Pastor Saeed Abedini Abused, Threatened with New Charges as Third Anniversary Approaches in Prison in Iran

Profile: Saeed Abedini (02) feature

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

American Pastor Saeed Abedini was severely abused, repeatedly tasered, and threatened with new charges by Iranian intelligence officers, days before Iranian President Rouhani leaves for U.N. meeting in New York

09/24/2015 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) –
International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that American Pastor Saeed Abedini has been severely abused by Iranian intelligence officers during interrogation at the Rajaei Shar Prison in Karaj, Iran. Saeed was also threatened with new charges that would extend his imprisonment beyond the eight years he currently faces. September 26, 2015 marks the third anniversary of his imprisonment in Iran.

pastor-saeed-abedinis-wife-says-despite-threats-her-husband-refuses-to-deny-christDuring a family visitation on Wednesday, Saeed was able to relay to his family still in Iran some of the details of what he suffered the day before. Intelligence officers repeatedly used a taser stun gun on Saeed. They also threatened to add new criminal charges to his case, accusing him of political statements and actions against the government of Iran. “Pastor Saeed denied all of these allegations, and once again asserted that he is apolitical and that he has never threatened the security of, made any statements against, or taken any action against the Government of Iran,” said the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents the Abedini family.

This development came just days after 67 Members of Parliaments from nearly 50 countries signed a letter to Mr. Ali Larijani, the Speaker of the Iranian parliament, specifically calling for the release of Saeed as well as other Christians and religious minorities held in Iran. The letter was part of Summit, organized by the the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief in New York before the start of the United Nations 70th General Assembly.

Today, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also heads to New York and will address the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, September 28. It will be his first trip to the United States since Iran signed a Nuclear Deal with the United States and other world leaders. While he has made good on his promises to his people regarding the nuclear negotiations, he has been an “abject failure in delivering on his pledges to defend basic civil rights and liberties in Iran,” the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) pointed out. “Rouhani hides behind an ‘independent’ Judiciary but he is still head of state. It is indefensible that Rouhani has been silent and inconsequential on basic human rights,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of ICHRI.

Pastor Saeed and the other religious minorities imprisoned in Iran are emblematic of the lack of these basic human rights. As of the beginning of 2015, Saeed was one of more than 90 Christians who were either currently in prison or awaiting trial for charges related to their faith, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

These latest developments have added to the incredible hardships that his family has endured over the past three years. “It was a heartbreaking visit,” Naghmeh Abedini told ICC. “The attacks are great, but God’s grace is carrying Saeed,” she continued.

On September 26 and 27th, hundreds of prayer vigils across the United States and more than 30 countries will mark the third anniversary of Saeed’s imprisonment and once again appeal for his release.

Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East said, “Iran continues to violate the most basic rights of their citizens and of an American citizen Saeed Abedini. Now they have once again added physical injury by this torturous treatment in addition to the continued violation of rights. We urge the government of Iran to release Saeed who has not committed any crimes and is in prison simply for having met with others who share his faith. As Iran’s President Rouhani comes to the United Nations, we urge all world leaders to press him on how he can claim to stand for values of human dignity and yet allow the abuse of people simply for what they believe.”


For interviews, contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator:
press@persecution.org

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference International Christian Concern (ICC) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

International Christian Concern
2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #241, Washington, D.C. 20006
www.persecution.org | E-mail: icc@persecution.org

Media Contact:
Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator
press@persecution.org

ISIS Abducts Dozens of Christians from Syrian Town

International Christian Concern (ICC) (01) feature

At Least 230 People, Including 45 Women and 11 Children, Taken after Heavy Fighting between ISIS and the Syrian Army

08/07/2015 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) –
Islamic State militants have captured dozens of Christian families after seizing a strategically located town in the central Syrian province of Homs, according to a monitor from the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Friday.

The monitor said at least 230 people were kidnapped or detained, including dozens of Christians, some of whom were taken from the Dar Alyan monastery in Qaryatain, the town captured overnight after intense fighting with the Syrian army.

Rami Abdulrahman, the head of the Observatory, said the Christians were “either kidnapped from checkpoints or raids or from churches.” Among those seized were 45 women and 19 children, including 11 families, some of whom were on a list of persons suspected by the militant group of “collaborating with the regime.” The families of hundreds of Christian and Muslim residents of Qaryatain have lost contact with them since the militants captured the area, according to Abdulrahman. He fears that ISIS may also target other Christian population centers in Hawwarin and Sadad.

Towns like Qaryatain are key to ISIS because they are along the Damascus-Homs Highway, a route used to ferry supplies and fighters. The hardline militant group has been gaining ground in the desert areas east and south of Homs after it took over the ancient Roman city of Palmyra last May. The Syrian army has launched a large-scale counteroffensive to recapture the city, which lies in a region where some of Syria’s largest gas fields are located, but so far has made no significance advances. An army statement said its forces had targeted “terrorist outposts” in the area and killed scores of militants but did not confirm the capture of the town by the militants.

An Assyrian Christian group said these abductions were the latest in a string of events that targeted their community, one of the oldest Christian populations in the Middle East. Two priests, Father Yacoub Murad and Monk Petros, who ran two monasteries in the area, went missing last May from the town of Qaryatain, according to the Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights, a Christian lobby group. The group said at least 1,400 families had fled the town to safer areas or took shelter in the government-controlled city of Homs.

Islamic State has killed members of religious minorities and Sunni Muslims who do not swear allegiance to its self-declared “caliphate”. They also consider Christians as infidels. Last February, the hardline jihadists abducted at least 250 Assyrian Christians, many of whom were children and women, during raids on villages in northeastern Syria. That mass abduction coincided with an offensive in the same region by Kurdish forces backed by U.S.-led air strikes. The fate of many of these civilians is unclear, as is that of a number of other priests who have gone missing and are believed to be held by the militants, according to Christian groups.

Isaac Six, ICC’s Advocacy Director, said, “ICC unequivocally condemns this most recent abduction of Christians in Syria. Coming on top of the kidnapping of 250 Christians last February and Father Yacoub and Monk Petros in May, this latest incident should be a clarion call for the international community to take action. No one, even in time of war, should fear being kidnapped, held for ransom and possibly executed simply for their religious beliefs. We grieve for the families of those who have been abducted even as we call on the United States and other allies to step up efforts to protect Christians and other religious minorities from the barbaric actions of the Islamic State.”


For interviews, contact Isaac Six, Advocacy Director: Advocacy@persecution.org

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference International Christian Concern (ICC) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

International Christian Concern
2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #241, Washington, D.C. 20006
www.persecution.org | E-mail: icc@persecution.org

Media Contact:
Isaac Six, Advocacy Director
Advocacy@persecution.org

Sudanese Pastors Acquitted, Escape Possible Death Penalty

International Christian Concern (ICC) (01) feature

Pastors Yat Michael and Peter Yen faced flogging and a possible death penalty on multiple charges, including undermining the Constitution, waging war against the State, and espionage

08/05/2015 Washington D.C., (International Christian Concern) –
International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Sudanese Pastors Yat Michael and Peter Yen were acquitted by a court in Khartoum today after serving more than seven months in prison on multiple charges, including espionage and waging war against the State. If convicted, the pastors faced possible flogging, life imprisonment or the death penalty.

Pastors Michael and Peter were initially detained by Sudan’s notorious National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) without charge in late 2014 and early 2015 for several months. Their case gradually garnered widespread international attention and prompted calls for their release by international advocacy organizations, including Amnesty International and ICC. According to sources present at the sentencing hearing in Khartoum today, presiding judge Ahmed Ghaboush convicted Pastors Michael and Peter of “organizing terrorist organizations” and “breaching the peace,” but said, “the sentence they served in prison is enough, release them immediately.”

A source close to the pastors who spoke with them following the hearing said, “Both pastors are incredibly grateful for all of the hard work and prayers. They could feel the prayers and knew that God was with them.”

In the most recent report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Sudan was designated a “country of particular concern” for engaging in “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom or belief.” The report goes on to say that the government of Sudan, led by Omar Hassan al-Bashir, “prosecutes persons accused of apostasy, imposes a restrictive interpretation of Shari’ah (Islamic law) and applies corresponding punishments on Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and harasses the country’s Christian community”

In a July 15 interview with the pastors’ defense attorney, Mohaned Mustafa, he said that the arrest of Pastors Michael and Peter was motivated by their pastoral work. “They are missionaries. This is not a crime in Sudan, but this is not acceptable to the government,” Mustafa told ICC. Last year, Sudan also received widespread international condemnation after convicting pregnant Christin mother Meriam Ibrahim of apostasy and sentencing her to death. Meriam was later freed and fled with her family to the United States.

Isaac Six, ICC’s Advocacy Director, said, “We could not be happier to hear this morning of the release of Pastors Michael and Peter. Their acquittal demonstrates just how critical international attention and support is in undoing the injustices perpetrated by the al-Bashir regime against its own people. The international community must take this opportunity and resolve to stand against the Sudanese regime until serious, long running changes to its treatment of religious minorities are made. Meriam Ibrahim, Michael, and Peter are the faces of only a few of the Christians in Sudan who face terror and prosecution on a daily basis because of their beliefs. Addressing the fundamental issues that undergird this religious persecution is key less we find ourselves here again next year, once more staving off at the last minute another flogging or death penalty.


For interviews, contact Isaac Six, Advocacy Director: Advocacy@persecution.org

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference International Christian Concern (ICC) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

International Christian Concern
2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #241, Washington, D.C. 20006
www.persecution.org | E-mail: icc@persecution.org

Media Contact:
Isaac Six, Advocacy Director
Advocacy@persecution.org

Christian Pastor Dies Two Years After Beating by Hindu Radicals

International Christian Concern (ICC) (01) feature

“Till his last breath, he endured the path of suffering while serving God,” said 65-year-old Rodemma, wife of the late Pastor Krupaiah, who died of internal injuries on July 22, 2015. Pastor Krupaiah, 70, was a victim of a brutal attack by Hindu radicals two years ago in Tukkuguda on the outskirts of Hyderabad.

Rodemma recalled, while talking to International Christian Concern (ICC), how her husband had endured many trials for the sake of preaching the Gospel during the early days of their ministry. In 1984 in Ameerpet, Hyderabad, Pastor Krupaiah, a young minister at the time, was brutally assaulted by Hindu radicals while he was distributing Bible Tracts and Christian literature. Pastor Krupaiah was caught at the market place and stripped while the Hindu radicals destroyed the Gospel tracts and Bibles. Since then, trials have been a part of the late Pastor Krupaiah’s life and ministry; the latest trial was the deadly attack that left over a dozen pastors injured, including Pastor Krupaiah.

“It was on June 4, 2013,” said Pastor Timothy. “We were over 50 pastors gathered for prayer and fellowship in an independent church in Tukkuguda. All of sudden over 40 Hindu radicals stormed into the church hall and started beating us all. Soon we realized that some of us were bleeding with injuries all over the body. The blood spilled all over the place [and] we were locked up in the hall. We did not have a choice but to receive blows and kicks.”

Pastor Krupaiah was seriously injured, with a wound on his head and kicks to the chest; he had already collapsed when the attackers left the place according to witnesses. Pastor Krupaiah was immediately rushed to the hospital while other pastors proceeded to the police station. Unfortunately, the Hindu radicals were already at the police station when the pastors arrived, accusing the pastors of being involved in forced conversion activities.

Fortunately, the police registered a First Information Report (FIR) against the attackers at the Pahadisharif police station on the complaint given by the wounded pastors who went to the police straight from the church.

For Pastor Krupaiah, it was a daily battle when it came to his health after the attack. Weeks passed and the visible wounds healed. Months passed and the sensation created by the violence died down. However, the internal injuries continued to pose a constant threat to Pastor Krupaiah’s life. Reportedly, the injuries caused many blood clots in Pastor Krupaiah’s head. Over the course of time, the heavy blows to his chest resulted in multiple organ failures. Pastor Krupaiah breathed his last on July 22, 2015; he was 70 years old.

Rodemma said that, “The road ahead for me also is very tough.” She requested prayers for the comfort of the bereaved family and for the ministry that Pastor Krupaiah left behind.

Often, the aftermath of religiously motivated attacks and the long term needs of the victims are forgotten. At times, news of pastors and Christian workers facing situations similar to that of Pastor Krupaiah are never heard, leaving their needs unaddressed.

Pastor Timothy, leader of a local pastor’s fellowship, observed, “More often it is the rural pastors who are the targets of the right wing Hindu nationalist groups. These pastors have no medical insurance and [are] without adequate support, which will make things more difficult when they become victims of persecution.”

Christians in India are being persecuted on a daily basis. Pastors and Christian workers are often the first to be targeted because of their visibility and mission to carry out the Great Commission. Regardless of where or when they are persecuted, these Christians are truly deserving of our prayers and support. Please remember to pray for persecuted Christians in India today.

By ICC's India Correspondent - 07/30/2015 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern)

For interviews, contact William Stark, Regional Manager for South Asia: RM-SAsia@persecution.org

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference International Christian Concern (ICC) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

International Christian Concern
2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #241, Washington, D.C. 20006
www.persecution.org | E-mail: icc@persecution.org

India’s Christians Call for Reforms as Modi’s Promises Lack Action

International Christian Concern (ICC) (01) feature

By ICC’s India Correspondent, 7/23/2015 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) –
“India, being [a] secular democracy, everyone needs to respect each other’s beliefs and practices,” a dejected rural pastor stated recently in an interview with International Christian Concern (ICC). Despite this, India’s Christians are nervous due to Prime Minister Modi’s void promises of protection from persecution and are now calling on him to back his promises with real action.

Since Prime Minister Modi’s election, fear and insecurity among India’s Christian community have increased due to ongoing assaults on Christians and their places of worship. These assaults continue to happen despite Prime Minister Modi’s vows to protect religious freedom in India.

Dr. John Dayal, national spokesperson of the United Christian Forum, said, “The [most desperate] victims are Muslims and Christians, the two religious minorities that have always been the target of the RSS and the BJP. The RSS cadres have in recent months targeted these two communities [with their] infamous ‘Ghar Wapsi’ program which is actually the conversion of people into Hinduism by force and then promising them government subsidies and jobs.”

A Rural Pastor’s Perspective

In India’s south, the state of Telangana has become one of the toughest places for Christians over the last year. Pastor Aharon, a rural pastor from Mahabubnagar District within Telangana, is one of the victims of the ongoing increase in religious intolerance and persecution that has left many Christians like him in a state of distress and concern.

Pastor Aharon told ICC that every Sunday it is a challenge for him to conduct worship at a village called Masupally. According to Pastor Aharon, before last May there was never a problem. But when Prime Minister Modi won the general election, the trouble began for Pastor Aharon and the Christian community of Masupally.

Youth belonging to local Hindu radical group named Hindu Vahini wait for Pastor Aharon at the entrance of the village every Sunday. Pastor Aharon, who lives in a neighboring village, regularly visited Masupally to lead Sunday worship for approximately ten Christian families. Pastor Aharon told ICC, “The situation is such that I cannot give a guarantee that I will go back to my family when I go to conduct worship in Masupally. On more than one occasion, the members of Hindu Vahini, threatened to kill me if I continue to hold prayers in the village. They surround me and they use abusive language and manhandled me. They have warned me not to come back.”

When asked about his thoughts on Prime Minster Modi’s promises to protect religious freedom, Pastor Aharon questioned the sincerity of Prime Minister Modi’s promises. “India, being [a] secular democracy, everyone needs to respect each other’s beliefs and practices, but what is happening in my village is contrary to the fundamental rights our constitution guarantees for every citizen.”

India’s Christians Call for Real Action

Dr. Dayal, said that, “India should therefore be held accountable to international treaties on human rights and freedom of religion and belief. There should also be a monitoring of the funding of Hindu extremist organizations as is done in the case of Islamic [extremists] and other groups.”

Reverend Ronald John, Chairman of Telangana Christian Joint Action Committee, asserted that, “There has been double standard and a bias when it comes to filing cases on the perpetrators dealing with attacks on religious minorities. We demand both union and state government to ensure impartial actions both by administration and police.”

Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi, highlighted the need for government action to protect Christians and other vulnerable religious minorities in India amid the rise in attacks by Hindu radicals. Cardinal Toppo said in a media interview, “The government has not come out to protect and defend. The Prime Minister has only once spoken in defense of the constitution and he promised to protect the Christians and other minorities. But that was only a promise.”

Those suffering from religious extremism and intolerance continue to endure persecution as the assurances of Modi and his government remain words without deeds. The Christian community of India appeals to Prime Minister Modi to take real action to ensure the freedom of faith and equality for all before the law. It is hoped that the cries of these vulnerable Christians will be heard.


For interviews, contact William Stark, Regional Manager for South Asia: RM-SAsia@persecution.org

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference International Christian Concern (ICC) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441. 

International Christian Concern
2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #241, Washington, D.C. 20006
www.persecution.org | E-mail: icc@persecution.org

Family, Church Grieves and Hopes for another Egyptian Christian Kidnapped in Libya

International Christian Concern (ICC) (01) feature

by Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East with Sandra Eliott and ICC’s Egypt Representative | 07/28/2015 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) –
On July 17th, ISIS jihadists in Libya announced via Twitter the capture of 3 “crusaders” in Sirte. Three Christians, one from Nigeria, one from Ghana and one from Egypt were now the captives of the Islamic terrorist group.

Islamic State (ISIS) fighters, especially the Libyan affiliates, are infamously known for kidnapping travelling workers of the Christian faith. In February, 21 Christians were martyred, 20 of them coming from small towns in Upper Egypt. Then again in April, more than 30 Christians from Ethiopia and Eritrea, were violently executed for their faith in Jesus.

ISIS has shown very little hesitancy to broadcast their actions, in this instance they posted pictures of the ID cards to confirm the identities of Bekhit Nageh Efrak Ebeid from Egypt, Sekyere Kofi Frimpong from Ghana, and Aedola Ibrahim from Nigeria.

When word reached the family of Bekhit in Upper Egypt that the militants had published his ID card on social media, their fears for a son and brother Libya were realized.

Yes, I Am a Christian

Bekhit Nageh Efrank Ebeid, a 20 year old worker from the village of Kom Baddar in the Sohag Province of Egypt was among the three recently taken by militants. He was discovered when the fighters checked his passport and saw that his name was a Christian name. When asked if he believed in Jesus, the 20-year-old answered yes.

“There were thirteen passengers on the same van with my brother,” Bekhit’s brother, Romany told International Christian Concern (ICC). “The captors left them and took my brother only because he is Christian, he was targeted because [of] his faith in Jesus Christ.”

Bekhit was travelling to Libya to work and save money for his upcoming marriage. Having originally planned to fly from Sudan, Bekhit had to change his plans for financial reasons. He had assured his family that he was safe when traveling in a van full of Muslims, many of whom were also from Upper Egypt.

The family’s fears of his traveling by land were well justified. Since the fall of long-time authoritarian leader Muammar Ghadaffi in 2011, Libya has become a breeding ground for Islamic extremists who are operate freely and Christians have repeatedly been targeted. It is also a prime route for human traffickers moving migrants from the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa to the Mediterranean coast where they are just a few hundred kilometers from reaching Italy.

“Our village is [a] poor village and the majority of the villagers work in the fields cultivating the farmland,” Pastor Youssef Suleiman of Faith Church in Kom Baddar, told ICC. “A great deal of Christian young men left the village and traveled abroad to seek their living because there isn’t any work here in the village.”

This trip was the fourth time that Bekhit had traveled to work in Libya, his longest stay on a previous trip was two years. He had returned home just four months ago, but an opportunity opened up and friends and family had ensured him that it would be safe to travel, Nageh, Bekhit’s father told ICC.

The news of Bekhit’s kidnapping came first from a call he made to his relatives living in Tripoli. After explaining to them that he had been captured, a militant took his cellphone from him. When news reached Bekhit’s family in Egypt they immediately called his cellphone. ” Romany, Bekhit’s older brother told ICC, “A Libyan person answered the call and told me there are three options: paying a ransom, or converting to Islam or killing, and asked me to choose one of the three options.” Since this time, the family has not heard again from the ISIS affiliates, and there is some doubt of whether the original conversation was an actual captor or some other person.

The Pain of Not Knowing

The Ebeid family has suffered a great deal in the past two weeks. Egyptian news outlets have misreported on Bekhit ever since his kidnapping. False reports of ransom prices and his death have spread throughout the country. The truth remains that no ransom price has been set, the family has not successfully contacted the militants and Bekhit’s conditions are not known.

Bekhit’s father, Nageh, recently told ICC, “We are very worried about Bekhit and our worry, anxiety and fears have been increased after Daash had declared kidnapping him and published a picture of him on the Internet.”

The latest information allegedly came from fellow Ghanaian captive, Kofi Frimpong Sekyere. On July 26th, Kofi phoned Nageh to tell him of his own release and the situation of those still being held by the militants in Libya. He said Bekhit should be released within a number of days and that he was in good shape and of good faith. This should naturally come as a relief, but the stakes are too high for any real comfort. It is unclear if this was a legitimate call and signals that Sekyere has been set free or if it was just another exploitation of the family.

“We are afraid that his fate will be the same fate of the 20 who were beheaded,” Nageh continues, “I appeal the government officials to intervene quickly and release my son; my son didn’t commit any [crime] to take captive, he traveled to Libya to seek his living.”

In past cases of Egyptians kidnapped in Libya, the Egyptian government has been limited in its ability to act to secure the fates of their citizens. Impunity is a grave danger and a real fear for the waiting Ebeid family. In all this, however, they have come to find comfort in the comforter himself.

Fr. Semaan Saad, the priest of Mar Girgis Coptic Orthodox church in Kom Baddar village told ICC, “I know Bekhit very well, he is [a] very humble, meek, religious, simple and polite young man, and he has a good relationship with God. He is [a] very hard working man. He refused to stay here without work, he belongs to a poor family and had to travel to Libya and endangered his life to find work there to help support his parents and build his future. All the Church’s members and I ask God to release him from the hands of those bad captors.”

Mar Girgis Church is joined by Christians across the country and around the world who are praying for Bekhit and others to be safely released from those who have taken them captive.


For interviews, contact Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East: RM-ME@persecution.org

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference International Christian Concern (ICC) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

International Christian Concern
2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #241, Washington, D.C. 20006
www.persecution.org | E-mail: icc@persecution.org

A Christian Greeting Turns into a Night of Terror for Christians in Southern India

International Christian Concern (ICC) (01) feature

by William Stark, Regional Manager for South Asia, 07/29/2015 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) –
In January 2015, Christians in a village in southern India were brutally assaulted by Hindu radicals. In response to the crisis faced by this Christian community, International Christian Concern (ICC) was able to replace the Bibles these Christians lost in the assault, by doing so, and also brought this persecuted community a sense of hope and encouragement.

Nirmala and her husband, Pastor John Victor, live in Kuntluru, a village outside of Hyderabad, India. They have lived in the village for 15 years after they were forced to leave their native village with their only son.

On January 30, around 7 p.m., Nirmala was returning home from praying with a woman in a neighboring village. On her way, she met another Christian woman, Kalavathi, and they exchanged the Christian greeting, “Praise the Lord”. Their greeting was overheard by some youth who the Christians later discovered belong to a Hindu radical group. The youth immediately began to verbally abuse the Christian women, who did not respond as the youths outnumbered them and were very angry.

The next morning, Nirmala and her husband awoke to over forty Hindu radicals surrounding their house, chanting anti-Christian slogans. “They were shouting at me using bad language. They said, ‘You better hang yourself and die instead of bringing shame to [the] Hindu religion,'” Nirmala told ICC, crying. “They used the kind vulgar language that even I [wanted] to die.”

Nirmala and her husband were then threatened by the radicals, who told them to, “either leave the village or be ready to die if you [continue to] follow Jesus.” They continued,”We will spare you if you come back to Hinduism and start [to] worship Hindu gods.” The radicals also told Nirmala that she and her family had abandoned the motherland, India, by believing in a foreign religion. They threatened to take the family’s ration card and to destroy the house. The abuse continued for over an hour; after which the radicals attacked Kalavathi’s house.

After verbally abusing Nirmala and her family for over an hour, the radicals proceeded to Kalavathi’s house and forced themselves inside the home. There they threw all the Bibles and pieces of Christian literature they could find outside and burned them. Kalavathi was also warned by the radicals to leave Christianity and return to Hinduism.

After the incident, the Christian families submitted a complaint to the police, who arrested eight of the people from the mob. Since then, those eight people have been released from prison on bail and are still living in the same village as the Christians they attacked.

When ICC learned of this incident, we determined to help the believers in Kuntluru. ICC arranged with Pastor John that 25 Telugu Bibles would be purchased to replace the ones destroyed by the radicals during the January attack. When the Bibles were purchased, they were delivered to the Kuntluru church by an ICC representative who took that opportunity to reassess the persecution faced by the Christians of Kuntluru.

Upon delivery, Pastor John and his church were extremely thankful for the simple assistance. “The help from ICC in the form of Bibles is very encouraging to me and to my congregation. We are a small Church with few believers and are extremely glad,” Pastor John said when sharing some words of thanks.”The message of the Bible is love and the act of spreading the scriptures resembles the forgiving heart.”

Sadly, ICC has discovered that the situation in Kuntluru has not improved for the Christians. Pastor John told ICC that many have stopped coming to church since the attack, fearing further assaults. Nirmala and Pastor John continue to face threats for their faith. They have asked for continued prayers for their safety as well as that of the entire church during this time, especially for those who are kept away from the church by fear.

“The assistance from ICC comforts us, and also helps to boost us to carry on the church activities continuously once again thank you so much for the help and assistance, more so for the thoughtful gestures,” Pastor John said recently.

Please remember Christian communities like these who face persecution simply because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Despite the threats, assaults, and fear, these communities continue to worship and stay faithful. Help ICC remain faithful to them through prayer and giving to ICC’s funds dedicated to assisting the persecuted around the world.


For interviews, contact William Stark, Regional Manager for South Asia: RM-SAsia@persecution.org

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference International Christian Concern (ICC) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

International Christian Concern
2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #241, Washington, D.C. 20006
www.persecution.org | E-mail: icc@persecution.org

Pakistan’s Supreme Court Suspends Christian Mother’s Death Sentence

International Christian Concern (ICC) (01) feature

Asia Bibi’s Blasphemy Appeal to be Decided on the Merits

7/22/2015 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) –
International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Pakistan’s Supreme Court has temporarily suspended the death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother sentenced to death under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws.

The court has granted Bibi’s petition for appeal her conviction giving her a chance to be fully acquitted of the blasphemy charges that have seen her on death row since 2010.

The proceedings took place at the registry branch of the Supreme Court in Lahore earlier today where a three-member bench headed by Justice Main Sazib Nazir accepted Bibi’s petition for the review of her case. Talking to ICC after the court made its decision, Saif-ul-Malook, Bibi’s Supreme Court Advocate, said, “The standard of evidence which is required to prove [this] offence is not available in this case. Therefore, I am optimistic that the honorable court will acquit my client.”

“This is a procedural development and a small win for Asia that the Supreme Court has accepted her petition for review,” Peter Jacob, Executive Director of the Center for Social Justice, told ICC. “However, the outcome of this case will now depend on how it is presented to the court.”

For many, the blasphemy case against Bibi has become symbolic of how Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are widely abused and of how religious minorities are persecuted. The accusation against Bibi originates from a dispute that took place in June 2009 between Bibi and a group of Muslim women with whom she was harvesting berries in Sheikhupura. The Muslim women became angry with Bibi when she, a Christian whom they considered unclean, drank water from the same water bowl as the Muslim women. An argument between Bibi and the Muslim women ensued and later the Muslim women reported to a local cleric that Bibi had blasphemed against Islam by saying, “My Christ died for me, what did Muhammed do for you?”

Bibi has been on death row since her conviction and death sentence were announced by the Session’s Court in District Nankana, Pujab, in 2010. Her appeal hearing was held in October 2014 at the Lahore High Court. At that appeal, Justice Anwar-ul-Haq, one member of a two-judge bench, passed a short order confirming Bibi’s death sentence.

In response to the court’s decision, Molvi Muhammad Salam, the applicant against Bibi, said, “I submitted the application to cancel Asia’s petition against her sentence, however I have no objection over [the] court’s decision and will accept it on its merits.”

“Now [the] government must share the responsibility [so] that the case is not influenced by [forces] outside of the court,” Peter Jacob continued. “If [the] government chooses to educate the public on the misuse of the blasphemy laws, then Asia’s case is the best opportunity to repair some of the damages that have been caused by abusing this law.”

For the Christian community of Pakistan, the court’s decision today provides hope for a better future. “This decision is a source of hope for [the] Christian community,” Attaurhman Saman, Communications Coordinator at the National Commission for Justice and Peace, told ICC. “Once again, it shows that these laws have been misused by different actors to settle their personal scores. We hope the defense counsel will prove that Bibi is innocent and will highlight the mistreatment of this case by the lower courts.”

“I am very much happy for this great news and it is a big relieve for us,” Ashiq Masih, Bibi’s husband told ICC. “The whole family is thankful to God for listening to our prayers. We hope that justice will be done and Asia will finally be proved innocent.”

ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, William Stark, said,

The court’s decision to grant Asia Bibi’s appeal is great news for both Asia Bibi and Pakistan’s Christian community. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are widely abused by extremists seeking to settle personal scores or incite religious hatred against the country’s vulnerable religious minorities.
Historically, pressure from Islamic radical groups and general discrimination against Christians has made courts in Pakistan little more than rubber stamps for blasphemy accusations brought against Christians, regardless of the evidence brought to bear in the case.
Today’s decision by the Supreme Court shows that at least Pakistan’s highest court is willing to resist these pressures and decide Bibi’s case on the merits. If decided on the merits, ICC believes that the court’s only conclusion will be to acquit.
That decision will lay a foundation for practical steps towards religious harmony in Pakistan and will be a signal that justice will prevail over extremism and intolerance in Pakistan’s courts even when a religious minority is accused of blasphemy.

For interviews, contact William Stark, Regional Manager for South Asia: RM-SAsia@persecution.org

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference International Christian Concern (ICC) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

International Christian Concern
2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #241, Washington, D.C. 20006
www.persecution.org | E-mail: icc@persecution.org

Media Contact:
William Stark, Regional Manager for South Asia
RM-SAsia@persecution.org

Last chance for Christian mother facing gallows to be decided by Pakistan’s Supreme Court

International Christian Concern (ICC) (01) feature

Asia Bibi Appeals Blasphemy Conviction to Pakistan’s Highest Court

07/17/2015 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) –
International Christian Concern has confirmed that Asia Bibi, a Christian mother sentenced to death for allegedly committing blasphemy, will be given one last appeal to avoid execution in Pakistan. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has set the appeal date for Wednesday starting at 9:00 a.m. Pakistan time.

Human rights and religious freedom organizations, consider Bibi’s case symbolic of the persecution faced by Christians in Pakistan and of how the country’s blasphemy laws are widely abused.

“The hearing will take place on July 22nd in Lahore,” Saif-Ul-Malook, Bibi’s Supreme Court Advocate told ICC. “I am very much sure and optimistic that the honorable Supreme Court will acquit Bibi. The evidence available as the record is, is not sufficient evidence for the Islamic standards of evidence to sustain the conviction.”

Bibi has been on death row since her conviction and death sentence were announced by the Session’s Court in District Nankana, Pujab, in 2010. Her appeal hearing was delayed and rescheduled seven times but was finally held October 16, 2014 at the Lahore High Court. At that appeal, Justice Anwar-ul-Haq, one member of a two-judge bench hearing the appeal, passed a short order confirming Bibi’s death sentence.

This supreme court appeal represents Bibi’s last chance to avoid execution through Pakistan’s court system. At the hearing scheduled on Wednesday the supreme court will decide whether to “grant or reject” Bibi’s appeal.

If granted, the supreme court will set a future date for Bibi’s appeal over the course of several hearings before deciding whether to uphold or overturn her death sentence. If the death sentence is upheld, Bibi’s only chance of avoiding execution would be through a presidential pardon, a power granted to Pakistan’s President in Article 45 of Pakistan’s Constitution.

“The case against Asia Bibi is one of the best examples of how Christians and other religious minorities are abused in Pakistan by fundamentalists wielding Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws. The blasphemy laws were originally written to protect against religious intolerance in Pakistan, but the law has warped into a tool used by extremists and others to settle personal scores or spread religious hatred against Pakistan’s vulnerable religious minorities,” said William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia. “Sadly, the vast majority of blasphemy accusations brought against Christians and others are false. Pressure from Islamic radical groups and general discrimination against Christians in Pakistan has transformed courts into little more than rubber stamps for blasphemy accusations brought against Christians, regardless of the evidence brought to bear in the case.”

The blasphemy accusation against Bibi originates from a dispute that took place in June 2009 between Bibi and a group of Muslim women with whom she had been harvesting berries in Sheikhupura. The Muslim women became angry with Bibi when she, a Christian whom they considered unclean, drank water from the same water bowl as the Muslim women. An argument between Bibi and the Muslim women ensued and later the Muslim women reported to a local cleric that Bibi had blasphemed against Islam by saying, “My Christ died for me, what did Muhammed do for you?”

In April 2014, ICC held a press conference on “The Hope and Peril of Religious Minorities in Pakistan” at the National Press Club. As part of that hearing ICC highlighted Bibi’s case by reading a letter written by her husband, Ashiq Masih, saying, “Since Asia was sentenced to death in November 2010, my family has lived in constant fear. We are now trying our best to present the final case to the Supreme Court. But we are convinced that Asia will only be saved from being hanged if the honorable Prime Minister Sharif and President Hussain grant her pardon. No one should be killed only for drinking a glass or water.”

Upon learning that the supreme court had scheduled Bibi’s appeal, Masih told ICC that, “It is a great pleasure that Asia’s appeal hearing has been fixed by the Supreme Court. Our whole family is praying for her release so she may come out of the prison and may live with her children. May God protect her and all our children so that we may live safely and peacefully together.”



For interviews, contact William Stark, Regional Manager for South Asia: RM-SAsia@persecution.org

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference International Christian Concern (ICC) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

International Christian Concern
2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #241, Washington, D.C. 20006
www.persecution.org | E-mail: icc@persecution.org

Media Contact:
William Stark, Regional Manager for South Asia
RM-SAsia@persecution.org