Persecution and Prayer Alert, Voice of the Martyrs
PAKISTAN: Blasphemy Law Reform Drafted
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Source: Morning Star News
For Christians in Pakistan, current blasphemy laws continue to pose a threat to their safety and well-being. The existing statutes have become an extreme burden for the country’s minority faith group—leading to harassment and, in many cases, severe punishment. At least 14 people are presently on death row, and 19 others are serving life sentences.
According to a report by the Islamabad-based Centre for Research and Security Studies, 52 people accused of blasphemy have been murdered since 1990. Investigations reveal that the reasons for the accusations often stem from personal enmity, property disputes and religious hatred. To review previously posted videos and news reports on persecution in Pakistan, click here.
In Nankana Sahib District of Punjab Province, a 94-year-old Christian landowner by the name of Chaudhry Habil Qaiser, who had attempted to resolve a disagreement over land profits, was wrongfully accused of blaspheming Islam by someone who used to till his land. After the accuser, Maulvi Muhammad Bashir, continued to spread false accusations of blasphemy, fears began to mount in the Christian village over the threat of a mob attack. Maulvi also decided to take the case to authorities which then incited a period of legal proceedings.
As Chaudhry was widely respected throughout the district for his integrity, the case was later dismissed. Maulvi then apologized for trying to turn a monetary dispute into a religious issue. In light of frequent abuses, Pakistan’s federal government has finished the drafting of a bill to forestall abuse of the blasphemy statutes. According to officials, the bill aims to keep anyone from taking the law into their own hands and metes out harsh penalties for those who have levelled false accusations of blasphemy.
In another situation, a Christian young man with mental illness by the name of Yaqoob Bashir allegedly told local Muslims that he had burned a copy of the Quran. An angry mob of militants gathered and threatened to set him on fire. At this point, police took Yaqoob into custody which sources believe saved his life. As it now stands, current blasphemy laws do not take into account those with psychological challenges where the individual may not have intentionally blasphemed. The new law reform, however, would make it necessary—in applicable cases—to prove that the crimes committed by individuals in question are indeed “intentional.”
Please pray that the Lord will help Pakistan’s victimized Christians to stand strong spiritually, despite the false accusations and rumours they encounter. May they receive the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, as did our Saviour, who Himself was wrongly accused of blasphemy. As the details of the reformed law are being negotiated, ask that wisdom and discernment be granted to those involved in the deliberation process. Last, but not least, intercede on behalf of those who are actively spreading lies and rumours about God’s innocent people, earnestly desiring that the ‘accusers of the brethren’ be given an opportunity to experience the salvation of the One who died for all—including both Christians and Muslims.
You may join along with others by posting a prayer for our persecuted family in Pakistan on our prayer wall.
CHINA: Zhejiang Megachurch Bulldozed
Source: China Aid
A government demolition programme targeting churches continues to take place in coastal Zhejiang province, with the recent destruction of a new megachurch. Yanxia Church, a state-recognized church in Wenling city, was pulled down soon after its completion, reportedly to make way for a new road. Governing officials state that the church’s leaders had agreed to a compensation deal, although investigative reports indicate they were pressured into an agreement.
Elsewhere in the province, a Christian named Zhao Lizhong has been missing since his detainment on May 9th for defending Pingyuan Church’s cross. To date, more than 425 churches have been affected by the local government’s ongoing “Three Rectifications and One Demolition” persecution campaign.
Meanwhile, in Guiyang, Guizhou province, a house church was raided twice within a two-week period. Eleven Christians were detained during a raid on May 24. When other members sought advice from their lawyer, they too were detained and beaten. All have since been released. (More reports on persecution in China can be found at VOMC’s Country Report.)
Please pray for an end to the campaign of the Zhejiang provincial government to target evangelical churches. Ask the Lord to strengthen and encourage the numerous believers who’ve been affected by this campaign, especially those whose churches have been utterly demolished. May the congregations of this province—and all across China—be likened to “a town built on a hill” that’s shining so brightly, its light cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14).
MIDDLE EAST: Ongoing Harassment of Orphans
Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA
Angered that “Ahmed” and his family had converted from Islam to Christianity, their militant Muslim relatives made arrangements to have him killed. The martyred man’s orphaned children were then taken into the home of a pastor who has since been raising them with his own family.
Although it has been seven years since Ahmed’s murder, his three surviving children are continually being harassed and pursued by the same family members who caused his death. In their attempts to make the children return to Islam, they even had Ahmed’s son arrested and charged with leaving Islam when he turned 18. Thankfully, the young man was released after police changed the charges against him.
In another part of the Middle East, the Voice of the Martyrs is making it possible for Christian children who have sought refuge after fleeing Islamic State invasion to receive needed education. Due to the sudden influx of thousands of refugee children and their families, several hosting countries do not have the capability of providing adequate schooling. Noticing the tremendous need in a particular community, VOM is now working with an in-country ministry partner so that the dreams and aspirations of refugee children may be realized.
Thank the Lord for compassionate response of His dedicated servants in providing needed care for vulnerable children who’ve experienced first-hand the grievous injustices and evils of persecution. Pray that these young believers in the Middle East will be strengthened in their faith as they diligently learn the important truths contained in the Scriptures and discover the power of prayer. May God’s higher plans for each of their lives come to fruition so they will not only fulfil His purposes but also experience the bright future He has promised them (Jeremiah 29:11).
Assistance for Christian widows and orphans is being provided through VOMC’s Families of Martyrs fund.