Steel on Steel - Donald McElvaney (March 27, 2011)
1. Christian Woman Freed from Muslim Kidnappers in Pakistan
Captors tried to force mother of seven to convert to Islam. By Brian Sharma
LAHORE, Pakistan, March 11 (Compass Direct News) � A Christian mother of seven who last August was kidnapped, raped, sold into marriage and threatened with death if she did not convert to Islam was freed this week. After she refused to convert and accept the marriage, human traffickers had threatened to kill Shaheen Bibi, 40, if her father, Manna Masih, did not pay a ransom of 100,000 rupees (US$1,170) by Saturday (March 5), the released woman told Compass. A member of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lahore, Shaheen Bibi said she was kidnapped in August 2010 after she met a woman named Parveen on a bus on her way to work. Her father asked police to take action, but they did nothing as her captors had taken her to a remote area between the cities of Rahim Yar Khan and Sadiqabad, considered a �no-go� area ruled by dangerous criminals. Masih then sought legal assistance from the Community Development Initiative, a human rights affiliate of the European Center for Law and Justice in Pakistan. CDI Field Officer Haroon Tazeem, Masih and police went to Khan Baila, near Rahim Yar Khan, and at midnight on Sunday (March 6) the rescue team managed to get hold of Shaheen Bibi, the CDI source said. The kidnappers handed her over on the condition that they would not be the targets of further legal action, but the team told her captors that those who had sold her in Lahore would be brought to justice. Chained to a tree outside a house last week, Shaheen Bibi lifted her eyes in prayer, saw a cross in the sky and was comforted that God�s mighty hand would release her even though her father had no money to pay ransom, she said.
2. Light Sentences for Attack on Christians in Indonesia Condemned
Prosecutors� refusal to file felony charges said to encourage more violence. By Victor Raqual
JAKARTA, Indonesia, March 10 (Compass Direct News) � Human rights and Christian leaders said a West Java court�s light sentence for Islamic extremists who injured a church pastor and an elder will encourage more violence and religious intolerance. After those involved in the Sept. 12, 2010 clubbing of the Rev. Luspida Simanjuntak and the stabbing of elder Hasian Lumbantoruan Sihombing of the Batak Christian Protestant Church (Huria Kristen Batak Protestan, or HKBP) in Ciketing received sentences of only five to seven months, the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace released a statement asserting that the judges� panel was acting under pressure from Muslim extremists. �The public will think that violence, intolerance, and obstruction of worship are part of their religious worship and duties,� the institute stated regarding the Feb. 24 sentences. Saor Siagian, attorney for the church, told Compass that the alleged planner of the attack, Murhali Barda, head of the Bekasi chapter of the Islamic Defenders Front, received a sentence of only five months and 15 days for �disorderly conduct� even though he should have been prosecuted for incitement and joint assault. Judges of the State Court in Bekasi, West Java handed down a seven-month sentence to Adji Ahmad Faisal, who stabbed church elder Sihombing. Ade Firman, who clubbed Pastor Simanjuntak hard enough to send her to the hospital for treatment, was given a six-month sentence. Pastor Simanjuntak said the light sentences showed that the state was unable to fully enforce the law. �This country is more afraid of the masses than standing for justice,� she said. �That�s what happened in the state court in Bekasi. With heavy hearts we accept the verdict.�
3. Christians Decry Malaysia�s Detention of Bible Books
After stopping 5,100 Bibles in 2009, authorities withhold 30,000 Malay-language copies. By Jasmine Kay
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, March 14 (Compass Direct News) � The detaining of 30,000 copies of the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs in the Malay language at Malaysia�s Kuching Port has �greatly disillusioned� the nation�s Christian community. The books, imported from Indonesia by the local branch of Gideons International for distribution in schools, churches and longhouses in Betong, Saratok and other Christian areas in Sarawak state, have been detained at the Kuching Port since January. Authorities told an unnamed officer of the importer on Jan. 12 that he could not distribute the books in Sarawak state since they �contained words which are also found in the Quran,� according to online news agency Malaysiakini. The officer was ordered to transport the books to the Home Ministry�s office for storage. Last week, when the same officer enquired of the Home Ministry officials on the status of the Malay Bibles, authorities said they had yet to receive instructions on the matter. This is not the first time government authorities have detained Malay-language Bibles, and Bishop Ng Moon Hing, chairman of Christian Federation of Malaysia, decried the action. �The CFM is greatly disillusioned, fed-up and angered by the repeated detention of Bibles written in our national language,� Hing said. �It would appear as if the authorities are waging a continuous, surreptitious and systematic program against Christians in Malaysia to deny them access to the Bible in .� An earlier consignment of 5,100 copies of the Good News Bible in Malay, imported by the Bible Society of Malaysia, was detained in Port Klang in March 2009.
4. Christians in Turkey Face Harassment; Murder Trial Stalls
Departure of presiding judge in Malatya case could further delay justice, attorneys fear. By Damaris Kremida
ISTANBUL, March 15 (Compass Direct News) � Though the horrific scale of the 2007 Malatya murders has not been repeated in Turkey�s Protestant church, a recent report shows harassment continues to be a daily problem for the country�s Christians and churches. Discrimination, slander and attacks against churches were among the examples of ongoing harassment that the Turkish Association of Protestant Churches (TEK) recorded in 2010. In a report published earlier this year, TEK�s Committee for Religious Freedom and Legal Affairs showed Turkish laws and �negative attitudes of civil servants� continue to make it nearly impossible for non-Muslims to establish places of worship. Missionary activities are still considered a national threat despite the existence of Turkish laws guaranteeing citizens the freedom to propagate and teach their faith, and children are victims of discrimination at school, according to the report. �After four years , Turkey�s religious freedoms have not improved as desired,� said attorney Erdal Dogan. In the trial of the five primary suspects in the murder of three Christians in Malatya, plaintiff attorneys fear the departure of one of the three judges to a Supreme Court of Appeals post in Ankara could further stall the nearly four-year-old case. The loss of Judge Eray Gurtekin, who had presided over the case since it began on Nov. 22, 2007, could threaten to set back the progress of the court that has been examining links between the killers and alleged masterminds, according to Dogan.
5. Pakistani Christian Sentenced for �Blasphemy� Dies in Prison
Murder suspected in case of Christian imprisoned for life. By Shehryar Khan
LAHORE, Pakistan, March 15 (Compass Direct News) � A Christian serving a life sentence in Karachi Central Jail on accusations that he had sent text messages blaspheming the prophet of Islam died today amid suspicions that he was murdered. Qamar David�s life had been threatened since he and a Muslim, Munawar Ahmad, were accused of sending derogatory text messages about Muhammad in June 2006, said David�s former lawyer, Pervaiz Chaudhry. On Feb. 25, 2010, David had received a sentence of life in prison, which in Pakistan is 25 years, and was fined 100,000 rupees (US$1,170). Chaudhry, who said he was David�s counsel until Islamic threats against his life forced him to stop in July 2010, told Compass that the Christian had expressed fears for his life several times during the trial. �David did not die of a heart attack as the jail officials are claiming,� Chaudhry said. �He was being threatened ever since the trial began, and he had also submitted a written application with the jail authorities for provision of security, but no step was taken in this regard.� Conflicting versions of his death by jail officials also raised doubts. A jail warden said David was reported crying for help from his cell today in the early hours of the morning. He said that David, who was breathing at the time, was transported to the Civil Hospital Karachi, but that doctors there pronounced him dead on arrival. He also said, however, that he had heard from colleagues that David was found dead inside his cell and that his body had been sent to the hospital for post-mortem, not for treatment. Karachi Central Prison Deputy Superintendent Raja Mumtaz insisted that David was alive when he reached the hospital.
6. Turkey Arrests 20 Allegedly Linked to Malatya Murders
Suspects in Ergenekon network long sought in homicide case to be questioned. By Damaris Kremida
ISTANBUL, March 18 (Compass Direct News) � In simultaneous operations in nine different provinces of Turkey, authorities yesterday arrested 20 people suspected of playing a role in the murder of three Christians in Malatya in 2007, according to local news reports. Zekeriya Oz, chief prosecutor overseeing the investigation into a clandestine network known as Ergenekon aimed at destabilizing the government, ordered the arrests based on information that linked the suspects to both the network and to the Malatya murders, Turkish press reported after Istanbul Chief of Police Chief Huseyin Capkin announced the sweep at a press conference yesterday. �This was an operation related to the Malatya Zirve publishing house murders,� Capkin said, according to online news agency Malatya Guncel. �That�s the framework.� Those apprehended include Ruhi Abat, a Muslim theology professor from Malatya Inonu University, Mehmet Ulger, a retired commander of the Malatya Gendarmerie in service at the time of the murders, and other members of the military. A plaintiff attorney in the Malatya murder case, Orhan Kemal Cengiz, told Compass that the names on the list of those arrested were suspects he and his colleagues have been trying to convince the Malatya prosecutor to pursue since the court received a tip in May 2008. The Istanbul Police Department prepared a report last year revealing links between the Malatya murders and Ergenekon, according to Today�s Zaman.
7. Convert from Islam Escapes Egypt with Daughter
After painful effort to change ID card, Christians flee � to similar fate. By Wayne King
CAIRO, Egypt, March 21 (Compass Direct News) � When the plane carrying Maher El-Gohary and his daughter, Dina Mo�otahssem, took off from Cairo International Airport last month, they both wept with joy. After spending two-and-a-half years in hiding for leaving Islam to become Christians, they were elated by their newfound freedom. They also felt secure that once they arrived in Syria, they would quickly obtain visas to the United States and start a new life. That hope soon proved unfounded. After spending more than a week and a half unable to obtain a visa to the United States or to any country in Europe, they realized they may have traded in the reality of being prisoners in their own country for being refugees in another. �I feel like we�ve stepped out of a prison cell and into a fire,� El-Gohary said. �My daughter and I divide the bottles of water to live, because there is no income.� El-Gohary, 58, gained notoriety in Egypt after he sued the national government in August 2008 to gain the right to change the religion listed on his state-issued ID card. Both El-Gohary and his daughter were publicly branded apostates in a country where 84 percent of Muslims think those who leave Islam should be executed, according to a study released by the Pew Research Center. The same month the suit was filed in 2008, El-Gohary and his then-15-year-old daughter were forced into hiding. In December 2010, after a long legal battle, El-Gohary got a court decision ordering the Ministry of the Interior to allow him to travel, but he said it still took several weeks for the government to comply with the order; and the Jan. 25-Feb. 11 revolution didn�t hurt. Dina said that although leaving Egypt was �like a miracle,� she is devastated by the prospect of having to spend more time with her life on hold. She said she is just as scared in Syria as she was in Egypt. �We�re really, really tired of all this suffering,� she said. �I�ve lost two years of my life. I want to finish school.�
8. Two Christians Slain in Attack Outside Church in Pakistan
Muslim youths kill two, wound two others after dispute over teasing of Christian women. By Murad Khan
KARACHI, Pakistan, March 22 (Compass Direct News) � Two Christians were gunned down and two others are in a serious condition with bullet wounds after Muslim youths attacked them outside a church building in Hyderabad last night, witnesses said. Residents of Hurr Camp, a colony of working-class Christians in Hyderabad in Sindh Province, were reportedly celebrating the 30th anniversary of their Salvation Army church when a group of Muslim youths gathered outside the building and started playing music loudly on their cell phones. They also started teasing Christian women as they arrived for the celebration, according to reports. Christians Younis Masih, 47, Siddique Masih, 45, Jameel Masih, 22, and a 20-year-old identified as Waseem came out of the church building to stop the Muslim youths from teasing the Christian women. A verbal clash ensued, after which the Muslim youths left, only to return with handguns. Witnesses told Compass by phone that the Muslim youths opened fire on the Christians, killing Younis Masih and Jameel Masih instantly, and seriously injuring Siddique Masih and Waseem. Younis Masih is survived by his wife and four children, while Jameel Masih was married only a month ago, and his sudden death has put his family into a state of shock. �My son had gone to the church to attend the anniversary celebrations from our family�a few hours later we were told about his death,� a wailing Surraya Bibi told Compass on the telephone from Hyderabad. �I got him married only a month ago. The cold-blooded murderers have destroyed my family, but our most immediate concern is Jameel�s wife, who has gone completely silent since the news was broken to her.�
9. Christian in Bangladesh Goes to Prison for Evangelism
Evangelist given one year for �creating chaos� by distributing literature. By Aenon Shalom
DHAKA, Bangladesh, March 23 (Compass Direct News) � A Christian has been sentenced to one year in prison for �creating chaos� by selling and distributing Christian books and other literature near a major Muslim gathering north of this capital city. A magistrate court in Gazipur district handed down the sentence to Biplob Marandi, a 25-year-old tribal Christian, on Feb. 28 after he was arrested near the massive Bishwa Ijtema (World Muslim Congregation) on the banks of the Turag River near Tongi town on Jan. 21. �Duty police found Marandi creating chaos as he was propagating his religion, Christianity, by distributing the tracts as a mobile court on Jan. 21 was patrolling near the field of the Bishwa Ijtema,� the verdict reads. �The accusation � creating chaos at a Muslim gathering by distributing Christian booklets and tracts � against him was read out in the court before him, and he admitted it. He also told the court that he had mainly wanted to propagate his religion, Christianity.� The Rev. Sailence Marandi, pastor at Church of Nazarene International in northern Thakurgaon district and older brother of Biblop Marandi, told Compass that there was no altercation between his brother and area Muslims, though some may have found his literature un-Islamic and created �chaos.� Likewise, the verdict makes no mention of any confrontation. �In the verdict copy it is written that my brother admitted his offense in the court,� Pastor Marandi said. �This case being very religiously sensitive, I suspect that his confession statement might have been taken under duress.�
10. India�s Anti-Christian Violence in 2008 Linked to Terrorists
Christians call for agency to probe anti-Muslim terrorism ties to Orissa-Karnataka attacks. By Vishal Arora
NEW DELHI, March 25 (Compass Direct News) � Right-wing terrorists played a key role in attacking and killing Christians in Orissa and Karnataka states in 2008, one of the Hindu extremist suspects in anti-Muslim bomb blasts has told investigators, leading to renewed demands for a probe by India�s anti-terror agency. Pragya Singh Thakur, arrested for planning 2008 bombings targeting Muslims in west India, told the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that Lt. Col. Prasad Srikant Purohit had �masterminded� the 2008 anti-Christian violence in Orissa and Karnataka, The Indian Express daily reported on Wednesday (March 23). Purohit is accused along with Thakur for the 2008 bombings of Muslims. Thakur had met with Purohit after the August 2008 Kandhamal attacks against Christians began and told her �he was into big things like blasts, etc., and had masterminded the Orissa and Karnataka �disturbances,�� the national daily reported. The NIA is investigating several cases involving right-wing terrorism aimed at the Muslim minority in retaliation for Islamist attacks. Thakur�s statement to the NIA came soon after a Directorate of Military Intelligence report said Purohit had confessed to having killed at least two Christians in Kandhamal and playing a role in violence in Karnataka and other states. The revelation by Thakur was not surprising, said John Dayal, secretary general of the All India Christian Council. �We have held that the military precision of the Kandhamal riots, which spread fast and raged for months, could not be a work of mere common people, and that higher brains were at work to �teach the Christians a lesson� while sending out signals of their power lust to the entire nation,� Dayal told Compass. �
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