Egypt hands down death sentence to ISIS militants who beheaded 21 Copts in Libya

(Reuters/Social Media Website via Reuters TV)Islamic State militants lead what are said to be Ethiopian Christians along a beach in Wilayat Barqa, in this still image from an undated video made available on a social media website on April 19, 2015.

An Egyptian court has handed down a death sentence to seven people over links to the Islamic State terror group and the beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya in February 2015.

The seven suspects have been accused of being members of an ISIS cell in Marsa Matruh in northwest Egypt, and of planning attacks after receiving military training at jihadist camps in Libya and Syria, according to Agence France Presse. An unspecified number of the suspects were accused of taking part in the beheadings in Libya.

Three of the suspects were sentenced to death in absentia, and 13 others are currently on trial in the same case. The rulings against the 13 suspects are expected to be handed down on Nov. 25.

Egypt’s mufti, who is the official interpreter of Islamic law, will be reviewing the death sentences, although his verdict is not considered legally binding.

The video of the beheadings was released by the terror group in 2015, with the title “A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of the Cross.” The incident sparked international outcry and prompted Egypt to launch air strikes against jihadist targets in the neighboring Arab state.

At the two-year anniversary of the beheadings in February, the relatives of the victims, who were kidnapped separately in Libya throughout December 2014 and January 2015, honored the memories of their loved ones.

The children of the 21 Copts said that they are “proud” of the courage displayed by their fathers by refusing to renounce their faith.

One of the widows said that her husband “kept the faith, and was martyred in the name of Christ. His faith was very strong. I’m proud of him. He has lifted our heads up and honored us and all the Christians.”

A number of Coptic Christians have crossed into Libya in search of work despite the risks of persecution.

“We know it is more likely we will die than live in Libya but we don’t have a choice… More and more people are going to Libya because of the economic crisis here. You can’t get work, you can’t make money in Egypt. We are aware of the dangers, particularly as Christians,” a Coptic Christian said, according to The Christian Post, citing The Sunday Times.

According to a Libyan intelligence report, an estimated 700 ISIS militants have re-grouped in the valleys and desert areas south of the city of Bani Walid, and another 3,000 terrorist fighters from different groups, including al-Qaeda, are believed to be operating in the country.

THE INVISIBLE CHRISTIANS OF NORTH KOREA: WHERE THEY CAME FROM AND HOW THEY’RE SURVIVING BY GOD’S GRACE ALONE

The Invisible Christians of North Korea: Surviving by God's Grace Alone

If you think North Korea’s dictators are bad for the world, just imagine what it’s like to be a Christian there.

Anyone who knows anything about world missions and the global church knows about the Christians of South Korea. According to the Operation World prayer guide, “From the first Protestant church planted in 1884, South Korea now has possibly 50,000 Protestant congregations,” and 15 million Christians of all kinds. It’s also a missionary powerhouse, currently sending more than 21,000 missionaries to about 175 countries. Amazing!

But the Christians of North Korea? They’re virtually invisible—though of course not in the eyes of the Lord Jesus! Operation World says that although no one really knows their true number, there could be as many as 350,000 underground Christians living in the slave state of 24 million people. When you consider that the government there—whether run by the Japanese occupiers during World War II, or the current cult-like, totalitarian leadership—has been trying to stamp out all vestiges of Christianity for about 70 years, that’s alsoamazing.

Tragically, and infuriatingly, up to 100,000 of these brothers and sisters in Christ are locked up in harsh prisons or work camps.

Where did they all come from, and how do they survive? Well, in answer to the first part, it’s a fascinating story. Did you know that from the late 19th century until 1942, Pyongyang, North Korea’s Orwellian capital city today, was known as the “Jerusalem of the East”?

According to Providence journal, “a Presbyterian medical doctor named Horace Allen … became physician to the king of Korea and received royal permission to proselytize after saving the life of a royal family member severely wounded during an attempted coup. Presbyterian and Methodist missionaries from the United States followed, and along with Catholic and other Protestant missionaries from other countries, they found Koreans to be receptive to their message in large numbers. A quarter of a century later in 1910, Korean Christians numbered over 200,000, two thirds of them Presbyterians and Methodists, in a country of approximately 13 million people.”

If the city of Seoul was receptive to the gospel, and it was, Pyongyang was even more so. Following a series of revivals in and around the “Jerusalem of the East,” by 1910 the region was the most heavily Christian in all of Korea.

Of course, most of us know what happened next. After World War II, the communist regime of Kim Il-sung attempted to stamp out all foreign religions, especially Christianity, which was branded a tool of “Western imperialism.” Missionaries were thrown out, churches closed, and many Christians executed for their faith, with many more pouring into democratic South Korea at the end of the Korean War.

So how do those who remain survive? As with all of us, by God’s grace. Today, Open Doors USA reports, North Korea is the most oppressive place in the world for Christians. “Due to ever-present surveillance,” the agency says, “many pray with eyes open, and gathering for praise or fellowship is practically impossible. Worship of the ruling Kim family is mandated for all citizens, and those who don’t comply (including Christians) are arrested, imprisoned, tortured or killed. Entire Christian families are imprisoned in hard labor camps.”

It’s no wonder that one North Korean Christian lady who escaped continues to pray a simple prayer she learned from her mother: “Lord, Lord, please help!”

And the Lord, through agencies such as Open Doors, is answering that prayer, providing Bibles and emergency relief inside the country as well as to fleeing North Korean Christians. They’re not invisible to Him—and now, I hope, not to us, either.


When Did a Message of Love Become a Message of Hate?

Editor’s note-To Witness or not to witness?  I note that when you began to tell people truth in this day and age that they do not want to listen. Lately I have had the opportunity to witness my faith quite a lot and I note that people feel uncomfortable when you talk about the Truth of the Acts 2 message. Not only I but meany others are coming to know that the world has changed in America and today you will be crucified Spiritually if you speak truth.  But Jesus says Truth shall set you free. People today want grace but grace is still the end result of Repentance. Note how this minister found out that people hate the real message of truth especially about SIN.

 

There is a cost to speaking the truth. This realization came nearly 13 years ago when I was asked to speak at the annual Conference for the American Baptist… unaware that they were about to divide over ordaining those who embrace the homosexual lifestyle.

Within minutes of beginning my message, people began to leave the large auditorium. Although it was clear that I had struck a nerve, the clearest message came when a woman approached the platform and attempted to disrupt the service. I told her that I would be happy to talk with her after the service.

Afterwards, a large line of people waited to talk to me. I will never forget the very angry 12-year-old girl. My heart sank when she said, “I hate everything you had to say. It was mean and hateful!” Though shocked by her comment, I was moved with compassion for such a young life filled with passion for the wrong things. Others asked if I ever received death threats.

As I boarded the plane, I was perplexed and confused. I prayed, “Lord, what’s wrong? I’m simply speaking Your Word and genuinely loving these people.” The words of Titus Brandsma (martyred at Dachau under Hitler) began to ring true, “Those who want to win the world for Christ must have the courage to come into conflict with it.”

I buckled my seat, anxious to head for the familiar comfort of home… but I knew that my life had made a turn. This gospel of love had, ironically, become a message of hate to those who oppose it: “A time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God” (John 16:2).

Speaking the truth was going to cost me (and it will cost you). I knew that my kids would someday be old enough to ask why the hate mail, mean remarks, indignant looks… While most feedback is very encouraging, those who are upset will often stop at nothing to get their point across.

Do I enjoy this? That goes without answer. Although many applaud boldness, if the truth be told, life would be much easier if I took a secular job and avoided controversy. But I cannot. God radically changed my life by the power of His Spirit through His truth: “It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it!” (Jeremiah 20:9).

One of my great concerns is for the pulpits of America: many are exchanging truth for tolerance, boldness for balance, and conviction for cowardness. We don’t want to offended lest we lose our audience. But truth is controversial—its convicts and challenges. We are not to seek the applause of men but the applause of God. The pulpit inevitably sets the tone of the religious climate of the nation. The lukewarm, sex-saturated culture simply reflects the lack of conviction in the pulpit as well as the pew. Granted, there are many wonderful pastors and churches—I appreciate their ministry, but, as a whole, the church has drifted off course.

The only difference between believers and unbelievers is that believers are simply forgiven—they have embraced God’s gracious gift of forgiveness, wholeness, and restoration through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Because of the cross, sin has been conquered and atoned for (cf.Romans 6). “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

My goal is to simply share God’s gracious gift. If being labeled narrow-minded, legalistic, judgmental, arrogant, and intolerant is the cost of speaking the truth in love, so be it. In 2 Timothy 4:1-2, Paul instructs Timothy, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”

Paul is saying to preach the difficult truths as well as the joyful ones; preach the cross and the new life; preach hell and preach heaven; preach damnation and preach salvation; preach sin and preach grace; preach wrath and preach love; preach judgment and preach mercy; preach obedience and preach forgiveness; preach that God is love, but don’t forget that God is just. It is the love of God that compels us to share all of His truth.

Paul continues, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). This should sound an alarm in the the heart of every preacher, pastor, and teacher to seriously reevaluate their ministry—are we encouraging sin by not warning? If so, we’re heading down a dangerous path. A.W. Tozer reminds us that we’ll stand to be judged someday: “That makes me both love Him and fear Him! I love Him because He is my Savior, and I fear Him because He is my Judge.” We must speak the truth in love despite the cost.

Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship, just North of Los Angeles.


ACLU Asserts Police Department Is Violating Constitution by Posting Scripture to Social Media

MOUNDS, Okla. — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has requested that a police department in Oklahoma stop posting Scripture to social media, asserting that doing so violates the U.S. Constitution.

The ACLU of Oklahoma sent a letter to the mayor of Mounds on Wednesday to express concern about the biblical posts, which were referred to as a “clear establishment of religion.”

“Sharing Bible verses, asking citizens to pray, and providing resources for Bible study directly supports and advocates for the Christian religion,” the group wrote. “These posts serve no secular purpose and instead exist solely to share the teachings of a particular religion and encourage the reader to participate in the practice of that religion.”

“As the official Facebook page of a city police department, the account’s direct advocacy of the Christian religion is not only inappropriate but unconstitutional.”

The ACLU further contended in a statement, “[T]he actions of the Mounds Police Department call into question whether or not the department can be trusted to adequately protect all those living under its jurisdiction, including members of minority faiths and those of no religious faith at all.”

The group has threatened a lawsuit if the police department continues to post Scripture on its Facebook page.

Mounds Police Chief Antonio Porter, who also serves as pastor of Wayland Baptist Church in Eufaula, told local television station KTUL that he is only “doing something positive for the community” and that he has no plans to stop encouraging others to do honor God and do right.

“This is not about a fight, this is about love. If they want to fight, they can fight—fight by themselves,” he remarked to the outlet. “I’m going to continue to spread love and encouragement.”

“David and Goliath—my analogy is this: I’m not going to throw a rock, I’m going to keep throwing the word, and let the word fight for itself,” Porter said.

Two state lawmakers have now sent Porter a letter expressing support for his daily posts.

“We admire the courage you are showing in the face of adversity,” wrote Sen. James Leewright, R-Bristow, and Rep. Mark Lawson, R-Sapulpa. “No matter what we do, there always seems to be somebody of some organization waiting in the shadows for the chance to steal our joy. Your tenacity to let your light shine is commendable.”

They sent Porter a word of Scripture themselves from the Sermon on the Mount to encourage the chief.

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father,” the letter read, quoting from Matthew 5:14-16.

Porter posted Scripture to the Mounds Police Department page on Thursday, unmoved by the ACLU’s demand.


IMAM HATED CHRISTIANS UNTIL JESUS RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD

“I was dead and demons tried to take my soul but Messiah Jesus came and gave my life back…” -Imam

Imam leads Friday prayers at Faisal mosque

He not only hated Christians, he directed his followers at the mosque to attack them. But after he died and was being prepared for burial, he stunned his family by returning to life with a new message of salvation.

Munaf Ali*, 45, was an influential imam as well as scholar and preacher of Islam in a Middle Eastern country.

One day a team from Bibles4Mideast approached the imam and they entered into a vigorous discussion about the authority of Jesus and the Bible. Munaf denied the divinity of Jesus Christ and the credibility of the Bible.

Pastor Paul offered him a copy of the New Testament but he refused to receive it. Visibly upset, the imam cursed the pastor and his team.

That night the imam incited a mob to attack the place where Pastor Paul and his team had been staying with shouts of “Allahu Akbar.”

But the Holy Spirit directed them to leave that location a few hours earlier, narrowly escaping the attackers before they arrived, according to Bibles4Mideast.

A few days later, following Friday prayers, Munaf was returning home when he suddenly felt dizzy, fell to the ground, lost consciousness and died.

After his physical body expired, he was aware of demons coming for his soul.

“Get lost, you cursed demons of Allah. You have no right to take my soul!” the imam asserted.

“No. It’s our right to take your life,” one of the demons replied. “And you will be with us,” as he forcefully grabbed the imam and began to depart.

But suddenly, Jesus Christ appeared before the imam with a large retinue of angels and the demons quickly fled in terror.

Then Jesus spoke to his heart: Listen, my son. First Adam disobeyed God and sinned against Him under Satan’s influence.

I am the second Adam, the Word of God and the Messiah Jesus, Son of the Most High. I was born of the virgin Mary, as a sinless Son of Man to redeem Adam and all of his descendants including you from sin and death.

 I was crucified and died as a ransom for all your sins to make you a child of God and citizen of heaven.

 I was raised from the dead and opened the gates of heaven to bring you back to eternal glory. Have faith in me and be my witness. I give your life back, for I have the authority of giving life.

When Munaf’s soul returned to his body, his sons and other family members were trying to lay his body on a table for washing and preparation for burial. Many other people were also in the room.

His family and friends were astonished and some began to shriek when Munaf opened his eyes and sat up on the washing table. Many were frightened and backed away, as if they saw a ghost.

“I was dead and demons tried to take my soul but Messiah Jesus came and gave my life back,” he began haltingly, and then proceeded to describe his experience.

Some believed his report, but others refused to believe and began to ridicule him. One said Munaf must have hit his head and lost his senses. “He speaks meaningless words,” a man said.

“He is possessed by an evil spirit,” someone charged.

Munaf became a bold witness for Jesus Christ, telling his family and anyone who visited him about his remarkable experience. His immediate family believed what he said about Jesus and accepted Him as their Savior and Lord.

As a result of his witness, he was dismissed from the mosque and told to see a psychiatrist. The community began to persecute them.

A short time later, facing serious threats, Munaf and his family left their home and their native country.

Pastor Paul asks for prayers for Munaf and his family, that God would protect them and provide for them as they minister in the region.

*name changed for security reasons

 


City wrong to block Christian farmer from local market

farmer's market

A farmer in Michigan has won a court battle against the city of East Lansing which had denied him the right to sell his vegetables at a local farmer’s market because of his biblical views on marriage.

City officials developed a new vendor’s rule after Steve Tennes of Country Mill Farms posted on his Facebook page that he believes in the biblical view of marriage of being only between a man and a woman. In addition, he had not allowed his farm – a popular wedding spot – to be used to host same-sex “weddings,” a stance the city said violated its civil rights ordinance.

Tennes was represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom legal firm. His lawyer, Kate Anderson, says “just like all Americans, a farmer should be free to live and speak according to his deeply held religious beliefs without fear of government punishment.”

The attorney says the court found that East Lansing officials changed their market policy to shut out Tennes because they don’t like his Catholic beliefs regarding marriage. Anderson says the court was right to issue this order, which now will allow Tennes and his family to return to selling his produce at the 2017 farmer’s market while his case moves forward.

 

Hostility toward free religious exercise in U.S. ‘Undeniable’

no cross

An updated survey documents the fact that 2016 was another banner year for violations of Americans’ religious freedoms the Constitution is supposed to protect.

For the last five years, First Liberty Institute has compiled in a report all the known religious liberty violations in the U.S. First Liberty attorney Jeremy Dys tells OneNewsNow it’s the most comprehensive survey of its kind, 418 pages documenting 1,400 real-life stories of attacks on religious liberty across America.

This years survey represents a 15-percent increase in just the past year,” Dys explains, “and an alarming 133-percent increase … since we started tracking and publishing this survey in 2012.”

Hostility in America toward religious expression is most conspicuous today in …

According to the report, hostility toward religious liberty continues to rise in the public arena (government and industry, for example) as well in the realms of education, religious institutions, and the U.S. military.

First Liberty founder Kelly Shackelford cites an incident documented in the report: “One example is Giovanni Rubio, a nine-year-old boy who was told he could bring any book he wanted to school during free reading time. He brought his Bible” – and an uproar ensued.

Then there is the case of Alexia Palma, a health educator to the poor in Houston. She objected to teaching pregnant mothers about contraception because of her faith. Management accommodated her, but then new management took over.

Palma shares: “Next thing you know, I was getting called into a meeting where they told me that I needed to put my religious beliefs aside if I wanted to continue being a health educator there.”

She stood firm and was fired. First Liberty, which has a 90-percent win rate, filed suit and the institution settled for an undisclosed amount.

The report titled “Undeniable” is available to the public on the First Liberty website. Both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have been given copies of the survey as well.


Invisible Christians of North Korea: Surviving by God’s Grace Alone

The Invisible Christians of North Korea: Surviving by God's Grace Alone

If you think North Korea’s dictators are bad for the world, just imagine what it’s like to be a Christian there.

Anyone who knows anything about world missions and the global church knows about the Christians of South Korea. According to the Operation World prayer guide, “From the first Protestant church planted in 1884, South Korea now has possibly 50,000 Protestant congregations,” and 15 million Christians of all kinds. It’s also a missionary powerhouse, currently sending more than 21,000 missionaries to about 175 countries. Amazing!

But the Christians of North Korea? They’re virtually invisible—though of course not in the eyes of the Lord Jesus! Operation World says that although no one really knows their true number, there could be as many as 350,000 underground Christians living in the slave state of 24 million people. When you consider that the government there—whether run by the Japanese occupiers during World War II, or the current cult-like, totalitarian leadership—has been trying to stamp out all vestiges of Christianity for about 70 years, that’s alsoamazing.

Tragically, and infuriatingly, up to 100,000 of these brothers and sisters in Christ are locked up in harsh prisons or work camps.

Where did they all come from, and how do they survive? Well, in answer to the first part, it’s a fascinating story. Did you know that from the late 19th century until 1942, Pyongyang, North Korea’s Orwellian capital city today, was known as the “Jerusalem of the East”?

According to Providence journal, “a Presbyterian medical doctor named Horace Allen … became physician to the king of Korea and received royal permission to proselytize after saving the life of a royal family member severely wounded during an attempted coup. Presbyterian and Methodist missionaries from the United States followed, and along with Catholic and other Protestant missionaries from other countries, they found Koreans to be receptive to their message in large numbers. A quarter of a century later in 1910, Korean Christians numbered over 200,000, two thirds of them Presbyterians and Methodists, in a country of approximately 13 million people.”

If the city of Seoul was receptive to the gospel, and it was, Pyongyang was even more so. Following a series of revivals in and around the “Jerusalem of the East,” by 1910 the region was the most heavily Christian in all of Korea.

Of course, most of us know what happened next. After World War II, the communist regime of Kim Il-sung attempted to stamp out all foreign religions, especially Christianity, which was branded a tool of “Western imperialism.” Missionaries were thrown out, churches closed, and many Christians executed for their faith, with many more pouring into democratic South Korea at the end of the Korean War.

So how do those who remain survive? As with all of us, by God’s grace. Today, Open Doors USA reports, North Korea is the most oppressive place in the world for Christians. “Due to ever-present surveillance,” the agency says, “many pray with eyes open, and gathering for praise or fellowship is practically impossible. Worship of the ruling Kim family is mandated for all citizens, and those who don’t comply (including Christians) are arrested, imprisoned, tortured or killed. Entire Christian families are imprisoned in hard labor camps.”

It’s no wonder that one North Korean Christian lady who escaped continues to pray a simple prayer she learned from her mother: “Lord, Lord, please help!”


Pakistani, 17, targeted by teacher and students, dies after beating on second day of high school

The mother of a 17-year-old Christian beaten to death in his classroom, on his second day in high school, has told the police that her son was “hated because of his religion”.

Sharoon Masih was on only his second day at MC Model High School in Vehari, Punjab when it is alleged that classmate Raza Ahmed attacked and killed him, on 30 August.

Sharoon Masih (Twitter)

Pakistani media reports allege the behaviour (and possible negligence) of school staff contributed to Masih’s death. His mother said Ahmed had stopped her son from drinking water two days before his murder.

Pakistani Christians are often treated with contempt, compounded because many come from a downtrodden “untouchable caste” with whom some Muslims refuse to drink and eat.

(The Christian Asia Bibi still remains on death row for blasphemy eight years after she was first arrested, after she offered a cup of water to fellow workers in a field on a hot day: two Muslims refused to take the cup as, they said, she had made it ‘unclean’, simply through her religion and caste).

Deputy Superintendent of Police Javed Tahir Majeed, one of three senior police investigating Sharoon’s murder, told World Watch Monitor: “Sharoon’s classmate, Sabir Ali, from his village, Chak 461, told us that Sharoon was sitting at the back of the classroom. When he got up to walk through the benches, Raza sprawled his legs out to block his way, telling him he could not go out. When Sharoon tried to get past Raza’s legs, Raza started to beat him up. Sabir tried to intervene but Raza beat him up as well.

“Raza denied to us that he physically touched Sharoon but the entire class testified that he kept beating Sharoon even when he fell on the ground, and kept kicking him till he was unconscious. Raza is tall and well built. He has a reputation for fighting even outside the school.”

Sub-Inspector Muhammad Kashif told World Watch Monitor that it was during ‘Islamic studies’ that class teacher Nazeer Ahmed had gone out of the class. “The teacher has informed us that he had taught four periods consecutively, so he was exhausted and went to the washroom,” he said.

Masih had just started at the High School in Burewala city, after completing lower education in his village. District Police Officer Umar Saeed Malik, who visited the family, told World Watch Monitor that as it was only Masih’s second day, it was less likely that there was any issue of a Muslim-Christian conversation but that investigations continue.

“Ahmed alleges that on his first day, Sharoon had broken the screen of a mobile telephone that Ahmed had brought to school. However, our investigation proves the screen was already broken; probably Raza was pressuring Sharoon to extract money by bullying him,” said Malik.

Deputy Superintendent Majeed confirmed that Sharoon’s mother told his team that Raza had stopped Masih from drinking water on the first day. “We are investigating this,” he said. “Here, even Shia and Sunni do not drink from the same glass, so it’s possible that Ahmed had this in mind. If it’s proved, the team will report it.”

Sharoon Masih’s father, Ilyasab, told World Watch Monitor that on his son’s first day, the teacher wouldn’t let his son attend as he wasn’t wearing the right school uniform and even slapped him in front of the class.

“Sharoon told his mother that students hated him because of his religion and he was not comfortable to go to school,” he said.

Ilyasab said he told his son, “I will go to school with you and talk to the teacher and students.”

“It often takes a few days to settle down in a new place,” he added. “The next day Sharoon didn’t go to school and went to buy his uniform himself. The next day he went back, but before I could go and meet the teacher and his classmates, he was killed.”

Deputy Superintendent Majeed said eyewitnesses confirmed that Ahmed kicked Masih in the stomach.

“We have seen cases where a little beating can result in death, so it’s quite plausible a hit in the belly resulted in death,” he said.

However, the autopsy notes that “no sign of any physical trauma was seen on the body”. District Police Officer Malik said that parts of the internal organs had been sent for chemical examination, and the final cause could only be ascertained after a chemical report.

Ilyasab Masih said he doesn’t know whether there were marks of violence on his son’s body.

“I was so overcome with grief that I could not ask if his body had signs of injury,” he said. “I couldn’t even ask who gave the body its last ritual wash.”

Superintendent of Police Zubaida Perveen and Deputy Superintendent Sajjad Muhammad Khan, with Deputy Superintendent Majeed, form a special team which is to report daily to the Regional and District Police Offices. The justice system is painfully slow in Pakistan and is too expensive for the poor, especially Christians who often neither have money nor connections within the state machinery. Ilyasab Masih hopes to get justice. “I have complete faith in Jesus that we will get it,” he said.

Masih’s killing has heightened fear among Pakistani Christians.

Sub-inspector Kashif said there are at least 24 Christian students in the school; Deputy Superintendent Majeed said school staff told his team there are 47. One staff member is also a Christian.

The Vehari District is not so far known for religious extremism, but this is the latest in a recent series of incidents in Pakistan.

Three weeks before, a 16-year-old illiterate Christian boy was forced to confess to blasphemy to escape mob violence in Gujranwala, 350km north-east of Vehari.

In July, a 16-year-old Christian hospital cleaner near Gujrat, just north of Gujranwala, was charged with blasphemy after getting into conversation with colleagues.

In June, a Christian sewerage worker in Sindh Province died after three doctors refused to touch him during Ramadan, because they saw him as ‘unclean’.

In April, a Muslim student was lynched by a mob at a university in the northern city of Mardan for “sharing blasphemous content on Facebook”, an allegation that later proved wrong.


Chinese Pastor detained for traveling to Christian conference

CHINA

Wang Zuoan: foreign religions are “infiltrating” and threatening China

The head of the Religious Affairs Bureau defends new regulations on religious activities. Religious discussions on the internet and “illegal” religious meetings represent a “danger”.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – China is facing heightened threats from “foreign infiltration” via religion and from the spread of extremism, said Wang Zuoan, head of China’s Religious Affairs Bureau as he defended new rules passed last week.

In an article published today in the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, Wang said that the revision was urgently needed because “the foreign use of religion to infiltrate (China) intensifies by the day and religious extremist thought is spreading in some areas.”

“Issues with religion on the internet are starting to break out . . . and illegal religious gatherings in some places continue despite bans,” he added.

In recent decades, China has seen an impressive religious revival. Despite prohibitions, the obligation to teach atheism, and the ban on Party members on joining religious groups at least 85 per cent of the Chinese population has some religious belief.

China’s constitution guarantees religious freedom for every citizen, but de facto allows only “normal” religious activities for five groups: Taoists, Buddhists, Muslims, Protestants, and Catholics.

The “normal” nature of their activities is guaranteed by complete government control at all levels: national, provincial, county, city, and village.

The new regulations include controls on religious personnel, gathering places, activities, foreign travels, and community economics.

For Wang, “freedom of religious faith is not equal to religious activities taking place without legal restrictions”.