PAKISTAN: Zafar Bhatti’s appeal hearing adjourned again

UPDATE:

Pray for our brother Zafar who is in prison and in distress

Our brother Zafar is facing the prospect of spending the rest of his life behind bars in Pakistan over false accusations of ‘blasphemy’ – and really needs our prayers.

Zafar Bhatti, who is being held in Adyala Jail in Rawalpindi, was sentenced to life imprisonment in May, after he was accused of sending blasphemous text messages from his mobile phone. Five years on from his arrest, he insists he is innocent.

Please pray for our brother in Pakistan who is in distress and needs to know his Christian family worldwide are interceding for him.

Zafar says there have been several attempts on his life in jail, including a near-fatal poisoning in 2013. His health has deteriorated and he now suffers from a heart condition. He now hopes to take his case to appeal at the High Court.

  • Please lift Zafar to God and ask Him to comfort and sustain him. Please use the prayer that Zafar sent us to inspire your prayers on his behalf:

‘O my dear Lord Jesus, listen to my prayer; in my difficult times, I come to you. Release me from my captivity.

‘O Lord, forgive me my sins and have mercy on me; O Lord, listen to my prayer. I am your child. Hallelujah.’

  • Pray that God will provide for Zafar’s wife, Nawab Bibi, who is struggling to survive financially without her husband’s support. Thank God that Release partners have been able to provide her with some help. Pray that God will provide a good lawyer and funding for Zafar’s appeal.
  • Continue to cry out to God for justice on behalf of every member of our Christian family in Pakistan who has been persecuted through its notorious blasphemy laws. Pray that they will be set free from prison and the laws reformed, in the name of religious freedom and justice.

(Source: Release partners)

Nov. 02, 2017 | Pakistan
Pray for Zhafar Bhatti, Imprisoned Since 2012

 

CLAAS, a religious freedom advocacy group updated Voice of the Persecuted on the case of Zafar Bhatti, a Christian in Pakistan who was falsely charged of blasphemy and now sentenced to life imprisonment by a Pakistani court on May 3, 2017.

Bhatti had been charged under blasphemy law section 295C and telegraph act section 25D in 2012 for sending blasphemous text messages from his mobile phone, which is according to reports was not registered to his name. He denies the charges.

Since 2012, he has been imprisoned in Adiala Central Jail Rawalpindi. Considering the threats to his life, the case was conducted in the jail on April 24 but the judgment was reserved for later dates. On May 3, the Additional session judge jailed him for life.

Usually courts hand down a death sentence to those who are charged under 295-C, but because there was no concrete evidence against Bhatti, he was sentenced to life imprisonment instead.

In 2012 Islamabad, the lawyers’ bar passed a resolution that no lawyer will represent Bhatti in the court, but CLAAS accepted his responsibility. They’re also helping to care for his family.

Due to threats against the accused and their lawyers, CLAAS tried to move the case to Lahore but the request was denied.

Nasir Saeed, director CLAAS-UK said it is very unfortunate that even though there was not enough evidence against Bhatti, instead of freeing him, the court has sentenced him to life imprisonment because of pressure from Islamists.

“The blasphemy law is continuously being misused in Pakistan to take revenge and settle personal scores. Christians are the most targeted group, and several Christians have been burnt alive, and even their towns and churches are often attacked and set to fire.”

“The lower court’s judges always hesitate to make decisions on the merit, or free people accused of blasphemy, and instead transfer their burden to the higher court without realizing how their decision will impact the accused and their families’ lives.”

CLAAS says they will appeal against the lower court’s decision to the Lahore high court. They believe Bhatti is innocent and will be freed by the higher court. Unfortunately, it will take several years for his case to be heard by the High Court.

Please pray for Bhatti and his family who are suffering needlessly.

UPDATE:

PAKISTAN: Zafar Bhatti’s appeal hearing adjourned again

Yesterday, the appeal of Zafar Bhatti was adjourned for the seventh time (on this occasion, because it might have interfered with the judge’s holiday plans). Zafar’s wife, Nawab, broke down in tears in court. Today, Zafar received the news in prison and was greatly disheartened. A doctor visiting him today said that he was at great risk of a heart attack.

Recently Pakistan’s National Assembly passed a resolution to prevent abuse through introducing safeguards. However, all such calls have faced strong opposition in the past. Those who’ve demanded changes in the blasphemy law were silenced and threatened with death.  The governor of Punjab Salman Taseer and Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti were savagely killed, as their acts were considered equal to blasphemy by hardliners.

Nevertheless, this latest resolution is clearly something to be welcomed and another reason to continue praying for the repeal of the laws so nobody has to suffer needlessly,  CLAAS told Voice of the Persecuted.

https://releaseinternational.org/media/download_gallery/PP_Zafar_Bhatti_Sept17.pdf

Meanwhile, Nabeel Masih, a 16-year-old accused of blasphemy in Punjab, has just been denied bail for the second time. He has been in jail since September after being accused of ‘liking’ on Facebook an allegedly blasphemous post. Nabeel’s friends say he’s been framed.

PAKISTAN – FURTHER “BLASPHEMY” ARRESTS AS FACEBOOK COOPERATES WITH PAKISTAN TO POTENTIALLY SHUT DOWN FREE SPEECH

Ashfaq Masih, a Christian bicycle mechanic from Lahore, was arrested by police on 15 June after being accused of “blasphemy” following his refusal to give a Muslim customer a discount for being a “holy man”. Police have officially registered a case against him, but at the time of writing it is not known if the allegations will result in Ashfaq facing criminal prosecution.

In early July, Pakistan’s Interior Minister met with Facebook’s Vice President of Global Public as the Pakistani government continued its efforts to introduce what would amount to a global Islamic blasphemy law on social media. They discussed “steps and actions being taken [by Facebook] to remove blasphemous content that is illegal in Pakistan”, and the Minister later affirmed “the understanding shown by Facebook … and the cooperation being extended to us on these issues”.

Last month, Pakistani authorities handed down the death sentence to a Shia Muslim man for posting “blasphemous” statements on social media, while a 16-year-old Christian boy from Punjab is currently being held in jail and denied bail after being accused of liking and sharing a post which “insulted” the Kaaba in Mecca, the holiest Islamic site in the world.

Pray for Ashfaq Masih, who appears to be the latest victim in another case of Pakistan’s infamous “blasphemy” laws being used to settle personal grudges against the vulnerable Christian minority. Pray that the authorities will not give credence to the allegation against him and that he will be able to return safely to work. Pray that the people who run Facebook will not bow to demands to limit freedom of speech, which would amount to the creation of an online Islamic blasphemy law.

Three Children among 13 Christians Killed in Attacks in Two States in Nigeria

More Muslim murder and mayhem.

VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Muslim Fulani herdsmen on Monday (June 17) killed four Christians in north-central Nigeria’s Kaduna state, including three children, on the same day nine other Christians were slain in neighboring Plateau state, area sources said.

Christian residents in Kaduna state’s Kauru County told Morning Star News that between 3 a.m and 4 a.m. well over 200 armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen invaded predominantly Christian Ungwan Rimi Kamuru village, killing 8-year-old Monday Yahaya, 9-year-old Zhime Danladi and Samson David, 15.

“They were all buried today after a brief prayer at the grave site,” area resident Thomas John told Morning Star News in a text message.

A Kaduna police spokesman reportedly confirmed the killings but identified the 9-year-old as Ashimile Danladi and cited Samson David’s age as 17.

Also in Kauru County, that evening herdsmen attacked predominantly Christian Kikoba village, killing Audu Gara, kidnapping a Christian woman…

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Converts, Pastors Threatened with Death; Gospel Meetings Banned in Town in Uganda

Interesting and true to form for the Muslim community

VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

(Morning Star News) – Police have banned evangelistic events in a town in western Uganda following open-air preaching in which many Muslims put their faith in Christ, sources said.

Churches in Bwera, on Uganda’s western border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, held a joint evangelistic event amid the large Muslim population in Bwera beginning on May 20. The success of the event led not only to the ban but to church leaders receiving evangelistic , pastors said.

“Tomorrow we are coming to kill all of you during the open air crusade,” read one text message to a church leader a day after several Muslims put their faith in Christ on May 20.

Police halted the event, which was supposed to continue until May 26, on May 25.

On the first day, several former Muslims spoke at the open-air meeting, the church leaders said.

“Jesus changed my life…

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Police watched while Shahzad and Shama were killed. A failed Government cover up dispels the myth that they desire reform.

 

Pray for the Families of Shahzad and Shama

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PRAY FOR JUSTICE, SOMETHING IN SHORT SUPPLY IN PAKISTAN AND INDIA!

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LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Police in Pakistan say a Christian couple tortured and slain this month over accusations that the wife desecrated the Koran were innocent, while relatives said politicians are trying to shield the killers from justice.

Urged to act from mosque loudspeakers, a frenzied mob on Nov. 4 tore the clothes off Shama and Shahzad Masih, struck them, broke their legs, dragged them behind a tractor and threw them into the burning furnace of a brick kiln – even though Shama was illiterate and could not have known even if koranic verses were among debris that she had burned.

Kasur District Police Capt. Jawad Qamar told Morning Star News that police had confirmed that Shama Masih was illiterate and had no idea of the contents of pages that she had burned.

“She was not guilty of blasphemy,” he said.

On Nov. 2 Shama Masih was cleaning her quarters in Chak 59 village near Kot Radha Kishan, Karur District, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) southwest of Lahore, when she found amulets of her late father-in-law, who had used them in the practice of black magic. The amulets may have contained koranic verses, and a Muslim co-worker, Muhammad Irfan, noticed the half-burnt papers andaccused the family of desecrating the Koran, relatives said.

Under Pakistan’s widely condemned blasphemy statutes, intent must be shown for a conviction of desecrating the Koran.

At a press conference in Islamabad on Monday (Nov. 16), family members said Islamists have offered them land and money as compensation for the murders in an attempt to stop them from prosecuting.

While police have reportedly arrested at least 50 of those named in a First Information Report (FIR), relatives of the couple said that influential Muslims of the area, including a Punjab Province lawmaker, were issuing threats in an attempt to force them to reach an agreement with the killers. Shahzad Masih’s brother, Shahbaz Masih, and his wife Parveen Masih demanded that the government provide them with protection, saying they had already informed the Kasur District police officer of the threats.

Shazad Masih and his wife Shama Shazad Masih

They also demanded the formation of a judicial commission to investigate the mob violence, adding that non-Muslim representatives should be included in the team.

“All we want is a fair investigation of the case,” said Shahbaz Masih, demanding that Justice Waheed Siddiqui, a retired Federal Shariat Court judge, be included in the judicial commission.

Among other demands, the deceased man’s family called for the commission and a Joint Investigation Team to make their reports publicly available immediately after completion. Masih also urged the Supreme Court to take suo moto notice and order an independent inquiry into the attack.

Lawmaker ‘Influencing Case’

The family’s concerns come amid reports that the provincial lawmaker of the area, Muhammad Anees Qureshi, was present at the crime scene when the throng of hundreds tortured and killed Shama Masih, 28 years old and five months pregnant, and 32-year-old Shahzad Masih. They are survived by four children, the oldest 7 years old.

Family sources said that Qureshi, a member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government, was also making efforts to shield the primary suspect, Riaz Kamboh, from justice. Kamboh, a former municipal councillor, is also affiliated with the PML-N and holds considerable influence in the villages surrounding Chak 59 village. He is accused of throwing the couple into the furnace after pouring tractor diesel on their bodies.

“Qureshi arrived on the spot just when the lynchers had tortured the couple unconscious,” said a relative who asked to remain unnamed for security reasons. “They were not hurled into the furnace till then.”

The relative said Qureshi, a member of the Punjab Parliamentary Assembly, was trying to force the impoverished Christians into reaching an agreement in return for a large amount of money. Shahzad Masih was a bonded laborer who was working to repay a sum of money he had received, one of the reasons sources have said his employer locked him in an office at the kiln after a mob formed.

“Hordes and hordes of Muslims loaded on tractor trolleys arrived on the scene during his [Qureshi’s] presence, yet the lawmaker made no effort to rescue them,” the relative said.

Qureshi has requested the family not register a separate case against Kamboh, brick kiln owner Yousaf Gujjar and Imam Ghulam Hussain, among others, he said, adding that the demands were made through local administration and land revenue officials.

Qureshi denied that the couple was thrown into the furnace in his presence.

“Shama and Shahzad were already dead when I reached the spot,” the member of the Parliamentary Assembly said in his statement to police. “That’s why I couldn’t do anything for them.”

Morning Star News made repeated efforts to get Qureshi’s comment on accusations that he was influencing the relatives of Shahzad and Shama to reach an agreement with any of the murder suspects, but the lawmaker declined.

Punjab spokesman Zaeem Qadri told Morning Star News that the suspects would not be able to escape prosecution, because the state was the complainant in the case.

“This is why the government decided to become the complainant in this case, so that the accused are not able to coerce the poor families into reaching a compromise,” he said. “Pardoning the accused is not in the families’ hands now.”

Asked about the chances of convictions in the atrocity, especially when there is a precedent of all suspects in the Joseph Colony arson case last year walking free even when the state was the complainant in the case, the Punjab spokesman cut short the conversation, saying only, “This time it will be different.”

Qamar told Morning Star News that the area’s local police in-charge had sent a team to the site when he was informed of tensions, but that mobs were too large to be contained by just five men.

“It was Ashura [a Shia Muslim commemoration] day, and all district police was deployed on Shia procession routes and Shia places of worship for security, which is why it took time to gather a bigger contingent,” he said, adding that police were now trying their best to arrest all the remaining accused in the case.

Contrary to published reports, Qamar said police have arrested 43 of some 60 named suspects, of whom 39 were in jail, while four were to be produced in an anti-terrorism court today on completion of their police remand.

Tahir Ashrafi, a member of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), Pakistan’s top religious body, held police responsible for failing to act to protect the couple before the mob violence occurred.

“All culprits must be arrested and punished, including the cleric [who made the blasphemy accusation in a mosque] if he’s involved,” he said.

Rufus Solomon, a Christian politician from the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), said that it was a test case for the PML-N government, which has termed the allegation of blasphemy against Shama “false and baseless.”

“If the perpetrators of Gojra, Joseph Colony and the Rimsha Masih case had been punished, no one would have dared to mete out such barbarity on the poor Christian couple,” Solomon said.

 

Sharing this report from our fellow activist Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) in London.

Read about Kasur protest and follow up in London 22nd November 2014 (Click here)

Sign their global petition (click here) 

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More details are emerging about the beating and incineration of a young Christian couple in eastern Punjab last week (4th November 2014), including information from their distraught 6 year old son.  The information from relatives of the victims may also explain some of the contradictory accounts.

The victims, Shahzad and Shamma, were a young couple in their mi-twenties, originally from a Christian village, Clarkabad where, for various reasons, unemployment has been fairly high.  They have four children, although due to poverty, one of their children was adopted by an uncle.  Reports say that there had been considerable tension between the surrounding villages and Clarkabad because, despite the unemployment issues, it had been the first village in the area to have amenities such as electricity, a post-office, a bank and a high school.  Jealousy because Christian individuals or businesses or communities have become more prosperous despite the disadvantages Christians face has been an occasion for huge outbreaks of violence in the past, most notoriously the sacking of Shanti-Nagar, a largely Salvation Army village in the 90’s.

This particular family had needed work, so some time ago they moved to the nearby village of Chak 59 village near Kot Radha Kishan, Kasur district, around 35 miles south-west of Lahore city.  A number of Shahzad’s brothers (he was the youngest of 6 brothers) and their families also went to the village to work in the brick kiln.  It appears that, as is so often the case in such situations, their employer was also their landlord.  He had advanced them a fee to work for him, which they then had to pay back – this is a standard method to trap people into bonded slavery.  It is so easy to add exorbitant interest or otherwise fudge the figures (especially due to high levels of illiteracy) and keep the victims in perpetual servitude – something that is technically illegal but goes on unchecked and can enslave families for generations.   Relatives reported that such cheating was going on in the case of Shahzad and he had wanted to escape, and thus there was a dispute between Shahzad and his ‘employer’.

Shahzad’s father died on 30 October 2014.  He had apparently practiced black magic involving amulets with written paper charms in them.  Shamma, about five months pregnant, and illiterate, was cleaning out his stuff on Sunday 2nd November when she found these amulets, and took them out and burned them along with other occult material, as she wanted nothing to do with such evil objects.  She threw the ashes on the garbage pile outside their house and a Muslim co-worker – according to some reports an overseer or manager in the brick kiln – saw half burnt paper fragments and accused her of burning the Koran and therefore of committing blasphemy.  The entire family (all 6 brothers worked in the brick kiln) approached the owner Gujjar over the issue because tension was so high in the village over the incident.  He told them not to worry, that nothing would happen, and that he would take care of it, but he also told his accountant not to let the couple leave the village without paying back their ‘bond money’.  To further add to the complicated back story, reports are emerging from local Christians that this kiln accountant had actually raped Shama a few days earlier, hence Shahzad wanting to leave. READ MORE

Voice of the Persecuted is helping to rescue and support Christians facing extreme persecution in Pakistan. We cannot continue the work without your generous support. Help us reach life saving goals by joining us in the mission to Pakistan.

LATEST: https://barnabasfund.org/en/news/court-acquits-two-men-of-burning-alive-christian-pakistani-couple-conviction-of-three-others

Kumhar (India)

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Kumhar (Hindu traditions) in India

The Kumhar believe they are offspring of Lord Brahma (Prajapati). This large people group traditionally earned its livelihood through the sale of earthen pots, utensils and other products. In fact, the term “kumhar” means “potter” in some languages of India.

Ministry Obstacles: The Kumhar often interpret an invitation to join the family of God as requiring them to abandon their family and people.

Outreach Ideas: The Kumhar are accessible in the marketplace, where outside laborers may apply the pattern Jesus gave in Mt. 10 of seeking a household receptive to the laborer and his message.

Pray for the followers of Christ: There are no known believers among the Kumhar, but surely God has not left Himself without a witness among the millions of Kumhar. Pray that the Kumhar who know God will become wise in sowing the Word of God among their families and multiplying the blessing of God to other Kumhar households.

Pray for the entire people group: Pray the Lord will give Kumhar families understanding and responsive hearts as they hear about the love of Christ.

Scripture Focus: “Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples.” Psalm 117:1

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Blasphemy death sentences

And so it goes on! Several men are on death row in Pakistan including Imran Ghafur (2009), Zafar Bhatti and Farhan Aziz (appeal postponed). May God bring justice and guard and keep these folk enabling them to leave the country if necessary.

Farhan

 Imran

Zafar

In Pakistan, Zafar Bhatti, is still waiting for judges to rule on his appeal against a life sentence for blasphemy. The next court date is set for June 19th. Our partners are hopeful that Zafar will be acquitted, after almost seven years in jail. Pray he will be acquitted at this next court date and there will be no more delays. Please ask God to sustain and strengthen Zafar and his wife, Nawab Bibi: both remain in poor health. When Release staff visited Nawab recently, she was in low spirits and unable to visit Zafar in prison each week.

Pray for Imran Khan, prime Minister of Pakistan, ignorant concerning Christ but apparently committed to equality of religion in his country as was Jinnah the founder in 1948.

Imran Khan

VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

(Voice of the Persecuted) The November 27, 2018 appeal hearing of Sawan Masih, a Pakistani Christian accused and sentenced to death for blasphemy, was postponed. Nasir Saeed, a spokesperson from CLAAS, Sawans’s defense counsel, told Voice of the Persecuted that they have yet to receive a rescheduled hearing date. It’s possible that the court avoided conducting the hearing deliberately because of the present situation in the country after Asia Bibi’s acquittal, he added. 

Sawan is at the center of a case that caused a mob of 3000 Muslim men to attack the Joseph Colony of Lahore, Pakistan in March of 2013. (View report and photos) After a local mosque announced the blasphemy charge over loudspeakers, the vigilantes stormed the Christian community where Masih lived. They burned or ransacked 180 Christian homes, 75 shops and at least two churches during the attack. Mob members threatened to burn…

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Large Family in Eastern Uganda Becomes Big Target for Muslim Extremists

Lord please care for this man and his family and enable him to become monogamous!

VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

(Morning Star News) – Yusuf Tulo and his sizeable family were worshiping in their home in eastern Uganda on April 28 when they heard their neighbors shouting, “Fire!”

Tulo, 35, had left Islam to put his faith in Christ last October. He still had three wives and 14 children dependent on him living on a homestead with more than one house in Bugwere village, and the house they used for worship was on fire.

When they went outside, however, something was not right; among neighbors standing around the house looking at the smoke, one said, “Please remain indoors – your lives are in danger.”

Tulo had been receiving threatening messages from Muslims for months, but faced with the danger of smoke coming from the house, he chose to remain outside. An hour later, the roof collapsed in flames and the house was charred.

“We lost everything in that…

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