Tag: Punjab province

Pakistani Christian Murdered After Refusing to Work On Sunday

A young Christian sanitation worker was gunned down in Pakistan after he refused to clean an outhouse on a Sunday, his day off.

Noman Masih’s mother, Khalida Bibi, with her other children. (Morning Star News)

20-year-old Noman Munir Masih of Sheikhupura in Punjab Province, was the sole breadwinner of his Pentecostal family after his father died two years ago, according to Morning Star News.

Masih worked for the sanitation department like many Christians forced to work in low-paying cleaning jobs in Pakistan.

The young man was leaving work on March 20 when a motorcyclist shot him. A suspect was taken into custody.

Kashif Naimet, an attorney for the dead man’s family told Morning Star News that a local influential Muslim had threatened Masih after he refused to clean his outhouse (dera) on a Sunday.

The Muslim reportedly told the young man he would ‘cut off his legs and riddle his body with bullets’ for defying his order.”

Some Muslims in Pakistan believe they can mistreat and harm Christians because they are a minority community lacking resources and status to seek justice.

Source: CBN News



Sentenced to death for blasphemy: The Asia Bibi Story

ASIA BIBI

On June 19, 2009, Asia Bibi (also known as Asia Noureen) was arrested on the grounds of blasphemy charges.

Asia, a Christian mother of 5, lived with her husband in Chak No. 3 Itanwali village in the Nankana Sahib district in Punjab province. The Centre for Legal Aid Assistance & Settlement, a partner of Jubilee located in Pakistan, reported that only 5 Christian families were living in this village among 2,000 Muslim families. The Christians in this village usually work in brick kilns or other low-wage jobs.

Asia worked as a fruit picker in a produce field as the only Christian. Asia reported that she often felt discriminated against by her Muslim co-workers, but that she ignored it. On June 14, 2009, Asia was involved in an argument with two Muslim female co-workers. Asia was asked to retrieve water from a well, and as she was doing so she went to use an old metal cup to take some water for herself. One of her co-workers saw her and angrily told Asia that Christians were prohibited from drinking water from utensils used by Muslims because Christians are “unclean”. Her co-workers then made additional derogatory remarks about Christianity. Asia purportedly responded by saying that Jesus died on the cross for her sins, what did their prophet do for them?

June 18, 2009, days after the argument, one of the Muslim women told their Islamic cleric about the incident. Word spread, and a Muslim mob gathered at the produce field where Asia worked and grabbed her. They began physically assaulting her and some family members. Fortunately, the police came in time to save Asia from the mob and she was taken to the police station.

It has been reported that the woman who accused Asia of blasphemy did so because of a family vendetta against Asia’s family. False blasphemy accusations are highly common in Pakistan, especially among religious minorities as a method of revenge.

In November 2010, Asia was found guilty of the blasphemy charges and sentenced to death. If executed, Asia would be the first woman executed for blasphemy in Pakistan. Many have spoken out on behalf of Asia’s innocence, including Pakistani politicians, however, not without consequences. asia bibi

On January 4, 2011, Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, was shot 27 times by his own bodyguard. He was adamant about the country’s need to dissolve its blasphemy laws, and was in favor of a mercy petition for Asia.

Two months later, on March 2, 2011, Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian and Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, was assassinated by the Tehrik- i-Taliban for opposing the country’s blasphemy laws. He was riding in his car when it was sprayed with bullets. He was also an outspoken advocate for Asia.

Asia’s case has been appealed, though the appeal was denied in 2014 by the Lahore High Court. In 2015 the Supreme Court stated that Asia’s death sentence would be suspended for the duration of its appeal process. Asia’s case has been postponed multiple times for various reasons. External pressure has been put on the courts, with Islamic leaders urging the courts to hang all those accused of blasphemy, and threatening to kill those who attempt to aid those accused.

Though justice has not yet been brought to Asia, believers worldwide still pray for her freedom, including Jubilee Campaign. Efforts have been made in the U.S. to urge Pakistan to repeal their blasphemy laws. In June 2015, Congressman Joe Pitts and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee introduced H.Res. 290 “Calling for the global repeal of blasphemy laws.” The resolution calls on the President and State Department to make repealing blasphemy laws a priority topic when dealing with countries with such laws. It also urges for Pakistan to be designated as a Country of Particular Concern by the State Department.

Source: Jubilee Campaign



Pakistan: Christian boy, 16, arrested for Kaaba ‘blasphemy’

In another village, Christians attacked after Muslims’ Friday prayers

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Nabeel Masih, 16, is alleged to have “defamed” the Kaaba in Mecca, the building at the centre of Islam’s most sacred mosque. Amalia Sari / Flickr / CC

A 16-year-old Christian boy has been accused of committing blasphemy by “liking” and sharing a post on Facebook which “defamed and disrespected” the Kaaba in Mecca, the building at the centre of Islam’s most sacred mosque.
Most of the Christians in the boy’s village have since fled their homes for fear of an angry backlash against them.

At around 3pm on Sunday (18 Sep.), several police vans raided Nabeel Masih’s house in Dina Nath village – in the Kasur district of Punjab province, 30 miles southwest of Lahore. There are at least 300 Christian homes in the village.

The complainant, Akhtar Ali, filed this accusation at the nearby Phoolnagar Police Station: “On 18 September, I was with my friends Bakht Khan and Saddam … We took our friend Waqar’s mobile phone and started seeing pictures of his various friends on Facebook. But when we opened Nabeel Masih’s profile, there was a picture posted in which the Kaaba is defamed and disrespected. Seeing that picture, our religious feelings were hurt.”

“It was only a mistake and he clearly stated that he did not intend to hurt [anyone] but to condemn the post.”

–Imran Masih
Nabeel’s cousin, Imran, 24, told World Watch Monitor that Nabeel had nothing against Muslims and meant no harm.

“It was only a mistake by him and he clearly stated that he did not intend to hurt but to condemn the post,” Imran said. He added that Nabeel is illiterate and works as a labourer in a nearby ghee factory.

Pastor Samuel Masih, who was visiting his sisters in the village, said that, although everything seemed calm, “many of the Christians have left the area due to fear of security”.

Phoolnagar Police Station head, Shahbaz Ahmed Dogar, reiterated that everything was under control and urged Christians to return.

“There was no announcement from mosque loudspeakers or any gathering of people,” he said. “Those who have left the area have taken only precautionary measures and I would encourage them to return to their houses.”

In several instances in the past, Christian neighbourhoods in Pakistan have been targeted following blasphemy allegations, resulting in the looting, ransacking and burning of Christian homes. In 2009, more than 100 Christian homes were ransacked and set on fire in Gojra, near Faisalabad, while in March 2013 another 150 Christian homes were set on fire in Lahore’s Joseph Colony.

Christians attacked after Friday prayers

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Shahzad Masih, 25, his brother Zahid, 23, and his mother Parveen, were hospitalised after the attack. World Watch Monitor

Meanwhile, a poor Christian neighbourhood in a remote village 20 miles south of Faisalabad came under attack after Muslim Friday prayers on 16 September.
Five people were hospitalised, including two women who also faced public humiliation after their clothes were torn, but police said the injuries were not sufficient for the formal registration of a case.

At least 20 men armed with sticks and firearms attacked the Christian neighbourhood – in the village of Chajwal, in the Samundri district. The incident took place only the day after the Punjab Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Affairs, Khalil Tahir Sandhu, told local media that “minorities in Pakistan are more secured (sic) than [in] other countries of the region”.

Villager Razaq Masih, 55, lodged a formal complaint at the Samundri Saddar Police Station, in which he named six alleged attackers. He said that, at around 4pm on Friday, those six, alongside 30-35 others, came to the village, “yelling that today they would teach a lesson to these ‘chuhras’* … [and] attacked the Christians”.

Masih added that the assailants had stormed into the house of a Christian woman, Sharifan Bibi, “torn [her] clothes” and “while beating her, dragged her … out of the house”.

“My sons are labourers and they had just returned from their work. I tried to save my sons, after which they beat me with clubs and attacked us with bricks.”

–Parveen Bibi
Parveen Bibi said she was also beaten as she tried to protect her two sons – Shahbaz, 25, and Zahid, 23.

“My sons are labourers and they had just returned from their work,” she told World Watch Monitor from her hospital bed. “I [pleaded with the attackers] and tried to save my sons, after which they beat me with clubs and attacked us with bricks.”

Arif Masih, 55, who also works as a labourer, was returning home from a wedding when he was beaten.

“I could not even understand why they were beating me,” Masih told World Watch Monitor at the hospital.

Hundreds of Christians from the village gathered together on Sunday evening (18 Sep.) and resolved to seek justice. They told World Watch Monitor the attackers must have had support from local politicians, which is why the police had refused to officially register the case, and said they were fearful of further attacks.

“About 300 to 400 Christian households are in Chajwal, whom the influential community of Gujjars [an agricultural caste] have been trying to suppress for a while,” said Shahid Masih Paul, chairman of Christ Assemblies International, a Pentecostal group. “The Gujjars are influential in the area. Decades ago, these Christians were dependent … on [these] landlords, but over time their number has decreased and most of them work as labourers in the city.”

What sparked the attack?

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Christians gathered on Sunday evening (18 Sep.) and resolved to seek justice. They said they suspected the attackers had support from local politicians and that they were fearful of further attacks. World Watch Monitor

Razaq Masih told World Watch Monitor that he had been sitting with a Muslim man in front of some Christian homes, when some Gujjars, as well as people from the Julaha (weavers) caste, arrived and wanted to beat up the man.
“They had a grudge against him because of a relationship he had a year ago with a young woman, who was also Muslim,” Masih explained. “The Christians intervened and said that if the relationship had ended, then why should he be beaten? Within no time, about 30 men arrived, yelling that we will teach these ‘chuhras’ a lesson for raising their heads [to defend the Muslim].”

Chairman Paul said that the Gujjar and Julaha communities had long wanted to direct their sewerage water into the cesspit beside the Christian community, but that “Christians have been refusing because they think that the pond would then overflow and their houses would be inundated. That is the core issue. It is not bearable for the Gujjar and Julaha that these poor Christians, who have long been their tenants, have started to resist them.”

Razaq Masih said all the Christians live on government land. “They have not been able to buy the land, but for decades they have been living there. If the [Gujjars] are allowed to channel their sewerage water there and it inundates the Christians’ houses, they would then have to leave the village.”

Rao Kashif, provincial parliamentarian for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, told World Watch Monitor that he could not confirm whether or not the Christians were beaten up.

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Arif Masih: ‘I could not even understand why they were beating me.’ World Watch Monitor

“I regularly come to my office but how can I know if none of them has come to me?” he said.
The Christians complained that since the incident no parliamentarian has yet raised their case. In the past, many incidents of violence against Christians have taken place, which have been seen as a precursor for later evicting them from the government land they live on.

Christians continue to be regarded as lower-class citizens and are often forced to live in the less desirable parts of an area, such as close to sewerage-filled ponds. This attitude towards them is reinforced from schooldays onwards.

A recent report by Pakistan’s National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) says the government has failed to keep its promise to eradicate religious “hate material”, including against minority Christians, from textbooks used in schools.

After the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in Dec. 2014, the government introduced a 20-point National Action Plan to discourage religious extremism and to provide a counter-narrative to promote religious harmony, saying an “end to religious extremism and [the] protection of minorities will be ensured”. However, the NCJP report, “Freedom from Suffocating Education”, claims that no curriculum reforms have so far been adopted at the school level, aside from the production of a few booklets.

This backs up the findings of another recent report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which concluded: “The trend toward a more biased curriculum towards religious minorities is accelerating. These grossly generalized and stereotypical portrayals of religious minority communities signal that they are untrustworthy, religiously inferior, and ideologically scheming and intolerant.”

The NCJP report, which focused on textbooks used in the 2015-16 school year, noted that “hate material” previously identified had not been removed from the curriculum yet.

Source: World Watch Monitor



ASIA BIBI SUPREME COURT APPEAL DATE SET FOR SECOND WEEK IN OCTOBER

Pakistani Christians pray for her freedom and their safety!

 

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Asia Bibi – will she finally be freed?

By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service

Pakistani Christians have expressed great joy and fear after receiving news that Asia Bibi, Pakistan’s most famous blasphemy law victim, will finally have her long awaited Supreme Court appeal hearing during the second week of October.

The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Anwar Zaheer Jamali, yesterday (Monday, August 22, 2016), ordered the Supreme Court to fix a date in October, the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) were advised by Asia’s solicitor (lawyer).

Asia Bibi’s nightmare back in June of 2009, when she was harvesting falsa berries with a group of mainly Muslim women farmhands in a field in Sheikhupura in Punjab Province. She was asked at one point to fetch water from a nearby well; to which she complied, but stopped to take a drink with an old metal cup she had found lying next to the well.Asia_Bibi_use

A neighbor of Asia, who had allegedly been involved in a running feud with her family about some property damage, saw her and angrily told her that it was forbidden for a Christian to drink water from the same utensil from which Muslims drank, and some of the other workers considered her to be “unclean” because she was a Christian.

Some arguments ensued and Asia recounts that when they made derogatory statements about her religion, she responded by telling them, “I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind?”

This incensed the women, and later, some of the workers complained to a local Islamic cleric claiming that she had insulted Muhammad and soon an angry mob came to her house, beating her and members of her family before she was rescued by the police. One report even alleged that she was gang-raped for her alleged crime of blasphemy, was been beaten all the way home, and then her children were later sexually molested.

The police initiated an investigation about her remarks, resulting in her arrest under Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code. She subsequently was imprisoned for over a year upon the demands of the local Iman, before being formally charged under Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws. Asia Bibi has now been incarcerated since June 2009.

Ms. Bibi denied that she had committed blasphemy and said that she had been accused by her neighbor to “settle an old score”. In November 2010, Muhammed Naveed Iqbal, a judge at the court of Sheikhupura, sentenced her to death by hanging. Additionally, a fine of the equivalent of $1,100 was imposed. With the verdict, she became the first woman condemned to death in Pakistan on blasphemy charges.

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Salmaan Taseer with Asia Bibi, a meeting that is thought to have cost him his life.

Asia Bibi described the day of her sentencing as follows: “I cried alone, putting my head in my hands. I can no longer bear the sight of people full of hatred, applauding the killing of a poor farm worker. I no longer see them, but I still hear them, the crowd who gave the judge a standing ovation, saying: ‘Kill her, kill her! Allahu Akbar! The court house is invaded by a euphoric horde who break down the doors, chanting: ‘Vengeance for the holy prophet. Allah is great!’ I was then thrown like an old rubbish sack into the van… I had lost all humanity in their eyes.”

“Asia Bibi, has always upheld that she will be set free by God’s grace even when it has seemed like there was no chance of freedom,” said a spokesperson for the BPCA. “After a failed appeal at the Lahore High Court on October 16, 2014, many thought freedom was beyond Asia Bibi.

“However, in a pre-trial hearing at Pakistan’s Supreme Court on July 22, 2015, the court suspended her death sentence permitting an appeal. In her appeal hearing Asia intends to ask the court to reconsider deficiencies in the case which include poor investigation and manipulated evidence by the local police.”

The appeal was originally meant to have been held on March 26, 2016, but after the judiciary and Government of Pakistan decided to push through with the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri under anti-terrorism laws they were forced to postpone Asia Bibi’s appeal hearing.

Mumtaz Qadri had admitted to assassinating Salmaan Taseer, the then Governor of Punjab for his stance calling for abrogation of the draconian blasphemy laws of Pakistan and freedom for Asia Bibi.

In the wake of Mr Qadri’s death a wave of demonstrations, including 100,000 Muslims encamped during a sit in protest outside Government buildings in Islamabad, where they demanded termination of proposed reforms of the blasphemy laws of Pakistan and death for Asia Bibi.

The government caved in on the law reforms which had passed through Parliament and were to be ratified in the Senate of Pakistan. Many Christians at this point thought Asia Bibi’s chance of freedom had run out and that the government had failed her and other minorities – especially when they postponed her case due to the scale of social schism.

“However,” continued the BPCA spokesperson, “news of the revised date for the appeal hearing has now induced mixed feelings. Many Pakistani Christians believe the date will be postponed again when the Muslim protests for Asia Bibi’s death resume, they still recall the five postponements before Asia Bibi had her Lahore High Court Appeal rejected.

“Moreover, despite their joy and delight that Asia Bibi will have her day in court and a chance for justice, they fear that a community backlash will result in attacks on the innocent Christian communities across the country. Despite their fears every Pakistani Christian stands with Asia Bibi and is praying for her release.”

Whilst in prison Asia Bibi has been forced to cook her own food due to attempts to poison her, whist bullying from other inmates has also meant she is forced to stay in isolation. Last year BPCA reported on her failing health.

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Mumtaz Qadri after his arrest.

This Supreme Court hearing will be the final opportunity for Asia Bibi to gain freedom through the country’s law courts. Failing this she will have to rely on a presidential pardon under article 45 of the Constitution of Pakistan, which states:

45. President’s power to grant pardon, etc.-The President shall have power to grant pardon, reprieve and respite, and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority.

Wilson Chowdhry, the Pakistan-born Chairman of the BPCA, said in a message sent to ANS: “Asia Bibi has suffered the injustice of five years’ imprisonment for a made up crime. A cultural faux pas and innocuous comment made while being attacked, led to her being raped, her children being sexually molested, and her arrest under the draconian blasphemy laws of Pakistan for good measure yet no-one else was arrested for the violence to her?

“As a devout Christian she continues to believe that God will free her from her ignominious incarceration. She prays daily and has placed her life and her family before God.”

Mr. Chowdhry berated previous governments for failing to free Asia, adding, “I have spoken to Pakistani government officials and the judiciary. All of them express great shock at the ongoing abuse of her liberty. Yet Asia’s tragedy continues. I have come to the conclusion that all I have been receiving is diplomatic lip service, devoid of passion for justice.

“Asia’s story is one of oppression and discrimination and despite international pressure, statutory authorities and the Government of Pakistan have failed her, just as they have failed all minorities in Pakistan.”

He concluded by saying, “Freedom for Asia Bibi would be a watershed moment in the campaign for justice, equality and freedom for minorities in Pakistan. Previous governments have failed miserably, but I believe the incumbent Government is genuinely attempting to restore the balance. I hope that effective protection is provided to Asia and her family, the judiciary and all persons that could make this latest appeal a success. Any half-hearted approach will undermine Asia’s trial and create a further blight on Pakistan’s reputation.”

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Pakistani Muslims demand the hanging of Asia Bibi.

Still, BPCA told ANS that it expects a “large mob of Muslims baying for the blood of Asia Bibi outside the Supreme court during the hearing, a scene very common to trials of this nature in Pakistan.”

The spokesperson said, “We are calling on the Pakistani Government to ensure that known ring-leaders are rounded up and prosecuted under the countries incitement to hatred laws.

Main Pakistani Muslims demand execution of Asia Bibi“If these extremist elements are allowed to foment violence against innocent Christians, then it will be the government and security forces that will be to blame. Any community tension must be controlled and attacks curbed by security forces ensuring that innocent Christian communities are protected, during a time when their pariah status is set to reach epic levels.”

Many Christians in Pakistani are deeply concerned that if she is finally freed, she and her family would be the immediate target for assassins in an extra-judicial killing as they left the court. Already, the Mayor of Paris, France, has offered sanctuary to them, but in view of recent terrorist attacks there, they may not be safe. So please prayer for this situation.

The BPCA has told ANS that it has continued its appeal to support the Asia Bibi and her family. If you would like to donate towards the upcoming appeal, please go to: https://britishpakistanichristians.worldsecuresystems.com/donate.

To sign the BPCA Petition on behalf of Asia Bibi, go to: http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/justice4asia.

 

Source: ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)



Gojra: Muslims doing kindness to Christians as they join hands to build a church in a Muslim majority village

Muslims join forces with Christians in a village of Gojra, and help build a church. Together they have managed to erect boundary walls of the church. In a spectacular display of brotherhood, the villagers are constructing first ever church in the village. “Our mosque stands here from times past, but our Christian brothers also have the right to worship in their church,’ says a local Muslim villager Ijaz Farooq.

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“We have a place to worship, but, Christians do not have one,” Ijaz Farooq said. In the midst of escalating situation of religious extremism and intolerance in the country, such communities also exist where Christians and Muslims live in harmony.

Locals of the village, which is nigh Gojra, a town in Punjab province. What is more, the Muslim villagers are also contributing in the funds for the construction of the church. Thus far, Christians and Muslims have managed to collect about fifty thousand Pakistani rupees for the construction of the church.

Continuing with same zeal and passion, Christians and Muslims endeavoring to realize their dream of Saint Joseph’ Church. The Muslim majority village is home to eight Christian families. Strikingly, Christians and Muslims live together as they seem to know not the concept of religious discrimination.

“As far as I can remember, we have been living together, we partake in each other’s happiness, sorrows and religious festivals,” says one Christian villager Faryal Masih. He went on to pray,” May the Lord protects, everyone of incidents like the one in Gojra,” he added, “However, we are rest assured that our Muslim neighbors will stand by our side in times of trouble.”

Source: Christians in Pakistan