ihtesham (also known as Sunny), had gone out to fetch ice when Muslim boys from a nearby madrassa (religious school) beat him for refusing to convert to Islam in village No. 68 AR Farmwala, in Khanewal district’s Mian Channu area in Punjab Province, on June 10, 2011.
Seeing the attack from a distance, Masih shouted and rushed to the scene, rescued his nephew and then went to his work as a painter. Soon after the incident, a Muslim mob of about 55 led by village prayer leader Qari Hasnain besieged Masih’s house and ordered his father, Yousaf Masih, to hand over “the blasphemer” to them.
Yousaf Masih said that Hasnain claimed to have heard Dildar Masih “abusing Islamic holy words” as he was standing in the entrance of his mosque near the site of the incident. Hasnain later telephoned clerics in neighboring villages, and they called on all Muslims to “come out for the defense of Islam” after Friday prayers (see, “Pakistani Families Flee after Another Bogus ‘Blasphemy’ Charge,” June 15, 2011).
Unaware of the declarations emanating from the mosque, Dildar Masih had no idea why the Islamic throng arrived at the house he was painting and “pounced on him like tigers,” his elderly father told Compass.
Police registered a blasphemy case against Dildar Masih, No. 211/11 under Section 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 16 of the Maintenance of Public Order, later that night after a crowd of about 2,500 Muslims gathered outside the police station and demanded officers hand him over to them.
He told Compass that he could scarcely believe his ears when he learned that he had been acquitted and would be released that same day. He said that there had been instances when Muslim prisoners and junior jail officials at the Multan Central Jail had tried to vent their anger at him, “but some prisoner or another would intervene in the situation and tell them that I was not guilty of blasphemy and thus saved me from being beaten up.”
Masih said that during his imprisonment, he stood by his faith that Jesus would free him from the false charge and that he would be able to return to his family.
“I prayed a lot … This was the only other thing I did in prison besides having food and sleeping,” he said. “I kept on telling God that I had complete faith in Him and would wait for the day when He would set me free.”
After being released from jail – so full of joy that he forgot several of his belongings in his hurry to leave – Masih joined his family in a village where the entire clan has relocated after the incident.
“I haven’t found work as yet, but I’m sure God will provide a living for me very soon,” he said. “It’s so good to be back among my two children and wife … And yes, I’m much more closer to God now.”
He said he’s witnessed the hand of the Almighty at work.
“About 13 people are currently imprisoned in Multan Central Jail under blasphemy charges,” he said. “I was the only Christian, and probably the only one to have been able to return home in less than a year.”