Tuesday, May 17, 2016

RLPB 357. Pakistan: blasphemy law used a weapon

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 357 | Wed 18 May 2016

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)


PAKISTAN: BLASPHEMY LAW USED AS A WEAPON
By Elizabeth Kendal

Once again, members of a small and vulnerable Christian community suffer terror and loss as radicalised Muslims wield the weapon of Pakistan's infamous blasphemy law against them. A simple, unsubstantiated accusation is all it takes for the accused to be rendered as good as dead and his or her property forfeited. Furthermore, the trend today is for collective punishment. A fatwa from a fiery cleric or some incitement from the local mosque is all it takes for the Muslim community to be fuelled with so much Islamic zeal and murderous outrage that they are prepared to burn their Christian neighbours. The only reason Christians rarely die in Pakistan's 'blasphemy pogroms' is because the process has become so routine and predictable that Christians know to flee at the first hint of trouble.

Located in Punjub's Mandi Bahauddin District (about 160km south of Islamabad), Chak (Village) 44 is home to some 2500 Muslims and 300 poor 'untouchable' Christians (45 families) who serve the Muslims as labourers. Saint Anthony Catholic Church is the only church in the village and Imran Masih (28) was the only Christian in his workplace. Although accounts vary, it seems that on 19 April, Imran -- a janitor at the local health clinic -- left his mobile phone unattended while he worked. When he returned to collect his phone, he found it in the hands of a pharmacist named Bilal who was showing others video footage he deemed 'blasphemous'. Though Imran denied any knowledge of the material, he was beaten and locked in a cupboard and his phone was smashed. Fortunately, Imran had a second phone which he used to call for help. The Catholic Church Committee came to his rescue, explaining to the senior doctor that, as Imran was illiterate and unable to speak English, it was unlikely the YouTube content was something he had downloaded. The doctor agreed, Imran was released and the matter seemed to be resolved -- except that Imran's accuser was not satisfied. Bilal sought advice from a fundamentalist cleric in nearby Sargodha, who declared Imran a blasphemer who must be killed. As soon as Imran was informed, he fled for his life.

The Christians of Chak 44 tried to appease the Muslims by offering their apologies, only to have the Muslims present their conditions for 'peace': hand over the blasphemer so he can be burned alive in front of the church. After prayers on Friday 29 April, local Muslim clerics announced over the mosque loudspeakers that Muslims were to boycott the Christians of Chak 44 until they delivered Imran the 'blasphemer' to them. A local businessman offered to pay a large financial reward to anyone who could produce the culprit -- dead or alive. Fearing for their lives and without access to food, water or work (due to the boycott), most of the Christians of Chak 44 felt they had little choice but to leave their homes and seek refuge elsewhere. Only the frail, lame and those with absolutely nowhere else to go remained.

Christians seek assistance from CLAAS
(Centre for Legal Aid
Assistance & Settlement)
Incited by mosque leaders, Muslims gathered after prayers on Friday 6 May for a pogrom to torch the homes of Christians. Fortunately, the police arrived in time to disperse the large, agitated mob. Rumours abound that the remaining Christians have been ordered to deliver Imran to the Muslims, convert to Islam, or leave the village. Tensions are soaring; the situation is volatile. According to some reports, Imran may have been targeted for being in a relationship with a female Muslim co-worker, something impermissible in Islam. Convinced the blasphemy accusation is false, local police have refused to register a case against Imran Masih. Police told Morning Star News they would investigate the matter of the boycott.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL

* intervene to keep Imran Masih, his family, and the Christians of Chak 44 safe. 'The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.' (Proverbs 18:10 NIV)

'Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who do me violence, my deadly enemies who surround me.' (Psalm 17:8-9 ESV)

* intervene in the hearts and minds of the Muslims of Chak 44, so they will be convicted of sin, leading to repentance and enabling true reconciliation. 'For nothing will be impossible with God.' (Luke 1:37 ESV)

* awaken and embolden Pakistan's liberal, secular, 'moderate' Muslims so they will rise up against such shameful, uncivilised behaviour; may those who dare to enrage the Islamists by courageously promoting religious liberty, Christian security, equity, justice and peace receive all the help and support they need.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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BLASPHEMY LAW IN PAKISTAN USED TO ATTACK CHRISTIANS

On 19 April Imran Masih (28), an illiterate Christian janitor living in Chak (Village) 44 in Punjab's Mandi Bahauddin District, was accused of blasphemy. Though Imran has fled, the Muslims of Chak 44 are demanding that the Christians deliver him up so they can burn him alive. Otherwise, the Christians must convert to Islam or leave the village. The local mosques have organised a boycott of the village's 45 Christian families, leaving them without food, water or work. Convinced the blasphemy accusation is false, the police have refused to register a case against Imran. On 6 May they prevented an organised mob from burning the Christians' homes. Tensions are soaring; the situation is volatile. Please pray for Imran. Pray for Pakistan and may its Christians know liberty, security and justice.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat.

Elizabeth Kendal’s new book, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, is presently being published by Wipf and Stock (Eugene, OR, USA) and will be available shortly.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

RLPB 356. China:Lawyer Yang Maodong in Critical Need

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 356 | Wed 11 May 2016

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)

CHINA: LAWYER YANG MAODONG IN CRITICAL NEED
By Elizabeth Kendal

'He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?' (Micah 6:8 ESV)

Yang Maodong (right)
with Gao Zhisheng (left)
in Beijing, 2006.
Yang Maodong, also known by his pen-name Guo Feixiong, is a Christian human rights lawyer in China. Like his close friend and colleague, Gao Zhisheng (another of China's Christian human rights lawyers), Yang is compelled by his commitment to Jesus Christ and his firm belief in Biblical truth and Gospel principles, to fight (as a lawyer) for righteousness, mercy, liberty and justice. Like Gao (52), Yang (49) believes the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) should not only honour the constitution and uphold the law, but respect the dignity of the human beings under its care. Both Gao and Yang have suffered imprisonment and torture for their human rights advocacy. Yang was arrested in September 2006 and sentenced to five years in jail, whilst Gao was arrested in December 2006 and sentenced to three years. Subsequently, Gao wrote a full account of the torture he endured, while Yang simply described his own treatment as 'beyond people's imagination'. The families of both men have asylum in the US.

In April 2010 Gao was 'disappeared' into the 'black jail' system. In December 2011 the CCP reported that Gao had been returned to prison for a further three years. Released in August 2014 [see RLPB 275 (25 Aug 2014)], the frail but recovering Gao is presently under house arrest in his late mother's 'cave dwelling' in Shaanxi Province and is denied access to much-needed medical and dental care.

Yang's wife and daughter
in Washington, Oct 2013
Released in September 2011, Yang was rearrested in August 2013.
On 27 November 2015 the trial court in Guangzhou found him guilty of 'gathering crowds to disturb social order' and 'picking quarrels and provoking troubles', and sentenced him to six years in Yangchun prison in Guangdong Province. Pre-empting the verdict, Yang prepared a statement: 'Hidden deep inside the law, is the voice of essence and dignity. "You ... have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness",' he said, referencing Jesus' condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:23. [Click here for Yang's statement.]

When Gao Zhisheng heard that Yang Maodong (Guo Feixiong) had been returned to prison, he was so distressed he was unable to sleep. On 28 November 2015 he released a statement on the situation: 'This morning in prayer I thanked God for providing China with Guo Feixiong in our time, for strengthening him and giving him the power to strike terror into the evil forces, for making him an intimate friend of mine, and for having him become a peaceful, rational, and unique force for changing China.' The CCP responded by cancelling Gao's phone service. [Click here for Gao's statement].

As a torture survivor, Yang's health has been delicate for some years. When Yang's sister, Dr Yang Maoping (54), visited him in prison on 26 April 2016, she found him to be in a critical state -- deteriorating and fearful. His mouth and throat were bleeding, he had bloody stools, and he was pale, thin and unsteady on his feet. Yang's lawyers visited him on Friday 6 May, but the visit was cut short when guards took him away after only two minutes. The lawyers' request to have Yang transferred to hospital was ignored. Yang Maodong is being held in inhumane conditions and denied access to medical treatment. His sister, a practising physician, is convinced his condition is critical and that, without appropriate medical care, he will die.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL

* intervene on behalf of Yang Maodong and all other Christian human rights advocates and pastors presently suffering inhumane and even life-threatening punishment in Chinese prisons simply because their Biblical convictions lead them to challenge CCP policy. May evil be restrained; may they receive the medical care they urgently need and may '... justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.' (Amos 5:24 ESV)

* pour out his Holy Spirit abundantly on Yang Maodong and all who suffer for righteousness' sake; may they have deep abiding supernatural peace. May the eternal presence of the Lord Jesus Christ be palpable. 'For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.' (From Romans 8:31-39 ESV)

* awaken dulled consciences, so that those who deny medical aid to the ill and those who order and commit torture and abuse will repent 'in dust and ashes'.

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN WHOLE ARTICLE
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DESPERATE SITUATION OF CHRISTIAN LAWYER IN CHINA

Yang Maodong (49) is a Christian human rights lawyer and religious liberty advocate in China. Yang was first arrested in 2006, tortured and sentenced to five years in prison. Released in 2011, Yang was rearrested in 2013 and sentenced in November 2015 to another six years in prison. As a survivor of torture, Yang's health is precarious. When Yang's sister, a medical doctor, visited him on 26 April she found him in a critical, deteriorating and fearful state. When Yang's lawyers visited him on 6 May, he was dragged away after only two minutes. Requests for medical care are being denied. He is bleeding internally and his sister is convinced that, without appropriate medical care, he will die. Please pray for Yang Maodong, for China and its Christian prisoners.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat.

Elizabeth Kendal’s new book, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, is presently being published by Wipf and Stock (Eugene, OR, USA) and will be available shortly.