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Pope Francis sends aid to Yemeni refugees

Vatican City: July 30, 2018. (Vatican News) The Apostolic Nuncio to Korea, Archbishop Alfred Xuereb received €10,000 from Pope Francis destined for over 500 Yemeni refugees stranded on the South Korean Island of Jeju.
Pope in solidarity with the refugees Bishop Peter Kang U-il, the local Bishop of Jeju (Cheju), received the gift personally from the Apostolic Nuncio, who visited him specifically to express the Pope’s solidarity with the refugees. The Apostolic Nuncio also met with the refugees, celebrated Mass in the Cathedral, and imparted the Pope’s Blessing. The money will fund the needs of the Yemeni refugees through diocesan organizations caring for them. Bishop Kang and the local Church have supported the Yemeni refugees from the moment they arrived. The Bishop has advocated on their behalf, asking that the South Koreans living on Jeju be tolerant and charitable to the refugees. Situation of the refugees These Yemeni refugees are fleeing civil war which began in 2015. They chose the Island of Jeju as their destination because there was no need at the time for a visa for tourists planning to stay up to 90 days. In order to cope with the influx, South Korea prohibited the asylum seekers to access the mainland, and restricted access to certain types of work, causing high rates of unemployment among them. Some locals are lobbying the government to revoke the requests for asylum and expel the Yemeni refugees from the island. Others have taken in some of the refugees, teaching them Korean since they cannot enroll in local schools. The refugees have received discounted rates from some hotels, and donations of food, blankets, and clothing. Some local inhabitants view it as an opportunity to do in their turn what others have done for Koreans who have sought refuge in other parts of the world.

Registration required for events during Pope Francis visit

Vatican City: August 13, 2018. (ERR) Those hoping to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis during his one-day visit to Estonia late next month will for security reasons have to preregister online for access to locations he will be visiting.
A delegation from the Holy See to visit Estonia was satisfied with the ongoing preparations for the papal visit, reported ETV news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera." Prior to his arrival in Tallinn, the Pope will spend two days in Lithuania, the Baltic country with the largest Catholic population, and one day in Riga. "There is less than two months left until the visit, and now you can feel the pressure mounting — in a good way," said Apostolic Administrator of Estonia Bishop Philippe Jourdan. On 25 September, the Pope will celebrate Mass in Tallinn's Freedom Square, which can fit approximately 10,000 people. "If it becomes apparent that this won't be enough, then I think that this is a problem that we are capable of solving," Jourdan said. Space in the public square may grow tight as in addition to locals, Catholics and spectators alike are expected to arrive from Finland, Russia, Poland and elsewhere for the occasion. Preregistration online at will be required to attend, the deadline for which is 15 September. Passes to Mass will then be distributed via email ahead of the event. "The ticket is free, of course, but you must register, as this is a state security requirement," Catholic Church in Estonia spokesperson Marge-Marie Paas said. "All children must be registered as well — with their name, personal identification code, and parents' info. Everyone has to be registered." This requirement also extends to those interested in attending the Pope's scheduled meeting with the youth at St. Charles' Church, where space is limited and available spots are filling up quickly. On the day of his visit, it may be possible to spot the Pope in Tallinn's medieval Old Town or near Freedom Square. It cannot be ruled out either that the Pope's vehicle will make stops en route to allow him to greet spectators lining the street. "The Pope does indeed make such spontaneous stops, as can be seen during other visits," Paas added. Previous papal visit in 1993 September will mark the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's 1993 visit to Tallinn, when on 10 September he became the only pope to visit Estonia thus far. During his ten-hour visit, he celebrated Mass twice in Tallinn — first at Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral, then in Town Hall Square. Pope John Paul II also attended an ecumenical prayer at St. Nicholas' Church and met with President Lennart Meri and Prime Minister Mart Laar.

Speak out against injustice, Pope Francis says

Vatican City: September 7, 2018. (CNA/EWTN News).- God needs Christians to be his hands and feet on earth, and to speak out about injustice wherever it happens, especially when hidden by silence, the pope said in an interview published Friday.
Speaking with “Sole 24 ore,” a daily Italian newspaper, Francis said, “the Lord promises rest and liberation to all the oppressed in the world, but he needs us to make his promise effective.” “He needs our eyes to see the needs of our brothers and sisters. He needs our hands to help. He needs our voice to denounce the injustices committed in silence, sometimes complicit, of many.” “Above all,” he continued, “the Lord needs our heart to manifest God’s merciful love for the least, the rejected, the abandoned, the marginalized.” Speaking in the context of migration and helping those in need, Pope Francis said Catholics must “not stop being witnesses of hope.” It is important for migrants to be respectful of the laws and culture of the country they have come to, and it is important for governments to help immigrants to integrate and to not stoke fear, giving a “dignified welcome to many brothers and sisters who call for help,” he said. “It is important that our projects and proposals be inspired by compassion, vision and courage, so as to seize every opportunity to advance the construction of peace.” In an almost 4,000-word interview for the economics-focused newspaper, the pope spoke at-length about community, the dignity of work, and the importance of the economy being at the service of the human person, rather than the idol of money. “When the person is no longer at the center, when making money becomes the primary and only objective we are outside ethics and we build structures of poverty, slavery and waste,” he stated, pointing out that current economic structures “need conversion.” “There is a lack of awareness of a common origin, of belonging to a common root of humanity and of a future to be built together,” he said, and to gain this awareness would provide the stimulus for new attitudes and lifestyles. Noting that economic activity originates with the human person, he said some people wrongly think “money is made with money,” when real money is created by human work and “it is work that gives dignity to man, not money.” Francis also decried the high rates of unemployment affecting several European countries, saying it is one consequence of an economic system which worships money. But in the midst of these and other problems, there is still hope, he said. And Christians can struggle together to put the family and the human person at the center. More than simple optimism, hope “carries us forward.” It is “like the embers under the ashes,” he said, and urged Catholics to help themselves by “blowing on the ashes.” He said it is important to work together for the common good and to build a “new humanism of work,” promoting work that respects the dignity of the person, “knowing that the good of people and the good of the company go hand in hand.” “Let us help ourselves to develop solidarity and to realize a new economic order that no longer generates waste,” he said, “by enriching economic activity with attention to the poor and the reduction of inequality.”

Pope at Mass: Guardian angels, our daily gate to the Father

Vatican City: October 2, 2018. (By Gabriella Ceraso) On the Memorial of the Guardian Angels, Pope Francis dedicated the Mass to the 25 years of religious life of a nun present at the celebration.
Taking his inspiration from the Readings, he praised the role of the protectors God places by our side: the angels, whom he calls our companions, guardians, and guides along the path of our life, and gateways that open the way to God. “Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared.” Pope Francis chose these words, taken from the first Reading, as the basis for his reflection in the homily at the Mass for the feast of the Guardian Angels. They are the “special helpers” that “the Lord promises to His people and to us who travel along the path of life.” Our angels are a compass to guide our journey Life is a journey, along which we must be helped by “companions,” by “protectors,” by “compasses” that guard us against dangers, and from the snares we might encounter along the way. Pope Francis points out three specific risks: There is the danger of not going on the journey. And how many people settle down, and don’t set out on the journey, and their whole life is stalled, without moving, without doing anything
 It is a danger. Like that man in the Gospel who was afraid to invest the talent. He buried it, and [said] “I am at peace, I am calm. I can’t make a mistake. So I won’t take a risk.” And so many people don’t know how to make the journey, or are afraid of taking risks, and they are stalled. But we know that the rule is that those who are stalled in life end up corrupted. Like water: when the water is stopped up in a place, the mosquitos come, they lay their eggs, and everything is corrupted. Everything. The angels help us, they push us to continue on the journey. The dangers of going astray, or losing our way in a maze But there are two other dangers we face in our lives, the Pope continued. There is the “danger of going astray,” which can be corrected easily only at the beginning; and the danger of leaving the road to lose ourselves in a maze, going “from one part to another,” like a “labyrinth” that traps us, so that we can never escape. The angel, Pope Francis repeated, is there “to help us not to mistake the road, and to continue to journey along it” – but our prayer, our request for help, is needed: And the Lord says, “Have respect for their presence.” The angel is authoritative; he has authority to guide us. Listen to him. “Hearken to his voice, and do not rebel against him.” Listen to the inspirations, which are always from the Holy Spirit – but the angel inspires them. But I want to ask you a question: Do you speak with your angel? Do you know the name of your angel? Do you listen to your angel? Do you allow yourself to be led by hand along the path, or do you need to be pushed to move? Angels show us the way to reach the Father But the presence and the role of the angels in our life is even more important, because, Pope Francis said, they not only help us to journey well, but also show us our destination. In the day’s Gospel, taken from St Matthew, the Lord says “Do not despise one of these little ones,” because “their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” In the “mystery of the guardianship of the angels,” the Pope said, “there is also the idea of “the contemplation of God the Father,” which we can only understand if we are given that grace from the Lord. Pope Francis draws the conclusion: Our angel is not only with us; he also sees God the Father. He is in relationship with Him. He is the daily bridge, from the moment we arise to the moment we go to bed. He accompanies us and is a link between us and God the Father. The angel is the daily gateway to transcendence, to the encounter with the Father: that is, the angel helps me to go forward because he looks upon the Father, and he knows the way. Let us not forget these companions along the journey.

Biblical Scholar Eugene Peterson Dies at 85

Washington DC: October 22, 2018. (ChristianHeadlines) American author, biblical scholar and pastor Eugene Peterson died Monday, October 22, at 85 years old.
About one week ago it was announced that Peterson was admitted into hospice care due to his declining health. The Message writer’s son, Eric, made an announcement via email to the family’s friends and loved ones to inform them of the move. In the email, Eric explained that Peterson was admitted into the hospital for his declining health which “took a sudden and dramatic turn” in the wrong direction caused by an infection. Peterson was suffering from heart failure and dementia and according to his son, both were “advanced and progressing.” Peterson was a well-respected member of the Presbyterian Church, biblical scholar and author of over 30 books. Relevant Magazine even called Peterson “one of the most recognized Bible scholars in America.” The pastor was most famously known for the writing of his contemporary translation of the Bible, The Message. Peterson is also known for founding Maryland’s Christ Our King Presbyterian Church where he was the pastor for nearly 30 years before he retired in 1991. Peterson was born in Washington state but grew up in Montana where he attended a Pentecostal church. The pastor attended university at Seattle Pacific University where he received a B.A. in philosophy. He went on to get an S.T.B. from NY Theological Seminary before getting his Master’s in Semitic languages from Johns Hopkins and then becoming a pastor. Peterson went on to serve as a professor of spiritual theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia until retiring from there in 2006. As many in the Christian community mourn the loss of the beloved scholar some are taking to social media to share their condolences and memories with Peterson. Christian author and journalist Johnathan Merritt took to Twitter to say, “The world is far poorer today than we were yesterday. Eugene Peterson has died.” Pastor and Author Nate Pyle wrote, “‘That's the whole spiritual life. It's learning how to die. And as you learn how to die, you start losing all your illusions, and you start being capable now of true intimacy and love.’ -Eugene Peterson. May you know, now intimately, as you are fully known.” Peterson’s friend Winn Collier took to Facebook to say, “The lantern is out. My friend and pastor Eugene Peterson died this morning. Eric says his joy, his smile, was full to the final breaths. I have tears. Eugene knows only gladness.”

Britain promises more anti-terror aid to Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: December 14, 2008. (AFP) British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Sunday pledged more technical support and funding to help Pakistan and India battle terrorism in the wake of the attacks in Mumbai that killed more than 160 people.
Brown made the offers as he made whirlwind visits to both nations' capitals and tried to calm tensions following the assaults, which India has blamed on a Pakistani-based Islamist group. Brown urged the nuclear-armed rivals to cooperate to peacefully resolve the crisis, which the U.S. fears could divert Pakistan's attention away from battling al-Qaida and Taliban militants along its border with Afghanistan. In Pakistan, Brown met with President Asif Ali Zardari and promised the Muslim nation new bomb-scanning technology, forensic assistance, help improving airport security and other support. He also announced a $9 million program to help fight the causes of extremism and strengthen democracy, including trying to reach out to and educate Pakistani youth to avoid radicalization. "We will continue to expand our counterterrorism assistance program with Pakistan, and it will be, more than ever, the most comprehensive anti-terrorism program Britain has signed with any country," Brown said at a joint news conference with Zardari. Brown also said more would be done with both India and Pakistan to share police data on terror suspects and groups. For Britain, which has a large South Asian population and colonial-era links to the region, the subject is of vital concern. Three-quarters of the most serious terror plots investigated by British authorities have links to al-Qaida in Pakistan, Brown said. The investigations included the trans-Atlantic airliner plot, where a group of men were accused of trying to blow up several airliners. Three of four British-born men who carried out the London suicide bombings that killed 52 commuters in 2005 had family ties to Pakistan. British citizens were also among the dead in the Mumbai attacks. "All of us suffer when terrorists are active and are able to impose their will," Brown said. Brown said he asked Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during breakfast Sunday if he would allow British authorities to question the only known surviving gunman in the Mumbai massacre, and asked Zadari for similar cooperation with arrested suspects. India has blamed the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba Islamic group for the attacks, an assertion Brown echoed. "We also know that the group responsible (for the Mumbai attacks) is LET, and they have a great deal to answer for," Brown said. According to India, the 10 gunmen — nine of whom were killed — were from Pakistan, as were the handlers, masterminds, weapons, training camps and financing. Pakistan has arrested some suspected plotters and shut offices of a charity allegedly linked to Lashkar, but it is pressing India to provide evidence to aid in prosecutions. India now finds itself in the awkward position of potentially having to investigate terrorist attacks hand-in-hand with its longtime nemesis. The two countries have fought three wars against each other since independence from Britain in 1947. Zardari said Pakistan wants peaceful relations and views the post-Mumbai scenario as "an opportunity to cooperate with India, to take the relationship with India to another level." Adding to tensions, Pakistani officials said Indian aircraft violated Pakistan's airspace twice Saturday — over the eastern city of Lahore and in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. India denied the claims, and Pakistani officials tried to downplay the matter Sunday. Zardari said the incursions were "technical" and that the media were "trying to sell bad news." Two of the wars the sides have fought have been over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, whose status has emerged as a recurrent theme in the radicalization of young British Muslims. Despite a peace process that began in 2004, tensions remain high between India and Pakistan. Brown arrived in India following a surprise visit Saturday to Afghanistan, where he met with British soldiers and hinted Britain would provide more troops, saying Europe's streets were safer because of the fight in Afghanistan. While with Zardari, Brown said he also raised the subject of insecurity along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. Al-Qaida and Taliban militants have found safe havens on the Pakistani side, to the chagrin of U.S. and NATO leaders who fear the insurgents are using those sanctuaries to plot attacks on their troops in Afghanistan. Improving the border security "is in all our interest" Brown said, because of the "people practicing terror who are moving with ease." Brown is leading a review of the U.K.'s strategy in Afghanistan, and an announcement on troop deployment is expected in Parliament this week. American leaders say thousands of incoming U.S. troops will be sent to reinforce British forces in the restive south. Britain has some 8,200 troops in Afghanistan. More than 130 British soldiers have died there since 2001

Pope: Immigrant kids must be integrated

VATICAN CITY: November 27, 2009. (AP) Pope Benedict XVI says immigrant children must be fully integrated into their new societies and protected from the risks of exploitation.
Benedict made the appeal in a message published Friday to mark the church's World Day for Migrants and Refugees, which is celebrated Jan. 17. The pontiff says the number of migrant children seeking political asylum is on the rise, requiring coordinated action by governments to ensure they are protected from exploitation and welcomed. He says young immigrants must be educated and given the opportunity to enter into the work force of their new home countries. He didn't mention any country by name, but Italy and the rest of Europe have been struggling with how to fully integrate immigrants into society.

Egyptian Christian Sentenced to 6 Years in Prison for 'Insulting the Prophet'

Cairo: March 5, 2012. (AINA) In the latest in a series of "defamation of religion" cases, an appeal has been filed on behalf of an Egyptian Christian
who was sentenced to six years in prison for "insulting the Prophet." Legal observers saw many flaws in the ruling of the judge of the Abanoub misdemeanor court, in Assiut province, while others accused him of appeasing a mob of 2500 Muslims who congregated outside the court and demanded the death penalty for the defendant, Makram Diab. Eyewitnesses reported that some of the Muslims carried knives and wanted to break into the court and kill Diab, but were blocked by the police. Diab's Muslim defense lawyer, Ahmad Sayed Gabali, said that during his 18 years as lawyer, he has never experienced what he went through in this case. "Over 80 Islamist lawyers representing civil rights claimants filled the court, locked the door of the court from the inside, not allowing the judge out, and prevented me as the defense lawyer from going inside the court and defending my client." A discussion on February 9 between the Makram Diab, who is a school secretary, and a Salafi school teacher became heated but then simply ended. Thirteen days later, on February 23, another teacher named Abdel-Hamid, who was not present during the quarrel or even at school on that day, filed a complaint with the police, signed by another 11 teachers, accusing Makram Diab of insulting Islam's prophet. "This was a normal quarrel between him and the Muslim teacher," said Gabali, "which could happen anywhere. It was provoked by the teacher, who has been transferred several times from different schools after being reprimanded for causing sedition, and was used by the Salafis for their benefit. This is a group of teachers who used Diab as a scapegoat." Gabali said that when he approached the court house on the day of the trial, there was a huge mob of Muslims, in addition to high school teachers and students holding banners and chanting Islamic slogans. "We were about 14 to 15 people, including the 12 policemen who were there to secure the court, facing a crowd of over 2500 people." He waited outside in his car, to be called in by the police warden when it was secure for him to go inside, but this never happened. "The Muslims' plan was to get the police engaged with me, so that they could attack my client inside the court." The media gave minimal coverage to the case, and no account of the accusation was published, leaving it to the imagination of the readers and viewers. Stories differ as to what the insults to prophet Mohammad were. According to the official court version, Makram Diab allegedly said that Mohammad sexually harassed his disciples. "This cannot be true at all," said attorney Gabali, who has known Makram personally all his life. "He is simply not capable of it. He is a simple person, who has nothing to do with religion or politics." Diab's sister Hadia said that her brother simply asked the Muslim teacher whether it was true that Mohammad married 40 wives and the teacher said he would ask and let him know the answer. Michael, Makrab's son, said it was a quarrel. "The Muslim insulted the Christian religion and my father simply answered back. Was my father supposed to be insulted and keep quiet? Defamation of Religion is considered a misdemeanor under Egyptian law, punishable by a prison sentence of one month to three years. The Abanoub court is a partial court and the judge is not allowed to pass a prison sentence exceeding three years. Defense lawyer Gabali believes that the Abanoub judge had to pass this flawed ruling as he found himself in the midst of Muslim groups inside and outside the court. "I saw a group of lawyers entering court weeping, literally weeping, to plead with the judge to give the maximum sentence," he added. He said that he tried to solve the matter amicably before it went to court, but the Muslims refused and the reconciliation meeting was cancelled. He called on the army to secure the court in the appeal session on March 15 in Assuit, "otherwise, we will have a repetition of the Abanoub trial, with mobs everywhere trying to influence the judge morally and religiously." He called on Field Marshal Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed forces to ensure that the trial in Assuit be fully secured by the army outside and inside the court, "otherwise, I cannot guarantee the safety of my client." Makram Diab is kept now in the high security section of the Assuit prison.

Pope Francis Urges Countries to End Death Penalty: 'Even a Criminal Has the Inviolable Right to Life'

Vatican City: February 24, 2016. Pope Francis is asking all Christians to fight to end the death penalty, which the pope said goes against the biblical commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.”
“Even a criminal has the inviolable right to life, a gift of God," Francis said during a speech marking the Year of Mercy at the Vatican. "This issue has to be considered within the perspective of a penal justice, which is more and more in compliance with human dignity and God's plan for humanity and society," the pope said, according to Catholic News Service. According to The Christian Post, the pope asked that the world abolish the death penalty. "All Christians and people of goodwill are called today to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, but also to improve the conditions of life in prison, in the respect of human dignity of people deprived of freedom," Francis said. In past statements, Francis has said that life imprisonment is a “hidden death penalty.” According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 22 countries carried out death penalties in 2014. China leads the number of judicial executions with more than 1,000. The U.S. is in the top six countries. An October 2015 Gallup poll found that 61 percent of Americans support the death penalty.

Peace process with Pakistan put on 'pause': Indian minister

SRINAGAR: December 16, 2008. (AFP) India's foreign minister said Tuesday the peace process with Pakistan had been put on hold in the wake of last month's Islamic militant attacks on Mumbai. "I do admit there is a pause in the composite dialogue process because of the attacks on Mumbai," Pranab Mukherjee told reporters in Srinagar, the main city in Indian Kashmir. "What we expect, and what we have pointed out to (Pakistani Foreign Minister) Shah Mahmood Qureshi, is that Pakistan should fulfil its commitment of not allowing its territory for terrorist attacks against India," he added. "Words must be followed up with action," Mukherjee said, calling for militant "infrastructural facilities" in Pakistan to be dismantled. "We expect that good sense will prevail and we expect that the assurances that are coming will translate into action," he said. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the official Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported that the Indian government was considering suspending the peace process. The dialogue, which began in 2004, had already been under serious strain following the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul in July -- which New Delhi blamed on Islamabad. Last month's attacks in Mumbai killed 172 people and wounded nearly 300 others. Indian officials say the militants were trained and sent by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group.

Mending walls between Pope and Archbishop

VATICAN: November 28, 2009. (By jochanj) Vatican officially announced the meeting between Pope Benedict XVIPope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canterbury as ‘Cordial’ on Saturday
The Pope gifted the Archbishop with a pectoral Cross and the Archbishop had a ring that Pope Paul VI had gifted to Archbishop Michael Ramsey. A statement issued just after the meeting of the leaders in Vatican said that the leaders discussed, “the need to promote forms of collaboration and shared witness” as Christianity all over the world faces challenges. The statement continued to clarify the meeting as “the discussions also focused on recent events affecting relations between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.” The statement affirmed the preparedness of the leaders for “shared will to continue and consolidate the ecumenical relationship between Catholics and Anglicans.” Soon after the meeting the Dr. Williams, the Archbishop, in an interview granted to BBCBBC said that the meeting had gone smoothly, “as well as I could have hoped. I was able to express the concerns which many Anglicans feel in the way the Apostolic Constitution was handled, in the way it was made public, but we moved from there to talk more positive matters of co-operation, and he (the Pope) was extremely enthusiastic about the next stage of official dialogue between the two churches. “ Dr. Williams brushed aside the accusation that the Pope’s move had damaged ecumenical relations. He said, “I think not. I think it’s a pastoral measure for certain people, certain groupings. It is not a new ecumenism, as some people are saying. It is not a new departure replacing the continuing dialogue of the two Churches as Churches. The suggestion that there is a new track in ecumenism in the Apostolic Constitution is not the case.” In yet another interview with Vatican Radio, the Archbishop said that the misleading messages given out in the manner of announcement of the Pope’s move had left both the Archbishop and many Anglicans in “an awkward position for some time. I wanted to share some of these concerns with the Pope. I think those were expressed and heard in a friendly spirit.”

International Christian Voice Canada ICV president resigned 

Toronto: March 15, 2012. (PCP) According to e-Mails circulating in bulkmails report that Parvez Masih, President of ICV, have resigned from ICV on March 3, 2012! These are contents of letter from Parvez Masih
My dear Brothers and Sisters,  God bless you all abundantly.  I talked with many of you and appreciative of your frustration about the cause of persecuted Christians being compromised by the Chairman of ICV and its other decision makers. Thanks for being so good to work with your ideas, dreams and suppport for the change. I am also thankful that you have been a great source of inspiration for me in these days to reshape and rebuilt our direction to fulfill the real cause. I believe in your power, passion and energetic support what we really need today to defeat every negative idea to give up the cause, a cause greater than any leader and organization. I want all of you to please become the integral part and centre of our future plans to promote the cause of persecuted Christians with sincerity and solidarity. I would also like to invite all of you to join hands with me to work together with commitment for the cause of our brothers and sisters suffering due to their faith in Pakistan and all over the world. Together we can definitely change the world and be able wipe the tears of our brothers and sisters.   With warmest regards and expectation of positive response from all of you.  Sincerely yours, Pervez Masih  March 03, 2012   The Chairman, ICV  Dear Peter Bhatti,  Re:  Resignation as President and membership of ICV  As you are aware that I have served the then CLF and now ICV with my heart and soul. Due to my prolonged and close association with Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti, who was more than my brother and my leader, I made myself fully and deeply committed to his cause and vision for our Christian brothers and sisters being persecuted owing to their faith.  After assassination of Martyr Shabaz Bhatti, I have observed that ICV in your leadership seems to be working for your personal goals and against the vision of Martyr Shabaz Bhatti for which he gave his life. As such, leaders and members of ICV were always not being consulted while making some important decisions. As President of ICV, if at any stage, I dared to bring my and other executive members' feelings about your unwarranted and undemocratic attitude that you are running the affairs of the organization for your own motives, you just turned deaf ear to our concern. You always have an attitude to keep things up to you. This has become the main cause that all main executive members have left ICV. Due to the reasons, there is no point for me also to continue as the President and member of ICV.     Keeping in view the stated circumstances, I, therefore, tender my resignation from the position of President of ICV and its membership with immediate effect. Pervez Masih

Mumtaz Qadri who killed governor Taseer hanged to death

Rawalpindi: February 29, 2016. (News Agncies) Mumtaz Qadri, the security guard who killed late Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, has been hanged to death in Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi.
Qadri had filed a mercy plea before President Mamnoon Hussain after Supreme Court maintained his conviction in October last year. Rumours started pouring in earlier today as his supporters started Twitter trend to call for protest against his expected hanging.

Christmas decorations a reminder of new life from Christ, pope says

VATICAN CITY: December 16, 2008. (CNS) The traditional decorations of Christmas are reminders that the light and love of Jesus Christ bring new life to all who wait in darkness, Pope Benedict XVI said.
The pope spoke about Christmas trees as symbols of new life Dec. 12 when he met a delegation from Austria, which donated the Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square, and he spoke about Nativity scenes as reminders of God's love for humanity when he blessed figures of the baby Jesus Dec. 14 before reciting the Angelus. "Before the Nativity scene, we experience Christian joy, contemplating in the face of the newborn Jesus the face of the God who drew near to us out of love," the pope said during his Angelus address. The day's reading from St. Paul, he said, called on Christians to rejoice because the Lord is near. Although the Catholic Church believes in the second coming of Christ, there is no need for "alarmism," he said. "The nearness of God is not a question of space or time, but a question of love: Love is drawing near." In the special blessing for the Nativity scene figures, which Roman children brought to St. Peter's Square for the occasion, the pope prayed that the figurines would be signs of the presence of Jesus' love in people's homes and families. "Open our hearts so that we can receive Jesus in joy, that we always can do what he asks of us and that we can see him in all those who need our love," the pope prayed. In his Dec. 12 meeting with the Austrian pilgrims -- including the bishop of Sankt Polten, the governor of Lower Austria and the mayor of Gutenstein -- the pope noted that the 120-year-old, 108-foot-tall spruce was the tallest to ever stand in the center of St. Peter's Square. "In the coming weeks, the Christmas tree will give joy to Romans and to many pilgrims from every part of the world who will come to the Eternal City," the pope said. "I will be able to see it from my window and will enjoy it." "Its soaring form, its green and the lights on its branches are signs of life," the pope said. The tree is a reminder that "Christ, the son of God, brings new hope and new splendor to the dark, cold and unredeemed world into which he was born," he said. In the midst of a rainstorm Dec. 13, hundreds of people joined Vatican officials and the Austrian dignitaries for the tree-lighting ceremony, which ended with the singing of "O Tannebaum."

Dottore Architetto Ashraf Ramelah writes to Coptic Pope

His Holiness Pope Shenuda III, Patriarch and Bishop’s President of the great Alexandria, I am certain that this open letter will meet various disappointments in the Coptic community
I am certain that you will understand that the only reason I write is my concern for the Coptic situation and your relationship to the Church as its leader. I believe that our Lord wanted you to guide his Church. Meanwhile this does not mean that everything you do meets his will. For some time, I have been observing the Church leaders’ statements on various occasions, and I regret to admit that certain reports were against Copts, the Coptic Church, and overall, against Bible teaching. In all these years, the reports issued by the Church leaders contradicted the facts about Copts and had the goal to help the regime in painting a nice picture for those outside the country so that it appeared without discrimination against the Copts in Egypt. His Holiness; I can hear your voice whisper, “Son, the Church must say certain things for the sake of peace and to protect its sons.” The question that comes to mind is how many Copts were killed, or jailed? How many Copts lost their homes and businesses? How many Coptic girls continue to suffer as a result of being kidnapped? How many girls were forced to change their faith? Did the Church’s statements serve to save any Coptic life, home or business? Or more likely, just help Mubarak’s regime to attack the human rights of Copts? His Holiness; The Lord teaches us to stand against the bad without fear, but now it seems that our Church is trying to please a dictatorial regime instead of standing beside its children. For more than 40 years our Church has been under clear attack. We have never heard any Church strong statement condemning any of those barbaric acts! The sad reality is that all the years the Church covered up the regime’s acts of oppression and discrimination against Copts it served to discredit any Coptic human rights issues bringing the suffering of Copts to the international body. All Copts need to hear straight forward answers from church leaders to the following questions: - Are Copts living under a regime that oppresses and discriminates against them or is the information reported in various websites, local and international news media incorrect and the Coptic in the Diaspora trying with their false information to discredit the great democratic leader ruling the country for the last 28 years? - Was the government action to massacre more than 600,000 pigs owned by Copts a plan to damage Coptic income and to force more than two millions Copts to go hungry or to change their faith? The massacre of those animals violated basic animal’s rights and basic humanity. - Did the Church create a list of the kinds of food to be eaten that people have to follow? Christ gives us our freedom and no one can take it away. It is written, “Not that which entereth into the mouth defileth the man; but that which proceedeth out of the mouth, this defileth the man. Matt 15:11. The statement issued at the time of the pig massacre indicating that Copts do not eat pork meat is an example of political correctness. The Copts have been subject to the political correctness method for more than 1400 years. Furthermore, to make such a statement goes against Christ’s teaching in the following scripture, which says, “Let your 'Yes' mean 'Yes,' and your 'No' mean 'No.' anything more is from the evil one.” Matt 5:37. However, we all know that David, Samson, and Solomon were all chosen of God and each made mistakes. - When are we going to stand up and ask for our rights as Egyptian citizens and not as Christians living in Egypt? It is both basic and elementary that a human being be treated with respect and treat others with respect. My final concern is related to a strange comment made by Your Holiness when referring to the candidacy of a Copt for president in the upcoming presidential election. You said that it is not good that one from a minority group become president of a majority group. I would like to mention something you have forgotten, that of the requirements for making a bid for president: - The candidate must be Egyptian. - Copts are Egyptian and they never minded being governed by the non-Coptic. - The President has to be honest and care about his own country. In the USA the president today is African-American and African-Americans are a minority in America. They are a smaller percentage of US population than the Coptic minority is in Egypt.

Hundreds of Muslim lawyers block blasphemy alleged Christian victim’s lawyer entering court in Egypt

Cairo: March 17, 2012. (AINA) More than 300 Muslim lawyers inside and outside a courthouse in the southern Egyptian
province of Assuit today prevented defense lawyer Ahmad Sayed Gabali, who is representing the Christian Makarem Diab, from going into court. Mr. Diab was found guilty of ‘Insulting the Muslim Prophet’ and was scheduled today a hearing on his appeal. Attorney Dr. Naguib Gabriell, head of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization, said there was “terror in the Assiut Court today.” He added that he was on his way to court when he was advised that Muslim lawyers have issued death threats to any Christian lawyers who attend the court session. “Makram Diab was assaulted by Muslim lawyers during his transfer from the courtroom and security failed to protect him.” Peter Sarwat, a Coptic lawyer, said that Muslim lawyers representing the plaintiffs prevented the defense team from entering court. “They said no Muslim will defend a Christian. It was agreed that Christian lawyers would take over and two Coptic lawyers volunteered, but the Muslims decided later that even Christians would not defend him.” Sarwat said the Muslim lawyers wanted to assault the chief judge but he managed to leave the court via a rear door. Adel Ramadam and Ahmad Mohamad Hossam, two Muslim lawyers and activists from the renowned NGO Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) went to court to defend Diab’s right to a fair trial but were assaulted by the other Muslim lawyers. “They were assaulting us in a beastly and strange way just because we went there to defend a citizen who happened to be a Christian,” said Adel Ramadam. He also said that to get out of court was a complex operation and a huge task for the security personnel. “We left court in a security vehicle which took us to Security headquarters, otherwise, we don’t know what the outcome would have been for us.” Makram Diab, a school secretary was sentenced by the Abanoub misdemeanor court two weeks ago to six years imprisonment on charges of insulting Islam’s prophet. His defense lawyer, Ahmad Sayed Gabali, was also prevented during that session from entering the court by Muslim lawyers (AINA 3-5-2012). “I went to court today because I believe this citizen was stripped of all his rights,” said Adel Ramadam in an aired interview today. “He had a quarrel with a Salafi school colleague and then 11 days later, it was suddenly decided by Muslims that they will report the case. He was detained by the prosecution for 4 days and two days later in a 10-minute session and without any defense lawyer present, he was sentenced to 6 years, which is way above the maximum of a misdemeanor case.” Eyewitnesses reported that the Muslim lawyers were armed with clubs. A police captain, b two EIPR lawyer, and two reporters from Ros-el-Youssef and El-Bashayer Egyptian newspapers were injured in the milieu. Human rights groups reported that they were also forced out of the courtroom by the Muslims. Adel Ramadam said the court session never started because the judge knew that the defense were prevented from entering the court, and knew of the assaults. “He just postponed the appeal session to April 5.” U.S. taxpayers give Egypt a billion dollars and our corrupt government is forgiving a billion dollar loan as well. All for sharia. Wake up. The Muslim Brotherhood permits this and their front groups are all over the U.S. Like CAIR: Former Hamas-CAIR official running for president in Egypt, pledges to “complete the implementation of Islamic law in Egypt”.

Hundreds Killed in Nigeria Attacks

Nigeria: March 5, 2016. (World Watch Monitor) The armed attacks in and around Agatu, in the central Nigerian state of Benue, had features long familiar to Nigerians:
ethnic Fulani cattle herders, largely Muslim, moving in on farmers, largely Christian. The long-running land conflict frequently is framed in economic terms, but it also has distinctive religious contours. Survivors quoted by Christian-rights advocates said the attackers specifically targeted Christians and churches and spared Muslims and mosques. The violence broke out 23 Feb. and continued across several villages for several days, culminating 29 Feb. in what witnesses told Nigerian news media was a massacre in Agatu. The killings sparked protests in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. A week after the attacks began, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered an investigation. A complete assessment of the number of dead and displaced is not available. Early social-media postings by Signal, a news startup in Abuja, reported “scores” dead. An aide to Benue Gov. Samuel Ortom told Agence France-Presse that “hundreds of lives were lost.” The Agatu violence appeared to be worse than the 2010 attacks in Plateau state that killed more than 200 Christians, according to a 2 March email sent to supporters by Emmanuel Ogebe, a Nigerian human-rights lawyer based in Washington, D.C. who specializes in crimes against Nigeria’s Christians. A Nigerian news organization, Vanguard, quoted a survivor, Ada Ojechi, as saying the fatality rate was very high but could not put a figure to it because no survivor could take the risk of counting the dead. Ojechi told Vanguard that the promise of Federal military and Benue state police created a false sense of security. Many of the people who fled began to return on Sunday. The next day, the attackers returned. “Our people were caught napping because we relaxed when we heard what we considered the cheering news that the federal government has intervened,” Ojechi was quoted as saying. “Unfortunately, the Fulanis knew we had relaxed and took advantage of us to unleash a terrible massacre on us. As we speak, corpses litter everywhere in the village. I have been trying to reach many of my family members without success. We feel terribly let down by the government that announced a joint security team. We have not seen the security men- be they policemen or military, as I speak.” Nigerian news reports said more than 7,000 people have been internally displaced and are living in camps as a result of the violence. In announcing an investigation, President Buhari said: “The only way to bring an end to the violence once and for all is to look beyond one incident and ascertain exactly what factors are behind the conflicts.” “There should not be any reason why Nigerians of any group or tongue cannot now reside with one another wherever they find themselves after decades of living together.” In his 2 March email dispatch from Nigeria, Ogebe said the area remained in an “active shooter” situation. In meeting with eight survivors 28 Feb., Ogebe said a Muslim man claimed to have been spared when he was able to recite a verse from the Quran for the attackers.

No proof of Pakistan link to Mumbai attacks: Zardari

LONDON: December 18, 2008. (AFP) Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari insisted in an interview with the BBC on Wednesday that there was no firm proof linking his country to last month's attacks on India's financial centre, Mumbai.
Speaking to the British broadcaster from Islamabad, he said the investigations into the attacks were ongoing and he would "not jump to a conclusion" on who was responsible until they were complete. New Delhi has fingered "elements" in Pakistan for the attacks that left 172 people dead, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said militants from Pakistan-based group Laskhar-e-Taiba were responsible. "What we are saying is that we are willing to cooperate -- and you know like anybody else does, that investigation is an evolving process, it hasn't been long enough" to come to any conclusions, Zardari said. He added: "I think we will hold our judgement till the proper investigation and conclusive evidence is shared between Pakistan and India, and we're hoping that that would happen because we've asked for a joint investigation." Put to him that the sole surviving gunman has been identified as a Pakistan national, the president said: "No, we don't know that, we haven't investigated that, we are investigating that position. "There have been disputed positions in the press... I would say the investigation is ongoing and I would not jump to a conclusion." However, he said his country was prepared to act if links to Pakistan emerged. "If that stage comes, and when it comes, I assure you that our parliament, our democracy, shall take the action properly deemed in our constitution and in our law," he said.

The Feast of St. Xavier celebrated in Abu Dhabi

DHABI: December 6, 2009. (By Jochanji) Catholics in Abu Dhabi celebrated the feast of St. Francis Xavier on 3 December with gaiety and splendor.
The celebrations were held at the St. Joseph’s Cathedral ground, Abu Dhabi. The services began with the recitation of Holy Rosary at 7.30 p.m. followed by a procession and a concelebrated mass in Konkani, a local Indian tongue. His Eminence Bishop Paul Hinder attended the services and addressed the community. The Konkani speaking catholic community in Abu Dhabi displays a strong sense of unity with timely celebrations of church services and retreats. They call themselves as the Goan community. The leader of the Goan Community in Abu Dhabi, Mr. John reminded those attended the service, main objectives of the Goan community and thanked the priests and prelate present on the occasion. Fr. Rudolf D’ Souza, who had earlier conducted a retreat for the community; delivered a homily during the mass, marking the end of the retreat. He said ‘strive hard to achieve your goals and yet it is impossible to achieve anything without God and His assistance.’

USCIRF recommends Pakistan to be in list of CPC on Religious Freedom Violations.

Washington DC: March 21, 2012. US Commission on International Religious Freedom USCIRF in its annual report of 2012, have identified Pakistan among WorldĄŻs Worst Religious Freedom Violators
and recommended US State Department to enlist Pakistan in Countries of Particular Concern CPC. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom USCIRF, a federal government commission that monitors global religious freedom, today released its 2012 Annual Report and recommended that the Secretary of State name the following nations Ą°countries of particular concernĄ± or CPCs: Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. The USCIR finds that government of Pakistan continues to both engage in and tolerate systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief. PakistanĄźs repressive blasphemy laws and other religiously discriminatory legislation, such as the anti-Ahmadi laws, have created an atmosphere of violent extremism and vigilantism. Sectarian and religiously motivated violence is chronic, and the government has failed to protect members of the majority faith and religious minorities. Pakistani authorities have not consistently brought perpetrators to justice or taken action against societal leaders who incite violence. Growing religious extremism threatens the freedoms of religion and expression, as well as other human rights, for everyone in Pakistan, particularly women, members of religious minorities, and those in the majority Muslim community who hold views deemed šDun-IslamicĄŹ by extremists. It also threatens PakistanĄźs security and stability. In light of these particularly severe violations, USCIRF again recommends in 2012 that Pakistan be designated a šDcountry of particular concern,ĄŹ or CPC. Since 2002, USCIRF has recommended Pakistan be named a CPC, but the U.S. State Department has not followed that recommendation. The 2012 report of US commission says that religious freedom situation in Pakistan remained exceedingly poor during the reporting period. The Zardari government has failed to reverse the erosion in the social and legal status of religious minorities and the severe obstacles to the free discussion of sensitive religious and social issues faced by the majority Muslim community. A number of PakistanĄźs laws abridge religious freedom and freedom of expression. Blasphemy laws, used predominantly in Punjab province but also nationwide, target members of religious minority communities and dissenting Muslims and frequently result in imprisonment on account of religion or belief. While no one has been executed under the blasphemy law, the law has created a climate of vigilantism that has resulted in societal actors killing accused individuals. Anti-Ahmadi laws discriminate against individual Ahmadis and effectively criminalize various practices of their faith. The Hudood Ordinances provide for harsh punishments for alleged violations of Islamic law by both Muslims and non-Muslims. Anti-government elements espousing an intolerant interpretation of Islam continue to perpetrate acts of violence against other Muslims and religious minorities. The governmentĄźs response to religiously-motivated extremism remains inadequate, despite increased military operations. USCIRFĄŻs Annual Report highlights the mistreatment of Ahmadis, Hindus and Christians in Pakistan, Buddhists in Vietnam and China, and Baha'is in Iran and Egypt. The report repeatedly notes the brutal assaults endured by Christians seeking to practice their faith peacefully. Muslims, too, suffer in Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan, and non-Muslim nations like Russia and Burma. The Annual Report also calls attention to the promotion of anti-Semitic bigotry in countries as diverse as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. USCIRF also announced that the following countries are on its 2012 Watch List: Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia, and Venezuela. While not rising to the statutory level set forth in the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) requiring CPC designation, Watch List countries require close monitoring due to the nature and extent of religious freedom violations these governments have engaged in or tolerated

Christianity in Iran Growing Despite Persecution

Iran: March 9, 2016.(ChristianHeadlineNews) Watchdog groups are reporting that as many as one million Muslim converts are risking prison or death in Iran by worshiping as part of a house church movement.
Open Doors USA estimates there are about 450,000 practicing Christians in Iran. Others estimate more than 1 million. According to Fox News, The Pars Theological Center is training some 200 Iranian Christians to become the next generation of Iran’s Christian leaders. "Pars sees this as a real chance to train agents of change who would transform the Iranian society from the bottom up by fostering a grassroots development of the values of Jesus in an Iranian style," a source close to the center told The Christian Post. "It is not anti-Iranian," the source said. "It's an Iranian movement. It's a great, great number of Muslims turning to Christ." The persecution of Christians started in Iran in 1979 after Christians faced death and torture. Today, about 100 Christians are still in prison from under that time of rule. In 2010, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the underground house churches “threaten the Islamic faith and deceive young Muslims.” The Iranian government has imprisoned many Christians. Pastor Farshid Fathi has been imprisoned since 2010 for what the Iranian government called “actions against national security.” Fathi had reportedly distributed Bibles printed in Farsi. Another minister, Pastor Behnam Irani is imprisoned for “actions against the state.” He is to serve six years after preaching to a group of Christians at a house church.

Multan bench of LHC hears case of two kidnapped Christian teenage sisters and enforced conversion to Islam

Multan, Pakistan: December 18, 2008. (The Sikh Times) After a judge placed new financial and social pressure on the captors of a Pakistani girl who was kidnapped and converted to Islam, attorneys have guarded optimism they can return her to custody of her Christian parents, one news from Pakistan has reported. Judge Malik Saeed Ijaz ordered the girl’s husband, Amjad Ali, to pay a dowry of 100,000 rupees (US$1,275) and allow her parents visitation rights, two actions required by typical Pakistani marriage protocol. So far he has done neither. The judge gave Saba Masih, 13, the opportunity to talk with her family during yesterday’s hearing, but she remained mostly silent behind her veil, offering only blunt replies. “I don’t want to see my parents. They are Christians and I am a Muslim,” she said, according to her parents’ attorney. Her younger sister Aneela Masih, who was also kidnapped but returned to her family three months ago, pleaded with her older sister to return home. The 10-year-old told her that Christmas was coming and she didn’t want her sister to spend it with those “who are not our people.” Saba Masih appeared at the Multan branch of Lahore’s High Court yesterday along with her Muslim husband and his family. Her parents filed a contempt petition last month against her captors for failing to follow Pakistani marriage protocol. Islamic law (sharia), however, gives a wife the right to relinquish a dowry. Lawyers said they fear that the Muslim family will pressure Saba Masih to claim this right in order to offset growing financial pressure. Lawyers hope that if her mother can visit her, it will convince her to leave her husband and come home to the family; her family believes he has threatened her with violence if she attempts to rejoin them. At Monday’s hearing, Saba Masih still appeared reluctant to return to her family. Relatives said they were praying that she would change her mind and that the captors would lose their influence over her. “The main thing is Saba must be ready herself to come back,” said her uncle, Khalid Raheel, the family spokesman. “But she isn’t ready to come back yet, and I don’t know how they are convincing her.” On Wednesday (Dec. 17) the judge is expected to adjourn the case and issue a deed requiring Ali to pay the dowry at the convenience of the Masih family. The judge yesterday threatened Ali with prison time if he failed to carry out this order. Akbar Durrani, attorney for the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), said the attorneys might try to use Aneela Masih’s testimony of kidnapping to take the case to the Supreme Court if other options fail. The Christian family’s lawyer said the attempt to force Ali to pay a dowry was a tactic to mount financial pressure on Saba Masih’s husband and to convince her to return home. Her family and their lawyers believe she has stayed with her Muslim husband because he and his family have issued death threats. The Christian family’s chances of winning run against the judicial status quo for Pakistani religious minorities, but the new push comes after a Sept. 9 ruling that returned Aneela Masih to her parents, a rare legal victory for non-Muslims. Aneela and Saba Masih were kidnapped on June 26 while travelling to visit their uncle in Sarwar Shaheed, northwest of Multan. Their parents say local fruit vendor Muhammad Arif Bajwa and three others kidnapped them in Chawk Munda, a small town in south Punjab. Saba Masih was married to Ali the next day. Bajwa and Ali registered a case with the police on June 28 for custody of the girls based on their alleged conversion to Islam. Local residents regard the men as serial kidnappers with connections to a human trafficking ring. The girls’ first defense attorney believed they could have been raped and sold to a brothel. Ironically, attorneys said, the kidnappers’ alleged desire to exploit Saba Masih may now be the best hope of her returning to her parents, as keeping her has become not lucrative but increasingly costly with court hearings continuing and legal fees multiplying. “These [kidnappers] don’t have an emotional link to Saba,” Durrani told Compass by phone. “They are in the business of prostitution and only wanted to use these girls for their business.” Prosecuting attorneys said they have a growing optimism that they can regain custody of Saba Masih, something they thought unlikely two months ago. In previous hearings, a judge allowed Saba Masih to choose whether or not she would return to her family, even though Pakistan marriage law requires the approval of legal guardians at the age of 16. The judge determined that her age was 17 based on her testimony and a report by a medical board pressured by Muslim groups to inflate her age. He did not accept as evidence her birth certificate and baptismal record that showed her age as 13. Younis Masih and his wife first saw their daughters after their kidnapping at a July hearing. The girls were in the company of 16 Muslims and were said to be under pressure to claim they had converted to Islam. After Aneela Masih returned to her family in September, she claimed that their captors threatened to kill them and their family if they did not do everything asked of them. Previously it had been reported that she was raped while in captivity, but there was no medical evidence that she was sexually abused or manhandled, lawyers said. Her sister appears to be suffering, Durrani said. “The family has told us that Saba Masih is not in good condition – most of the time she cries and is not satisfied there,” Durrani said. Kidnapping of Christians in the Muslim-majority nation of 170 million is not uncommon. Many captors believe they will not be convicted if caught due to the penal code’s influence by sharia, which grants non-Muslims second-class status in society. Every year there are cases of Pakistani Christian children kidnapped, killed or exploited by those who believe their parents are powerless. Last month a Muslim family in Nankan kidnapped the 7-year-old son of Pakistani Christian Binyamin Yusef, 30, over a land dispute. Two days later police found his son’s body, which showed signs of torture and rape. Police did not register the case when Yusef initially approached them. CLAAS representatives hope to open court action against the alleged perpetrators.

Eritrea Imprisons Large Group of Elderly Women

Washington DC: December 7, 2009. International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on December 5 at 4 PM local time, officials of Eritrea arrested 30 Christian women in Asmara, the capital city of the country.
The mostly elderly women were praying together at a house when security forces rounded them up and hauled them off to police station one in Asmara. Their children and grandchildren told our sources that they are concerned about the safety of their loved ones. Most of the detainees are members of Faith Mission Church, an Evangelical Church with a Methodist background. The church has been carrying out evangelistic and development activities in Eritrea for over five decades and was forced to go underground in 2002 after Eritrean officials required all religious groups to register. The officials then allowed only three Christian denominations to register. The three registered churches are: the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Evangelical Church of Eritrea. Since 2002, officials of Eritrea have been cracking down on members of both registered and unregistered churches. They have imprisoned more than 3000 Christians keeping them in underground dungeons, mental shipping containers, and military barracks. Several Christians have died inside prisons due to torture and lack of medical attention. ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa and South Asia, Jonathan Racho said “We condemn the arrest of the 30 women by Eritrean officials. We urge officials of Eritrea to release the detainees and all the imprisoned Christians in the country. We call upon Eritrea to stop violating the freedom of religion of its people.” Please pray for the safety of the imprisoned women, their release from prison, and for the release of all the imprisoned Christians in Eritrea.

ICV executive Committee express confidence in leadership of Peter Bhatti

Toronto, Canada: March 22, 2012. (PCP) The International Christian Voice ICV Executive Committee expressed full confidence on leadership of Mr. Peter Bhatti, Chairman of ICV in a meeting on March 18, 2012.
The ICV executive met to discuss situation after resignation of ICV President Mr. Pervez Masih and decided to accept it. The ICV Executive flayed allegations laid on leadership of ICV in resignation of Mr. Pervez Masih and urged Christian community in Canada to stand united for Christian cause and to promote vision of Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti. Mr. Bosco Martyrs, secretary General of ICV in a letter have said that ICV is proud of its accomplishments and services for community. Here’s is copy of the letter: Dear Friends Greetings, I am writing this letter to you because of an email and a resignation letter you may have received from the ex-President of the International Christian Voice (ICV) Mr. Pervez Masih. First of all, let me apologize for getting all of you involved in this matter by Mr. Pervez Masih. I am sure you have many more important issues to deal with on a daily basis, other than the affairs of our organization, and that if Mr. Pervez Masih gets the glory or not. Since there has been a deliberate effort made through this email to mislead the community, I feel it is very important that you get the correct information regarding our organization and/or our Chairman Mr. Peter Bhatti. ICV is devoted to the ideals and vision of our late founder martyr Shahbaz Bhatti. Since its inception, ICV has worked tirelessly for the persecuted Christians of Pakistan. We have done so with minimal resources and personnel. No one has worked harder than our chairman Mr. Peter Bhatti who has selflessly devoted his time and money for the cause. The entire ICV Executive wants to assure you that we support, and will continue to support, Mr. Peter Bhatti 100% in his leadership and all of his work for the oppressed and persecuted religious minorities of Pakistan and elsewhere in the world. As an organization, ICV is proud of its accomplishments and of the fact that all its operations have been totally transparent. We will continue to seek people of good-will from all walks of life to help us with our work. Furthermore, in regards to the matter of resignation by Mr. Pervez Masih, ICV Executive in a meeting on March 18, 2012, has noted that the distribution of the copy of resignation to the entire community and to the politicians was very distasteful, and is of the opinion that this irresponsible action by him may have caused irreparable harm to the cause of Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti. The executive in the meeting expressed great disappointment with his performance over the past year. As a President, he failed to provide leadership and exhibit commitment. His absence during executive meetings was very noticeable and he failed to offer his vision moving forward after the Martyrdom of Shahbaz Bhatti. Also ICV Executive noticed his lack of contribution in regards to resources and influence in organizing ICV events and activities. The ICV Executive believes this resulted in additional responsibilities for the ICV Chairman. In this meeting, ICV Executive unanimously accepted his resignation effective March 3, 2012. We wish Mr. Pervez Masih all the best in his future endeavours. Sincerely, Bosco Martyres General Secretary International Christian Voice Canada

Mother Teresa to be Made a Saint

Vatican City: March 16, 2016. The Vatican will likely approve a sainthood designation for Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Yahoo News reports.
The decision has been long-anticipated, and it is expected that Pope Francis will sign a decree approving her canonization and set a date for the official event. A previously-scheduled ceremony to honor Mother Teresa has been set for September 5, so it is thought that the canonization will take place the day before. It is speculated that the ceremony will take place in Rome, although the Catholic Church in India has urged the Pope to travel to Calcutta for the ceremony. Mother Teresa was beatified in 2003--the first step to sainthood. More than 300,000 spectators came to Rome for the ceremony. Mother Teresa was born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu to an Albanian family in Macedonia and is well-known and beloved for her missionary work in India and her founding of the Catholic nuns and humanitarian workers the Missionaries of Charity. She especially worked to help the sick, elderly, and poor in India. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

Amnesty International slams Indian anti-terror law

NEW DELHI: December 19, 2008. Amnesty International on Friday slammed India’s new anti-terror legislation to beef up police powers in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, saying it violates international human rights treaties.
The London-based human rights group called on India’s president not to approve the legislation, which would double the number of days police can detain terror suspects before filing charges, from 90 days to 180, as well as boost their powers to conduct searches. Both houses of India’s Parliament passed the bill this week, following last month’s attacks on Mumbai by suspected Islamic terrorists that killed 164 people. It now needs President Pratibha Patil’s approval before becoming law. ‘While we utterly condemn the attacks and recognise that the Indian authorities have a right and duty to take effective measures to ensure the security of the population, security concerns should never be used to jeopardise people’s human rights,’ Madhu Malhotra, Asia Pacific Program Deputy Director at Amnesty International, said in a statement. The government’s top law enforcement official, Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, defended the bill in Parliament on Wednesday as providing an ‘adequate balance’ between ‘the demands of human rights and the people of India for strong anti-terror laws.’ The anti-terror bill, which was sent to Parliament along with a bill to create an FBI-style national investigation agency, was meant to beef up the powers of India’s police and judicial system to combat terrorists. But Amnesty said the process was hasty and would likely undermine the rule of law and violate international human rights treaties. It did not specify the treaties. In particular, Amnesty raised concerns about the sweeping definition of terrorism, extending the detention of suspects by up to 180 days, denying bail to foreigners who enter the country illegally, and the requirements, in certain circumstances, for the accused to prove their innocence. It also condemned giving courts the right to close proceedings to the public. Communist opposition parties had called for changes to the bill, fearing human rights abuses, but ultimately voted in favour. ‘To detain a person for up to 180 days will be an infringement of his human rights. We are against it,’ Basudeb Acharia, a senior leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) told The Associated Press. Despite Chidambaram’s assurances, the government has long resisted introducing a tougher anti-terror law since repealing a law written by the Hindu nationalist BJP after coming to power in 2004, saying it was draconian and would unfairly target India’s large Muslim minority. ‘India’s experience with previous anti-terrorism laws has shown that they can lead to abusive practices,’ Amnesty said.

UK: Islamic Supremacist Group Launches "Jesus4Shariah" Campaign

Washington DC: December 9, 2009. (REAL) The British Islamic Supremacist group "Islam4UK" led by Anjem Choudary has a new campaign to promote Islamic Supremacism called "Jesus 4 Shariah."
In this latest campaign, this group that has called for Sharia-based stonings, amputations, suppression of women, and support for Jihadist terrorists, seeks to persuade the public that Jesus would be against democracy and would be promoting Islamic Sharia law. Islam4UK plans to schedule a "debate" to prove this point at an unknown location on December 18, 2009 in the United Kingdom. Among its points, Islam4UK asks: -- "Is the message of Jesus pro-secular democracy or pro-total implementation divine law within society?" -- "Would Jesus stand with the oppressed people in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine or with the oppressive occupiers?" The purpose of Islam4UK's December 18 UK event is to provide "the truth of Islam." Islamic Supremacist Islam4UK Group's December 18 Campaign - Slide 2What Islam4UK does not mention in this latest campaign is who and what its organization represents. In its failed October 2009 campaign for a October 31 rally (that they backed out of), the anti-democracy, anti-freedom, Islam4UK organization also called for an end to "liberalism" in the United Kingdom and demands that "it is time for authority to be turned over to the Muslims." The Islam4UK group's leader, Anjem Choudary, has praised the 9/11 attackers, sought funding for "mujaheddin," called for oppression of women, and sought stoning and amputations to be part of Sharia law in the United Kingdom. Two months ago, the "Islam4UK" group stated that it planned -- "On 31st October 2009, at approximately 1 pm, Muslims will be marching in a spectacular procession in support of Shari'ah law. Never before has such an event taken place in the United Kingdom, as thousands of Muslims plan to take to the heart of the Capital and demand the full implementation of Shari'ah law. Indeed, the British society has suffered extensively from the oppression of democracy and man made law, and the Muslims stand united in saying 'Enough is enough.' We have had enough of freedom, and enough of liberalism, it is time for sovereignty to return to the Creator of the heavens and the earth, Almighty Allah (SWT) and it is time for authority to be handed to the Muslims. " The Daily Express reported in October that Islam4UK stated "we have had enough of democracy and man-made law and the depravity of the British culture.' 'On this day we will call for a complete upheaval of the British ruling system its members and legislature, and demand the full implementation of Shari'ah in Britain.' " According to the London Evening Standard, the Islamic supremacist group "Islam4UK" is a spin-off from the previously banned "Al-Muhajiroun" led by exiled leader Omar Bakri Muhammed. Al-Muhajiroun has praised the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Omar Bakri Muhammed who continues to broadcast to Islamic supremacists in the United Kingdom via the Internet using the Paltalk tool on a nightly basis (9:30 PM - 11:30 PM GMT), as promoted on the "Islam4UK" web site. Anjem Choudary, the deputy of exiled radical Omar Bakri Muhammed, has been conducting ongoing operations of the "Islam4UK" organization in the United Kingdom. Choudary praised the 9/11 attackers along with Omar Bakri Muhammed. Choudary has stated that "Jihad is a duty and a struggle and an obligation that lies upon the shoulders of us all. We will not rest until the flag of Allah and the flag of Islam is raised above 10 Downing Street" He has also stated "if you do not fear your home being raided by the Kufar [non-believer] police, you are not enforcing the Sharia." As part of his calls for Sharia law in the United Kingdom, Islam4UK's Anjem Choudary has been reported calling for the enforcement of bukhas on women in the United Kingdom, stating: "Every woman, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, would have to wear a traditional burkha and cover everything apart from her face and hands in public." Choudary's calls for Sharia in the United Kingdom have also demanded stoning, stating: "In matters to do with the judicial system and the penal code, one male witness is sufficient to counter the testimony of two females. People who commit adultery would be stoned to death."Street, and a draconian form of sharia law imposed across the UK. He wants alcohol banned, amputations for thieves, and adulterers to be stoned to death." The Daily Mail report quotes Choudary as praising Sharia-based amputations for thieves, with Choudary stating "It is a deterrent. If you steal, you know you will face having your hands and feet cut off." In March 2009, Choudary was quoted by numerous news services for threatening homosexuals in the United Kingdom with punishment under Sharia law. The July 24 Daily Mail report also addressed Anjem Choudary's "road shows" around the United Kingdom to gain followers for his Islamic supremacist ideology, including small children. The Sunday Mercury has also reported on Choudary's efforts to "convert" small children to his beliefs in the United Kingdom. Choudary has created a "summer school" for Sharia to indoctrinate children, according to reports. The Daily Mail has pointed out that Choudary "has been secretly taped urging his followers to raise money for Islamic fighters in Afghanistan and Iraq, saying this would help them kill the 'butchers and cowards' from the U.S. and Britain." In March 2009, reports of Choudary's call for Britons to raise funds for the "mujahdeen" were documented by the London Times and the Daily Telegraph. According to the London Times: "At one point on the tape Choudary says: 'People [are] looking for a place for their money to go so they can go to the front line and they can’t find it. You should not think to yourself 'my money, my money' . . . you have [an] opportunity to carry da'wah [the spread of Islam] to society . . . and you have money that can go towards the da'wah, you have money that can go towards the mujaheddin.' "

At big papal Mass in Mexico, bishop denounces drug wars

LEON, Mexico: March 25, 2012. (Reuters) - Pope Benedict drew the largest crowd of his Latin American trip on Sunday, celebrating a huge open-air Mass where a local bishop denounced the "fear, helplessness and pain" caused by Mexico's murderous drug w
On his last day in Mexico, the pope said Mass for a joyous crowd that organizers estimated at 300,000 people at a sprawling park on the outskirts of the central city of Leon. Long lines of people, many praying, singing and carrying pictures of the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico's patron, made their way into the Mass site over a period of hours. Some camped out for more than a day to get a good spot for the highlight of Benedict's three days in the world's second-most populous Roman Catholic country. As the pope toured the crowd in a "popemobile," he wore a black-and-white sombrero, to the delight of the crowd. The archbishop of Leon, Jose Martin Rabago, set the tone by spelling out the sufferings of a country where clashes between drug cartels and the state have claimed more than 50,000 lives over the past five years. "We have been living through events of violence and death that have generated a painful sensation of fear, helplessness and grief," Rabago said in his welcome address. The archbishop condemned the "perverse roots" of Mexico's problems, which he listed as poverty, lack of opportunity, impunity, injustice and the belief of some that the aim of life was to accumulate possessions and power.

Belgium bombing suspect 'still on the run'; two suicide bombers identified

Brussels: March 23, 2016. Disruption to airline passengers is set to continue after the main airport in Brussels announced it will remain closed for a third day.
The airport confirmed it will remain closed on Thursday and there is no set date for reopening. It issued a statement which read: "Because the forensic investigation is still under way we currently have no access to the building. Until we can assess the damage, it remains unclear when we can resume operations."

Eight dead in as missile hit northwest Pakistan

PESHAWAR: December 22, 2008. (AFP) Two suspected US missile strikes on a tribal area in northwest Pakistan known as a hub of Taliban and Al-Qaeda activity killed at least eight militants on Monday, officials said. The strikes were the latest on extremists in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan -- all said to have been launched by unmanned CIA aircraft -- that have raised tensions between Washington and Islamabad. Two missiles "fired by US drones" struck the villages of Karikot and Shin Warsak in troubled South Waziristan, a senior security official told AFP on condition of anonymity. "Two vehicles fitted with guns were destroyed," the official said, adding that those killed were all inside the cars, which were camouflaged with mud and grass. It was not immediately clear if any senior Taliban or Al-Qaeda operatives were killed in the strikes, which took place just minutes apart, he said. Local intelligence sources said they believed the militants killed were members of local Pakistani Taliban groups. The strikes caused huge fires in both villages, sending panicked residents running into the streets, the security official said, adding that one house was damaged. Hundreds of Taliban fighters later gathered in the two villages -- both outside Wana, the main town in South Waziristan -- to say funeral prayers for those killed, local residents told AFP. The suspected US strikes have continued despite a warning by Taliban militants based in tribal territory last month that any more would lead to reprisal attacks across Pakistan. A spokesman for local Taliban commander Mullah Nazir told reporters that Nazir had pledged to seek revenge for Monday's attack "within three days". A US missile attack late last month killed Rashid Rauf, the alleged Al-Qaeda mastermind of a 2006 transatlantic airplane bombing plot, as well as an Egyptian Al-Qaeda operative, security officials have said. Pakistan has repeatedly protested to the United States that the strikes violate its territorial sovereignty and deepen resentment among the 160 million people of the nuclear-armed Islamic nation. Saleh Shah, a Pakistani senator from the tribal areas, strongly condemned Monday's attacks, saying they were "counterproductive" and would not help restore peace and order in the region. President Asif Ali Zardari recently promised zero tolerance for violations of his country's sovereignty, but some officials say there is a tacit understanding between the two militaries to allow such action. More than two dozen similar strikes have been carried out since August, killing more than 200 people, most of them militants. The top-ranking US military official -- Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff -- arrived in Islamabad on Monday for talks with senior Pakistani officials, officials from both sides said. Islamabad has come under increased pressure to quash militant activity within its borders, with Washington and Kabul saying it has not done enough to stop militants crossing the border to attack US and NATO troops in Afghanistan. Pakistan rejects those accusations, pointing to its operation against militants in the semi-autonomous Bajaur region bordering Afghanistan. The military says more than 1,500 rebels have been killed there since August. Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden is widely believed to be hiding in Pakistan's rugged border region, although there is no clear information about his whereabouts. US Vice President Dick Cheney said at the weekend that he was unsure if bin Laden -- held responsible by Washington for the September 11, 2001 attacks -- was even still alive.

DC Examiner: Protection of religious minorities is major theme of 2009 Human Rights Day News Conference

Washington DC: December 10, 2009. (Justina Uram) “DC-based human rights activists and advocates commemorated Human Rights Day 2009
with a well-attended Human Rights News Conference sponsored by Responsible for Equality And Liberty (REAL) at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. ” ” ‘Not only do we recognize our declaration in support of such universal human rights, but also we remember those who have denied them, including the totalitarian and supremacist nations and ideologies of the world that seek to continue to deny such universal rights today.’ ” “In his opening remarks, REAL founder Jeffrey Imm called for US ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the end of violence against women as priorities in defending human rights. He also focused on the human rights challenges presented by religious supremacism. ‘We really need a human rights dialogue on the challenges of religious supremacist threats to our universal human rights.’ ” “In his presentation on the persecution of Pakistani Christians by the Muslim majority, Dr. Nazir Bhatti, of the Pakistan Christian Congress, explained that Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws allow the killing of religious minorities to go unchecked.” ” ‘Christians [in Pakistan] are in the process of genocide
The situation of human rights is worsening and persecution of Christians is at a rise in Pakistan.’ ” “Bhatti warned that Pakistan will continue to breed terrorism unless the United States’ government puts conditions on further aid to Pakistan that include the repeal of their blasphemy laws and an amendment to Article 2 of the Constitution of Pakistan, which declares Islam as the state religion of Pakistan.” “Following Bhatti’s presentation, Dr. Ashraf Ramelah, President of the Voice of the Copts, remarked on the oppression of Egypt’s Christians, particularly women and young girls.” ” ‘Coptic women and girls are targeted for a specific plan of forced Islamization in Egypt
the abduction of Coptic women is not just a passing phenomenon but is part of a widespread plan aimed to clean the Middle East of Christians.’ ” “In addition to denouncing the forced conversion of Coptic women, Ramelah also called for a repeal of Article 2 of the Egyptian Constitution, which declares Islam as the state religion of Egypt.” “Though both Bhatti and Ramelah’s remarks focused on the human rights abuses faced by religious minorities at the hand of Islam, Imm reminded the group, ‘we do not attack or condemn Islam or all Muslims, but we do challenge all human beings to recognize that we face an Islamic supremacist challenge to human rights in the world today.’ ” “The final speaker, Lisa Tao of Falun Dafa turned the conference’s focus in a different direction. Giving a heartfelt presentation in her native language, Tao described the human rights abuses she faced as a young girl at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.” ” ‘My father was tortured to death. I was called ‘a child of the Five Black Categories.’ My life was full of humiliation and I had to struggle for many years just to stay alive.’ ” “Tao, who is now an American citizen, explained that she and her husband began practicing Falun Gong to help them heal from the torture they suffered in China. Tao’s translator, 25-year old Pang Jin, relayed the recent arrest, torture, and prolonged detainment of her mother and aunt for their adherence to Falun Gong. ” ” ‘My aunt was abducted on July 9, 2009 and has been detained since then. On October 18, I was informed that the Weifang City district court, after delaying for a year, sentenced my Mom, Cao Junping, to 10 years.’ ” “Tao then shared numerous examples of human rights violations by the Chinese government against Falun Gong practitioners and thanked Americans for their support and willingness to hear her story. ” ” ‘I feel that these practitioners are just like my brothers and sisters
We hope Americans, who are kind and righteous, will give a hand to rescue our brothers and sisters and stop this brutal persecution.’ ” “Clearly, the 2009 Human Rights Day News Conference provided a forum for the discussion of human rights stories and perspectives not often covered by mainstream media. For more detailed information about The Human Rights Day News Conference, please contact the author at The Human Rights Blog. ”

Cuba quashes hopes for reform as Pope Benedict meets Raul Castro

Havana: March 28, 2012. (Reuters) Pope Benedict and Cuban President Raul Castro have met for talks on a papal trip that has sparked hopes for economic and political change, but one national leader said there would be no political reform on the commun
Cuban television showed the pope and Castro in the Palace of the Revolution on Tuesday at the beginning and end of an hour-long meeting, but they did not speak to the press. A Vatican spokesman said former leader Fidel Castro, who may or may not meet with Benedict, did not attend the talks. Benedict arrived for what is the second papal trip to Cuba in history at a time when Raul Castro has initiated reforms boosting private enterprise and reducing the state’s role. His aim is to strengthen the country’s struggling Soviet-style economy and assure the future of communism. Some Cubans have expressed hope that economic changes would be accompanied by political change in the country where the only legal political party is the Communist Party, but Marino Murillo, a vice president in the Council of Ministers and the country’s economic reforms czar, told reporters that was not in the cards. “In Cuba there won’t be political reform,” he said in a press conference at Havana’s Hotel Nacional, the international press center for the pope visit.

19 Jews Smuggled out of Yemen Due to Increasing Anti-Semitism

Yemen: March 25, 2016. Jews have been covertly taken from their homes in Yemen and brought to safety in Israel as violence against Jews increases in the predominantly Islamic country. reports that the Jewish Agency for Israel has rescued about 200 Jews from Yemen in recent years. The most recent rescue involved 19 Jews; 14 from the town of Raydah and a family of five from Sana’a. The group arriving in Israel from Raydah included a rabbi who brought with him an ancient Torah scroll, estimated to be between 500 and 600 years old. Yemen has become embroiled in civil war and violence against Jews has escalated. The father of the husband from Sana’a was murdered in an anti-Semitic attack. His remains were also brought to Israel for burial. Natan Sharansky, an immigrant from the USSR who is also Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel said that although Jews have almost disappeared from Yemen, their culture will be preserved in Israel: “This is a highly significant moment in the history of Israel and of Aliyah. From Operation Magic Carpet in 1949 until the present day, the Jewish Agency has helped bring Yemenite Jewry home to Israel. Today we bring that historic mission to a close. This chapter in the history of one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities is coming to an end, but Yemenite Jewry’s unique, 2,000-year-old contribution to the Jewish people will continue in the State of Israel.” More than 51,000 Yemenite Jews have immigrated to Israel since the country was first formed in 1948. There is reportedly only 50 Jews remaining in Yemen.

President hosts Christmas reception

ISLAMABAD: December 22, 2008. President Asif Ali Zardari hosted a reception in connection with Christmas here at the Aiwan-e-Sadr on Monday.
. Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani was also present at the reception which was attended by members of Christian community and a large number of Islamabad-based diplomats, including the Ambassadors of United States and China. Chairman Senate Muhammadmian Soomro, Speaker National Assembly Dr. Fehmida Mirza, a number of federal ministers and members of the parliament also attended the reception. President Zardari accompanied by Bakhtawar and Assefa cut the Special Christmas cake, wished the participants “Merry Christmas” and intermingled with them. The Ambassador of the Holy Sea on this occasion prayed for the peace and prosperity of the world including Pakistan. “May this Christmas bring peace across the world”, the Ambassador prayed. Bishop Anthony Logo read the Christmas Message on the occasion. APP

Eritrea Releases Elderly Christian Women

Washington, D.C: December 16, 2009. International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that yesterday at 3:30 PM local time, Eritrean officials released all the Christian women they had arrested on December 5.
The elderly women were detained for praying together at a house in Asmara, Eritrea’s capital. Eritrean security forces raided the prayer meeting and brought them to a police station in Asmara. ICC broke the news of the arrest in a press release issued on December 7. (See: Most of the released Christians are members of Faith Mission Church, an Evangelical Church with a Methodist background. The church has been carrying out evangelistic and development activities in Eritrea for over five decades and was forced to go underground in 2002 after Eritrean officials required all religious groups to register. The officials then allowed only three Christian denominations to register. The three registered churches are: the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Evangelical Church of Eritrea. Since 2002, officials of Eritrea have been cracking down on members of both registered and unregistered churches. They have imprisoned more than 3000 Christians keeping them in underground dungeons, mental shipping containers, and military barracks. Several Christians have died inside prisons due to torture and lack of medical attention. One of the released women told ICC source that “we appreciate all the people who prayed for us. Please thank God for our release.” ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa and South Asia, Jonathan Racho said “We welcome Eritrea’s decision to release all the women. We urge the Eritrean officials to release the more than 3000 Christians who are suffering in underground dungeons, military barracks, and metal shipping containers.”

Enforcedly converted Hindu women under life threat in shelters

Karachi: March 28, 2012. (PCP) Dr. Nazir S Bhatti, President of Pakistan Christian Congress PCC have strongly condemned forced conversions of Christian and Hindu women to Islam in Pakistan
and urged Supreme Court of Pakistan to ensure safety of Hindu girls Rinkle kumari and Dr. Lata to whom it ordered to send to Darul-Aman on March 26, 2012, instead of their request to send them with their parents in court hearing. Nazir Bhatti said “PCC have information’s that Muslim clerics and family members of Muslim kidnappers who converted Rinkle Kumari to Islam and forced her to marry with Naveed Shah are threatening her in Darul-Aman “Women Shelter” of death if she again request Supreme Court to go with her parents in hearing on April 8, 2012.” Rinkle Kumari requested Supreme Court of Pakistan Bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Choudhry on March 26, 2012, “Send me with my parents or kill me here in court but don’t send me to Darul-Aman. Everyone in Pakistan is hand in glove, there is justice only for Muslims, there is no justice for Hindus and they will kill us". While Dr. Lata Kumari requested Supreme Court Judges that “I want to meet my parents and to go with them”. Nazir Bhatti said “Everyone knows that Darul-Amans in Pakistan are run by provincial governments where from Supervisor to guards are all Muslim employees who cannot provide free and fair atmosphere to Rinkle and Lata to decide about their future but Supreme Court ordered to send victims of forced conversion to Islam in such Shelters against their will to go with parents” Nazir Bhatti said that Darul-Amans in Pakistan have very bad reputation and scandals of running forced “Prostitute Rings” of inmate women by Muslim lady Supervisors and let anyone enter at nights on small bribes to guards is common practice. Such incidents have been appearing in press media if any inmate complains but mostly it goes unreported on fear of harsh punishments. “It is Ironic that Sindh High Court not allowed meeting of parents of these forced converted Hindu women nor dispersed hundreds of Muslim gathered in compound to favor Conversion to Islam with banners and play cards and same happens in Supreme Court of Pakistan” said Nazir Bhatti Rinkle Kumari daughter of Nandlal resident of Mirpur Mathello Sindh province of Pakistan was kidnapped on February 24, 2012, and her parents were informed by a Muslim cleric that she have accepted religion Islam. Dr Lata daughter of Dr Ramesh resident of Jaccobabad city was kidnapped from Karachi, whereas another Aasha Devi from Larkana had also been abducted forcibly. There are hundreds of abduction and forced conversion cases of Christians and Hindu women in Pakistan every year which go unreported due to poverty of parents who cannot afford long legal battles or in fear of influential Muslim kidnappers. The Islamic law of apostasy which decree death to those who leave religion Islam after conversion keep victims of forced converted women silent that they must be killed and their kidnappers use weapon of apostasy law to refrain them to speak their mind and will freely in front of Pakistani Courts if such issue is brought before them. Nazir Bhatti said that Supreme Court of Pakistan have never rescued victims of blasphemy law or other Islamic laws while appeal of Christian woman Asia Bibi in Lahore High Court is pending from years who was sentenced to death on accusation of blasphemy. “We have no great hopes in Rinkle Kumari and Lata Kumari kidnap and enforced conversion to Islam case from Supreme Court of Pakistan because it also avoided arrangement of meeting of these women with their parents or let them go with their families as demanded by victims and ordered to send them to Shelters where they are facing pressure and threats from Muslim religious leaders and family of kidnappers of killing on apostasy” added Nazir Bhatti Nazir S Bhatti, Chief of Pakistan Christian Congress PCC said that time have come that Supreme Court of Pakistan may prove that it is higher court for Christians, Hindus, Ahmadi and other religious minorities of Pakistan also nor of Muslims only or it is part of Federal Shariat Court of Pakistan where Islamic laws are upheld.

Pope Francis: Christ has won perfect victory over evil

Vatican City: March 27, 2016. (Vatican Radio) St. Peter’s Square filled to overflowing on Easter Sunday morning, as scores of thousands of pilgrims and tourists gathered under a brilliant Roman spring sky for Mass,
followed by the traditional Benedictio urbi et orbi – the “Blessing of the City and the World”. Delivered from the central loggia – the balcony set in the middle of the upper level of the façade of St. Pater’s Basilica – the Holy Father’s remarks on the occasion focused on Christ’s perfect triumph over evil and sin in the Resurrection. The Holy Father recalled all victims of terrorism everywhere, saying, “May He draw us closer on this Easter feast to the victims of terrorism, that blind and brutal form of violence which continues to shed blood in different parts of the world, as in the recent attacks in Belgium, Turkey, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Côte d’Ivoire.” Pope Francis went on to say that the Easter message speaks especially to those seeking to escape from persecution and poverty, calling everyone in happier situations not to forget them. “The Easter message of the risen Christ, a message of life for all humanity,” said Pope Francis, “echoes down the ages and invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees – including many children – fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice.” The Holy Father also spoke directly to all people everywhere, who struggle to keep faith and hope. “To those in our society who have lost all hope and joy in life, to the elderly who struggle alone and feel their strength waning,” he said, “to young people who seem to have no future, to all I once more address the words of the Risen One: ‘See, I am making all things new… To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life’ (Rev 21:5-6).” Pope Francis concluded, saying, “May this comforting message of Jesus help each of us to set out anew with greater courage to blaze trails of reconciliation with God and with all our brothers and sisters,” and, departing from his prepared text, added, “[of this] we have great need!”

Pope urges end to 'hatred and violence' in Mideast on Christmas message

VATICAN CITY: December 24, 2008. Pope Benedict XVI urged Thursday an end to "hatred and violence" in the Middle East during his midnight mass Christmas homily ahead of a planned trip to the region.
"Let us pray that peace will be established there, that hatred and violence will cease," he said in his homily, referring in particular to Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus. Jerusalem's Latin patriarch said on Monday that the pope would visit the Holy Land in May on his first trip to the region as pontiff. "With joy we would like to announce to you the desire of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to visit the Holy Land as a pilgrim next May," Fuad Twal, the Catholic leader in the Holy Land, told reporters. It was the first official confirmation of Benedict's widely mooted first trip to the region since being elected pope in 2005. "The supreme pontiff wishes to pray with us and for us, and to acquire a first-hand knowledge of the hard conditions of our region," Twal said in his Christmas message. "We are confident in the Lord that this pontifical pilgrimage and pastoral visit will be a blessing for all of us as well as a substantial contribution to better understanding among the various nations of the region, lifting the barriers and helping solve the problems, removing distress and consolidating good relations among people, religions and denominations," Twal said. He did not give specific dates. "We are studying the programme with the local authorities," he said. Last week the Italian newspaper Il Foglio said the pope would travel to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories from May 8 to 15. The head of the Catholic Church in his Christmas homily also spoke of the plight of children "who are denied the love of their parents." "Let us think of those street children who do not have the blessing of a family home, of those children who are brutally exploited as soldiers and made instruments of violence, instead of messengers of reconciliation and peace," he said. "Let us think of those children who are victims of the industry of pornography and every other appalling form of abuse, and thus are traumatised in the depths of their soul." Late Wednesday Benedict inaugurated this year's Christmas creche, appearing at his window in the Vatican apartments to light a candle and greet the crowd in St Peter's Square. The nativity scene depicting the birth of Jesus Christ erected in the famous piazza features figures dating from 1842. Benedict's predecessor John Paul II paid homage to Italy's longstanding artistic tradition of manger scenes with the first of an annual series set up in St Peter's Square in 1982. The inauguration of this year's creche was followed by a prayer vigil for peace led by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's "foreign minister". At midday on Thursday the pope is to deliver his traditional address titled Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) to be translated in 64 languages. AFP

Christmas Bazaars are Joke with Christians in Punjab. Ashfaq Fateh

Lahore: December 19, 2009. (PCP) The Christian leaders have urged the Chief Minister of Punjab Main Shahbaz Sharief for making fun of Christians of the Punjab in their demand to organize Christmas bazaars as were organized during the month of Ramadan
The Christian leaders called an urgent meeting and condemned the notifications issued by the Additional Chief Secretary & Secretary Industries, Punjab who is coordinating the installation of 26 Christmas bazaars in 17 districts of the Punjab. According to the letter, 39000 bags of Atta (wheat flour) of 20 kilogram while 19500 kilogram sugar (390) bags of have been allocated. Rs. 100 subsidy is given per bag of Atta and Rs. 10 per kilogram for sugar. The total beneficiaries will be 39000+19500=58500. The government has allocated Four million ninety five thousand only for the seventeen district where over four million Christian population is living. Ashfaq Fateh, Christian leader demanded that Christmas bazaars were demanded on the patron of Ramadan bazaars. The chief minister allocated rupees nine billion for Ramadan bazaars for one month while only four million is spent on Christians of the Punjab between Dec 22nd to 24th, 2009. Rasheed Jalal, district President for minorities PML (N) demanded to raise Quota of Atta from 500 to 2000 bags per day and five bags of sugar to 30 bags per day in each bazaar. The subsidy on sugar and Atta must be raised. Each bag of Atta of 20 kg must be provided at Rs.200 and sugar at least on Rupees 40. Ayub Anjum, member district Assembly, said, the district administration has asked the Christians to pay the expenses of tentage, furniture, water, security and arrange the cleanings etc. The government has to arrange all this. This is injustice. Mr. Atif Jamil Pagaan national convener, Pakistan Minorities democratic movement said, Additional Chief Secretary of the Punjab and Roa Manzar Hayat, Secretary Industries and Khalid Hassan deputy secretary were called over the phone and demands have been faxed to them. The Punjab government has been informed if the quota and subsidy on Atta and sugar will not be increased. The Christians will be forced to boycott these bazaars.

“Observe the Cross of Jesus” sermon by The Very Rev. Canon Patrick Augustine on The Passion Sunday -Palm Sunday, April 1, 2012, at Christ Episcopal Church, La Crosse, Wisconsin

Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 14: 1-15: 47 (The Passion Gospel) Observe the Cross of Jesus
We begin this morning the most sacred week of the Christian year. Upon hearing of the accounts of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, and the solemn reading of the Passion of our Lord, one is swept away by the sheer drama. It is also a time of the holiest week in the Jewish year. Historians estimate that there were over 100, 000 pilgrims present in Jerusalem besides its own residents. Looking at the events of this week one is convinced that it is “the week that changed the world.” Two separate groups entered Jerusalem on this day. One was the procession of Jesus from the east side of Jerusalem. Jesus rode a donkey down the Mount of Olives followed by a ragtag procession of cheering, adoring crowds made up of the lame, the blind, the children, and the peasants from Galilee and Bethany[1]. Jesus’ message was of the Kingdom of God and he healed, blessed and gave hope to the common people of Judea and Samaria. Those who were close to him saw him as “Messiah,” “Son of God” and “Savior”. For the oppressed people of Judea this lit a flame of hope in their hearts as they called to him: Messiah has come! He was their Moses and they believed he would deliver them from the bondage of Rome. They welcomed him into their holy city with great shouts of: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest heaven (Matthew 21:10). The other procession was for Pontus Pilate. The Roman governor entered from the west side of Jerusalem. This regal procession was visual panoply of imperial power: cavalry on horses, foot soldiers, leather armor, metal helmets, weapons, banners, golden eagles mounted on poles, sun glinting on the gold. They made commanding sounds: the marching of feet, the creaking of leather, the clinking of bridles, the beating of drums. Pilate’s procession displayed not only imperial power, but also Roman imperial theology. According to this theology, the emperor was not simply the ruler of Rome, but the Son of God. It began with the greatest of the emperors, Augustus, who ruled Rome from 31 BCE to 14 CE. The other Roman emperors carried the titles “son of God,” “Lord” and “savior,” one who had brought “peace on earth.” Pilate’s procession embodied not only a rival social order, but also a rival theology.[2] He was there to reinforce the authority of Rome as trouble was expected at Passover Feast. Jesus usually avoided pomp and glory, and recoiled from such religious smells and bells. But he let the crowd hail him “the son of David” holding palm branches in their hands. “The son of David” was a loaded title at a loaded place. The crowd was excited because it was rumored that a revolution might begin. They waved palms, the national emblem of freedom seekers. Those branches had the same effect as if they were Jewish flags. It looked for the entire world as if the King had arrived in force to claim his rightful throne. This sent a ripple of great anxiety among the religious elites who collaborated with imperial Rome. The Jewish Sanhedrin called an emergency session raising a loud debate. Above the commotion, the high priest Caiaphas said: “You do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.” (John 11: 49-50, 53). They issued the following arrest warrant of Jesus: Wanted: YESHU HANNOZRI He shall be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Anyone who can say anything in his favor let him come forward and plead on his behalf. Anyone who knows where he is, let him declare it to the Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. [3][1] The Passion narrative from the gospel according to Matthew makes it clear the authorities got what they wanted – or so they thought. They couldn’t have anticipated the after effects of Jesus’ death. The crowd was disappointed because Rome wasn’t overthrown under Jesus’ leadership. No one seemed to “get it,” although the prophet Isaiah had made it plain long before: ”Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” Isaiah 53: 4-5. Jesus had mixed feelings during the clamorous parade. St. Luke reports that as he approached the city he began to weep. He knew how easily a mob could turn. Voices who shout “Hosanna!” one week later shall shout “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Let us ask ourselves – what would I have done or said if I had been in that crowd? We began our service with the triumphant entry of our Lord in Jerusalem. Everybody loves a winner. People in Jerusalem wanted him to be Messiah to free Israel from the Slavery of Romans. But, Jesus had a higher agenda-----to fulfill his Father’s will to free humanity from the power of sin and death. This week as we enter into the passion of our Lord, I invite you to stay awhile with Jesus as the divine drama for the salvation of humankind unfolds. Come journey with him on the road to the cross. Hear the challenging words of Max Lucado: The Cross You have seen it, you have worn it. May be you have even prayed to it. But do you know it? Any serious study of the Christian claim is, at its essence, a study of the cross. To accept or reject Christ without careful examination of Calvary is like deciding on a car without looking at the engine. So take a good look at the cross. Examine this hour in history. Look at the witnesses. Listen to the voices. Watch the faces. MOST OF ALL, OBSERVE THE ONE THEY CALL THE SAVIOR. Because what he did is the one thing that matters most of all. [1] Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, Zondervervan Publishing House, 1995, p.190. [2] Marcus J. Borg & John Dominic Crossan, The Last Week, HarperCollins, 2006, p.3. [3][1] THE ARREST NOTICE: But for the caption and the last sentence, this proclamation is verbatim from the tradition on “Yeshu Hannozri” in Sanhedrin 43a of the Babylonian Talmud trans. By Jacob Shachater (London: Soncino Press, 1935), Nezikin V, 281. The last sentence derives from what is probably the NT version of this proclamation in John 11:57.

Pakistanis hunt militants behind blast that killed at least 70

Lahore: March 28, 2016. (REUTERS | Pakistani authorities hunted on Monday for breakaway Taliban militants who once declared loyalty to Islamic State after the group claimed responsibility for an Easter suicide bomb targeting Christians, that killed a
The attack on Sunday evening in a busy park in the eastern city of Lahore, the powerbase of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, killed mostly women and children enjoying an Easter weekend outing. Pakistan is a majority-Muslim state but has a Christian population of more than 2 million. It was the deadliest attack in Pakistan since the December 2014 massacre of 134 school children at a military run academy in the city of Peshawar that prompted a big government crackdown on Islamist militancy. "We must bring the killers of our innocent brothers, sisters and children to justice and will never allow these savage inhumans to over-run our life and liberty," military spokesman Asim Bajwa said in a post on Twitter. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack late on Sunday night, and issued a direct challenge to the government. "The target was Christians," said a faction spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said. "We want to send this message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that we have entered Lahore." Lahore is the capital of Pakistan's richest province, Punjab, and is seen as the country's political and cultural heartland. Sharif's office condemned the blast as a cowardly act and said a response had been ordered, without elaborating. Lahore, markets, schools and courts were closed on Monday as the city mourned. Rescue services spokeswoman Deeba Shahnaz said at least 70 people were killed and about 340 were wounded, with 25 in serious condition. The group has claimed responsibility for several big attacks after it split with the main Pakistani Taliban in 2014. It declared allegiance to the Islamic State but later said it was rejoining the Pakistani Taliban insurgency. Pakistan has been plagued by militant violence for the last 15 years, since it joined a U.S.-led campaign against Islamist militancy after the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks on the United States. While the army, police, government and Western interests have been the prime targets of the Pakistani Taliban and their allies, Christians and other religious minorities have also attacked. Nearly 80 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack on a church in the northwestern city of Peshawar in 2013. The security forces have killed and arrested hundreds of suspected militants under the crackdown launched after the 2014 Peshawar school massacre. Militant violence had eased but they retain the ability to launch devastating attacks. Pakistan's security agencies have long been accused of nurturing militants to use for help in pursuing security objectives in Afghanistan and against old rival India. But some, like the Pakistani Taliban, have turned against the state. They are fighting to topple the government and install a strict interpretation of Islamic law. Sharif's opponents have accused him of tolerating militancy in return for peace in his province, a charge he strongly denies. Earlier on Sunday, hundreds of hard-line Muslim activists clashed with police in the capital, Islamabad, in a protest over the execution of a man they consider a hero for assassinating a governor over his criticism of harsh blasphemy laws. Bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri Mumtaz shot dead Punjab governor Salman Taseer in 2011. Taseer, a prominent liberal politician, had spoken in support of a Christian woman sentenced to death under the law that mandates capital punishment for insulting Islam or the Prophet Mohammad. Qadri was executed last month. There was no indication of a connection between the protest in Islamabad and the bomb in Lahore.

Masses mourn Pakistan's Bhutto, one year on

GARHI KHUDA BAKHSH, Pakistan: December 27, 2008. (AFP) More than 150,000 grieving Pakistanis thronged the tomb of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto on Saturday, mourning their beloved leader one year after her assassination.
A sea of sobbing mourners, some wailing and beating their chests in a wrenching outpouring of emotion, flooded through security checkpoints into the graveyard in rural southern Garhi Khuda Bakhsh for the commemoration. Thick fog had stranded tens of thousands on the roads leading into the area early in the day, prompting authorities to delay the start of the proceedings until 4:00 pm (1100 GMT). Bhutto, 54, was assassinated on December 27, 2007 in a gun and suicide attack at a campaign rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, just two months after returning to Pakistan from exile to vie for a third term in power. Her shocking death threw the world's only nuclear-armed Islamic nation into chaos, sparking violence and leading to months of political turmoil that ended in September when her widower, Asif Ali Zardari, claimed the presidency. "In the tradition of a true Bhutto, she faced certain death rather than abandon her principles or the people," Zardari said in a message to the nation to mark the anniversary. "The tyrants and the killers have killed her but they shall never be able to kill her ideas, which drove and inspired a generation to lofty aims," he said, adding that democracy was the only way to fight militancy. The masses travelled by train, bus, truck, car, bicycle and even on foot to mourn the charismatic, Oxford-educated Bhutto, the first woman to lead a Muslim nation and someone hailed in the West as a face of moderation. Some slept Friday night in the open in near-freezing temperatures. Tariq Waseem, a 25-year-old student from southwestern Baluchistan province, walked about 400 kilometres (250 miles) over 10 days with about a dozen friends to be at Saturday's event. But unlike his friends, he walked barefoot. "These are not painful," he told AFP, pointing with pride at blisters covering his soles. "These are a gift from my martyred leader." Local police official Tanvir Odho said about 150,000 mourners had flocked to the area to pay their respects to Bhutto. Ceremonies are expected to culminate with special prayers at 5:20 pm -- about the time Bhutto was attacked. Around 7,000 police and paramilitary rangers have fanned out around the tomb to protect Zardari, who has said he too is a target for extremists like those who killed Bhutto. "We do not rule out any threat and we have done all things possible to maintain peace," senior police official Khadim Hussain Rind told AFP. A special wall has been erected around the mausoleum as part of a raft of precautions taken to safeguard Zardari. Closed-circuit cameras have been installed, and mourners were required to pass through metal detectors. Both Zardari and the United Nations said they hoped a UN investigation would soon be launched into Bhutto's killing. Pakistani and US officials have pinned the blame on Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud, but he denies any involvement. One year on, Pakistan's reverence for Bhutto continues unabated -- all television networks ran wall-to-wall Bhutto coverage on Saturday and the government has issued a 10-rupee coin and stamps bearing her portrait. Hundreds of vendors did a brisk business selling Bhutto memorabilia -- posters, photographs and recordings of her speeches -- ahead of the ceremony. The government has declared Saturday a national holiday in Bhutto's honour, and events were scheduled nationwide. Candlelight vigils were held late Friday in Rawalpindi and the southern port city of Karachi. Mohammed Amin, a labourer from Pakistani Kashmir, said he had come to Bhutto's grave without fear, despite threats of violence. "My leader died in an act of terror, and so if I am killed in a similar act, it will be an honour for me to join my leader," he told AFP.

70 Percent of Humanity Lives in Countries with High Religious Restrictions -- 70 Percent of Those Countries are OIC Nations

Washington DC; December 21, 2009. Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) Communist and OIC nations are majority of those nations denying human religious freedom in the world.
Pew Global Poll: "nearly 70 percent of the world's 6.8 billion people live in countries with high restrictions on religion, the brunt of which often falls on religious minorities." Pew Global Poll Results - Worst Nations for Religious Freedom Pew Poll - Very High Top 5% of scores Saudi Arabia - OIC Nation Iran - OIC Nation Uzbekistan - OIC Nation China - Communist Egypt - OIC Nation Burma (Myanmar) Maldives - OIC Nation Eritrea Malaysia - OIC Nation Brunei - OIC Nation Pew Poll - High Next 15% of scores Indonesia - OIC Nation Mauritania - OIC Nation Pakistan - OIC Nation Turkey - OIC Nation Vietnam - Communist Nation Algeria - OIC Nation Belarus Russia Turkmenistan - OIC Nation Libya - OIC Nation Sudan - OIC Nation Tajikistan - OIC Nation Jordan - OIC Nation Afghanistan - OIC Nation Morocco - OIC Nation Laos - Communist Syria - OIC Nation India Tunisia - OIC Nation Azerbaijan - OIC Nation Kuwait - OIC Nation Kazakhstan - OIC Nation Yemen - OIC Nation Iraq - OIC Nation Western Sahara Bulgaria Singapore Moldova Greece Israel Cuba - Communist Nation Oman - OIC Nation Somalia* - OIC Nation Out of 43 Nations Ranked "Very High" and "High" in Terms of Deny Religious Freedom - 30 were OIC nations -- 70 percent of the Very High and High Nations Ranked is denying religious freedom - being OIC nations Saudi Arabia - OIC Nation Iran - OIC Nation Uzbekistan - OIC Nation Egypt - OIC Nation Maldives - OIC Nation Malaysia - OIC Nation Brunei - OIC Nation Indonesia - OIC Nation Mauritania - OIC Nation Pakistan - OIC Nation Turkey - OIC Nation Algeria - OIC Nation Turkmenistan - OIC Nation Libya - OIC Nation Sudan - OIC Nation Tajikistan - OIC Nation Jordan - OIC Nation Afghanistan - OIC Nation Morocco - OIC Nation Laos - Communist Syria - OIC Nation Tunisia - OIC Nation Azerbaijan - OIC Nation Kuwait - OIC Nation Kazakhstan - OIC Nation Yemen - OIC Nation Iraq - OIC Nation Oman - OIC Nation Somalia* - OIC Nation

Human Right activists to rally for Pakistani Hindus and Christians in Washington DC

Washington DC: April 5, 2012. (R.E.A.L) On Saturday, April 14, a rally will be held in support of human rights and dignity for Hindus and Christians in Pakistan.
The event will be from 1:30 to 3:30 PM at 1615 H Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20062 – in front of the U.S.-Pakistan Business Council and across the street from Lafayette Square Park. Mr. Jeffrey Imm, Coordinator of REAL said that the coalition supports our Universal Human Rights for all people, including freedom of conscience for all people in every part of the world. The Organizations represented will include: Hindu American Foundation, Pakistan Christian Congress, Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.), and other activist groups and individual human rights activists. R.E.A.L. has submitted an Assembly Notification to the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia. The coalition objects to the efforts to deny universal human rights and dignity to religious minorities in Pakistan. As reported by human rights groups, there are hundreds of abductions and forced conversion cases of Hindus and Christian women every year in Pakistan which go unreported. Recent news has reported on a Hindu family reporting the kidnapping of a 19 year old Hindu girl in Sindh, Rinkel Kumari, who was forced to convert from her religion. The Hindu American Foundation has issued an online petition to U.S. Secretary of State Clinton, for those concerned about human rights to sign, calling for the U.S. Government to intervene on behalf of Hindu girls kidnapped and forced to deny their religious beliefs. According to the BBC report, “Human rights activists say that other reported abductions of members of minority communities in Pakistan, which is overwhelmingly Muslim, have not been properly investigated by the authorities.” The Pakistan Tribune also reports on Hindu and Christian girls who have been forcibly converted to Islam. The Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) coalition calls for the universal human rights of all people, including their freedom, their freedom of conscience, and their right to human dignity. We urge the Government, courts, and the people of Pakistan to act immediately to end abuse of religious minorities, to stop and punish the ongoing kidnappings, and to stop and punish those who would forcibly deny anyone their universal human right of religious freedom and freedom of conscience.

Indian Priest reportedly crucified on Good Friday by ISIS

Syria: March 29, 2016. The Indian Catholic priest kidnapped by ISIS-linked terrorists in Yemen earlier this month was crucified on Good Friday, it has been claimed.
Father Thomas Uzhunnalil, 56, was taken by Islamist gunmen, reportedly linked to ISIS, who attacked an old people’s home in Aden, southern Yemen, killing at least 15 people, on March 4. The terrorists reportedly carried out the heinous murder on Good Friday, after threatening to do so earlier in the week, according to the Archbishop of Vienna. It was reported last week that several religious groups had received threats that Father Thomas would be crucified on Good Friday, but this was denied by his church in his hometown of Bangalore. However, the Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, told a congregation gathered in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the Austrian capital that the priest had been crucified. It is not known how the Archbishop became aware of Father Thomas’ alleged fate, but his confirmation of the crucifixion during Easter Vigil Mass was reported in Austrian media. Yemeni authorities have blamed ISIS for the March 4 attack on the refuge for the elderly operated by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in the main southern city of Aden. Four gunmen posing as relatives of one of the guests at the home burst inside, killing four Indian nuns, two Yemeni female staff members, eight elderly residents and a guard. ‘According to our information, the extremists who attacked the elderly care home in Aden have kidnapped priest Tom Uzhunnalil, a 56-year-old Indian, who was taken to an unknown location,’ a Yemeni security official said. ‘We are aware that no group has yet claimed the criminal attack… but information points to the involvement of Daesh,’ said the source, who asked to remain anonymous, using an Arabic acronym for IS. However, members of Father Tom’s order have denied that he is due to be crucified, saying they have no information on his health or whereabouts. We have absolutely no information on Fr Tom,’ Father Mathew Valarkot, spokesman for the Salesians’ Bangalore province, told UCANews.

Pope Benedict condemns Gaza violence

Vatican City: December 28, 2008. With a second straight day of violence in the Gaza Strip, Pope Benedict XVI joined many from the world community, sounding off on the conflict.
He gave his strong opinion on the violence, asking the international community to join in trying to help the Israelis and Palestinians reach a peaceful end. Pope Benedict XVI issued this statement from the Vatican: "I implore the end of this violence, which is to be condemned in every way in all its manifestations. I implore the re-establishment of the ceasefire in the Gaza strip. I ask for a strong sign of humanity and wisdom from all those who have responsibilities at all levels in that situation. I ask the international community to try every possible way to help Israelis and Palestinians to come out from the dead-end street and to not give up."

Christmas celebrations in Pakistan underway with Carol Concerts and Protests

Rawalpindi: December 22, 2009. (PCP) 20 million Pakistani Christian in Islamic Republic of Pakistan have started celebrations of Christmas with Carol Singing competitions and Protests to repeal blasphemy law.
There is wave of fear among Christian after text messages on hundreds of cell phones with warning of attacks by Islamic militants during feast of Christmas but Christian Colonies are being decorated with lightings and indoor Christmas Trees. In city of Rawalpindi, on December 21, 2009, a Christian Youth Group led by Mr. Nadeem Joseph and Mr. Imitaz John organized a Christmas program for the children of the "Sacred Heart Church" located in Westridge area with Prayer and Praise. Mr. Nadeem hosted the program, he told participant that this program is arranged every year for the encouragement and support of the children who are unprivileged so that they can also enjoy and understand the meaning of Christmas. Many young singers and choirs from different Churches of Rawalpindi were invited. They performed and entertained the crowd. The Children performed a Christmas Play, then showed different talents while Christmas Message was given by Father Desmond Elijah. The Christmas cake was cut for the children, then they received gifts from the Father Desmond. In the end Mr. Imtiaz John thanked every who came to attend the program and also appreciated the support of "Pakistan Christian Congress" and thanked Mr. Xavier William for his presence. Meanwhile, in other part of Rawalpindi, Pakistan Christian Congress council members Mehboob Alam, Saqib Adeel, Zeeshan William and Suleman William led the protest against the Government of Pakistan in conjunction with the UK protest organized by British Asian Pakistani Association and led by Wilson Chowdhry on 19th December 2009. The Protest start at 1.00 PM from Sadiqabad, near Holy Family Hospital where Father Anwer Patras and many other joined and chanted slogans against the Government for immediately repelling the Blasphemy law and give justice to the victims of the Gojra incident. Father Anwer Patras addressing the protest stressed that the Christians should unite and stand against the Government. The Government immediately should repeal the Blasphemy law by an executive order, equal rights should be given to the Christians and the victims of Gojra should get justice. Mehboob Alam and Saqib Adeel also addressed the participants and demanded to be treated equally. In the end Mehboob Alam thanked the participants for attending the protest and said that President of Pakistan Christian Congress Dr. Nazir S. Bhatti is the true voice of the 20 Million Christians. He also said that the PCC is growing in the Rawalpindi District under the leadership of Xavier William the PCC Joint Sectary. The procession walked all the way to the Murree road and then dispersed peacefully. There were mixed mute celebrations of Christmas celebrations in other cities of Pakistan,

Raymond Durrani raises issue of Asia Bibi in 2nd Canadian parliamentary forum on religious freedom

Ottawa: April 5, 2012. (PCP) Mr. Raymond Durrani, Central Committee Executive of Pakistan Christian Congress for the Canadian Chapter participated
in ‘2nd Parliamentary Forum’ on ‘Religious Freedom and Governance’ on invitation of Government of Canada, held at Govt. Conference Centre, Main Hall, Ottawa on April 2nd, 2012. PCC leader Mr. Raymond Durrani questioned the Hon. Bob Dechert MP and Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. John Barid about the anonymous motion passed in the House of Commons instructing the Government of Pakistan to release of Asia Bibi who had been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. Mr. Durrani asked whether a reply from the government was received and if was what and if not – what is government doing to tackle the ignorance of Government of Pakistan for not coming back with a reply. Further, he asked “what is the intention of the government of Canada – would it consider filing a case with the United Nation for any recourse to get the attention of the Government of Pakistan for release of Asia Bibi and many others rotting in the prisons of Pakistan which are plagued with deplorable and unbearable condition on top of the treatment they receive from the members of the Muslim Extremists who manage those prisons?” Majority of the questions from the audience were from the people from the Pakistan origin who drew the attention of the panelists in particular, the attention of the MPs of the current government for the persecution of largest minority of Pakistan, members of the Christian nation. Mr. Vincent Samuel from Hamilton explained as to how members of the Christian nation are impacted and suffering from the government of Pakistan polices such as nationalization of all the elite Christian institutions like Schools, Colleges and Hospitals which provided jobs and resources to support their livelihood and created a climate of deprivation after the nationalization. Leader of Pakistan Christian congress PCC who heads PCC Canadian Chapter Mr. Durrani also suggested the Hon. Dechert and other MPs whether it would be possible to attach any further financial aid given to Pakistan to such issues of lack of religious freedom provided to the minorities of Pakistan particularly, the largest minority, and the members of the Christian Nation. Mr. Durrani was advised that the reply will be sent to him after consultation with the right party when the parliament reconvenes. The forum was opened with welcome by David Anderson, a backbencher MP and Mr. Bhatti of ICV, whileThe Examination of Governance by Michael Van Pelt, Editor, Researcher and Robert Joustra, President of Cardus – a think tank capacity institution. Both described the role of religion and governance while freedom being the core issue at hand for discussion. ‘The Reality of Religious Restrictions’ by Mario Silva editor of International Journal of Rights and Security/former Liberal backbencher MP, Scott Reid a backbencher MP of the current government, Mohd. Jebara of Cordova Academy and Hon. Bob Dechert, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. John Baird. Each one examined the role of religion and its freedom and responsibilities the governments have towards good governance – what role the governments play in protection of religious minorities etc. It is important to note that all the MPs stressed on freedom for religious minorities around the world. It is intention of this government to raise this issue to the countries in violation of this freedom – countries like Pakistan and Iran for example to mention, said Bob Dechert MP and Assistant to Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Role of Social Media was narrated by Mr. Brian Lilley, Host Byline, and Sun News Network. He explained how the social media like the Facebook can pick on the issues discussed on TV networks and or printed in major news papers around the world. It is a very powerful tool which connects people to study the issue and draw conclusion satisfactory and acceptable by the general public of all religious organizations. Brian Lillyey was also held responsible to ‘Call to Action Discussion’ – He opened the floor to the audience who were given the opportunity to ask questions, display suggestive views on issues discussed by the four panelists. It is important to mention that Imam Mohd. Jebara left the Forum soon he finished his part and it was his part which most of the audiences question but he wasn’t there to answer – may be he knew what he said and decided to leave rather than face the criticism – good for him.

Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation on The Joy of Love

Vatican City: April 8, 2016. (VR) The Vatican on Friday published Pope Francis’ eagerly-awaited Apostolic Exhoratation on the family, drawing together almost three years of consultations with Catholics in countries around the world.
The lengthy document, entitled ‘Amoris Laetitia’, or The Joy of Love, affirms the Church’s teaching that stable families are the building blocks of a healthy society and a place where children learn to love, respect and interact with others. At the same time the text warns against idealizing the many challenges facing family life, urging Catholics to care for, rather than condemning, all those whose lives do not reflect the teaching of the Church. In particular the document focuses on the need for “personal and pastoral discernment’” for individuals, recognizing that “neither the Synod, nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases”. The text of the official summary of the Apostolic Exhortation ‘Amoris Laetitia’ or The Joy of Love can be found below. The full, unabridged text, can be found here on the Vatican website. Summary of Amoris Laetitia: On Love in the Family It is not by chance that Amoris Laetitia (AL), “The Joy of Love”, the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation “on Love in the Family”,was signed on 19 March, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph. It brings together the results of the two Synods on the family convoked by Pope Francis in 2014 and 2015. It often cites their Final Reports; documents and teachings of his Predecessors; and his own numerous catecheses on the family. In addition, as in previous magisterial documents, the Pope also makes use of the contributions of various Episcopal Conferences around the world (Kenya, Australia, Argentina...) and cites significant figures such as Martin Luther King and Erich Fromm.The Pope even quotes the film Babette’s Feast to illustrate the concept of gratuity. Introduction(1-7) The Apostolic Exhortation is striking for its breadth and detail. Its 325 paragraphs aredistributed over nine chapters. The seven introductory paragraphs plainly set out the complexity of a topic in urgent need of thorough study. The interventions of the Synod Fathers make up [form] a “multifaceted gem” (AL 4), a precious polyhedron, whose value must be preserved. But the Pope cautions that “not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium”. Indeed, for some questions, “each country or region … can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs. For ‘cultures are in fact quite diverse and every general principle… needs to be inculturated, if it is to be respected and applied’” (AL 3).This principle of inculturation applies to how problems are formulated and addressed and, apart from the dogmatic issues that have been well defined by the Church’s magisterium, none of this approach can be “globalized”.In his address at the end of the 2015 Synod, the Pope said very clearly: “What seems normal for a bishop on one continent, is considered strange and almost scandalous – almost! – for a bishop from another; what is considered a violation of a right in one society is an evident and inviolable rule in another; what for some is freedom of conscience is for others simply confusion.” The Pope clearly states that we need above all to avoid a sterile juxtaposition between demands for change and the general application of abstract norms. He writes: “The debates carried on in the media, in certain publications and even among the Church’s ministers, range from an immoderate desire for total change without sufficient reflection or grounding, to an attitude that would solve everything by applying general rules or deriving undue conclusions from particular theological considerations” (AL 2). Chapter One: “In the light of the Word”(8-30) Following this introduction, the Pope begins his reflections with the Holy Scriptures in the first chapter, which unfolds as a meditation on Psalm 128 (which appears in the Jewish wedding liturgy as well as that of Christian marriages). The Bible “is full of families, births, love stories and family crises” (AL 8).This impels us to meditate on how the family is not an abstract ideal but rather like a practical “trade” (AL 16), which is carried out with tenderness (AL 28), but which has also been confronted with sin from the beginning, when the relationship of love turned into domination (cf. AL 19). Hence, the Word of God “is not a series of abstract ideas but rather a source of comfort and companionship for every family that experiences difficulties or suffering. For it shows them the goal of their journey...” (AL 22). Chapter two: “The experiences and challenges of families” (31-57) Building on the biblical base, in the second chapter the Pope considers the current situation of families. While keeping “firmly grounded in [the] reality” of family experiences (AL 6), he also draws heavily on the final Reports of the two Synods. Families face many challenges, from migration to the ideological denial of differences between the sexes (“ideology of gender” AL 56); from the culture of the provisional to the antibirth mentality and the impact of biotechnology in the field of procreation; from the lack of housing and work to pornography and abuse of minors; from inattention to persons with disabilities, to lack of respect for the elderly; from the legal dismantling of the family, to violence against women. The Pope insists on concreteness, which is a key concept in the Exhortation. And it is concreteness, realism and daily life that make up the substantial difference between acceptable “theories” of interpretation of reality and arbitrary “ideologies”. Citing Familiaris consortio, Francis states that “we do well to focus on concrete realities, since ‘the call and the demands of the Spirit resound in the events of history’, and through these ‘the Church can also be guided to a more profound understanding of the inexhaustible mystery of marriage and the family’” (AL 31). Conversely, if we fail to listen to reality, we cannot understand the needs of the present or the movements of the Spirit. The Pope notes that rampant individualism makes it difficult today for a person to give oneself generously to another (cf. AL 33). Here is an interesting picture of the situation: “The fear of loneliness and the desire for stability and fidelity exist side by side with a growing fear of entrapment in a relationship that could hamper the achievement of one’s personal goals” (AL 34). The humility of realism helps us to avoid presenting “a far too abstract and almost artificial theological ideal of marriage, far removed from the concrete situations and practical possibilities of real families” (AL 36). Idealism does not allow marriage to be understood for what it is, that is, a “dynamic path to personal development and fulfilment”. It is unrealistic to think that families can sustain themselves “simply by stressing doctrinal, bioethical and moral issues, without encouraging openness to grace” (AL 37). Calling for a certain “self-criticism” of approaches that are inadequate for the experience of marriage and the family, the Pope stresses the need to make room for the formation of the conscience of the faithful: “We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them” (AL37). Jesus proposed a demanding ideal but “never failed to show compassion and closeness to the frailty of individuals like the Samaritan woman or the woman caught in adultery” (AL 38). Chapter three: “Looking to Jesus: The vocation of the family”(58-88) The third chapter is dedicated to some essential elements of the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family. This chapter is important because its 30 paragraphs concisely depict the vocation of the family according to the Gospel and as affirmed by the Church over time. Above all,it stresses the themes of indissolubility, the sacramental nature of marriage, the transmission of life and the education of children. Gaudium et Spes of Vatican II, Humanae Vitae of Paul VI, and Familiaris Consortio of John Paul II are widely quoted. The chapter provides a broad view and touches on “imperfect situations” as well. We can read, in fact: “‘Discernment of the presence of ‘seeds of the Word’ in other cultures (cf. Ad Gentes 11) can also apply to the reality of marriage and the family. In addition to true natural marriage, positive elements exist in the forms of marriage found in other religious traditions’,even if, at times, obscurely” (AL 77).The reflection also includes the “wounded families” about whom the Pope – quoting the Final Report of the 2015 Synod extensively –says that “it is always necessary to recall this general principle: ‘Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations’ (Familiaris Consortio, 84).The degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases and factors may exist which limit the ability to make a decision.Therefore, while clearly stating the Church’s teaching, pastors are to avoid judgements that do not take into account the complexity of various situations, and they are to be attentive, by necessity, to how people experience and endure distress because of their condition” (AL 79). Chapter four: “Love in marriage”(89-164) The fourth chapter treats love in marriage, which it illuminates with Saint Paul’s Hymn to Love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. This opening section is truly a painstaking, focused, inspired and poetic exegesis of the Pauline text. It is a collection of brief passages carefully and tenderly describing human love in absolutely concrete terms. The quality of psychological introspection that marks this exegesis is striking. The psychological insights enter into the emotional world of the spouses – positive and negative – and the erotic dimension of love. This is an extremely rich and valuable contribution to Christian married life, unprecedented in previous papal documents. This section digresses briefly from the more extensive, perceptive treatment of the day-to-day experience of married love which the Pope refuses to judge against ideal standards: “There is no need to lay upon two limited persons the tremendous burden of having to reproduce perfectly the union existing between Christ and his Church, for marriage as a sign entails ‘a dynamic process…, one which advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God’” (AL 122). On the other hand, the Pope forcefully stresses the fact that conjugal love by its very nature defines the partners in a richly encompassing and lasting union (AL 123), precisely within that “mixture of enjoyment and struggles, tensions and repose, pain and relief, satisfactions and longings, annoyances and pleasures” (Al 126) which indeed make up a marriage. The chapter concludes with a very important reflection on the “transformation of love” because “Longer life spans now mean that close and exclusive relationships must last for four, five or even six decades; consequently, the initial decision has to be frequently renewed” (AL 163). As physical appearance alters, the loving attraction does not lessen but changes as sexual desire can be transformed over time into the desire for togetherness and mutuality: “There is no guarantee that we will feel the same way all through life.Yet if a couple can come up with a shared and lasting life project, they can love one another and live as one until death do them part, enjoying an enriching intimacy” (AL 163). Chapter five: “Love made fruitful”(165-198) The fifth chapter is entirely focused on love’s fruitfulness and procreation. It speaks in a profoundly spiritual and psychological manner about welcoming new life, about the waiting period of pregnancy, about the love of a mother and a father. It also speaks of the expanded fruitfulness of adoption, of welcoming the contribution of families to promote a “culture of encounter”, and of family life in a broad sense which includes aunts and uncles, cousins, relatives of relatives, friends. Amoris laetitiadoes not focus on the so-called “nuclear” family” because it is very aware of the family as a wider network of many relationships. The spirituality of the sacrament of marriage has a deeply social character (cf. AL 187). And within this social dimension the Pope particularly emphasizes the specific role of the relationship between youth and the elderly, as well as the relationship between brothers and sisters as a training ground for relating with others. Chapter six: “Some pastoral perspectives”(199-258) In the sixth chapter the Pope treats various pastoral perspectives that are aimed at forming solid and fruitful families according to God’s plan. The chapter use the Final Reports of the two Synods and the catecheses of Pope Francis and Pope John Paul II extensively. It reiterates that families should not only be evangelized, they should also evangelize. The Pope regrets “that ordained ministers often lack the training needed to deal with the complex problems currently facing families” (AL 202). On the one hand, the psycho-affective formation of seminarians needs to be improved, and families need to be more involved in formation for ministry (cf. AL 203); and on the other hand, “the experience of the broad oriental tradition of a married clergy could also be drawn upon” (AL 202). The Pope then deals with the preparation of the engaged for marriage;with the accompanimentof couples in the first years of married life, including the issue of responsible parenthood; and also with certain complex situations and crises, knowing that “each crisis has a lesson to teach us; we need to learn how to listen for it with the ear of the heart” (AL 232). Some causes of crisis are analysed, among them a delay in maturing affectively (cf. AL 239). Mention is furthermore made of accompanying abandoned, separated or divorced persons. The Exhortation stresses the importance of the recent reform of the procedures for marriage annulment. It highlights the suffering of children in situations of conflictand concludes: “Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is very troubling. Hence, our most important pastoral task with regard to families is to strengthen their love, helping to heal wounds and working to prevent the spread of this drama of our times” (AL 246).It then touches on the situations of a marriage between a Catholic and a Christian of another denomination (mixed marriages), and between a Catholic and someone of another religion (disparity of cult). Regarding families with members with homosexual tendencies, it reaffirms the necessity to respect them and to refrain from any unjust discrimination and every form of aggression or violence. The last, pastorally poignant part of the chapter, “When death makes us feel its sting”, is on the theme of the loss of dear ones and of widowhood. Chapter seven: “Towards a better education of children”(259-290) The seventh chapter is dedicated to the education of children: their ethical formation, the learning of discipline which can include punishment, patient realism, sex education, passing on the faith and, more generally, family life as an educational context. The practical wisdom present in each paragraph is remarkable, above all the attention given to those gradual, small steps “that can be understood, accepted and appreciated” (AL 271). There is a particularly interesting and pedagogically fundamental paragraph in which Francis clearly states that “obsession, however, is not education. We cannot control every situation that a child may experience…If parents are obsessed with always knowing where their children are and controlling all their movements, they will seek only to dominate space. But this is no way to educate, strengthen and prepare their children to face challenges. What is most important is the ability lovingly to help them grow in freedom, maturity, overall discipline and real autonomy” (AL 260). The notable section on education in sexuality is very expressively entitled: “Yes to sex education”. The need is there, and we have to ask “if our educational institutions have taken up this challenge … in an age when sexuality tends to be trivialized and impoverished”. Sound education needs to be carried out “within the broader framework of an education for love, for mutual self-giving” (AL 280). The text warns that the expression ‘safe sex’ conveys “a negative attitude towards the natural procreative finality of sexuality, as if an eventual child were an enemy to be protected against. This way of thinking promotes narcissism and aggressivity in place of acceptance” (AL 283). Chapter eight: “Guiding, discerning and integrating weakness”(291-312) The eighth chapter is an invitation to mercy and pastoral discernment in situations that do not fully match what the Lord proposes. The Pope uses three very important verbs: guiding, discerning and integrating, which are fundamental in addressing fragile, complex or irregular situations. The chapter has sections on the need for gradualness in pastoral care; the importance of discernment; norms and mitigating circumstances in pastoral discernment; and finally what the Pope calls the “logic of pastoral mercy”. Chapter eight is very sensitive. In reading it one must remember that “the Church’s task is often like that of a field hospital” (AL 291).Here the Holy Father grapples with the findings of the Synods on controversial issues.He reaffirms what Christian marriage is and adds that “some forms of union radically contradict this ideal, while others realize it in at least a partial and analogous way”. The Church therefore “does not disregard the constructive elements in those situations which do not yet or no longer correspond to her teaching on marriage” (AL 292). As far as discernment with regard to “irregular” situations is concerned, the Pope states: “There is a need ‘to avoid judgements which do not take into account the complexity of various situations’ and ‘to be attentive, by necessity, to how people experience distress because of their condition’” (AL 296). And he continues: “It is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community, and thus to experience being touched by an ‘unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous’ mercy”(AL 297). And further: “The divorced who have entered a new union, for example, can find themselves in a variety of situations, which should not be pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment” (AL 298). In this line, gathering the observations of many Synod Fathers, the Pope states that “the baptized who are divorced and civilly remarried need to be more fully integrated into Christian communities in the variety of ways possible, while avoiding any occasion of scandal”. “Their participation can be expressed in different ecclesial services… Such persons need to feel not as excommunicated members of the Church, but instead as living members, able to live and grow in the Church… This integration is also needed in the care and Christian upbringing of their children” (AL 299). In a more general vein, the Pope makes an extremely important statement for understanding the orientation and meaning of the Exhortation: “If we consider the immense variety of concrete situations, … it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable toall cases.What is needed is simply a renewed encouragement to undertake a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases, one which would recognize that, since ‘the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases’, the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same” (AL 300). The Pope develops in depth the needs and characteristics of the journey of accompaniment and discernment necessary for profound dialogue between the faithful and their pastors. For this purpose the Holy Father recalls the Church’s reflection on “mitigating factors and situations” regarding the attribution of responsibility and accountability for actions; and relying on St. Thomas Aquinas, he focuses on the relationship between rules and discernment by stating: “It is true that general rules set forth a good which can never be disregarded or neglected, but in their formulation they cannot provide absolutely for all particular situations. At the same time, it must be said that, precisely for that reason, what is part of a practical discernment in particular circumstances cannot be elevated to the level of a rule” (AL 304). The last section of the chapter treats “The logic of pastoral mercy”.To avoid misunderstandings, Pope Francis strongly reiterates: “To show understanding in the face of exceptional situations never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being.Today, more important than the pastoral care of failures is the pastoral effort to strengthen marriages and thus to prevent their breakdown” (AL 307). The overall sense of the chapter and of the spirit that Pope Francis wishes to impart to the pastoral work of the Church is well summed up in the closing words: “I encourage the faithful who find themselves in complicated situations to speak confidently with their pastors or with other lay people whose lives are committed to the Lord. They may not always encounter in them a confirmation of their own ideas or desires, but they will surely receive some light to help them better understand their situation and discover a path to personal growth.I also encourage the Church’s pastors to listen to them with sensitivity and serenity, with a sincere desire to understand their plight and their point of view, in order to help them live better lives and to recognize their proper place in the Church.” (AL 312). On the “logic of pastoral mercy”, Pope Francis emphasizes: “At times we find it hard to make room for God’s unconditional love in our pastoral activity. We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete meaning and real significance.That is the worst way of watering down the Gospel” (AL 311). Chapter nine: “The spirituality of marriage and the family”(313-325) The ninth chapter is devoted to marital and family spirituality, which “is made up of thousands of small but real gestures” (AL 315).The Pope clearly states that “those who have deep spiritual aspirations should not feel that the family detracts from their growth in the life of the Spirit, but rather see it as a path which the Lord is using to lead them to the heights of mystical union” (AL 316).Everything, “moments of joy, relaxation, celebration, and even sexuality can be experienced as a sharing in the full life of the resurrection” (AL 317). He then speaks of prayer in the light of Easter, of the spirituality of exclusive and free love in the challenge and the yearning to grow old together, reflecting God’s fidelity (cf. AL 319). And finally the spirituality of care, consolation and incentive: the Pope teaches that “all family life is a ‘shepherding’ in mercy. Each of us, by our love and care, leaves a mark on the life of others” (AL 322). It is a profound “spiritual experience to contemplate our loved ones with the eyes of God and to see Christ in them” (AL 323). In the final paragraph the Pope affirms: “No family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love …All of us are called to keep striving towards something greater than ourselves and our families, and every family must feel this constant impulse. Let us make this journey as families, let us keep walking together. (…) May we never lose heart because of our limitations, or ever stop seeking that fullness of love and communion which God holds out before us” (AL 325). The Apostolic Exhortation concludes with a Prayer to the Holy Family. * * * As can readily be understood from a quick review of its contents, the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia seeks emphatically to affirm not the “ideal family” but the very rich and complex reality of family life. Its pages provide an openhearted look, profoundly positive, which is nourished not with abstractions or ideal projections, but with pastoral attention to reality. The text is a close reading of family life, with spiritual insights and practical wisdom useful for every human couple or persons who want to build a family. Above all, it is patently the result of attention to what people have lived over many years. The Exhortation Amoris laetitia: On Love in the Family indeed speaks the language of experience and of hope.

Need for sobriety, solidarity: message of Pope Benedict

Vatican City: December 31, 2008. Pope Benedict XVI has called for "sobriety and solidarity" in 2009 as the world struggles with economic and social woes
His appeal was made amid the splendour of St Peter's Basilica during a New Year's Eve vespers service. Pope Benedict described these times as being "marked by uncertainty and worry for the future" but told the faithful not to be afraid. He urged governments to help families in difficulty and said Catholic charities were doing as much as possible to help out. A choir sang during the service, attended by cardinals, other clergy, pilgrims and tourists