Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Christian Persecution: Imprisoned; Burned Alive!

ASIA/PAKISTAN - The Christian Sawan Masih, on death row for blasphemy, prays and remains hopeful

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - Sawan Masih, a Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy, who since 2014 has been on death row in the prison of Faisalabad, remains confident about his release: this is what the Christian Joseph Francis says in a note sent to Agenzia Fides. Francis is a leader of the NGO CLAAS (Centre for Legal Aid Assistance & Settlement) which follows and assists the cases of Christians discriminated against and persecuted in Pakistan. Francis met Masih in prison, the man reaffirmed his innocence and said he was very disappointed with justice and expressed concern for his wife and for his children.
"Unfortunately, extremists are becoming very powerful, and sometimes even the courts and the police seem powerless, as for example the case of Asia Bibi", said Joseph Francis to Fides.
Masih spends most of his time praying: he prays for his lawyers and for all the victims of blasphemy every morning. As reported by Francis, "Masih also prays for the judges in his daily prayer, so that God deepens their courage, and are able to apply true justice in their decisions". The man has, however, expressed full confidence, "justice will be done and he will embrace his family".
"I am grateful to those who are praying for me and my family and I ask everyone to continue to pray for me. God knows me, he knows that I am innocent and will give me freedom" said Masih.
Sawan Masih was accused of blasphemy in March 2013. Following his case, more than 178 homes in the Christian Joseph Colony neighborhood in Lahore were burned by a Muslim mob. Last spring he was sentenced to death for blasphemy (see Fides 04/04/2014), while no Muslim has yet been punished for all the damage caused. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 04/11/2014)
ASIA/PAKISTAN - Two Christians burned alive in a brick-kiln on charges of blasphemy

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - A Christian couple, Shahzad 26 years old and Shama 24 years old, were burned to death by a Muslim mob, from five villages in the south of Lahore (Punjab province), who accused them of committing blasphemy for burning pages of the Koran. This was reported to Agenzia Fides by the Christian lawyer, Sardar Mushtaq Gill, a human rights defender, who was called by other Christians and visited the scene of the tragic event, the 'Chak 59" village, near the town of Kot Radha Kishan, in the south of Lahore. The two, who worked in a clay factory, were kidnapped and held hostage for two days, starting from November 2, inside the factory. This morning at 7.00 am they were pushed into a brick-kiln.
As lawyer Gill explains to Fides, the incident, namely the supposed blasphemy, is connected to Shahzad’s father’s death. Two days ago, while Shama was cleaning the man’s house, she took some personal items, papers and sheets of paper she considered useless and burnt everything.
According to a Muslim man who witnessed the scene, pages of the Koran were burned. The man then spread the word in the surrounding villages and a crowd of over 100 people took the two young people hostage. This morning the tragic ending. The police, alerted by other Christians, intervened and arrested 35 people.
Lawyer Gill told Fides: "It is a tragedy, a barbaric and inhumane act. The whole world must strongly condemn this incident which shows how insecurity in Pakistan has increased among Christians. An accusation is enough to be victims of extrajudicial executions. We will see if anyone will be punished for this murder". (PA (Agenzia Fides 04/11/2014)

ASIA/IRAQ - The Church of St. Ephrem in Mosul could soon be transformed into a mosque
Mosul (Agenzia Fides) - In the northeastern city of Mosul, Iraq, since June in the hands of the jihadists of the Islamic State (IS), the Syrian Orthodox church dedicated to St. Ephrem has been emptied and there are rumors that the Christian place of worship could be turned into a mosque. Photographs, widespread online from the website www. show the pews and other furnishings removed from the church and placed as a commodity for sale in front of the place of worship.
According to information circulating on social networks, it is clear that militants of the Islamic State are preparing to transform the church into a mosque. Other sources contacted by Agenzia Fides interpret the looting of the furnishings of St. Ephrem in another way: the jihadists of IS, foreseeing an imminent military offensive to free Mosul, are intensifying raids in public and private buildings before preparing resistance.
The militiamen of the Caliphate as early as July had chosen the church of St. Ephrem as the seat of the State Council of the mujahideen. The towering cross on the dome had been removed. On September 9, the air raids carried out to hit the posts of the self-styled jihadist Islamic Caliphate had seriously damaged some buildings adjacent to the churches of St. Ephrem and the Syrian Catholic dedicated to St. Paul, also located in the so-called "police district". (GV) (Agenzia Fides 04/11/2014)