Suffering under Blasphemy Law Issue 118
Let Us Not Become Weary “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6 v 9). As the apostle Paul came near to the end of his letter, he recognised that the Galatian Christians might be in danger of growing tired of doing good, especially if they weren’t seeing any visible change as a result, and so he gives them these words of encouragement. Church in Chains has been working on behalf of persecuted Christians for the past 35 years and many of you have prayed and worked and supported us for a very long time. Together, we have seen huge changes for good in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe but we have also seen little or no change in countries like North Korea and Pakistan, which is the focus of this issue. As you read of long-standing injustices in Pakistan such as the misuse of the blasphemy laws, prejudice in education and the scandal of bonded labour, you may be tempted to despair. If you are, think of Paul’s words and don’t give up! If you received this magazine in the post, you will find a bookmark has been enclosed as a reminder to pray. Yours for the Persecuted,
In this issue of Church in Chains Pages 3 – 9 Pages 10 – 11 Pages 12 – 13 Page 14 – 15 Page 16 Page 17 Pages 18 & 19
Pakistan Children’s Pages – Pakistan Updates – Nigeria, Iran and China Church in Chains in Action Conference Report International Day of Prayer Action Pages – Christmas Cards to Prisoners
SOURCES: The main feature article on Pakistan was compiled with reference to numerous sources including AFP, Barnabas Fund, BBC, British Pakistani Christian Association, Christians in Pakistan, Christian Today, CLAAS, CNN, CSW, Dawn, Echoes, Express Tribune, “Freedom of Religion or Belief in Pakistan & UK Government Policy” – All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, Morning Star News, Release International, “State of Religious Freedom in Pakistan” – Jinnah Institute, World Watch Monitor. COVER PHOTO: Asia Bibi in prison (Asia News)
A Minority Under Constant Threat Pakistan was formed during the partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947, to meet the demands of Indian Muslims for a Sunni Muslim state. The vision of founder and first GovernorGeneral Mohammed Ali Jinnah was that it would be a home for religious minorities alongside Sunni Muslims. However, successive governments pursued a policy of Islamisation that has led to discrimination against all religious minorities, notably Christians, Ahmadis, Hindus and Shias.
Population: 185 million Majority Religion: Islam (96%) Christian Population: 4.5 million Persecution Category: Severe
In recent years there has been an increase in violent attacks on religious (from Church in Chains Global Guide) minorities by extremist Muslims, influenced by the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan. The government and police are also targeted. Christians are at such risk that many churches hire guards, as police protection is inadequate.
â€˘ SORROW AT LAHORE PARK
On Easter Sunday 2016, 72 people were killed and over 370 injured in a suicide bomb attack in Lahore. Terrorists from a Taliban offshoot were targeting Christians at a park after Easter services in a nearby church, but many Muslims were among the dead. The deadliest attack on Pakistani Christians was the Taliban bombing of All Saints Church in the northwestern city of Peshawar in September 2013, killing 127 people.
Pakistanâ€™s notorious blasphemy laws have led to many attacks on individual Christians and entire Christian communities. Following allegations of blasphemy, mullahs often incite mob attacks, and Christians are easy targets as they tend to live together in colonies. Other minorities and Muslims are also at risk and it is easy to break the laws unintentionally. In March 2013, a 3,000-strong mob destroyed 300 homes in a Christian colony in Lahore over a false allegation of blasphemy. Islamists are violently hostile to proposals to change the laws. Family in mourning Photo: INP
As well as fearing attacks and the blasphemy laws, Christians suffer discrimination in employment and education and are often intimidated and harassed at work and in school. The majority of Pakistani Christians live in Punjab province and are poor, with little education. Most work as cleaners, street sweepers or in brick kilns.
Easter Sunday Massacre On Easter Sunday 2016, 72 people were killed and over 370 injured in a suicide bomb attack in Lahore, capital of Punjab province. The terrorists were targeting Christian families who had gone to a park after Easter services in a nearby church, but many Muslims also died. Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park is very popular and • GULSHAN-E-IQBAL PARK always crowded on special occasions. Close to church The suicide bomber detonated his Photo: AFP bomb close to the children’s swing area, which was crowded with families. The dead were mainly women and children. There were so many injured people that they had to be brought to hospitals in taxis and auto-rickshaws due to a shortage of ambulances. The attack was claimed by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The group stated, “We claim responsibility for the attack on Christians as they were celebrating Easter. It was part of our annual martyrdom attacks we have started this year.” Pastor Shakeel Anjum spent Easter Monday burying victims of the carnage. The six people Anjum buried lived within the same two blocks of Lahore’s Youhanabad area. Speaking to reporters, he said, “We need much consolation… we have become tired, we are worried, have become scared. “See, we pray that this country should remain safe forever. We • PASTOR SHAKEEL ANJUM are Pakistanis, we love Pakistan. Conducted six funerals Christians were hurt in Sunday’s Photo: AFP attack because it took place on Easter - but there were also Muslim victims. Our Muslim brothers... those families are crying too. Doing so many funerals, it’s my job, but my heart doesn’t feel good.” PRAY… that God will continue to bring comfort to all who mourn and that He will strengthen Pastor Shakeel in his ministry.
Campaign of Deadly Attacks Extremist attacks on Christians and other minorities, especially Shias, are on the rise in Pakistan. In recent years, Christians have been the victims of several Taliban-linked attacks, and Christians in the North West Frontier Province (bordering Afghanistan) have been ordered to leave the area, convert to Islam or face death.
• LAHORE CHURCH ATTACK
In March 2015, at least 17 Christians were killed and 80 injured in simultaneous suicide attacks by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar on two churches in Youhanabad Colony, Lahore. One of Pakistan’s largest Christian colonies, it is home to over 100,000 Christians. Christ Church (Anglican) and St John’s Roman Catholic Church are close to each other and were attacked within minutes of each other during Sunday services.
Eyewitness speaks Photo: Dawn News
Christian volunteer guards at the church gates prevented the bombers from entering the buildings (where an estimated 2000 worshippers were attending services) so the attackers detonated their bombs, killing the guards. Three police officers also died, but three of the four police officers supposed to be providing security at St John’s Church were watching cricket on TV at a local shop. The deadliest attack on Christians in Pakistan was the bombing of All Saints Church (the home church of Wilson Saraj, who spoke at the Church in Chains Annual Conference in 2012) in the northwestern city of Peshawar in September 2013. 127 people were killed in the attack including Wilson’s nephew, Robin Bhatti, and 166 were injured. The attack on the 129-year-old Anglican church took place just after Sunday worship, when between 300 and 400 Christians stayed on to • COFFINS AT PESHAWAR have lunch in the grounds of the church 127 people killed compound. About 15 police guards had Photo: Reuters been assigned for security, but two suicide bombers got in disguised as policemen. The attack was claimed by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. Pray… for an end to terrorist attacks and for peace to come to Pakistan.
Blasphemy Laws Widely Misused
• PROTESTERS IN ISLAMABAD
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws carry heavy penalties and are a source of great fear. Willfully defiling the Quran is punishable with life imprisonment, but anyone found guilty of defaming the Prophet Mohammed must be sentenced to death, with no requirement to prove criminal intent. No one has been executed for blasphemy by the government, but extremists have murdered over fifty people on release (at least 15 of them Christians) and two judges.
At Asia Bibi’s appeal Photo: EPA The laws are often misused to make false allegations in domestic and business disputes, resulting in many innocent people spending years in prison awaiting trial, their families forced into hiding. If an accused person is acquitted and released they face mob lynching and cannot return to their former life. Often, emigration is their only option. All Pakistanis are at risk of accusations of blasphemy, but minorities are disproportionately accused. Since 1986, more than 1,000 people have been accused under the blasphemy laws, with over 50% of cases involving religious minorities. It is easy to break the laws unintentionally – even children have been arrested for accidentally committing blasphemy. For the many Christians imprisoned under the blasphemy laws, life changes for ever. It is difficult to secure an acquittal as local court proceedings are often biased and extremist mobs turn up at court to intimidate judges, lawyers and witnesses. In May 2014, a Human Rights Commission of Pakistan lawyer was shot dead for defending a university lecturer accused of blasphemy.
In March 2013, a 3,000-strong mob torched and destroyed nearly 300 homes in Joseph Colony, a • SAWAN MASIH Under death sentence Christian neighbourhood in Lahore, after a false Photo: Pakistan Today allegation that a Christian sanitation worker, Sawan Masih, had made blasphemous remarks about the Prophet Mohammed. Mullahs incited local Muslims to attack the colony and it was destroyed, including shops and two churches. Sawan Masih was sentenced to death in 2014 and remains in prison awaiting an appeal hearing. Pray… for reform of the blasphemy laws, and for courage and protection for reformers.
Victims of Blasphemy Laws Asia Bibi, a Christian farm labourer from Punjab, is the first woman sentenced to death under the blasphemy laws. The charge arose in June 2009 after a dispute with Muslim women who refused to drink from the same water bowl as Asia. She was arrested, and in November 2010 was sentenced to death. In October 2014, Lahore High Court rejected Asia’s appeal, but in July 2015 the death sentence was suspended pending her Supreme Court appeal in Islamabad.
• ASIA BIBI
Still waiting for justice Photo: Asia News
In January 2011, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was shot dead because he had visited Asia in prison and had spoken out against the misuse of the blasphemy laws. The assassin was his bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri, who was publicly hailed as a hero. He was executed in February 2016, and the judge who passed his sentence was forced to leave Pakistan because of extremist threats. In March 2011, Minorities Minister Shabhaz Bhatti, the only Christian in cabinet, was shot dead by the Taliban. He had been a supporter of Asia Bibi and an outspoken opponent of the blasphemy laws. Asia Bibi’s Supreme Court appeal was due to be heard on 13 October 2016 but was adjourned because one of the three judges, Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman, recused himself on the grounds that he had been on the bench that heard Mumtaz Qadri’s case. Shortly after, he resigned from his position. If the Supreme Court upholds the death sentence, Asia’s only hope will be a Presidential pardon.
• SHAGUFTA KAUSER
AND SHAFQAT EMMANUEL Long wait for appeal Photo: Rescue Christians
Shagufta Kauser and her husband Shafqat Emmanuel (who is confined to a wheelchair) have been under sentence of death since April 2014 and are awaiting an appeal. They were accused of sending blasphemous text messages but both are illiterate. They are being held in separate prisons and friends are looking after their four children.
Pray… for God’s presence and protection on Asia Bibi, Shagufta Kauser and Shafqat Emmanuel and their families and pray for their acquittal and release.
A Modern Form of Slavery
• CHILDREN WORKING
Generations enslaved Photo: Christians in Pakistan
Most of Pakistan’s Christians live in Punjab and are very poor. Many are bonded labourers working in brick kilns – Punjab has over 10,000 brick kilns, where most bonded labourers are Christians. They enter into bonded labour when money is needed urgently, perhaps for medical expenses, expecting to leave once the debt is repaid. However, because the kiln owners impose huge rates of interest, that is impossible, as they must work for their keep as well as to repay the debt, on very low wages.
Bonded labour often involves whole familes, including children. They end up labouring their entire lives, effectively enslaved, and debts are passed from generation to generation. Kiln workers labour from dawn to dusk rolling balls of clay and putting them in moulds or dealing with baked bricks under harsh sun in thick black chimney smoke. They often experience violence and sexual assault and live in basic housing without proper sanitation. Bonded labour was declared unconstitutional in 1989, but persists as kiln owners are rich and influential. Last year the International Labour Organisation estimated that Pakistan has more than 1.7 million bonded labourers. The majority work in brick kilns. Advocacy and aid organisation the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement provides free legal aid to bonded labourers and has freed some after decades in slavery. Director Nasir Saeed noted that workers sometimes go days without food and are not allowed to observe Christian holidays. Some labourers have been tortured when they tried to escape.
• BRICK KILN WORKERS
Bonded labourers A brick kiln labourer from Lahore said, “It’s Photo: Messiah Missions like quicksand. They only pay you 200 rupees (€1.77) per 1,000 bricks, and it all goes to them, and the debt keeps growing. The brick kiln owners get together and they sell us to each other. Just ten days ago my entire family was sold for 2.2 million rupees (€19,500).”
Pray… for an end to bonded labour, so all Punjab Christians can be free to earn a living in fair conditions.
Facing Prejudice in School Government teaching materials in Pakistan include prejudice against religious minorities – especially Hindus, but also Christians – while promoting Islam, including jihad. The materials foster intolerance and imply that non-Muslims are second-class citizens.
Learning discrimination? Photo: Reuters
A report published in April 2016 says textbooks in Pakistan’s public schools have become more antagonistic to minorities in the past five years. The report, Teaching Intolerance in Pakistan – Religious Bias in Public School Textbooks, was sponsored by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.
It states, “The trend toward a more biased curriculum towards religious minorities is accelerating,” and says minorities are portrayed as “untrustworthy, religiously inferior, and ideologically scheming”. The textbooks “violate the constitutional rights of religious minorities by integrating Islamic ideology into most subjects and promote a national Islamic identity at the expense of Hindu, Christian, and Sikh children”. The report adds, “Christians also are portrayed as untrustworthy missionaries, and as aligned with British oppressors who were colonisers and continue to conspire against Muslims.” Christian children in non-Christian schools face marginalisation, abuse or even attack, and Christians prefer not to send their children to state schools because of their strong Islamic curriculum. Christian children often face discrimination and bullying, and some Christian pupils have been forced out by Muslim pupils who refuse to drink water from the same taps or utensils. Christian schools were established in the British • CHRISTIAN SCHOOL colonial period, with good buildings and A good start experienced staff, but poor Christians could never Photo: Barnabas Fund afford to enrol, and 60% of pupils are Muslim. Only 6% of Pakistani Christians have primary education, 4% have secondary school education, 1% have college education and 0.5% have higher studies and professional education. Schools for poor Christians are desperately needed, and some new schools are being started by Christian charities, with very low fees. Pray… that Christian pupils might gain a good education in peace and equality.
HEY KIDS – Let’s Where is Pakistan? Pakistan is in south Asia, beside India. Its capital is Islamabad in the north, but its biggest city is Karachi in the south, on the Arabian Sea. Pakistan is a strictly Muslim country, but people of other religions also live there, including Christians and Hindus. Pakistan was part of the enormous Indian empire, ruled by Britain, until it became an independent country in 1947. Pakistan was formed specially for Muslims. At first it was in two parts called East and West Pakistan, either side of India. In 1971 the east part broke away and became Bangladesh.
Who was Mohammad Ali Jinnah? Mohammad Ali Jinnah was the founder and first leader of Pakistan. He planned that Pakistan would be a home for people of all religions, not just Muslims. In a speech in 1947, he said: “You are free: you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in the State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion… we are all equal citizens of one State.“ Sadly, Mohammad Ali Jinnah died in 1948, and gradually his dream died too. Now Pakistan can be a dangerous place for Christians.
Why are there bomb attacks in Pakistan? To the northwest of Pakistan is Afghanistan, where the Taliban terrorist group carries out lots of attacks. Members of the Taliban (pictured) are extremist Muslims who try to force everyone to follow a very strict kind of Islam. They bomb people who aren’t Muslims. Taliban terrorists have spread into Pakistan. In the last few years, they have bombed Christians at church, and last March they bombed Christians in a park after church on Easter Sunday. Lots of Muslims were killed in that attack too. Many churches have to hire guards to keep Christians safe during services.
Pray For Pakistan What are the blasphemy laws? Blasphemy means insulting someone’s religion. In Pakistan, it means insulting the Prophet Mohammed or the Quran (the Muslim holy book). Pakistan has strict blasphemy laws that say a person who commits blasphemy must go to prison. But it’s easy to break the laws by mistake and lots of innocent people have been put in prison. Even children get arrested. Asia Bibi is a Christian farm worker who has been in prison in Pakistan for seven years. Other farm workers said she insulted the Prophet Mohammed and a court found her guilty of blasphemy.
Why was Asia Bibi accused of blasphemy? In June 2009, Asia was working in the fields and went to fetch water. Muslim women she worked with refused to drink the water. They said it was “unclean” because a Christian had brought it. Asia argued with them. She said, “Jesus Christ died on the cross for me – what did Mohammed ever do for you?” The women told the local imam (mosque leader) what Asia had said, and local men came and beat her. She was put in prison and found guilty of blasphemy. Her husband Ashiq and daughters Isha and Isham (pictured) miss her very much. They are waiting for an appeal in Pakistan’s Supreme Court, hoping the court will decide Asia is not guilty and release her.
A Prayer for Pakistan Dear God, Please bless and protect Christians in Pakistan, and encourage them in their faith. We pray for an end to attacks on Christians and on people of other religions. Please heal people who have been injured and comfort those whose loved ones have been killed. We ask that Pakistan would become a peaceful home for people of all religions. We pray for the blasphemy laws to be changed so that people don’t get beaten and put in prison. Please bless Asia Bibi and her family. May she be released soon. Amen
21 Chibok Girls Released d a t e s
On 13 October, Boko Haram released 21 of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped in April 2014. Some news sources said they were swapped for four Boko Haram commanders, but the government denies this, insisting the release was the result of negotiations, and promising to negotiate more releases. Boko Haram commanders say the girls were freed to prove good faith and that more will be released in exchange for cash and prisoners.
The government says it will provide the released girls with counselling, health assessment, education and jobs. Reunited with their families at a thanksgiving service in Abuja on 16 October, the girls held up Bibles to signify their freedom of worship, having been forced to convert to Islam. One of them, Gloria Dame, said: “I did not know that a day like this would come when we would be dancing and giving thanks to God among people. For one month and ten days we stayed without food. I narrowly escaped a bomb blast in the forest. We are praying to God to touch the heart of Boko Haram to repent and we are calling on Nigerians to pray and fast for the release of our remaining ones in captivity.” One of the parents, Ruth Markus, mother of Saratu, said afterwards: “I felt like it was the day that I born her into this world. I danced and danced and danced.” Of the 276 schoolgirls kidnapped in 2014, 57 escaped from trucks taking them away and one, Amina Ali, was rescued in May 2016. Following the 21 releases in October another girl, Maryam Ali Maiyanga, was found in the Sambisa Forest on 5 November. This leaves 196 girls still missing, but several have died – Amina Ali said six had died and Boko Haram commanders claim some were killed by Nigerian army bombs.
• REUNITED WITH PARENTS
It is thought negotiations will only be for 83 more girls. Those released say all the Chibok girls were given the choice of marriage or slavery. They and about 83 others refused to marry and were put to washing, fetching water and cooking. They say they never saw the married girls again. (BBC, CNN, Punch, Vanguard)
Thanksgiving Service Photo: Nigerian Govt
News in Brief Behnam Irani released in Iran On 17 October, Iranian Christian prisoner Behnam Irani (44) was released at the end of a six-year sentence imposed for leading house church services. In November, he was reunited with his wife Christine, daughter Rebecca (13) and son Adriel (6), in Turkey. Behnam suffered many illnesses in prison including a bleeding ulcer, herniated disc and failing eyesight. In 2012, he began vomiting blood and losing consciousness, but not until 2014 was he taken to hospital for abdominal surgery, which was successful. A former Muslim, Behnam became a Christian in 1992 and has been a pastor since 2002, leading a Church of Iran congregation in Karaj near Tehran in northern Iran. Like him, many of the 200 Iranian Christians currently in jail for their faith have been beaten, abused and threatened. (Present Truth Ministries)
Yang Rongli released in China On 10 October, Chinese house church leader Yang Rongli (56) was released at the end of a seven-year prison term imposed for “illegally occupying farm land” and “gathering a mob to disturb public order”. She is head pastor of Linfen House Church Network, Shanxi Province, and was arrested with four other pastors (including her husband Wang Xiaoguang) because they organised a prayer rally after a violent church raid. During the raid in September 2009, five hundred armed police and officials beat church members, injuring over one hundred, demolished several church properties and destroyed the foundations of a new church building. The other pastors received prison sentences of three or four years, and they and Pastor Yang were fined. During her imprisonment, it was reported that Pastor Yang had serious health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney stones, heart disease and hepatitis. On release, despite her ailments, she was reported to be in joyful spirit, with no complaint or resentment. (China Aid Association)
Keep Up-to-Date Church in Chains will soon be launching a new website with a clear, modern design. As well as featuring the latest news about persecuted Christians around the world, the new site features easy access to Country Profiles (where you can read in-depth background information about the situation for Christians in a particular country) and easy access to information about the work of Church in Chains and the different ways in which you can get involved in supporting our work. The new site is mobile-responsive (meaning that it can be easily accessed and navigated on phone or tablet). Visit www.churchinchains.ie to check out the new site.
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Church in Chains in Action
Money Matters Nigeria Appeal
Thank you to all those who contributed to the Nigeria Appeal. We were delighted to be able to send €4,350 to the Stefanos Foundation for use in supporting victims of persecution in various ways including basic relief, traumahealing workshops, skills training courses and reconstruction. Mark Lipdo (Director of Stefanos) is pictured above with Pastor Hamza Alkali who lost his arm in a Fulani attack.
A big thank you to all involved in the annual Country Gospel Concert in September at Corcaghan, Co. Monaghan. From managing sound to putting out chairs, to preparing supper and of course to the artists who sang, it was a great team effort.
Church in Chains has recently received €6,824 from the Revenue Commisioners as repayment of tax paid in 2015 by donors. Thank you to all those who returned tax reclaim forms. If you received a form this year and forgot to return it, it’s not too late! Please send it to the Church in Chains office as soon as possible or phone us to request a replacement.
Church in Chains’ accounts for 2015 were approved by our trustees in October 2016. Income for the year was €197,640 while expenditure was €130,205 (which included €53,862 sent to overseas projects). The surplus mainly resulted from receipt in December 2015 of a legacy, which will be very helpful in developing our future plans. The 2015 Accounts are available on request.
The concert raised over €3,700 which will go to assist Iraqi Christian refugees via our partner, Steadfast Global.
Church in Chains in Action
“Retaliation – this is not our Gospel”
• REV SOJA BEWARANG speaking at conference On 10 September 2016, Church in Chains welcomed Rev Dr Soja Bewarang as guest speaker at the annual conference, held this year in the Clarion Hotel, Liffey Valley, Dublin. Rev Soja is an experienced church leader from Jos in the Middle Belt of Nigeria. Rev Soja analysed the Islamist extremism behind the persecution of Nigerian Christians and explained the impact of Sharia law, which is in place in twelve northern states. He explained that Christians living under Sharia are forbidden to distribute Christian literature, to pray or preach in public and to build churches in Muslim-dominated areas. There are severe penalties for Christians who are deemed to have spoken against Islam. Rev Soja mentioned the abducted Chibok schoolgirls, commenting, “The mystery of the Chibok girls is the shame of Nigeria. It is a puzzle that has left more questions than answers… The majority of the girls are Christian and pastors in my church know some of their parents.” Speaking of his own experience of persecution, Rev Soja described how he was ambushed after leaving his church headquarters in Jos late one night, and shot at in his car as he drove away to escape. He showed pictures of several pastors from his church who have been murdered, and told of the distress of having to conduct their funerals. He spoke of a suicide bomb attack on his local church in Jos and how he had to persuade Christian youths not to retaliate. “No,” he told them, “This is not our Gospel.” Later in the conference, delegates heard updates about Christian prisoners and a round-up of Church in Chains news. In the days following the conference, Rev Soja spoke at several events, was interviewed on Spirit Radio and met officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
St Patrick’s Cathedral goes red The tower of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, was floodlit in red on the night of Sunday 20 November (International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church) in an act of solidarity with the millions of Christians around the world who face severe persecution. The floodlighting was arranged by Chains in Chains with the support of the Church of Ireland’s Council for Mission. Earlier this year, Rome’s Trevi Fountain was dyed red to highlight the persecution of Christians and in late November, London’s Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral were also floodlit in red for the same reason.
Thank You Thank you to everyone who arranged for the International Day of Prayer to be marked in their churches. Around 40 churches in counties Armagh, Carlow, Cavan, Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kildare, Kilkenny, Limerick, Louth, Mayo, Roscommon, Tipperary, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow participated by taking time during their services to pray for Pakistan using a PowerPoint presentation and a Prayer Bookmark supplied by Church in Chains. If you would like your church to pray for Pakistan, use the Response Form to order bookmarks.
• CANON ANDREW WHITE With David Turner (left) and Paddy Monaghan (right) On the evening of the International Day of Prayer, Canon Andrew White (the “Vicar of Baghdad”) spoke to a large crowd at Johnstown Parish Centre in Cabinteely, Co. Dublin at an evening organised by Evangelical Catholic Initiative. Andrew spoke about having to leave Iraq with the remnants of his congregation (many of whom have been murdered) and move to Jordan, where Andrew now has a wide ministry helping Christian refugees by providing education and healthcare.
International Day of Prayer
Christmas Cards to Prisoners Once again, this Christmas we encourage you to take a few minutes to send a Christmas Card to a Christian prisoner. On the facing page, you will find brief information about and addresses for prisoners in China and Iran. Both prisoners are serving long sentences. When your Christmas card is received at their prison, it will make clear that the prisoner is known and cared about overseas, which can influence how they are treated. If given to the prisoner, your card will be a great encouragement (sometimes prisoners are told about cards but are not permitted to have them).
Card Writing Guidelines 1. Begin by choosing a Christmas card (use one with a Bible verse/Nativity scene if you like). 2. Write a short greeting – these prisoners do not speak English (a prison guard or fellow prisoner may be able to translate). 3. Assure the prisoner that you are praying for him.
DON’T make any criticism of the government DON’T mention Church in Chains (or any similar organisation) DON’T refer to their arrest or sentence
How should I address the envelope? With great care – prison addresses are quite long. Print the address clearly and carefully. Affix correct postage and airmail sticker.
What does it cost to post the card? €1.10 (from Ireland) £1.05 (from the UK)
When is the latest date for posting for Christmas? Wednesday 7 December is the official date. However, cards sent at any time will bring encouragement when they arrive.
Prisoner Names and Addresses Alimujiang Yimiti (42) is a Uighur Alimujiang Yimiti Christian from Xinjiang province Section 11 in north-west China. He has been Xinjiang No. 3 Prison in prison since January 2008 and 1339 Dongzhan Road is serving a 15-year sentence Urumqi in labour camp. Alimujiang is Xinjiang 830013 married to Guli Nuer and they PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF have two sons, aged 9 and 15. CHINA Alimujiang’s case may go to a retrial following the removal of Xinjiang’s Communist Party Secretary in August amid an anti-corruption enquiry. Alimujiang refused the offer of a pardon given on condition that he admit to guilt.
Ebrahim Firouzi Ward 10, Rajaei-Shahr Prison Karaj Albourz Province ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN
Ebrahim Firouzi (31), is a former Muslim who has been in prison in Iran since March 2013. He has been arrested numerous times for his Christian activities. Ebrahim is not due for release until January 2020. Earlier this year, he wrote that he wants to stand strong in the face of persecution, but acknowledged that he cannot do this alone and appealed for prayer. Ebrahim’s elderly visually impaired mother has appealed to government officials to handle her son’s case fairly and to release him.
STOP PRESS: TOHAR RELEASED As this magazine was going to print, we received news that Tohar Haydarov from Uzbekistan (who featured in last year’s Christmas Card List and this year’s Lent Prayer Project) has been released on parole! Tohar was released on 8 November after serving almost seven years of a ten-year sentence on false drugs charges. “God heard the prayers of many Christians,” said a friend. “We are thankful to everybody who prayed for him and sent letters to him while in prison.” Another friend said that “Tohar was amnestied for his good behaviour; he was released quietly, which came as a surprise to him and us, and no one was there to meet him outside the prison when he was released.” (Forum 18)
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Church in Chains is entirely supported by voluntary donations. Gifts are used to pay for all the necessary expenses, including salaries, associated with our campaigning work and to distribute grants to overseas partners in China, Eritrea, India, Iran, Iraq, Mexico, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Syria and Turkey. Cheques etc should be made payable to Church in Chains. Bank Details: IBAN : IE22 IPBS 9906 1020 1759 05 BIC : IPBSIE2D Details about standing orders, legacies and tax-efficient giving available on request.
CHURCH IN CHAINS PO Box 10447, Glenageary, Co. Dublin, Ireland.
Church in Chains is a member of Aontas, Evangelical Alliance Ireland, The Wheel and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade NGO Standing Committee on Human Rights.
T 01-282 5393 E firstname.lastname@example.org W www.churchinchains.ie
Registered charity in Ireland (CHY 15443).
Director: David Turner
Church in Chains magazine is published four times a year and is edited by David Turner and Virginia Chipperfield.