Human Rights Without Frontiers – Indian Christians charged with ‘hurting religious sentiments’ by handing out Easter tracts

Tejaswi Ravinder

World Watch Monitor, 05 April 2018. Four Christians, including the wife of a church leader, have been charged with “hurting religious sentiments” after they handed out Christian tracts during an Easter procession in India’s southern Telangana state.

Rayapuri Jyothi, 38, Meena Kumari, 52, Mahima Kumari, 35 and Bagadam Sudhakar, 45, were taken into custody by police in the state capital, Hyderabad, at around 5.30 pm on Easter Sunday following a complaint by the leader of a local group affiliated with the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

They were later charged and released on bail on Tuesday, 3 April.

Jakkula Vinay Kumar, the patron of the Hindu Jana Shakti group, alleged the 20-25 Christians taking part in the march had entered the slum in the Dayarguda area of the city and attempted to convert the uneducated people there to Christianity.

But the Christians’ lawyer, Sudheer Kumar, told World Watch Monitor his complaint was only lodged after the Christians had already gone to the police to file their own complaint against Hindu Jana Shakti members, whom they accused of abusing them as they handed out the gospel tracts, which they were given permission to do by the local police.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Bhujanga Rao confirmed to local media that the Christians, members of New Blessings Church, had been given permission to hand out the tracts as part of their Easter procession.

“On the eve of Easter, yesterday, Christian brethren celebrating Easter in Dayarguda area were opposed by some men from distributing gospel tracts,” he told local media on Easter Monday.

“With permission from the police, we [the church] took out a peaceful procession, singing hymns, distributing tracts around our area,” one female church member said in a video that circulated on social media.

“When we were about to wind up and return back to the church premises, in the last moment, they [Hindu Jana Shakti members] attacked four Christians, and we went running back to their rescue.

“[The men] physically attacked the Christian youth and misbehaved with the women, and even tried to apply vermillion [a cosmetic powder] to the pastor’s wife.” (Vermillion is traditionally worn by married Hindu women, and only their husbands are permitted to apply it for them.)

She added that when she told the men they had obtained permission from the police, they grabbed her hand and ripped the bangles from it, shouting at her: “Do you know the law?” She said they then tore up the letter of permission she showed them, and started beating up some of the young Christian men in the group.

Some of the other church members told World Watch Monitor the men had said to them: “How dare you promote a religion! Will you also accept if we apply vermillion [a Hindu custom] to your forehead?”

“When we [Christians] resisted, they [Hindu Jana Shakti] paid no heed,” the church members told World Watch Monitor. “They called the women prostitutes and the Christians ‘children born out of prostitution’, and many such extremely foul words in the Telugu language spoken in the area.”

“We submitted a complaint to the police narrating the incident,” the leader of the church, who wished only to be identified as Andrew, told World Watch Monitor. “But they [Hindu Jana Shakti] ran ahead of us, to try to be first to give a complaint.”

In the First Information Report (FIR) lodged by the Christians, the Hindus were accused of assault, criminal intimidation, promoting enmity between classes and using force against a woman with the intention to “outrage” her modesty.

“The Hindutva elements are targeting small churches because we are weak, with less members, and also we don’t usually get the high level support from Christian leaders from all frontiers.”

The police assistant commissioner confirmed that three of the Hindu Jana Shakti members had been arrested, including its president Lalith Kumar.

A local source, who requested anonymity, told World Watch Monitor that several politicians from the Hindu nationalist BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, came to the police station to give their support to Kumar and pressure police to file a counter-FIR against the Christians.

“The police filed the FIR against the Christians without any evidence, but only because of the pressure,” the source said.

“What happens is the accused side will now try to silence the voice of witnesses, by threatening them, and, by hook or crook, they will see that no witness appears before the court during the trials, and with no witnesses or evidence, the benefit of doubt goes in the favour of the accused, resulting in their acquittal,” a legal expert, who did not wish to be named, told World Watch Monitor.

Police Inspector Prasanna Kumar remained unavailable for comment.

“Since the Christians were arrested post the court hours, I went to the magistrate’s house to release them on bail on 3 April,” the Christians’ lawyer, Sudheer Kumar, explained.

“The next day [4 April], we furnished the bail procedure. To safeguard themselves from the accusations, [the Hindus] filed a complaint against the Christians. All the BJP top cadre were at the police station, and have ensured the registration of [the] FIR.

“That evening after their [Hindu Jana Shakti] leaders were released on bail, they went to the church and threatened the Christians; I rushed to the police station and filed another FIR against them [which included charges on outraging the modesty of women].

He said they had used their contacts within the BJP to file the charges.

Pastor Andrew told World Watch Monitor that he and his church members were being spied on by members of the Hindu group and that he had received death threats. He said he is “very scared”, that he fears his phone is tapped and that he was told he would be killed “soon”.

“The Hindutva [hardline Hindu] elements are targeting small churches because we are weak, with less members, and also we don’t usually get the high level support from Christian leaders from all frontiers,” Pastor Andrew said.

“The reason the pastor and the church members are being threatened is they don’t want anyone to speak up when the matter is presented before the court,” said lawyer Kumar.

https://bit.ly/2HkBfKl

Advertisements

Human Rights Without Frontiers – 2017 ‘one of the most traumatic years for Indian Christians

Anto Akkara

World Watch Monitor, 19 February 2018. The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) has described 2017 as “one of the most traumatic” years for Indian Christians in a decade after it recorded 351 verified incidences of hate crimes against Christians during the year.

The Religious Liberty Commission of the EFI, which brings together Christians from more than 50 Protestant denominations, said the government needed to restore Christians’ trust in its ability to protect them.

The figure of 351 in the commission’s annual report, ‘Hate and Targeted violence against Christians in India’, was not exhaustive, the authors added.

“Most cases go unreported either because the victim is terrified, or the police, especially in the northern states, just turn a blind eye and refuse to record the mandatory First Information Report [criminal complaint registered by the police].”

The report, which was published on 16 February, said the commission had said that non-Hindu communities were being targeted “with impunity” and urged the Indian government to punish those who were “spreading hatred” against them.

The report’s authors drew parallels with the scale of violence experienced last year and what they termed the “pogrom” that took place in Kandhamal in 2008, when nearly 100 Christians were killed, 6,000 Christian houses and 300 churches were plundered, leaving 56,000 Christians homeless.

The number of recorded hate crimes against Christians in India shows a rise in recent years from 147 in 2014, to 177 in 2015, to 134 in the first six months of 2016.

The new report listed four murders, 110 incidences of “physical violence/arrest”, 70 of “threats and harassment”, 64 occasions when worship was forcibly stopped, and 49 cases of Christians being falsely accused and arrested.

The report noted that India’s Hindu-nationalist government had acknowledged in Parliament that “communal violence”, the term used to define clashes between religious groups, “increased 28 per cent over three years to 2017”.

EFI’s general secretary, Rev. Vijayesh Lal, told World Watch Monitor today (19 February) the situation for Indian Christians “is deteriorating pretty rapidly”.

He suggested that the rise in anti-Christian violence was eroding Christians’ trust in their government. “The confidence of the community in the government needs to be restored. We are presenting this report to the government to take necessary corrective action,” Rev. Lal said.

“I am afraid the worst will unfold in 2019,” Rev. Lal added, suggesting that there could be an escalation in anti-Christian violence around next spring’s elections, to stigmatise Christians as threat to “Hindu India”.

The report suggests the violence is focused on Sunday worship and Lent and Christmas. Many incidents targeted church services and 54 cases were recorded in April, and 40 in December, both above the monthly average of 29.

“It is distressing to see even private worship being attacked by Hindu right-wing activists violating the privacy and sanctity of an individual or a family and trampling upon their constitutional rights,” the report noted.

It also recorded new ways in which Christians were targeted. “Christian children going to attend Bible camps with their parents’ permission, being taken into custody [by police] and detained for days on suspicion of conversion is bizarre and unheard of,” the report noted.

Except for the southern state of Tamil Nadu, which reported the highest number incidents (52), most of the other incidents reported took place in central Indian states ruled by the BJP – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, which is known for pursuing a Hindu-nationalist agenda.

The violence in Tamil Nadu, the report noted, has “a disturbing overlay of caste discrimination”. Victims generally come from the so-called “lower castes” in villages where the dominant groups object to prayer houses and even the entry of missionaries, it added.

In the states run by the BJP, which include Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, the reported said “the Sangh [Hindu nationalist] cadres have free hand, with the police and administration either looking the other way, or complicit”.

The report claimed that the criminal justice system at the village- and small towns-level “routinely ignores or violates provisions in the law” and said constitutional provisions for religious freedom, right to life and freedom needed to be “available to the poorest person in the most remote village”.

While focusing on the targeting of Christians, the report said the commission is “alive to the persecution of, and pressure on, other religious minorities, caste discrimination against Dalits, and the situation of women”.

The report accused some state governments and their heads of using public money “to denounce Christianity publicly”.

It warned that the political environment had begun “heating up” ahead of general elections in spring 2019. “Foot soldiers of the BJP … have shifted into high gear in hate campaigns and targeted violence against individuals and groups, mainly religious minorities and Dalits,” it added.

Statistics revealed in India’s parliament on 6 February confirmed a long-standing allegation by rights groups that religious-based violence is growing under the premiership of Narendra Modi.

The figures contradict the assertion by Alphons Kannanthanam, a member of the BJP and the first Indian Christian in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, who said: “There has not been even one instance when a church was burnt or Christians attacked anywhere in the country after Modi came to power,” Kannanthanam said.

http://bit.ly/2sBSlzm

Human Rights Without Frontiers – Concerning threats to the Ahmadiyya Community

Open letter to the Honorable Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Foreign Minister of Pakistan, by FOREF

Dear Mr Asif,

FOREF, 03 February 2018. I am writing on behalf of the Forum for Religious Freedom-Europe, an independent, secular human rights organization based in Vienna, Austria.

We are deeply concerned about escalating threats to the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan. There can be no doubt that such threats are becoming more serious, making it increasingly dangerous and difficult for members of that community to profess their faith.

Especially over the past year, numerous religious leaders in your country have openly called for violence against Ahmadis, indeed, calling for their murder by decapitation.

Death threats against Ahmadis have become commonplace. These are some of the incidents that have alarmed our organization, and the international community:

– The cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi has challenged Ahmadis to either recite the Islamic creed (kalima) or risk decapitation.

– Rizvi also happens to be the leader of the political party Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah Pakistan (TLP). In November 2017, the TLP spearheaded three weeks of protests in Islamabad. TLP members opposed a suggestion to introduce a minor change to the oath required by election candidates.

On November 26, the federal law minister, who oversaw the change, resigned due to the TLP’s protests.

The reformulation of the oath, which would have slightly altered the language of the Islamic creed, was thought to have possibly benefited the ostracized Ahmadis because the 2nd constitutional amendment of 1974, which declares Ahamadis to be non-Muslim, would have been circumvented.

– There are also indications that the Pakistani military has collaborated with the leaders of the TLP. This development has raised questions over the army’s increasing role in influencing politics in Pakistan by siding with hate preaching mullahs.

– The above mentioned November protests were reportedly marked by violence resulting in the loss of at least six lives and 200 persons injured. Policemen asked by the Islamabad high court to clear the protests were kicked, beaten and tear-gassed by activists whereas the army-dominated paramilitary force, known as Rangers, stood on the sidelines as passive spectators.

– Other Islamist groups such as the Ahl-Hadith, Deobandi and the Barelvi are aligned with permanent institutions of the state, aiming at a gradual implementation of sharia law. These groups advocate the persecution of religious minorities, including Ahmadis.

– In December 2017, a case was registered against six Ahmadis for registering their names on a list of Muslim voters in local elections. The case was registered by the police on the orders of the Lahore High Court.

Incitement to violence is illegal under Pakistani and international law. It is prohibited by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which is legally binding for your government.

And yet, your government has taken no effective action against those making such inflammatory and dangerous statements.

As religious extremists find that such statements may be made with impunity, incitement has increased, leading society to the edge of large scale violence against not only the Ahmadiyya community, but against other religious minorities as well.

The international community has been waiting for your government to take action, but the failure to take action leaves the impression of a posture of complicity, as if the escalating threats and violence somehow serve the interests of the government.

Mr Foreign Minister, no one should ignore or minimize the challenges your government faces in dealing with extremists in your society. But denial and appeasement will only make the problem worse, and will, we fear, place the security of members of religious minorities in even greater doubt.

We thank you for your attention to our concerns, and stand ready to engage in dialogue with your government, and to assist you in complying with international human rights standards and law.

Sincerely,

Dr Aaron Rhodes
President

For more information please see:
https://foref-europe.org/
Email: foref.office@gmail.com
Aaron Rhodes (President, FOREF) / +49-170- 323-8314
Peter Zoehrer (Executive Director, FOREF) / +43 664-523-8794

Human Rights Without Frontiers – Believers of all faiths and atheists in prison: 24 countries of particular concern

A Report by Human Rights Without Frontiers

10 January 2018

HRWF International, 10 January 2018, Human Rights Without Frontiers International has released its 2017 database of believers and non-believers who have been imprisoned for exercising their freedom of religion or belief.

Twenty-four countries in all were identified by Human Rights Without Frontiers International for depriving believers and unbelievers of their freedom in 2017: Algeria, Azerbaijan, China, Egypt, Eritrea, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritania, Nepal, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.

“In 2017, we documented over 2200 individual cases of illegal imprisonment of believers and non-believers and we carried out campaigns to get their release, some with success,” according to Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers International.

Among all denominations, Christians of all faiths were in jail in the highest number of countries: Protestants in 13 countries, Catholics and Orthodox in 2 countries.

However, members of a dozen other religious or belief communities are known to have been in jail in 2017: Jehovah’s Witnesses in 6 countries; Sunnis in 4 countries; Shias, Said Nursi and Tabligh Jamaat followers in 3 countries; Ahmadis, Baha’is, Buddhists and Sufis in 2 countries; Atheists in Egypt, Falun Gong practitioners in China, and Scientologists in Russia.

“Prison terms are usually imposed on peaceful and law-abiding members of religious or belief groups on the basis of laws restricting their freedom to change religion, share one’s beliefs, and practice their right to freedom of association, worship and assembly.

Additionally, they may be imprisoned simply because of their religious identity”, Fautré said.

According to the database, China, Iran and South Korea recorded the largest number of freedom of religion or belief prisoners.

In China, Falun Gong practitioners, whose movement was banned in 1999, are massively put in prison, a number of Catholic priests and bishops have also been missing, since their arrests many years ago for being faithful to the Pope instead of swearing allegiance to the Communist Party.

Evangelical and Pentecostal Protestants belonging to the mushrooming network of house churches, and Uyghur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists, both of which are systematically suspected of separatism, are also particular targets of the regime.

In Iran, the Baha’is, whose movement is considered a heresy of Islam, make up the highest number of prisoners. They are followed by home-grown Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians who extensively carry out missionary activities among their fellow citizens despite the risk of imprisonment and execution.

Baluchi** and Kurdish Sunnis as well as Sufis are also particularly targeted.

In South Korea, over 300 young objectors to military service were still serving 18-month prison terms at the end of 2017. Since the Korean War, more than 19,200 Jehovah’s Witnesses have reportedly been sentenced to a combined total of over 37,200 years in prison for refusing to perform military service.

Eritrea, Singapore and Tajikistan are other countries which still imprison conscientious objectors.

“Our best wish for 2018 is that the EU converts its words into action and fully uses the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief to help release many FoRB prisoners of conscience,” Fautré hopes.

The lists of prisoners per country can be consulted at:

http://hrwf.eu/forb-intro/forb-and-blasphemy-prisoners-list/

(*) Human Rights Without Frontiers International has been monitoring freedom of religion or belief as a non-religious organization since 1989. In 2017 it covered in its daily newsletter more than 70 countries where there were incidents related to freedom of religion or belief, intolerance and discrimination. See its news database at
http://hrwf.eu/newsletters/forb/

(**) Both in Afghanistan and in Baluchistan Shia Hazaras are targeted by extremists. I am not aware of any bias against Sunis in Baluchistan.
Man in Blue

For further information, contact:

Email: international.secretariat.brussels@hrwf.net
Email: w.fautre@hrwf.net

http://www.hrwf.eu

Human Rights Without Frontiers – Four Nepali Christians imprisoned for ‘witchcraft’ prayer released after 9 months

Stoyan Zaimov

Christian Post, 29 September 2017. Four Nepali Christians who were sentenced for “violence and witchcraft” for praying with a mentally ill woman have been released after nine months in prison.

Persecution watchdog International Christian Concern, which led a petition in their name, reported on Wednesday that Lali Pun, Bimkali Budha, Ruplal Pariyar and his wife, Ganga, have all been released after their sentences were reversed.

“International Christian Concern is so pleased that this situation has reached its rightful resolution. However, the imprisonment of these Christians should have never taken place as the facts of their innocence were clear,” said Nate Lance, ICC’s advocacy manager.

“This is a step in the right direction for religious freedom in Nepal, but there is still much work to be done. No one should fear imprisonment for the free expression and practice of their religion.”

The Christians were convicted back in December after the father-in-law of Seti Pariyar, the mentally ill woman, accused them of abuse.

The father-in-law had reportedly brought the woman to a local church in hopes that prayers could heal her.
Pariyar apparently left the prayer service at the time, and was later found in a forest “harming herself and yelling before being taken home.”

Although Pariyar and her husband later testified in District Court that the Christians were not abusive toward her, with the woman even claiming that she had been healed, the four were still found guilty and sentenced to prison.

In August, the minority Christian population in Nepal found itself in fear of a government crackdown after the country’s parliament passed a bill criminalizing religious conversions and the “hurting of religious sentiment,” which critics say aims to restrict evangelism.

The UK-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide pointed out at the time that certain clauses in the bill are similar to controversial blasphemy laws in other countries, such as Pakistan, which are often used to target Christians and other minorities.

ICC described the wrongful imprisonment of the four Christians and the new anti-conversion laws as “Nepal’s continued backslide on issues of religious freedom.”

C B Gahatraj, general secretary of the Federation of National Christians, Nepal, told The Christian Post in January that believers face a number of challenges in the country, such as a lack of burial land, forcing some to bury relatives hidden away in forests.

“When Christians die in Nepal, they have two pains. One is they suffer, they grieve because of their loved ones who are no more; secondly, they have no place to bury their loved ones,” Gahatraj told CP at the time.

“If Hindus find Christians buried in their area, they force Christians to dig them out from the graveyard, and bury the bodies in another place.”

View this newsletter:

\http://hrwf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Nepal2017.pdf

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

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.

View this newsletter:

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).

http://bit.ly/2vPCL40

View this newsletter:

http://hrwf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/India2017.pdf