Countdown to death of Christianity in parts of Middle East ticking ever louder

For immediate release

23 October 2019

 

The countdown to Christianity’s disappearance in parts of the Middle East is ticking ever louder – and can only be stopped if the international community acts now – according to a new report launched today (Wednesday, 23rd October) in London.

The 2019 Persecuted and Forgotten? report, produced by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), warns of Christianity vanishing from towns and cities in the region, as – despite the defeat of Daesh (ISIS) – the impact of genocide has led to haemorrhaging numbers of the faithful.

 

There were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq before 2003 but by mid-2019, they had fallen to well below 150,000 and perhaps even less than 120,000 – a decline of up to 90 percent within a generation.

In Syria Christian numbers have fallen by two thirds since the conflict began in 2011.

The ACN report notes that the international community has shown unprecedented concern about the persecution of the region’s Christians, but failed to provide the aid required to ensure its survival during that period covered by the report (2017-19).

 

Persecuted and Forgotten? found that “Governments in the West and the UN failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway.”

The report warns that the Church in the region could vanish if radical Islamists were to mount another attack on vulnerable communities – a threat highlighted by reports of jihadists escapingprison, as a result of this month’s renewed violence in north-east Syria. The Persecuted and Forgotten? report concludes: “Were there to be another Daesh-style assault on the faithful, it could result in the Church’s disappearance.

“However, if security can be guaranteed there is every indication that Christianity could survive in Nineveh and Erbil.”

 

Persecuted and Forgotten? also found that the persecution of Christians has worsened the most in South and East Asia – noting that, in 2017, 477 anti-Christian incidents were reported in India.

In the same region, 300 people died – and more than 500 were injured – in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday 2019 when jihadists bombed sites including three churches.

In a number of African countries Christians were threatened by Islamists seeking to eliminate the Church – either by use of force or by dishonest means, including bribing people to convert.

In Nigeria’s north and the ‘Middle Belt’ regions, militants continued a reign of terror against Christians and Muslims alike –3,731 Christians were reportedly killed in 2018.

While in other parts of the African continent, the main threat to Christians came from the state – over a 12-month period, more than 70 churches were attacked in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains with 32 burnt down.

 

The report can be consulted (for now only in the English version – other languages coming soon):https://persecutedchristians.acninternational.org/

 

 

 

Marcela Szymanski

Head of the EU office and Advocacy

Aid to the Church in Need

+32 472 705 300

Square de Meeûs 19,

1050 Brussels, Belgium

 

Read our report “Religious Freedom in the World” about the status of this right in 196 countries at www.religion-freedom-report.org


Disabled woman who narrowly avoided forced abortion to get forced contraception

The Royal Courts of Justice, London. Credit: Willy Barton / Shutterstock.
The Royal Courts of Justice, London. Credit: Willy Barton / Shutterstock.

.- A judge in England has decided that a disabled woman who is pregnant will be fitted with a contraceptive device immediately following her Caesarean section, Premier Christianity has reported.

The woman was originally ordered to undergo a forced abortion by another judge, until that ruling was overturned on appeal.

Justice MacDonald heard arguments in the case at the Court of Protection of England and Wales, which hears cases related to people who do not possess the capacity to make decisions for themselves.

He will soon publish a ruling giving the reasons for his decision, according to Premier Christianity.

The 24-year-old woman, who has been identified in court as AB, and her mother, “CD”, are devout Catholics, and are members of the Igbo people. The woman has “moderate learning disabilities” and “exhibits challenging behaviour and functions at a level of between 6 and 9 years old.” AB is also said to have had a mood disorder, for which she is medicated.

The NHS trust at the hospital where the woman is being cared for argued that she should be given a contraceptive device while under anaesthesia immediately following the delivery of her child.

Fiona Paterson, the barrister representing the NHS trust, told the court it would not be in the woman’s interest again to conceive a child, and that she is vulnerable and could not be supervised constantly.

But the woman’s mother, a social worker who assists her, and the barrister representing her said there was a plan to safeguard the woman and that such interference in her autonomy was unjustified.

Susanna Rickard, the woman’s barrister, said the chances of the woman being exposed to “further sexual activity” was “close to nil.”

There is a plan to keep her from being left home alone, unsupervised with a male, or unaccompanied while out, Rickard noted.

AB is believed to have become pregnant while visiting family in Nigeria over Christmas. It is unknown who is the father of the child, and it is conceded by all parties that she lacks the capacity to consent to sex.

The woman had been ordered June 21 to undergo a forced abortion at 22 weeks pregnant by Justice Nathalie Lieven of the Court of Protection.

The Court of Appeal overturned Lieven’s decision just three days later, on June 24, finding that Lieven’s decision disregarded the assessment and wishes of AB’s mother and social worker, and went against her human rights.

Lieven “was in error in failing to make any reference in her ultimate analysis to [the mother’s] views about AB’s best interests when, as the judge found, she knew AB better than anyone and had her best interests at heart,” reads the Court of Appeal’s judgement.

Writing for the three judge panel, Lady Justice King concluded that Lieven “went beyond what the evidence could support” in concluding that the woman’s circumstances made a forced late-term abortion in her own best interests.

While Lieven’s conclusion on the balance and weight of evidence was rejected by the appeal court, King nevertheless underscored the right of the court to impose an abortion if the circumstances merit it.

“Carrying out a termination absent a woman’s consent is a most profound invasion of her Article 8 [human] rights, albeit that the interference will be legitimate and proportionate if the procedure is in her best interests,” King concluded.

Source: catholicnewsagency.com


Die Wiener Pro-Life-Revolution geht weiter

Zum zweiten Marsch für das Leben kamen 4.000 Lebensschützer – Ein Bischof sprach Klartext, eine Frau im Rollstuhl, die mit Britney Spears auf Tour war, machte Mut und ein Sänger aus Kroatien präsentierte einen Pro-Life-Song – Von Roland Noé

Wien (kath.net/rn)
„Was gefordert ist, ist Solidarität. Wir müssen uns zu einer Kultur der Solidarität hinwenden. Deshalb finde ich diesen Slogan so wunderbar – Liebe sie beide, das Kind und seine Mutter.“ Mit einer Hl. Messe hatte am Samstag in Wien der 2. Marsch für das Leben in Wien im überfüllten Stephansdom begonnen. Auch dieses Jahr hatte der Wiener Weihbischof Stephan Turnovszky die Ehre der österreichischen Bischöfe gerettet und sich Zeit für die wichtigste Pro-Life-Veranstaltung des Jahres genommen, an der dieses Jahr laut Veranstalter rund 4.000 Menschen teilnahmen, um für das Recht auf Leben zu demonstrieren. Unter den Teilnehmern befanden sich mehrheitlich junge Menschen, Familien und Kinder. Sie forderten außerdem bessere Unterstützung für Frauen im Schwangerschaftskonflikt – und deren Kinder.

Turnovszky übermittelte zu Beginn Grußworte vom Salzburger Weihbischof Andreas Laun, der aus gesundheitlichen Gründen leider nicht dabei sein konnte, und forderte in der Predigt auch eine Umkehr aus einer Gesellschaftsordnung, die nicht lebensfördernd ist. „Es geht uns um das eine große beherzte JA zu allem, was Gott gut geschaffen hat. Kompromisslos beide zu lieben – wir bejahen das geborene gleichsam dem ungeborenen Leben. Deshalb unterstütze ich den Marsch fürs Leben, die parlamentarische Bürgerinitiative #fairändern und davor auch die Bürgerinitiative Fakten helfen zur statistischen Erhebung von Abtreibungen. Danke, dass sie unserer Gesellschaft weiterhelfen, indem sie auf die Straße gehen und rufen: LIEBE SIE BEIDE!“

Noch deutlich klarer sprach im Anschluss an die Hl. Messe zum Kundgebungsauftakt vor dem Dom nach Gesängen eines syrisch-orthodoxen Chors in aramäischer Sprache dann Chorepiskopos Emanuel Aydin, immerhin ehemaliger Stellvertreter des Vorsitzenden des Ökumenischen Rates der Kirchen in Österreich.
„Wie konnte es so weit kommen in einem christlichen Land? Die Schöpfung ist auf den Menschen hin geschaffen und ruft uns gleichsam zu: Tötet kein Menschenleben! Es gibt keine Rechtfertigung dafür, ein ungeborenes Kind zu töten.“

Kritik übt der Bischof auch am religiösen Verfall in Österreich und daran, dass sich die Politik in Österreich nicht mehr um die Gebote Gottes kümmert. Und brisant und gegen den Zeitgeist war dann die Kritik an der Klimahysterie. „Diese Hysterie um den angeblich menschengemachten Klimawandel ist verrückt“, so der Bischof. „Die Schöpfung ist von Gott gut eingerichtet und wir müssen die Schöpfung schützen, aber vernünftig und ohne Panik.“ Aydin sprach dann ganz klar davon, dass Abtreibung Mord sei. „Der Staat muss die Kinder schützen. Der Staat muss auch die Frauen schützen, auf die oft großer Druck ausgeübt wird. Das kann doch um Gottes Willen nicht sein, das ist ein Rückfall in die Barbarei!“

Am Podium stellte dann Gastredner Jonathon van Maren aus Kanada, der für den Impact-Kongress extra nach Wien angereist war, in einem kurzen Statement fest: „Die Wahrheit ist auf unserer Seite, die Moral ist auf unserer Seite und auch die Wissenschaft ist auf unserer Seite.

Darum ist es so dringend, dass wir einen auf der Wissenschaft basierten Zugang zu dieser Debatte schaffen.“

Besonders beeindruckend war dann ein Zeugnis der Jen Bricker aus den USA, die seit Jahren im Rollstuhl sitzt. Jen kam ohne Beine und ohne Namen auf die Welt, ihr leibliche Eltern hatten sie ausgesetzt und einfach im Krankenhaus zurückgelassen. Die Ärzte gaben sie auf, doch sie überlebte. „Ich habe gewusst, dass es einen Sinn in meinem Leben gab. Ich habe sämtliche Sportarten ausgeübt“. Sogar mit Britney Spears war sie auf Tour. „Ich sag deswegen JA, um zu zeigen, wie wichtig ein Leben sein kann. Es ist so wichtig, dass wir aufstehen und für das Leben kämpfen.“

Nach der Kundgebung folgte der Marsch durch die Wiener Innenstadt, bei dem die vielen, vor allem jungen Menschen nicht nur vor den vielen Touristen mit Sprüchen aber auch lautstark auf den Schutz des Lebens aufmerksam machten. Die Abschlusskundgebung folgte wiederum am Josefsplatz, wo derzeit das Parlament tagt. „Wir marschieren für das Leben der Ungeborenen und stehen gegen das Unrecht der Abtreibung auf. Denn jedes Kind hat es verdient auf die Welt zu kommen und keine Frau sollte in der Situation sein, Abtreibung als einzigen Ausweg zu sehen. Die wieder deutliche und sehr erfreuliche Steigerung an Teilnehmern am Marsch fürs Leben zeigt, dass dieses Thema den Menschen in Österreich auch zunehmend auf dem Herzen liegt“, so Valerie Trachta, Vorsitzende vom Marsch fürs Leben. Alexander Tschugguel sprach sich für eine vermehrte Zusammenarbeit aller verschiedenen Lebensschützer in Österreich aus, denn gerade die Einheit ist es, die wir in diesen Tagen besonders brauchen.

Ausgeklungen ist der Marsch mit einem Auftritt des kroatischen Sängers Antonio Tkalac, der sein eigens für den Marsch fürs Leben komponiertes Lied erstmals live unter großem Applaus vorstellte.

Manuela Steiner, die Pressesprecherin des Marsches, teilte gegenüber kath.net bereits den Termin für den Marsch im kommenden Jahr mit: 17. OKTOBER (!) 2020. Nicht nur die Veranstalter hoffen, dass spätestens dann beim Marsch auch katholische Bischöfe aus Österreich mitgehen werden. Doch die Veranstalter von Wien haben noch mehr vor. Bereits vor dem Marsch ist nächsten Sommer ein “Ball für das Leben” in Wien geplant, durchaus als Kontrapunkt zu einem anderen Ball, der ebenfalls das “Life” im Namen führt.

http://www.marsch-fuers-leben.at/t

VIDEO: Der gesamte Marsch in 7 Minuten – Alle Teilnehmer

Pressesprecherin Manuela Steiner während des Marsches gg. kath.net

Marsch für das Leben in Wien – WE ARE PRO-LIFE

Antonio Tkalac – Halleluja von Leonard Cohen – Marsch für das Leben Wien 2019

Marsch für das Leben in Wien – WIR SIND für die KINDER , WIR SIND für die Frauen – Marsch für das Leben Wien 2019

Syrisch-orthodoxen Chors in aramäischer Sprache – Marsch für das Leben Wien 2019

Marsch für das Leben – Schlussansprache von Alexander Tschugguel

Schlussansprache von Manuela – Sprecherin von Jugend für das leben

Marsch für das Leben in Wien – Jubel

Source: kath.net


Parents’ anger over Scottish sex education lessons

Parents in Scotland have challenged Education Secretary John Swinney over materials which ‘promote pornography’ in the school curriculum.

John Swinney defended the materials, which one parent said were ‘corrupting children’.

The exchange took place at a public meeting in Perth organised by the National Parent Forum of Scotland.

Normalisation

Mr Swinney, who is also Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, was questioned over a new relationships, sexual health and parenthood curriculum.

One parent said schools risked “normalising pornography”. Another challenged the teaching that gender is subjective, calling it a “very dangerous and confusing message” for young people. The parent also criticised the promotion of masturbation.

When the father gave a graphic description of what he claimed was being taught, he was asked by the Chair of the event to tone down his language. He responded by saying if it’s not suitable to talk about with adults, “how can it possibly be suitable to talk about in schools?”

Corrupting

He added: “Pornography is positively promoted in these materials as something beneficial and helpful. These materials are not educational, they are corrupting of children.”

Mr Swinney acknowledged the sensitive material involved, but argued that the material was age-appropriate and would properly equip young people.

A Scottish Government spokesman responded by saying that it is working closely with parents and taking their views into account.

Inappropriate

Last month it was revealed that in Warwickshire children as young as six were being taught about masturbation.

Naomi and Matthew Seymour, who have two sons who attend a primary school in Warwick, removed their children from school for the week the lessons took place.

Mr Seymour said: “This sexualisation of our children is just totally inappropriate.”

“I think many families who had seen these lesson plans would feel the same way we did.”

Source: christian.org.uk


Syria’s Christians are suffering in silence

The Assyrians hang in limbo


Abortion rights activists try to burn Mexico City cathedral

 

Firefighters acted quickly to prevent the fire from spreading

Amid a demonstration Saturday urging the legalisation of abortion, activists tried to set fire to the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral.

In response to the Sept. 28 arson attempt, Catholics gathered before the front doors of the cathedral.

Mauricio Alfonso Guitar, deputy head of the Cristera National Guard in Mexico City, told CNA’s Spanish language sister agency ACI Prensa that “thanks to the denunciations in Catholics’ social networks, offering to defend the churches, the government … sent police to defend them.”

ACI Prensa reported that firefighters acted quickly to prevent the fire from spreading, and police acted to prevent further acts of aggression by the abortion rights activists.

Source: catholicherald.co.uk


“Right to a Child for All Women”: The ECHR’s Slippery Slope

On an unprecedented scale, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has decided to judge a series of patch-up reproduction cases. At issue: the complete separation between sex, procreation and parenthood; and the erasure of the biological family as a reference of social norms.

These cases show how the desire to have a child can lead to madness; and how that madness can become reality thanks to technic. Now a reality, it is now attacking the legal norms to transform this desire into rights and to reshape, through this, social reality to its image, in the illusory hope to become normal itself.

The ECLJ is fighting back both in Strasbourg, at the European Court of Human Rights, and in Geneva, at the United Nations. Today, at the Human Rights Council, we delivered a powerfull statement with the President of the association: “The Voice of the Fatherless“.
Here is the declaration where we denounced the French bill of law allowing for single and lesbian women to have children through Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART). Such procedures deprive the child of his or her father and of his or her filiation.

Emmanuel Le Pargneux, The Voice of the Fatherless / The ECLJ
Here is a summary of the ECHR cases and the problems they pose.

 

The desire to have a child with a dead person

A French woman complains about the refusal of the French authorities to transfer the frozen sperm of her dead partner to a Spanish hospital where she would be able to have a post mortem insemination. She thus contests the French law which imposes that the man and the woman forming the couple wishing to resort to a medically assisted procreation be “alive” and that the conservation of the gametes be stopped at the death of the person. (V. D. v. France).

 

The desire of a mother to be the father of the child

In another case, the real mother of a child conceived with an anonymous sperm donation complains of not appearing as “father” on the birth certificate, on the grounds that, being a transsexual, she had already got to be identified as “man” on her own civil status. She sees being described as a “mother” as a violation of her own rights and those of the child in that it “fundamentally contradicted their perception of their relationship” and compel them to disclose frequently the mother’s transsexuality. (O.H. and G.H. v. Germany).

 

The demand for a presumption of motherhood for the « wife of the mother”

Two German lesbians complain, on their own behalf and on behalf of the child, that the partner of the woman who gave birth does not benefit from a “presumption of motherhood”, unlike men in heterosexual couples who benefit from a presumption of paternity. They denounce a discrimination, even though the “wife of the mother” was able to adopt the child. The case is complicated by the fact that the child was carried by one woman and conceived with the ovum of the other and the sperm of an anonymous donor; which is forbidden in Germany. (R.F. and others v. Germany).

 

The desire to both be “mothers” of the same child

Two Austrian lesbians complain of appearing as “Mother / Parent” and “Father / Parent” on the birth certificate of a child conceived and carried by one of them and adopted by the other. They denounce a discrimination compared to heterosexual parents in that these mentions suggest that the woman mentioned as “Father / Parent” is not the mother of the child. They each want to be “mother” or “parent” on the child’s birth certificate in order to erase any biological differentiation (S.W. and Others v. Austria).

 

The obligation for states to establish “homoparenthood”

Two other cases seek to force Poland to register same-sex persons as parents of the same child. In one case, the child was conceived with ART for the benefit of an Anglo-Polish couple of women living in the UK. In the other case, twins were conceived through surrogacy in the United States for the benefit of an Israeli-Polish couple of men living in Israel. They denounce Poland’s refusal to transcribe the children’s foreign birth certificates, believing that this decision violates their “right to be considered as parents” and affects the nationality and inheritance rights of the children. They also denounce a discrimination on the grounds of their homosexuality (A.D.-K. and Schlittner-Hay v. Poland cases).

 

The desire to be declared mother of a child conceived and carried by other women

In three other cases, couples complain of France’s refusal to recognize as mothers, on the grounds that they have not given birth, women who bought children born to surrogates abroad. They ask the ECHR to condemn France to transcribe in full on the registers of civil status the birth certificates established abroad by virtue of surrogacy agreements, even though this practice is prohibited in France and that no biological link is established between the children and the buying women (Braun, Saenz and Saenz Cortes, and Maillard v. France cases).

 

These cases are symptomatic of categorical claims of patch-up reproduction

  • The applicants contest the fact that law still be based on the imitation of human nature, which, itself, is biologically completely heterosexual. They want to dispose of filiation and the identity of the children;
  • They completely erase the surrogate mother as well as the father who becomes a mere source of sperm, while, at the same time, boasting about their own genetic link with the children, when appropriate;
  • They pretend to act in the name and best interests of the children, all the while ignoring, or even despising, the right and interests of the latter to know their biological parents and to be raised by them (CRC, art. 7);
  • They place society before a fait accompli and demand it to regularize a situation that they themselves provoked by going abroad to circumvent interdictions made in their respective countries;
  • They demand the European judges to condemn national legal choices.

 

A sequence of jurisdictions

These requests seem insane, but they are in line with previous judgments of the ECHR. Thus, it is because the sex change in the civil status is no longer subordinated to a morphological change that a mother can claim to be a father (A.P., Garçon and Nicot v. France). It is because the ECHR condemned Austria in 2013 to legalize the possibility of adopting the same-sex partner’s child that Austrian women now claim to be both “mothers” (X and Others v. Austria). Similarly, it is because the ECHR condemned France in 2014 to transcribe the paternal filiation of children born of surrogacy abroad that the “intended mother” now claims the same right for herself (Mennesson v. France).

Decision after decision, there is indeed a ripple effect, a “slippery slope”, following an inclination that the Court seems to adjust at discretion according to the time, as it is surprising that all these cases – some of which are quite old – be made public at the same time. In terms of surrogacy, the President of the ECHR acknowledged in 2015 that the liberalization of this practice operates at a “pace imposed by our Court”. Other cases will follow, each time more shocking, such as “multi-parenthood” cases in which three, or more, adults will demand to be “recognized parents” of the same child. Likewise, there will be no serious reason to oppose the liberalization of polygamy and polyandry.

In fact, once the law breaks off from natural reality in favour of mere self-determination, nothing can stop it. And it becomes very difficult for the judge to justify a limitation to individual desires. This is explained firstly by the fact that Western society has lost the sense of nature and the common good which alone could justify a limitation to individual desires. Indeed, nature, by conditioning us, sets a limit to our desires, and the common good determines its accuracy. This is also explained by the fact that human rights have been designed to defend individuals from social oppression, to the point of making it a weapon against all social norms. But without reference to the common good and to nature, these norms are gradually, and inevitably, dissolved in private life. Human rights thus become the vehicle of self-assertion and selfishness.

A century ago, already, proponents of artificial reproductive control techniques believed that separating procreation from sexuality would be a decisive step forward in the process of evolution of humanity. They thought that man would thus gain the power to be rationally and responsibly engendered and would no longer be the plaything of a blind nature. They believed that man would be wiser and more ingenious than nature, that he might attain a higher degree of perfection and happiness, and that he could “spiritualize” sexuality. That was the ambition. A presumptuous ambition when we observe today its fruits: the limitless madness of procreative patch-up, eugenics, and the massive use of pornography and abortion … Nature is much wiser than us.

The technical mastering of nature should not exempt us from respecting its laws. Nature, of course, is a good mother, patient and silent; but it is rightly said that it never forgives; and it is always in pain that we are reminded of it.

Thus, it is the pain of children born of an anonymous donation of sperm which reminds us today of our natural need to fully know our identity, including in its physical and filial dimension;

It is also the pain of children born of surrogacy and anonymous-ART and of their “biological” parents, faced with the legal prohibition to establish their filiation, which reminds us of the importance of blood ties;

It is also the pain of surrogate mothers who do not want to give up their children, which reminds us of the importance of motherhood;

Likewise, it is the pain of children born of reproductive and family patch-ups that reminds us of the natural need and right to be loved and raised by one’s true parents in a balanced family.

 

If our society is no longer able to see the injustice of these situations, at least perhaps we will be sensitive to the suffering they cause.

And if we remain insensitive to this suffering, we will then face the violence it will not fail to engender in turn.

To give in to the demands of procreative patch-up is cowardice before our responsibility to protect future generations.

 

Source: mailchi.mp


Long read: The forgotten faces and hidden history of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws

No case highlights the fervour and frustration associated with blasphemy more than that of Asia Noreen (better known as Asia Bibi), the Pakistani Christian woman who was falsely accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death in 2010.

Throughout Bibi’s protracted legal case, the worst instincts of certain sections of Pakistani society were brought to the fore and played out in national and international media as Islamist groups staged violent demonstrations calling for her execution on multiple occasions, even after her conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2018. Following a nine-year ordeal, Asia Bibi and her family were eventually taken to Canada to start a new life, but for many other victims their fate is less hopeful, and they are left languishing under long jail sentences, prolonged when cases are adjourned without  hearing.

Pakistan’s blasphemy legislation is crude in its application and consequence. The laws were first introduced to British administered India in 1860 to prevent religious communalism and intra-religious conflict. They were codified within the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to protect places of worship and sacred objects from defilement (Section 295); religious assemblies from disturbance (Section 296); funeral remains and burial sites from malicious trespass (Section 297); and religious feelings of any person from deliberate insult (Section 298). Pakistan inherited the laws after Partition, which separated the Indian sub-continent to create India and Pakistan in 1947.

In 1980, the blasphemy laws were expanded to criminalise making derogatory remarks against Islamic personages. In 1982, Section 295-B was added, criminalising the desecration of the Qur’an. Section 295-C was added in 1986, which made derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad a criminal offence punishable by death or life imprisonment.

From the introduction of the laws in 1927 until 1986, fourteen blasphemy cases were reported, but by 2017 the number had increased to over 1,500.

The “weaponisation” of blasphemy

The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), a human rights organisation based in Pakistan, found that a total of 776 Muslims, 505 Ahmadis, 229 Christians and 30 Hindus were accused under the blasphemy laws between 1987 and 2018.

What is clear is that the blasphemy laws are not a deterrent. They have become a weapon of revenge used indiscriminately against Muslims and non-Muslims in situations that arise due to petty grievances, jealousy and business rivalry, under the guise of preventing insults to religion.

The former Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was a vocal critic of the blasphemy laws.  In 2011 he said: “The blasphemy law is not a God-made law. It’s a man-made law… it’s a law which gives an excuse to extremists and reactionaries to target weak people and minorities.”

Taseer was killed by his bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, in 2011. During Qadri’s trial for Taseer’s murder, the Supreme Court noted that “The majority of blasphemy cases are based on false accusations stemming from property issues or other personal or family vendettas rather than genuine instances of blasphemy, and they inevitably lead to mob violence against the entire community.”

A few months after Taseer’s murder, Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minister for Minorities, who advocated for reform of the blasphemy laws was assassinated in an attack claimed by the Taliban.

The accusation is a punishment in itself

The impact of a false accusation is like a death knell with far reaching consequences for the accused and their families. In recent decades there have been numerous cases of accusations, assassinations, lynching, intimidation and censorship. In response to accusations, and due to the emotive and sensitive nature of blasphemy, violent mobs blinded by vigilante justice have forced individuals into hiding, attacked communities and burned down homes.

In 2013 Sawan Masih, a Christian from Joseph Colony in Punjab, was accused by a Muslim friend of insulting the Prophet Mohammed during a conversation. A local mosque broadcasted the accusation, prompting a 3000-strong mob to attack the Christian neighbourhood of Joseph Colony. Almost 200 homes were torched and hundreds of families were displaced.

The aftermath of the 2013 Joseph Colony riots. Photo: Saad Sarfraz Sheik

Sawan Masih was sentenced to death in 2014, he is still in prison. During his seventh appeal  which took place on 17 September 2019 in the Lahore High Court, Mr Masih’s lawyer informed CSW that the judge, Justice Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi referred the case to the Anti-Terrorism court (ATC). During proceedings his lawyer argued that the case had been referred to the ATC once before, where the presiding judge had flatly refused to it hear the case and reverted it to the high court. Justice Navqi insisted the case would have to go to the ATC and that he would only hear a high court appeal if the ATC judge again decides not to hear the case. Many blasphemy cases like Sawan Masih’s suffer delays where proceedings are repeatedly postponed or referred to the ATC and become stuck in the legal system, causing additional trauma and delaying justice for victims.

In some cases the mob is so stirred up that targets of blasphemy accusations are killed before allegations are even investigated.

Shama and Shezad Masih were a Christian couple who worked as bonded labourers in a brick kiln outside of Lahore. In November 2014 Shama Masih was falsely accused of burning pages of the Qur’an, which led to the horrific lynching of her and her husband by a violent mob before any investigation took place.

In April 2017, Mashal Khan, a student at Abdul Wali Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was brutally beaten and killed by a mob including fellow students and staff on his university campus. He had been falsely accused of posting blasphemous content online, and was murdered before the allegation was investigated. Though his death shocked the nation and reignited the debate to amend the blasphemy laws, there was no change to the legislation.

For numerous victims who are imprisoned, the judicial process can take years while they await trial. In July 2013 Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Masih, a Christian couple from Gojra, were sentenced to death under Section 295-C for sending blasphemous text messages to local cleric Muhammad Hussein. The couple are illiterate and unable to text in English; they have always maintained their innocence. Shagufta is being held in Multan’s Central Jail, where Asia Bibi was kept, while Shafqat, who is paralysed and confined to a wheelchair, is 150 miles away in the Faisalabad District Jail. Their case has suffered repeated postponements as they await an appeal in the Lahore High Court.

Such delays occur because of the palpable fear surrounding hearings. Many lawyers and judges are reluctant to take on cases due to threats, attacks, and reprisals against their families, and even targeted killings.

In 2013 Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer at Multan University, was charged with posting blasphemous material on Facebook. His first lawyer quit after threats from conservative colleagues. His second lawyer, human rights activist Rashid Rehman, was threatened during a hearing to drop the case by opposing lawyers. Despite Mr Rehman’s complaints to the police and the district bar association, nothing was done. He was shot dead in his office in May 2014. Mr Hafeez’s current lawyer, Asad Jamal, admits that his case has been severely hampered by repeated delays.

The politics of blasphemy

The increasing politicisation of the laws has normalised their misuse and stalled attempts to amend legislation. Playing blasphemy politics has been a useful tool for former and present governments, whose support of the laws remain unwavering. Many perceive the blasphemy laws as brutal and highly divisive, often used to victimise religious minorities and human rights activists.

Online space provides a refuge where activists can voice concerns about human rights violations and hold the government and military to account; however that space has become increasingly contested, with growing restrictions on freedom of expression and the policing of social media for content which may be deemed blasphemous.

In March 2017 former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called blasphemy an “unpardonable offence,” directing the government at the time to bring anyone responsible for sharing blasphemous content on social media to justice. This step was seen by civil society as an attempt to silence dissenting voices and compromise freedom of expression.

During his 2018 election campaign, current Prime Minister Imran Khan used the issue of blasphemy to capitalise on the vote bank of the religious right. At an address to Muslim leaders in Islamabad he proclaimed: “We are standing with Article 295c and will defend it.” This uneasy relationship between the government and it’s pandering to the religious right further complicates the issue of blasphemy.

Prime Minister Imran Khan

In a visit to Pakistan in 2012 former UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul noted: “These laws serve the vested interests of extremist religious groups and are not only contrary to the Constitution of Pakistan, but also to international human rights norms, in particular those relating to non-discrimination and freedom of expression and opinion.”

This was demonstrated when Khadim Hussain Rizvi, blasphemy proponent and the leader of the Islamist group, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), instigated protests against the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Asia Bibi’s death sentence in October 2018. Rizvi called for the judges who acquitted Asia Bibi to be killed, and encouraged the army to rebel. His supporters took to the streets, blocking major roads, causing disruption and millions of pounds worth of damage. The three-day nationwide demonstrations ended when the TLP signed an agreement with the Pakistani government, which included allowing a review petition of the Supreme Court’s judgement and placing Asia Bibi on the Exit Control List, preventing her from leaving the country.

No room for reform

The space to debate the blasphemy laws has been so threatened that discussion of the laws have been suppressed. Attempts at reforms by politicians have met with little success. When Sherry Rehman, a member of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) submitted an amendment bill in 2011, then prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, said that his government would not touch the legislation: “We are all unanimous that nobody wants to change the law.” Ms Rehman was forced to withdraw her amendments.

Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission (HRCP), and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) have both proposed procedural amendments to the law, highlighting the incompatibility of the blasphemy laws with international law. In 2018 Pakistan’s Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights discussed ways to stop misuse of the laws, they recommended that anyone who falsely accuses a person of blasphemy should be awarded a similar punishment prescribed for a convict of blasphemy.

Repeated calls to amend or repeal the laws by international actors have also fallen on deaf ears. Any political intervention to reform the law risks the ire of the Islamist groups, which no government is willing to do. The mere hint of reform is usually met with violence, as typified by Asia Bibi’s case.

International condemnation of the laws from institutions like the UN Human Rights Council and United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), have had negligible impact.

Pakistan is signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), but continues to violate both agreements through its oppression of minorities. In May 2019, 51 MEPs wrote to Imran Khan asking for an end to the persecution of religious minorities and condemning the use of the blasphemy laws. The letter stated that ongoing violation of the ICCPR Convention could result in the suspension of all EU subsidies and trade preferences to Pakistan under the GSP+ preferences.

It is clear that the impetus to change the blasphemy laws must come from within Pakistan.

However, the problem goes beyond legislative reform. Even if the State were to amend or repeal discriminatory legislation, years of Islamisation under Zia-ul-Huq has institutionalised intolerance and bred radicalism.

Research by Arafat Mazhar, Director of Engage Pakistan, an NGO working on reforming the blasphemy law, makes a critical analysis of what the Islamic texts say about blasphemy in his report ‘The Untold Truth of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law’. He examines the Hanafi perspective (one of the major Islamic schools of thought and widely followed by Muslims in Pakistan) and works of classical jurists, muftis, academics and legal experts to highlight factual inaccuracies in the judicial interpretation of the law. During the 1986 debate to amend Section 295-C, only one out of the six parliamentarians, Muhammad Hamza, opposed the inclusion of the death penalty. Hamza called for a comprehensive review of the Islamic sources used to justify the death penalty by religious scholars and experts before any change in the law was passed. The other parliamentarians argued that among the entire Muslim community there was an ‘Ijma,’ i.e. consensus, and not a single dissenting opinion on the matter, and therefore no need for further debate.

Arafat Mazhar’s research found that every text used by Parliament to support claims of consensus on capital punishment for blasphemy in fact reveals a caveat that non-Muslims should not be killed for insulting the Prophet.

Changing the blasphemy laws will not happen overnight. There needs to be a considerable shift in majoritarian thinking and the extremist mind-set in certain sections of society to create a space for discussion and reduce the appetite for the blasphemy laws.

This can be achieved by implementing essential reforms to Pakistan’s biased education system which propagates intolerance towards religious minorities; building consensus from the ground through work like that of Arafat Mazhar, all supported by a government with the will and determination to address the issue.

We must not forget the plight of those who have been falsely accused of blasphemy, like Sawan Masih, Junaid Hafeez, Shagufta Kasur and Shafqat Masih. The government of Pakistan must be reminded that the blasphemy laws are wholly incompatible with Pakistan’s commitments under international law and Imran Khan’s vision of a ‘Naya Pakistan’ where religious minorities are protected and afforded equal rights under the constitution.

By CSW’s South Asia Advocacy Officer

Featured image by Saad Sarfraz Sheik

Source: forbinfull.org


34-Week-Old Aborted Baby Cries and “Comes Back to Life” as Stunned Parents Were Saying Goodbye

The parents of a baby girl who survived an abortion sued a Beijing, China hospital recently because their baby did not die.

LifeNews Note: File photo

The baby, who was a full 34-weeks gestation during the abortion, reportedly “came back to life” and began crying after she was removed from her mother’s womb, according to the Daily Star.

Now, her mother, identified only as Hu from Beijing, China, wants the hospital to pay for its mistake.

Abortions are legal for any reason up to birth in China.

In this case, the baby’s parents said they decided to have a late-term abortion after their daughter was diagnosed with a rare brain deformity called Joubert Syndrome about 26 weeks into the pregnancy. The parents said they sought a second opinion at several hospitals, but each doctor confirmed that their baby had the rare disorder.

According to the report, Hu had doctors at Peking University People’s Hospital abort her baby when she was nearly full term. The report states the doctors injected a poisonous drug called ethacridine lactate into the womb to abort the baby girl. Before removing her body, Hu said doctors checked and confirmed that the baby did not have a heartbeat.

Here’s more:

They then told Hu the medical procedure was successful.

After the procedure, Hu told doctors she wanted to say goodbye to the remains of her aborted child about 20 minutes after the operation, but was stunned when the seemingly girl cried out loud at the ceremony.

Eventually, Hu said they took their baby home alive. It is not clear if the baby girl still is alive.

 

In 2017, the family sued the hospital for 1.22 million yuan ($172,000) to pay for their daughter’s medical care. They lost the initial case, but the family appealed, the report continues.

The troubling case is similar to so-called “wrongful birth” lawsuits in the United States and other countries. In these cases, parents argue that they would have aborted their disabled baby if their doctor had not been negligent in diagnosing the child’s health problems or counseling them on their options before the child’s birth.

In 2013, a Washington state couple won $50 million in a lawsuit after they argued they were denied information that could have led them to abort their disabled baby, LifeNews reported. The Seattle Times reported the couple knew based on their family medical history they were at a 50-50 chance of having children suffering from a rare but debilitating genetic disorder called “unbalanced chromosome translocation,” but a genetic test failed to detect the disorder in their unborn baby.

In 2014, an Illinois mother also sued her doctor, claiming that he botched her tubal ligation and it led to the birth of her daughter who has sickle cell disease.

Then, in 2018, a woman in Ireland who said she would have aborted her baby if she had known about the child’s disability was awarded €1.8 million (about $2.1 million).

Put simply, these cases are about parents discriminating against their own children. Society tells parents that discrimination against people with disabilities is ok — even compassionate  — as long as that person is not yet born. Some even argue that unborn babies with disabilities are better off dead than alive. But the truth is that every human life is valuable, no matter what their abilities. It’s time for society to step up and protect every human being from discrimination, not just those who are born.

Source: lifenews.com


Ruling in Marriage and Filmmaking Case a Victory for Religious Freedom

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ADF Media
ADF Media

The Story: A recent federal appeals court ruling is a significant victory for free speech and religious freedom.

The Background: Carl and Angel Larsen are professional storytellers who use film and their artistic abilities to help their clients tell their own stories. The Larsens wanted to bring their talents to the wedding industry and use their gifts to promote their religious beliefs about marriage—but Minnesota’s government refused to let them to do so.

According to state officials, a Minnesota law mandates that if the Larsens tell stories that are consistent with their beliefs about marriage (i.e., that marriage is between a man and a woman), then they must tell marriage stories that violate their beliefs as well (e.g., that same-sex couples can be legitimately married). If they decline to do so, the Larsens would face steep fines and even up to 90 days in jail.

The couple has challenged the law in federal court, but their case—Telescope Media Group v. Lindsey—was initially dismissed.

Late last month the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a lower court should not have dismissed the lawsuit. The court reinstated the free speech and free exercise of religion claims of the lawsuit, and ordered the district court to consider whether the Larsens are entitled to a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the law against them.

Why It Matters: Can Minnesota require Christians like the Larsens to produce videos of same-sex weddings, even if the message would conflict with their own beliefs? “The district court concluded that it could and dismissed the Larsens’ constitutional challenge to Minnesota’s antidiscrimination law,” the Eighth Circuit Court said. “Because the First Amendment allows the Larsens to choose when to speak and what to say, we reverse the dismissal of two of their claims and remand with instructions to consider whether they are entitled to a preliminary injunction.”

As the court opinion notes, the Larsens “gladly work with all people—regardless of their race, sexual orientation, sex, religious beliefs, or any other classification.” But because they “are Christians who believe that God has called them to use their talents and their company to . . . honor God,” the Larsens decline any requests for their services that conflict with their religious beliefs. This includes any that, in their view, “contradict biblical truth; promote sexual immorality; support the destruction of unborn children; promote racism or racial division; incite violence; degrade women; or promote any conception of marriage other than as a lifelong institution between one man and one woman.”

But according to the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), a decision to produce anywedding videos requires the Larsens to make them for everyone, regardless of the Larsens’ beliefs and the message they wish to convey. The MHRA also mandates that wedding videos must depict same- and opposite-sex weddings in an equally “positive” light.

The appeals court correctly pointed out that the Larsens’ videos are a form of speech and are thus entitled to First Amendment protection. The court also clarified that “regulating speech because it is discriminatory or offensive is not a compelling state interest, however hurtful the speech may be.” The effect of the Minnesota law would also have broad effects on other forms of speech and conduct, the court says:

Indeed, if Minnesota were correct, there is no reason it would have to stop with the Larsens. In theory, it could use the [Minnesota Human Rights Act] to require a Muslim tattoo artist to inscribe “My religion is the only true religion” on the body of a Christian if he or she would do the same for a fellow Muslim, or it could demand that an atheist musician perform at an evangelical church service. In fact, if Minnesota were to do what other jurisdictions have done and declare political affiliation or ideology to be a protected characteristic, then it could force a Democratic speechwriter to provide the same services to a Republican, or it could require a professional entertainer to perform at rallies for both the Republican and Democratic candidates for the same office.

“This is a significant win,” Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Jeremy Tedesco said, who argued the case before the Eighth Circuit in October 2018. “The government shouldn’t threaten filmmakers with fines and jail time to force them to create films that violate their beliefs.”

The Larsens are also pleased to hear they won’t be forced to make films that express messages in conflict with their core beliefs. “Angel and I serve everyone. We just can’t produce films promoting every message,” Carl Larsen said following the court’s decision. “We are thankful the court recognized that government officials can’t force religious believers to violate their beliefs to pursue their passion. This is a win for everyone, regardless of your beliefs.”

Source: thegospelcoalition.org