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Thursday 28 November 2013

Younis Masih is free! Praise God!

LAHORE: Many people present cheered after the announcement that Pakistani Christian Younis Masih was to be released on appeal by Lahore High Court Lahore.He was sentenced to death by a judge in Lahore on May 30, 2007. The appeal was filed and his case was re-opened in September 2012.

Younis Masih, who has languished in jail since his arrest - 10th September,2005, was declared innocent by Lahore High Court by Justice Khaja Amtiaz Ahmed and Justice Khalid Mehmood Khan on 10th November 2013.

Masih had  suffered a heart attack on 8 January ,2013 and is still heart patient.

Today,28 November,2013,Masih came to see Advocate Sardar Mushtaq Gill,National Director LEAD and described the days which he spent after his release from jail.
Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet.

"I was very welcomed by many people after my release.  They have kept me with them for two weeks and took photos.  They ahve now discarded me and thrown me away, like tissue paper into a  dustbin",shared Masih.

"I have four Children and I have no job,and no one is supporting me.I am living in fear of attacks and do not know when someone will kill me,"said Masih.

"He is living with us and we are also under serious risk, we have received many threatening letters including one from the owner of our house,"told Babu brother of Masih.

"I have heard that Rimsha Masih had been relocated to Canada, yet no one is cares about my life.I am not able to work among Muslims and I always remain in disguise.  I do not tell any one that I am Younis Masih. So I have lost my identity too",said Masih.

Living in a land of 97% Muslims Christians in Pakistan have a constant fear of persecution.  This takes a number of guises such as threats,attacks, discrimination and hatred.  One intimidation that hovers on them all the time is the blasphemy laws.The lives of those accused of a blasphemy are subject to incarceration, looming death sentences and complete pariah status.

Asia Bibi,the Christian mother of 5, convicted under the law of blasphemy in 2010,remains on death row in Pakistan and  a cleric in Peshawar had offered a reward of 5,000 euro to anyone who kills the mother of five.
For now, the uphill struggle continues,the Pakistani court has yet to take up her appeal against the blasphemy conviction and death sentence.

“We are hoping for the best for Asia Bibi. However, her life will be in danger anyways, as soldiers will try to kill her if she is freed”,said Gill."We also have the examples of two brothers, Rashid Emmanuel and Sajid Masih Emmanuel, both Christians accused of blasphemy, killed in cold-blood in front of the Court of Faisalabad, during their hearings, in July 2010."

According to  sources , Asia Bibi will face threats in Multan Jail or will be forced to convert to Islam under pressure as one Christian who visited her in Sheikhupura jail in 2011; he found Islamic books in her cell about which she told the visitor that jail authorities are teaching her to read.

In the year of  2011,two high profile political figures were assassinated Mr.Salman Taseer  by his bodyguard for voicing his opinion on blasphemy law and supporting Asia Bibi and Mr.Shahbaz Bhatti, federal minister for minority affairs by some unknown persons after getting many threats of killing.

We appeal to our brothers and sisters to pray for Younis Masih 's safety and his safe relocation.We appeal to pray for all who are suffering in different Pakistani jails under allegation of blasphemy laws.Pray for their counsels that they will honestly represent these accused without taking wrong directions from the persons who have their own vested interests.Pray God will give them wisdom and courage to plead and well argue their cases in courts.

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Rash of blasphemy accusations after Pakistan church bombings

From Asif Aqeel:

Many Muslims sympathised with victims, but still new blasphemy cases

Masih's belongings in Michael Town, Karachi, after they were taken from his home and set on fire. 

Two months ago, on September 22, two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside All Saints Church in Peshawar when congregants were leaving the church after the Sunday communion.
The incident was a landmark in the history of Pakistani Christians. To condemn this largest attack on the Christian community – in terms of loss of life – Christians from across the country held protest rallies, claiming that, as a recognised minority, the government fails to protect Christians.
Reactions from the Muslim majority to those protests were mixed, which might signify how Christians are on the whole perceived in Pakistani society. In the light of UK Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi’s speech in Washington DC ten days ago, World Watch Monitor has looked back over the period since the Peshawar bombs. A climate of much sympathy has nevertheless been punctured by several charges of blasphemy against Christians for actions in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.
A large number of Muslims expressed sympathy with the beleaguered Christian community (estimated at about 2 per cent of the population). For example, Dr. Taimur Rehman, an assistant professor of political science at Lahore University of Management Sciences, formed a human chain outside a Catholic church in Lahore to condemn the Peshawar blasts, and to express solidarity with the Christian community. In several areas, Muslims joined Christians in their protests, while in others (Iqbal Town in Rawalpindi, Yahounabad in Lahore, and Michael Town in Karachi) protests were met with ridicule and strong resistance.
However, despite the sympathetic majority, four blasphemy cases against Christians were registered in less than a month, four times higher than the monthly average recorded over the last two years.
In all these blasphemy charge cases, no direct evidence was available against those accused.
However, some suspect the rhetoric around the church bombings influenced a few disaffected Pakistanis, who, seeing Christians as suitable targets, took up blasphemy charges against them. 
“The Christians are the enemies of Islam and Pakistan. Therefore, we have targeted them and we will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land,” said a representative from Jundul Hafsa, a subsidiary of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which claimed responsibility for the Peshawar attack.
The group said the church attacks were to avenge “US drone strikes on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives in the Pakistani tribal belt”.

“We carried out the suicide bombings at Peshawar church and will continue to strike foreigners and non-Muslims until the American drone attacks stop,” Ahmadullah Marwat, a spokesman for the group, told a foreign news agency by phone.

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Shockingly few Pakistani Christians gain UK asylum

The British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) recently used a Freedom of Information access request to find out how many Pakistani Christians had applied for aslyum in the UK over the last few years, and how many have had their claims accepted.  The BPCA after repeated cases came to their attention where the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and Home Office had rejected asylum claims of Pakistani Christians on what they considered to be spurious grounds.

'The results were an eye-opener' said BPCA chairman Wilson Chowdhry.  'Firstly, given the deplorable situation in Pakistan for Christians, we were surprised there weren't more applications.  For instance, newspaper articles report that in 2011 about 4000 people from Pakistan sought asylum from the UK.  However, despite the fact that Christians in Pakistan are badly persecuted and an especial target of the blasphemy laws, we found from the Home Office figures that only 108 of these 4000 were Christians.  Secondly, we found out that consistently, fewer than half were given leave to stay.  Given the situation of Christians in Pakistan, and the appeals we have been involved in, we strongly believe the proportion should be much higher and we call on the UKBA and Home Office to better understand the situation of Christians in Pakistan.  We find they significantly underestimate the amount of persecution Christians suffer and claim that 'ordinary Christians' are free to live and practice their faith if they 'keep their heads down'.  This keeping their heads down, seems to include not standing up for the rights of Christians or obeying the Christian command to evangelize.'

The home office figures are as follows :

Year                                   2010          2011          2012        2013  (outcomes to date)  Total
Claims                                25              108            118          58                                       309
Success / leave to stay      7                47              49            23                                       126

BPCA researcher Nasarani ki Himmet noted that 'We have had several Pakistani Christians, including church ministers, report that it was easy for Muslims to get to the West, but not for Christians, with several suggested reasons.  When we compare the percentages of applications of Christians to that of the Pakistani official figures, the proportion of Christians seeking asylum constitutes slightly higher than the official figures for Pakistan, although we, along with many other researchers, believe the true percentage of Christians in Pakistan to be significantly higher, as there is some evidence to show that the official figures have been artificially lowered for political reasons.  On that basis, these figures show that proportionately fewer Christians are getting to the stage where they can at least claim asylum in the UK, and the perception of Christians in Pakistan is justified.   But more to the point, even if we accept the official figures, when we consider the amount of persecution Christians endure in Pakistan, these figures are very much on the low side.'  

Friday 22 November 2013

Syria continues to suffer

image of Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus (right) celebrating Mass at Aid to the Church in Need’s international headquarters in Germany. Image © ACN.

“Since all the cemeteries are already full, our only project for 2014 is to build a bigger cemetery” – Archbishop of Damascus

By John Newton

IN an impassioned appeal, the Maronite Archbishop of Damascus called on Christians around the world to show solidarity with the Christian faithful in Syria – as the civil war shows no sign of ending.
          During a visit to the international headquarters of Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need in K√∂nigstein, Germany, Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus described how the ongoing fighting has brought death and devastation to Syria’s families.
          He said: “There has been war [in Syria] for three years, and it is destroying the whole country.”
          According to Archbishop Nassar around two million homes have been destroyed in the country “which means that two million families are without a roof over their heads.
          “The people feel lost and without support.”
          He stressed that many Christians want to flee the country because of the ongoing conflict, but are unable to get visas to go abroad as foreign embassies are shut.
          Stressing the scales of the deaths in the country, the Maronite prelate said: “[T]hey are dying where they are, in solitude and silence.
          “And since all the cemeteries are already full, our only project for 2014 is to build a bigger cemetery.”
            According to figures from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 110,371 people have died during the conflict. Of these at least 40,146 were civilians including about 4,000 women and more than 5,800 children.
          Despite the scale of the deaths, Archbishop Nassar spoke optimistically about the prospects for the future.
          He said: “But Christian hope lives on. With the help of ACN we are now preparing for the future, for the rebuilding after the war and for an ecumenical collaboration among the Christian Churches and all the faithful in the orient.”
          ACN has provided more than €500,000 for projects in the country this year, including emergency aid for displaced families.
          The Archbishop of Damascus described how the Maronite Church – an Eastern Church in full communion with the Pope – had sent one seminarian to Lebanon, who would be ordained by 2020 and would return to Syria to help rebuild the Church.
          The prelate also stressed the Church’s desire to work together with Islam, with both faiths contributing to the future of the country.
          Archbishop Nassar said: “For 14 centuries we have lived in its shadow. If we want to continue to live in the future, then it can only be together. That is a great challenge, but we can succeed in it.”
          The Archbishop also stressed the importance of giving young people “more weight in the Church” and placing more emphasis on the Church’s social teaching, which he said was key for their work with non-Christians.
          Finally he asked the world’s Christians not to forget Syria in their prayers: “I entrust Syria to your prayers. May God bless you.”

Friday 15 November 2013

Archbishop Welby seeks better representation for Minority Christians in UK Church efforts

Wilson Chowdhry with Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
A conference that brought together over 300 of the country's most prominent Christian community leaders was held at Stratford Old Town Hall on Wednesday 13th November 2013.  The purpose of the event was to equip Christians and churches who are working with the poorest people to transform their lives and communities. 
The event celebrated and showcased what the church is doing to tackle poverty, and explored how we can respond effectively and appropriately to the needs around us. The day included workshops on key issues such as asset-based community development, credit unions, urban theology, responding to universal credit and how to recruit and retain volunteers.
Keynote speaker Archbishop Justin Welby said;
"The church remains a vital tool in the fight against poverty.  Loving our neighbour places a responsibility on all Christians"  He added;  "Loving God and Neighbour go together like the warp and weft of fabric."

Hear Archbishops speech on Premier Christian Radio:

The conference itself was triggered by the Archbishop of Canterbury's concerns about about the practice of payday lending.  His expressed serious concerns have given voice to a growing belief, within the church and wider society, that there should be a more ethical and just financial system, and that more should be done to develop alternatives to high-interest lending.
Wilson Chowdhry attended two of the seminars including one themed "Tackling Food Poverty" led by Hannah Lambie-Mumford from the Geography Depratment at Sheffield University and  Asset based Community Development," led by Rev Al Jarret.
He said;
"The meeting was a chance to learn better ways to tackle local poverty, through the sharing of ideas and successes with a wide-range of other Christians groups - serious about impacting on those suffering in the existing economy."
During the Q&A session after Archbishop Welby's keynote address, Wilson Chowdhry queried the lack of ethnic minority Christian representation in the meeting.  Archbishop Welby spoke of how important a question this was reflecting on the discrimination that was a social malaise of the church in the 1960's. He said further said;
"It is not good enough to say the door is now open, we need a conscious effort towards inclusivity."

The Bishop of Barking opened up the conference.

Paul Hackwood leader of Church Urban Fund described the success of their recent work.

Archbishop Justin Welby was the Keynote Speaker.

Maurice Glasman spoke of the need for a new political structure.

Food Poverty Seminar

Ideas were presented and shared on initiatives to tackle Food Poverty.

Hanna Lambie-Mumford led discussion on Food Poverty.

Monday 11 November 2013

The Treatment and Portrayal of Women and Minorities through Education System in Pakistan

The British Pakistani Christian Association is currently collecting data on how women and minorities are portrayed through the education system in Pakistan. It would therefore be most helpful if readers could answer the following questions which have particular relevance to anyone who has been to school in Pakistan as the information will be collated and formalised into a report which will then be presented to the British government, European Parliament and Pakistani Government.  Our report will also be published in book format for wider readers.

Have you ever suffered persecution on account of your faith?

Have you felt treated differently in school and class on account of your faith?

Have you or anyone you've known had progress limited in school, on account of your beliefs and faith?

Have you ever been told that certain jobs are off limits to you on account of your faith?

Has your own faith been taught in school as part of the curriculum?

What faiths if any are taught in the Pakistani Education system?

Have you ever suffered harassment on account of your gender?

Have you ever been treated negatively on account of your gender (mainly directed towards women and girls)?

Do you feel that in school you were not given the same chances on account of you being a woman or a girl?

Was education considered something for men an boys only in either your family or your community?

What could be done to overcome these issues?