Pakistani Christians in Thailand – World Day of Social Justice 2017

World Day of Social Justice

This week Jubilee Campaign is highlighting cases of religious persecution and discrimination in Pakistan in light of World Day of Social Justice on February 20th.

Pakistani Christians in Thailand

This past week we discussed multiple accounts of persecution and discrimination of Christians in Pakistan. Unfortunately, the stories we shared are only a very small fraction of the incidents that have occurred over the years. While some incidents of persecution are noticed by NGO’s or Christian media, the reality is that the majority of incidents go unreported. However, incidents of persecution or the fear of persecution has caused thousands of Pakistani Christians to flee the country. In the story we shared this week of Talib Masih, we mentioned that he fled to Thailand.

Some estimate the number of Pakistani Christians seeking refuge in Bangkok, Thailand to be nearly 10,000. Bangkok has been the refuge of choice for many because of its UNHCR office and the UNHCR’s ability to resettle refugees to Western nations.

Unfortunately, the high influx of refugees has caused the understaffed UNHCR office to become backlogged. Refugees wait approximately 2 years for their Refugee Settlement Determination (RSD) interview. However, because the refugees use tourist visas to enter Thailand, their presence in Thailand is only legal for a short amount of time, usually only 30 days. The long wait for an interview has caused refugees to overstay their visa, thus making them vulnerable to arrest.

Thailand is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and therefore does not provide protection to refugees. If arrested, refugees are subject to unhygienic conditions in the Immigration Detention Center (IDC) and face high bail amounts. While in Thailand, refugees are forbidden from work, education, and health care, forcing refugees to rely on ministries, NGOs, and churches for even the most basic needs.

In addition to these obstacles, the UNHCR has been rejecting a high proportion of Christian Pakistani cases. Once rejected, the refugee may only appeal it once. If rejected again, they have to either decide to illegally stay in Thailand, or return to Pakistan where they could be risking their life. Jubilee Campaign is currently working to make sure that all the cases of Pakistani Christians are fairly evaluated by the UNHCR to ensure that legitimate claims are being recognized.

Efforts have been made in the U.S. to urge Pakistan to repeal their blasphemy laws. In June 2015, Congressman Joe Pitts and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee introduced H.Res. 290 “Calling for the global repeal of blasphemy laws.” The resolution calls on the President and State Department to make repealing blasphemy laws a priority topic when dealing with countries with such laws. It also urges for Pakistan to be designated as a Country of Particular Concern by the State Department. To learn more about the resolution, click here.

In honor of World Day of Social Justice, and on behalf of Asia Bibi and all the other victims of blasphemy, we urge you to contact your Representative and ask them to support H.Res. 290. Unsure who your representative is? Find out here!

We will also be sending a petition to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on World Day of Social Justice asking him to designate Pakistan as a Country of Particular Concern. Please sign the petition and spread the word!

Also, if you are interested in helping Christian Pakistani refugees in Thailand, please consider making a donation. Jubilee Campaign currently supports an organization in Bangkok that provides refugee families with food and housing support.

Discrimination in Media – World Day of Social Justice 2017

World Day of Social Justice

This week Jubilee Campaign is highlighting cases of religious persecution and discrimination in Pakistan in light of World Day of Social Justice on February 20th.

Discrimination in Media

In October of 2016 the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PERMA) ordered a mass shutdown of Christian TV stations, stating that they were illegal. The shutdown affected 11 stations including Isaac TV and Catholic TV.

Technically, all religious stations are illegal as PERMA licenses are not issued for religious content, however, many Islamic channels exist with no trouble. Many operators at Christian stations feel discriminated against since their content was shut down and Islamic content was not. The ban purportedly leaves Christians in Pakistan without a media presence.

Christian media has a long history of being targeted in Pakistan, but usually from hard-liner Muslims. It is not unusual for individuals who air gospel music, scripture, or any Christian content over the air, on TV, or through Youtube to be threatened. Journalists in Pakistan are also at risk for reporting on Christian issues or stories that seem anti-Islamic.

The shutdown of the Christian channels comes shortly after a 16-year-old boy was accused of blasphemy and charged under Pakistan’s penal code for liking an inflammatory picture of an Islamic holy site on Facebook.

Following a court hearing where the judge announced that Nabeel Masih could face the death penalty, a mob demanded outside the court that the boy be hanged. Friends, family, and neighbors have fled the Christian village where the boy is from in fear of retaliation from surrounding Muslims.

Despite Pakistan being a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion and guarantees the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, Pakistan continues to persecute and allow discrimination against its religious minorities.

Efforts have been made in the U.S. to urge Pakistan to repeal their blasphemy laws. In June 2015, Congressman Joe Pitts and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee introduced H.Res. 290 “Calling for the global repeal of blasphemy laws.” The resolution calls on the President and State Department to make repealing blasphemy laws a priority topic when dealing with countries with such laws. It also urges for Pakistan to be designated as a Country of Particular Concern by the State Department. To learn more about the resolution, click here.

In honor of World Day of Social Justice, and on behalf of Asia Bibi and all the other victims of blasphemy, we urge you to contact your Representative and ask them to support H.Res. 290. Unsure who your representative is? Find out here!

We will also be sending a petition to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on World Day of Social Justice asking him to designate Pakistan as a Country of Particular Concern. Please sign the petition and spread the word!

The Story of the Brick Kiln Couple – World Day of Social Justice 2017

World Day of Social Justice

This week Jubilee Campaign is highlighting cases of religious persecution and discrimination in Pakistan in light of World Day of Social Justice on February 20th.

The Brick Kiln Couple

On November 4, 2014, a young Christian couple was brutally murdered by a Muslim mob. Shahzad Masih and his pregnant wife Shama Bibi, commonly referred to as the Brick Kiln Couple, were burned alive after being accused of blasphemy.

The couple from Kot Radhakishan village, Punjab province, were accused of desecrating the Quran. The accusations surfaced during the week before the attack following the death of Shahzad’s father. Shama went through her deceased father-in-law’s belongings and decided to dispose of some things. The discarded items were picked up by a garbage collector the next day, who alleged that he collected pages from the Quran.

All of the family members are bonded servants to a Muslim man who owned the brick kiln. The owner claimed that the couple had owned him money. Speculation emerged that the owner was involved in the murder after the owner wouldn’t allow the couple to flee from the village when they started receiving threats.

Clerics from local mosques announced the blasphemy accusation over loudspeakers, which prompted a mob of 600 local Muslims to storm the village. Some reports state that the mob was much larger, with some estimates as high as 1,500 Muslims. Despite the couples begging for mercy and stating they had not committed a crime, the mob started beating them with sticks.

It is reported that the couple’s legs were broken so that they were not able to flee, and they were dragged to the brick kiln furnace. When Shama’s clothes didn’t immediately ignite, the mob wrapped her in cotton to ensure she would burn. The bodies were charred beyond recognition, leaving their family with only fragments of bones to bury.

Brick kilns are considered a modern-day form of slavery. According to Punjab’s Labor Department, there are more than 6,000 brick kilns in the province where Shahzad and Shama were killed.  Working conditions are often harsh and living conditions are unhygienic. Many children are also forced to work in the brick kilns and denied education. Kiln workers are given their pay in advance, then told they cannot leave until the debt it paid. However, brick kiln owners are notorious for increasing the amount of loan, prolonging the stay of the bonded worker. According to a report conducted by Human Rights Watch, a high proportion of bonded brick kiln workers in Pakistan are Christian.

In November of 2016, 5 Muslims were sentenced to death for the murder of Shahbaz and Shama. An additional 8 were also charged in the attack and sentenced to two years in prison.

Efforts have been made in the U.S. to urge Pakistan to repeal their blasphemy laws. In June 2015, Congressman Joe Pitts and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee introduced H.Res. 290 “Calling for the global repeal of blasphemy laws.” The resolution calls on the President and State Department to make repealing blasphemy laws a priority topic when dealing with countries with such laws. It also urges for Pakistan to be designated as a Country of Particular Concern by the State Department. To learn more about the resolution, click here.

In honor of World Day of Social Justice, and on behalf of Talib Masih and all the other victims of blasphemy, we urge you to contact your Representative and ask them to support H.Res. 290. Unsure who your representative is? Find out here!

We will also be sending a petition to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on World Day of Social Justice asking him to designate Pakistan as a Country of Particular Concern. Please sign the petition and spread the word!

The Story of Talib Masih – World Day of Social Justice 2017

World Day of Social Justice

This week Jubilee Campaign is highlighting cases of religious persecution and discrimination in Pakistan in light of World Day of Social Justice on February 20th.

Talib Masih

On July 30, 2009, Talib Masih was accused of desecrating a Quran by local Muslims. Talib was a resident of Korian Village 362 JB District Toba Tek Singh and worked as a scrap collector at the time of the incident.

He was confronted by approximately 10 Muslims accusing him and his son of desecrating a Quran at a marriage ceremony that occurred a week prior. When Talib denied the accusation, the men began violently beating Talib causing injuries. People started gathering around to watch when two of Talib’s children rescued him. Local Muslims were given instruction from the Mosque to kill Talib on the spot if they saw him.

The family fled the village and took refuge in a nearby field for the night, as an angry Muslim mob attacked the Christian village of Korian. The mob burned 47 homes. It is reported that there were over 800 Muslims armed with firearms and explosives, incited by the religious leaders announcing “kill the blasphemers.”

Talib Masih 001 (003)

On August 1, 2009, Gojra city, another Christian area, was attacked because of the blasphemy accusations brought against Talib and his son. More attackers gathered as messages spread that it was a duty for the Muslims to protest because Islam was being threatened. Over 20 additional homes were burned and 8 Christians were killed, including women and young children.

Talib remained in hiding in Lahore, Pakistan for nearly two years before fleeing to Bangkok, Thailand to seek refuge from the UNHCR. After waiting approximately 2 years for his case to be reviewed, the UNHCR denied his claim. He was denied resettlement again last year after filing an appeal. Talib now remains in Bangkok attempting to appeal his case yet again.

Efforts have been made in the U.S. to urge Pakistan to repeal their blasphemy laws. In June 2015, Congressman Joe Pitts and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee introduced H.Res. 290 “Calling for the global repeal of blasphemy laws.” The resolution calls on the President and State Department to make repealing blasphemy laws a priority topic when dealing with countries with such laws. It also urges for Pakistan to be designated as a Country of Particular Concern by the State Department. To learn more about the resolution, click here.

In honor of World Day of Social Justice, and on behalf of Talib Masih and all the other victims of blasphemy, we urge you to contact your Representative and ask them to support H.Res. 290. Unsure who your representative is? Find out here!

We will also be sending a petition to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on World Day of Social Justice asking him to designate Pakistan as a Country of Particular Concern. Please sign the petition and spread the word!

The Story of Asia Bibi – World Day of Social Justice 2017

World Day of Social Justice

This week Jubilee Campaign is highlighting cases of religious persecution and discrimination in Pakistan in light of World Day of Social Justice on February 20th.

ASIA BIBI

On June 19, 2009, Asia Bibi (also known as Asia Noureen) was arrested on the grounds of blasphemy charges. Asia, a Christian mother of 5, lived with her husband in Chak No. 3 Itanwali village in the Nankana Sahib district in Punjab province. The Centre for Legal Aid Assistance & Settlement, a partner of Jubilee located in Pakistan, reported that only 5 Christian families were living in this village among 2,000 Muslim families. The Christians in this village usually work in brick kilns or other low-wage jobs.

Asia worked as a fruit picker in a produce field as the only Christian. Asia reported that she often felt discriminated against by her Muslim co-workers, but that she ignored it. On June 14, 2009, Asia was involved in an argument with two Muslim female co-workers. Asia was asked to retrieve water from a well, and as she was doing so she went to use an old metal cup to take some water for herself. One of her co-workers saw her and angrily told Asia that Christians were prohibited from drinking water from utensils used by Muslims because Christians are “unclean”. Her co-workers then made additional derogatory remarks about Christianity. Asia purportedly responded by saying that Jesus died on the cross for her sins, what did their prophet do for them?

June 18, 2009, days after the argument, one of the Muslim women told their Islamic cleric about the incident. Word spread, and a Muslim mob gathered at the produce field where Asia worked and grabbed her. They began physically assaulting her and some family members. Fortunately, the police came in time to save Asia from the mob and she was taken to the police station.

It has been reported that the woman who accused Asia of blasphemy did so because of a family vendetta against Asia’s family. False blasphemy accusations are highly common in Pakistan, especially among religious minorities as a method of revenge.

In November 2010, Asia was found guilty of the blasphemy charges and sentenced to death. If executed, Asia would be the first woman executed for blasphemy in Pakistan. Many have spoken out on behalf of Asia’s innocence, including Pakistani politicians, however, not without consequences. asia bibi

On January 4, 2011, Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, was shot 27 times by his own bodyguard. He was adamant about the country’s need to dissolve its blasphemy laws, and was in favor of a mercy petition for Asia.

Two months later, on March 2, 2011, Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian and Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, was assassinated by the Tehrik- i-Taliban for opposing the country’s blasphemy laws. He was riding in his car when it was sprayed with bullets. He was also an outspoken advocate for Asia. 

Asia’s case has been appealed, though the appeal was denied in 2014 by the Lahore High Court. In 2015 the Supreme Court stated that Asia’s death sentence would be suspended for the duration of its appeal process. Asia’s case has been postponed multiple times for various reasons. External pressure has been put on the courts, with Islamic leaders urging the courts to  hang all those accused of blasphemy, and threatening to kill those who attempt to aid those accused.

Though justice has not yet been brought to Asia, believers worldwide still pray for her freedom, including Jubilee Campaign. Efforts have been made in the U.S. to urge Pakistan to repeal their blasphemy laws. In June 2015, Congressman Joe Pitts and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee introduced H.Res. 290 “Calling for the global repeal of blasphemy laws.” The resolution calls on the President and State Department to make repealing blasphemy laws a priority topic when dealing with countries with such laws. It also urges for Pakistan to be designated as a Country of Particular Concern by the State Department. To learn more about the resolution, click here.

In honor of World Day of Social Justice, and on behalf of Asia Bibi and all the other victims of blasphemy, we urge you to contact your Representative and ask them to support H.Res. 290. Unsure who your representative is? Find out here!