10 posts categorized “Pakistan”

March 26, 2014

Asia Bibi Appeal Delayed Again

The Lahore High Court has, for the second time in two weeks, delayed the first hearing on Asia Bibi’s appeal of her conviction for blasphemy and the resulting death sentence.

A hearing last week was delayed because one of the two judges set to hear the case was unable to be in court. Today the court convened once again, but had to delay the proceedings when the attorney for the complainant was not present in the court room. The judges waited ten minutes and then announced a delay in the case.

Image003
A photo of Asia Bibi taken during a prison visit.

In the case of Asia Bibi, the complainant, or “counterparty,” is Muslim mullah Qari Muhammed Sallam. Sallam is the man who submitted the original complaint in the case on June 19, 2009. The complaint accused Asia Bibi of speaking against the Islamic prophet, Mohammed, on June 14 of that year. Asia Bibi’s lawyers told Agenzia Fides that they will point to the five-day gap between the alleged statements and the complaint being filed as evidence that the charges were fabricated.

Asia Bibi was sentenced to death on November 8, 2010. Her appeal, No. 2509, was filed with the Lahore High Court on November 11, 2010.

Reportedly, April 14 was set for the next attempt to have this initial appeal hearing. VOM contacts in Pakistan are closely monitoring the case.

Please continue to pray for Asia Bibi as she waits in prison for the appeal process to move forward. Pray also for her husband and daughters as they await the court’s decision.

You can still sign the petition asking for Asia Bibi's release at www.CallForMercy.com.


February 12, 2014

Pakistan's Blasphemy Law

World Magazine published an online story this week about the blasphemy law—Law 295—in Pakistan and how it affects Christians and other minority groups in that nation.

I was interviewed for the story:

Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy law makes it illegal to speak against Islam. Todd Nettleton, director of media development at Voice of the Martyrs, said the law is used as a weapon. Worst of all, accusers don’t need any proof. There are no consequences for false accusations, but anyone accused is arrested and imprisoned during the investigation.

I have twice been a part of VOM teams delivering petitions to the Pakistani Embassy in Washington DC on behalf of one of Law 295’s victims—Asia Bibi. Both times we were welcomed with kindness into the embassy and reminded that more Muslims are accused of blasphemy than Christians. Photo_asia

We were also told that the system works…that when someone is innocent the courts will eventually set them free. That is sometimes true, but it is also true that some of those set free have been murdered by radical Muslims after they were set free, and some were murdered even before they could appear in court.

Perhaps Asia Bibi will be set free, her appeal granted and the death penalty she was sentenced to thrown out by the High Court. But when? The years she has been in prison, separated from her husband and daughters, are years she will never get back. And no court decision can change that.

Please pray for Asia Bibi. Please sign the petition to ask Pakistan’s government to set her free at www.CallForMercy.com. Join us in this call for mercy from an unjust law that affects so many of our brothers and sisters in Pakistan.

Todd Nettleton has served the persecuted church and VOM 15 years. He has been interviewed more than 2000 times by various media outlets. He's the author of Restricted Nations: North Korea, and served on the writing team for FOXE, Extreme Devotion, Hearts of Fire and other VOM books.


January 22, 2014

Young Believers Killed in Peshawar

“Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Mark 10:14b-15).

Sometimes children are able to see truth in unencumbered, refreshing ways. Jesus loved children, and even challenged his followers to “receive the kingdom of God as a little child.”

At VOM, we acknowledge the mandate of James 1:27 and have a unique interest in serving the underserved, especially children and widows living in areas that experience intense persecution. Pakistan is one of those places.

Pakistani Girls with The Story of Jesus (2)For several years, VOM has been in active partnership with David C. Cook, a nonprofit organization dedicated to publishing discipleship resources to help Christians all over the world grow in their faith.

Together, we have been able to distribute hundreds of thousands of “Story of Jesus” books in some of the world’s most difficult places. These colorful books, which are similar to “comic books,” introduce Jesus to children in a way that is very compelling. In fact, when I took a copy home to my own children, they were immediately drawn to it.

In July of 2013, two young girls in Pakistan received a copy of “the Story of Jesus” in their native language of Urdu. The Christians who distributed the booklets happily reported that these girls trusted Christ after reading these engaging booklets. Two more sisters were added to our family!

Just a couple of months later, on a sunny Sunday morning, two suicide bombers entered the All Saints Church compound in Peshawar, Pakistan. These Islamists waited until the services were over and the nearly 500 worshipers began to gather for a meal together. At 11:45, they detonated their suicide vests and killed 78 people and injured another 130. It was the deadliest attack on the Christian minority in the history of Pakistan.

In October, I received word that the two young sisters who received “the Story of Jesus” during the July distribution, and began to follow Jesus, were killed in the attack on that bright Sunday morning.

The death of children is especially tough, and many of the victims from Peshawar were women and children. There are never easy answers for difficult situations like this. They serve as vivid reminders of how fallen our world is. But, we do not mourn as those without hope! We believe that “while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:6-7).

As you look at the photograph of these two young girls, please remember their families in prayer, along with the other families who lost loved ones in this attack. Pray also for those who plotted this attack. May God’s glory be manifested in all of the chaos that continues in this area. Finally, please pray with us that God will guide us as we do our best to minister in that difficult place.

Bio_jasonpetersDr. Jason Peters serves in VOM’s International Ministries department, traveling frequently to meet with our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. He lived overseas for five years and has ministered in more than 30 countries as diverse as Cuba, Nepal, Iraq, Nigeria and Indonesia. He and his wife, Kimberly, along with their five children, count it a great honor to serve with the persecuted church.


January 14, 2014

Pakistan: For God’s Glory

Khalid was one of the more than 78 Christians killed in the suicide bombings at All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan on Sept. 22, 2013. A portion of Kahlid's story was included in VOM's January newsletter. More of his story is below, as recounted to VOM workers by Khalid's wife, Shakeela Bibi:

Khalid had been sick and bedridden for several weeks. He was very weak and had lost a lot of weight. Khalid had strong faith in Jesus Christ, though. He was always praying to be healed. Many times, he called pastors for prayer meetings for his healing. My children and I would also fast and pray for Khalid to become healthy again.

After one and a half months, Khalid began to recuperate. It was a miracle. He was finally able to leave his bed if he walked slowly. He was putting on weight once again; a sign of improving health. Khalid always told me, “Shakeela, when I am healed, I will go to church to give thanks to the Lord!”

On Sept. 21, 2013, Khalid was looking better. His face was shining and looking beautiful. He looked like a healthy man again. I was also very happy that now God had blessed him with good health. That evening, Khalid said, “Shakeela, now I am fine and healthy. Tomorrow is Sunday, so I will go to church to give thanks to the Lord.” I said, “Yes, this is good, and you also promised the Lord that after healing you would go to church.”

Khalid_Peshawar_Pakistan
Khalid

On Sept. 22, Khalid woke up early in the morning. He gathered his clothes to iron them. I said, “Give them to me. I will iron your clothes.”

Khalid said, “No, Shakeela, let me iron them myself. God gave me health, so I will get ready for him by myself.” I smiled and told him, “Go ahead and get ready for church.”

After Khalid was ready to go, our younger son said, “Papa, I will go with you.” But Khalid reminded him, “Dear son, you have promised your auntie to go to her home. So, go there and I will come there after the prayer service.”

At 11:45 a.m., I was informed by people in the street that there was bomb blast at the church. My children and I ran to the church. We searched for Khalid everywhere. Somebody told us that Khalid was injured and that people had taken him to the hospital. At the hospital, we learned that Khalid died on the way there.

Though no words from others could bring peace or patience to me, the Bible  has words for my peace. The Lord gave peace and patience to my children and me.

We wondered, “If God wanted Khalid’s martyrdom, then why did he heal Khalid?”

God watched over Khalid during his illness. Khalid had a strong faith in the Lord, and he was faithful to the Lord. He always asked the Lord for his healing without losing faith that it would happen.

The Bible says, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev 2:10)

Khalid never lost faith in the Lord, so the Lord gave him the crown of life.

If Khalid had died as a result of the illness, then he could not be a martyr. Nobody would remember him except for his family members. But now, Khalid is a martyr and the whole world will remember him. It is a witness for the whole world that Khalid is a martyr for the Lord.

Khalid’s martyrdom was for the Lord’s glory.

If you missed it, read the story of another of the All Saints Church martyrs, Saba Pervez, in yesterday's blog post. VOM provides help and support to the families of martyrs, like Shakeela Bibi, through the Families of Martyrs Fund. We invite you to make a gift online to support those like Shakeela Bibi who have lost a family member because of their witness for Christ.


January 13, 2014

Pakistan: The Real Wedding Day

Saba Pervez was one of more than 87 Christians killed in the suicide bombings at All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan on Sept. 22, 2013. A portion of her story was told in VOM's January newsletter. Here is more of her story, as told to VOM workers by her sister, Sumble:

Sept. 21, 2013 was a normal Saturday evening. Saba and I decided to go to church services in the morning. My sister and I were very excited to go church as we had not made it the past few Sundays because we had university examinations. We missed being able to go to the prayer services. We went to bed early so that we could get up the next morning to go to church.

Saba_Pervez_Pakistan
Saba Pervez

That next morning, Saba got up early to iron our clothes. When I woke up, I saw her ironing her red dress. Both that dress and color were her favorite. I was surprised to see that red dress because it had been a long time since she had worn the color at all.

Last time she wore the red dress, she was embarrassed by all the attention she received. She looks very pretty in red and everybody was looking at her. After that day, she never wore red.

We went to church. The prayer service started at 9 and finished at 11 a.m. The message delivered was from Matt. 6:24, which says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.”

We have a great choir in the church. They sing very nice worship songs. On this Sunday when they started the last worship song, it was a different atmosphere. The Holy Spirit was moving. All the people joined the choir and were singing with them. They were clapping and dancing.

The song was:

Who loved Him,

They drink happily the cup of martyrdom,

They are never afraid of any difficulty,

They took persecution on their body.

The choir and people were repeating these lines again and again. It seems that the Spirit of the saints was moving in the church. 

After the song, we went outside the church building. One of the church members brought rice for the congregation as thanksgiving to the Lord. Saba said, “Come, we will eat rice.” Saba brought some rice on a plate and gave me one bite with her hand. As I took the bite, the bomb exploded, and my sister’s red dress became even redder.

Saba was engaged and would be getting married soon. That moment, my sister went with her real groom, Jesus.

In our culture, weddings include the color red, rice, music and songs as well as fireworks. Saba went to church wearing a red dress that morning. There were songs and music, rice and the great firework (the bomb blast). My sister, Saba, went to her real home with her groom, Jesus, that day. I am happy that my sister was ready to go with Jesus.

Come back to the Persecution Blog tomorrow to read the story of another of the All Saints Church martyrs, Khalid, as told to VOM by his widow. VOM provides help and support to the families of martyrs through the Families of Martyrs Fund. We invite you to make a gift online to support those who have lost a family member because of their witness for Christ.


September 24, 2013

Twin Bombing at Church in Pakistan

Grief, Rage after Pakistan Church Suicide Bombing

Pakistan

Members of a Taliban offshoot attacked a historic church in Peshawar last Sunday, killing more than 80 and injuring more than 150. The two suicide bombers detonated their vests inside the All Saints Church around 11:45 a.m., just as 500 worshippers were sharing a meal on the grounds of the church.

The attackers had opened fire on security guards at the church’s main gates before setting of their vests packed with 26 pounds of the explosives. The blast heavily damaged the church and nearby buildings. It was the deadliest attack on Christians in Pakistan ever.

Read the rest of this article on Persecution.com…


June 27, 2013

Asia Bibi Update

Earlier this month Asia Bibi’s husband, Ashiq, was able to visit her in jail. At the time of his visit Asia was sick and receiving treatment from the jail doctor. She complained of a lot of pain in her legs, shoulders and arms.

Ashiq told Asia, “Take good care for your health and recover soon. The children are worried for you. They are daily praying for your good health and soon release.” Asia_Bibi

Asia said she is regularly praying in jail for her release and requested VOM readers to pray with her.

Several days after Ashiq’s visit to the prison, Asia was transferred from Sheikhupura jail to Multan jail. This change means that, in order for her family to visit her, they will have to travel around five hours instead of only one hour. The extra travel also raises security concerns for the family.

Asia’s daughters in particular were discouraged by the news of their mother’s transfer.

Please pray for Asia Bibi. Pray for healing on her body, encouragement to her spirit and for her release from prison. Pray also for Ashiq and their daughters.

You can write letters of encouragement to Asia through Prisoner Alert. The site has been updated with her new prison address. Invite your friends to sign a petition to the Pakistani government on her behalf at www.CallForMercy.com.


December 21, 2012

VOM-USA Prayer Update for December 21, 2012

Screen Shot 2012-12-21 at 8.01.11 AMEvery week we like to end the week by sharing with you some prayer requests for the persecuted church.  This week is no different, and since Christmas is early next week I'd like to also ask you to remember to pray on Christmas for our dear brothers and sisters in Christ in restricted nations, since persecution on Christian holidays often increases.  Please share these requests with praying friends and family.

Pakistan—Christian Worker Shot to Death
Sources: VOM Sources, VOM Canada

Romans 10:15

A 70-year-old Swedish Christian worker was killed on Dec. 3 by unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle as she returned home from work. Birgitta Almby, Area Director of Full Gospel Assemblies (FGA) in Lahore, was flown to Sweden for treatment after the shooting, but she died in the hospital. “From the information available so far, it seems that the two assailants were following her or were waiting for her to reach her house, where they opened fire on her,” said Liaqat Qaiser, the principal of FGA Bible school. Birgitta served in Pakistan for 38 years. Pray for the peace and encouragement of Birgitta’s fellow Christian workers.

Egypt—Constitutional Referendum Prompts New Violence
Source: VOM Sources

Isaiah 19:21–25

A VOM worker in Egypt reports that violence has increased as the country considers a referendum on a new Egyptian constitution. Egyptian protestors opposed to the new constitution recently attacked a building belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, who helped install President Muhammad Mursi in June. “Protestors tried to attack the building and burn it,” the VOM contact said. The VOM worker temporarily moved his family out of the neighborhood last week. “It was a terrible time in our area [because of] the fighting between protestors and radical Muslim groups,” he said. Voting on the new constitution will occur in two stages; the first round was Saturday, Dec. 15, and the second phase is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 22. The VOM worker requested prayer for Egypt and especially for Egyptian Christians. “Pray that Egyptians will know the Lord and the Lord will be known to them,” he said.

Laos—Christians Pressured to Perform Cult Rituals
Sources: VOM Sources, Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom

1 Corinthians 16:13

Local authorities in Phin district, Savannakhet province, have pressured Christians for months to renounce their faith, and now they are threatening to expel believers from their homes if they refuse to perform occult rituals. In September, district police arrested three area pastors and bound their hands and feet in stocks. After provincial authorities declared the arrests illegal and ordered local authorities to escort the men home, the pastors’ families expected their release. But they were never released. On Oct. 19, the same local authorities called the 31 Christian families and 70 non-Christian families together and told them that the Christians would have to perform occult ritual oaths stating that they would adhere to the traditional religion. They were also asked to sign a statement renouncing Christ. The officials have threatened to expel the Christians from their villages if they do not perform the rites. So far, they have refused the authorities’ demands. Pray that higher authorities will intervene and that the Christians will stand strong.

Iran—VOM Project

Pray for increased effectiveness of Christian TV programs broadcast into Iran. Pray that the broadcasts will strengthen new converts and help seekers come to know Christ.


October 1, 2012

Pakistan: Muslims Burn Church

Screen shot 2012-10-01 at 4.59.23 PMOn Friday afternoon, Sept. 21, a mob of several thousand Muslims attacked St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Mardan City, Pakistan. The attackers, armed with rifles and kerosene, overwhelmed security guards and broke into the church. They destroyed Bibles and prayer books, desecrated the altar and set fire to the church building and several surrounding homes and buildings. The mob was returning from a protest against the film Innocence of Muslims, which has sparked violence in many Middle Eastern countries this month and led to the death of Christopher Stevens, U.S. Ambassador to Libya. In Pakistan, the government had declared Sept. 21 a national holiday in honor of Muhammad, and the day had been set aside for peaceful protests.

The attack on the 82-year-old church lasted for five hours. The church staff was able to flee, but those who lived on the campus lost everything. An adjoining high school, a Christian library, a computer laboratory, the bishop’s house, the bishop’s office, a pastor’s house and the school principal’s house were all burned. The mob also burned a car, three motorcycles and three bicycles. More than 2,000 Bibles, 100 New Testaments and several hundred Christian books and DVDs were destroyed. The attackers spray-painted the words “God is great,” “Oh God help us” and “Love our prophet” on the church steeple.

St. Paul’s in Mardan, which is about 30 miles from Peshawar, was built by British colonists in 1937. The church is active in sharing the gospel with Muslims and also operates a Christian book store. A mosque is directly across the street from the church. In the last two years, the church staff has received six phone calls in which callers threatened to kill them if they didn’t stop preaching and distributing Christian literature.

The day after the attack, church members and other local Christians gathered in front of the burned buildings to express their disappointment at the local government for failing to protect their church. On Sunday, Sept. 23, more than 1,000 people — many more than the church’s usual congregation of 300 — attended a prayer meeting at the church site.

Pastor Gulam Shad, a church staff member and VOM volunteer, shared a message from Rev. 2:10: “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (ESV). He reminded the crowd that the Lord knows our suffering. “The teaching of Christ is to forgive our enemies,” Pastor Gulam said. “His teachings are on forgiveness and kindness. Today we have to be a role model for other nations so they can see from us how we follow the teachings of our Lord.”

The same church was bombed in September 2010, after an American pastor publicly burned a Quran. Three security guards, including a Muslim, were injured in the attack. After the bombing, VOM provided the church with a generator, which was destroyed during the violence last week.

Source: VOM sources


September 4, 2012

Pakistan: Christian Girl Charged

A young, physically-handicapped Christian girl accused of blasphemy waits to hear her fate in a high security prison in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Rimsha Masih, a poor girl from a low caste family of Christian sweepers, was accused of burning pages containing Quranic verses. When rumors of the incident spread, hundreds of Muslim protestors surrounded a police station on Aug. 16 and demanded Rimsha face prosecution under Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws.

Under the laws, Rimsha could receive a death sentence if found guilty of insulting Islam. However, because of her age, the case was handed over to the juvenile courts, which are often more lenient. According to her lawyer, Rimsha could be granted bail at her next hearing. A hearing is scheduled to take place on Thursday.

The police First Information Report listed Rimsha’s age as 11, but a medical board said she was 14 and determined Rimsha has a degree of mental disability.

There are conflicting claims as to how Rimsha found the papers, but when a Muslim neighbor accused her of desecrating the Quranic verses, more than 300 Muslims entered the predominantly Christian neighborhood in Islamabad, where the family lived. They surrounded Rimsha’s house and threatened to kill her. A VOM contact reported that they verbally abused Christians while chanting, “Kill kafirs!” (meaning, “Kill unbelievers!”).

The prayer leader of a nearby mosque stated that he saved Rimsha by leading her out of the mob and handing her and two family members over to local police. The mob then rioted around the police station. Fearing the mob would harm the family or destroy the police station, police charged Rimsha with blasphemy. Police held her two family members in protective custody before releasing them three days later.

Hundreds of Christians fled the neighborhood and sought safety in other areas of the city, including a tent city on some forested land. A makeshift church where the displaced held a church service last weekend was later burned down, and the Christians were forced off the land. About 50 families have since returned to the neighborhood, but shopkeepers are refusing to sell them food.

VOM staff in Pakistan are closely monitoring the situation.

Sources: VOM contacts, PakTribune, New York Times

Posted: August 29, 2012
Updated: September 4, 2012