Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Post 78--Release of Bibi in Pakistan

It's been quite a while ago since I drew your attention to Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who was falsely accused of blasphemy and suffered in prison for many years, eight of them in solitary confinement. I am grateful to Barnabas Fund for having supported her and her family throughout.  Many people have been praying for her all this time and finally, in His own time, God caused her to be released. While she was in prison, her husband and now teen-age children have been supported by Barnabas while they were in hiding. Aasia was in prison, even in solitary confinement for her protection. Her family were in greater danger from their neighbours and had to go into hiding. Barnabas supplies them with a house. 

But she continues to be in danger, since many Muslims want to see her dead. So, continue to pray for her and her family. But above all else, for now thank God profusely for finally having heard all these prayers on her behalf.  I believe it would be best for them to leave Pakistan. She will never be at ease there and really free.

Below follows the story with thanks to Barnabas Fund:

Pakistan’s Supreme Court overturns Aasia Bibi’s conviction

31 October 2018
Pakistani Christian mother-of-five, Aasia Bibi, who has been on death row since November 2010 after being convicted under the country’s notorious “blasphemy law”, has been saved from hanging by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court. The decision to acquit and release her was announced on Wednesday 31 October in a 56-page verdict.
Aasia reportedly told her lawyer, "I can't believe what I am hearing, will I go out now? Will they let me out, really? I just don't know what to say, I am very happy, I can't believe it."
“All my mother had done was take a drink of water”
The illiterate Christian farm worker had angered Muslim co-workers on 14 June 2009 by drinking from the shared cup when she brought them a bucket of water as they picked crops together on a sweltering summer’s day. The Muslims considered that her action made the water “unclean” for them as Muslims.
Aasia Bibi has endured eight years on death row, some of which she has spent in solitary confinement for her safety
Heated words were exchanged, and Aasia Bibi allegedly said, “Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Muhammad ever do to save mankind?”  She was threatened, beaten up twice, arrested, imprisoned and the following year convicted under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, for defiling the name of Muhammad. This crime carries a mandatory death penalty, although no one has yet been executed.
“All my mother had done was take a drink of water because she was thirsty,” said her daughter Eisham, now 18. As a nine-year-old, Eisham had seen her mother beaten and spat on by angry neighbours after the incident. 
Violent reaction feared on the streets of Pakistan
Aasia Bibi’s case has received much publicity both in Pakistan and internationally. Her husband and children have lived in hiding for many years, being likely targets for assassination by zealous Muslims. Hardline Islamist radicals have made it clear for years that they will not accept anything less than death for Aasia Bibi. Following the verdict, the patron-in-chief of the Islamist Tehreek-e-Labaik political party is reported to have stated that the chief justice and those who ordered Aasia’s release “deserve death”. In 2011 two liberal politicians in Pakistan were murdered for speaking out on her behalf and calling for reform of the “blasphemy laws”.
The court’s ruling stated that “the prosecution has categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt”. The judges also asserted, “it is not for the individuals, or a gathering (mob), to decide as to whether any act falling within the purview of Section 295-C has been committed or not”.
“Please keep praying,” came a message to Barnabas Fund from Pakistan shortly after the judges’ decision was announced and protest demonstrations began all over Pakistan. “We have deep concern over the security situation after the court verdict … this might lead to a fearful and violent situation for Christians.”
Barnabas Fund has been providing monthly food parcels for Aasia Bibi’s family for many years, as her father is unable to work because he is in hiding as a likely target for assassination being the husband of an alleged “blasphemer”.  We have also helped to buy them a house and provided the new house with a gas supply.
Please pray:
Praise God for the Supreme Court's acquittal of Aasia Bibi, parting the sea (Exodus 14:21) for her release in the face of threats and opposition – an answer to nearly a decade of faithful prayer from believers around the world. Pray that the Almighty will be a refuge for Aasia, keep her safe from danger and be a fortress against those who would seek to harm her or her family (Psalm 59:1). Lift up in prayer Christian communities in Pakistan who face the threat of violence as mobs mass on the streets in protest. Ask that the Lord will defend his people on every side, lifting them to safety, and thwart the malignant plans of evil (Job 5:11-12).

Monday, October 29, 2018

Post 77--Freedom of Speech and Offensive Speech

Recently the European Court of Human Rights upheld an Austrian woman's conviction of calling Prophet Muhammad a pedophile. The conviction, it ruled, did not restrict her freedom of speech. The "Court's" judgement was approved by a higher court apparently who ruled that the earlier one had "carefully  balanced her right to freedom of expression with the right of others to have their religious feelings protected."  She is said to have publicly declared that the Prophet's marriage to a young girl was akin to "pedophilia."  Back in 2011 she was convicted of "disparaging religious doctrines" and ordered to pay a fine of  $713 plus costs, a ruling that was also upheld in higher places (The Associated Press, Vancouver Sun, October 26, 2018)

I do not know enough about that marriage to argue for or against the woman's opinion.  Even if I had enough data to support her opinion, I would definitely not state it this way in public. As a Christian, I have no desire to insult what my neighbour holds dear and precious, even if I disagree with him. I may wish to convince him of another truth and change her mind about his own, but I would do so with respect in the fashion of dialogue, where two partners explain their different opinions, opposing, contradictory opinions even, but always with respect. 

The only time I would turn more vociferous would be when "the other" becomes unjust or oppressive. If it were an extreme case, I might lose it.

You may have noticed that I placed quotation marks around "court" in the first paragraph. There's a good reason for that, at least from the Canadian point of view. Canadian human rights "courts" are anything but courts. Not infrequently they are described as "kangaroo courts." They hand out sentences without the solid data that characterize the more standard courts.  I've had no experience with them, but I read the newspapers and too often read about the soft "legal" --there's those quotation marks again!-- reasoning practiced in these  "courts," reasoning based more on bias and prejudice than on facts and legalities. Whether this holds true for their parallels in the EU, I am not sure.   

Of course, Christians who read the Bible literally can find plenty of excuses for berating other religions. The Old Testament makes short thrift of the pagan religions that surround Israel without any attempt at showing respect. The New Testament has its own examples. Jesus, in fact, castigates the leaders of His own religion something fierce, for having twisted its spirit and turning it into a vehicle of oppression. He leaves our Austrian woman far behind in the dust with His insults! The issue for Him was that the good of the best religion was so thwarted and abused that it became impossible for our Lord even to control Himself. He became totally disrespectful in public! He became a model revolutionary!

So, there is a place for lack of respect, for telling it as it really is, but there has to be a pretty good reason for that. Jesus pushed the line for appropriateness; I would  not go beyond Him, for His was based on true insight and wisdom and on love for the poor who were the victims.

In today's Vancouver, the egoism and greed of the property owners would probably evoke the same outburst from Jesus as did the religious leaders of His day. It is no wonder that entire groups of residents blare and yell it out in often brutal language. It is a shame that the Church and individual Christians are playing the same game as their secular counterparts. I am ashamed of them and am moving closer to shouting down especially church leaders who only bring bandages and ambulance service to the homeless, instead of attacking the systemic issues of greed and selfishness. 

But, to come back to our Austrian lady, should she have said what she did?  I would probably say "no."  But should she have the legal freedom of speech to say it?  I would probably say "yes."  Freedom of speech should not be restricted by emotions and bias. Political correctness is going too far. But that's human rights "courts" for you. 


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Post 76--Nigerian Judge: Terrorism is not Terrorism

25 September 2018
This "story" is about a Nigerian judge who denies that a long history of obvious terrorist attacks on Christian communities by Muslim Fulanis constitutes terrorism.  The causes behind it all are multi-....:  religious, tribal, political, nomads vs settlers. It is also a story about governmental interference in the court system. But whatever the causes and effects, it cannot be denied that we are dealing here with terrorism, pure and simple.  And, of course, this report coming out of the UK, there are the expected denials from prominent UK leaders that religion plays no part in this continued violence. I say "of course," for British authorities still cling to the outmoded theory that religions plays no role in such violence or, at best, a secondary role. That theory has gone to seed so long ago that it is pathetic that responsible leaders still play around with it. 
Anyhow, here it is, compliments from Barnabas Fund in the UK. 
"Nigerian Judge Backs Down from Declaring Fulani Attacks on Christian Communities as Terrorism."
A judge in the Abuja division of Nigeria’s Federal High Court has backed down from officially declaring Fulani attacks on Christian communities as acts of terrorism. The leadership and educated elite of the Fulani ethnic group, living in towns and cities, are Muslim, although many of the uneducated nomadic Fulani herdsmen follow traditional African religions.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba is the second judge to avoid ruling on the case, after the judge who was originally assigned the motion secured a promotion. Justice Dimgba ordered the case to be re-assigned to the Chief Judge of Nigeria’s Federal Court on 29 August.
A lawyer from Benue state, which has witnessed multiple Fulani attacks since the start of 2018, filed a motion in May for the Nigerian Federal Court to officially declare the “killings, massacre, [and] wanton destruction” carried out by Fulani herdsmen as acts of terrorism. In April, 16 people including two church pastors were killed in a Fulani attack on a church in Ayar-Mbalom, Benue, during a morning church service. The attackers went on to set alight 50 houses in the town.
Nigerian judge backs down from declaring Fulani attacks on Christian communities as terrorism
A judge in the Abuja division of Nigeria’s Federal High Court has refused to rule whether Fulani attacks constitute terrorism
Image credit: High Court Of The Federal Capital Territory Abuja - Nigeria
As well as claiming 50 million Naira (around £104,000) in damages for the affected communities, the case is seeking to get Nigeria’s Attorney General to rule that President Buhari has a duty under Nigerian law to act to halt the attacks.
Church leaders in Nigeria have repeatedly called on President Buhari, who is himself a Fulani Muslim, to take decisive action against the scourge of attacks by Fulani herdsmen on Christian farming communities.
The British government continues to state there is no religious motivation behind the attacks by Fulani herdsmen on Christians. Barnabas Fund patron Baroness Cox raised the issue of Fulani attacks in the House of Lords on 17 July asking, “Given the escalation of attacks on Christian communities in which many hundreds have been killed recently and that the Nigerian House of Representatives has declared this to be genocide, does the Minister agree that while the causes of such violence are complex, there is a strong ideological dimension to the Fulani attacks?”
In her response, Baroness Goldie stated, “Our assessment is that they are not religiously motivated.” During the same debate, she also refused to explicitly affirm Conservative peer Lord Elton’s assessment that “Fulani herdsmen have destroyed 500 churches since 2001 and that in the first quarter of this year [2018] they have caused 1,061 deaths, mostly in attacks on Christians.”

Monday, October 1, 2018

Post 75--Suicide Among Muslims

Suicide is on the rise in the West, including North America. This post will familiarize you with Muslim thinking on this issue.  If we want to reduce its numbers, we need to know all the theories that are making the rounds, including the theories from the main religions. Hence, I introduce the subject with the help of  the Muslim "Sound Vision" at < >.

Now our subject does not cover terrorist suicide. This article is about suicide by ordinary people who for one reason or another have sunk into despair.

If you're a Christian, as I am, after reading this blog try to figure out the similarities and differences between the suicide perspectives of the two religions.  You may find that an interesting and fruitful exercise.


Monday | Muharram 21, 1440 AH | October 1st, 2018

Assalamu alaikum:

Earlier this month, the Muslim community of Herndon, Virginia was stunned to discover that Noera Ayaz, a 42-year-old lawyer and mother of two, had killed her two children and then turned the gun on herself.

As the horrific news spread to communities outside Virginia, Muslims across the U.S. struggled to understand suicide by one of their own.

One of the experts called in to help the Muslim community deal with its shock and grief revealed to Sound Vision last week that in the last six months, she has offered six of these post-suicide interventions across four different states.

Among young Muslims, the situation seems to be no better. Suicide was the fifth most common reason people called or texted Sound Vision’s Crisis Text Line, a crisis hotline aimed at Muslim youth who can text SALAM to the number 741741 for help.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, suicide rates have been rising in nearly every state. In 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans age 10 or older died by suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death and is one of just three leading causes that are on the rise.

While varying factors lead individuals to die this way, for Muslims, the shock is compounded by commonly-held, and sometimes erroneous beliefs, about the Islamic perspective on suicide.

Also, the connection to mental health struggles needs to be urgently addressed in every Muslim community. According to one the experts we interviewed about this topic, 90 percent of suicides are linked to diagnosed or undiagnosed mental illness.

This week, we hope to shed light on how we can address suicide and mental illness head on. As one of the Muslims we interviewed who recently attempted suicide emphasized,  “It is our responsibility to make sure our community is healthy.”

Sound Vision Team
If you or somone you know is considering suicide or having suicidal thoughts, please text SALAM to 741741. This is a confidential, free, hotline that will connect you with a trained counselor you can talk to.

Suicide in the Muslim community (NEW)

By: Samana Siddiqui
When a Muslim dies by suicide, the shock and grief often give way to confusion about why he or she would take such a drastic step. In this article, experts and one Muslim who recently attempted suicide share how to handle this tragedy and what Muslims can do as a community to help prevent it. >>>Read More

Helping Muslim youth deal with suicide (NEW)

By: Samana Siddiqui
“My daughter had suicidal ideation in Ramadan. She was fasting. She came up to me at 11 at night to say that she needs to be taken to the hospital because she can't control her urges. I had no idea what was going on,” said Fatima* in an interview with Sound Vision. There are no exact numbers on how many Muslims, and specifically young Muslims, die by suicide. However, Muslim youth are no strangers to it. >>>Read More

How Sound Vision’s youth engagement leads to better youth mental health

By: Imam Malik Mujahid
While youth engagement has been part of Sound Vision’s motto of “helping tomorrow’s Muslims today” since its inception 30 years ago, it took a Harvard University-connected psychiatrist, Dr. William Slaughter, to point it out to us. He reached out to me earlier this year, inviting me to speak in a mental health conference. He stressed how important Sound Vision’s work was for the mental health of young Muslims. >>>Read More

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