Steel On Steel - Donald McElvaney, www.missionbarnabas.org (November 18, 2010)
1. Legal Status Foreseen for Christianity in Buddhist Bhutan
Country�s religious regulatory authority expected to consider recognition before year�s end.
By Vishal Arora
NEW DELHI, November 4 (Compass Direct News) � For the first time in Bhutan�s history, the Buddhist nation�s government seems ready to grant much-awaited official recognition and accompanying rights to a miniscule Christian population that has remained largely underground. The authority that regulates religious organizations will discuss in its next meeting � to be held by the end of December � how a Christian organization can be registered to represent its community, agency secretary Dorji Tshering told Compass by phone. Thus far only Buddhist and Hindu organizations have been registered by the authority, locally known as Chhoedey Lhentshog. As a result, only these two communities have the right to openly practice their religion and build places of worship. Asked if Christians were likely to get the same rights soon, Tshering replied, �Absolutely� � an apparent paradigm shift in policy, given that Bhutan�s National Assembly had banned open practice of non-Buddhist and non-Hindu religions by passing resolutions in 1969 and in 1979. The government�s move to legalize Christianity seems to have the consent of the present king, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, who is respected by almost all people and communities in the country. In his early thirties, the king studied in universities in the United States and the United Kingdom. Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigmey Thinley is also believed to have agreed in principle to recognition of other faiths. According to a source who requested anonymity, the government is likely to register only one Christian organization and would expect it to represent all Christians in Bhutan � which would call for Christian unity in the country.
2. After Fatwa, Pastor in Pakistan Beaten with Bricks
Convert, a former fighter in Afghanistan, had protested Islamic attack.
By Brian MacDonald
SARGODHA, Pakistan, November 5 (Compass Direct News) � Muslim extremists in Islamabad on Monday (Nov. 1) beat with bricks and hockey sticks a Christian clergyman who is the subject of a fatwa demanding his death. The Rev. Dr. Suleman Nasri Khan, a former fighter in Afghanistan before his conversion, suffered a serious head injury, a hairline fracture in his arm and a broken bone in his left ankle in the assault by 10 Muslim extremists; he was able to identify two of them as Allama Atta-Ullah Attari and Allama Masaud Hussain. The attack in Chashma, near Iqbal Town in Islamabad, followed Islamic scholar Allama Nawazish Ali�s Oct. 25th fatwa (religious ruling) to kill Khan, pastor of Power of the Healing God�s Church in the Kalupura area of Gujrat city. Khan, 34, had relocated to a rented apartment in Islamabad after fleeing his home in Gujrat because of death threats against him and his family, he said. The fatwa was issued after Khan protested anti-Christian violence in Kalupura last month. Muslim extremists who learned of his conversion had first attacked Khan in 2008 � killing his first child, 3-month old Sana Nasri Khan. While fighting in Afghanistan�s civil war in 2000, he said, he found a New Testament lying on the battlefield. He immediately threw it away, but a divine voice seemed to be extending an invitation to him, he said. When he later embraced Christ, he began preaching and studying � ending up with a doctorate in biblical theology from Punjab Theological Seminary in Kasur in 2005.
3. Lao Officials to Expel More Christian Families from Village
Katin chief says previously expelled Christians will be shot if they return.
By Sarah Page
DUBLIN, November 9 (Compass Direct News) � Officials in Katin village, southern Laos have ordered six more Christian families to renounce their faith or face expulsion in early January, advocacy group Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) reported today (Nov. 9). The Katin chief and the village religious affairs officer, along with local security forces, recently approached the six families with the threat after having expelled 11 Christian families, totaling 48 people, at gunpoint last January. The six families now under threat had become Christians since the January expulsion. The eviction last January followed months of threats and harassment, including the confiscation of livestock and other property, the detention of 80 men, women and children in a school compound and the death by asphyxiation of a Christian villager. Immediately after the expulsion, two more families in Katin village became Christians despite the obvious risk to their personal safety, according to HRWLRF. The village chief allowed them to remain in Katin but warned all villagers that their own homes would be �torn down� if they made contact with the expelled Christians. In July, in spite of talk by higher officials of legal guarantees of the rights of religious minorities, village heads said they would shoot every Christian who returned to Katin. Shortly after this discussion took place, a further four families in Katin became Christians, according to HRWLRF.
4. Orissa, India Christians Still Face Boycott, Forced Conversion
Hindu nationalists continue to oppress Christians in Kandhamal district, report says.
By Vishal Arora
NEW DELHI, November 11 (Compass Direct News) � More than two years after losing relatives and property in anti-Christian violence, there is no sense of relief among survivors in India�s Orissa state, as many are still ostracized and pressured to �return� to Hinduism, according to a private investigation. �Despite the state administration�s claim of normalcy,� the preliminary report of a fact-finding team states, �a state of lawlessness and utter fear and sense of insecurity� prevails among Christians of Kandhamal district, which saw a major anti-Christian bloodbath in 2008. The team, consisting of local attorney Nicholas Barla and another identified only as Brother Marcus, along with rights activists Jugal Kishore Ranjit and Ajay Kumar Singh, visited four villages in Kandhamal on Nov. 5. In Bodimunda village in Tikabali, the team met a pastor who said he has been closely watched since Hindu extremists forced him to become a Hindu. In the same village, Hindu nationalists had also imposed a de facto ban on any private or public vehicle to ferry Christians or their belongings, said the report. Another Christian said area Hindus extremists prohibited Christians from procuring basic necessities. The team found pictures of Hindu gods in the homes of Christians who were too fearful to remove them. A woman in Gandapadar village told the team that local Hindu nationalists had given her pictures of Hindu gods to worship. �We have kept them, as they often come to check whether we have reconverted to Christianity,� she said. Almost all Christians the team met complained that the local administration had done little to protect them and suspected that officials colluded with area Hindu nationalists.
5. Pakistani Woman Appeals Death Sentence for �Blasphemy�
District judge bows to pressure of local Muslims, handing down stunning sentence to Christian.
By Asher John and Brian MacDonald
LAHORE, Pakistan, November 13 (Compass Direct News) � Attorneys for a Christian mother of five sentenced to death by hanging for allegedly speaking ill of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, have filed an appeal of the verdict, they said. Bowing to pressure from Muslim extremists in Pakistan, according to the Christian woman�s husband and rights groups, a district court judge handed down the stunning sentence to Asia Noreen on Monday (Nov. 8). Naveed Ahmed Chaudhary delivered the verdict under Pakistan�s controversial �blasphemy� statute, the kind of law that a resolution before the United Nations condemning �defamation of religions� would make legitimate internationally. Noreen is the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan�s widely condemned law against defaming Islam. Her lawyer, Chaudhry Tahir Shahzad, said that among other allegations, she was accused of denying that Muhammad was a prophet. �How can we expect a Christian to affirm a Muslim belief?� Shahzad said. Noreen has been languishing in isolation in jail since June of last year after she argued with fellow field workers in Ittanwali village who were trying to pressure her into renouncing Christianity. Her husband, Ashiq Masih, told Compass that the argument began after the wife of an Ittanwali elder sent her to fetch water in Nankana Sahib district, about 75 kilometers (47 miles) from Lahore in Punjab Province. On June 19, 2009, Masih said, the Muslim women suddenly raised a commotion, accusing Noreen of defaming Muhammad. �Several Muslim men working in the nearby fields reached the spot and forced their way into our house, where they tortured Asia and the children,� said Masih, who confirmed that his wife is 45 years old and that they have five children � four girls and a boy, the oldest daughter 20. �Asia has been convicted on false charges. We have never, ever insulted the prophet Muhammad or the Quran.� Chaudhary also fined her 100,000 rupees (US$1,150).
6. Christian Jailed in Afghanistan to Face Judge on Sunday
Imprisoned since May, father of six has yet to learn charges against him.
By Damaris Kremida
ISTANBUL, November 16 (Compass Direct News) � An Afghani amputee in prison for his Christian faith since May will face a judge this Sunday (Nov. 21) without legal representation or knowledge of the charges against him, according to local sources. Authorities arrested Said Musa, 45, on May 31, days after the local Noorin TV station broadcast images of Afghan Christians being baptized and worshiping. Though there were other arrests in May and June during the ensuing man-hunt against Christians, Musa is the only known Christian facing a court case. Turning from Islam is a capital offence under strict Islamic laws still in place in Afghanistan, which was wrested from the Taliban regime�s hard-line Islamist control in 2001. In June authorities forced Musa to renounce Christianity publicly on television but have continued to hold him in prison without revealing accusations against him. In prison, Musa has openly said he is a follower of Jesus. In a hand-delivered letter penned last month to the church worldwide, U.S. President Barack Obama and the heads of NATO�s International Security Assistance Forces, Musa wrote that he was physically and verbally abused by his captors and other prisoners at Ouliat Prison in Kabul. In his letter, Musa alluded to the lack of justice he faced in prison, saying that the prosecutor had given the judge a false report about him and demanded a bribe from the Christian. Local Christians and religious freedom monitors have expressed concern that Musa may be made an example. �This is a kind of a test case to see which law prevails in the country: sharia or international agreements,� said a Christian religious freedom advocate on condition of anonymity.
7. Pakistani Mother Condemned for �Blasphemy� Stunned, Shattered
First woman sentenced to die for speaking ill of Muhammad says she never got to defend herself.
By Asher John
SHEIKHUPURA, Pakistan, November 17 (Compass Direct News) � The first woman to be sentenced t o die in Pakistan for allegedly blaspheming Islam�s prophet is shaken and aghast that she was never asked for a statement in her defense. In an interview with Compass at Sheikhupura District Jail, Asia Noreen said through tears and a shaking voice that she was heart-broken and shattered. The mother of two children and step-mother to three others turned to Compass and asked a question that no one has been able to answer for her. �How can an innocent person be accused, have a case in court after a false FIR , and then be given the death sentence, without even once taking into consideration what he or she has to say?� Arrested on June 19, 2009, Asia (alternatively spelled Aaysa) Noreen was accused of blaspheming Muhammad and defaming Islam. A judge under pressure from area Islamists convicted her under Pakistan�s widely condemned blasphemy statutes on Nov. 8. �I don�t know why � when I walked into court that day, I just knew,� she said. �And when the judge announced my death sentence, I broke down crying and screaming. In the entire year that I have spent in this jail, I have not been asked even once for my statement in court. Not by the lawyers and not by the judge. After this, I have lost hope in any kind of justice being given to me.� Noreen said the triggering incident resulted from a �planned conspiracy� to �teach her a lesson� because villagers in Ittanwali, near Nankana Sahib about 75 kilometers (47 miles) from Lahore, disliked her and her family. �They have been saying that I confessed to my crime, but the fact is that I said I was sorry for any word that I may have said during the argument that may have hurt their feelings,� she said. �What my village people have accused me of is a complete lie.� �
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