Historic Orthodox Church to be demolished, not restored in Turkey.

Orthodox Church of Saint Nicolas.

The decision to demolish a 232-year-old Orthodox Church in the Bodrum district of the western province of Muğla (Turkey) has surprised locals who had been expecting it to be restored, daily Radikal reported today.

Locals had applied to restore the Saint Nicolas (Aya Nikolaya) church, however the Bodrum municipality decided to demolish it instead, according to a claim by Pamukkale University that declared the church building rotten.

The decision was signed by Dursun Göktepe of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), who was substituting for Mayor Mehmet Kocadon while the latter was in prison on allegations of corruption. However, Kocadon was against the demolition and has announced that he will launch an investigation into the decision.

Since 1965, the Saint Nicolas Church had been used as a storage site, cinema, theater and boat shed.

Source: Hurriyet Dailynews.com


More Ecumenism: Muslim Call to Prayer in a (Roman Catholic?) church.

At an ecumenical prayer service in a (Roman Catholic?) church the Imam intoned the “Azan” (Islamic call to prayer) surrounded by Rabbis, Protestant pastors and Roman Catholic clergy. This happened recently but it does not specify where.

Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia: It Is ‘Necessary to Destroy All the Churches of the Region’.

The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia has made some statements that have religious freedom critics bouncing between scratching their heads and curling up in horror. Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh recently announced that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.“ The ”region” he was referring to, of course, is the Arabian Peninsula (including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman).

Christians throughout the Middle East, of course, have responded sharply, finding themselves dismayed that such a statement could be made.

Russia Today (RT) has more about these comments:

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah made the controversial statement in a response to a question from a Kuwaiti NGO delegation. A Kuwaiti parliamentarian had called for a ban on the construction of new churches in February, but so far the initiative has not been passed into law. The NGO, called the Society of the Revival of Islamic Heritage, asked the Sheikh to clarify what Islamic law says on the matter.

The Grand Mufti, who is the highest official of religious law in Saudi Arabia, as well as the head of the Supreme Council of Islamic Scholars, cited the Prophet Mohammed, who said the Arabian Peninsula is to exist under only one religion.

The Sheikh went on to conclude that it was therefore necessary for Kuwait, being a part of the Arabian Peninsula, to destroy all churches on its territory.


ArabianBusiness.com reported very similar details:

Speaking to a delegation in Kuwait, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, stressed that since the tiny Gulf state was a part of the Arabian Peninsula, it was necessary to destroy all of the churches in the country, Arabic media have reported.

 Saudi Arabia’s top cleric made the comment in view of an age-old rule that only Islam can be practiced in the region.

In February, RT reports that Osama al-Munawar, a member of the Kuwaiti Parliament, was planning to submit official legislation that would remove all churches from the country. He later clarified that any church currently in existence would be allowed to stay, but that new houses of worship that were not Islamic in nature would not be allowed to be constructed.

What’s most interesting in this case is that al-Sheikh is calling for the houses of worship to be destroyed — a radical ideal to say the least. The proposal in Kuwait — a nation that he is not a resident of — calls, as stated, for a ban on any new buildings, not to destroy current houses of worship.

Elliot Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, though, explains why the Grand Mufti’s statement is unsurprising:

…the reported statement by the Grand Mufti came as no surprise to me. Nor is it a surprise, considering his interpretation of Islam, that the religious police make it so difficult for Christians even to worship privately, in their homes. In a better world, the UN Human Rights Council would be denouncing these violations of freedom of religion, as would the whole Organization of Islamic Cooperation—given that Saudi Arabia is the only one of its 57 member countries that absolutely bars churches. In the world in which we actually live, denunciations of the Saudis for this are almost non-existent.

In Saudi Arabia, Islam is the only permitted religion and there are no houses of worship for individuals who subscribe to different faiths.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali:The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World.

From one end of the muslim world to the other, Christians are being murdered for their faith.

At least 13 people were killed and 140 injured on March 8, 2011, when participants in a large Christian demonstration in a Cairo slum were attacked by residents of a surrounding neighborhood., Mohamed Omar / EPA-Landov.

We hear so often about Muslims as victims of abuse in the West and combatants in the Arab Spring’s fight against tyranny. But, in fact, a wholly different kind of war is underway—an unrecognized battle costing thousands of lives.

Christians are being killed in the Islamic world because of their religion. It is a rising genocide that ought to provoke global alarm.

The portrayal of Muslims as victims or heroes is at best partially accurate. In recent years the violent oppression of Christian minorities has become the norm in Muslim-majority nations stretching from West Africa and the Middle East to South Asia and Oceania. In some countries it is governments and their agents that have burned churches and imprisoned parishioners.

In others, rebel groups and vigilantes have taken matters into their own hands, murdering Christians and driving them from regions where their roots go back centuries.

The media’s reticence on the subject no doubt has several sources. One may be fear of provoking additional violence. Another is most likely the influence of lobbying groups such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation—a kind of United Nations of Islam centered in Saudi Arabia—and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Over the past decade, these and similar groups have been remarkably successful in persuading leading public figures and journalists in the West to think of each and every example of perceived anti-Muslim discrimination as an expression of a systematic and sinister derangement called “Islamophobia”—a term that is meant to elicit the same moral disapproval as xenophobia or homophobia.

But a fair-minded assessment of recent events and trends leads to the conclusion that the scale and severity of Islamophobia pales in comparison with the bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other. The conspiracy of silence surrounding this violent expression of religious intolerance has to stop.

Nothing less than the fate of Christianity—and ultimately of all religious minorities—in the Islamic world is at stake.

From blasphemy laws to brutal murders to bombings to mutilations and the burning of holy sites, Christians in so many nations live in fear. In Nigeria many have suffered all of these forms of persecution. The nation has the largest Christian minority (40 percent) in proportion to its population (160 million) of any majority-Muslim country.

For years, Muslims and Christians in Nigeria have lived on the edge of civil war. Islamist radicals provoke much if not most of the tension. The newest such organization is an outfit that calls itself Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sacrilege.” Its aim is to establish Sharia in Nigeria. To this end it has stated that it will kill all Christians in the country.

In the month of January 2012 alone, Boko Haram was responsible for 54 deaths. In 2011 its members killed at least 510 people and burned down or destroyed more than 350 churches in 10 northern states. They use guns, gasoline bombs, and even machetes, shouting “Allahu akbar!” (“God is great!”) while launching attacks on unsuspecting citizens. They have attacked churches, a Christmas Day gathering (killing 42 Roman Catholics), beer parlors, a town hall, beauty salons, and banks.

They have so far focused on killing Christian clerics, politicians, students, policemen, and soldiers, as well as Muslim clerics who condemn their mayhem. While they started out by using crude methods like hit-and-run assassinations from the back of motorbikes in 2009, the latest AP reports indicate that the group’s recent attacks show a new level of potency and sophistication.

The Christophobia that has plagued Sudan for years takes a very different form. The authoritarian government of the Sunni Muslim north of the country has for decades tormented Christian and animist minorities in the south. What has often been described as a civil war is in practice the Sudanese government’s sustained persecution of religious minorities.

This persecution culminated in the infamous genocide in Darfur that began in 2003. Even though Sudan’s Muslim president, Omar al-Bashir, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which charged him with three counts of genocide, and despite the euphoria that greeted the semi-independence he granted to South Sudan in July of last year, the violence has not ended.

In South Kordofan, Christians are still subjected to aerial bombardment, targeted killings, the kidnapping of children, and other atrocities. Reports from the United Nations indicate that between 53,000 and 75,000 innocent civilians have been displaced from their residences and that houses and buildings have been looted and destroyed.

Both kinds of persecution—undertaken by extragovernmental groups as well as by agents of the state—have come together in Egypt in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. On Oct. 9 of last year in the Maspero area of Cairo, Coptic Christians (who make up roughly 11 percent of Egypt’s population of 81 million) marched in protest against a wave of attacks by Islamists—including church burnings, rapes, mutilations, and murders—that followed the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship.

During the protest, Egyptian security forces drove their trucks into the crowd and fired on protesters, crushing and killing at least 24 and wounding more than 300 people. By the end of the year more than 200,000 Copts had fled their homes in anticipation of more attacks. With Islamists poised to gain much greater power in the wake of recent elections, their fears appear to be justified.

Egypt is not the only Arab country that seems bent on wiping out its Christian minority. Since 2003 more than 900 Iraqi Christians (most of them Assyrians) have been killed by terrorist violence in Baghdad alone, and 70 churches have been burned, according to the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA).

Thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled as a result of violence directed specifically at them, reducing the number of Christians in the country to fewer than half a million from just over a million before 2003. AINA understandably describes this as an “incipient genocide or ethnic cleansing of Assyrians in Iraq.”

The 2.8 million Christians who live in Pakistan make up only about 1.6 percent of the population of more than 170 million. As members of such a tiny minority, they live in perpetual fear not only of Islamist terrorists but also of Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws. There is, for example, the notorious case of a Christian woman who was sentenced to death for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

When international pressure persuaded Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer to explore ways of freeing her, he was killed by his bodyguard. The bodyguard was then celebrated by prominent Muslim clerics as a hero—and though he was sentenced to death late last year, the judge who imposed the sentence now lives in hiding, fearing for his life.

Such cases are not unusual in Pakistan. The nation’s blasphemy laws are routinely used by criminals and intolerant Pakistani Muslims to bully religious minorities. Simply to declare belief in the Christian Trinity is considered blasphemous, since it contradicts mainstream Muslim theological doctrines. When a Christian group is suspected of transgressing the blasphemy laws, the consequences can be brutal.

Just ask the members of the Christian aid group World Vision. Its offices were attacked in the spring of 2010 by 10 gunmen armed with grenades, leaving six people dead and four wounded. A militant Muslim group claimed responsibility for the attack on the grounds that World Vision was working to subvert Islam. (In fact, it was helping the survivors of a major earthquake.)

Not even Indonesia—often touted as the world’s most tolerant, democratic, and modern majority-Muslim nation—has been immune to the fevers of Christophobia. According to data compiled by the Christian Post, the number of violent incidents committed against religious minorities (and at 7 percent of the population, Christians are the country’s largest minority) increased by nearly 40 percent, from 198 to 276, between 2010 and 2011.

The litany of suffering could be extended. In Iran dozens of Christians have been arrested and jailed for daring to worship outside of the officially sanctioned church system. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, deserves to be placed in a category of its own.

Despite the fact that more than a million Christians live in the country as foreign workers, churches and even private acts of Christian prayer are banned; to enforce these totalitarian restrictions, the religious police regularly raid the homes of Christians and bring them up on charges of blasphemy in courts where their testimony carries less legal weight than a Muslim’s.

Even in Ethiopia, where Christians make up a majority of the population, church burnings by members of the Muslim minority have become a problem.

It should be clear from this catalog of atrocities that anti-Christian violence is a major and underreported problem. No, the violence isn’t centrally planned or coordinated by some international Islamist agency.

In that sense the global war on Christians isn’t a traditional war at all. It is, rather, a spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animus by Muslims that transcends cultures, regions, and ethnicities.

As Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, pointed out in an interview with Newsweek, Christian minorities in many majority-Muslim nations have “lost the protection of their societies.” This is especially so in countries with growing radical Islamist (Salafist) movements. In those nations, vigilantes often feel they can act with impunity—and government inaction often proves them right.

The old idea of the Ottoman Turks—that non-Muslims in Muslim societies deserve protection (albeit as second-class citizens)—has all but vanished from wide swaths of the Islamic world, and increasingly the result is bloodshed and oppression.

So let us please get our priorities straight. Yes, Western governments should protect Muslim minorities from intolerance. And of course we should ensure that they can worship, live, and work freely and without fear.

It is the protection of the freedom of conscience and speech that distinguishes free societies from unfree ones. But we also need to keep perspective about the scale and severity of intolerance. Cartoons, films, and writings are one thing; knives, guns, and grenades are something else entirely.

As for what the West can do to help religious minorities in Muslim-majority societies, my answer is that it needs to begin using the billions of dollars in aid it gives to the offending countries as leverage.

Then there is trade and investment. Besides diplomatic pressure, these aid and trade relationships can and should be made conditional on the protection of the freedom of conscience and worship for all citizens.

Instead of falling for overblown tales of Western Islamophobia, let’s take a real stand against the Christophobia infecting the Muslim world. Tolerance is for everyone—except the intolerant.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, and escaped an arranged marriage by immigrating to the Netherlands in 1992. She served as a member of the Dutch parliament from 2003 to 2006 and is currently a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Her autobiography, Infidel, was a 2007 New York Times bestseller.

Saudi Arabia: 42 Ethiopian Christians arrested for prayer meeting.

If Muslim migrants were subjected anywhere in the world to the injustices Christians and other expat workers face in Saudi Arabia, it would be front page news. By contrast, these stories quietly trickle out and go largely unreported.

Even so, behavior like this from the Saudis does not create the image of a strong, confident faith. Their paranoia conveys a sense of fragility and fear. Even by “winning,” by trying to show who’s boss, they lose. “42 Ethiopian Christians arrested in Saudi Arabia,” from Persecution, December 17:

International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Saudi security forces arrested 42 Ethiopian Christians at a prayer gathering in Jeddah on Thursday. The location of the detained Christians is unknown.

On December 15, 2011, Saudi police and security officers raided an evening prayer meeting at the home of an Ethiopian Christian in the Al-Safa district of Jeddah. Those attending the service were reportedly beaten and threatened before being arrested.


“Security officials broke [into] the house and captured . . . beat and threatened them with death. . . They divided the men and the women and they are torturing them [in prison],” an Ethiopian and Eritrean Christian immigrant community living in Europe wrote in an urgent appeal for help to the ambassadors of European embassies in Riyadh on Friday.

Two Ethiopian fellowships in Saudi Arabia informed ICC that they will temporarily postpone services until the situation calms. Christians in Saudi Arabia, most of who enter the country as foreign workers, are not allowed to practice their faith openly. Saudi police have been known to raid private worship gatherings in homes, arrest and deport congregants, and confiscate Christian materials, including Bibles.

Muslim persecution of Christians around the world.

The so-called «Arab Spring» continues to transition into a «Christian Winter,» including in those nations undergoing democratic change, such as Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis dominated the elections—unsurprisingly so, considering the Obama administration has actually been training Islamists for elections.

Arab regimes not overthrown by the «Arab Spring» are under mounting international pressure; these include the secular Assad regime of Syria, where Christians, who comprise some 10% of the population, are fearful of the future, having seen the effects of democracy in neighboring nations such as Iraq, where, since the fall of the Saddam regime, Christians have been all but decimated.

Meanwhile, it was revealed that «Christians are being refused refugee status [in the U.S.] and face persecution and many times certain death for their religious beliefs under Sharia, while whole Muslim communities are entering the U.S. by the tens of thousands per month despite the fact that they face no religious persecution.»

Categorized by theme, November’s batch of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes (but is not limited to) the following accounts, listed according to theme and in alphabetical order by country, not necessarily severity.



Ethiopia: More than 500 Muslim students assisted by Muslim police burned down a church, while screaming «Allahu Akbar» (and thus clearly positing their attack in an Islamic framework); the church was built on land used by Christians for more than 60 years, but now a court has ruled that it was built «without a permit.»

Indonesia: Hundreds of «hard-line» Muslims rallied to decry the «arrogance» of a beleaguered church that, though kept shuttered by authorities, has been ordered open by the Supreme Court. Church members have been forced to hold services on the sidewalk, even as Indonesia’s leading Muslim clerics warned Christians that it would be «wise and sensible» for the church to yield to «the feelings of the local believers, specifically Muslims.»

Iran: The nation’s minister of intelligence said that house churches in his country are a threat to Iranian youth, and acknowledged a new series of efforts to fight the growth of the house church movement in Iran.

Nigeria: Islamic militants shouting «Allahu Akbar» carried out coordinated attacks on churches and police stations, including opening fire on a congregation of «mostly women and children,» killing dozens. The attacks occurred in a region where hundreds of people were earlier killed during violence that erupted after President Jonathan, a Christian, beat his closet Muslim rival in April elections.

Turkey: The ancient Aghia Sophia church has been turned into a mosque. Playing an important role in ecumenical history, the church was first transformed into a mosque in 1331 by the jihadist Ottoman state. As a sign of secularization, however, in 1920 it was turned into a museum. Its transformation again into a mosque is a reflection of Turkey’s re-Islamization.


Apostasy and Proselytism

Afghanis around the world are being threatened for leaving Islam and converting to Christianity. One exile, who changed his name after fleeing Afghanistan in 2007 when an Islamic court issued an arrest warrant for his conversion, is still receiving threats: «They [Afghan officials] were very angry and saying that they will hit me by knife and kill me.» Even in distant Norway last September, an Afghan convert to Christianity was scalded with boiling water and acid at a refugee processing center: «If you do not return to Islam, we will kill you,» his attackers told him.

Algeria: Five Christians were jailed for «worshiping in an unregistered location.» International Christian Concern (ICC), an advocacy group investigating the case, states that the five Christians are charged with «proselytizing,» «unauthorized worship,» and «insulting Islam.»

Iran: Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who caught the attention of the world after being imprisoned and awaiting execution for leaving Islam, remains behind bars as officials continue to come up with excuses to force him to renounce Christianity, the latest being that «everyone is [born] a Muslim.» A Christian couple «who had been snatched and illegally-detained» by authorities for eight months without any formal charges, were finally released, beaten again, and have since fled the country. While imprisoned, they were «ridiculed and debased» for their Christian faith.

Kashmir: Muslim police arrested and beat seven converts from Islam in an attempt to obtain a confession against the priest who baptized them. After the grand mufti alleged that Muslim youths were alternatively being «lured» and «forced» to convert by an Anglican priest «in exchange for money,» the priest was arrested in a «humiliating» manner. Recently released, his life is now «in serious danger.»

Kenya: A gang of Muslims stabbed and beat with iron rods a 25-year-old Somali refugee, breaking his teeth; he was then stripped naked, covered with dirt, and left unconscious near a church. Although he was raised Christian since age 7, he was attacked on the «assumption that as a Somali he was born into Islam and was therefore an apostate deserving of death.»

Nigeria: The Muslim militant group, Boko Haram, executed two children of an ex-terrorist and «murderer» because he converted to Christianity. When still a terrorist, he «was poised to slit the throat of a Christian victim» when «he was suddenly struck with the weight of the evil he was about to commit.» After finding he converted to Christianity, «Boko Haram members invaded his home, kidnapped his two children and informed him that they were going to execute them in retribution for his disloyalty to Islam. Clutching his phone, the man heard the sound of the guns that murdered his children.»


General Killings

Egypt: After a Christian inadvertently killed a Muslim in a quarrel begun by the latter, thousands of Muslims rose in violence, «collectively punishing» the Copts of the village. Two Christians «not party to the altercation» were killed; others were stabbed and critically wounded. As usual, «after killing the Copts, Muslims went on a rampage, looting and burning Christian-owned homes and businesses.» Even so, «Muslims insist they have not yet avenged» the death of their co-religionist, and there are fears of «a wholesale massacre of Copts.» Many Christians have fled their homes or are in hiding.

Kenya: Suspected Islamic extremists, apparently angered at the use of wine during communion—Islam forbids alcohol—threw a grenade near a church compound killing two, including an 8-year-old girl, and critically wounding three others. The pastor of another congregation received a message threatening him either to flee the region «within 48 hours or you see bomb blast taking your life and we know your house, Christians will see war. Don’t take it so lightly. We are for your neck.»

Nigeria: In the latest round of violence, soon after mosque prayers were heard, hundreds of armed Muslims invaded Christian villages, «like a swarm of bees,» killing, looting, and destroying virtually everything in sight; at the end of their four-hour rampage, some 150 people had been killed—at least 130 of them Christians. Another 45 Christians were also killed by another set of «Allahu Akbar!» shouting Muslims who burned, looted, and killed. Hundreds of people are still missing; the attacks have included the bombing of at least ten church buildings. Nearly all the Christians in the area have fled the region.

Pakistan: A 25 year-old Christian was shot dead by «an unidentified gunman in what his family believes was a radical Muslim group’s targeting of a Christian.» According to the son, «We firmly believe that my father was killed because of his preaching of the Bible, because there is no other reason.» He began to receive threats «after voicing his desire to start a welfare organization for the poor Christians» of the region.



(General Abuse, Debasement, and Suppression of non-Muslim «Second-Class Citizens»)

November’s major instances of dhimmitude come from two Muslim nations notorious for violating Christian rights—Egypt and Pakistan—neither of which is even cited in the U.S. State Department’s recent International Religious Freedom report:

Egypt: Following October’s Maspero massacre, when the military killed dozens of Christians, some run over intentionally by armored vehicles, Egypt’s military prosecutor detained 34 Christians, including teens under 16, on charges of «inciting violence, carrying arms and insulting the armed forces»; many of the detainees were not even at the scene and were just collected from the streets for «being a Christian.» Three are under 16 years of age, including one who, after having an operation to extract a bullet from his jaw, was chained to his hospital bed. Hundreds of Christians also came under attack from Muslims throwing stones and bottles, after the Christians protested against the violence at Maspero: «Supporters of an Islamist candidate for upcoming parliamentary election joined in the attack on the Copts.» Meanwhile, a senior leader of the Salafi party, which came in second after the Muslim Brotherhood in recent elections, blamed Christians for their own massacre, calling «Allah’s curse on them.» Muslim Brotherhood leaders asserted that only «drunks, druggies, and adulterers» are against the implementation of Sharia—a clear reference to Egypt’s Christians.

Pakistan: A new U.S. government commission report indicates that Pakistani school textbooks foster intolerance of Christians, Hindus, and all non-Muslims, while most teachers view religious minorities as «enemies of Islam.» «Religious minorities are often portrayed as inferior or second-class citizens who have been granted limited rights and privileges by generous Pakistani Muslims, for which they should be grateful,» notes the report. Accordingly, in an attempted land-grab, Muslim police and cohorts of a retired military official, beat two Christian women with «batons and punches,» inflicting a serious wound to one of the women’s eyes after the women spoke up in defense of their land, and shot at Christians who came to help the women. «In the last few years Muslims have made several attempts to seize the land from the Christians, usually succeeding because Christians are a marginalized minority.» Likewise, under a «false charge of theft,» a Christian couple was arrested and severely beaten by police; the pregnant wife was «kicked and punched» even as her interrogators threatened «to kill her unborn fetus.» A policeman offered to remove the theft charges if the husband would only «renounce Christianity and convert to Islam.»

Source: http://www.drougos.gr/

Another Christian Martyred in Pakistan.

By Nina Shea  

Another Christian in Pakistan has been murdered, and the local Catholic Church is calling her a “martyr of the faith.”

The 18-year-old Amariah Masih (also reported as Mariah Manisha), a Catholic girl from the village of Tehsil Samundari, near Faisalabad, in Punjab province, was shot dead on November 27, after putting up resistance when a Muslim man abducted her with the intent to rape her. Fr. Khalid Rashid Asi, General Vicar of the Catholic diocese of Faisalabad told Fides, the Catholic news agency, that “cases like these occur daily in Punjab. It is very sad; Christians, often girls, are helpless victims.”

The girl’s mother, Razia Bibi, 50, told the Catholic media outlet AsiaNews that she and her daughter were riding on a motorbike on their way to pick up drinking water, which is not available in their village, when a man seized the motorbike, grabbed the young woman, and tried to drag her away at gunpoint. As she tried to pull away, the man opened fire, killing her instantly. According to AsiaNews, the 28-year-old Muslim Arif Gujjar, the son of a wealthy local landowner, is in police custody for questioning for the murder of Amariah.

Amariah’s funeral was presided over by Fr. Zafal Iqbal, who said to Fides: “She is a martyr. . . . The girl resisted, she did not want to convert to Islam and she did not marry the man, who killed her for this.” He explained to AsiaNews: “Wealthy and influential landowners often take aim at those who are marginalized and vulnerable, for their dirty interests.” In Pakistan, a rape victim is often imprisoned for unlawful sex and released on the condition that she marry her rapist. Because, under sharia, a Muslim cannot be married to a Christian, the women in such cases are also forced to convert to Islam. In its sharia courts, the testimony of a Christian is worth less than that of a Muslim, and a Christian woman’s is worth less yet. The whole system is rigged against the Christian woman.

More information on Amariah can be found on the website of the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations.

Meanwhile, Ruqqiya Bibi, a Christian woman, was sentenced in Pakistan in late October to a 25-year prison term for blasphemy on accusations that she defiled a Koran after handling it with unclean hands. Mrs. Bibi is not to be confused with Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who was convicted of blasphemy following a dispute with other Muslim women with whom she had been working as a field hand, and who remains imprisoned after being sentenced to death a year ago.

Pakistan’s minister of minority affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, also a Catholic, was murdered earlier this year, as was Punjab governor Salman Taseer, a Muslim, for calling for the repeal of the nation’s blasphemy law. Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy law is notoriously vague and ever expanding to include new applications.

The BBC reported on November 17 that the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority has told mobile-phone companies to begin blocking text messages containing “obscene” and otherwise “offensive” words. The name “Jesus Christ” was listed among them.

The discriminatory blasphemy law, which protects only Islam, generally encourages targeted violence against Christians, as well as against Ahmadiyas, Hindus, non-Sunni Muslims, and Sunni Muslim dissidents.

— Nina Shea is director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom and co-author, with Paul Marshall, of Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedoms Worldwide (Oxford University Press, November 2011).


Pakistan bans “obscene” words on cell phone texts. Among the “obscene” words is also “Jesus Christ”…

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Texters in Pakistan better start watching their language. Pakistan’s telecommunications authority sent a letter ordering cell phone companies to block text messages containing what it perceives to be obscenities, Anjum Nida Rahman, a spokeswoman for Telenor Pakistan, said Friday.

It also sent a list of more than 1,500 English and Urdu words that were to be blocked. The order was part of the regulator’s attempt to block spam messages, said Rahman. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority refused to comment on the initiative.

Many of the words to be blocked were sexually explicit terms or swear words, according to a copy of the list obtained by The Associated Press. It also included relatively mild terms like fart and idiot.

The reasons for blocking some words, including Jesus Christ, headlights and tampon, were less clear, raising questions about religious freedom and practicality. Any word could conceivably be part of a spam message.

The letter, which was also obtained by the AP, was dated Nov. 14 and gave cell phone companies seven days to implement the order. Rahman, the Telenor spokeswoman, said her company first received the letter Thursday and was discussing how to proceed.

“It’s a big issue, so it is being examined carefully from all points of view,” said Rahman.

The letter said the order was legal under a 1996 law preventing people from sending information through the telecommunications system that is “false, fabricated, indecent or obscene.” It also stated that free speech can be restricted “in the interest of the glory of Islam.”

Source: Associated Press

“She misspelled Muhammad’s name in class: Let’s kill her!”

Mauro Pianta Turin 09/27/2011

The mind boggling affair of a Pakistani Christian girl who made one grammar mistake which led to her being accused of blasphemy, expelled from school and forced to flee.

You learn through your mistakes, the saying goes. Unless you happen to be a student in a school in Pakistan that is. In the village of Havelian, near Abbottabad (province of Khyber Pakhtukhwa, in North West Pakistan), a mistake made by one thirteen year old Christian girl led to her and her family being accused of blasphemy. Faryal Bhatti, a nurse’s daughter, was expelled from school, threatened with death and forced to flee together with her loved ones. Her “sin” was that of having misspelled Muhammad’s name by mistake, during a class exercise.

According to reports by missionary agency AsiaNews, on 22 September, Faryal, a student at the POF Havelian Colony High School, made a mistake when writing an Urdu term during an exam. This resulted in the word referring to the prophet Muhammad, being changed from “poetry of praise” (naat) to a “curse” (lanaat). The Urdu teacher gave the girl a severe telling off in front of the whole class. Faryal’s tears did not stop the “case” being brought before the school headmaster. Within the space of a few minutes, the news about the alleged insult against the Prophet had gone round the entire school: teachers and the school head accused the girl of blasphemy.

The school authorities informed religious authorities, who together with the colony’s inhabitants staged a demonstration asking the police to press charges against the girl. The crowd started shouting out slogans against them and Christians. During Friday’s sermons, local religious leaders condemned the affair as “a conspiracy against Islam.”

The explanations given and tears shed by the girl and her mother who were called to account by teachers and religious representatives, were all in vain. Maulana Syed Ejaz Ali, a religious figure from the Jamia Masjid mosque saw the “incriminating” sheet of paper and spoke to Faryal and her mother, concluding that: “I am not sure what to make of Faryal’s intentions. Her tears are testament to her innocence, but the mistake she made transformed the word in question into an insult and this offers a valid enough basis for punishment; she must never ever think ill of Islam.”

To please religious leaders, the school’s administration expelled Faryal from the school; Islamic religious men pressured the Colony administration into ensuring the mother got fired immediately and moved away from her home. Mother and daughter were moved to Wah Cantonment by the hospital administration. The Masihi Foundation (the organisation that looks after the rights of Christians in Pakistan), asked the two Islamic religious men from Islamabad, Maulana Mehfooz Ali Khan and Hussain Ahmed Malik, what their opinion was on the matter. They said: “It was a mistake made by an innocent girl. Many Muslim students in the madaris make mistakes when pronouncing Arabic words, changing their sense. It is not right to punish a child for a mistake it has committed unwillingly. The girl will be traumatised by this. Faryal Bhatti only had to go through all this because she is a Christian, I protest against the decision to expel the girl and make the mother move.”

The Roman Catholic bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, Rufin Anthony said the following in a statement to AsiaNews: “I condemn the incident. Now even Christian students are victimised and accused of blasphemy. Society is becoming so intolerant that a minor mistake is blown out of proportion. The Ulamas have decided to punish the girl when she does not even know what she has done. They should have explained the mistake she made to her, if it can be called a mistake, winning her trust and thus doing a service to religion. But what happened was the exact opposite.”

Some time ago, the Washigton Post wrote that “belonging to a minority in Pakistan is like being burdened by a scarlet letter that forces you to live a lesser life”. This very letter was the one that Faryal got wrong.

Bishop of Mosques…

Auxiliary (Roman Catholic) Bishop of Hamburg, Hans-Jochen Jaschke.

Auxiliary (Roman Catholic) Bishop of Hamburg, Hans-Jochen Jaschke has spoken out in an interview with the daily newspaper “Die Welt” on building new mosques in Germany.

He went even further. He called on Christians to support the opening of such symbolic buildings. “I think it is conceivable that Christians aid Muslims to open a new mosque, as a gift – as a sign of sympathy, of good neighborliness and of religious relationship,” said the Commissioner of the German Bishops’ Conference for Inter-religious dialogue.

Another option is about “a plaque with a verse from the Bible and the Koran.” The financing of the gift could be done through a collection in church.

“As Christians, we support the construction of beautiful mosques,” the bishop said. The people must feel that “faith is something to do with beauty and culture.”