Tag Archives: Christians

Christmas peace train inaugurated in Pakistan

The train will run across the country to showcase unity & harmony with Christians on the eve of Christmas

Pakistan | Dec 22, 2016, 06.44 PM (IST) – Pakistan Minister for Railways Khuwaja Saad Rafique inaugurated the Christmas peace train on Thursday in a move to showcase minority outreach.

The train started its journey from Rawalpindi on Thursday and is scheduled to reach Karachi on December 31, 2016, Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported.

Christians in Pakistan make up for one of the two largest (non-Muslim) religious minorities along with Hindus.

The total number of Christians in Pakistan was estimated to be 1.6% of the population in 2005.

The minister, while addressing the inauguration ceremony, said Christians played a key role in the development and prosperity of Pakistan.

“The white colour of our national flag denotes minority groups, and it is incomplete without them,” he said, adding that this train would serve as a symbol of unity, tranquility and harmony wherever it would go.

Read more » WIONEWS
See more » http://www.wionews.com/south-asia/christmas-peace-train-inaugurated-in-pakistan-10441

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IS ‘abducts Syrian Christians’

Islamic State militants ‘abduct Christians’ in Syrian town

Islamic State militants have abducted dozens of people, many Christian, from a Syrian town captured on Thursday from pro-regime forces, reports say.

They were seized when the jihadists swept through al-Qaryatain in Homs province, monitoring groups say.

Many of the Christians had fled to al-Qaryatain to escape fighting in Aleppo province to the north.

Islamic State (IS) has treated Christians harshly in other places under its control.

The group follows its own extreme version of Sunni Islam and has previously ordered Christians to convert, pay jizya (a religious levy), or face death.

Read more » BBC
See more » http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33818386

How One Pakistani Town Mastered Religious Tolerance

By 

Pakistan has become synonymous with terrorism. On most local and international news channels, we hear about minorities getting slaughtered at the hands of extremists; attacks on temples, churches, imambargahs; or the forced conversions of Hindus and Christians in the country.

I reckon you might be pleasantly surprised to know that there is a small town in Tharparkar, a district of the Sindh province where none of this is happening.

Mithi is one of the few towns in Pakistan where Muslims do not form the majority. In this quiet portion of a sprawling desert, both Hindus and Muslims have lived together like brothers since the creation of Pakistan.

In November 2014, when I was selected for a three-week fellowship program in the United States, I met a gentleman from Sindh who was also among my batch. He introduced himself like this:

“I am a Hindu from Sindh, but throughout my life I have lived with Muslims and this is why during Ramazan, we fast along with them; and when it is Muharram, us Hindu boys lead the procession because this is the culture which Sufism has given us.”

I was dumbstruck at the idea of a Hindu fasting in Ramazan or leading a Muharram procession. Was this actually true?

Then, in February this year, I happened to travel to Tharparkar with friends to view the drought-affected areas and launch some projects to overcome the disaster that hits every year. After a 20-hour arduous road and rail journey, I finally reached the quaint little town of Mithi, and here I experienced what I had never expected to see in a Pakistani town.

Mithi is as sweet as the name it has been given. Approximately 80 percent of the population here is Hindu. It is a town where Muslims, out of respect for Hindus, do not slaughter cows; and where Hindus, out of respect for Muslim rites, have never organised any marriage ceremonies or celebrations during the month of Muharram.

Not only that, the Hindus of Mithi also happily participate in providing food and drinks for Muslims during Ramazan, and both groups exchange sweets on Eid and Diwali. The crime rate in Mithi is at two percent and never has anyone witnessed any incident of religious intolerance.

Continue reading How One Pakistani Town Mastered Religious Tolerance

Tens of thousands of Muslims flee Christian militias in Central African Republic

By Sudarsan Raghavan

Tens of thousands of Muslims are fleeing to neighboring countries by plane and truck as Christian militias stage brutal attacks, shattering the social fabric of this war-ravaged nation.

In towns and villages as well as here in the capital, Christian vigilantes wielding machetes have killed scores of Muslims, who are a minority here, and burned and looted their houses and mosques in recent days, according to witnesses, aid agencies and peacekeepers. Tens of thousands of Muslims have fled their homes.

The cycle of chaos is fast becoming one of the worst outbreaks of violence along Muslim-Christian fault lines in recent memory in sub-Saharan Africa, tensions that have also plagued countries such as Nigeria and Sudan.

The brutalities began to escalate when the country’s first Muslim leader,Michel Djotodia, stepped down and went into exile last month. Djotodia, who had seized power in a coup last March, had been under pressure from regional leaders to resign. His departure was meant to bring stability to this poor country, but humanitarian and human rights workers say there is more violence now than at any time since the coup.

“Civilians remain in constant fear for their lives and have been largely left to fend for themselves,” Martine Flokstra, emergency coordinator for the aid agency Doctors Without Borders, said in a statement Friday, adding that the violence had reached “extreme and unprecedented” levels.

On Friday, thousands of Muslims hopped aboard trucks packed with their possessions, protected by soldiers from Chad, and drove out of Bangui, as Christians cheered their departures or tried to loot the trucks as they drove through Christian areas. At least one Muslim man, who fell from a truck, was killed by a mob. Meanwhile, thousands more Muslims huddled at the airport in a crowded hangar, waiting to be evacuated.

“They are killing Muslims with knives,” said Muhammed Salih Yahya, 38, a shopkeeper, making a slitting motion across his throat. He arrived at the airport Wednesday from the western town of Yaloke with his wife and five children. “I built my house over two years, but the Christians destroyed it in minutes. I want to leave.”

Christians have also been victims of violence, targeted by Muslims in this complex communal conflict that U.N. and humanitarian officials fear could implode into genocide. Several hundred thousand Christians remain in crowded, squalid camps, unable or too afraid to return home.

Read more » The Washington Post
Learn more » http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/tens-of-thousands-of-muslims-flee-christian-militias-in-central-african-republic/2014/02/07/5a1adbb2-9032-11e3-84e1-27626c5ef5fb_story.html

Is India getting messed up like Pakistan?

Modi under pressure over minister’s tirade against non-Hindus

By Reuters

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is under growing pressure to sack a minister over a tirade she made against religious minorities, as his outraged opponents disrupted parliament for a second day on Wednesday.

Niranjan Jyoti, the junior minister for food processing industries, asked whether the country should be governed by “the children of Ram (a Hindu god) or the children of bastards” at an election rally.

The comment was widely believed to have been an attack on the legitimacy of the country’s Muslim and Christian minorities.

Read more » DAWN
See more » http://www.dawn.com/news/1148524/modi-under-pressure-over-ministers-tirade-against-non-hindus

Why St George is a Palestinian hero

By Yolande Knell, BBC News

As England celebrates the day of its patron saint, many Palestinians are gearing up for their own forthcoming celebrations of the figure they also regard as a hero.

A familiar flag flaps in the wind above a Palestinian church in the West Bank village of al-Khadr.

The red cross on a white background has been associated with Saint George since the time of the Crusades.

It is the national flag of England and is also used as an emblem by other countries and cities that have adopted him as their own patron saint.

However, Palestinians have particular reason to display the symbol and revere the early Christian martyr. For them he is a local hero who opposed the persecution of his fellow Christians in the Holy Land.

“We believe he was a great martyr for his faith who defended the Christian faith and values,” says Greek Orthodox Archbishop Atallah Hanna.

“By making sacrifices for his faith he was able to defeat evil. We take St George as a patron for people living here – and as he was born in historic Palestine, we pray to him to remember us and this holy land.”

St George was a Roman soldier during the Third Century AD, when the Emperor Diocletian was in power. It is said that he once lived in al-Khadr near Bethlehem, on land owned by his mother’s family.

While the saint’s father is usually traced back to Cappadocia, an area in modern Turkey, it is believed his mother was Palestinian from Lydda – now Lod, in Israel.

Read more » BBC
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27048219

 

Christian Church opens doors to Muslims

By Divya Talwar, BBC

St John’s Episcopal Church has opened its doors to Muslims for Friday prayers

On a bitterly cold and snowing afternoon in Aberdeen, the doors of St John’s Episcopal Church are open to hundreds of Muslim worshippers, arriving for daily prayers.

The familiar sounds of Christian hymns have been replaced with Islamic prayer in the chapel this Friday lunchtime and the church priest with the imam from the neighbouring mosque.

Read more » BBC
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-21953899

Central India aflame with attacks on Christians

The state of Chhattisgarh, in central India, is gaining a reputation for continued attacks by Hindu nationalists on Christians. Chhattisgarh, which borders the states of Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, is the scene where well-known Hindu extremist groups are persecuting religious minorities and continue to accuse Christians of “forced conversions.” It was in nearby Orissa in 2008 that scores of Christian churches and homes were burned, while Christians were murdered. An investigation of the atrocities remains inconclusive.

Last week, a Christian place of worship was incincerated in Kondagaon district in Chhattisgarh. According to a report by the Fides news agency, the Evangelical Fellowship of India, which brings together several evangelical Christian communities, built a chapel of wood and straw in the village Chhote Salna. The chapel was burned down on the evening of April 2 as local Christians looked on helplessly. The land on which the church stood had been donated by local Christians, who came to worship there from elsewhere in the district.

Continue reading Central India aflame with attacks on Christians

Talbanisation of Pakistan and plight of Christians and Ahmadiya Muslims

Pakistan seems to be on the brink of religious anarchy. Talbanization of the country has turned Punjab province into a hell for the Christian and Ahmadiya religious minorities. Does country intend to adopt the path of harmony? Silence is the only answer, for now!

On the pretext of blasphemy, around two hundred houses of innocent Christians were set on fire a couple of weeks ago by a fanatic mob led by extremist organizations in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province of Pakistan. This has recently been followed by insurrecting Ahmadiya Muslim minority’s houses in the province. Violence against religious minorities has been on the increase in the most populous province of the country.

Fear and fury has gripped Pakistani Christians and Ahmadiya Muslims; some of them have fled the province while others are considering fleeing Pakistan. The issue has raised the concerns of international community, particularly the western governments.

The shadow of continuous Hindu exodus has already created fury in Sindh province. Blazing a couple hundred houses of Christians has not only jolted the country, emotionally, but has also pointed towards insensitivity of liberal middle class towards minorities. In fact, the eastern-Indus Pakistan has lurched in the psychological chaos. Needless to mention, the western-Indus is already undergoing Taliban and Baloch insurgencies.

Continue reading Talbanisation of Pakistan and plight of Christians and Ahmadiya Muslims

Death by a thousand cuts

By Farahnaz Ispahani

After each act of violence against religious minorities, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi or Sipah-e-Sahaba proudly own up to it without fear of punishment

The recent mob attack on Christians in Lahore, resulting in the burning down of over one hundred Christian homes while the police stood by, is a reminder of how unsafe Pakistan has become for religious minorities. The attacks on Christians follows a rising tide of attacks on Pakistan’s Shia Muslims, sometimes mischaracterised in the media as the product of sectarian conflict. In reality, these increasingly ferocious attacks reflect the ambitious project of Islamists to purify Pakistan, making it a bastion of a narrow version of Islam Sunni. Pakistan literally translates as “the land of the pure”. But, what started in an imperceptible way as early as the 1940s, picking up momentum in the 1990s, is a drive to transform Pakistan into a land of religious purification.

Muslim groups such as the Shias that account for possibly 20-25% of Pakistan’s Muslim population and Non-Muslim minorities such as Christians, Hindus and Sikhs have been target-killed, forcibly converted, kidnapped and had their religious places bombed and vandalised with alarming regularity. At the time of partition in 1947, Pakistan had a healthy 23% of its population comprise non-Muslim citizens. Today, the proportion of non-Muslims has declined to approximately three per cent. The distinctions among Muslim denominations have also become far more accentuated over the years.

Continue reading Death by a thousand cuts

Religious bigotry and Pakistani Christians

If you dare to raise your voice against the hostilities and ill-treatment Christians are enduring, it would either be declared as ‘blasphemous’ or you would be labelled as an agent of the firangi

by Adil Shahzeb

I have received tremendous feedback for my last article, “Pakistan, the game of religious bigotry” (Daily Times, November 10, 2012), but one email in particular has compelled me to touch on the challenges faced by the Christian community in Pakistan. I had mentioned Christians just once in my last article, but not enough about the biased and highly unfair treatment that they face throughout their lives. In Pakistan’s religious bigotry, the most deprived of all are the Christians, the ‘minority’ that only gets media attention if accused of ‘blasphemy’ or as a Muslim convert. According to the UK-based Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement, “Christians in Pakistan are illiterate, suffering in extreme poverty and unemployment among Christians has increased to an unprecedented level.” The statistical data indicates that only six percent have primary school education; four percent of Christians have high school education, one percent of Christians have college education, and next to no presence in higher studies and professional education.

I had no idea that my article in Daily Times would take me right back to my childhood to reflect upon the ills of our society. Now that I am writing I am reminded of a classmate, the most bullied child at school, who was not even allowed to sit with the other children or to be precise, no other pupil would prefer to willingly share a desk with him unless as a punishment by the teacher for not doing his homework. He was the only Christian child in the entire school who would stand with his lunch box in a corner of the playground during recess and was never allowed by the other children to play with them. For obvious reasons he failed all of his exams three years in row until he was forced to leave. Back then I never understood how deprived he was, but now I really feel for the mental torture and the traumatised childhood he endured. Of course it does not matter at all in Pakistan what Article Five of the Universal Declaration of Human Right states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

It is not only how an underprivileged Christian child is treated at school. When he grows up in our highly radicalised society he is told: the only job that suits you is to clean the streets of Pakistan as that was how your forefathers served this country. And it does not stop there; you also will not have a say in the country’s mainstream affairs including politics; you would hardly be considered for any white-collar job, and last but certainly not the least, all your life your ‘non-Christian’ friends would look down upon you, and you would most probably be the victim of bullying forever. Even though your educational institutions and the broken society would only groom you as the next generation of lowly worker, if you somehow manage to grow up with a good education and competence, most of the jobs that you would opt for would be for non-Christians. However if despite that, you do manage to secure a decent job, you could face a similar hostile work environment that you went through at your school.

Continue reading Religious bigotry and Pakistani Christians

When a state is dysfunctional

By: Abbas Nasir

WHO knows what a failed state is? Such definitions are for the academics and experts. But what one can easily ascertain is a state that is dysfunctional.

For what would you call a state that has neither the power to generate resources and tax those who need to be taxed, nor the system or even the need to ensure that it accounts for what it spends? It can keep piling up a huge deficit without question and have nothing to show for it.

What would you call a state that cannot deliver the very least: the safety of life and limb to its citizens? Where if you particularly happened to be in the smaller provinces the only thing you could get by on is your faith. Yes, God remains the only recourse.

Continue reading When a state is dysfunctional

Black Day – RALLY AGAINST STATE-SPONSORED PERSECUTION OF SINDHI HINDUS IN PAKISTAN

London (Press release) – 24th February is a black day in the history of Pakistan. On 24th Feb 2012, a Sindhi girl, Rinkle Kumari was kidnapped by a Member of Pakistani Parliament belonging to so-called democratic party, Peoples Party and judiciary approved forceful conversion in the court despite girl cried in front of the media that she had been kidnapped. It is reported that 20 to 25 girls are kidnapped from Sindhi Hindu community each month to harass and victimize the indigenous Sindhi people.

Members of religious minorities – Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, and Ahmedis are being kidnapped, killed and converted. Their worship places are occupied or destroyed!! The international conscience to support Sindhi people in their struggle to save women and their human right being violated from religious bigots.

Location: Opposite Pakistan High Commission, London 34 – 36 Lowndes Square SW1X 9JN, Nearest Tube Station: Knightsbridge

Organised by: World Sindhi Congress (WSC), International Sindhi Women Organization (ISWO)

2000 Muslims, Christians, Jews and Hindus march together in New York

Souls March: Thousands of Shia and Sunni Muslims march in New York against Shia genocide in Pakistan

NEW YORK — More than 2,000 Shiite and Sunni Muslims along with Christians, Jews and other communities marched in the streets of New York to voice their anger at the Pakistani government and the military for what they called a “genocide” of Shia Muslims in Pakistan. The demonstration was named “Souls March” to pay homage to an estimated 20,000 Shia Muslims killed in Pakistan …..

Read more » LUBP

Sindhi woman leader to brief US Congress on plight of Hindus, Christians

A highly respected Sindhi woman leader from the hometown of slain premier Benazir Bhutto would brief the American Congress on the slave-like status of Pakistan’s Hindu and Christian women Thursday.

Dr. Rubina Greenwood, who belongs to a family of scholars and intellectuals from Larkano, Sindh, and is a Briton now, will partake in the Congressional Briefing on Minority Women’s Rights in Pakistan. She will inform the congress of the daily abductions, forced conversions and rape in the garb of marriages of minority Hindu and Christian women in Pakistan.

The Washington DC based Hindu American Foundation has organized the briefing.

The status of Hindu and Christian women in Pakistan is like that of modern day slaves. These minorities are routinely hounded under the draconian blasphemy law that carries the death sentence.

Continue reading Sindhi woman leader to brief US Congress on plight of Hindus, Christians

Exploiting the Prophet

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

“PISS CHRIST,” a famous photograph partly financed by taxpayers, depicted a crucifix immersed in what the artist said was his own urine. But conservative Christians did not riot on the Washington Mall.

“The Book of Mormon,” a huge hit on Broadway, mocks the church’s beliefs as hocus-pocus. But Mormons haven’t burned down any theaters.

So why do parts of the Islamic world erupt in violence over insults to the Prophet Muhammad?

Let me try to address that indelicate question, and a related one: Should we curb the freedom to insult religions that are twitchy?

First, a few caveats. For starters, television images can magnify (and empower) crazies. In Libya, the few jihadis who killed Ambassador Chris Stevens were vastly outnumbered by the throngs of Libyan mourners who apologized afterward.

Remember also that it’s not just Muslims who periodically go berserk, but everybody — particularly in societies with large numbers of poorly educated young men. Upheavals are often more about demography than about religion: the best predictor of civil conflict is the share of a population that is aged 15 to 24. In the 19th century, when the United States brimmed with poorly educated young men, Protestants rioted against Catholics.

For much of the postwar period, it was the secular nationalists in the Middle East who were seen as the extremists, while Islam was seen as a calming influence. That’s why Israel helped nurture Hamas in Gaza.

That said, for a self-described “religion of peace,” Islam does claim a lot of lives.

In conservative Muslim countries, sensitivities sometimes seem ludicrous. I once covered a Pakistani college teacher who was imprisoned and threatened with execution for speculating that the Prophet Muhammad’s parents weren’t Muslims. (They couldn’t have been, since Islam began with him.)

Continue reading Exploiting the Prophet

Catch-44: Takfiri intolerance and Shia genocide in Pakistan – by Mujahid Kamal Mir

Pakistan’s 65-year history of missed opportunities seized by other rapidly developing nations like Korea, Turkey, etc, tainted by military coups, political infighting and a form of crony capitalism that has stifled its economy were enough of the destablisers, and when it seemed like it could not go any worse, the cat dragged in the leviathan of religious and ethnic terrorism. The barbaric acts of cruelty against Christians, Ahmedis and in particular Shiites this country has witnessed over the past few years, all in the name of religion and God, can bring the likes of Ivan the Terrible and Attila the Hun to tears.

Literati and commentators blame the former military dictator General Ziaul Haq for making it a state policy to fund and arm Wahabi groups in the 1980s. It is an established fact that the general used these organisations primarily against the Shiites at the behest of the state financier, Saudi Arabia. Shiites had natural sympathies with Iran because of religious and emotional proximity and there was no doubt that Saudi Arabia was supporting Wahabi groups through General Zia to kill Iran’s support in Pakistan, and hence Pakistan became a battleground for the war between two states striving for regional hegemony. In retrospect, this war did not actually start in the 1980s as per the famous Indian writer, M J Akbar. He states the animosity between the Sunni majority and the Shia minority in the subcontinent dates back to the Mughal era where the Mughal Emperor Humayun became a converted Shiite when he returned from Iran along with Shia preachers, which resulted in a mass conversion of Hindus to Shiite Islam. In later years, Aurangzeb persecuted Shiites, who by that time had grown in numbers. In short, this animosity has always been embedded in the very fabric of the subcontinent for hundreds of years, but always remained confined to discussions and dialogues among the religious clergy, popularly known as ‘manazara’, and were never militant.

Continue reading Catch-44: Takfiri intolerance and Shia genocide in Pakistan – by Mujahid Kamal Mir

Complainant against Rimsha mysteriously disappears

RAWALPINDI: Amad, the complainant and nephew of the landowner of Rimsha’s residence, mysteriously disappeared since the first information report (FIR) against the girl was lodged.

Khalid Chishti, the prayer leader at the Jamia Masjid Aminia, also accepted he had delivered a message from the mosque at Mera Jafar four months ago that Christians inhabiting the area should leave the place. …

Read more » The News

Christian group to hold conference on Pakistan blasphemy law

GENEVA: An influential Christian Church organisation will hold an international conference in Geneva next month on Pakistan’s blasphemy law, after an 11-year-old Pakistani Christian girl was detained on accusations of defaming Islam.

Religious and secular groups worldwide have protested over the arrest last week of Rifta Masih, accused by Muslim neighbours of burning verses from the Quran, Islam’s holy book.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) said the conference was intended to give a global platform to religious minorities in Pakistan “who are victimised in the name of its controversial blasphemy law” in cases which had brought death penalties and “mob-instigated violence.”

It will be addressed by representatives of the minorities: Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, dissenting Islamic sects – including Ahmadis and Shias, and by civil society groups defending them. The WCC said officials from the United Nations, where special human rights investigators on religious freedom have often criticised Pakistan’s blasphemy law, would also attend.

Continue reading Christian group to hold conference on Pakistan blasphemy law

Washington Post: Pakistani Christians flee in fear after Christian girl with Downs Syndrome is jailed of blasphemy

Pakistani Christians, fearing backlash, flee community after girl is accused of blasphemy

By: Richard Leiby

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Everyone in the teeming, tense community of Muslims and Christians just outside Islamabad seems to have a different story about the young girl and the Koran.

The 12-year-old Christian deliberately burned the Muslim holy book, some say. No, she innocently put pages from a non-sacred teaching text into the trash, say others, and nothing was burned. Still another version holds that an older Muslim boy planted pages of the Koran for the cleaning girl to find and then leveled the accusation of desecration because she had spurned him.

Amid the conflicting claims, this much is certain: As many as 600 Christians have fled their colony bordering the capital, fearing for their lives, officials said, after a mob last week called for the child to be burned to death as a blasphemer.

The girl, who authorities have described as mentally challenged, sits in jail in Rawalpindi, charged by police with blasphemy, while her family has been put in federal protective custody. The evidence against her is muddled at best, but police said they arrested her in part to assuage the mob and also because they knew she would be safer in jail.

“The one who burned the Koran should be burned,” said Shaukhat Ali, an assistant at the local mosque, expressing a sentiment shared by many Muslims in the community.

Continue reading Washington Post: Pakistani Christians flee in fear after Christian girl with Downs Syndrome is jailed of blasphemy

The Talibanisation of Society in Pakistan

Abandoned by their government, the poor of Pakistan have turned to the Taliban and other fundamentalist groups for support and solace. At the same time, a growing pressure for emancipation presses against fundamentalism. Which force will triumph? A report based on travel in rural Sindh.

By: Jan Breman (J.C.Breman@uva.nl) is professor emeritus at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Sciences, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

In her prison cell, Asia Bibi is waiting since 2010 for execution of the verdict brought against her. Blasphemy is the crime she has been accused of and for that gravest of sins the penalty is to be hanged. Why and how was she found guilty?

Asia Bibi is an agricultural labourer in Punjab, illiterate, mother of small children and Christian. When at work in the field as part of a female gang, she went to fetch water to drink and passed around the jug to her fellow workers. A few of them refused, saying that having touched her mouth, the spout had become unclean. Asia belongs to a low caste of Hindu origin that has been converted to Christianity. This attempt to escape from the stigma of untouchability has not ended the discrimination to which she is subjected.

Continue reading The Talibanisation of Society in Pakistan

I am ashamed ….

By: Raza Habib Raja

One of the most important days of my life occurred in 1994. At times a tragic event changes you as a person. They say and I agree that tragedy more than anything else has the potential to bring about change. Perhaps tragedy evokes negative emotions like hurt, fear, embarrassment and revulsion. Emotions which do not reinforce your existing state of mind but force you to look into the status quo with a critical eye.

That day changed my life forever. I had woken up and was reading the newspaper when a two column headline caught my eye. According to that news story, a crowd of several thousand had burnt a man alive as a punishment for desecrating Quran in the city of Gujranwala. The man’s name was Hafiz Sajjad Tariq and he had accidently dropped Quran on a burning stove. Being a religious person, he panicked and merely uttered words “ Oh God, I have sinned and burnt Quran”, words that were unfortunately heard by a neighbor who had just entered the house. The neighbor went out and started screaming hat Hafiz had burnt Quran.

What followed next was horrifying but perhaps not unusual. Soon there were announcements from the loud speakers (I hate that device) that Hafiz had burnt the Quran. The mullahs were urging Muslims to show their “love” for Islam and the Muslims in that city obliged. Hafiz was dragged out of his home and beaten up. At that point police came and took Hafiz into protective custody. But charged up Muslims wanted “justice” and so a mob of thousands gathered outside the police station and demanded that Hafiz should be handed over to them. The police buckled under pressure and handed Hafiz to the crowd. Crowd stoned him to death and then burnt his body. Afterwards the burnt corpse was dragged in the streets.

I felt a nauseated revulsion and just put the newspaper down. That fateful day changed my life forever. That incident demonstrated the flip side of “reverence” of religion. It showed that one could easily vent out his/her (by the way some of our Muslim sisters also actively participated) gutter instincts under the excuse of “reverence”.

Continue reading I am ashamed ….

Forced faith or force of faith?

By: Waris Husain

Excerpt;

…… When the decision by the Pakistani Supreme Court was released, a commentator on twitter noted that Rinkle Kumari, one of the three females in the case, was showing signs of Stockholm Syndrome. Neither the commentator nor I have the credentials to administer a psychological diagnosis to Ms. Kumari, now known as Faryal Bibi. However, let us think of the hundreds of other cases that have existed throughout Pakistan’s history where Hindus, Sikhs, or Christians were converted against their will.

Stockholm Syndrome has been described as a condition where an individual is abducted or kidnapped, and begins to empathise with their captor to the point that they defend their actions. In evolutionary psychology, theories have been developed that explain the evolutionary benefit of the Syndrome. When humans lived in hunter gatherer societies, clans of men would continually fight one another, and women would be taken as “victory prizes.” The women who protested their capture were regularly killed, while the ones who adjusted to life with their brutal captors survived.

Therefore, one should examine the case of religious minorities in Pakistan from this brutal, archaic, and outdated perspective. Potential converts are born into a society that subjects them to massive social and institutional discrimination, for public services and employment. Non-Muslims have been subject to murder, rape, or beatings merely for simply being born to a different religion in a nation where the right to spread Islam is more protected than the right of minorities to live in peace. In this environment, when a woman, child, or minority is converted to Islam, they could likely develop Stockholm Syndrome and embrace their new faith as an instinct to survive in a brutal society.

This raises a question that should be asked to the ‘gairatmand.’ Is the benefit of forcibly converting one individual to Islam worth jeopardising the validity of all the converts to their faith? Many say that the justice system is flawed if it mistakenly punishes one man, even when it rightfully punishes thousands. In that light, does the forced conversion of one soul not call into question the thousands of others that may have converted voluntarily?

There should be no societal benefit for belonging to the majority religion, just as there should be no detriment for being a minority. Therefore, one hopes that Parliament can address the societal discrimination at the heart of this issue by passing appropriate legislation. This legislation could thereafter be utilised and enforced through the Court. The Pakistani Constitution recognises the right to religion as fundamental, and despite contradictory laws that discriminate against minorities, a legislation is required to fairly deal with forcible conversions.

Read more » DAWN.COM

Kidnapped, Forced to Convert to Islam and Married to a Muslim – Sad Story of Rinkle Kumari

A friend on Facebook had status which said (Translated from Sindhi): “Mian Mithoo can harass a helpless, poor girl to say whatever he likes! Let us give this Pir of Bharchundi (alone) to the men of Bal Thackeray and he would convert (to Hinduism) in no time! (sic)”

Sindh has been known for its Sufi culture which has kept pushing the extremism off its borders. It has in it several shrines, religious harmony, coexistence and tolerance, not to mention the centuries-old civilization, Mohen-jo-Darro. Sindhis have always claimed to have secularism and Sufism to be present as if in their gene and, thus, they wouldn’t ever side with religious intolerance and extremism.

Well, this is true to a great extent since we can see that where Pakistan has seen surge in extremism throughout the post-9/11 period, Sindh has remained comparatively more peaceful and, especially, incidents of extremist activities have been equal to none. There definitely was an incidence of burning NATO oil tankers in Shikarpur, Sindh, but the same was condemned by the Sindhi nationalist parties attributing the incidence to the agencies trying to tarnish the soft image of Sindh; in fact, there were massive protests against the blazing up of the oil tankers throughout the land.

Sindh has been home to many religions, all coexisting peacefully. However, there have been certain incidents which would reveal the nature of the ‘rare’.

One such event which took place on the unfortunate day of November 02, 1939, which blotted the humane face of Sindh, was when a saintly Sufi singer and poet of humble and peace-loving nature, Bhagat Kunwar Ram was murdered at Rukk Station, Sukkur (Sindh) in the name of religion – for being a Hindu.

The person booked as the major perpetrator in the murder was Mian Abdur-Rahim of Bharchundi Dargah, a religious center in a small village of the same name. Bhrarchundi Dargah is famous for spreading hatred against the Hindus, and converting them to Islam forcibly for years now.

Thus, to many in Sindh, this news did not come as a surprise, but it did disturb them to come out on roads and protest against the Pirs of Bharchundi — what happened was that Rinkle Kumari, a Hindu teenage girl, was kidnapped on February 24, 2012, forced to convert to Islam and, subsequently, marry a Muslim boy, Naveed Shah (a Punjabi settler). And the person involved is none else than a Pir of Bharchundi Dargah, Mian Abdul Haq (popularly known as Mian Mithoo), the son of Mian Abdur-Rehman, the major perpetrator in the case of Bhagat Kunwar Ram’s murder in the past. Mian Mithoo also happens to be an MNA of the Pakistan People’s Party, the ruling party.

Continue reading Kidnapped, Forced to Convert to Islam and Married to a Muslim – Sad Story of Rinkle Kumari

Chief Justice urged to help recover ‘kidnapped’ Hindu girl – DAWN

By Bhagwandas

KARACHI, March 4: An alliance of minority parties on Sunday appealed to Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry to take a suo motu notice of the kidnapping of a Hindu girl and order her immediate return to her parents to restore the waning sense of security in the minorities.

Speaking at a protest demonstration staged outside the Karachi Press Club, Pakistan Minority Leaders Alliance representatives said they would launch a protest movement and stage a sit-in on March 10 if the authorities failed to recover the girl, Rinkle Kumari.

According to an uncle of the girl, Raj Kumar, she was kidnapped from her house in Mirpur Mathelo over a week ago and forced to marry Naveed Shah and change her religion. He alleged that the case was heard by a civil judge in Ghotki, but he did not allow her relatives to enter the courtroom while giving a verdict in favour of the ‘kidnapper’, Mr Shah.

Speaking on the occasion, Jeay Sindh Mahaz chief Riaz Chandio expressed solidarity with the minority community members and demanded arrest of and punishment to culprits involved in her kidnapping.

He said those belonging to religious minority groups, including Hindus, Christians and Sikhs, were sons of the soil. They should not feel threatened by such acts, as all Sindhis were one and that they were equal citizens and had equal rights, he said.

He said it was unfortunate that the girl was given in police custody instead of being sent to Darul Aman.

Mr Chandio announced that if “the daughter of Sindh” was not rescued and returned and culprits were not arrested soon and punished according to law, a province-wide sit-it would be staged on Saturday.

Manohar Lal, Muttahida Qaumi Movement lawmaker in the national assembly, condemned the kidnapping and forced conversion of a young girl. He urged the president to take notice of the incident.

He said Islam guaranteed protection to minorities, but such people were giving a bad name to the religion. With such incidents, a sense of insecurity was growing in the community, he said. Earlier their sons were kidnapped for ransom, but now their daughters were being kidnapped and forcibly converted, he remarked.

Jeay Sindh Taraqi Pasand Party leader Gulzar Soomro said that forced conversions were a conspiracy against Islam, which preaches love and peace and opposes use of force. He said the culprits were agents of the establishment that wanted to divide the Sindhis.

“Our patience should not be mistaken as our weakness,” he warned, seeking her immediate recovery.

A Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader and former lawmaker, Michael Javed, said the Quaid-i-Azam had said that the minorities would be equal citizens in Pakistan, but over the years the Quaid’s message was being forgotten.

Amar Lal, a community leader, said he and the girl’s uncle had met US consulate general staff a few days back and political counsellor Junaid J. Muneer had assured him that the issue would be taken up with the authorities concerned. He said he had also received a call from a former political counsellor of the US embassy in Islamabad, L.K. Robinson, who was currently in Washington. He told him that he would take up the issue with human rights organisations there.

Mahesh Singh, Mangla Sharma, Ramesh Kumar, Vijay Kumar and others also spoke.

Raj Kumar, the girl’s uncle, earlier informed the gathering that on Feb 24, a few armed men barged into her home in Mirpur Mathelo and kidnapped her at gunpoint.

He said a case was filed in a Ghotki court where he said she gave a statement about the threats she had received to convert and marry Naveed Shah or she and her entire family would be killed. He quoted her as saying in the court that she wanted to return and live with her parents.

He also alleged that the judge, in the presence of gunmen in the court, sent her to police custody rather than to her parents’ home or to a shelter home. The next hearing was scheduled to be held at 11am on Feb 27, but the case was heard at 8.15am and the girl’s family was not allowed to enter the courtroom, he said, adding that the judge then gave a verdict in favour of Mr Shah.

Mr Kumar urged the chief justice to take a suo motu notice of the issue and order her safe return to her parents.

Earlier, the participants in the demonstration chanted slogans such as ‘we want justice’ and ‘Rinkle be rescued’.

Courtesy: DAWN

A case of double standards

By Murtaza Razvi

It’s not only the West, but also Muslims who have double standards, Pakistanis and Arabs more so than others. While the West keeps mum over Israel’s excesses against Palestinians, its Nato ally Turkey’s suppression of Kurds, India’s policy towards Kashmiris, Bahrain’s and Saudi Arabia’s oppression of their Shia citizens, Western leaders cry from the rooftops for the rights of Syrian, Chinese, Iranian and North Korean people living under a tyranny.

The Yemeni president too comes across as an OK guy to Washington regardless of how much blood of his own people he has on his hands, but the Pakistan Army is singled out for assaulting the Baloch. The same army was a special, close ally outside Nato under Gen Musharraf, who had ordered the killing of the octogenarian Baloch leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti, and which in the first place sent Baloch nationalists into an open revolt against Islamabad. The US Congress back then did not give two hoots about the large number of Baloch youth who went ‘missing’— a euphemism for extra-judicial confinement or killing, which goes on in Balochistan. Ditto for the Guantanamo Bay inmates, who still languish in Camp X-Ray without trial.

And now about us and our double standards. We want our madressahs and hijabs and missionaries preaching in the UK, which readily obliges because it respects your right to practise your faith (France and even Turkey will not allow half as much freedom to their Muslim populations), but here in Pakistan we won’t have the Ahmadis call themselves Muslim even though they recite the same kalema and pray the same prayer; we won’t allow Christian missionaries either.

According to a thin but a loud minority in Pakistan, anyone who does not believe in the Taliban or the Saudi-like reading of Islam is a heretic, who must be converted or ‘banished to hell’, as the expression in Urdu goes. Farhat Hashmis of the world also go around preaching that even greeting a non-Muslim is akin to heresy.

The Gulf is another story altogether. Most our of brotherly oil-rich people — read very honourable men, for women hardly count — have their rules of engagement listed according to your nationalities, rather the race. A white man from the US, say a doctor, draws a much higher salary than his plebian Bangladeshi counterpart even if both are graduates of the same American medical school! But neither can go to church in the holy kingdom, for no such place exists there.

A friend narrates that whilst he was in Riyadha, a Hindu chap was picked by the religious police along with him because they were found loitering in the marketplace while a muezzin had already called the faithful to the prayer. The Muslim friend says that he went down on his knees and begged forgiveness for his felony from the officer who hit him on the head and let him go with a warning that next time Allah will not forgive him, while the Hindu fellow found himself in a bigger mess. When he, too, was tauntingly asked if he was Muslim, he replied in the negative and prompt came the next question in all its fury: ‘Why are you not Muslim?’ To which the poor chap had no answer. He too was eventually let go with a long and hard kick in the back, but with the warning that next time if he dared say he was a non-Muslim, he’d have to face a bit more than the wrath of Allah. This, my friend says, is not Islam but is definitely quite the Muslim conduct, for which many will, perhaps very wrongly, cite the backing of their religion.

Double standards abound. In the UAE Muslims can drink alcohol in a bar, but taking liquor is a punishable offence for them; in Qatar, it is your nationality, and not your faith, that decides whether you can legally consume alcohol: a Muslim from UAE, Turkey, Indonesia or India can, but a Muslim from Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia or Iran cannot.

Yes, Islam emphasises on equality in social justice, as was enshrined in the de facto constitution which the Prophet of Islam hammered out in consultation with all concerned, and which became the basis of running the first Islamic state at Madina. He declared the neighbouring Jews and Christian tribes with whom he entered into a truce as part of the Ummah, in which each individual was bound by the same set of rules, obligations and privileges regardless of his/her faith. This was a true pluralistic aspect of Islam which its Prophet implemented and enforced by consensus in his own lifetime in the 7th century CE.

Today the word Ummah has been robbed of its original meaning and popularly connotes Muslims only. Muslims who feel free to discriminate against non-Muslims in Muslim-majority countries, whilst demanding and enjoying equal rights in Muslim-minority countries. Thus, the modern pluralistic, secular state is more Islamic in its social justice regime than the few Islamic republics which have their minorities on tenterhooks.

Courtesy: DAWN.COM

Christian jihad against Christians in the 11th century – Christians perpetrating genocide on Christians

Cathars and Cathar Beliefs in the Languedoc

Afrikaans Kathaar, Catalan càtar, Czech Albigenstí, German Katharer, Eesti Katarid, Spanish Catarismo, Esperanto Katarismo, French Cathares, Italian Catari, Dutch Katharen, Norwegian Katarer, Polish Katarzy, Portuguese Catarismo, Slovenian Albigénstvo, Finnish Kataarit, Swedish Katarer.

The Cathars were a religious group who appeared in Europe in the eleventh century, their origins something of a mystery though there is reason to believe their ideas came from Persia by way of the Byzantine Empire, the Balkans and Northern Italy. Records from the Roman Catholic Church mention them under various names and in various places. Catholic theologians debated with themselves for centuries whether Cathars were Christian heretics or whether they were not Christians at all. The question is apparently still open. Roman Catholics still refer to Cathar belief as “the Great Heresy” though the official Catholic position is that Catharism is not Christian at all. ….

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