Friday, 28 March 2014

Woe after Sawan’s death sentence among Pakistani Christian

A Christian man, Sawan Masih, father of three from Joseph Colony in Badami Bagh area of Lahore has been sentenced to hang in Lahore. Blasphemy law is highly contentious issue in Pakistan and attempts to revisit the laws have been vehemently opposed by more radical elements. Challenging the blasphemy laws was a prominent factor in the murders of Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Minorities and Salman Taseer Governor Punjab in early 2011.

Human rights groups claim that blasphemy laws are often misused against religious minorities, including Christians, to settle personal scores and seize property. Christians are being persecuted for their faith in the country; they face routine harassment and discrimination. Christian groups and human rights campaigners condemned the verdict and called for the blasphemy laws to be repealed.
Christian human rights activists’ woe after the death sentence of Sawan Masih. “All too often in Pakistan rivals will cry blasphemy to settle scores and enact revenge,” said Sohail Johnson, chairman Sharing Life Ministry – SLMP. “Unfortunately the blasphemy law has become a powerful tool the hands of extremists and is continually being used to attack churches, burn down Christian towns and villages and also kill innocent people” he added.

Furrakh H Saif, chief of World Vision in Progress - WVIP considers it a kangaroo justice with the victims of blasphemy law. He said that judges are biased and are under pressure of Islamists. He is afraid that in its routine order, they will soon award death sentences to Shagufta with her husband Shafaqat and Pastor Adnan.

Nazir S Bhatti chief of Pakistan Christian Congress – PCC said that the laws were out of step with rights guaranteed under Pakistan’s constitution and should be repealed. It’s an obscene law, he said. “Essentially the blasphemy law is used as a tool of persecution and to settle other scores that are nothing to do with religion. In makes religious minorities particularly vulnerable because it’s often used against them.”

“In reality the death sentence may not be carried out but it can mean that an accused person ends up behind bars for years,” said Albert David, chairman Pakistan United Christian Movement. “Even if their conviction is eventually overturned on appeal the accused are still vulnerable to attacks by vigilantes”. It leads to death threats, murder and riots. In the interests of justice Pakistan must revisit these blasphemy laws, he added.

So far, no death sentence for blasphemy has been carried out but even if the verdict is eventually overturned, the accused can spend years in prison awaiting the outcome of lengthy appeals and if freed, they run the risk of brutal mob justice. The worry is that the climate in Pakistan is taking a turn for the worse for Christians as Federal Sharia court has called for a mandatory death penalty for those found guilty. This would be a giant leap backwards for Pakistan

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Blasphemy law in Pakistan slaughtered another accused

During the tenure of Pakistan Muslim League (N), Joseph Colony was the second incident in province Punjab, earlier a Christian colony in Gojra was set in ablaze and a family was burnt alive. In Joseph colony, there was no causality of the Christian community during this incident but around 200 Christian’s houses, two churches and many shops were burnt with Holy Bible and Holy books of the Christians.
The blasphemy suspect was identified as Sawan Masih 26 years of age. Police took him into custody and sent him on judicial remand. After a year of the case trial, Sawan Masih is reportedly been given the death sentence by the trail judge. What about those; they burnt Bible and holy Books of the Christians?
On March 09, 2013, a highly charged mob of a few thousand Muslims set ablaze around 200 houses, shops and two churches of this more than 50 years old locality over the allegation of blasphemy of Sawan Masih. The violent mob, locals say, asked the Christian community to hand over the accused to them or get ready for the consequences. The mob burned their houses after looting all valuables from almost every house, they said.
Government has given reasonable financial compensation, but the scares are still there. Now Sawan Masih becomes another victim of the blasphemy in the country.
Actually Sawan Masih (accused) and Shahid Imran (complainant) were friends for the last ten years and the complainant used to run his stall in front of the colony. The residents claimed that local influential traders wanted to vacate the colony and turned it into godams (stores) to expand their business.

Furrakh H Saif, chief of World Vision in Progress - WVIP considers it a kangaroo justice with the victims of blasphemy law. He said that judges are biased and are under pressure of Islamists. In its routine order, they will soon award death sentences to Shagufta with her husband Shafaqat and Pastor Adnan, he added.    

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Services by Horizon – WVIP

Pakistani Christian mourns the death of their relative who were killed in the September 22, blast at the All Saint’s Church, after the service in Peshawar. Victims of All Saints church still bears the physical scars of the September 22 bombing believed to be the deadliest ever against Muslim majority Pakistan’s small Christian community. More than 85 people were killed and around hundred were injured a devastating twice suicide attack targeted their place of worship on September 22. 2013.  The seemingly senseless slaughter of so many innocent civilians shocked Pakistan and it is still not clear who carried out the attack.
Peshawar church blast has united the Christians of the country. Christians all over the country and world came and showed their support. Many social rights activists including me reached there to help the victims, many helped them in many ways but with the passage of time, they got busy with their routine work. There are few FB activists and politicians, who just visit and post pictures to show their activities. Certainly organizations have their different projects but at the same time there is an organization that is still working on and helping the victims.
Kashamal Munwar - during the attack 
Yes, it is none other than World Vision in Progress – WVIP. WVIP not only cover the cost for annual supplies of medicine and hospital cost but also supporting victims for medical treatment to abroad. During early February, WVIP supported Kashmala Munawar to fly to Australia for further treatment. Kashmala Manwar was one of the victims of Peshawar church blast who had multiple pellets in her legs. Doctors amputated her one leg and rod was fixed in her second leg. But doctors were not sure for saving her second leg. WVIP requested its Australian partner Jeannette wells and her husband Ron for her treatment in their country. The said couple requested Children First Foundation to help them in this regard. And thus she went to Australia for her further treatment.

WVIP is playing a vital role in helping Christians suffering attacks and riots in recent years. Many victims still waiting for the government promised and church administration as well for the maintenances. Even when the walls are pristine again, it will take rather longer to heal the emotional scars of traumatized congregation. 

Friday, 21 March 2014

Visible and engaged – Christian women are breaking into industry

Research shows women wait to be invited to participate in new opportunities. They think differently than men and this difference can be a powerful source of competitive advantage. By providing women with the necessary experiential entrepreneurial training to leverage women’s unique skills and perspectives for new business creation, we can transform them from employees to employers. Access to employment is a serious problem for Pakistani Christians. Well-educated, young Christian men and women are not able to find employment.  
Visiting at SLMP
The good news is that there is definitely a push to get girls into the tech arena. When a woman earns an income, she reinvests 90 percent of it in her family, meaning her whole community benefits. With the resources to establish her own business, her children receive better nutrition and improved school access, while other women and their families benefit from the knowledge she shares.
Sharing Life Ministries Pakistan – SLMP program on women empowerment was successfully piloted in the fall of 2011 and provides women with entrepreneurial skills. By providing new skills to the degreed individuals who are interested with necessary training for new business creation, they propose

Sohail Johnson showing the workings
helping to create new technology based company that create the jobs of the future. Sohail Johnson chief of SLMP said that we recognized that not everyone can be an entrepreneur but a key component of the program is the creation of teams that are mentored by an experienced entrepreneur who will capitalize on the individual skill sets of each participant.

Shumaila Faris working at SLMP 
Under this skill enhancement program, SLMP had trained more than 980 minority women in recent three years. Kiran Younis, 23, having 8 family members earn some reasonable amount for her family. She had never been to school for her father has low income; since she got training chance at SLMP, she planned to send her young ones to school for education. Mehak Shuakat, 25, joined SLMP two years back and now earning an average income of 5000 per month, supporting her parents.

Schooling in addition to fiscal empowerment brings adjust between completely new generation. We wish that will social rights activist start working upon these types of collections as a substitute losing occasion in addition to methods throughout other pursuits.  

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The other side of grief - Asia’s appeal deferred again

After three years, Asia’s children would be hoping to see her mother at home as her case was fixed for hearing before a division bench. Asia Bibi’s appeal was taken up at the Lahore High Court - LHC praying that the conviction for blasphemy was inconsistent with the evidence. The court may reduce her sentence, if do not grant acquittal altogether. Judges are reluctant to use their powers to take up Asia’s case on a priority basis due to its controversial. Asia Bibi was charged of insulting Muhammad and then sentenced to death. My heart aches and aches and I found myself crying almost the entire time, even though I never had a chance to know her. The Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement CLAAS claimed to provide legal aid and assistance to members of Asia Bibi.
Beside the truth that LHC deferred the way it is in addition to we should instead look into the subject in particular publishing the particular request prior to the courtroom in addition to currently being introduced it publically.
I think; we should be profoundly concerned about the security of Asia Bibi and her family instead taking credit. I wrote and went to Lahore for the proceeding of the case because after three years this case is taken up again. As I was on the way and I came to know that it was deferred but I went to see her family. There I met her husband Aashiq Masih, who was disheartened. Earlier we planned to follow the case secretly but observing the law and order situation in the country, we didn’t take up an application. When we know that Asia’s case is sensitive and in this situation we are not worthy to take credits. Asia, 45, has been in the jail since June, 2009. Yasin Badar, advocate CLAAS stated that judges must be under some pressure because there was no other reason why the hearing could be cancelled twice. He said the judge hearing her appeal went on a leave on the last hearing.
It is very obvious that judges are under pressure, when Governor Salaman Taseer and Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti were assassinated, there is no other reason to it. Talking on the phone Joseph Francis chief of CLAAS claimed that he is supporting Asia’s family. While Aashiq Masih (Asia’s husband) denies his statement and said CLAAS has never helped his family in this regard since she is arrested. CLAAS accumulate funds on her name but not working for Asia, he added.
CLAAS has reportedly con Sawan case as well. There are several loopholes in the prosecution’s case, including her extrajudicial confession, inconsistencies in the testimony of prosecution witness and procedural lapses, said her attorney. In this situation if the case is taken up sensibly it will won acquittal.    

Saturday, 15 March 2014

CLAAS plead for Asia’s justice

Supreme Court of Pakistan endorsed the Islamabad High Court decision setting free the juvenile girl Rimsha accused of blasphemy in the capital. This case made the history in blasphemy cases in Pakistan and the decision was appreciated nationally and international grounds.
Four years ago, Asia bibi considered to be “unclean” by some Muslim women. A dispute ensued and her fellow women complained that she blasphemed against the Prophet Muhammad. She was sentenced to death by hanging, has been languishing in a jail ever since. The case has prompted widespread international condemnation but in Pakistan, some of those who publicly called for Asia’s release were murdered like Governor Salmaan Tasee and Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti. Asia’s case has been widely featured in the media reports around the world, scores of victims accused of blasphemy vanish into the shadows without the public hearing of them. Despite the international and domestic uproar, Asia is still in Jail. Farmer President Asif Ali Zardari dropped plans to issue a presidential pardon after hard-line pro-blasphemy groups staged massive demonstrations against the measures.
In the situation CLAAS after careful consideration has plead for Lahore High Court - LHC for Asia’s case. Joseph Francis chief of CLAAS believes that God will soften the hearts of the Judges and they will follow the international norms and justice will prevail. Talking on the telephone, Francis said that Pakistan has the strictest anti-blasphemy laws. Several sections of PPC forbid damaging or defiling a place of worship, outraging religious feelings, defiling the Quran and prophet Muhammad. The accused of blasphemy are frequently threatened or attacked, even before any investigation has been carried out.
Hitting a sensitive nerve, the case has shed light on how the Pakistani government has been taken hostage by militant extremists. Pakistani judges are under pressure from mobs waiting outside their courtrooms, ready to spark riots. Lawyers fear assuming the defense of the accused. Rather than doing what’s right, it’s easier for Pakistani authorities to turn a blind eye.
Releasing Asia would be inflammatory that places Pakistani society at the mercy of religious extremists, would help Pakistan demonstrate that it will not bow down to those who threaten the rule of law through violence and intimidation.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Protest erupt after Muslims stopped church construction

Protest sparked throughout the country against the restriction of the construction a church in Okara, Pakistan, demanding the government to take stringent measure for the security of the minorities.
Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan staged a protest rally in front of Lahore Press Club, Lahore.
The protest demonstrators expressed their angst over the inhuman act, terming it criminal negligence on the part of the provincial government. Sohail John, chairman Sharing Life Ministries said that the state has failed to provide human shelters to the minorities in Pakistan. He said this is beyond doubt that this is our war and we will need to not only openly fight it but own it instead of living in denial. Addressing on the occasion, demonstrators said that police neither provided them with security nor they took adequate arrangements for their protection. They said the Christian community and its wors
Sohail Johnson praying during the protest rally 
hip places in Pakistan have become unsafe due to the acts of a few fanatics.
Earlier Pakistan Christian Congress staged a protest rally in Okara Press Club, Okara. Protesters holding banners and play card demanding to provide safe and secure place for Pakistani minorities. PCC chief Dr. Nazir S Bhatti said Christian have been living in fear for a long while in Pakistan this incident shows that the state has failed to provide the minorities the right to live. He said that all Christians be sent to the Christian majority countries if you don’t allow them to construct their worship places.

Shamim Masih, a Christian journalist and human rights activist said Christian in Pakistan do not have any protection, even constitutional protection is not seen in practice. The Christians appealed to the federal and provincial government to provide them with foolproof security. They demanded end to terrorist activities.      

Monday, 10 March 2014

Inmate being cured after beaten brutally

A Christian persecution has no limit, but Christian persecution news coverage is pitiable in Pakistan. Clearly, in today’s deeply connected Christian world, truthful unbiased and unfiltered news about realities of persecution is a basic need to address. I do write on it but don’t have any regular platform to publish this news. Some online papers do it but don’t pay even a single penny. There is no any regular assistance, my local paper don’t pay enough to meet the basic needs. A house rent, school fee, kitchen expenses and my daily expenses push me to do extra work and thus I cannot afford to reach far and wide.
Sohail Johnson, chairman Sharing Life Ministries Pakistan claims that Christian prisoners are treated in a very inhuman way in Pakistani jails. The attack on Christian inmates is very common inside the central Jail Adyala, Rawalpindi and other prisons in Pakistan.   
Peter John (Inmate)
Last week of February, Peter John, inmate in Central Jail Adyala, Rawalpindi was beaten up brutally by the prison staff due to Christian faith. He was coming to church for Morning Prayer in the jail. (With the efforts of local Christian, a church is built in jail and local priest visit them on weekly basis, according to Safder Chuadhry, Shahbaz Bhatti - Federal Minister for Minorities, assured to provide funds for the said church in 2010, but didn’t fulfill his words). Chaudhry Safdar Saleem, Rah-e-Nijat Ministry asked me to join him to help the inmate in this regard.
Due to my official commitment, I couldn’t join him but I published the news on February 27, 2014, Daily Khabrain, Islamabad. Peter John reportedly hung upside down and beaten up by the prison staff and was shifted to isolated cell instead hospital. Safdar filed an application to the court to investigate the matter and prayed that the accused should be shifted to hospital for medical treatment. The judge harassed the applicant to proof his own identity but he went to the jail later for judicial inquiry on February 28, and found him injured. Judge ordered to bring him to the hospital for his medical treatment.

On March 01, 2014; Tariq Chaman, President & Shamim Masih, Secretary General,

Group Photo of Minority Journalist Association Islamabad/Rawalpindi 
Minority Journalist Association Islamabad went to the hospital to see the injured inmate. The scars on his body, clearly tell the history to his brutal punishment, he had faced. Peter told that a huge circle has been made in front of the barracks where he was beaten up. He also alleged that inmates are forced to run from one barrack to another are beaten up until they faint. Peter John is accused to theft and his case is under trail under section 683 PP. International community should step in to support minorities in Pakistan and to support the voices of the voiceless who refuse to give up the idea of a pluralist society. 

Sunday, 9 March 2014

High-handed leadership

Religious minorities are widely viewed as beleaguered or under attack since Z. A. Bhutto’s regime. Even then Pakistani Christians follow his ideology. At the time of partition in 1947, around 23 percent population was comprised of non-Muslims citizens. Today, the proportion of non-Muslims has declined to approximately 3-4 percent. Religious minorities such as Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis have been the targets of suicide bomb attacks, several incidents of violence and intimidation were reported including abduction and subsequent forced conversion of girls. Worship places and graveyards of Christians and Ahmadis have not been spared. Regular reports of graves being excavated and vandalized appear in the press and via community reports.   
General Zia brought in rules and regulations which were supposed to bring Pakistani law more in tune with the Sharia, or at least the Sharia as interpreted by him and his cohorts. These laws, which included the infamous blasphemy law, had a long term impact on Pakistan’s minorities. Since then there has been a steady rise in incidents involving attacks on both Christians and Ahmadis during the last two decades. Blasphemy law has targeted religious minorities on a regularbasis. In spite of the case’s dismissal by the court, Rimsha and her family had to be kept in a safe house to prevent vigilante action against her and finally Rimsha and her family shifted to Canada.  
During the British era, blasphemy laws were used infrequently and were reserved for prosecution of clerics, authors and preachers who caused inter-communal violence by attacking other faiths. But since 1982, any individual can be charged with blasphemy, leading to vigilantism and frivolous accusations against Pakistan’s minorities, especially Christians. Before 1986, only 14 cases of blasphemy had ever been reported, whereas between 1986 and 2012 around 1300 people had been charged.
I believe that all Christians are not saints but human beings and often make mistakes but I certainly believe that there is even limit to telling lie. Bhutto nationalized Christians’ institutions and since then Christian students are out of educational institutions. Even now Christian’s students are being expelled from missionary institutions due to the lack of sources. But Paul Bhatti’sclaimed that he has supported 4000 Christian students and funded 15 Christian students for higher studies in abroad and 100 million provided for rehabilitation of worship places. I didn’t see any support for Christians during his time. This huge fund is beyond the total grant to Harmony Ministry from the government, which is around 20 million per year. During the vigil mark slain minister Shahbaz Bhatti’s third death anniversary, I heard people claiming, and they are promoting his vision; I try to recall, what Shahbaz Bhatti or his followers have done for the community but found nothing but this scandle. Sitting as federal minister in government, if he delivered a statement in the favor of persecuted women is not worthy to take credits. He was elected through democratic process but was selected by big Muslim political party. Candidates appointed to reserved seats are not real representatives as they do not get their votes. The selection system adopted for minority members has opened the doors of corruption, says Albert David- Chairman PUCM. Thus he was not public representative. When majority of fellow Christians are going through sufferings we are not worthy to take any credits. Nazir S Bhatti, president PCC declared joint electorate conspiracy against religious minorities. PCC has filed a writ petition in IHC against this system.    
Besides flagging the incidents, the HRCP report laments the failure to do away with discriminatory laws including the constitutional provision barring non-Muslims from key government positions. Instead of abandoning the promise of revising and improving the law, the government should create consensus on the need to reform it. Educational institutions, Technical training centers and women empowerment is required to empower the Christian community.
If I look around and I could hardly find few passionate Christians, who delighted to extend their hands to all affected areas and people in need. There is a lot of information regarding the recent and past Christian persecutions that sway Pakistan over and over. Scientists say that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can create a tornado in Texas a week later. Clearly, in today’s deeply connected Christian world, truthful unbiased and unfiltered news about realities of persecution is a basic need to address. Christian persecution news coverage is pitiable in Pakistan, but reminding the Christians around to unite, remain prayerful and patient so that we can ripple Christian love and concern through our own individual lives and the consequent lives we inevitably affect around us.

But unlikely there are many so called Christian leaders wasting the resources shaking up with Muslim ullmas and contributing in main political parties. The Islamists are prevailing in the battle of ideas. Secular voices have been either physically eliminated or removed from the mainstream by judicial means. Therefore, it is in the interest of neighbors and the international community to support the minority communities in Pakistan and to support the voices of those Pakistanis who refuse to give up the idea of a pluralist society. 

Friday, 7 March 2014

Muslims vandalized under construction Church

Religious freedom is guaranteed under Article 20 in Pakistan’s constitution, but discriminatory legislation punishes those who choose to actively follow the Christian faith and places restriction on the Church.  Restriction on spread the gospel publically is reportedly banned and same with constriction of new Churches, and honestly speaking I am being beaten up by the radical Muslims in Mansrah district on selling religious books when voluntarily worked with Operation Mobilization - OM team in Pakistan.
Christians of the Okara district dared to construct a new Church building under the provision of the said article along with a Christian school on a two-kanal piece of land owned by Akber Masih, one of their community members in the last week. But their dreams didn’t come true when a day after they had partially constructed a church building and installed cross, a radical Muslims came in and damaged the building first with their hand and later they plough the ground with the help of tractor.
The investigation officer – IO Mohammad Javed told that police have registered an FIR and raiding to arrest the accused.
SohailJohnson, head of Sharing Life Ministries reached there with his team and crop up; talking on the telephone he said that First Investigation Report – FIR under section 295 – A and 506 – B of Pakistan Penal Code against ten people for damaging the church and defaming cross is registered but police has not been able to arrest the accused so far. He said that Christians in Pakistan face discrimination in its different forms and are not protected in the country. He added that we are equal citizen of this country and our forefathers have shed their blood for this piece of land. We will fight for our rights if not rendered and in this struggle we will not spare any one. He demanded the chief minister to take strict measures against the perpetrators.
Farrukh H Saif, chief of WVIP said that we have been struggling against discriminatory laws by decades and will not leave any stone unturned to achieve the rights of our people. Blasphemy law is used for vested interest and minority girls are rapped and married forcefully.   

Earlier in September 21, 2012 St. Paul Lutheran Church in Mardan burnt by radical Muslims, and right after a year in September 22, 2013 hundred killed, over 150 injured in Peshawar church attack. Two Churches in Joseph Colony, Lahore were set ablaze with 150 houses of Christians to take revenge of the blasphemy allegedly committed by a Christian man.