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Rash of Blasphemy Accusations After Pakistan Church Bombings.


Michael Town, Karachi
The remains of Munawar Masih’s belongings in Michael Town, Karachi, after they were taken from his home and set on fire. (World Watch Monitor)

Two months ago, on Sept. 22, two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside All Saints Church in Peshawar when congregants were leaving the church after the Sunday communion.

The incident was a landmark in the history of Pakistani Christians. To condemn this largest attack on the Christian community—in terms of loss of life—Christians from across the country held protest rallies, claiming that, as a recognized minority, Christians are not protected by the government.

Reactions from the Muslim majority to those protests were mixed, which might signify how Christians are, on the whole, perceived in Pakistani society. In the light of U.K. Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi’s speech in Washington, D.C., 10 days ago, World Watch Monitor has looked back over the period since the Peshawar bombs. A climate of much sympathy has nevertheless been punctured by several charges of blasphemy against Christians for actions in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.

A large number of Muslims expressed sympathy with the beleaguered Christian community (estimated at about 2 percent of the population). For example, Dr. Taimur Rehman, an assistant professor of political science at Lahore University of Management Sciences, formed a human chain outside a Catholic church in Lahore to condemn the Peshawar blasts and to express solidarity with the Christian community. In several areas, Muslims joined Christians in their protests, while in others (Iqbal Town in Rawalpindi, Yahounabad in Lahore, and Michael Town in Karachi) protests were met with ridicule and strong resistance.

However, despite the sympathetic majority, four blasphemy cases against Christians were registered in less than a month, four times higher than the monthly average recorded over the last two years.

In all these blasphemy charge cases, no direct evidence was available against those accused.

However, some suspect the rhetoric around the church bombing influenced a few disaffected Pakistanis, who, seeing Christians as suitable targets, took up blasphemy charges against them.

“The Christians are the enemies of Islam and Pakistan,” says a representative from Jundul Hafsa, a subsidiary of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which claimed responsibility for the Peshawar attack. “Therefore, we have targeted them, and we will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land.”

The group says the church attacks were meant to avenge “U.S. drone strikes on the Taliban and al-Qaida operatives in the Pakistani tribal belt.”

“We carried out the suicide bombings at Peshawar church and will continue to strike foreigners and non-Muslims until the American drone attacks stop,” Ahmadullah Marwat, a spokesman for the group, told a foreign news agency by phone.

Protests

Christians across the country held street protests against their lack of protection in wake of the Peshawar bombing.

The city of Hyderabad, 750 miles south of Peshawar, came to a halt after Christians held protest rallies in virtually every corner of the city. However, some anti-rally protesters got in amongst the Christians and started attacking passersby and buildings such as gas stations, says Catholic priest Fr. Samson Shukardin.

“The situation got tense, but it still remained calm because the Muslims were equally saddened by the attacks,” he says.

Back in the north, tensions remain between the Malik and Pashtoon clans and the Christians of Iqbal Town, Rawalpindi. When the Christians there held a protest rally on Sept. 23, about two dozen men pelted them with stones.

Saleem Masih, a resident of Iqbal Town, says that three days after the protest, a Muslim desecrated a copy of the Quran but Christians were blamed. For the following few nights, he says more than 100 armed Christians guarded the Christian area in Iqbal Town.

On Oct. 29, at about 7 p.m., worship was taking place in the Pentecostal Saints Church of Pakistan in Iqbal Town when about five young Pashtoon men thumped the main gate, shouting, “Close this den of prostitution.” When the congregants came out, the young men fled the scene.

A similar episode unfolded on Nov. 2 in Iqbal Town, where a Christian convention was taking place. A group of young men again tried to disrupt the gathering.

“One of them said that they are the lords of this area and nothing can take place without their permission,” Riaz Masih told World Watch Monitor.

After this, a scuffle broke out between the Christian security men and the attackers.

In Lahore, when Christians from the Christian colony of Yahounabad were holding a rally, a Muslim vegetable vendor, Muhammad Akbar, known as Billa, jeered at them. He shouted at protesters that it didn’t matter that a “few Christians had died in the [Peshawar] blast.” He said these same Christians had also come out to protest when Joseph Colony was set on fire.

“He even went on to ridicule the poor Christian community by saying that Christian women were willing to do anything for the sake of two kilograms of potatoes, so what right did they have to protest,” Pakistan People’s Party Minority Wing Leader Napoleon Qayyum told World Watch Monitor.

Violence then broke out between the Christians and Billa, during which his shop was damaged. Since then, local Christians have boycotted Billa’s vegetable stall.

In Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, the Christians of Michael Town had to flee their homes following a rally on Sept. 23, after they were accused of committing blasphemy by pelting the sign of a mosque with stones.

A journalist working for a local news channel who reached the site when the attack was taking place told World Watch Monitor that “a large number of attackers wearing dark brown and green turbans” told him a text message had been circulated saying the Christians had demolished a mosque, so they had come to avenge the “blasphemous act.”

Shahnawaz Khan, a U.K.-based Pakistani journalist, told World Watch Monitor that brown and green turbans represent membership of the Sunni Tehreek (ST), or Sunni Movement.

The ST is defined as an ultra-radical movement, distinct from Sufi and Wahhabi schools of thought but anti-Christian and also against puritan movements within Islam.

“After repeatedly coming under attack from puritan Islamist terror groups, the movement itself has taken up arms,” Khan told World Watch Monitor while referring to his report on the ST published in the Wall Street Journal. “No other force in Pakistan so jealously guards the blasphemy laws as does the ST.”

Khan added that the ST’s taking up arms, zeal for the blasphemy laws, anti-Christian stance and turbaned appearance are all indications that they are the most likely group to have attacked Michael Town.

Although the Pakistani police initially tried to strike a compromise between the Christians and Muslims in Karachi, in the end they registered two criminal cases against the Christians. The first case was registered against three men (Yasir, Harry and Waqas Masih) for allegedly murdering a man who was part of the Muslim mob and who died in the stampede.

The second case was lodged against Ubert, Ilyas and Babar Masih under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. No criminal case for the rampage and arson carried out by the Muslim mob was registered, primarily because the Christians feared a backlash.

About 300 Christian families had to flee their homes in the wake of the blasphemy accusation. They returned after two weeks, following mediation by the Sindh government.

But the legal cases are still pending, and these Christians will face trial.

Increase in Blasphemy Cases

Apart from the blasphemy case registered against the residents of Michael Town, three blasphemy cases were also registered against individuals.

The most recent blasphemy case registered against three Christian brothers is the most extreme.

Tariq, Waris and Munawar Masih make fireworks in the Christian community in the village of Thatha Faqir Ullah, Gujranwala.

On Oct. 27, one of their friends, Khurram Shehzad, came to them and asked for fireworks for a wedding. According to the police report lodged the same day, only one of the five fireworks went off.

“When the fireworks that did not go off were ripped apart, pages of the Quran were found [inside],” states the report.

Farukh Tanveer Chaudhry from the Pakistan Minorities Alliance says a mob then went to the brothers’ shop and beat them up. He says some Christians intervened by extracting an apology from the brothers, who told them they did not know about the contents of the fireworks and were not intending to insult Islam.

“The family whose wedding it was stopped pushing the matter any further after the apology, but Shehzad and a local cleric, Hafiz Muhammad Raza Shirazi, still insisted a criminal case be lodged against Tariq,” Chaudhry says.

After the registration of the case, Tariq Masih fled the area and has been hiding ever since. Meanwhile, the police have detained his two brothers, who were not mentioned in the police report.

In a similar case in Lahore, Adnan Masih went into hiding after a case of blasphemy was registered against him on Oct. 8.

The complainant, Abid Mehmood, says he used to work in the Diamond Glass shop, where he met Adnan Masih. He says that on Oct. 7, Masih was reading I Asked the Bible Why the Qurans Were Set on Fire, written by Maulana Ameer Hamza, the central leader of Jamat-ud-Dawa, a political arm of Lashkar-e-Taiba, one of the largest and most active pure jihadi organizations in South Asia, mainly operating from Pakistan.

Mehmood alleged, “When the next day, Tuesday, Oct. 8, I opened the book, I saw Pastor Adnan Masih had marked several pages, while on some other pages abusive words had been used against the prophet of Islam.”

Other reports claim Masih had marked the pages with biblical references that refuted claims made in the book.

Aneeqa Maria, director of the Voice Society (representing Masih in court), says Mehmood distorted the facts in his report and that before the alleged incident, Mehmood and Masih had exchanged religious views.

After Adnan Masih fled, the police detained his brother, mother, aunt and uncle to pressure him to return. On Nov. 6, he returned to ensure the release of his family, which happened the next day.

The police then brought Masih to court on Nov. 9, though they are legally bound to present a suspect within 24 hours. His lawyer says the police feared a mob attack, which is why they delayed. However, she says the police tortured him during this period to extract a confession from him.

“The day he was arrested, after ruthlessly beating him, a deputy superintendent of police pushed the barrel of a pistol in Adnan’s mouth and told him that he would count to three and if he didn’t tell whether he had written on the book or not, then he would press the trigger,” she says. “At another point, the police brought him out onto the road at night and told him to flee, which he didn’t.”

She says that if Masih had fled, the police could have shot him from behind and later claimed he was trying to escape.

The Christians in the local area have been concerned about a backlash since Masih’s blasphemy charge, due to the input in the case of Jamat-ud-Dawa. Although Masih is in prison awaiting trial now, many still fear for his safety.

The third blasphemy case was registered against Asif Parvaiz in Lahore on Sept. 25, only three days after the Peshawar blast.

According to the police report lodged by Saeed Ahmed Khokhar, he received a text message that insulted Islam, the Quran, Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad. The case was registered under the Telegraph Act 1985 and Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Parvaiz’s brother Wasim told World Watch Monitor his brother had lost his cell phone in August. He added that some of his brother’s friends had told him they received some text messages that were insulting Islam, after which the network provider was asked to stop outgoing messages from the lost SIM.

The treatment of minority Christians in Pakistan has come under the international spotlight recently. The most high-ranking Muslim in the U.K. government, Baroness Warsi (born in England to Pakistani immigrants), spoke about the difficult climate for Christians in a visit to Washington on Nov. 15.

“It is wrong to look at minorities in [Muslim-majority countries] as outsiders. We will have to stress that these communities are an intrinsic part of these countries and share their belonging [to these countries],” she said. “What we are seeing, sadly, is a sense of collective punishment, which is meted out by local groups—sometimes states, sometimes extremists. [Christians are] seen as legitimate targets for what the [local groups] perceive as actions of their core religions, and this concept of collective punishment, about them being seen as agents of maybe the West or other places of the world or agents of regimes is wrong, and therefore we need to speak out and raise this with the countries where this is happening.”

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

WORLD WATCH MONITOR

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Is Obama’s Foreign Policy Killing Christians?.


Afghani terrorists
Taliban guerrilla fighters hold their weapons at a secret base in eastern Afghanistan.

While the temporary partial government shutdown has riveted our nation, Christians are being martyred all over the world.

The limited space of this column does not permit me to enumerate the long list of martyred Christians and the locations where Christians continue to be killed in cold blood. But needless to say, the violence stretches from Nigeria to Egypt to Iraq to Syria to Pakistan and beyond.

The most tragic act of treachery recently committed by Islamists against innocent Christians took place in a church in Peshawar, Pakistan, just a few weeks ago. There, 81 innocent worshippers were slaughtered and many more were wounded, some permanently.

The Western press, if they reported that tragedy at all, reported it as just another day at the office, as if it was unworthy of much news attention. Nothing to see here; move right along.

But those of us who read Arabic and Islamic publications know that Tehrik-e-Taliban Jundullah claimed responsibility for the bombing, stating that the attack of the 130-year-old All Saints Church in Peshawar was revenge for U.S. drone strikes.

Islamists view Christian churches, and Christians in general, as outposts of Western influence. Little do they know, however, that Western governments are just as anti-Christian as they are—although they are more polite in their opposition.

Western governments are not only silent when it comes to Christian martyrdom—which is now in the tens of thousands—but they are complicit as well. While enthusiastically supporting Libyan rebels against Moammar Gadhafi, and now Syrian rebels against Assad, Western governments have actually helped al-Qaida or al-Qaida affiliate members. Western governments have, wittingly or unwittingly, strengthened the hands of those who are now slaughtering whole Christian villages in Syria.

With the exception of Angela Merkel of Germany, who factually told a gathering of Lutheran leaders that Christianity “is the most persecuted religion in the world,” sadly nothing is being done for those beleaguered Christians.

Or take the case of the Copts in Egypt. They have been harassed, discriminated against and persecuted for 1,400 years. More recently, they have suffered violence from the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. That violence accelerated at a rapid pace because the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohammed Morsi felt emboldened—not only by the praise heaped on him by his fellow Islamists, but also by the praise of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

In fairness to President Obama, the harmful effect of our foreign policy on Christians started prior to his administration. Before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, there were 1.4 million Christians in that country. Now it would be a stretch to find 300,000.

So much for America’s protection of Christians.

Today, because of Western policies, Christians are being killed in greater numbers than during the first-century Roman Empire.

I do not expect Islamist groups to care about the anti-Christian posturing of Western governments. But for heaven’s sake and the sake of their own eternal judgment, may foreign policymakers of the U.S. and Western governments understand their culpability in this matter and do something about it.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

Michael Youssef

Suicide Bombings Spark Renewed Debate Over Blasphemy Laws.


All Saints Church bomb memorial
Pakistanis remember the dead at memorials for the victims of the bomb attacks at All Saints Church in Peshawar. (Kamran Chaudhry for World Watch Monitor)

The Sept. 22 suicide bombings of a church in Pakistan have re-ignited political debate on the country’s controversial blasphemy laws.

Only three days before the incident, the Council for Islamic Ideology, the top clerical body in officially Islamic Pakistan, said the law should be amended to prevent its misuse. The day after the bombings, however, the council said existing laws are sufficient to deal with misuse.

Now a leading politician has come out with a clear message that there is a need to review them.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, or PTI, leads the provincial government of Khyber, of which Peshawar is capital. Discussing the church bombings in the National Assembly on Tuesday, Sept. 24, PTI national President Javed Hashmi said he had first opposed the blasphemy laws when they were introduced by President Zia in the 1980s. He said “The blasphemy law is wrong … and contrary to Islam,” and “there is still opportunity” to rectify the situation.”

No member of Parliament who depends on the popular vote has dared to speak against blasphemy laws like this before. He was supported by three other PTI MPs: Shireen Mazari, Arif Alvi and Lal Chand Mali.

Pakistan’s leading Dawn newspaper noted Hashmi’s stance: “This was the first public opposition from a right-wing party to the Zia-era law, which prescribes the death penalty for blasphemy and which has often been allegedly misused against members of the Christian community.”

In the past, politicians either lost their lives or had to withdraw from the public arena after opposing these laws. In January 2011, the governor of Punjab province, Salmaan Taseer, was killed by his own security guard for calling the laws “black laws” and supporting a Christian woman, Aasiya Bibi, convicted for insulting the Prophet and given the death penalty in November 2010. In March 2011, federal minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian in the Cabinet, was killed for seeking reform in the blasphemy laws.

Similarly, Sherry Rehman, a former lawmaker and later Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., had to go into hiding after tabling a bill in the National Assembly that sought to reduce the death penalty to 10 years’ imprisonment. She received death threats and in February a criminal case was lodged against her in connection with a 2010 TV talk show.

Bhatti and Rehman were selected by Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party, or PPP, for “reserved seats.” Taseer was appointed Governor by former PPP President Zardari, Bhutto’s widower. None of these critics of the blasphemy laws needed to go to the public for votes.

The PPP’s 2008 platform pledged that “[t]he statutes that discriminate against religious minorities, and are sources of communal disharmony, will be reviewed.” Though it held power from February 2008 to May 2013, the PPP never discussed the blasphemy laws in Parliament.

The PTI, politically to the right of PPP, gained a legislative majority in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in May. PTI chief Imran Khan is a strong advocate of talks with the Pakistan Taliban.

His party already had very little popularity among Pakistan’s religious minorities but the church bombings in Peshawar have further driven a wedge between them and PTI. Pastor Asif John, from the city of Quetta, Balochistan, and a member of PTI’s Provincial Political Strategy Committee, said he was resigning from his position.

“Mr. Khan lacks prudent insight into Pakistan’s religious minorities and does not know how to deal with the menace of terrorism,” John said. “Hashmi’s view on the blasphemy laws is his own, and this card is only played at this time to appease the Christian community who completely distrust the PTI.”

However, Mazari, another PTI member of parliament and supporter of Hashmi in the National Assembly, told World Watch Monitor that “Mr. Khan had several times re-iterated that the PTI is against the misuse of the blasphemy laws.

“There are several loopholes in the law that need to be rectified, so that the innocent are not victimized and the law is not abused,” Mazari said. But she didn’t provide any time frame for introducing a bill in the Assembly to close the loopholes.

Just days before the Peshawar bombings, on Sept. 19, the Council of Islamic Ideology, which advises the National Assembly on laws that are “repugnant to Islam,” signaled its favor of an amendment.

“All the religious scholars agreed to put an end to the misuse of blasphemy laws,” said council member Allama Tahir Ashrafi, according to Agence France-Presse. “[T]he Council of Ideology has decided to fix the same penalty for the person who falsely accuses of blasphemy as the accused”.  For this, and for its decision to allow the use of DNA evidence to prosecute rape cases, the council received praise from several quarters, including the Pakistan Association of Mental Health.

Days later, on Sept. 23, after the church bombing but before Hashmi’s speech in the National Assembly, Council Chairman Maulana Sherani  declared there was no need to amend the law.

“The Pakistan Penal Code already has sections which deal with sentences for those who misuse any law,” he said.

Sources with knowledge of council workings told World Watch Monitor, on terms of anonymity, that the members opposing changes to the law are those who travel “internationally for inter-faith harmony, but keep a rather stricter stance inside the Council.”

The council has similarly maneuvered in the past. It recommended amendments to the blasphemy laws as early as 2001, but was ignored by Parliament.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws were thrust into the international limelight in November 2010, when Aasiya Noreen, more widely known as Aasiya Bibi, was sentenced to death for insulting Islam. The Council of Islamic Ideology again made recommendations for a few amendments. However, vociferous protests opposing any weakening of the blasphemy laws, and the assassinations of Taseer and Bhatti in 2011 totally ended the public debate on the laws. The governing PPP refrained from publicly denouncing the assassinations.

After Pakistan’s national elections in May of this year, the Council of Islamic Ideology said minorities would be unsafe if the blasphemy laws were amended.

Council member Ashrafi, who also is chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council, told World Watch Monitor the government’s Religious Affairs Ministry had sought, and received, the ideology council’s opinion on amendment in the blasphemy laws. He would not reveal the opinion.

He did say, however, that while no one wants to touch the blasphemy laws themselves, there is general acknowledgment that the misuse of the law should be prevented.

“I personally believe that procedural change should be introduced that could prevent its misuse,” Ashrafi said. “The blasphemy law is an internal matter of Pakistan and it should be resolved without any external pressure.”

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

Archbishop of Canterbury: Islamists Creating Christian Martyrdom.


Image: Archbishop of Canterbury: Islamists Creating Christian Martyrdom

By Joel Himelfarb

Islamist attacks against Christians in Muslim countries are creating an atmosphere of fear and creating martyrs of the faithful in exceedingly growing numbers, the Archbishop of Canterbury said in an interview with BBC Radio.
In the interview, reported in The Telegraph, the Most Rev. Justin Welby said that there had been more than 80 Christian “martyrs” in the last few days alone.
He was speaking about the suicide bombing of All Saints Anglican Church in Peshawar, Pakistan.
Eighty-five people were killed and more than 200 injured in the bombing, which occurred after a Sunday morning service.
The Archbishop — head of close to 80 million Anglicans around the world — added that Christians were also being singled out for violence in other Muslim-majority nations.
Christian communities which have existed “in many cases since the days of Saint Paul” are now under threat in countries such as Syria and Egypt, he said.
Al Ahram reported that approximately 40 churches were looted and burned in arson attacks in Egypt since mid-August.Sky News reported al-Qaida linked jihadists have targeted Syria’s embattled Christian community.

Welby, who leads almost 80 million Anglicans around the world, said Christians have a duty to pray for their killers.
He said that in many instances, turmoil in these areas of the world is caused by multiple factors including historical conflicts that have little to do with religion. But these factors cannot explain  recent attacks on Christians in places such as Peshawar. .
“I think Christians have been attacked in some cases simply because of their faith,” he said. “I think it is true to say — and also in Peshawar — that we have seen more than 80 martyrs in the last few days.”
He said these Christians “have been attacked because they were testifying to their faith in Jesus Christ by going to church.”
“That is outside any acceptable expression in any circumstances for any reason of religious difference,” Welby said.
“As Christians one of the things is that we pray for justice and particularly the issues around the anger that comes from his kind of killing,” he added. “But we are also called as Jesus did at the cross to pray for those who are doing us harm.”
He said British Muslim leaders were appalled by the attacks, as were Muslim leaders around the world.

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Pakistan’s Christian Leaders Demand Security After Bombings.


Protests
Protesters took to the streets in cities across Pakistan following the church bombings. (World Watch Monitor)

Anguish and anger have erupted across Pakistan since Sunday after two suicide bombers killed dozens of people as they were leaving church services.

The bomb attacks took place at 12:15 p.m. on Sept. 22 as about 600 people were leaving worship services at All Saints Anglican Church in Peshawar, the capital of the war-ravaged Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in northwestern Pakistan, along the Pakistan-Afghan border.

At least 89 people, including children, were killed. One family lost six members. About 150 others were injured, about a dozen critically. The powerful explosions left bodies and blood strewn across the church grounds.

As expressions of sympathy poured in, protests broke out across the country, fueled by grief and by accusations that the government does too little to protect religious minorities in the Muslim-majority country. One person died in the protests.

Protests continued Tuesday in Peshawar, Karachi, Islamabad, Gujrat, Sialkot, Narowal, Kasur, Toba Tek Singh, Faisalabad, Okara, Veharhi, Sahiwal, Khanewal, Multan and Quetta. In Peshawar, five further funerals of those who had been in intensive care have taken place.

The Peshawar Anglican Diocese bishop, the Rt. Rev. Humphrey Peters, says the attack represents a “total failure of the new [provincial] government … and [that the] government has failed to provide security to the minorities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.”

Government officials joined Pakistan’s top clerics in demanding heavier security for minorities and have expressed second thoughts about attempting dialogue with militant Islamists.

Clerical Response
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, head of the worldwide Anglican Church, to which All Saints Church belongs, sent condolences directly to the moderator of the church in Pakistan, Bishop Samuel Azariah.

“I am appalled to learn of the attack on All Saints’ Church in Peshawar as people had gathered there to pray. My heart goes out to all those bereaved and injured by this terrible attack,” Welby told Azariah.

Welby also took his message to Twitter.

Joseph Coutts, the Catholic archbishop of Karachi and president of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, calls the attack “a shameful act of cowardice.” He says it “proves” that “increasing religious and sectarian intolerance … has reached alarming proportions” and insists on increased police protection at places of worship.

The All Pakistan Ulema Council, an association of Muslim clerics and scholars, brands the attacks as “shameful.”

“We are with our Christian brothers and sisters in this time of grief and sorrow,” Council Chairman Allama Hafiz Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi said on Sunday.

Government Response
Pakistan’s National Assembly on Monday unanimously condemned the bomb attack and urged the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provincial government to increase security at religious sites. In separate statements, Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abassi called the bomb attacks “barbaric and shameful acts of terrorism” that “could not deter the government from its firm determination of fighting against terrorism.”

Also on Monday, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) issued resolutions in the provincial assemblies of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, decrying the attack and expressing solidarity with Pakistani Christians.

Five Parliament senators of the center-left Pakistan People’s Party proposed on Monday that the upper chamber set aside current business and address the violence. Their motion accuses the government of failing to protect minorities.

In Peshawar, Police Supt. Ismail Kharak says a four-member committee has been created to investigate the bomb attacks and that a new plan to provide security to minorities has been created. The plan involves increased police patrols at religious sites, he told Independent News Pakistan. A BBC reporter confirms there was no closed-circuit televisions at All Saints Church.

Two Bombs

All Saints Church, dating from 1883, resembles a mosque, in an apparent bid for harmony. One provincial lawmaker, Fredrich Azeem Ghauri, says there are about 200,000 Christians in the province, of whom 70,000 live in Peshawar.

Eyewitnesses say two young men detonated suicide vests, one outside the church and, within 30 seconds, another inside the church.

“Right after the service, food was being distributed as a thanksgiving by some families when two blasts took place, one after the other,” All Saints Church Vicar Ejaz Gill told World Watch Monitor.

Many Sunday school participants and choir members were among the casualties, including women teachers; at least seven children died.

“Among the dead were a number of Sunday School children and choir members of the church who were all in the church compound at the moment of the blasts,” Peters said in a prepared statement. “As I spoke to one of [the] members in All Saints Church, he said he has lost his aunty and nephew in this attack.”

Says survivor Imran Gulfam, “I was behind a pillar so remained safe and after the blasts saw only dust, blood and body parts everywhere.”

Gill says the official number of deaths is 89, but several bodies were picked up from the compound, and he fears the death toll might be higher than 100.

“There are at least 11 patients in a critical condition in the hospital,” he says.

The injured were shifted to the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar immediately after the incident. A Christian rights organization, The Voice, says no proper medical treatment had been given in the children’s ward until the second day.

Aneeqa Maria, the head of the organization, says she was told the provincial government did not allow the Christians to hold a demonstration protesting at the lack of emergency medical facilities; it also forced the bereaved to bury their dead within a few hours after the incident.

Eighty-one of the victims were buried on Sunday, according to Bishop Sebastian Shaw, apostolic administrator of the Lahore Catholic Archdiocese. Independent News Pakistan reported on Monday that the burials were conducted at three locations.

Protests

Protests broke out across Pakistan after the bombing, disrupting traffic and causing dozens of injuries,reports Independent News Pakistan. Demonstrators, many of them Christians, burned tires on highways between Peshawar and Karachi; protesters on the roads in Islamabad and adjacent Rawalpindi caused traffic to divert. A woman motorist was killed and her son seriously injured in an accident amid the congestion, Independent News Pakistan says. In Lahore in the northeast, angry protesters blocked a highway and crowded in front of government buildings.

The news agency also reports that demonstrators converged on the public square in front of Parliament in Islamabad and staged a sit-in. In half a dozen towns surrounding the southern coastal city of Karachi, protesters burned tires and threw rocks at vehicles. Hundreds of people blocked Karachi’s longest road, Shahrah-e-Faisal. They clashed with police when they tried to clear a road in Isa Nagri, a low-income Christian neighborhood. Police used tear gas to break up the crowds.

Inside Karachi, hundreds of Christians joined protests with black armbands at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. About 100 kilometers inland from Karachi, in Latifabad, a suburb of Hyderabad, Christians staged marches.

Protests were so widespread and disruptive that they produced a secondary backlash of their own. Citing a “senior government official who requested anonymity,” the Lahore Times reports that authorities had received numerous complaints from people who could not get to the airports or hospitals because of the crowds in the streets.

No Warning, Little Security

Responsibility for the attacks on the All Saints Church has been claimed by Jandullah (“Soldiers of God”), which is part of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and closely linked with al-Qaida. Some report they are linked to U.S. drone strikes in northern Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The attacks came the day after International Peace Day and only days after al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri issued his first specific guidelines for jihad, urging restraint in attacking other Muslim sects and non-Muslims.

The bombings have heightened the already-present sense of insecurity among Pakistani Christians. Gill says there was no warning issued; otherwise, he says, the church would have taken stringent measures.

“There were only three policemen outside the church,” he says. “From this coming Sunday, we will have our own security men”.

Peters told World Watch Monitor there was no warning of attack, though he said intelligence agencies had warned of a possible attack in the city of Dera Ismail Khan, which also falls within his diocese.

“The government has totally failed to protect us, and now we will have to think how to provide protection to worshippers”, Peters says. “I pray that God keeps every one of us safe, but I fear this might take place in any other place in the province.”

After May’s national elections, former cricketer Imran Khan’s PTI party took power in Khyber province. He has been criticized for being soft on Taliban militants and favoring talks instead of military action; many say militant groups are now operating in the province more freely.

Since 9/11, no suicide attack specifically targeted at Christians has taken place in the province. Suicide attacks have been primarily carried out on Shiite worship places, on Sufi shrines or security personnel and their facilities.

The prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, condemns the bombings and says, “I was in favour of dialogue with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, and all the political parties have supported me to have these. But this incident shows that the TTP do not want dialogue.”

Ansar Burney, former federal minister for human rights, told Independent News Pakistan that the bombings should “open the eyes of those who still believe in friendship with Taliban militants.”

Former President Asif Ali Zardari agreed in a statement issued on Monday.

“The militants cannot be appeased; they must not be,” he said in his statement. “Our values, our way of life and our very survival is threatened by the militants.”

Napoleon Qayyum, a member of the Opposition Pakistan People’s Party, to which former president Zardari belongs, says all major attacks on Christians have taken place during the PML-N’s tenure in the province of the Punjab province, home to Lahore, Pakistan’s No. 2 city. During national elections in May, the PML-N took control of the National Assembly.

“Now they have come into the federal government since this May,” Qayyum says, “and they’ve been quite soft on terrorist organisations. These suicide bombings have taken place in another province,” meaning Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

While the PML-N controls the national government, the PTI party controls the Khyber Provincial Assembly. A PTI member of the provincial assembly told World Watch Monitor this was the 210th suicide attack in the province in the last five years, while only two had taken place since the PTI came into power in the province in May.

First Church Attack in 10+ Years

Khadim Hussain, a Pakistani political analyst, told World Watch Monitor the attacks on the church were of great significance when seen in the context of NATO’s planned pullout from Afghanistan in 2014.

“The Taliban would like to see populations divided between Muslims and non-Muslims, and such attacks would bring more sympathizers close to them, who they could then use to capture Afghanistan after the U.S. and NATO withdrawal,” he says.

He also says such attacks could escalate in coming days against religious minorities.

Similar attacks are not new to Pakistan. In October 2001, Catholic church St. Dominic’s was attacked with indiscriminate firing that killed 17 worshippers. In March 2002, hand grenades were thrown in the Protestant International Church in Islamabad that killed six people, including a U.S. diplomat’s wife. Then in August 2002, the chapel of Taxila Christian Hospital was attacked where three nurses died.

Since then, no such serious attack on a church has taken place. Sources in Pakistan believe this implied the terrorists perceived they could not achieve their objectives by attacking Christians; their deaths did not appear to bring any change in international policies, neither does the beleaguered Christian community maintain any political strength that could be crippled by such attacks.

On the other hand, in Pakistan there have been incidents of mob violence against the Christians who make up only about 2.5 percent of the population.

In August 2009, seven Christians were burned to death in communal violence in Gojra, Punjab, and more than 100 houses were burned. In March this year, more than 50 houses were set on fire on the pretext of blasphemy, in the city of Lahore. Such incidents have been routinely taking place, and their recurrence has dramatically increased since 9/11.

Compensation for Victims

On Monday, Pakistan People’s Party Member of the National Assembly Nafisa Shah, along with her father, the Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, and Senator Raza Rabbani, visited the injured in the Lady Reading Hospital. Shah told World Watch Monitor the visit was heart-rending and brought tears to every eye.

“This is not an attack on just one community but on the entire country,” she said.

Shah also urges the provincial and federal governments to bring the culprits to task and to provide maximum compensation to the bereaved families. The provincial chief minister has promised $6,000 compensation for every bereaved family and $2,000 for every person injured in the attacks.

However, the Civil Society Organisations Network in Islamabad describes such offers as a “huge insult” to the bereaved and says political denunciations of the perpetrators as “inhuman” are at odds with plans for peace talks with the Pakistan Taliban.

The government has ordered three days of national mourning, following the example of all church institutions, which have closed for three days of prayer and peaceful protests.

Muhammad Ramzan Chaudhry, chairman of Free Legal Aid Committee and Pakistan Bar Council, has offered affected families free legal assistance to pursue their claims for compensation. He says Pakistan faces a “fast-deteriorating law-and-order situation, and the utter failure of law enforcement agencies to check and control such terrorist attacks, which now have become a routine affair.”

What the country needs now, he says, is “a foolproof practical strategy and plan for improving law and order, to ensure the safety and security of all, especially the minorities.”

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

WORLD WATCH MONITOR

Christians Fear Fresh Attacks After Pakistan Church Bombing.


PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A devastating double suicide attack on a church in northwest Pakistan has triggered fears among the country’s beleaguered Christian community that they will be targeted in a fresh wave of Islamist violence.

The blasts that tore through the congregation at All Saints church in Peshawar after the service on Sunday morning, killing 82 people, are believed to be the deadliest attack ever on Pakistan‘s small Christian community.

The country has been wracked by years of Islamist violence and a rising tide of sectarian attacks among Muslims, but before now the biggest concern among Christians has usually been mob violence triggered by blasphemy allegations.

Shaloom Nazir, 14, was getting ready for Bible study at the 100-year-old church when the bombers struck just before noon.

In an instant he lost his mother, father, sister, brother, and uncle.

“I was going to sit down in the church for a Bible class when I heard the explosion, so I ran out,” Shaloom Nazir told AFP, his voice choked with grief, his eyes fixed lifelessly on some distant point. “There were about 300 people lying on the ground. I recognized my mother, I took her in my arms.”

It was to no avail — she later died of her injuries.

The walls of the courtyard were pockmarked with the ragged metal ball bearings that had been packed into the suicide bombers’ explosive vests to cause maximum carnage.

Many Pakistani Christians are the descendants of low-caste ancestors who converted during the days of British rule, and most are poor, relegated to dirty, undesirable jobs.

They make up just two percent of Pakistan’s 180 million population and have suffered attacks and riots in recent years over allegations of profaning the Koran or Prophet Mohammed.

Sectarian violence between majority Sunni Muslims and the Shiites, who make up about 20 percent of the population, has risen alarmingly in recent years, but Christians have largely escaped the bloodshed.

Sunday’s carnage has raised fears that this might change.

“We have been treated like sinners. We have no lands, we have no factories, we have no business,” said Saleem Haroon, who came to see two wounded cousins at Peshawar’s main Lady Reading hospital.

“It is a new war. Before, the Shias were the target, but now we are the target. They want to create a new battle, a new battleground.”

In a corner of a room at the hospital, the blood of some of the victims mingled on the tiled floor with rubbish and dirty water.

“We are just sweepers and still we have been treated like this. Look over there in the washroom,” he said, gesturing angrily at the mess. “If all the Christians die, who will clean it? All the sweepers died yesterday.”

Danish Yunas, 35, a driver who was lucky to escape from the blast with just a leg wound, said Christians and Muslims had got on well in the past, but he feared those days were at an end.

“We had very good relations with the Muslims — there was no tension before that blast, but we fear that this is the beginning of a wave of violence against the Christians,” he told AFP.

The Bishop of Peshawar, Humphrey Peters, said he had asked the authorities to review security for Christians but to no avail.

“I am afraid that this is the beginning, it can spread to the rest of Pakistan. We are the soft target. The Christians are the soft target,” he told AFP. “We are the poorest of the poor in this particular region and then we are also marginalized.”

A militant faction linked to the Pakistani Taliban claimed Sunday’s attack, but the main spokesman for the umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group denied responsibility.

The government has proposed talks with the Taliban and TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said the church bombing was an attempt to sour the atmosphere.

Speaking in London on Sunday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the government was “unable to proceed further” with talks following the church attack.

Thousands of angry Christians protested around Pakistan on Monday to demand better protection from the authorities.

In the poor, grimy streets around All Saints church, they raged against the national government in Islamabad and in particular against the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government led by former cricketer Imran Khan‘s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

“We have been betrayed. . . . Yesterday, none of the government came here,” said teacher Asif Nawab outside the church.

PTI came to power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in elections in May on the promise of a “tsunami” of change.

But after losing most of her family in the attack, Shaloom’s aunt Afia Zaheen was left to wonder if the change that had come was a new fear of attacks.

“In the elections Imran Khan said this is a tsunami, it will bring change, but where is the tsunami? Is this the change?” she said.

© AFP 2013

Source: NEWSmax.com

Islam Is The Greatest Threat To World Peace Since Hitler’s Nazis.


The religion of peace continues its evil ascent

Islamic jihadism continues to cast its dark shadow across the world. The atrocity in the Nairobi shopping center is a chilling reminder of the global reach of this vile ideology.

islam-terror-attacks-hitler-nazis-threat-world-peace

They act like Nazis and look like the Ku Klux Klan. The shocking slaughter in Nairobi is the true face of Islamic fundamentalism

The reported death toll now stands at 62, with most of the victims singled out simply because they were not Muslims. That is sectarianism at its most lethal, where every last ounce of humanity is obliterated by a pitiless dogma.

Although the horror is still unfolding at the Westgate mall, it now seems certain that the attack was carried out by the Al-Shabaab group, a Somalian terror cell linked to the Al-Qaeda network.

RELATED SITE: Bare Naked Islam

Houses in the more affluent areas of the city had become mini-fortresses, complete with security grilles and metal doors. Now, as the corpses are removed from the Westgate center, all the grimmest forebodings have been realized.

Al-Shabaab’s attack in Nairobi has largely been a murderous reaction to the decision by the Kenyan Government in 2011 to send troops into Somalia, under the umbrella of the African Union, to smash the terror regime there.

But we should not pretend that the loud-voiced grievances of the jihadists throughout the world have a shred of justification. The focus of their supposed victimhood varies — they blame anything from American foreign policy to the plight of the Palestinians — but their real aim is the same.

They want to establish a Muslim caliphate across the world, where Islam and sharia law reign supreme. In this religious empire, there is no room for dissent or democracy, no space for compromise or conciliation.

That is why, wherever they operate, the Muslim hardliners are so intolerant. The goal is totalitarian, their methods pure bigotry.

Only this weekend, while one gang of Islamic terrorists was causing mayhem in Nairobi, another gang was murdering 75 Christians at a church in the city of Peshawar in Pakistan, with another 110 innocent worshippers wounded.

And while we in Britain look on in horror at these appalling events in distant lands, the fact is that we cannot pretend that we are immune from the malevolent impact of the zealots in our own country.

It is not just that we have endured a number of serious terrorist attacks in recent years, most notably the London transport bombings in 2007. It is also the deeply worrying social and cultural influence of Muslim fundamentalism within Britain.

The aim of true multi-racialism should be to promote tolerance, understanding and integration. These are vital qualities if our increasingly diverse society is to function successfully.

The extremists are pushing in precisely the opposite direction, their eagerness to impose their fundamentalist, alien values is undermining harmony, with suspicion and division rising in their place.

Islam will dominate

Only this weekend, this was graphically symbolised by reports of events at the Al-Madinah school in Derby, a free school established last year to cater mainly for Muslim pupils. Sadly, the hardliners appear to have taken over its management already.

It’s claimed that, in defiance of all British traditions of tolerance, girls and boys are segregated at the school; that even non-Muslim staff are required to wear the hijab, the Muslim headscarf; and that stringed instruments, singing, the telling of fairy tales and even the use of the word ‘pig’ have all been banned. Such superstitious, divisive nonsense should have no place in a British school.

We are not living in rural Pakistan or a Taliban-run region in Afghanistan. Apart from anything else, the pupils are being deprived of a proper, rounded education and therefore will not have the same life chances in adulthood.

For far too long, the British authorities have turned a blind eye — out of misguided fear of being seen as racist — to the creeping prevalence of militant Islam in our midst. 

If the British authorities continue to allow the Islamic hardliners to have their way in the name of choice when it comes to segregating boys from girls in schools, or sharia courts, or insisting that women should be allowed to wear veils in all circumstances, then those hardliners will feel they are pushing at an open door.

We must, sadly, accept that there are people in our midst who want to see a hardline Islamist caliphate in Britain. And while the security and intelligence services are nothing less than heroic in their fight against Islamic extremists, continuing to foil terror plots on a regular basis, our civic institutions have in contrast been far too cowardly in their reluctance to challenge fundamentalism.

The shocking slaughter in Nairobi is the true face of Islamic fundamentalism. And we in Britain should never appease such a mentality. Read the whole article from Daily Mail UK

by Geoffrey Grider

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