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Tuesday 24 July 2012

Leading Paleontologists and Geologists converge in Ilford for BPCA Plaque installation!

William George of GeoEssex and Adrian Lister lead paleontologist at the Natural History Museum, unveil the plaque.

Wilson Chowdhry joins Terry Quirke (Ilford Mammoth Project) and the lead historians at the plaque.  Wilson is holding an actual Mammoth plaque found during the Uphall Brick Pit Excavations in the 1850's.

Ilford Methodist Church and Hannah Chowdhry celebrate the installation of the plaque.

Over 300 people gathered to see the Olympic Torch relay and joined us for the unveiling of the Mammoth plaque.

William George and Adrian Lister carefully unveil the plaque.

The plaque details the history of the largest ever mammoth remains found in the UK.

Wilson with a real mammoth bone found locally!

Dem bones, dem bones them dem dry bones...

Terry Quirke has been campaigning for a large mammoth statue to be installed at the local roundabout.  He is holding a Steppe Mammoth toy he has made.

Mammoth men!

Adrian Lister agreed to support any future campaign to introduce a mammoth statue.

Pastor Bernardino Mandlate praying over event.

It was all fun and games for those involved in this awesome event!

Adrian Lister held up a mammoth bone and described, quite eloquently, the wondrous history of our local area, that was once a savannah!

William George and Adrian Lister and of course our barbecue starting off just behind.

Friday 20 July 2012

Ice Age 5 - Ilford Mammoth!

Image of Steppe Mammoth Plaque

Located in Ilford the BPCA is proud of the Paleontological history of our town, noted for the only complete Mammoth Skull and largest deposits of Mammoth remains ever found in Britain.

The complete skull is still one of the highlights of the various exhibitions in the Natural History Museum London and is termed "Ilford Mammoth"

On Sunday 22nd July 2012 we will be installing a plaque to highlight the major Steppe Mammoth archaeological finds.  A former plaque that had been installed during the Festival of Britain was stolen in January.

BPCA will in tandem hold a community fun day with a free barbecue and music day, at which we invite you to come and get your free "Mammoth Burgers".  There will also be some face-painting, Nail art and Henna painting activities which be charged for - all proceeds go to the victims of recent Pakistani floods.  The event will also celebrate the Olympic Torch relay that will pass by on Ilford Lane, straight after the plaque unveiling - a first for Ilford and a monumental day for Britain!

Event Details:

Date:                                              Sunday 22nd July 2012
Time:                                              08:00 - 16:00
Location:                                        Car Park of Ilford Methodist Church corner of Britannia Road and                                                                                 
                                                       Ilford Lane.  
Activities:                                        Unveiling of Mammoth plaque, musical entertainment, free barbecue, 
                                                       face-pinting, henna tattoos, Nail art and games for Children.                                   
We are proud of the senior guest speakers at our event which will include:

  • Professor Adrian Lister - Paleontological department at the Natural History Museum London - World expert on Mammoths.
  • William George - Former Professional Archivist and Geologist - Member of GeoEssex
  • Terry Quirk a retired university lecture and leader of "Ilford Mammoth Project
Our thanks to contributors to the design and text for the monument including
  • Peter Collins - Member of London GeoDiversity Partnership
  • Ian Dowling - Local Historian for Ilford Central Library
  • Natural History Museum Pictures Department and Paleontology Department
Many local people from Ilford will have watched Ice Age 4 without realising that only a few metres away Mammoths such as those depicted in the Warner movie, once walked our ancient lands.  Come to our barbecue and learn more about the Pleistocene Steppe Mammoths that once roamed free in Ilford - incidentally during the actual 5th Ice Age.  Perhaps Warner Studios will reflect on this within future sequels...

Saturday 14 July 2012

Minority member denied due to being 'bureaucratically Muslim'

Rana Asif Mahmood

A battle has raged for the last couple of months over the case of Rana Asif Mahmood.  His political opponents tried to disqualify him for a minority reserved seat in the Punjab regional assembly.  They pointed out that only non-Muslims can hold these seats and the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) records showed him to be Muslim.  Mahmood was set to become, and indeed now has become the Finance Minister of Punjab.  No doubt in addition to purely political factors, the prospect of a non-Muslim gaining such an influential position was a factor in the attack on his status.  
Mahmood has never been a Muslim.  From birth he has been a Christian.  However, because of his Muslim sounding name, the NADRA noted his religion as Muslim.  A simple bureaucratic mistake, you might think, easy to fix.  Right?  Wrong.  It would have been fine if the change was the other way, but Pakistani law forbids any changes on ID cards from Muslim to other religions.  It is easy for non-Muslims to change their religion on the ID cards, especially if they are converting to Islam.  Although there is supposed to be a way of correcting clerical errors, which Mahmood followed, it was not accepted.  He only won his case when he vehemently protested that he was Christian from birth in the Punjab assembly, and pleaded with his opponents not to make it a controversy, which would lead to Muslim extremists killing him as an alleged apostate.  In the time of the dispute, he was denied the chance to be involved, as he should have been, in proposing the 2012-13 budget.  
The issue of the NADRA ID cards is something the BPCA has been campaigning about for quite some time, because the fact that religion is always included on the ID cards means that 
a) Christians and minorities can always be immediately singled out for discrimination in many situations - employment, education, medical care, and the like, and 
b) because of the one-sided law about changing religion, it means that converts from Islam, already extremely vulnerable to death threats (and remember, 78% of Pakistani's favour the killing of apostates, including 69% of so called 'moderates' or 'modernists' - more on this later), are especially liable to identification.  If they don't appear at mosque at key festivals, and are known to go to church, yet have Muslim on their ID cards, it means they are instantly identifiable as 'apostates' wherever they go, leading many to lead secretive lives of fear of false accusations of blasphemy, the usual method of inciting lynchings.  It also means that relocation to another locality within Pakistan is not the option it is for other people seeking to move for safety reasons.  
In one fairly recent case, which we have reported on, Muhammad Kumran, who was beaten and crippled for turning to Christ, and because his ID names him as Muslim, it has been impossible for him to get the medicinal attention he needs because medical staff and politicians are afraid of being killed by Islamic extremists if they do help this 'apostate'.  

Blasphemy mobs, mad behaviour

Over the last month there has been a number of cases illustrating the double or triple jeopardy faced by those accused of blasphemy.  None of them are Christians as far as we know, but their cases show the ease in which inappropriate charges are made, and the dangers of mob rule, vigilantism and of innocents being killed.
These incidents are getting so common, with so many common features, it is sometimes hard to tell whether we are dealing with an incident we've already reported on, perhaps with corrected details, or an entirely new incident.

Pakistani mob (photo AP)

A Muslim man who had indulged in drugs in the past in the face of difficult circumstances now lives in fear in prison.  Every time someone comes in to his cell, he cries out 'Don't kill me', fearing it is one of the Muslim extremists who are his fellow prisoners in Karachi central jail has come to kill him, after he obeyed voices in his head telling him to 'do things'.   He was brought to the police station by concerned neighbours, and the police were dubious about his mental state.  However, mobs, stirred up by hate-spewing mullah's and religious extremists, advanced on the police station one night to try and lynch him.   They demanded the police hand him over so he could be killed.  The police have put him in a separate cell with officers standing guard to protect him from fellow inmates.  Psychiatrists say he should be examined for psychotic illness before any possible trial, with human rights activists saying the blasphemy laws don't apply to those who are mentally ill.


In another case, this time in Faisalabad, the police had to rescue a man accused of blasphemy who was being beaten and tortured by a mob.  The mob then staged a demonstration and blocked roads, demanding the man be handed over to them.  An FIR was registered by a member of Tehreek Dawat-e-Islami, an extremist organisation whose workers have been involved in several acts of terrorism over the years.  Police say the man later confessed to blasphemy.


Finally, there was a case last month in Quetta, when a mob stormed a police station to try and lynch a man - whom the police said appeared mentally retarded -  accused of blasphemy.  The man was mentally retarded, and is supposed to have burnt pages of the Koran.  The protesters were mostly Afghan refugees, who threw stones, torched vehicles and blocked the highway with burning tyres.  They chanted that the man should be stoned for blasphemy, stormed the police station and started firing.  19 were wounded by gunshots, 8 of them police officers, including the bodyguard of a senior police officer as he was hustled to safety.  The police had to resort to volleys of tear gas and gunfire to restore order, and in the melee 2 children were killed.


The BPCA notes these cases and deplores them, in particular the fact that the hate-filled Mullah's and the extremist allies deem it fit to send lynch mobs after mentally ill people.  Better on judgement day to be mentally ill than morally wicked and sick.....

Pakistan is ruled by mob justice

We would like to thank Nasir Saeed for allowing us to use his article from the Catholic Herald.

Pakistan is ruled by mob justice. And the authorities are too scared to do anything about it
The setting on fire of a man who had supposedly desecrated the Koran shows again that extremists are in charge
People in Karachi protest at the inadvertent burning of the Koran at a US military base (Photo: PA)
People in Karachi protest at the inadvertent burning of the Koran at a US military base (Photo: PA)

The abuse and killing of innocent Pakistanis because of the country’s ill-conceived blasphemy laws is something I am, as part of my work supporting persecuted Christians, confronted with on a regular basis. But the report of a mob dragging a man from a police station and setting him on fire because he had supposedly desecrated a Koran is staggering in its despicableness.

Like a pack of animals, a group of men broke into the police station in the Chani Ghoth area of Bahawalpur, in Punjab Province, and hauled Ghulam Abbas out on to the street, before dousing him in fuel and setting him alight. According to a report from the BBC World Service, crowds of people stood by and watched as Ghulam screamed for help.

Never mind the fact that Ghulam was reported to be mentally handicapped, nor the fact that he had only been accused of blasphemy – not found guilty – and that police had not even started their investigation into the allegation.

Even if Ghulam, a Muslim, had been found guilty of desecrating the Koran, he could not under Pakistani law have been sentenced to death, as the maximum sentence for this crime is life imprisonment.

This, I’m sorry to say, is the frightful reality for those who fall short of the lofty standards of righteousness imposed by extremists. Police may wear uniforms and courts may pass down their judgments, but let no one be in any doubt that when it comes to blasphemy, it is others who wield the power in this virtually lawless land.

Christians experienced this when extremists went on the rampage in Gojra in 2009 in full view of the police and burnt eight Christians to death, among them a child. The trigger was a blasphemy accusation.

While I am used to receiving calls from terrified Christians, what makes Ghulam’s case slightly more unusual is that he was a Muslim.

His brutal murder reveals the extent to which the blasphemy laws continue to be misused to harass and steal from innocent people. Most of the accusations are levelled against Christians, but Muslims are not immune and it takes brave men to exonerate the accused.

While that happens occasionally, more often than not the radicals start to heap pressure on to the police and on to the courts to uphold the blasphemy charges and imprison the accused – or even worse, sentence them to death.

Even when people are acquitted, they are not safe. They are released from prison only to enter a prison of another kind, forced into hiding because extremists are baying for their blood.

And behind it all are the radical preachers and imams, abusing their holy mosques and their loudspeakers, abusing the name of God and their own faith to call for hate and murder instead of love and forgiveness.

This is the world of mob justice, a world in which extremists deem the desecration of a book – albeit a holy book – an unforgivable crime but not the destruction of a human life made in the image of God. A world in which the criminals make politicians cower into looking the other way, while the innocent are locked up for years in miserable prison cells or brutally murdered while others stand by and watch, too afraid that they will share the same fate if they step in to help.

The murderous extremists have no respect for human life and no fear of the law because they have not been given any reason to. What is there to fear when, after the assassination of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, no politician will touch the blasphemy laws with a barge pole? Why fear when those who hound or kill people on the basis of blasphemy accusations are not made to feel the full force of the law for the “justice” they mete out to others?

It is interesting that July 5 – the day Ghulam Abbas was killed – was also the anniversary of the day that General Zia ul-Haq threw out Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s democratically elected government and imposed martial law. The general would later go on to impose a mandatory death sentence on insulting the Prophet Muhammad. The shadow his rule has cast over Pakistan is long and dark, and there is little sign of any will to break it among those with the power to do so.

The murder of Ghulam Abbas is one of the most horrific in recent years and yet there is only silence from the government and the authorities. Where are the statements of condemnation? Where are the public declarations vowing to catch the perpetrators and make them answer for their crimes? Where is the pledge from the government to review the blasphemy laws behind this and so many other callous and unjustified murders?

There should be no doubt after Ghulam Abbas’s death that extremists are taking things into their own hands in a way that should be stopped immediately. The laws of this land must be changed to end this lunacy.

The popular adage goes: “Where there is a will, there is a way.” But equally true is: where there is no will, there is no way. For now, the extremists and their “mob justice” are ruling the roost in Pakistan.


Friday 13 July 2012

Police refuse to arrest Muslims in miscarriage beating

We recently reported on a case where a 13 year old Christian girl was raped, and when she pressed charges against her attackers, her pregnant aunt was beaten very badly.  She has miscarried the twins.  However, despite the fact that the courts have rescinded the interim bails of those responsible, the police are refusing to bring them in and are siding with the attackers.  Other members of the family were also beaten.  Attackers like this act with virtual impunity, confident that courts and police will let them get away with it because their victims are Christians.  The police initially refused to register the original rape too.  This went on for a week, with the attackers continually threatening the family.  The attackers, from a powerful local family, also seized land belonging to the family to pressure them, but when that failed they attacked the women in the family home, resulting Nosheen Masih loosing her twins.
Police are repeatedly siding with the attackers because the father of one of them is a very influential retired police inspector.  The police have already declared the son 'innocent' of the rape case because of his father's influence. The girl had been dragged out of an outside toilet, drugged, taken to the fields and gang raped by three men, one of them unidentified.   To try and derail the case, the police have in court said the 13 year old was friends with the main attacker, and that she had consensual sex with all three men.  The police have also helped the attackers by joining with them in pressuring the Christian family to have a 'reconciliation arrangement' with the attackers and drop charges.  The family feel they are discriminated because they are poor and Christian.  In this case they are getting moral support from the rest of the mostly Muslim village, who are sick of the criminal activities of the attackers family, but this is not enough to get justice.


Beating of pregnant family members causing a miscarriage is also the feature of another recent case in the Punjab, along with collusion of the police with the attackers, although as far as we know, the victims weren't Christian.  The girl in question went to search of her nephew who had been kidnapped by the men who then attacked her.  The nephew had allegedly stolen a large sum of money from their house, and they were holding him until the family 'returned' the money.  Neighbours found her unconscious and bloodied, but the police took her to a police station for hours, instead of to hospital, and as a result she lost the baby.  She then had to remain in hospital for 5 days.


Thursday 12 July 2012

'They wanted to hang me... they thought it would be an insult to Islam if I lived': New beginning in Texas for Pakistani Christian woman who suffered savage acid attack by Muslim man who thought she was a traitor

By Laura Cox

A 26-year-old woman horrifically burned in an acid attack has spoken out about her trauma as she re-builds her life in Houston, Texas.
Julie Aftab was 16 and working in an office in Pakistan when a man walked in and asked her if she was Christian, spotting a small cross she wore around her neck.
She replied that yes, she was and the man became abusive, shouting at her that she was living in the gutter and would go to hell for shunning Islam.

Barbaric: Julie Aftab's face was horrifically disfigured during the attack, requiring 31 surgeries
He left and returned half an hour later, clutching a bottle of battery acid which he savagely chucked over her head. As she ran screaming for the door a second man grabbed her by the hair and forced more of the liquid down her throat, searing her esophagus.

Teeth fell from her mouth as she desperately called for help, stumbling down the street.
A woman heard her cries and took her to her home, pouring water over her head and taking her to hospital.
At first the doctors refused to treat her, because she was a Christian. 'They all turned against me,' she told the Houston Chronicle.

'Even the people who took me to the hospital. They told the doctor they were going to set the hospital on fire if they treated me.'
Eventually Aftab's family found a hospital that agreed to take her in but there was little they could do.
Aftab could not speak or move her arms and the acid had burned through her skin to leave bone-deep wounds.

Aftab's wounds are hidden in this picture of her profile
67 per cent of her esophagus was burned and she was missing an eye and both eyelids. What remained of her teeth could be seen through a gaping hole where her cheek had been.
The doctors predicted she would die any day.
Despite the odds she pulled through. She remained in hospital for a year, unable to speak or see for the first three and a half months. 
On leaving the hospital she was labelled a pariah in her neighbourhood, her family was persecuted and their home was burnt down. 
'They wanted to hang me,' she told the paper. 'They thought it would be an insult to Islam if I lived.'
But there was light at the end of the tunnel for Aftab. A nondenominational bishop arranged for her to be treated in Houston and to live with a local couple, Lee and Gloria Ervin, whom she now calls Uncle Lee and Auntie Gloria.
Supported by her host parents a now 26-year-old Aftab says the attack has made her faith stronger than ever.
'Those people, they think they did a bad thing to me, but they brought me closer to God,' Aftab told the paper. 'They helped me fulfill my dreams. I never imagined I could be the person I am today.'
Aftab has had 31 surgeries to reconstruct her face and has gone on to accomplish things no member of her family had done, including graduating from high school and going to college. 
She spoke no English when she arrived in Houston in 2004 but will later this month take her citizenship test, having been granted asylum in 2007. Aftab is an accounting major at the University of Houston-Clear Lake.

Persecution of Christians is an ongoing problem in Pakistan.
Pakistani Christians live in fear of being arrested under the blasphemy laws, which critics say are often misused to settle personal scores or family feuds.
Efforts to change the laws have made little headway. Last year, two prominent Pakistani political figures who spoke out against the blasphemy laws were killed in attacks that raised concerns about the rise of religious extremism in Pakistan.

Across the border - atrocities in Afghanistan, lascivious laws in Iran

Afghan women protest the killing (Photo - AP)

Many of you might have seen news stories about the execution of a 22 year old woman by the Taliban in a village near Kabul.  Apparently two Taliban commanders were in conflict, and both had some sort of relationship with her, and in some kind of cover up or face saving tactic, she was accused of adultery and shot to cheering crowds.  For those of you who haven't seen it there is a video report here and some more details here, and the resulting Afghani women's protest here.  This is a far from related incident.  There is a rapidly growing trend of honour killings, particularly of women, as the Western forces prepare to leave.  Another recent case was an ex-husband who burst into the home of his former wife and beheaded her and then two of their children.  She had divorced him after a decade of domestic abuse.  Many cases aren't reported - men make a decision to kill, and then go and say a prayer at the mosque the next day, said an Afghan source.  The depravity of the honour-shame culture with regard to women is further illustrated by a case involving an 18 year old girl who was held for 5 days, tortured, chained to a wall and gang raped by police.  Normally when such shame has been brought on a family, the victim is expected to kill themselves, or else the shame will go down the family for generations.  In this case, courageously, the victim and her family have gone public and demanded justice, to restore her honour and dignity.  The state is refusing to prosecute the perpetrators, but the girl is saying that she must kill herself if her attackers are not prosecuted and punished for their crimes.  They are still bound by the cultural mores that apply in some parts of Afghanistan, but courageously and rightly, they are trying to shift the blame onto the perpetrators in the eyes of society.  Let us pray that this happens, and even if it doesn't, that she defies her society and chooses to live, regardless.  

Such depraved values are similarly manifested in parts of Paksitani culture, which is why it is relevant to this blog.  Moving from Pakistan's northern border to it's western neighbour, two stories about marriage law in Iran - God forbid that they spread to Pakistan.  Firstly, Iran's religious parliament is seeking to reform 'illegal' laws - ie ones that do not comply with sharia, with the goal of making it legal to force girls under 10 to wed.  Apparently puberty in sharia is said to start at 9 for girls and 15 or so for boys.  Secondly there is the practice of Sigha, becoming increasingly common in some Muslim societies.  Sigha is 'Temporary marriage' - effectively legalized prostitution where for the price of a 'dowry' men can be 'married' to the woman for a short period.  A website in Iran is offering women about £55 to £80 pounds to be in such marriages for one hour.  

With neighbours like these......  

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Religious cyber and civil war, and Christian desperation

One controversy that is starting to raise hackles within the Christian community is calls by some for a separate Christian state or province in the Punjab region, to try and get relief from their constant oppression and persecution.  This political hot potato has proponents of the idea condemning Christians in mainstream parties who oppose it as stooges of an establishment agenda - here, for instance.  Proponents say that a Christian province (not one in which Muslims are banned, but one where they live amongst Christians in peace) has merit - in this article, for instance, where it is also noted some Christian leaders are calling for the UN to grant refugee status to all Christians of Pakistan (about 20 million).  Whatever we may think about the merits or practicality of such calls, one thing is for sure, these are the manifestations of tangible Christian desperation - 2nd class citizens, discriminated against, murdered, raped, kidnapped, the properties and lands destroyed or stolen, prey to mobs of Muslim fanatics, vulnerable to false accusations and torture in any dispute, just because they are Christian.  This situation, and maybe the calls for a separate province may be behind a recent announcement by the Federal Government.  Paul Bhatti, brother of martyred minister Shahbaz Bhatti, has been pressing for greater minority representation in Pakistani political life, and the federal   government has just approved these plans, apparently with rises in reversed seats at provincial and federal levels, in line with local minority population levels.  Details are still to be worked out, however (and we all know who is in the details!...)

The background is the increasing dominance and influence of Islamicist groups, some of them banned as terrorist organisations.  Non-Islamic minorities are not the only ones affected, with Shia's facing what they call a state-backed genocide in Balochistan, according to a BBC report.    (The death rate in sectarian violence is soaring, with Shia's and Hazara communities being primary targets - over 400 have been killed in the last 4 years.)  Whatever the truth about state complicity (the Shias say the government knows full well all the bases of the terrorists who openly boast about their attacks), it is crystal clear - and has been for a long time - that terrorist and extremist groups have a massively disproportionate and degrading, not to mention destabilizing effect on Pakistani society.  Evidence is rife.  For instance, a Muslim mob recently invaded a police station and beat to death a mentally ill man accused of blasphemy.  (This seems to be thesame case we recently reported about a man burnt alive - apparently he was beaten to death and then his corpse was set on fire. The name of the man, an alleged Sufi 'vagabond', is unknown and his family hasn't come forward, possibly out of fear of the consequences for family members of those accused of blasphemy - a fact which is telling in itself).  The repeated instant closing down of attempts to reform the perverse and much abused blasphemy laws is further evidence of extremist domination, as recounted in a recent article entitled 'Exit God, enter madness', showing that many of Pakistan's Muslims share these concerns.  The article ended with the prayer of a distraught Muslim 'May Allah save Islam from Pakistan.'  Although, many of us would swap a couple of the words over....

In addition, one sign of possible (very tenuous) hope for the future of Pakistan is a recent 'Pew survey' which showed that the Taliban are least popular where they are most active.  They are most hated in the Khyber province, where much of their activity actually happens.  Their popularity is higher where their population is not as affected.  If that holds true, the downside is that for the Taliban to become unpopular more widely, the other areas would have to 'enjoy' their rule.  Interestingly, the survey also showed that those who were more 'ritualistic' in their faith - those who prayed 5 times a day - where more likely to have negative views of the Taliban.  Make of that what you will......

(There have also been some recent efforts among moderate Muslims to raise the issue of minority discrimination, with calls for the 'moderate majority to take charge'.  At about the same time 'progressive lawyers and social activists launched the 'Forum for Secular Pakistan'.  We shall see whether it can have any impact.  You can read their founding declaration here)

In short, there is basically a (fairly) low-level religious civil war going on in Pakistan.  No wonder vulnerable Christians want out, some kind of safe haven.

Another evidence of Islamicist influence is the increasingly oppressive and dictatorial decisions of the 'Inter Ministerial Committee', an elusive and seemingly unaccountable body that regulates Pakistan's cyberspace, that seems to be waging a war on some minority group websites.  This article is sketchy about details, and BPCA has asked for more information, but it seems that there is a regressive trend in the body's decisions.  First it targeted content deemed blasphemous content, then national security related information, then religious minority, and now it seems to be targeting web content 'pertaining to minorities in Pakistan'.  If we hear more, we will keep you posted.  And if you have examples or more detailed information, please contact us by leaving a comment with your email address below (don't worry, we won't publish your email addresses).

For further information about the background to the demand made for a separate province, see here.  The context is that the groups are raising the issue, if their primary demands for better treatment of Christians (and other minorities) are not met.  Some of the primary demands are officially policy, others are proving controversial even within the Christian community.   

False charges, false police, real victims

Pastor Victor Samuel Maseeh (left), kidnap victim

In the last month there have been numerous cases of false charges against Christians.  In one disturbing case, a pastor (seen above last year after helping some destitute Christians gain a home after the rains washed the old one away) was kidnapped by people masquerading as police officials and with a falsified official court order (from a court and a judge who on investigation, didn't exist).  7 armed men arrived at his house in the Christian colony of 300 Christians in Tota Tek Singh, Faisalabad in vehicles similar to those used by the Punjab police, and three of them wore police uniforms, and one said he was a police inspector from Lahore, and showed search warrants from a Lahore judge, complete with official court stamps.  After abusively questioning the pastor, looking at files on his laptop, the imposters took the pastor and his brother for further questioning in a local police station as well as confiscating, documents, the laptop and mobile phone.  However, they dropped off his brother by the Gojra bypass.  It later turned out that the local police station never had any colleagues from Lahore, and the Lahore police never sent any group out.  In addition, the Judicial Magistrate named in the 'court documents' was found not to exist.  Police are now searching for the pastor and the abductors - let's hope and pray the fraudulent use of police and court documents means this will be a thorough and uncompromising search.

An earlier story about the pastor helping out destitute Christians so desperate that the father resorted to putting 'children for sale' signs up - and a video interview with the pastor and the father he helped.


A priest, Rehmat Hakim Michael, in Islamabad, pastor of the Fatima church, is at the centre of false accusations and a decade old property row.  The priest, who came to the church in 2007 was accused with another individual of kidnapping and killing the wife and two daughters of an Afghan man in 2001, even though at the time Father Michael was serving in Gujrat.  The claim was that after the women refused to convert to Christianity, they were kidnapped by Father Michael and his 'gang' and never seen again - presumably murdered and their bodies disposed of.  
(The BPCA notes that this kind of activity is typical of Islamicists - and that often they falsely accuse Christians of doing the very things that Islamicists do, in a kind of projection.  An example is the recent false accusations that Coptic Christians in Egypt kidnapped women and stored explosives and weapons in monasteries and churches, acts that Egyptian Islamicists regularly carry out on Christian women and in their own mosques - false accusations that led to fatal attacks on churches in Egypt and a massacre at a church service in Iraq.) 
A FIR was in the process of being made against him with the police.  However, it appears that the police this time decided to investigate before acting.  A telling and rather unsurprising background began to emerge.  Firstly, in 1991, a previous priest at the church had allowed a sick and jobless Afghan man to move into a church owned house and to rent out another one to get money for his own upkeep for a while.  Successive priests have tried to eject them, but the occupants, now apparently a strong and influential family in the locality, refused, claiming that the man in question had purchased the property for $30,000 and had full ownership.  The case went to court recently and on the 28th of May the court upheld the churches case for a second time on appeal.  It was after this that another Afghan man suddenly starts claiming that the incumbent priest kidnapped his family after failed conversion attempts in 2001.  An NGO that interviewed the alleged husband said that when questioned, he couldn't remember the name of his supposedly kidnapped wife, and had to go and 'consult documents' before giving a name.  
The Christian community is agitated and afraid that, even though he has not been arrested yet, their priest may well be arrested on these blatantly spurious, yet very serious charges.  
Please pray for this case, that this blatant attempt at holding the entire Christian community to ransom in a property dispute by extortion would fail and massively backfire on the lying accusers, and that true justice would be done and become an example in similar cases.  

Sources  one, two, and three.


As we said before, it is typical of Islamicists to accuse their victims of the very crimes they themselves commit against their victims in a perverse projection.  In a recent case 150km from Lahore, a recently banned Islamicist group - Sipha-e-Sahaba.  They registered a blasphemy complaint against 25 year old Ramzam Masih, an only son (only the father is still alive). (BPCA finds it telling that in Pakistan a complaint registered by a banned terrorist group can be accepted - maybe it helps if the victim is from a powerless Christian background?)  An NGO went to investigate, and found the colony where the victims family lived was virtually empty as Christians (and possibly other residents - the reports are not quite clear on this point) had fled in fear of the group using the charges as an excuse to take over property or make other attacks.  The NGO team questioned the few neighbours willing to talk.  (The NGO also approached the local police who were very angry, allegedly because the NGO endangered their lives because the security situation was so bad, with the banned group following the situation very closely.  Eventually the group managed to get a copy of the FIR).  
The picture that emerged was one of a mentally retarded and vulnerable man whom the group had cajoled into converting to Islam several years ago, and gained his thumbprints as evidence of conversion.  The group has now named many unknown people in their FIR, and the residents fear that the charges are an excuse to take over Christian lands.  The victims father is terrified and only met the NGO a long way from his house.  He says the police took him to the police station and demanded he hand over his son or else he too would be charged with blasphemy (the son is now in prison).  He says he has now idea if his son committed 'blasphemy' a lot, but rightly asked how could a mentally retarded child who didn't know right from wrong 'endanger the dignity of Islam'. He also noted that the S-e-S terrorist group was monitoring his daughters movements as well - so he is concerned for the safety of both his children.  
To give a flavour of what Christians face in these situations, here is the account of a Christian woman about what happened, with mobs of Muslims and clerics arriving with burning torches and threatening another Gojra, and the terrible fear such terrorist tactics engender  :
we are only eighty houses here and are doing our own work, we are independent and are working hard to survive, these people (Muslims) do not let us live. We are poor but are working hard to survive. On the night of the incidence a mob of Muslim clerics gathered our colony to burn us all because of the Blapshemy Ramzan have committed. Everyone was very scared. We all have small children in our houses and we didn’t know what to do. The Mob surrounded our colony and raised a slogan to burn all the houses, they had torches in their hands and petrol in the cans. We called police and thank God Police arrived just in time. The police distracted their attention from us and we found some time to leave the houses. We left the houses quickly and thus saved our lives. People saved their lives and the lives of their children, Now we all are living in different places of our relatives and our homes are empty like graves. We pray to God not to put us in graves and also to protect the family of Ramzan Masih and his sister who also have small children in her house. We are very scared; I came to my house at this hour to pick up some clothes and personal belongings so that we can stay in the relative’s house. Once this matter is cooled down we will come back to our house


Finally, in yet another 'surprise, surprise, here we go again' case, two Christian employees are being charged with theft after refusing to convert to Islam.  The wealthy and influential employer in Karachi had 5 employees working as domestic workers in his household.  For a year he aggressively tried to get the two Christian employees to convert to Islam.  Some gold ornaments went missing in early June, and 10 days later the employer lodged an FIR about it, which surprisingly enough only named the Christian employees and not the Muslim employees as suspects.  The two Christians volunteered themselves to the local police station when they heard of the accusations.  They were transferred to another police station, and their relatives were told by police that if they did not pay a bribe of £238, then the two Christians would be beaten.  The poor families could not pay the bribe, and so the two Christians were severely beaten and tortured, and one was left unable to walk.  
Lawyers have now taken up the case, the Karachi police district has apologized and said the victims families can register an FIR against police staff if they want.  Let's hope this is a real gesture that will result in real change and real justice.  BPCA is not particularly holding it's breath, but you never know....
Please also pray for the victims, for healing and provision, as well as justice

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Stolen history restored by the BPCA - Ilford Mammoth!

Image of proposed plaque.

The BPCA (located in Ilford) has offered to restore a community plaque that was stolen from a local church.  The original 1951 plaque was installed by Redbridge Council during the Festival of Britain and commemorated Pleistocene Mammoth finds collected during an excavation of the former Uphall Brick Pit site by Sir Antonio Brady in 1864.

Image of original plaque

To date the most remarkable find was the only full mammoth skull ever to have been found in Britain.  This "Ilford Mammoth" skull along with many other remains are being preserved by the Natural History Museum.

Currently Redbridge Museum, in the revamped Redbridge Central Library, Ilford has an interactive display complete with mammoth and other prehistoric remains excavated in Ilford, some on loan from the Natural History Museum and the BPCA are encouraging local people to visit both the plaque and Museum to celebrate our paleontological heritage.

Wilson Chowdhry Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association said;

"When we heard of the loss of this important historical plaque our group decided to replace it.  Our intention was to preserve our local history, whilst increasing awareness of the existence of our minority community.  Few people in this country and our Borough are aware of the significant Mammoth finds excavated in Ilford - even fewer realise Pakistani Christians exist. We originally hoped to unveil the plaque during the Queens Jubilee celebrations we held in Ilford Town Centre 4th - 5th June, unfortunately circumstances delayed the installation.  We have now sent the first draft to local historians, the Natural History Museum and the Methodist church for approval and hope to install the plaque next week."  

Further  details on the history of the Ilford Mammoth can be found on the "Geology of Essex" website:

An in-depth paleontological study of Mammoths can be viewed on the Natural History Museums website at:

Cranium and tusks of the Pleistocene Steppe Mammoth found in Ilford - the only complete Mammoth skull found in Britain.

Model of the Woolly mammoth found in Ilford 

Marriage, mobs and murder

Faryal Bibi aka Rinkal Kumari, example of kidnapped hindu girl

We have often documented the increasing numbers of minority girls and woman kidnapped and forcibly married and converted to Islam.  In the Sindh province it is often Hindu girls who are kidnapped in this fashion.  Although some of them say they have done so willingly out of love for Muslim men, it is known or strongly suspected in most cases that this is not true - a typical tactic is to tell them that if they don't say this, their families will be killed or have blasphemy charges made against them.  This suspicion is further heightened in a recent case in Karachi.  A Hindu factory worker, Sooda, went to court because his teenage daughter Rekha, had been taken in such a manner from their house in Gadap town, near Karachi, in December, by Ashgar, the supervisor of the factory she worked in.  In court she was dressed in a full black chaddur, so they couldn't see her at all, but she said she had converted and married willingly - the case was immediately dismissed.... and the family has never seen her again, despite the immediate promises after the court of elders from Ashgar's village that they would be allowed to meet her.  Sooda says that her family are not allowed to see her because she is Muslim and they are Hindu - even though Islamic scholars say it is fine for them to meet, but not for her to partake in any Hindu celebrations.  

Human rights workers on the ground say this is the norm, and ask if these are willing conversions, why are these girls not allowed to see their families after their 'conversion'?  BPCA asks the same.


Whilst the blasphemy laws are disproportionately used against minorities, they are also used against Muslim citizens of Pakistan.  In a horrific recent case, a man named Ghulam Abbas, who was reportedly mentally ill, was accused of desecrating the Quran and arrested, but a mob stormed the police station, dragged him out and burnt him alive, injuring a number of police officers in the process.  This happened in the Chani Goth area of Punjab, and has been a trigger point for increased religious tension and attacks, leaving local Christians in fear of their lives.  A local priest says it is part of the increasing lawlessness and religious intolerance in the region.  


A recent bombing involving a motorbike killed six Christians, although the target was apparently some Shia pilgrims on another bus that passed by at nearly the same time.  Local sources said that both Pakistani and Afghan Christians were on the bus, and some of them were graduates of a Middle Eastern bible school on the way to work in missions in the Balochistan province.  At least 40 other people were injured in the attack near Quetta, and 10 of the injured are also reported to be Christians.  A charity that supports the bible school is trying to raise funds for families of the victims.  

The charade and sham of Pakistan's 5% quota

Cleanliness before safety for suffering minorities!

One of the ways the Government of Pakistan claims to be helping overcome the discrimination against religious minorities is by reserving a certain proportion of state positions for them - in other words, a certain proportion of civil service jobs have to be given to minorities.  In theory this means that talented and well educated minority candidates can get respected jobs that use their qualifications.
The reality turns out to be rather different.  An article in the Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune gives both anecdotal and statistical evidence that the positions of 'bhangi' - sanitation workers, involving cleaning toilets etc, are being given pretty much exclusively to minority members - Sikhs, Hindus and Christians etc.  In some cases, well educated minority members with degrees chose to leave well paid but somewhat insecure jobs in the private sphere to join what they thought would be respected and secure jobs in the civil service.  They were heart-broken to find they had essentially been downgraded from responsible jobs to the equivalent of the 'chuhras' 'street-sweepers', a term that is used as an insult for Christians.

Dozens of departments only allow minorities to apply for sanitation workers jobs.  Even in the Sindh minorities Department, nearly all of the sanitation workers are Christians or Hindus. A Christian worker testified that every single Christian graduate holder who applied for a civil service job in their area was offered the job of sanitation worker.  They also claimed that the of the few Muslims who had sanitation jobs, nearly all just took salaries, but didn't actually work.

The extent of the despair is shown by one well-educated Hindu sanitation worker said he didn't plan to spend much money on education for his children as it was a complete waste of time for minorities.  Christians spoke of the shame and degradation of being forced into such menial jobs.   In other words, the much trumpeted '5% quota' is a charade and a sham, and only serves to perpetuate the deep discrimination it is purported to ameliorate.  

Thursday 5 July 2012

Redbridge Mayor thanks BPCA for effort during Queens Jubilee celebrations

Redbridge Mayor and Queens Jubilee Party organizers share a toast to the borough!

Dorah Mayah (BPCA Treasurer) and Juliet Chowdhry (Co-Chairperson for the BPCA) with Redbridge Mayor Cllr Javed.

Juliet Chowdhry, Sania Satwat,Chairperson for the (East Ilford Betterment Partnership), Lubna Mahmood (EIBP volunteer) and Dorah Mayah recived thanks for their commitment to the Borough.

Last night the Mayor of Redbridge invited Queens Jubilee street party organizers from across our borough to a private lunch.   The event was a thank you for the valuable contributions to the Redbridge Community that these groups had made.

Mayor Cllr Javed described the huge diversity and scale of the parties as terrific.  Food and drink was provided to the attendees, who had a chance to share stories and ideas with one another in a relaxed and fun atmosphere.  

Wilson Chowdhry Co-Chairman of the BPCA said; 

"It was such a privilege to be invited to receive thanks from the Mayor of Redbridge.   We organised this years Carnival event for our first time and had to bring it four months forward.  We also brought it to the pedestrian area in Ilford Town Centre which has never been done before.  We felt that holding the event during the Queens Jubilee was important and were grateful to Awards for All who funded the majority of the associated costs.  We are simply glad that our hard work resulted in a very successful event that drew 1000's to the town centre in a spirit of unity and friendship. Without a doubt, the contributions made by the various street party holders in the Borough made Redbridge a very colourful place to be!"

In total over 15,000 people attended this years Queens Jubilee festival and parade, which was the largest celebration for the Jubilee in Redbridge.  Live Punjabi music from former lead vocalist for Cobra who were a massively popular London band in the 80's, Albanian dancing by Shpresa, Gymnastics displays and workshops by Redbridge School of Gymnastics and a similar provision by Spartans Basketball club made the day very entertaining - amongst a total of 56 different acts!  The event also had spray paint workshops, clay workshops, henna tattoos, face-painting, the fire service, Army vehicles and much more.  It was the biggest Carnival event in the Borough since the 1960's and was great opportunity to highlight the existence of Pakistani Christians in our Borough.  Our partner group "Redbridge Carnival Association" were delighted with the event and have agreed to work with us for next years event too.

Sania Satwat (also a Pakistani Christian) Chairperson for the East Ilford Betterment Partnership said;

"Our Street party on the 2nd June was the first in the borough attended by the Mayor of Redbridge.  Over 3000 visitors enjoyed sports music and great food.  Our thanks go to the Area 6 Committee who funded £400 towards our event and Redbridge Highways team for applying for a traffic management order free of charge.  Our community really enjoyed this years event and plans are already afoot for a similar event next year. This invite is just the icing on the cake for those who participated in the planning."

The BPCA were a senior partner group in the organizing of this event and used the opportunity to raise funds by holding a face-painting stall.  We raised £96 for the group.  The EIBP said that without us the evnet simply would not have been able to succeed.