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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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EGYPT: Riots Follow Blasphemy Accusation

EGYPT: Riots Follow Blasphemy Accusation

Egypt’s Minya Governorate region erupted in violence on 25 November after rumours spread that a young, barely literate Christian man named Girgis Sameeh posted a message on Facebook that was considered insulting to Islam.

In al-Barsha, Girgis’ hometown, hundreds of Muslims attacked the homes of Coptic Christians, also looting and destroying local businesses. The fury of the mob spread to the church of Abou Sefin, where the congregation was celebrating the beginning of a fast for the Advent season.

Thankfully, there were only a few reported injuries. Due to the intervention of a concerned Muslim neighbour, the family of Girgis received protection from the rioters. Following the skirmish, police arrested about a hundred Muslims and Christians, detaining those from both sides to avoid accusations of bias. At last report, 20 Muslims and ten Christians face two weeks’ detention for questioning.

In retaliation to the lockdowns imposed to stop further riots, some Muslim villagers resorted to burning farm buildings used for cattle and feed, as well as boycotting businesses owned by Christians.

Such violent outbursts are not uncommon in Egypt and are often based on rumours. Girgis’ brother cannot believe that he would do such a thing, saying, “That’s not how he was taught to behave.”

Sources: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin, Mission Network News, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Watani

  • Ask God to provide His peace to this troubled Egyptian community. May the Christians of this region walk in obedience to God’s Word, serving as examples of His love.
  • Pray for wisdom for the local authorities and protection for Girgis and other innocent civilians caught up in the unrest.
  • Uphold those who are now without homes or businesses, and experiencing numerous hardships as a result. Ask the Lord to bless them with needed provision and restoration.

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PAKISTAN: Christian Woman Killed for Refusing Marriage Proposal

PAKISTAN: Christian Woman Killed for Refusing Marriage Proposal

A 24-year-old Christian woman was shot and killed in Pakistan after she refused a marriage proposal and invitation to convert to Islam by a Muslim man.

On 11 November, Sonia Bibi was shot and killed in public by Muhammad Shehzad and Faizan, two Muslim men. Sonia was reportedly confronted and killed while she was on her way to work at a garment factory.

According to Sonia’s family, Shehzad had been harassing Sonia for the last six months and had tried to force a physical relationship with her. Sonia refused these advances due to the difference in faith backgrounds.

Eventually, Shehzad proposed that Sonia should marry him and convert to Islam. Shehzad’s mother was even sent to Sonia’s family home in an attempt to negotiate an arranged marriage. Sonia’s family also refused the marriage.

“A few days before the incident, Sonia was again harassed by Shehzad,” Allah Rakha, Sonia’s father, said. “Since she was a committed Christian, she did not betray Jesus and sacrificed her life for her faith.”

“We are being harassed and pressurised to withdraw the case against the culprits,” Rakha continued. “However, I want the culprits brought to justice.”

Police have registered a First Information Report against Shehzad and Faizan. Faizan has been taken into custody. Police are searching for Shehzad.

Sources: International Christian Concern, Aid to the Church in Need

  • Ask God to comfort Sonia’s parents and four younger siblings. Pray they will feel the Lord’s presence as they come to terms with such a terrible loss.
  • Pray for justice for the family and ask God for their protection.
  • Pray for Shehzad and Faizan, may they have the opportunity to hear the Gospel and be brought to repentance.

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NIGERIA: Christians Targeted in Islamic Militant Attacks

NIGERIA: Christians Targeted in Islamic Militant Attacks

On the morning of 1 November, armed Islamic militants associated with the Boko Haram terrorist group invaded the village of Takulashi. With the use of automatic weapons, they shot everyone in sight — burning and looting homes during the rampage. When the militants left the area two hours later, 12 members of the primarily Christian village were found dead, including a church pastor. The attackers also took three women and four children hostage.

The village where the massacre took place is only 15 km from Chibok, where 276 young students were kidnapped by Boko Haram in April 2014.

In another incident, which took place in the southwest state of Ekiti, suspected Fulani herdsmen killed Rev Johnson Oladimeji as he was travelling home on 26 November. When his wife was unable to reach him on the phone, family members began searching for him. He was found the next day in his car along the side of the highway. Allegedly, the assailants were waiting in the bush and shot at his vehicle as he drove by.

Two days later, in Kaduna state, militant Fulani herdsmen raided two predominantly Christian villages. Seven Christians were killed in the attacks; and two children, named Rebecca and Clement, were kidnapped.

In many areas of Nigeria and several other African nations, Fulani Islamic militants have terrorised communities. While some of the attacks were committed with the intent of plunder, in many cases, Christians have been targeted because of their faith. These repeated acts of militancy have led to the stigmatisation of the Fulani people as a whole.

Sources: Release International, Morning Star News, Sahara Reports

  • Intercede for the victims who have been kidnapped, asking that they too will be sheltered from harm and safely released. Uphold the families of those who have suffered and died in these recent attacks.
  • Pray for God’s strength and protection to be upon all those who are faithfully proclaiming the message of salvation through Jesus Christ to the Fulani people.
  • Pray that there will be a miraculous resolution to these ongoing human rights violations.

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UGANDA: Pastor and Two Christian Boys Slain

UGANDA: Pastor and Two Christian Boys Slain

Pastor Wilson Niwamanya and his 12-year-old son were on their way home to Kabale on 21 November when they were stopped by Islamic militants.

They were returning after delivering Christian literature along the Democratic Republic of Congo border when four men stepped out of the bush and forced them to stop the motorcycles they were riding. Grabbing Pastor Wilson, one of the assailants declared, “This man must die for disrespecting our religion.”

The perpetrators began to beat the pastor on the head with blunt objects and then stabbed his son, Simon Peter, fleeing the crime scene when other motorcyclists approached. Simon Peter died at the scene, whereas Pastor Wilson succumbed to his injuries a few days later. Another Christian worker who was with them escaped with injuries to his hand. According to his wife, Pastor Wilson had received text messages prior to the incident, warning him to stop distributing literature that allegedly discredits Islam.

In a separate incident, relatives killed the six-year-old son of a former Islamic sheikh after he refused to renounce his faith in Christ. The Muslim relatives met at the home of Emmanuel Hamuzah on 23 November and, for two hours, tried to convince him to return to Islam. Later that evening, Emmanuel was outside his home with his son when five relatives reappeared. When Emmanuel once more refused to recant, they began to beat him; while others stepped on his son’s neck, causing suffocation to the child. The attackers fled when neighbours came to help, but the injured boy died before he could obtain medical attention.

While Muslims in Uganda are a minority, there are large concentrations in some areas. Some groups have become increasingly aggressive, particularly towards those who have left Islam.

Source: Morning Star News

  • Ask the God of love and mercy to embrace Pastor Wilson’s wife and surviving children, as they endure this time of grief and loss. Ask the Lord to bring physical and emotional healing to the worker who witnessed the event and suffered injury.
  • Prayerfully intercede for Emmanuel, his wife and their three other children, as they mourn the horrific death of their child.
  • Pray that those who instigated these attacks will come to understand that same eternal hope which can only be found in the light and love of Christ.

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