PAKISTAN – Government confirms notorious “blasphemy” laws to remain unchanged; Christian blasphemy suspect is granted bail after three years
Pakistan’s religious affairs minister has announced there will be no change to the country’s “blasphemy” laws. Previous attempts to amend the harsh legislation have been largely blocked and those proposing changes have faced threats and intimidation. Although the majority charged under the laws are Muslims, Christians and other minorities are disproportionately targeted, and blasphemy accusations are often exploited to settle personal grudges. Those convicted can face the death penalty – for “defiling the name” of Muhammad – however, to date no one has been executed, although several Christians are among those on death row. On 1 February, Adnan Prince, a Christian from Lahore, was granted bail after three years behind bars; despite several charges being dropped he remains accused of insulting Muhammad.
From Dawn News and Pakistani Tribune
SUDAN – Czech aid worker given life sentence and Sudanese pastor and student 12 years after highlighting plight of Sudanese Christians
A court in Khartoum has sentenced a Czech aid worker and filmmaker to life imprisonment for “espionage” after he documented the plight of persecuted Christians. Petr Jacek was jailed for “disseminating reports … including alleged persecution of Christians … and the bombardment of civilian populated areas in the Nuba mountains”; a Sudanese pastor and a Sudanese Christian student were each sentenced to twelve years in prison for assisting him.
Following the secession of South Sudan in 2011, the Sudanese government has intensified efforts to make Sudan a pure Islamic state, by eradicating the Christian community from southern regions, including the Nuba mountains.
From Sudan Tribune here
INDIA – Hindu mob cause shutdown of church service in Shanti Nagar, Chhattisgarh
A Hindu mob, around 300 strong, invaded a church service in Shanti Nagar, Chhattisgarh on Sunday 29 January. They argued with the pastor, man-handled members of the congregation and vandalised vehicles parked outside the church. Later that day, a group also stormed the pastor’s house. Police intervened, but subsequently ordered the pastor to cease holding services in the church. The persecution of Indian Christians has increased since Narendra Modi, leader of the Hindu nationalist BJP party, became Prime Minister in 2014. The response to Christian persecution from law enforcement is routinely poor, with Chhattisgarh highlighted as a region of concern.
From Global Christian News here
TURKEY – Report on persecution in 2016 highlights rise in anti-Christian media reports
Anti-Christian media reports showed a marked increase in 2016, according to analysis by the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey. Media outlets displayed New Testaments alongside “terrorist propaganda” confiscated by law enforcement, who have cracked down on dissent following the apparent attempted coup in July 2016. Authorities also continued to prevent believers from establishing legal places of worship: in Yalova province, the municipal parliament approved land for a church, before later reversing the decision; the 1,000 Christians in the province still have no official church building. Anti-Christian billboards and leaflets were also widely in evidence during Christmas and New Year.
From Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey here
GAMBIA – New president announces country will no longer be called “Islamic republic”
Gambia’s new president, Adama Barrow, has announced that the country will no longer officially be called an Islamic republic, reversing the decision made by his predecessor in 2015. There had been encouraging signs that Barrow, a Muslim, who was a successful property developer before running for office, would begin a new era of positive relations with the country’s Christian minority. But this courageous announcement appears to signal a significant step away from the Islamist agenda promoted by Gambia’s previous president.
From Global Christian News here
PAKISTAN – Punjab regional government opposes draft law against forced conversion
The northern regional government of the state of Punjab is opposing legislation to criminalise forced conversion and marriage. The “Protection of Minorities Act” was tabled in the Punjab assembly last month. But progress has been delayed, as officials are demanding central government funding to provide safe houses for victims of abduction. A law criminalising forced conversion and marriage was passed by the parliament in the southern state of Sindh in November, but is currently being reviewed following opposition from Islamists. At least 700 Christian and 300 Hindu girls are kidnapped and forced into marriages with Muslims every year in Pakistan.
From Christians in Pakistan here
ZIMBABWE - Christian pastor denied UK visa, arrested on return to Zimbabwe
In December we raised concerns about a whole string of Christian leaders including bishops and archbishops who in the previous twelve months had been denied visit visas to speak in the UK about persecution in their own countries. Now one of those men, Zimbabwean pastor, Evan Mawarire, who for the past six months has been in the USA, has been arrested on his return to Zimbabwe. To date the UK Home Office have not provided an adequate explanation for why Christian leaders such as Evan were refused UK visit visas, merely stating that each application was “considered on its individual merits, in line with UK immigration rules and guidance” – implying that they consider the right decisions were made.
See BBC report