Pakistan to Curb Blasphemy Law Abuse

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By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News)– Pakistan intends to introduce new legislation to curb the misuse of that nation’s notorious blasphemy laws.

According to International Christian Concern, under Section 295 A-C of Pakistan’s penal code, it is illegal to incite religious sentiments, desecrate the Quran and defame Islam’s prophet. Punishment under Section 295 can result in life imprisonment, or even execution.

The proposed legislation would discourage mob violence and the extra-judicial killings that so often follow an accusation of blasphemy by reserving the punishment of offenders to the state. It would also introduce new penalties for anyone who files a false accusation and require prosecutors to demonstrate that the defendant(s) had a deliberate intent to blaspheme.

Human rights organizations have documented the abuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which are often filed to settle personal disputes or persecute religious minorities, e.g., Christians have always been disproportionately accused and convicted under Section 295.

“Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan have been terrorized by the widely abused blasphemy laws for decades,” said William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia … For Christians accused of blasphemy, the threat of being murdered outside of court is more likely than being executed by the state….”

Pakistan: Muslim Mob Attacks over ‘Blasphemy’ Accusation

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By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News)– Hundreds of Muslims attacked an entire community of Christians Sunday night after a blasphemy accusation that one of the Christians had set fire to papers with Quranic verses on them.

According to Morning Star News, more than 500 Muslims gathered in front of the house of Humayun Masih after he was accused of setting the papers on fire. After the Masih family locked themselves inside, the mob began pelting their home as well as those of nearby Christians with stones.

Police registered a blasphemy case against Masih under Section 295-B and placed him under arrest after discovering a box of half-burnt Quranic pages in his possession. In Pakistan, defiling the Quran is punishable by 25 years in prison.

As news of the alleged defilement of the Quran spread, many of the Christian families in Masih’s neighborhood abandoned their homes, fearing for their very lives.

Although police prevented the Muslim mob from setting fire to the Christians’ homes, many homes were vandalized after they were abandoned.

Nigeria: 3 attacks in 10 days

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By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News)– In reprisal to losing ground to government forces, Islamists belonging to Boko Haram have killed dozens of Christians during 10 violent days in Nigeria’s Adamawa state.

According to Morning Star News, Haram’s Islamists used machetes to butcher Christians from the Church of the Brethren(EYN) in Adamawa’s Madagali Local Government Area on May 22. Haram was also suspected in a suicide bombing of the Christian community of Garkida on May 19.

“The attacks killed 19 people in Garkida and Madagali,” said the Rev. Samuel Dante Dali, president of the EYN. “The bombing signals a renewal of violence by the Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram at a time when Nigerian authorities are claiming victory in many parts of the northeast.”

In Wagga village, Madagali LGA, Boko Haram attacked around midnight, killing 10 EYN members as they slept.

To date, the EYN has lost 1,390 out of 2,280 local branches from attacks by Boko Haram that have displaced more than 700,000 EYN members; the murder of pastors by Haram has forced EYN to ordain new church leaders.

Boko Haram calls itself Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, which translates as “The Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad.” Having ties to Al Qaeda, the U.S. designated Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2013.

Uzbekistan: Prisoners of Conscience

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By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News)– Christians in Uzbekistan are becoming “prisoners of conscience” just for exercising their religious rights.

According to Jihad Watch, these prisoners include a Protestant in Bukhara who received seven days’ incarceration for “illegal” religious activity; another Christian was sentenced to 10 days for teaching religion “illegally”.

Nine Protestants were also fined for “illegally storing” Christian literature in their homes, including books, CDs and DVDs that were all confiscated by police during a raid.

Syria: Monk Abducted from Monastery

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By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News)– A Syrian Catholic monk of the Mar Elian Monastery has been abducted by armed jihadists.

According to International Christian Concern, Father Jacob Murad had refused to leave the monastery despite the recent advances made by the Islamic State.

“As the priest and pastor, I will never leave this place so long as there are people here….,” said Murad.

Despite their role as mediators in the Syrian conflict, priests continue to be targeted by Islamist groups.

Todd Daniels, ICC regional manager for the Middle East, said the abduction of Father Murad demonstrated that Islamist groups are not only seeking to establish an Islamic State, but are also intent on stamping out Christianity.

“Father Murad, as a result of the love of Jesus shown in the Gospel, has dedicated his life to love and serve the Syrian people and this is the antithesis to the extremist Islamic ideology represented by the jihadists of ISIS….”

Murad and his Mar Elian community had been providing sanctuary for hundreds of displaced by ISIS, including many children.

Two pastors in Sudan face death over Christian faith

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(Worthy News)– Two Christian pastors from South Sudan who traveled north to Sudan and were arrested on charges of spying could face the death penalty when their trial begins next week, according to their attorneys.

Yat Michael Ruot and Peter Yein Reith, both Presbyterian pastors from the breakaway Christian nation of South Sudan, are being held by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services on charges of undermining the constitution and espionage. Their supporters say their arrest and pending trial is just the latest effort by the militant Islamist government in Khartoum to stamp out Christianity.

The pair also was charged with “inciting organized groups” and “offending Islamic beliefs,” which call for imprisonment. — Source

Muslims Defy Courts to Forcibly Build Mosque

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By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News)– A Muslim mob in Deder, Ethiopia, has forced a Christian man from his home in order to build a mosque on his land despite court rulings that guaranteed the Christian’s property rights.

According to International Christian Concern, Fikere Mengistu’s family has owned their land for more than 90 years, but Muslims from Kufanzik village continue to forcibly build a mosque on the Mengistu farm.

Although Muslims claim Mengistu’s land belongs to the government, courts have upheld Mengistu’s title for two consecutive years.

“We did our best try to defend our faith based on the law of the country and with all our resources,” Mengistu said. “Muslims are out of the control of the government and the law. What can we do?”

ICC had provided legal assistance to Mengistu when Muslims first attempted to steal his land, but though he won in court, they are still trying to take Mengistu’s farm by force.

“The continued harassment of the Mengistu family in Deder is unacceptable,” said ICC’s Regional Manager of Africa Troy Augustine. “Governing authorities in the region are charged to uphold the Ethiopian law and the decisions of the courts instead of bending to pressure from the religious majority, or worse, participating in the persecution of Christians through illegal activities….”

India: Hindus Attack Three Churches

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By Joseph DeCaro,  Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News)– Last week, Hindus nationalists vandalized three churches in Madhya Pradesh, all during the same night.

According to AsiaNews, the Hindus destroyed the crucifix of St. Paul’s Anglican Church. They also unsuccessfully tried to set fire to a second Protestant church, but managed to break the windows of a third.

Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, called upon the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to keep its extremists under control through the Indian Penal Code as a deterrent to any group that attacks Christian minorities.

Nigeria: Muslim Herdsmen Have Murdered 70 Christians Last Month

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By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News)– More than 70 Christian farmers have been murdered last month in Plateau State, Nigeria, after a series of assaults by Muslim Fulani cattle herders.

According to International Christian Concern, herdsmen regularly raid Christian farming communities, often setting homes and churches afire and then shooting anyone trying to escape the flames. But the deadliest of the attacks occurred May 2 when herdsmen set fire to the Church of Christ in Nations in Foron town, killing 27 Christians.

However, Nigerian authorities have refused to acknowledge the sectarian nature of the attacks.

“It is the long-standing issue over grazing rights and cattle rustling between Egba and Fulani people,” police spokesman Ezeala Austin said. But witnesses to the assaults heard the herdsmen exclaim “Allahu Akhbar,” an exclamation often associated with jihadist terrorism.

“Extremist Muslim Fulani herders are regularly and consciously attacking Christian villages and slaughtering our brothers and sisters in Christ,” said ICC Regional Manager of Africa Troy Augustine. “I don’t know what else needs to be explained to acknowledge that these people are persecuted because of their faith.

“While the world rightly remembers and prays for Christians in northern Nigeria under threat from Boko Haram, let us not forget those who live under daily suffering at the hands of jihadists also happening in central Nigeria.”

Sudan: South Sudanese Church Leaders Jailed

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By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News)– Sudanese authorities have arrested two South Sudanese pastors who are now facing the death penalty.

According to Morning Star News, Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services have charged Reverends Yat Michael and Peter Yein Reith with undermining the country’s constitutional system and waging war against the state; both charges carry a death sentence.

However, the charges appear to be based solely on the pastors’ nationality, race and faith, which are not well respected in a nation that President Omar al-Bashir has pledged will eventually become fully Arabic and Islamic.

Violating international human rights agreements, the whereabouts of the detained pastors were unknown for months until they were transferred from Khartoum’s police station to a clandestine NISS detention facility and then finally to Omdurman Prison.

Both pastors have begun a hunger strike to protest their incarcerations.

According to Amnesty International, holding the pastors incommunicado violated the Interim Constitution of Sudan, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, all of which are binding on Sudan.

In general, arrests of Christians in Sudan have increased since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011 when Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia.

Since 2012, Sudan has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed churches on the pretext that the buildings belonged to South Sudanese. NISS agents have threatened South Sudanese Christians who do not leave Sudan, or who fail to cooperate with NISS in its efforts to ferret out other South Sudanese Christians.

Sudan has been designated a “Country of Particular Concern” by the U.S. State Department since 1999 and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recently recommended that Sudan retain that designation.

Sudan ranked sixth on Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution.