Friday, 24 June 2011

Congregation bids farewell to retired Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore

A thanksgiving mass was held for retired Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore which was attended by hundreds of Catholic clergy and laypeople; and all the diocese’s 58 priests at Lahore’s Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Archbishop Saldanha retired on April 7 this year, after heading Lahore archdiocese for almost 10 years. The speakers at the mass paid tribute to the retired prelate who “strongly supported inter-religious harmony and dialogue during a decade of the ‘war on terror’.” They recalled major instances of Christian persecution, all in Punjab province, under his tenure of office, including the assassination of Catholic federal minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti on March 2, this year.

Born: Lawrence John Saldanha in Mangalore, India on 12 Jun 1936.
Religious training: Christ the King seminary in Karachi and was ordained a priest in Lahore, Pakistan on 16 Jan 1960.
He also earned a doctorate in systematic theology from Rome-based Pontifical Urbaniana University. He participated in the Second Vatican Council.

- He served in different parishes in Lahore and was secretary of Caritas Pakistan 1966-73.
- He served 1971-74 as editor of the Catholic Naqib, the Archdiocese’s Urdu bimonthly.
- He was also rector of Christ the King Seminary in Karachi from 1974–1979 and taught dogmatic theology there until 1983.

- From 1986-98 he was head of the social communications commission and WAVE Studio, the Church's national audiovisual center in Lahore.
- He also headed the UCA News bureau in Pakistan.
- President of the Federation of Asian Bishop’s Conference
- Chairmanship of Radio Veritas.

- He was serving as associate pastor of Precious Blood Church in Toronto, Canada, when he was recalled to serve the Church in Pakistan.
- On 24 Apr 2001 he was appointed Archbishop of Lahore by Pope John Paul II.
- He is the Leader of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan.

- On 16 January 2010, Archbishop Saldanha celebrated his Golden Jubilee as a priest, of serving his church for 50 years.

- On 7 April 2011 Archbishop Saldanha retired as Archbishop of Lahore

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Hector Aleem & two others freed from blasphemy case

According to a report by The Express Tribune, 3 Christians were acquitted in a blasphemy case last Thursday and this news has been confirmed by Hector's blog which is managed by his daughter Mehvish.
A Rawalpindi court acquitted three members of the Christian community as the prosecutor failed to prove the case against them. An Additional District and Sessions Judge Sarfraz Akhtar absolved Hector Haleem, Basharat Maseeh and Robin Maseeh from the charges of sending blasphemous text messages.

 A Ghufran Sialvi had registered the case against him last year.
The court also ordered criminal action against the investigation officer and the complainant after they could not prove the charges against the accused.
Aleem's daughter Mehvish posted online petitions and posts asking for support of her father's release. The 55 years old Aleem heads an NGO called Peace WorldwidePeace award by the Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Yousaf Raza Gillani 
Details of his accusation are posted here, an account of the incident by his daughter.

Below is a Urdu newspapers article taken from Aleem's blog that is translated by Mewish.

Here is the TRANSLATION:

"Additional District and Session Judge Mr. Sarfaraz Akhter took a strict notice on those who lodged a false blasphemy case. He ordered the CPO Rawalpinidi to investigate about the case and also ordered to take a strict action against those who gave false testimonies i.e. Sub - Inspector Zafar Iqbal, Mir Abdullah, Riaz, Constable Muhammad Asif, Muhammad Akram, and the complainant Tahir Iqbal Chisti. He ordered to take severe action on them and also ordered strictly to the Secretary Prosecution Punjab to take action on District Public Prosecution who passed the Challan of this false and poor investigation case. The lawyer of the accused Hector Aleem and others Mr. Ghufran Khurshid Imtiazi provided the Court Orders to the CPO to take action. A case of Disrespecting the accused will also be lodged. Court dropped the Charges on three of the Accused."

Now here its written that a case of disrespecting the accused will be lodged against the complainants but we wont do it.......because we want to get rid of this court procedure as soon as possible and we wont be going to any court to lodge any case on anyone.

GOJRA burnt again

Images of black smoke are still fresh in our minds, the grief for our Christian brothers and sisters who died in Gojra is still painful to even imagine; the horrendous murder of chilldren and women is unforgotten. 
Christians have been waiting impatiently to seek justice for one of the most barbaric acts against minorities in Pakistan; but once again Pakistan's legal system has failed with the release of 70 suspects.
A special Anti-Terrorism court in Faisalabad released on bail all 70 suspects arrested responsible for the brutal attack in Gojra citing the reason as absence of five witnesses who are not in the country, who may have fled due to threats of extremists, which clearly reflects the security provided by law enforcement agencies to witnesses. During the inquiry, 185 witnesses gave their written statements, however it is being reported five witnesses had already left the country. A case under section-7 of the Anti Terrorism Act was registered against the suspects, but none of the accused were convicted.

The black day mourned by Christians in Pakistan is July 31 2009 when Christian Colony including the area called Korian, was set ablaze resulting in the deaths of eight Christians when 60 houses were also set on fire. The attacks were insitigated by a false complaint received by a mosque that a Christian had committed blasphemy at a wedding ceremony in a nearby village. As tensions escalated over the accusation, a mob was gathered in Gojra by local clerics who used speakers of mosques to attack Christians with assistance of a banned extermist group.
All roads leading to the neighbourhood were blocked, Police, ambulances and fire-brigades were not allowed to enter in order to save the victims and a chemical was thrown on all houses that would not extinguish flames  with water and caused immense damage by rapidly burning. 
More than 100 houses were looted consisting of cattle, bikes, electronics and valuables; during this attack and upto 2 Churches were ransacked desecrating religious books.

For almost 2 years newspapers have reported arrests and inquiries resulting in nothing but disappointment and a mockery of Pakistan's Justice system. 
It seems as if they've burnt Gojra again.

Sherry Rehman highlights discrimination, inequality & violence against minorities

Jinnah Institute has published a 70-page report called 'A Question of Faith', which was released by the Asian Human Rights Commission.

Jinnah Institute is a think-tank headed by the former information minister and a parliamentarian Sherry Rehman, she emphasized the need to reinstate the model of inclusive citizenship envisioned by Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

The report compiled over the period December 2010 – April 2011 documents the deterioration in the political, social and economic status of members of religious minorities in Pakistan, particularly the rising tide of vigilante violence against them and criticizes President Zardari's government for backing off from repealing, or even discussing, the country's controversial blasphemy law.

The report highlights that violence and extremism is threatening Christians, Hindus and Ahmedis,  and growing incidents of mob violence against minority groups providing examples of abductions and forced conversions of minority women.
The report warned extremists posed a serious threat to Pakistan's stability.
The report calls for repealing the country's controversial blasphemy law and urges the government to urgently undertake political and judicial reforms to ensure equality for Muslims and non-Muslim citizens of Pakistan.
The institute has listed 23 recommendations, including the removal of impunity for prayer leaders in mosques, police and judicial reforms and clarification of the status of Federal Shariat Court and the Council of Islamic Ideology. It also calls for an appointment of a “Special Ombudsman” to protect the rights of women and minorities.
The research team of the Jinnah Institute interviewed 125 people including minority representatives, victims and non-governmental organisations’ workers all over Pakistan between December 2010 and April 2011. 
Interviews with Christians of different age groups and professions revealed that many of them felt they “are treated as second-class citizens and discriminated against in all aspects of life.” Moreover, most of those who can, do move away from Pakistan. Those who choose to stay back do so because of a strong sense of commitment to the country and being ‘Pakistani even though they are persecuted on the basis of their religion.
Christians in rural areas have to deal with instances of their land being grabbed by local Muslim residents and in some of the more serious incidents, the Christian residents are then unable to return to their homes.
Eighty per cent of the Hindus in Pakistan live in Sindh, and “are victims of caste and wider religious discrimination,” said the report. They do not own lands and work on daily wages, a consequence of them not having any permanent settlement. The report said, “One day, they are with one landlord, the next day with another. And this is how they spend a life of debt, with no accountability or education.”
Their castes have translated into daily life. For instance, Hindus from a lower caste might be restricted to a separate water well in a school, “from which even the Muslims will not drink”.
Higher caste Hindus have their own set of problems to contend with. They live in a state of insecurity and are frequently kidnapped for ransom. For instance, 82-year-old Lakki Chand Garji, a prominent Hindu spiritual leader, was kidnapped on December 21, 2010 and his whereabouts are unknown to date.
Then there’s the matter of Hindus being suspected of having sympathy for India. Some Hindus said that “they dealt with the repercussions of the destruction of the Babri Masjid across the border in India in 1992.”
Violence against the Ahmaddiya community has also been on the rise in the past three years, it was reported.
The report attributed the increase in violence to maulvis “promoting such attacks and inciting violence in their sermons and in the media.” 
We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.- Mohammad Ali Jinnah, August 11, 1947 – Address to Pakistan's first Constituent Assembly

PML-N's members object to a Christian presenting the provincial budget

Minorities have been questioning their 'Equality' as citizens of Pakistan, their constitutional rights laid  by the founder of Pakistan; Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

Last week, several provincial legislators of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) objected to Punjab cabinet member Kamran Michael presenting the budget for the reason that he is a Christian.

PML-N's party members are reported to have objected to a Christian being given such a prominent position as that of delivering the annual budget speech and fear losing votes amongst some of their conservative, right-wing vote bank. The PML-N is already afraid of losing ground in its heartland of Punjab to other parties that have been making inroads in the province in recent months.
Michael had been given charge of the finance ministry in March, after the PML-N kicked out the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) from Punjab’s ruling coalition. He  replaced the PPP’s Tanveer Ashraf Kaira, in addition to retaining his earlier portfolio of Human rights and minorities affairs.
In a country where discrimination towards Christians is common, atrocities and crimes towards minorities fall to deaf ears; it comes as no shock to many Christians on hearing the opposition of law makers in Punjab.

However, while Michael was minister in theory, in practise the position has been managed by Sardar Zulfiqar Khan Khosa, senior adviser to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. Khosa attended all meetings related to the budget and was the de facto head of the ministry, despite the fact that Punjab government rules prohibit an adviser from heading any departmental business, even those at a department to which he or she has been assigned.
It is being said that Michael was forbidden from even contacting the finance secretary or the chairman of the planning and development department.
Michael holds the finance ministry as an “additional portfolio”, which means that he is authorised to present the budget. However, he has not been assigned the ministry itself.  Rule 136 of the Punjab Assembly Rules of Procedure requires the provincial budget to be presented by the finance minister or another minister who has been assigned his portfolio.
According to the rules of the Punjab Assembly, the residual powers of any unfilled portfolios in the provincial cabinet are transferred to the chief minister until a new minister is appointed. Shahbaz currently holds 20 portfolios himself, having failed to appoint cabinet ministers after kicking out the PPP from the ruling coalition.
Sources said that PML-N members have suggested that the “additional portfolio” for the finance ministry be given to Education and Excise Minister Mujtaba Shuja Rehman in order to avoid Michael presenting the budget. A final decision is expected to be taken at a party meeting on Tuesday (07 June 2011).
Since the chief minister technically occupies the powers of finance minister, he could present the budget himself, without having to assign the portfolio to any other cabinet member.
It is likely that Mujtaba Shuja Rehman is to present the Punjab budget for fiscal year 2012.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Armed Muslims damage altar, and desecrate Bible in Presbyterian Church

Muhammad Shoaib (alias Mota), entered a church accompanied with 3 armed men named  Iqbal Kumhar, Ashiq Machhi and another man, all of them were drunk; they began shouting at the congregation demanding they to turn off their Church's loudspeakers and pushing down the dais.
The miscreant; Muhammad Shoaib is the nephew of former MPA Mansha Sindhu,  PML-Q provincial lawmaker, Shoaib forcibly entered Numseoul Presbyterian Church in Lakhoki Kahna village (Lahore) with a 44-bore gun and a 30-bore pistol disrupting the Sunday mass, manhandling Church members  and throwing the Bible towards the wall desecrating the Cross and damaging the altar.

Police were reluctant to register an FIR and the SP of the local police station Malik Awais denied Shoaib carried weapons and that he was heavily intoxicated on the day of the incident; adding that no Bible was desecrated and stating that loudspeakers were “not even allowed in mosques,” he said the Christians were making false allegations and exaggerating the incident.
Pastor Ashraf Masih said that their Church was using loudspeakers only inside the church building.  The Church was established in the village by a South Korean ministry in 2004.

This is not Shoaib's first incident, he has earlier manhandled a 70 year old elder of the Church asking them to stop singing hymns.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was present in the area that day to inaugurate a housing scheme, this add pressure on the police to keep the Christians from blocking the road in protest.
Pastor Masih said that after an hour-long negotiation with Christian representatives, Sindhu agreed to have Shoaib publicly apologize, but that the police’s hostile attitude toward the Christians was evident in open support of Sindhu and his men.
Pakistan's widely criticized blasphemy law does not protect or apply to other religions except Islam when Holy books like Bibles or other scriptures are desecrated.  

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam calls for ban on Holy Bible

A press conference was organized by Jamiat-Ulema-e- Islam (Samiul Haq) in Masjid-e-Khizra, demanding the Bible to be banned.

Dr. Alexander John Malik, Bishop of Lahore, condemned to the demand to ban the Bible. Bishop Malik , said agreeing to such a demand would be interfering in the religious matters of the Christian religion and violation of religious freedom fully guaranteed by the constitution.
The Bishop further stated that the demand would sow seeds of discord among different. The bishop also said that the Christians all over the world including the global heads of the Churches i.e. the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, condemned the heinous act of burning the Holy Quran by a maniac in the US. (Pastor Terry Jones)

John Bhatti, a Pakistani Christian residing in Kuwait asked "What if Muslims were put in a same situation ? Christians in Pakistan have great respect for Islam and it's Holy book but why not vice versa ?"

Maulana Abdul Rauf Farooqi and others appealed to the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take suo motu notice of the “blasphemous” materials in the Bible otherwise they would move the court for banning the book, for which a team of lawyers was already working. 

Farooqi said his team wanted to pay the blasphemers in the same coin but they would not follow in the footsteps of Terry Jones, and would not burn the holy book. However, they added, they would devise some other mode of punishment to pre-empt future desecrations. 

Farooqi cited a number of scriptures from the Bible, saying such “insertions” strongly offend the Muslims, who hold all prophets and holy books in high esteem, as part of religious belief and never even think of committing any blasphemy against them. He rejected the possibility of a clash between the two religions, saying that as long as the courts are functioning according to the law, there were no chances of any clash between the two religions. 

Muslims refer to the Christian Bible as the 'Injeel" claiming parts of the Bible were added later and the original contents has been changed.

JUI is working continuously to convert the law of country according to their terminology of Islam and implementation of the Shari'ah law in Pakistan.

The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Assembly of Islamic Clergy, or JUI) is a political party in Pakistan. It formed a combined government in national elections in 2002 and 2008. The party has split into two separate parties: one is led by Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman and is known as "Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazlur Rehman)", or "JUI-F", while the other is led by Maulana Sami ul Haq and is known as "Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Sami ul Haq)" or "JUI-S".

Maulana Sami ul Haq is a religious leader and a politician. He is known for his close ties to the Taliban and has been referred to as the "Father of the Taliban". He has also served as a member of the Senate of Pakistan.
Sami ul Haq is the chancellor of the Darul Uloom Haqqania, a Deobandi Islamic seminary which is the alma mater of several Taliban leaders, termed the "University of Jihad"