INDIA: Christian children detained for a week

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Police detained seven children for a week and two adults for ten days after Hindu extremists attacked a group of Christians travelling to a youth Bible conference by train. Police charged the adults with kidnapping and forcible conversion.

The photo shows a mother trying to comfort her crying daughter at the railway police station in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, before they were separated. The extremists beat parents who tried to regain custody of their children.

On 23 October, Anita Francis (50) and her daughter Sophia Francis (19) went to the railway station in Indore to take the Avantika Express for Mumbai with seven children – four boys aged 5, 13, 17 and 17, and three girls aged 5, 12 and 13. The children are relatives of Anita Francis, living in the same colony (where nearly 80 per cent of residents are Christians), and she had parental permission to take them to the annual Bible study conference for young people from all over India.

They boarded the train and had taken their seats when a mob of extremists from the Hindu nationalist organisation Hindu Jagran Manch entered their compartment and forced them off the train. The organisation is affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sanghor RSS (National Volunteers’ Organisation), the Hindu nationalist parent organisation of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

The extremists asked Anita Francis how much money they had received to convert the children to Christianity, according to her nephew Alex Matera (19), who had come to see them off with his father, Anita’s brother Amrit Kumar Matera (52).

 Adults accused

Alex told Morning Star News that he tried explaining that all the passengers were baptised Christians going to a Bible study conference as they do every year. He said, “They gathered the children from where they were seated and collected them all at one place, interrogating and intimidating Anita without even giving her the chance to reply. The children were pushed and pulled in the most ruthless manner… We don’t know how these people got to know about the travel plans. They alleged we convert children forcibly.”

The Hindu extremists called the media to witness the alleged “kidnapping” of the children. Amrit said, “There was a mob waiting at the platform with media persons clicking pictures, recording videos and asking all kinds of questions. The presence of the media and the crowd was evidence enough that the Christians were ambushed with a well-planned strategy.”

The extremists verbally abused Anita, beat Amrit, Alex and the three older boys (beating the 13-year-old so severely that his leg became swollen) and dragged the Christians to the Government Railway Police station.

They tried to force us to hail Hindu gods,” said Amrit, “and when we did not, they beat us. They intimidated the children to repeat the slogans or else face the beating. The 5-year-old boy and girl were made to chant the slogan, ‘Hail lord Ram’ repeatedly. We felt so helpless as they intimidated the little children before our eyes, and we could do nothing to help them.

Anita had telephoned the children’s parents, who hurried to the railway police station, where the extremists assaulted them too, while police watched. Dennis Michael, father of sons Priyal (17) and Harsh (13) and daughter Anushka (12), already had a broken leg from an accident, and the extremists repeatedly struck his broken leg with their boots.

The police released Sophie and Alex at 11 pm but kept Anita and Amrit in custody, charged them with serious crimes (including kidnapping, forcible conversion and trafficking of minors*) and sent them to Indore’s Musa Khedi Jail.

Children detained

After some initial contact, parents who arrived at the police station were not allowed to see their children. Anita’s relative Tanna Machado, who came to the railway station after Anita called her, said: “What was inhuman was that the children were not allowed to use the restrooms since the time they were detained until 7 pm at night. They were neither given anything to eat until late night.”

The children were taken away – the girls to a shelter near the station; the boys to a children’s home on the outskirts of the city. Parents were not told where their children had been taken and were not allowed to see or speak with them in the week that followed.

Madhya Pradesh High CourtDennis Michael filed for habeas corpus on behalf of all the parents at the Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court (pictured). The petition claimed the attack was politically motivated and stated, “The constitutional rights of the petitioners have been imperiled by illegal detention of their children without any reason.

At the habeas corpus petition hearing on 30 October, the court asked each child whose custody they would like to return to. All said they would like to return to their parents. The court ordered that they be handed to their parents immediately and asked the home secretary and the officer in charge of Indore Government Railway Police station to file a report.

The Indian Express reported that the families had not returned to their homes out of fear. Dennis Michael, speaking from an undisclosed location, said: “All these days I was moving around dazed looking for my children. Now that we have got their custody, we are too scared to return.”

Adults released on bail

Waiting at Indore jailOn 3 November, Anita and Amrit were released on bail after their lawyer submitted the high court’s habeas corpus ruling and supporting affidavits from the parents in the sessions court. (The photo shows friends and neighbours waiting for them to be released.)

The charges remain and the accused are trying to cope with the stigma of having been jailed for ten days. Anita is a well-respected retired teacher, while Amrit has taught at St Arnold School, Vijay Nagar, Indore, for 21 years. “I have not gone back to the school,” he said. “It is embarrassing to answer questions about my jail stay.”

On 17 November, Madhya Pradesh High Court ordered an investigation into the case against Anita and Amrit and into the allegations that the children were assaulted by Hindu Jagran Manch activists. The allegations were made by the parents in the writ petition and by the children in open court. The court reprimanded the railway police and asked the SHO to hand over case records.

The court stated, “The conduct of the SHO, Police Station, GRP Indore, in not handing over the custody of the children to their parents when they were brought to the railway station raises various doubts over his way of functioning and discharge of duties as SHO. Once the documents were shown to him by the parents and the children wanted to go with their parents, this court really does not know what prevented the SHO from handing over the children to their parents.”

Previous cases of children detained

The Indore case echoes an incident in May 2017, also in Madhya Pradesh, when the authorities detained 72 children on their way to a Bible camp. Police took the children off a train at Ratlam railway station and sent them to a shelter home following activists’ allegations of forcible conversion.

Rev Vijayesh Lal, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, commented, “Earlier as well, in 2015, there have been cases wherein a child as young as eight months old was detained with the mother on charges of conversionWe also recorded an incident wherein a family of four from Bhopal was arrested near Chhindwara on alleged conversion charges, and children were separated from parents and kept in separate jails which were over 150 kilometers apart.”

He said law enforcement agencies are under pressure from non-state political actors, “and go the extra mile to placate them, while Christians pay the price. This must stop, and the chief minister must intervene to restore confidence among the Christian community.”

Madhya Pradesh is one of eight Indian states that have passed anti-conversion laws. Officially called “Freedom of Religion” laws, they are intended to stop Hindus converting to other religions but extremists use them as an excuse to accuse Christians of “forcible conversion” of Hindus.

(Indian Express/Morning Star News/Scroll)

* The police charged Amrit Kumar Matera and Anita Francis with: kidnapping, punishable by up to seven years in prison and/or a fine; forcible conversion, punishable by up to two years in prison and/or a fine; trafficking of minors, punishable by 14 years to life in prison; crime with common intention; insulting the religion of any class, punishable by up to three years and/or a fine; obscene acts or songs, punishable by prison up to three months and/or a fine; voluntarily causing grievous hurt, punishable by up to seven years in prison; mischief by destroying or moving a landmark fixed by public authority, punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a fine; and sexual harassment. Later, Amrit Kumar Matera was also charged under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act.

Church in Chains has written to the Indian Ambassador requesting a meeting to discuss this incident and other attacks on Christians in India

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Detailed Report: Christians Targeted for Brutality by ISIS Militants in Philippines

Terrible wickedness on both sides as there is in almost every battle and war.

VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

Bombing of Marawi City-Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Civilians on the island of Mindanao paid a high price with dozens killed and widespread destruction of homes and property amid the ‘battle of Marawi’ that pitted the Philippine military against militants allied to the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) between May and October this year, Amnesty International said in a report today.

The ‘Battle of Marawi’: Death and destruction in the Philippines is the first detailed human rights analysis of the conflict, based on a research trip to Lanao del Sur, Mindanao in September. It documents how IS-allied militants targeted Christian civilians for the worst of the abuses, including at least 25 extrajudicial killings, mass hostage-taking, and extensive looting of civilian property.

Philippine armed forces, meanwhile, detained and ill-treated fleeing civilians, and also engaged in looting. Their extensive bombing of militant-held areas of Marawi city wiped out entire neighbourhoods and killed…

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Laos- Praise God for the Release of Four Men and Faithfulness of Seven Families

Nov. 16, 2017 | Laos

Help Christians in Tragic Zimbabwe at this Time of Crisis

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Help Christians in Tragic Zimbabwe at this Time of Crisis

 This post exposes the wicked legacy of Mugabe who MUST be deposed! 

Donate now
Three-quarters of the population of Zimbabwe live below the poverty line. Four-fifths subsist on the food they grow themselves. All have endured decades of repressive rule, and recurrent drought.

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Barnabas Fund feeds hungry Christians in Zimbabwe and increases this aid at times of major food crisis

Barnabas Fund cares for the neediest, working through local Zimbabwean churches and ministries. We feed hungry Christians, increasing our support at times of major food crisis, for example hyperinflation and drought. We have provided up to a million meals a month, that is 70 tonnes of food aid monthly, focusing always on the most vulnerable.
A special concern is the elderly, including care home residents.

For a longer term solution to hunger, we are funding a grassroots Christian programme to train subsistence farmers in a simple, cheap and sustainable farming method, which greatly increases yields.

A gift to our Zimbabwe General Fund will support these and other projects which feed and build up believers in Zimbabwe. 

The Church in Zimbabwe plays a major role in society, and has therefore been one of the targets of government harassment and persecution. Many courageous pastors and ministers have taken a stand for justice and righteousness, risking arrest, imprisonment or worse.

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Farming projects enable self-sufficiency. Can you help families like this one?

Zimbabwe lies under military rule today after the surprise “coup” of Tuesday. No one knows what the future holds. Some dare to hope for an end to the long years of suffering, but others fear it will be a case of new leadership and old problems. One thing is sureyou can help poor and needy Christians through the Zimbabwean churches. 

Donate now

Five Christians Killed, Five Others Missing in Muslim Herdsmen Attacks in Nigeria

These murders go on with impunity. Pray for increased protection and arming of civilians even.

VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

The Rev. Dacholom Datiri of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN). (Morning Star News)

(Morning Star News) – Five Christians were killed and five others are missing after attacks by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria’s Plateau and Benue states in the past two weeks.

Two members of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) were killed on Sunday (Nov. 12) in Plateau state’s Wereng village, Riyom Local Government Area (LGA), as they were returning to their village at about 9:30 p.m., area resident Gyang Dahoro, a COCIN elder, told Morning Star News.

Christopher Musa Chong, 28, and Bulus Dantoro, 35, were ambushed and shot death, and their corpses cut with machetes, according to Dahoro.

“The two did not return to the village on Sunday evening,” Dahoro said. “A search was organized, and their corpses were found in bushes the following morning with bullet wounds and machete cuts.”

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Asia Bibi’s final appeal against blasphemy to be heard in Supreme Court by end 2017??

In October, it was reported that the Supreme Court was likely to hear Aasia [Asia] Bibi’s blasphemy case during the next couple of months.

Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Malook, told The Express Tribune that the court’s additional registrar had conveyed to him that the case was likely to be fixed for hearing in November. However, if for some reason there was a delay, it would definitely be listed in December.

“I have been told that currently the Supreme Court’s special bench is hearing criminal appeals filed in 2015. The Aasia case was listed the same year. Therefore, it will be heard during the ongoing year,” said the lawyer.

Legal experts say it’s unclear if a bench led by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar will resume, or the special bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, will hear her case.

The 51-year-old Christian, has been on the death row since November 2010 after being convicted of controversial blasphemy charges during an argument with a Muslim woman. Aasia’s case gained prominence after then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer pleaded for her retrial and was subsequently shot dead by his guard, Mumtaz Qadri, in January 2011.

In 2014, the Lahore High Court upheld Aasia’s death sentence, but the Supreme Court stayed her execution in July 2015.

Lord please sovereignly cause her to be acquitted and leave this rotten country for her own safety!

Background:

 

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Aasia Bibi with her children before blasphemy charges

In October, it was reported that the Supreme Court was likely to hear Aasia [Asia] Bibi’s blasphemy case during the next couple of months..

 

Describing her case, Bibi said she was working in a field when she was asked to fetch water. Because she is a Christian, some of her Muslim co-workers objected, saying that she should not touch the water vessel as she would make it unclean. An argue began and harsh words were exchanged. Bibi claims the women later accused her of blasphemy in conspiracy with another Muslim woman. Bibi maintains her innocence.

Whilst Aasia Bibi’s defence believe they have a strong case, there is huge pressure from Muslims to uphold the death sentence.

Aasia Bibi’s husband and two of her children
Aasia Bibi’s husband and two of her children

Speaking directly to Barnabas Fund’s contact in Pakistan, Aasia Bibi’s husband Ashiq Masih requested prayer for protection and that justice will prevail. He has also asked that specific prayers be made for the lawyers defending Aasia Bibi, as well as the judges who will hear the case. He said that the family are well and thankful to Barnabas Fund for helping them to purchase a house.

Commenting on the significance of the appeal, Dawn, an English-language newspaper in Pakistan, wrote, “Some insist it is not just a fight for one life, but a battle for the nation’s soul as the state walks a razor-sharp line between upholding human rights and appeasing populist hardliners.”

Should the judges rule in favour of Aasia Bibi, there is the risk that she and her family will be targeted by vigilantes as have many others acquitted of “blasphemy” charges in Pakistan. It is symptomatic of the increasing Islamisation of Pakistan and the immense difficulty that Christians in particular have in defending themselves against false accusations. Whilst it would be a huge victory for justice should Aasia Bibi be acquitted, more challenges could yet lie ahead for her and her family.

VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

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LAHORE: The Supreme Court is due to hear the final appeal against the execution of Asia Bibi, a Christian, accused for blasphemy, on Thursday. Some insist it is not just a fight for one life, but a battle for the nation’s soul as the state walks a razor-sharp line between upholding human rights and appeasing populist hardliners.

This will be the final appeal for Asia Bibi, some six years after she was sentenced to death, accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) during an argument with a Muslim woman over a bowl of water.

“There is no question that what is at stake is the very soul of the state and Pakistan society: does Pakistan respect the rights of the most vulnerable? Does it defend those rights against spurious allegations even where those allegations involved matters that are sacred to most Pakistanis?” Mustafa Qadri, an expert on human rights in South…

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