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PAKISTAN: Court Acquits Imran Ghafur Masih

PAKISTAN: Court Acquits Imran Ghafur Masih

The Lahore High Court has acquitted Imran Ghafur Masih, a Christian sentenced to life in prison under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. According to Imran’s family, they have moved into hiding following the acquittal due to potential threats from extremists.

On 15 December, the Lahore High Court acquitted Imran after he spent more than 10 years in prison. The development came as a shock to Imran’s family. “It is a day of resurrection for us,” said Naveed Masih, Imran’s brother. “God has heard our cry and we are very thankful to him. It’s a Christmas gift for us.”

On 1 July 2009, Imran was cleaning his family’s bookshop in Hajweri town, located in Faisalabad. He was about to burn some garbage he collected, which included some old books and papers, when he came across a textbook with Arabic writing. Concerned that the book contained religious writings, Imran consulted Hajji Liaquat Ali, his Muslim neighbour.

Ali told Imran to burn the book, so Imran threw it into the fire and walked away. When the book was partially burned, Ali returned and pulled it out of the fire. Ali used this partially burned book to falsely accuse Imran of burning a Koran. According to Imran’s family, Ali wanted the storefront leased to the family’s bookshop to expand his building materials business located next door.

News of the incident soon spread to local mosques, which made announcements over their PA systems. A mob of approximately 400 enraged Muslims gathered at Imran’s home. The mob beat Imran, along with his brother, Naveed, and father, Ghafur, before dousing the Christians with paraffin in an attempt to burn them alive.

Local police intervened, arrested Imran, and took him to the police station. A mob of 1,000 reportedly gathered outside of the police station and demanded Imran be handed to them. The mob chanted, “Hang him who disgraces the Holy Koran… Christians are dogs. Imran is a dog.” Police soon registered a blasphemy case against Imran and copies of the charges were distributed to the mob.

On 11 January 2010, the Sessions Court of Faisalabad sentenced Imran to life in prison and a fine of 100,000 rupees under Sections 295-A and 295-B of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Imran’s case was appealed to the Lahore High Court but was postponed nearly 70 times over the course of the next 10 years. According to Imran’s lawyer, the appeal passed through the offices of at least 10 justices.

“We went through a very painful time during Imran’s imprisonment,” Naveed said. “Imran lost his parents and was not allowed to attend the funerals. We lost our business and jobs which has affected our children’s education and future. We have not seen any happiness during these years.”

In Pakistan, false accusations of blasphemy are common and often motivated by personal vendettas or religious hatred. Currently, 24 Christians are imprisoned on blasphemy charges in Pakistan.

Source: International Christian Concern

  • Praise God for this wonderful answer to prayer. May it give cause for celebration for Christians all over Pakistan.
  • Pray that Imran and his family will be shielded from those who still wish to harm them. Ask the Lord to bless Imran as he adjusts to life outside of prison and makes plans for the future.
  • Pray the Lord will use this case to draw further attention to deficiencies in the justice system and the potential for blasphemy laws to be open to abuse.

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PAKISTAN: Judges Failing to Acquit Christians Due to Fear of Extremists

PAKISTAN: Judges Failing to Acquit Christians Due to Fear of Extremists

Pakistan prosecutes anyone who is seen to be insulting Islam, with the resulting penalty of life in prison or a death sentence. It is claimed that judges in smaller courts in Pakistan are too afraid to let Christians go free in blasphemy cases due to the threat from extremists.

Sajid Christopher Paul, President and Executive Director of Human Friends Organisation has said more needs to be done to make judges feel secure, “Judges in the low courts do not have as much security as the High Court and the Supreme Court. The lawyers and everyone involved in cases such as this say that they don’t have the same security so they don’t make the bold decisions.”

Christopher Paul went on “The Supreme Court can make daring decisions like the acquittal of Asia Bibi because they have high-level security.”

Recently, Christian man Asif Pervaiz was sentenced to death after he allegedly sent blasphemous text messages to a work colleague. Pervaiz says his sim card was stolen and messages were forged after he refused to convert to Islam.

Christopher Paul said, “The reason for cases like this is intolerance about co-existence. Christians are falsely accused. I’ve never seen a Christian commit blasphemy because of our teachings of peace and tolerance but they are always falsely accused.”

Analysis of legal data shows that over the past 30 years there is a Christian victim of these laws in Pakistan every six weeks.

Sources: Premier Christian News, Australian Prayer Network

  • Pray against this very real threat of targeted violence towards those who defend and advocate for Christians and others who have been accused of blasphemy.
  • Pray the authorities will do more to ensure justice for those who have been falsely accused. Pray the laws will be changed or revoked entirely.
  • Pray for Asif, that the Lord will walk with him and his family during this uncertain and difficult time. Pray for the Lord’s favour to be upon Asif and ask for his release.

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PAKISTAN: Victim’s Family Goes into Hiding

PAKISTAN: Victim’s Family Goes into Hiding

Marilyn Asif, along with her four young children, has had to flee for safety after her husband Asif Pervaiz was sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Asif, 37, has already spent seven years in jail after a blasphemy case was filed against him in 2013. He was given the death penalty on 8 September.

The case against Asif was brought after the Christian refused to take part in Muslim prayers at his factory or convert to Islam.

Asif lost his phone, which was later used to send a so-called blasphemous text message to his supervisor at work. Asif believes the text was actually sent by his accuser to incriminate him.

Asif’s wife is fearful for the safety of her children.

The case has echoes of that of Asia Bibi, who languished in jail for eight years awaiting the death penalty before her lawyer had the case thrown out by the Supreme Court. A price was put on Asia Bibi’s head and her family were driven into hiding.

After the Supreme Court overturned the verdict, mobs brought cities to a standstill, calling for the army to mutiny and overthrow the government. After Asia was released, she and her family had to leave the country.

Asif has the same lawyer as Asia, Saif ul Malook, a Muslim who risks his life to defend Christians.

VOM’s ministry partner Release International is helping Asif and his family.

Source: Release International

  • Pray the Lord’s protection will be upon Asif, Marylin and their children. Pray they will see the Lord’s merciful hand at work in their daily lives so that they will not despair but continue to trust in Him during this trying time.
  • Praise God for the courage and kindness of Saif ul Malook. Ask the Lord to provide him with immeasurable spiritual blessing. Pray too for favour and wisdom as he defends Asif.
  • Pray the nation of Pakistan will bring change to its notorious blasphemy laws and guard against injustice.

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SOMALIA: Christian Couple Arrested

SOMALIA: Christian Couple Arrested

At an October news conference, police in the self-declared autonomous region of Somaliland announced that a Christian couple had been arrested for being “apostates and evangelists spreading Christianity.” On 21 September, the two were taken from their home in Hargeisa where police also found Christian literature in their possession.

The police spokesperson, Faisal His Elmi, stated that the arrest came from an anonymous tip. He also threatened that “whoever dares to spread Christianity in this region should be fully aware that they won’t escape the hand of the law enforcement officers and that the spread of Christianity will not be allowed and is considered blasphemy.” He encouraged others to report Christians who share their faith.

The detained couple, who are the parents of three children, will face trial by a regional court. Their arrests and detentions have generated fear among other believers in the area, causing many of them to flee for safety. A safe house sponsored by VOM has been overwhelmed with believers seeking temporary refuge.

Sources: Middle East Concern, Geeska Afrika Online, The Voice of the Martyrs USA

  • Pray that the presence of God will be sensed by this couple and their children, reminding them to trust in Him.
  • Pray the other Somali believers who have fled the area in search of safety be greatly encouraged and strengthened by God’s Word and each other.
  • Pray for church leaders in this highly restricted nation, who are faithfully serving the Lord and His people.

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PAKISTAN: Court Acquits Christian Sentenced to Death in Blasphemy Case

PAKISTAN: Court Acquits Christian Sentenced to Death in Blasphemy Case

A Christian man sentenced to death, has been acquitted by a Pakistani court, six years after he was charged with blaspheming the Islamic prophet Mohammad.

Last Tuesday, the Lahore High Court acquitted Sawan Masih, a street sweeper from the eastern city of Lahore who was sentenced to death in March 2014 under Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws.

Masih, a father of three, was accused by his Muslim friend, Muhammad Shahid, of insulting the Islamic prophet Mohammad during a conversation in the eastern Lahore city’s Joseph Colony.

The following day, mosques recounted the accusation against Masih over their PA systems, prompting a mob of more than 3,000 Muslims to loot and burn 180 Christian homes, 75 shops, and at least two churches. Amid the violence, Christian families were forced to flee the area.

Masih denied the charges and said the accusations were made due to a property dispute.

Masih was handed over to the police and was later charged under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s Penal Code. He was subsequently sentenced to death under Section 295-C by Judge Chaudhry Ghulam Murtaza, saying he “must be hanged and fined,” in a trial held in the Lahore Camp Jail due to security concerns.

The Lahore High Court decided that the prosecution had failed to establish that Masih had committed blasphemy and acquitted him.

His family is being threatened and is in hiding.

Sources: The New Indian Express, The Christian Post, Church in Chains

  • Praise God for answering the prayers of Sawan Masih, his family and people all over the world.
  • Pray that Sawan will experience the Lord’s physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. Pray for strength and patience as the family try to overcome and adapt, after being so long apart.
  • Pray for the protection of Sawan and his family. Pray too that the Lord will lead them as they consider their future.

Post your prayer in the comments below.