Zafar Bhatti has been in prison since 2012 after being charged with sending blasphemous text messages. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2017.
Diagnosed with diabetes, the 56-year-old Christian had two minor heart attacks in 2019 and suffers from eyesight problems. It was recently reported that he had another heart attack on 3 September. He received swift medical attention in prison to stabilise his condition but there are ongoing concerns for Zafar’s physical and mental health. His lawyers called on the Lahore High Court (Rawalpindi Bench) to grant immediate bail on medical grounds and allow him access to medical treatment outside of jail.
Due to threats from fellow inmates, Zafar is presently being held under tight security. His appeal hearings have been adjourned repeatedly, causing great distress to him and his wife Nawab. An appeal was due to be held on 7 September but was postponed for three days.
Following a brief hearing at Lahore High Court on 10 September, the Rawalpindi Bench instructed the local police superintendent to commission a medical report on Zafar. His lawyer from Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) later met the superintendent and was allowed to visit Zafar in prison.
The legal team from CLAAS reports the good news that Zafar’s faith in Christ remains strong and that he is recovering from his recent ailment. Zafar told them that his Saviour will protect him and that “soon I’ll be out of the jail”. In the meantime, he has asked for Christians around the world to pray that he will be proven innocent and thus released from prison.
Sources: Pakistan Christian News, Church in Chains
- Pray Zafar will receive suitable medical treatment and be kept safe from those in prison who wish him harm.
- Pray the Lord will grant Zafar favour to miraculously make a way for his safe release.
- Pray that the hearts of Zafar’s opposers will be radically transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit and the faithful witness of Zafar.
A new date is expected to be announced soon for the trial of Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi.
She’s facing the death penalty after being accused of insulting Islam – something she denies.
Her case has gone to the country’s highest court, but her hearing was postponed last year when one of the judges claimed he had a conflict of interest.
On Saturday, the Chief Justice of Pakistan confirmed a new hearing will be held soon and has ordered full security provisions to be given to Asia Bibi’s legal team.
Those who support or speak out on behalf of the woman are often targeted by extremists. Politician Salman Taseer was assassinated back in 2011 after defending her.
- Ask the Lord to ensure justice for Asia and her family, quickly.
- Pray for her legal representatives as they prepare for the upcoming appeal.
- Pray the Lord will grow His church in this nation and strengthen the faith of the Christians, who frequently face severe opposition.
In a tense trial that was widely seen as a test of religious tolerance in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, was “found to have legitimately and convincingly conducted a criminal act of blasphemy, and because of that we have imposed two years of imprisonment”, head judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto told the court.
Ahok was charged with blasphemy after he said clerics had used a Koranic verse to mislead voters by telling them that Muslims were not allowed to vote for a Christian. He has denied wrongdoing, and said he was not criticising the Koran, but rather the clerics’ interpretation of the verse.
The sentence was harsher than expected and will come as a shock to many of his supporters. TV news coverage of the scene outside the court showed some supporters weeping.
Prosecutors had called for a suspended one-year jail sentence on charges of hate speech. The maximum sentence is four years in prison for hate speech and five years for blasphemy.
Judges said he did it deliberately and did not show remorse. Ahok told the court he will appeal the ruling.
Thousands of police have been deployed across the capital in case clashes break out between Ahok’s supporters and hard-line Islamists who demanded he be sacked and jailed over the allegations. There was no immediate sign of any violence after the court’s verdict. “Both groups will have the opportunity to demonstrate, but we are taking steps to prevent clashes,” national police spokesman Setyo Wasisto said earlier.
The Indonesian Government had been criticised for not doing enough to protect religious minorities but President Joko Widodo, a key ally of Ahok, urged restraint over the trial and called for all sides to respect the legal process.
Ahok lost his bid for re-election in an April run-off, by far the most divisive and religiously charged election in recent years, to a Muslim rival Anies Baswedan — he will hand over to Mr Baswedan in October.
Source: ABC News
- Pray Ahok will feel the ministering presence of the Lord as he comes to terms with this verdict. Pray he will be courageous and trust in the Lord above all things.
- Pray Ahok will be encouraged by his church family as well as his supporters.
- Commit to the Lord the appeal. Pray this high-profile case may draw attention to the difficulties religious minorities face in Indonesia.
An Indonesian court will decide next week whether to push forward with a controversial blasphemy trial of Jakarta’s Christian governor, who is accused of insulting the Koran, a judge told a hearing on Tuesday.
Several hundred Muslim protesters stood outside the Jakarta court, calling for the jailing of Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese politician, known by his nickname Ahok.
A rival group of his supporters unveiled a banner with a map of Indonesia calling for unity and saying “Ahok is a blessing”.
A prosecution lawyer said the charges against the governor were legal and the trial should continue, dismissing a claim by the defence that naming Purnama a suspect had violated his human rights and breached procedures.”The defendant under the prosecutors’ charges has violated articles 156 and 156a … but there was no violation of procedures,” said Ali Murkatono, referring to the codes of the blasphemy law, which can carry a jail term of up to five years.
Some have stated that this trial represents religious tolerance on a larger scale in Indonesia, and the decision from this trial could have strong repercussions in the direction Indonesia takes. Already, some ethnic and religious minorities are under tensions as acts of violence or discrimination against them have increased since the trial began.
Source: International Christian Concern
- Ask God to give Governor Purnama wisdom and gracious responses throughout proceedings as a testimony to the Indonesian authorities and public.
- Pray that Governor Purnama’s example will embolden other Indonesian Christians to lift the name of the Lord high and to honour Him in everything.
- Pray that God will use this case to bring positive change to Indonesia’s laws, allowing Christians greater freedom to practise their faith.
An Egyptian Copt, Bishoy Kameel Garas, has been declared ‘innocent’ after he spent more than half his 6-year sentence for charges including defamation of Islam, the Cairo Court of Cassation has ruled.
Garas, now in his late twenties, was jailed in September 2012 for offending the country’s dominant religion, the then-Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, and a Muslim sheikh’s sister. The charges related to Facebook posts found on a fake page opened in his name.
On 25 July 2015, Cairo’s senior court had ruled against the prison sentence, but it took Garas until 9 October 2015 to be released.
Despite mounting evidence weighing on the side of his acquittal, the prosecution and two lower courts insisted on condemning the Christian, until the higher court finally declared him innocent on 12 March 2016.
As with other blasphemy cases levelled against Christians and seculars, the proceedings were bedevilled by mob pressure and judicial religious prejudice. Coptic activists insist the proceedings were a travesty from the beginning.
Garas, a teacher of English, had posted warnings on his own Facebook page about the fake account and alerted cyber police. Still, he was sentenced despite claims of a named hacker and cyber investigation reports attesting to his innocence.
Source: World Watch Monitor
- Thank the Lord that Garas has finally been vindicated. Pray for him as he continues to overcome this past trial.
- Pray this case may be used as an example of the unjust bias of the legal system in Egypt; pray the laws will be examined and improved. Pray others imprisoned unjustly will be released and exonerated.
- Ask the Lord to strengthen Garas in his faith; pray his testimony may be used by the Lord to strengthen other believers and make them bold in following Him.
EGYPT: Case Dropped Against Evangelising Youth
Egypt: Death of Young Christian Soldier Suspicious
EGYPT: Coptic Christians Targeted for Kidnappings