Human Rights Without Frontiers – Indian Christians beaten ‘with rods and sticks’

World Watch Monitor, 17 October 2017. A Christian man involved in church work across ten villages in the southern Indian state of Telangana was severely beaten earlier this month, a source told World Watch Monitor.

The victim, known as Pastor Seviya, “was attacked by five Hindu extremists with rods and thick sticks … until he became unconscious”, the source said.

The pastor was “in a critical stage for many days” in hospital because of head injuries sustained during the attack on 5 October. He had blood clots on the brain and bleeding from his ears, added the source.

A similar incident on 13 October left another church leader “bleeding profusely” and later hospitalised and needing 12 stitches to his head.

Pastor Khel Prasad Kurre was attacked by Hindu extremists in Chhattisgarh state on his way home after visiting a member of his church, a source told World Watch Monitor.

Kurre said three or four men called out to him while he was riding his motorcycle. When he stopped, the men rushed towards him and started beating him with sticks. Kurre shouted for help, and when people from the village arrived, his attackers fled, also stealing his phone.

When Kurre later reported the incident to the police, he was informed that his attackers had earlier visited the station to report that he was converting people to Christianity.

Kurre said police officers threatened to arrest him on charges of luring people into Christianity and that this put him off filing an official complaint against his attackers.

Chhattisgarh is one of eight Indian states to have passed so-called ‘anti-conversion laws’, which ostensibly seek to eliminate forced conversions from one set of beliefs to another, but in reality dissuade all conversions.

Five of these states are led by the BJP – the Hindu nationalist party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In Jharkhand, the most recent state to pass the law, senior church leaders recently called on the prime minister to help control the “ideological hatred” of the state’s BJP chief minister, who, a day before the bill was passed, published advertisements in daily newspapers using pictures of Mahatma Gandhi and a quote ridiculing missionaries carrying out “fraudulent conversions”.

In two states ‘anti conversion’ laws are not active, while in a third, Himachal Pradesh, parts of the law were repealed after a court challenge was brought by the Evangelical Fellowship of India.

http://hrwf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/India.pdf

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Human Rights Without Frontiers – Pakistani Christian on death row among nominees for Sakharov Prize

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 2 October 2017. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have presented their nominations for this year’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, including Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death in 2010 under Pakistan´s blasphemy law.

Polish MEP Anna Fotyga of the conservative ECR group in the European Parliament said on October 2 that Bibi’s “behavior in prison, the dignity she has shown during all these years is the best proof of her being able to represent the dignity of a defender of human rights in the face of the worst fate.”

Fotyga spoke at a joint meeting of the foreign affairs, development, and human rights committees in Strasbourg.
Bibi has been on a death row for almost seven years and her appeal to Pakistan’s Supreme Court has been postponed to an undetermined date.

She was convicted and sentenced to hang after an argument with a Muslim woman over a bowl of water. Her supporters maintain her innocence and insist it was a personal dispute.

Under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam can be sentenced to death. Rights groups say blasphemy laws are often abused to carry out personal vendettas, mainly against minority Christians.

Bibi is among six nominees for the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov Prize, which honors individuals and organizations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The others nominees are Guatemalan human rights defender Aura Lolita Chavez Ixcaquic; Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, co-chairs of a pro-Kurdish party in Turkey; a group of people representing the Venezuelan opposition; the Swedish-Eritrean prisoner of conscience Dawit Isaak; and Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, a human rights defender from Burundi.

On October 10, the European Parliament’s foreign affairs and development committees are scheduled to vote on a shortlist of three finalists and the laureate is to be announced on October 26. The award ceremony will take place at the parliament in Strasbourg in December.

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http://hrwf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Pakistan2017.pdf

Human Rights Without Frontiers – Christians in Nepal sentenced to prison for praying for ill woman are released

Oral appeal hearing in case of Danish Jehovah’s Witness continued to 28 September

Morning Star News, 22 September 2017. Four Christians in Nepal sentenced to five years in prison on false charges of “witchcraft” and “violence” were released today after a high court annulled their convictions, church leaders said.

Lali Pun, Bimkali Budha, Suk Lal Pariyar and Ganga Pariyar had been accused in Salyan District Court on May 19, 2016 for praying for a mentally troubled woman, Seti Pariyar, according to the Federation of National Christian Nepal (FNCN).

On 19 December 2016 they were convicted of witchcraft, violence and holding Seti Pariyar against her will, though the woman testified that she was not mistreated or captive and had been healed by the prayer.

Besides the prison sentences, the Christians had been told to pay a fine of 50,000 Nepalese rupees (US$475), an overwhelming sum in Nepal. A fifth Christian, Rupa Thapa, was arrested with them but was declared not guilty and released in 2016.

“FNCN would like to thank Higher Court, Surkhet for setting free our innocent people,” said FNCN co-general secretary Sagar Baizu in the statement. “We would also like to inform you all that the FNCN has already arranged the shelter and other things for the victimized people and education for their children.”

FNCN representatives had petitioned for the Christians’ release, and on 10 September High Court Surkhet Judges Mahesh Sharma Paudel and Krishna Thapa invalidated the 19 December 2016 convictions by the Salyan District Court, Baizu said.

Relatives of Seti Pariyar, said to be mentally ill, had taken her to the four Christians’ Samuel Church for healing prayer in Kubine-4, Jiamire, Salyan District, on 19 May 2016, according to the FNCN. Accusing her of witchcraft, the relatives had raked her “with stinging nettle and fed her stool” while bringing her to the church, the FNCN reported.

The four Christians were not charged for months after their arrest, according to the FNCN. The umbrella body said accusers intentionally twisted the facts to fabricate a case against the four Christians, and that authorities forced them to sign a document whose contents the accused did not know.

Area church leaders believe the four Christians were set up.

“There is a risk that this type of well-designed plan can happen any time among the Christian community,” an earlier FNCN statement noted, concluding that the Christians were targeted for their faith.

“About the incident, the victims told us face-to-face that what they have done is for the benefit of the sick woman, as she was brought by her relatives for prayer for healing,” the FNCN statement noted.

Seti Pariyar’s husband also testified that she was not mistreated or held against her will.

The arrest and conviction of the four Christians came at a time when Nepal’s Hindu majority was increasingly influencing authorities to harass Christians.

While Nepal has long outlawed evangelisation, a new constitution in 2015 and the release of implementing laws last month reinforced existing prohibitions against evangelising, and Hindu interests have used them to falsely accuse Christians.

Last year a court dropped charges against eight Christians who had been wrongly arrested for distributing Christian comic books in a Christian school.

Under the implementing laws approved on 8 August 2017, those convicted of converting or undermining “the religion, faith or belief that any caste, ethnic group or community has been observing since eternal times” can be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

A conviction for “hurting religious sentiment” can result in up to two years in prison and a fine.

In the harassment of eight Christians last year, seven men and one woman were arrested in Charikot, Dolakha District in June 2016 as part of a crack-down on Christian activities in the fledgling democracy. They were reportedly mistreated in jail before being released on bail.

While the new constitution passed in September 2015 establishes Nepal as a secular and democratic republic, its definition of “secular” appears to protect Hinduism and allows others only to worship in their own faiths. Article 26 forbids anyone to “convert a person of one religion to another religion, or disturb the religion of other people.”

Advocacy groups have recently detected increased enforcement and other anti-Christian efforts as officials seek to placate Hindus incensed that the new constitution did not re-establish a more prominent place for Hinduism.

The eight Christians were acquitted on 6 December 2016 after being charged with trying to convert children to Christianity. They were using the comic booklets as part of a counseling program for children traumatised by earthquakes on April 25, 2015 and May 12, 2015.

The Christians were arrested after Teach Nepal, a Kathmandu-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), organised two trauma counseling sessions at two schools in Charikot.

The earthquake trauma sessions took place at Modern Nepal School and Mount Valley Academy in Charikot, with children receiving a small gift pack that included the 23-page Christian comic book.

A landlocked country between the giants of India and China, Nepal is said to be more than 75 percent Hindu and 16 percent Buddhist. Christians are estimated to make up nearly 3 percent of Nepal’s population, and Muslims 4.4 percent.

In 2009, the Hindu extremist Nepal Defense Army bombed a Catholic Mass at the Assumption Church in the capital city of Kathmandu, killing two women and a schoolgirl.

http://hrwf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Nepal2017.pdf

Human Rights Without Frontiers – Pakistan: Documented cases of Ahmadis behind bars

By Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers

HRWF, 22 August 2017.  Ahmadis are persona non grata in Pakistan (1). They are routinely arrested on false charges of blasphemy, kept for years in prison without any judgment or sentenced to several years of deprivation of freedom. As of August 2017, the following Ahmadis were in prison in Pakistan.

Ghulam Ahmad, Ihsan Ahmad, Mubashir Ahmad

On 13th May 2014, a case was opened against these three Ahmadis from Bhoiwal (District Sheikhupura) at the Police Station Sharaqpur after someone tore down an anti-Ahmadi poster. A fourth Ahmadi who was involved the case was murdered three days later by a madrassah student while in police custody.

They were all accused of violating Article 295-A (2) of the Pakistani Penal Code (PPC) on blasphemy. On 25th May 2017, they were refused bail by the Supreme Court. The bench hearing the case comprised three judges: Manzoor A. Malik, Sardar Tariq Masoor and Mazhar Sher.

The three Ahmadis were arrested on 18th July 2014. They have been in prison for the last three years without any judgment.

Tahir Mahdi Imtiaz

Tahir Mahdi Imtiaz, who is the printer of the Ahmadiyya monthly Ansarullah, was arrested by the police on 30th March 2015 in the premises of a Lahore court where he had gone to seek confirmation of bail in another fabricated case registered with Millat Town police on behest of mullas, more than a year before.

In 2015, he was accused of deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion of religious beliefs (PPC Section 295-A).

Defiling, etc. of the Holy Qur’an (PPC Section 295-B).

Use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet, punishable with life imprisonment or death (PPC Section 295-C).

He was also charged under the 1997 Anti-Terrorism Act, Article 8-W, which prohibits acts intended or likely to stir up sectarian hatred, including: using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, displaying, publishing, distributing, or possessing written material, visual images, or sounds, which are threatening, abusive or insulting. He will be tried by an anti-terror court.

He rejects all the accusations. He was denied bail. He has been in prison since 2015 without any judgment.

Qamar Ahmad Tahir

He was arrested on 20th November 2015 after a major arson attack in Jehlum by a mob on Pakistan Chip-board Factory which was owned by an Ahmadi and of which he was a security official (See pictures at https://www.dawn.com/news/1221273). The incident resulted in riots, extensive damage to Ahmadiyya property and massive flight of Ahmadis from the locality.

The next day, a mob attacked the local Ahmadiyya mosque, set fire to its furnishings and occupied it. The police made some arrests but most of the attackers and arsonists were released on bail.

On 1st July 2017, after 19 months of pre-trial detention, Mr Liaquat Ali Ranjha, Additional Session Judge, sentenced Qamar Ahmad Tahir was sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly defiling the Holy Quran (PPC article 295-B) during the November 2015 events in Jehlum. He denies the charges.

Shakoor Bhai and Mazhar Abbas

On 2nd December 2015, officials of Punjab’s Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) accompanied by a contingent of the Elite Force raided Shakoor Bhai’s bookshop, arrested him as well as Mazhar Abbas, the shop assistant, a Shia. He was accused of selling religious books published by the Ahmadiyya Community.

The books found in his store (including copies of the Holy Quran) were purely religious in nature and in no way incited or condoned the use of violence. Two days later, a speedy trial in an anti-terrorism court dispensed five years’ imprisonment to each of the accused.

Shakoor, 81,was sentenced to three additional years in prison under the anti-Ahmadiyya law.

Sabah ul Zafar and Idrees Ahmad

On 5th December 2016, twenty-eight armed police contingent of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) carried out a raid on Ahmaddiyya central offices and Zia-ul-Islam Press in Rabwah. They arrested four Ahmaddiyya officials. Two of them were released.

Sabah ul Zafar and Idrees Ahmad remained behind bars as bail was not granted to them. They were sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.

Amjad Iqbal Salooni and Ikram Ilahi

These two Ahmadis were arrested on 15th March 2017 for preaching their faith. They were charged under Article 295-A and 298-C of the PPC. A judge added terrorism clauses to the case and set it to an anti-terrorism court. Their pleas for bail were rejected. On 31st May 2017, a judge in Faisalabad sentenced them to three years in prison.

Footnotes

1. In 1974, Prime Minister Bhutto amended the Pakistani Constitution to declare Ahmadis non-Muslims. Then, in 1984, under General Zia, the Government of Pakistan enacted Ordinance XX that made it a criminal offence for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslims, to call their place of worship a ‘mosque’, to use the Islamic greeting ‘Assalamo alaikum’ (Peace be on you) and to preach or propagate their faith. Any of the above acts is punishable by three years imprisonment or by death if convicted under the blasphemy laws.

2. Pakistan Penal Code, Chapter XV: Offences relating to religion

295. Injuring or defiling place of worship, with Intent to insult the religion of any class: Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction damage or defilement as an insult to their religion, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

295-A. Deliberate and malicious acts Intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting Its religion or religious beliefs: Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the ‘religious feelings of any class of the citizens of Pakistan, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations insults the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, or with fine, or with both. Sec. 295-A ins. by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, XXV of 1927.

295-B. Defiling, etc, of Holy Qur’an : Whoever willfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Qur’an or of an extract therefrom or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life. Sec. 295-B added by P.P.C. (Amendment) Ordinance, I of 1982.

295-C. Use of derogatory remarks, etc, in respect of the Holy Prophet: Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine. Sec. 295-C ins. by the Criminal Law (amendment) Act, 111 of 1986, S. 2

Source:
http://www.oecd.org/site/adboecdanti-corruptioninitiative/46816797.pdf

Human Rights Without Frontiers – Indian Christians faced almost as many attacks in first half of 2017 as all of 2016

World Watch Monitor, 8 August 2017. In the first six months of 2017, Indian Christians were harassed, threatened or attacked for their faith in 410 reported incidents (248 in the first quarter), almost as many as the total for the whole of 2016 (441).

This is according to figures compiled by partners of Open Doors, the global charity which monitors the treatment of Christians worldwide to produce an annual World Watch List of the 50 most difficult countries for them to live in.
Last year, India was at its highest ever on the List, at no. 15; it looks set to rise higher in 2018 if present trends continue.

In January, April, May and June the number of incidents this year were more than double that of 2016.

In February and March the number is nearly double that of 2016.

There were two killings in the first half of 2017.

Eighty-four incidents were of violent assault (by Hindu extremists in 99% of cases): most beatings were severe.

In 32 of them, Christians would have died if timely medical-aid had not been provided.

A local partner told Open Doors, “When Christians are beaten up by extremists, they are injured mostly on their heads or vital body parts. There was one incident earlier this year when the victim was attacked by a sword to his head.

He was bleeding profusely and was critically injured… Attackers do not care if the person dies. They know they will not be punished because the Government (and hence the judiciary) will take their side. In most cases attackers go unpunished.”

In 37 incidents, victims were socially boycotted, or threatened with it, by Hindu villagers if they didn’t change their religion back to Hinduism.

In a further 34 incidents, victims were forced to leave their homes since they didn’t want to leave Christianity. (In 14 of these, victims had to completely leave their village or city).

The number of incidents against Christians in the six-most-populous Indian states has also been recorded.
The increase in persecution incidents in India has never been at such a great rate, say analysts.

In Maharashtra, which last week passed a bill to criminalise social exclusion based on religion, caste or race, 80 incidents against Christians were recorded (32 last year).

In Chhattisgarh, one of five states to have an ‘anti-conversion’ law, 122 incidents were recorded (72 last year).

This week, Jharkhand is the latest state to bring to its Parliament a bill for a similar “anti-conversion” law.

Hindunisation

Although the current ruling party, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), talks about secularism and unity, the background reality is that it is a centre-right party built as the political wing of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). RSS, a Hindu nationalist organisation, is widespread and openly upholds Hindu values and a conservative agenda.

So India is in a process of “Hindunisation”, born from the “Hindutva” ideology (literally: “Hindu principles”) of nationalism, which holds that the Indian nation can be a cohesive and aspiring force only if the tenets of one religion, one culture, and one nation are maintained.

RSS founder M S Golwalker identified five defining features of the Hindu nation, geographical unity, racial unity, cultural unity, linguistic unity, and the slogan “Hindu, Hindi, and Hindustan”.

He said:

“The non-Hindu people in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and revere Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but the glorification of the Hindu religion, that is, they must not only give up their attitude of intolerance and ingratitude towards this land and its age-long tradition, but must also cultivate the positive attitude of love and devotion instead; in one word they must cease to be foreigners or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment, not even citizens’ rights”.

One Christian leader said, “Before I converted to Christianity, I used to be a staunch Hindu. I also joined RSS at that time and started working with them. The party upholds Hindutva ideology and believes that if Christians in India aren’t controlled, they would convert all the Hindus in the country and Hindutva would lose its identity.

Hence RSS wants to do their best to stop Christians from preaching about their faith. They would go to any extremes for that. I myself persecuted many Christians until I came to the Christian faith and realised what I had been doing.”

The BJP, led by the federal Prime Minister Narendra Modi, rules many states. Modi categorically denies persecution of Christians or other minorities. During a TV show he said he has no knowledge of the burning of churches or other types of persecution.

It has been said by an official linked to Hindu extremists that India should be “free of Christians by 2021”.

Meanwhile, Christians face social exclusion, expulsion from villages, detention, threats, abuse, physical violence and sometimes killings. Open Doors’ partners have identified a pattern. They say:

Hindu extremists apply a five step process to ‘bring Christians home’:

1. Pastor is chased out of the community. Church members not allowed to contact him or to leave their village and worship with other Christians.
2. Extremists prevent Christians from participating in the society. They are not allowed to have a government job, trade, draw water from the well, buy food and other products from local stores or even to talk to other people in the village.
3. As the numbers show, physical violence happens more frequently too. Families are threatened, Christians are beaten up, girls and women may be raped, children may be kidnapped.
4. At some point, the Hindu priest will come to indoctrinate Christians, to remind them that they were born as Hindus and to persuade them to come back to the religion of their community.
5. If they still resist, they are often forcibly taken from their house, pushed into a Hindu procession and dragged to a temple. There they have to bow to idols, recite scriptures and are often smeared with cow dung and/or cow urine (to “cleanse” them).

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Human Rights Without Frontiers – Pakistani Christian boy, 16, charged with blasphemy for discussing his faith

World Watch Monitor, 19 July 2017. A 16-year-old Pakistani Christian boy has been charged with blasphemy for talking with a colleague about his belief in Jesus, the second such incident in a month.

Shahzad Masih, 16, a cleaner at a hospital in the city of Dinga (near the religiously conservative city of Gujrat), was arrested on 13 July after his colleague, Ishtiaq Ahmed Jalali, accused him of insulting Islam’s prophet Muhammad, a crime punishable with death in Pakistan.

A month earlier, on 15 June, Ashfaq Masih, 28, was arrested in the nearby city of Lahore for saying he believed Jesus to be the final prophet.

The latest incident took place at the Shameem Riaz Polyclinic. Jalali, who works at the hospital pharmacy, is a member of Tehreek-e-Tahfuz-e-Islam Pakistan, an organisation that strives to protect the name and honour of Muhammad.

It belongs to the Barelvi school of Islamic thought, which is considered “moderate” and has even faced criticism from other Muslims for its “polytheism” of worshipping at shrines.

Barelvis are known for the special respect they afford to Muhammad, more so than any other Islamic school of thought, and are chief supporters of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Shahzad Masih’s father, Shafaqat, who works as a labourer, told World Watch Monitor that the argument related to who Christian worship.

“My son told him that we follow Jesus and then their discussion became sour, at which point a doctor intervened and calmed them down,” he said.

The police complaint was lodged by another man, Nadeem Ahmed, who claims to have called Shahzad Masih from his mobile phone repair shop, which is beside the hospital, to ask him about what he’d said. In his report, Ahmed states that Masih repeated his “abusive words” against Muhammad and then fled.

Police reports in Pakistan, called First Information Reports (FIR), are often key in court cases, though the veracity of the claims in such reports is often the subject of contention.

Shafaqat Masih says that two days prior to the lodging of the FIR, his son’s colleague, Ishtiaq Jalali, told his son that Christians worship at the shrines of Muslim sages.

“My son told him that he didn’t know about this and he would ask me about it,” Shafaqat Masih said. “Then on 13 July, I was at work when he called me at around 4 pm. He had returned from hospital but they asked him to come to the mobile phone repair shop, which is in front of the hospital.

“I told him that it would take me some time to get there, so he should call his uncle, Rafaqat, whom I also called on the phone to go to him. I arrived at around 7 pm at the hospital, where they all had gathered. We tried to intervene, but they did not let us talk.

Then they told us that they did not want to make the matter public and wanted to settle it amicably. At the same time, they kept calling others to join them and a large number of clerics gathered while we three were all alone [Shahzad, his father and uncle].

“One of the clerics told me that the head of a nearby madrassah had called them to the madrassah to settle the matter, after which the entire mob went there.

“[His uncle] Rafaqat and I also went there, but I sent Rafaqat to go inside along with Shahzad, who they had in their custody. The leader of the group argued that the crime committed by Shahzad was punishable with death alone. While they were discussing this, two police vans arrived.

The chief policeman asked for Shahzad, but they were reluctant to give him up and only handed him over on the promise that the decision would be taken the next morning. As I was standing outside, I saw the police taking Shahzad along with them, but since then they haven’t allowed us to see him.”

The police chief, Shahbaz Hinjra, told a local newspaper that Masih was in their custody and that they were investigating the matter.

Former Punjab parliamentarian Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, leader of the largest Christian political party, told World Watch Monitor that he had personally investigated the matter and found that initial argument had centred over Shahzad Masih’s colleague’s attempts to convert him to Islam.

“When our people try to defend themselves and their faith then often it becomes an issue and later such cases are lodged,” he said.

One of Jalali’s relatives, Muhammad Saqib Shakeel Jalali, a leader of Tehreek-e-Tahfuz-e-Islam Pakistan, told a local TV station a day after Masih’s arrest: “If the blasphemer is acquitted of the charge then each member of our organisation would attack him.”

Masih’s father says he and his family have been on the run ever since. “We don’t even know what to eat and where to live,” he said.

His uncle, Rafaqat, told World Watch Monitor that there are about 25 Christian families in the area and no such incident had ever taken place before.

The Tehreek-e-Tahfuz-e-Islam Pakistan website claims that no suspect has yet been awarded the death penalty under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, even though the Christian woman Asia Bibi has been on death row for blasphemy since 2010.

The website also says that liberal Muslims want to amend the current blasphemy law and must be stopped, a key reason for the organisation’s founding 10 years ago. In April, a Muslim student was beaten to death in the city of Mardan following an accusation of blasphemy.

Several blasphemy cases have been registered before in Gujrat, one of the most conservative areas of the Punjab province. In August 2015, 15 Christians were accused of blasphemy after they used the word “apostle” to describe a pastor who had died years before.

Then in July 2016, a Christian man was accused of blasphemy after a religious argument on the messaging service WhatsApp. Both cases are still pending in the court.

http://bit.ly/2tqCqUD

http://hrwf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Pakistan2017.pdf

Human Rights Without Frontiers – Christians in shock after pastor shot dead in ‘safe’ Punjab

World Watch Monitor, 17 July 2017. The Christian community in Ludhiana, the largest city in India’s north-western state of Punjab, is in shock after a pastor was shot dead outside his Pentecostal church on Saturday evening (15 July).

Sultan Masih, 47, who also ran a school for the poor, was gunned down by two people on a motorbike, who shot him at close range outside the Temple of God Church, where he was senior pastor. He suffered multiple wounds to his body and head.

Hundreds of Christians took to the streets on Sunday (16 July), blocking off a major national highway (the road to Jalandhar) for three hours, and only ceasing once they had received assurances from the police that the perpetrators would be brought to justice.

“Pastor Sultan Masih was my neighbour and my friend,” fellow pastor Paul Tamizharasan told World Watch Monitor following the funeral today (17 July).

“Family members are grieving and we hope the government will catch the accused. We demand answers and have gone to the Punjab government, but they couldn’t find who did this.

“The state of Punjab is very safe in India for Christians. There are Sikhs living here, they are also a religious minority in India. We are also a minority, but never before have we had any threats. But unfortunately this has happened and we are all shocked about how this is possible. Nobody knows how this can happen.

“Two people came by bike. Every Saturday, the pastor, after finishing his Sunday-service preparations, at 8.30 pm he will come out. As usual, he had been talking with people outside, very casually. Then at 8.45, two people came very near, about 2-3 feet, and they shot his leg, and his face and his chest.”

CCTV cameras recorded footage of the attack, but a police spokesman said it was too dark to make out the attackers’ faces.

Masih had been pastor of the church for 20 years and also ran a school for the poor from inside the church. He is survived by his wife, Sarabjit, and sons, Elisha, 26, and Hanok, 18.

According to The Tribune, the Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, has promised 500,000 rupees (around $8,000) for Masih’s widow and a guaranteed job with the police for one of Masih’s sons. He also promised that the killers would be brought to justice.

Some reports say that Masih had received threats before his death. The police denied this but refused to rule out “terror” as a possible motive.

Meanwhile the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee said the attackers were trying to “disturb the peace” and called on the Christian community to “maintain the peace”.

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Human Rights Without Frontiers – Pakistan: Muslim university is the first to host a church in Pakistan

Catholic employees and students will soon be able to worship on campus

La Croix, 08 June 2017. In a corner of the University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF), a large banner at the entrance of a Christian area is emblazoned with the photos of a Catholic bishop and a picture of Saint Peter’s Roman Catholic Church. Additionally, the banner says “Let us make a house for the Lord”.

While most Pakistani universities host mosques, UAF will be the first to allow a church on its campus. An area has been set aside near the quarters of 70 Christian university employees, most of them working as sanitary workers, gardeners and support staff.

For Farrukh Habib, UAF music teacher, this is a dream come true.

“This will be the first Muslim university to have a minority place of worship. Now our children can access catechism right on their doorstep. Christian students are happy too. We thank both the university administration and the diocese”, Habib told ucanews.com.

“Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, the largest student union in the country usually oppose cultural activities in other universities but here they respect us,” he said.

More than 400 Christians in UAF celebrated when Bishop Joseph Arshad of Faisalabad, together with the Muslim Vice Chancellor of UAF, laid the church foundation stone on May 16.

Faisalabad Diocese will contribute 300,000 rupees (US$4,500) toward the project whose total cost is estimated at 7.6 million rupees. The university has allotted over a square kilometer for the church construction.

Established in 1906 as the first major institution of higher agricultural education in the undivided Punjab, UAF houses more than 20 mosques and has separate hostels for women and men.

The challenges

According to Habib, it was not easy to get the plan approved. “In the 1990s, we submitted a request for a church building but the administration did not agree. There were no lawns in the proposed plan but now a clean environment will also benefit the worshippers,” said Habib.

Back then, UAF employees said the dirt ground near their homes must be transformed as well as the church being built. “We need lawns as a venue to hold church programs as well as arrange marriages in our community,” Habib said.

Bishop Arshad held a ground-breaking ceremony for the campus church in 2015 but the project still stalled. Bishop Arshad said it took him another three years to negotiate with university officials.

“We had to work hard as many officers kept delaying our proposal,” Bishop Arshad said. “Finally, we have great news for the whole Christian community in Pakistan. This is a landmark for the diocese.”

Chapels in government-run health or educational facilities are a rare phenomenon in Pakistan which has suffered terrorism and religious fundamentalism for decades.

Most of the incidents of mob attacks and suicide bombings on Sunday worshipers have been reported in Punjab, home to over 1.5 million Christians.

There are no places of worship for Hindu or Sikh students in 108 state-run universities. As opposed to Muslims, who openly pray in parks and roads, Christians and other religious minorities prefer to pray indoors. However, Christian conventions still encourage the community to make the sign of the cross in public.

Saad Suleman, a doctoral candidate in Veterinary Medicine, said his Muslim friends congratulated him the day the university church was announced.

“Christian students face difficulty in getting combined rooms in the hostels [even though] we have a strong administration who try to avoid religious problems,” he said.

“The vice chancellor gave us permission to hold a Christmas program in 2014. However, it was canceled due to the Peshawar school massacre. We never asked again,” said Suleman.

“The Catholic cathedral, situated three kilometers from UAF, is our usual Sunday destination. Now we have our own church, we will be able to offer regular prayers like other students,” he added.

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Human Rights Without Frontiers – Pakistan: 62-year-old Ahmadi man shot dead in Rahim Yar Khan

Rana Tanveer

The Tribune, 04 May 2017. A 62-year-old Ahmadi man was shot dead on Wednesday night in Saddar area of Rahim Yar Khan district.

Basharat Ahmad was on his way to his house in Green Town from a petrol pump situated in Zahir Pir Road when unidentified assailants intercepted him. He was taken to a local hospital where doctors pronounced him dead on arrival. The 62-year-old sustained two bullet wounds.

The reason behind the murder is yet to be ascertained. However, Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya spokesperson Saleemuddin claimed Ahmad was targeted because of his religious beliefs.

“Ahmad had no enmity and was gunned down because of the hate campaign against Ahmadis,” the spokesperson said. He further said security agencies should take stern action against hate mongers who propagate Ahmadi killings.

A FIR has been registered under section 302 of Pakistan Penal Code, on the complaint of Ataul Quddoos, the son in law of the deceased.

Ahmad is the fourth Ahmadi to have been killed in the province in the past five weeks.

On April 18, Professor Tahira Malik was killed at her residence in Punjab University, Lahore. On April 7 Dr Ashfaq Ahmad, 68, a veterinary doctor and a PhD in food and nutrition, was on his way to an Ahmadi place of worship to offer prayers when he was targeted in Sabzazar area of Lahore.

Six Ahmadis killed in 2016, says report.

On March 30, Advocate Malik Saleem Latif, a cousin of Nobel laureate Dr Abdus Salam, was gunned down in Nankana Sahib while he was going to the court with his son Malik Awais on a motorcycle.

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http://hrwf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Pakistan2017-4.pdf

Human Rights Without Frontiers – Xinjiang court gives 5 Christians harsh sentences

ChinaAid, 25 April 2017. In a move that a defense attorney termed harsh, five Christians in China’s northwestern Xinjiang were jailed for 3-5 years on April 18 for participating in the planning of a Bible study.

On April 18, a court in Changji, Xinjiang, sentenced Christians Yang Zhaocun and Wang Lulu to five years in prison, Cheng Yajie to four years, and Liu Yan and Zheng Lan to three years.

Officials tried the defendants last October on charges of illegal assembly and “gathering a crowd to disturb public order”, after they held a private Christian event at Zheng Lan’s home. The court did not notify the defense lawyers of the court’s verdict.

One defense attorney said, “The judges wrongfully determined the nature of the case, and the sentences were unreasonably harsh. How can private gatherings disrupt public order? The public security bureau exceeded its authority and crossed a line”.

During the trial, Wang and Cheng admitted that they participated in an “illegal assembly,” and Zheng confessed to hosting so-called “illegal religious activities”.

Their supposed crimes stem from a gathering of more than 50 Christians at Zheng’s home on 5 March 2016, where the congregants studied the Bible and listened to sermons.

According to a government document, Yang and Liu were responsible for researching potential meeting places and transporting the meeting’s attendees, activities which make them accessories to crime, while the others were labeled primary criminals.

When authorities raided the gathering, Yang, Zheng, Cheng, and Wang were taken into custody, while Liu was seized at her home.

All of the defendants plead innocent, and all are planning to appeal.

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http://hrwf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/China2017.pdf