Saturday, 25 April 2015

Mouthpiece for all sorts of Voices

Mouthpiece for all sorts of Voices
By – Shamim Masih
ISLAMABAD: Dr Martine Luther King, Jr. said, in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”. I quote this because many of religious and political leaders are silent after the Youhanabad incident. Many delegates from UNO, Commonwealth, politicians from the west and churches usually visit Pakistan to know the situation of Pakistani Christians. Government representatives and puppets from minority side assure them that everything is going on well. Sorry to say, none has ever tried to meet the real representatives from the community. Thus the situation remains same and there is no hope for the better future.
Pakistani Christians fear repercussion after lynching the two suspects following the terrorist attack on two churches in Youhanabad, Lahore. Sohail Johnson had a relative among the victims of the massacre of Youhanabad, is not an isolated case. His brother is reportedly been arrested from Gujranwala city and associated with Youhanabad case. Joseph Francis, Executive Director CLAAS told in a telephone that he had filed application in the court but police is denying the arrest of Yousaf (brother of Sohail Johnson). Aslam Pervaiz Sahotra is another name in this regard, he was arrested from Islamabad and now been transferred to jail.
It’s very common, the more they profess the Christian religion or defend religious minorities, uncover the persecution incidents, they are being targeted. Gulshan Masih has received multiple death threats from the country’s most brutal sectarian groups who know his home address. He is seeking asylum in Denmark and his application is still in process. He has been a campaigner for Christian minority group. “I fear they can just “arrest” me from the airport, because they have good contacts with the security people as well, who have been infiltrated by the religious extremists, if the application is rejected” Gulshan said in a phone. He is accused of blasphemy case and FIR was registered against him under 295-C. My life is genuinely in danger in the home country, he requested Human Rights Groups to campaign for him and exert meaningful pressure, he added.
Persecution is not simply the killings, but the severe discrimination in many ways, educational opportunities, untouchable status, targeted during employment etc. Many Christian families are arrested in Thailand; those were seeking asylum to other western countries. Hindus, Shia Muslims can escape to the countries where their faith is a majority, but there is no alternative for Christians other than the Christian majority countries.
It is therefore very important for every individual to approach those influential people who can speak to Pakistani government and are in a position to make a difference. The ongoing situation against Christians is inflexible especially for those Christians unnecessary detained in Youhanabad case and seeking asylum in different countries.  

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Remembering Inmates on this Easter

Remembering Inmates on this Easter
By – Shamim Masih
ISLAMABAD: A day before resurrection day on April 04, 2015, I wished my friends through a text message mentioning them that the resurrection day is a time when you can reflect on the true values of Christianity; responsibility, charity, compassion, humility, forgiveness and love. We should particularly remember those followers of Christ Jesus in our surroundings that are unable to celebrate this event due to any of their
Safdar Chaudhry & Shamim Masih out side the Adyla Jail, Rwp 
A country like Pakistan; where Christians and other religious minorities are being targeted frequently. There are many Christians suffering for their faith today in a normal life that it is hard to comprehend. I have been reporting from the country where extremist Sunnis, inspired by puritan Wahhabi teachings, and have been targeting educated and well off Christians. Extremist have killed enough innocent children, attacked schools, burnt Christians colonies, torn down Hindu temples, mutilated journalists, shunned social values and flogged bloggers for free thinking to deserve this acrimony all around the world. Religious extremists have established that no other form of religion is welcome in Pakistan. Christians and Hindus are out of the question; these extremists are far from accepting even another sect of their own religion here.
In this situation, just think about the Christian prisoners in Pakistan. How could their life can be, can you believe that? In Central Jail Adayla Rawalpindi, there are about 100 inmates, around 80 detainees and 20 prisoners. Visiting a loved one in prison can be a difficult experience. Aiming to maintain and enhance positive contact between people in prison, their families and their children, we went to Adayla Jail Rawalpindi on this Easter. Safder Chaudhry, SG, Rah-e-Nijat Ministries arranged 15 Kg Rice, 15 cakes, Milk, meat, spices, fruits, and other eatable items. We went to deliver them and to share the word of God with our brothers in Jail. We had permission for IG Prison even than Superintendent Police didn’t allow us to enter into prison to see our Christian inmates on Easter. However after DIG prison intervention we went in and share the word of God with few Christian prisoners and delivered the eatable items to them. Vicky Yousaf, Christian teacher in the church and his other partners were very happy to see us. He said we feel very proud when our brothers in Christ remember us while celebrating Christmas and Easter.
Imprisonment disrupts families and while research suggests people who offend are very often the children of people who have offended, there is very little support for children who have a parent in prison. If people in prison can keep up their family links while in prison, they are less likely to re-offend. I met with Sajid Masih, he spent half of portion of his life in jail, and he has to pay just few hundred thousand rupees to save his rest of life and his family as well.
Rah-e-Nijat Ministry is working on prisoners in Pakistan. You can help them out, suffering our brothers and sisters. It aim to provide them food, clothing and legal assistance to reach as much of these prisoners as possible. If you would like to donate towards helping Sajid Masih for his release or other prisoners in Pakistan, you can reach at

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Level Playing Field

Level Playing Field
By – Shamim Masih

Shamim Masih
ISLAMABA:  Over past 15 years of my life, I have observed that working in a Sunni dominated country like Pakistan, on removing barriers to success like discrimination and divisions is not only hard but impossible, especially when you belong to any of the depressed community. During my career as writer, telephonic threats are a routine but recent Youhanabad unpleasant incident has brought to the level to think again the word “Pakistani Christians”. Youhanabad 2 Churches blast seems very well planned to defame Christian’s character in Pakistan. On March 15, 2015, two suicide bombers attacked two churches in Youhanabad, Lahore. I immediately planned to travel Lahore and informed my resident editor (Hanif Sabir, Daily Khabrain-Islamabad) about the incident and went to Lahore. However, I was considered absent and later was terminated from the job due to absence. The mob reaction towards those two suspects was very natural who were caught red-handed during the incident. Most media houses broadcast them that they were facilitator to those suicide bombers. However, later they were shown as innocent. It seems; it is done on certain pressure.
After this incident, the local authorities and media has proved the two suspects as innocent and tried to defame Christian character. I submitted this incident report to British Pakistani Christian Association – BPCA and Wilson Choudhry usually provides me assistance for reports. I welcome this tiny assistance because reporting on Christian affairs is my passion not assignments. BPCA financial assistance hardly meets the cost of my travelling and meal.
Copy of the application
This Yohanabad incident has not only left the oppressed community helpless but police allegedly being detained and subjected to third-degree method without being produced in any court. Police targeted the people who have ever raised voice for the rights of the community. The list includes the names of the prominent Christian rights activists like Aslam Parvaiz Sohtra, Sohail Johnson, Joseph Francis and others. Apparently, these people have no link with the lynching. Unfortunately two Christian MPAs from PML-N helped the police identify the suspected miscreant and detain them. Aslam Parvaiz Sohtra visited me on 24th March; he was willing to arrange candle vigil in Islamabad. The very next morning, he was arrested from G-7 Islamabad and was shifted to Lahore. He is simply targeted for he was open to raise his community rights.
The reaction from the masses is not very encouraging either. The majority continue to remain apathetic to the on-going persecution of our minorities. They refuse to understand that standing up for them is a sacred duty entrusted upon us by our faith. Christians are persecuted due to their faith. The very unfortunate history of minorities in Pakistan is littered with violence and institutional discrimination at all level. We receive a “step mother love” from the land we belong to. Our patriotism is questioned and our loyalty to the country is often mingled with doubt and suspicion. In Pakistan, the history of minorities in general and Christian in particular is reddened with blood of innocents with endless catalogues of persecution.
On March 29, when I was on the way back to my home, when I was about to reach IJP road, two motorcyclists assaulted me. As soon as I fell down on the ground, both shouted to stop writing on Christian rights otherwise ready to face dire consequences. They left me affronted there; after few minutes I managed my motorbike and went to the doctor. I had injuries on my both knee and left arm with minor fracture. The doctor managed the first aid pasted plaster on left arm. Later I went to Police Station – PS I-9 and submitted an application of this incident. It is not the first time that I am being targeted because of my faith. Earlier in 2013, when I was working in my office, in the presence of other staff reporters in Daily Khabrain, Kamal Asfer, a religious extremist attacked me on the basis of different opinion. (Kamal Asfer, reportedly has close relations with Taliban group and had been working for different religious groups).
Christians find no protection of the law as their vulnerability is even exploited by the laws itself since they give room for the wide misuse of Pakistan blasphemy laws, which further compounds their precariousness, disillusionment and alienation. Those Pakistanis who do speak up for Christian have themselves become targets of violence. In the midst of this ever-increasing persecution the terror-stricken Christians have no hope but to clamor for help to the government which seem to have no ears at all. In most democracies around the world, the law of the land should be the life blood for its citizens. It protects and promotes basic and fundamental right of its citizens regardless of race, religion, or any other background. However, in Pakistan, laws are more often than not used to spite the weak and the vulnerable and they often support the strong.
Laws should be equally applied to everyone, but how far government has provided protection and justice to the victims of persecution? How many of those who lynched a Christian couple Shehzad and Shama have been charged with murder or terrorism? Who among the attackers of Shanti Nagar or of Gojra and Korian and Joseph Colony has ever been prosecuted? To fully understand the two-faced nature of Pakistan's approach to justice system a recent statement of Pakistan Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar is worth to mention here. Commenting on the post Lahore Church blasts violence which saw two Muslim men burnt to death by violent Christians Nisar said: "Lynching is the worst form of terrorism."
Without doubt it is true that no one has a right to take law in its own hand and those who perpetrated this heinous crime of lynching two men should be brought to justice. Nevertheless, it is equally important to treat all citizens with justice. True rule of law does not allow any sense of alienation or stigmatization. To cap it all, no government minister attended the bereaved families of Youhanabad at the time of writing these lines. It is the first and foremost responsibility of the echelons of any state to provide legislation which serves the weak and the strong alike. They have to ensure the laws are applied equally to all citizens and that the justice system neither favor nor discriminates anyone on grounds of their religion, race and background. And equal opportunities should be given to every citizen of the country.