Showing posts with label rape. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rape. Show all posts

Monday, May 13, 2013

Central African Republic (CAR): Churches targeted as Muslim rebels seize Bangui in an orgy of raping, killing and looting

By Elizabeth Kendal

Human Rights Watch reports on the extreme violence unleashed in the rebel seizure of Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic. "On March 23, the Seleka won a fierce battle against soldiers of the South African Defence Force, who were in the country under an arrangement between former President François Bozizé and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, and were able to enter Bangui unhindered. Seleka troops immediately looted and pillaged the capital. One of the first targets was the Bangui Cathedral, where Seleka rebels entered the church, fired in the air, and robbed the worshipers. . .

"Seleka members used violence against civilians during the looting [of Bangui]. A man who was shot in the throat and survived told Human Rights Watch: 'A Seleka fighter said, "Come give us the money" . . . I said that I had no money…he aimed his [gun] at me and shot once. The bullet hit me right above my head on the right side. I thought to myself, "I am dead, this is it." He shot me again and the bullet hit me on my left shoulder and came out my throat. . . "

Despite the fact that the HRW report contains 3,242 words, a word search for "Muslim" yields zero results and a word search for "Islam" yields zero results while a word search for "Arabic" yields three results, each occurring in the testimony of a female victim.
Quote:
"The day after they captured Bangui, I was in my house, where I live with my younger sister … when many Seleka fighters entered the quarter. I am 33-years-old and my sister is 23. She was 8 months pregnant when they raped us on March 25. They were shooting in the air in front of our house. Two armed men entered the house, threatened us, and forced us to get undressed and lay down on the ground….They both raped us, one after the other. They were shouting bad words in Sango and in Arabic. One of them was shouting the Arabic word charmouta (prostitute in Arabic) while raping me. Then, they left the house. Our neighbor took us to the community hospital, where my sister lost her baby the day after."

Central African Republic: Rampant Abuses After Coup
New Government Should Rein in Ex-Rebel Forces
HRW, 10 May 2013

It is really quite remarkable that the HWR report fails to mention that while Central African Republic (CAR) is French-speaking and 76 percent Christian (Operation World, 2010) the rebels who have seized power in an orgy of violence are Arabic-speaking Muslims.

Similarly, while a report from International Crisis Group (ICG) provides excellent background to the crisis it fails to mention that the rebels are Muslim and the victims are not. While the ICG report contains 1,379 words, a word search for "Muslim" yields zero results; a word search for "Islam" yields zero results; and a word search for "Arabic" yields zero results.

Failure Has Many Fathers: The Coup in Central African Republic
27 March 2013 by ICG Africa Program Staff
By Thibaud Lesueur and Thierry Vircoulon

The truth that can't be uttered

The rebels, who claim to be liberating CAR from the dictator Bozize, hail from Vakaga district: a poor, remote north-east region of CAR at the borders with Chad and Sudan. Vakaga is the only part of the CAR where Arabic is the lingua franca and Islam the dominant religion.

Despite their poverty, the rebels entered Bangui wearing brand new military uniforms, driving brand new pickups and brandishing brand new weapons. Amongst their number were janjaweed from Darfur, Sudan, and jihadis from Mali and Northern Nigeria.

Church leaders report targeted attacks and religious extremism

In a FIDES press release, church leaders denounce 'a rebellion characterised by religious extremism'. They describe a systematic and 'planned desecration and destruction of religious Christian buildings, and in particular the Catholic and Protestant churches'. They lament that the church is paying a heavy price, with churches destroyed and 'priests and religious women' attacked.

In a courageous letter to the new self-proclaimed president -- rebel leader Michel Djotodia -- Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga catalogues Seleka's crimes: 'threats, terror, and psychological torture . . . rape of young girls and women, some of whom have committed suicide [and] recruitment of child soldiers'. Observing that Seleka consists 'largely of foreign Muslims and some from the nation', the prelate notes that 'the Muslim population was largely spared looting', and asks, 'What are the real intentions of this movement against our Christian institutions?' According to one missionary's blog, hospitals and charities have all be looted. 'Rebels do not save anybody or anything,' she writes, 'except for mosques and Muslim traders, who buy the stolen property from them.'

Where are the French troops that liberated Mali?

As Seleka advanced towards Bangui, CAR President François Bozizé appealed to France (the colonial power) and the US for help -- but to no avail. While French troops were already in the country, they would not be ordered to defend Bangui. Desperate for aid, Bozizé appealed to South African president Jacob Zuma, who did send troops. But on 23 March, after fierce fighting, Seleka defeated the South African National Defence Force paving the way for the rebels to enter Bangui on Sunday 24 March unhindered. The 500-plus French troops that are in Bangui have reportedly been securing the airport and supporting the new regime.

CAR civilians not protected

Antoine Roger Lokongo writes (18 April 2013): "The regional peacekeeping force, known as the Mission for the Consolidation of Peace in Central African Republic (Micopax), which is European Union-funded, was tasked to protect civilians and secure territory in CAR since 2008. However, they did not stop the Seleka offensive on Bangui nor did they engage the rebels militarily."

Lokongo quotes ICG's Thierry Vircoulon who described Micopax's apparent absence during the violent invasion and looting of Bangui "as 'disturbing', in fact suggesting that 'perhaps they had instructions . . . not to do anything'." In fact the ICG report notes: "At the request of the Seleka, the French army and the MICOPAX already patrol the streets of the capital . . ."

See also: Looking for answers after CAR coup d'etat
Al-Jazeera 25 March 2013

The whole truth might be even more unpalatable

As noted in Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin 210 (14 May 2013), "The questions arising out of this crisis are enormous and ugly. Who is funding and equipping Seleka and with what aim? Why did France -- which intervened in Ivory Coast (to aid Islamic rebels) and Mali (to fight Islamic rebels) not intervene in CAR? Why is the US refusing to send aid? Why did the EU-funded Micopax not do what it is paid to do (protect CAR civilians)?

"In early 2011, Ivory Coast's president Laurent Gbagbo -- who believed in advancing African rather than Western interests -- found himself the victim of regime change at the hands of Islamic forces backed by Western powers pursuing Western 'interests'. Could the same be happening in CAR?"

[See: Ivory Coast: where Islamic and Western interests converge. By Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 7 April 2011.]

"President Bozizé had recently signed oil concessions over to Chinese and South African companies. Soon after proclaiming himself president, rebel leader Michel Djotodia promised to 'sort out' CAR's mining and oil contracts. If these contracts are handed to Western powers, then we might have most of our answers."

See: Central African Republic coup leader says will review resource deals
By Ange Aboa and Paul-Marin Ngoupana
BANGUI | Fri Mar 29, 2013
Excerpt:
"In a bid to tap the country's under-exploited mineral wealth, [former president] Bozize had awarded China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) rights to explore for oil at Boromata, in the country's northeast near the border with Chad.

"South Africa's DIG oil is also prospecting in the southeast of the country, near the town of Carnot."

When Djotadia was asked about these licences he is reported to have replied: "'I will ask the relevant ministers to see whether things were done badly, to try to sort them out'.

"Although Central African Republic has deposits of gold, diamonds, oil and uranium, these remain largely untapped, and the coup-prone nation is one of the poorest on Earth. 'We will rely on the European Union to help us develop this country,' Djotodia said. . .

"Djotodia's comments appeared to mark a change of tack from his predecessor Bozize's close ties to South Africa, with which he had signed a fresh bilateral Defense agreement in January."

As far as the Centre for Global Research is concerned: "The coup by Seleka forces has placed the CAR at the center of a struggle for influence between the United States, France, South Africa and China":  i.e. US-NATO vs BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa)

Indeed, analysts note that the coup took place immediately prior to the BRICS Summit in Durban, South Africa (SA).
Official Statement by President Jacob Zuma, 25 March 2013

[More on the developing US-NATO vs BRICS struggle
The Brics are building a challenge to western economic supremacy
Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, united by rejection of the neoliberal model, plan to create their own institutions
By Radhika Desai, The Guardian, 2 April 2013]

Nigerian ambassador to CAR, Prince Roland Ola Omowa, was in Nigeria to deliver a special message from the ousted Bozize to President Goodluck Jonathan as the coup unfolded. He told the Nigerian Guardian that colonial interests in the country have meant that it is constantly watched over and while the discovery of oil and the entrance of China as a player in the CAR economy have not gone down well with entrenched interests.

Meanwhile . . .

Seleka has seized control of CAR's extensive diamond industry. . .
AND
massacred elephants in the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park.

Furthermore, the rebels are saying that they will not put down their weapons until they are guaranteed salaries.  Seleka Lieutenant Ali Alkanto has warned of violent clashes should the new government not pay the rebels.

And according to the Nigerian Guardian, the number of people who have fled from the Central Africa Republic since December 2012 has now risen to 37,000 while another 173,000 people have become internally displaced.

------------------------------------------

Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

MALI: Christians flee as jihadists seize control of north

What started out as a violent, destructive and bloody Tuareg rebellion in pursuit of an independent Tuareg homeland has ended in Islamic conquest and the spectre of al Qaeda.

On Thursday 5 April, after three months of fighting, the main ethnic Tuareg rebel group -- the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (NMLA) -- announced a ceasefire. Having seized the capitals of the three main northern provinces in three days -- Kidal, on 30 March; Gao, on 31 March; and Timbuktu, on 1 April (see map) -- the NMLA declared it had achieved its military goal.
See: Tuareg rebels in Mali declare cease-fire, end of military operations
By Associated Press, Published: April 5

Despite having fought alongside the professedly secular and nationalistic NMLA supposedly in support of Tuareg independence, Ansar Dine -- an Islamist group led by Iyad ag Ghali, a Tuareg who led a major rebellion in the 1990s -- has since supplanted the NMLA, hoisted the black flag of al-Qaeda and declared the imposition of Sharia law.

In a video filmed in Timbuktu and obtained by the AFP news agency and France 2 television, Ansar Dine military chief Omar Hamaha declared: "Our war is a holy war. It’s a legal war in the name of Islam. We are against rebellions. We are against independence. We are against revolutions not in the name of Islam."
See: Tuaregs claim 'independence' from Mali
6 April 2012, Al Jazeera

Film footage on Al Jazeera shows well armed Ansar Dine mujahideen driving a column of machine-gun mounted military vehicles each flying the black flag of al Qaeda. Ansar Dine is also exploiting the chaos of the Tuareg rebellion, of which they were a part, and re-inventing themselves as enforcers of law and order, offering hope to a traumatised people.
See: Tuareg groups disagree on objectives
-- a 2.35minute video news clip by Al Jazeera, 9 Apr 2012
Separatist MNLA declares Azawad independence, while Ansar Dine group wants to impose Islamic law.


According to reports, some 100 Nigerian Boko Haram militants who assisted in the capture of Gao have also established a presence there. Sources report that there are four distinct flags flying in Gao: the NMLA, Boko Haram, Ansar Dine, and Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and while the NMLA are nowhere to be seen, having been pushed to the periphery, there are plenty of armed, bearded Salafis.
See: Mali rebels declare independence in north as fears grow over extremist links
by Afua Hirsch, West Africa correspondent, the Guardian, 6 April 2012

DEVASTATION WIDESPREAD

IRIN, a service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, reports (3 April), "Malians in the northern towns of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu are hiding in their homes in fear following the weekend takeover by rebel groups, during which hospitals, health clinics, government buildings, and most NGO and UN offices and warehouses were looted, and in some cases destroyed, leaving the bulk of humanitarian operations suspended."

"Issa Mahamar Touré, president of the youth association in Gao, said total chaos reigned after widespread looting of government offices, NGOs, banks and hospitals in his town. 'People are hiding at their homes unable to leave… no trucks are arriving with further supplies... What will we do when our stocks run out? The hospital is closed and doctors have fled… It is complete desolation, despair… We can only turn to the international community for help.'"

Julia McDade, head of the Malian office of Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), which works with partners on agriculture projects and women’s rights in Timbuktu and Gao, told IRIN: "'Everyone [in Gao] is in hiding, everyone's vehicles have been stolen… every single office has been ransacked.'

"All the aid agencies IRIN spoke to have had their equipment stolen and have been forced to suspend operations, in the middle of a food emergency. Offices of the World Food Programme (WFP), which provides the bulk of food aid in the north were looted, and the organization has halted its activities in Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu, as well as the central town of Mopti, according to its head, Nancy Walters.

"Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Oxfam, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) all repeated the same story. 'Our cars, aid materials, offices and staff residences were all looted [in Gao],' Jurg Eglin, head of ICRC for Niger and Mali told IRIN. 'We are still trying to take stock of what we have lost.'

Caritas Mali reported that its local office in Gao in northern Mali was destroyed along with the local church which served Gao's 200-strong Catholic community.

IRIN also reports that according to sources, rapes are taking place in Timbuktu and Gao. "An NGO trainer in Gao, Adama Konipo, told IRIN he had seen rebels taking women away from the health centre, 'to who knows where', in recent days. After seeing one young woman in tears in the street, family members told him she had been raped by five MNLA soldiers. Others reported two rebels raping a young woman in the market place, firing their guns when anyone dared to approach them. 'It is impossible for any young women to leave their houses for fear,' Konipo told IRIN."
See also: Islamist Rebel Faction Imposes Sharia In The North Of Mali
by Soumaila T. Diarra (Bamako), April 06, 2012, Inter Press Service

ANSAR DINE TO THE RESCUE

Reporting from Bamako, Mali, for Associated Press (AP), Martin Vogl and Rukmini Callimachi spoke to Dramane Maiga, an employee of a transport company. He told them that the Islamists have been handing out a hotline number and encouraging residents to call if they are in trouble, apparently in an effort to instil confidence in the local population.

Maiga told AP that on Sunday 8 April he was on a bus loaded with residents attempting to flee Gao when it was ambushed by Tuareg fighters from the NMLA intending to rob the passengers. The passengers, however, got busy calling the Ansar Dine hotline and in less than 30 minutes, Ansar Dine mujahideen had arrived. The bus passengers then watched on in horror as the jihadists slit the throat of one Tuareg gunman, to cries of "Allahu Akbar".
See: Witness: Islamist fighters execute Tuareg in Mali
By Martin Vogl and Rukmini Callimachi in Bamako, Mali,
Associated Press, 9 April 2012

But according to IRIN -- and contrary to the footage on Al Jazeera -- the Islamists do not have widespread support amongst the population. “'We are against this takeover', said Amouhani Touré, a teacher who had just fled the town [of Timbuktu]. 'These Islamists want to impose their rules on us… We’re in the 21st century, you can’t impose Sharia on peaceful citizens. The authorities, if we have any still, must fight these Islamists with all their might… Timbuktu is a holy site, a tourist town; UNESCO-protected, we will say no to all forms of separatism.'”

The representative for Timbuktu in Mali’s Parliament, El Hadji Baba Haidara, also lamented the takeover. “Why do they want to Islamize us?” he said, observing that the city has been Muslim since the 12th century. “And now these Islamists want to teach us to pray! In fact, Timbuktu is a victim of its name and celebrity: for the rebels, it’s a symbol that must be taken in order to be seen. I am not O.K. with Sharia in Timbuktu. For us, it’s extremism."

CHRISTIANS FLEE AFTER BEING TARGETED

Driven out by the devastating violence, but especially by the Islamic threat, virtually the entire Christian population of northern Mali has been forced to flee for their lives.

The Guardian reports: "A source who fled the rebel-held town of Gao said that extremists were heavily involved in the advance and were now targeting the Christian minority in northern towns.

"'The rebels have sacked the church in Gao, burning the contents whilst crying Allah Akhbar,' the source told the Guardian. 'At a rebel barricade outside Gao, the bodies of people who have been slaughtered were laid out on the ground.'

"In a further report, which could not be verified, the Guardian learned that the Christian prefect of the town of Bourem had also been killed along with his relatives. 'The prefect was slaughtered at a checkpoint along with his family,' a source said. 'Christians here are now living in real fear.'"
See: Mali rebels declare independence in north as fears grow over extremist links
by Afua Hirsch, West Africa correspondent, the Guardian, 6 April 2012

Reporting from Bamako, Mali, Rukmini Callimachi reports for Associated Press that more than 90 per cent of Timbuktu's roughly 300 Christians have fled. Baptist Pastor Nock Ag Info Yattara, who has fled to Bourem, reports that not one of the 205 people in his congregation, which has worshipped in Timbuktu since the 1950s, remains. While Ansar Dine, which has established itself in the city's principle military camp, is controlling downtown Timbuktu, , the NMLA is being forced to camp out at the airport.

"'What I deplore,' laments Ousmane Halle, the mayor of Timbuktu, 'is the departure of the Christian community. Many said to me that they are obliged to leave. And they are right. I cannot guarantee their safety. And these are people that have lived side by side with us for centuries.'
See: Islamists impose sharia in Mali's Timbuktu
By Rukmini Callimachi, Associated Press, 4 April 2012

NO EASY FIX

This is a situation for which there will be no easy fix.
(For prayer points see: RLPB 154. Mali: Christians flee imposition of Sharia, 11 April 2012)

Background:

The nomadic Tuareg controlled the caravan trade routes through the Sahara for thousands of years until recent trends reversed their fortunes.

Firstly, when Mali and Niger declared independence in 1960 they claimed territory that until that time had been the Tuareg's domain. At that point, the Tuareg began rebelling against the governments of Mali and Niger.

Then, in the 1970s and 1980s, drought accelerated the process of desertification, forcing many Tuareg to migrate north into Libya and Algeria. At the same time, the trends of rapid population growth and urbanisation changed the landscape considerably with the Tuareg powerless to stop their traditional lands being acquired by non-Tuareg farmers and developers. Further to this, as maritime trade increased in prominence the Tuareg were robbed of their traditional livelihood, forcing the nomadic Tuareg to diversify -- mostly into arms, drugs and hostage trafficking, activities that have brought them into contact with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Meanwhile, many Tuareg in Libya received military training and were incorporated into Gaddafi's Islamic Legion. (These were purely business arrangements and had nothing to do with ideology.)

In the late 1980s, the governments of Mali and Niger seduced many Tuareg back home with promises of assistance. Those who returned were now well armed, well trained militarily and linked through "business" (not ideology) to AQIM. When the promised assistance did not materialise and the northern regions remained as poor, under-serviced and marginalised as ever, the Tuareg rebelled again -- in Mali in 1992; and in Niger in 1995. French and US-mediated talks promised decentralised government and real assistance, including the incorporation of Tuareg fighters into the military. But once again, the assistance never materialised and resources remained concentrated in the south. Tensions rose.

From around the turn of the century, in order to prevent the impoverished northern regions becoming an al Qaeda sanctuary, France and the US launched anti-terrorism initiatives, offering advanced military training to Tuaregs so they could combat Islamic jihadists, including al Qaeda. Consequently, when the Tuareg rebelled again in 2007, they were more sophisticated than ever. Peace was brokered in 2009, but it was fragile. The rebellion's leader, Ibrahim Ag Bahanga, fled to Libya.

In August 2011, Ibrahim Ag Bahanga re-emerged in northern Mali. He vowed over satellite phone to renew the Tuareg rebellion. Without hours he was dead -- most probably assassinated by a US-trained Malian counterterrorism unit. Ibrahim Ag Bahanga had been among some 800 Tuaregs who fought as pro-Gaddafi mercenaries in the Libyan conflict. As Gaddafi's fortunes reversed, the Tuareg, aware their salaries would soon end, simply packed up and returned to Mali bringing with them large quantities of weapons, ammunitions and military vehicles stolen from Gaddafi's arsenals.

It was this influx of a large number of cashed-up, well-armed and well-trained fighters, led by a former Libyan army colonel, Ag Mohamed Najem, that re-energised the long-simmering Tuareg insurgency against the Malian government. These are the Tuareg who formed the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and met with the government of Mali in November to let them know they were rejecting the authority of the parliamentarians and intending to have their own state.

And as Stratfor Security Weekly reports (2 Feb), Najem is not the only NMLA leader with significant military experience. "Experienced defectors from the Malian army including Lt. Col. Ag Mbarek Aky and Col. Ag Bamoussa reportedly have bolstered the organization. The presence of experienced military leaders gives the MNLA an increased ability to organize and mobilize its units across a broad swath of territory in northern Mali."
See: Mali Besieged by Fighters Fleeing Libya
By Scott Stewart, February 2, 2012
Stratfor, Security Weekly


For more background, see also:
The Tuaregs: From African Nomads to Smugglers and Mercenaries
Stratfor 2 Feb 2012

Other helpful and interesting articles:

Who are the Tuareg rebels conquering northern Mali?
3 April 2012 France 24

Tribulation in Timbuktu
The Tuareg people are profiting from the post-Gaddafi power shifts across the Saharan sands, contends Gamal Nkrumah
Al-Ahram, 5 - 11 April 2012, Issue No. 1092

Tuaregs 'all about securing power' in Mali's north
Deutsche Welle spoke with Dr. Julia Leininger, the Africa coordinator in the "Governance, Statehood, Security" department at the German Development Institute (DIE) about the Tuaregs and their aims. 6 April 2012

The Tuareg Denominator
By Jay Radzinski, Middle East Online 16 Feb 2012

New north Mali Arab force seeks to "defend" Timbuktu
Bate Felix and Adama Diarra, Reuters April 10, 2012
BAMAKO | Mon Apr 9, 2012

Foreign Policy: The Mess In Mali
by Gregory Mann, NPR 10 April 2012

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

BURMA (MYANMAR): SEVERE PERSECUTION OF ETHNIC CHIN

Nobel Prize winning Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has just released an important report entitled "Life Under the Junta: Evidence of Crimes Against Humanity in Burma's Chin State".

Burma's ethnic Chin minority is virtually entirely Christian, and Christianity is integral to the culture of Chin State. This report from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) presents evidence of systematic human rights abuses against the Chin on ethnic and religious grounds. (The junta advances ethnic Burman and Buddhist supremacy.)

The abuses are perpetrated by regime officials, most of whom are soldiers. Nearly 92 percent of all households interviewed had experienced at least one episode of a family member being conscripted for forced labour (enslavement). Nearly 15 percent of all those interviewed had experienced beatings, rape and/or torture at the hands of junta officials.

Life Under the Junta: Evidence of Crimes Against Humanity in Burma's Chin State
Physicians for Human Rights (Jan 2011)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Islamic intolerance is devouring Pakistan

Islamic intolerance is escalating unchecked across Pakistan as Islamic fundamentalism emanating from mosques and madrassas cultivates hatred which is then fuelled by the impunity the persecutors enjoy.

As chaos and lawlessness escalate, religious intolerance and hatred are unleashed without restraint, and the situation for Christians deteriorates.

The following reports represent the tip of the iceberg. All are recent.
(Credit to Compass Direct News for their phenomenal reporting on the plight of Pakistan's minority Christians.)


KYBER PAKHTOONKHWA (formerly North West Frontier Province).

On 14 June, Samuel John, a Christian psychology professor at the University of Peshawar, was savagely bashed outside his home by a group of five students for refusing to convert to Islam. When his wife rushed to his aid, she too was beaten. Both required hospitalisation, with the professor in a critical condition. The police refuse to register a First Information Report (FIR), and John continues to be threatened with death unless he converts to Islam or leaves the University.

PUNJAB PROVINCE.

Sunil Masih, Shazia Masih and Nasir Naeem, three Christian 8th grade students in Danna village, southern Punjab, have long faced pressure from teachers to convert to Islam. On 16 June, after their parents complained, the principal backed his staff, agreeing that the students should convert to Islam or leave the school. When the police refused to help, the three Christian families fled the area.

On 19 June, Rehmat Masih (85), a Christian of Faisalabad district, was arrested and jailed after a hard-line Muslim named Muhammad Sajjid Hameed filed a false blasphemy charge against him. Hameed and Masih had both made application for the same parcel of land.

Christian policeman Jamshed Masih was recently transferred to the predominantly Muslim Mustafa Colony in Jhelum, south of Islamabad. However, local Muslims unwilling to have the Christian family living amongst them, immediately began conspiring against them.

On 21 June, a mob led by local Muslim religious leader Maulana Mahfooz Khan descended on the family's home after Masih had left for work. Sensing trouble brewing, Masih's wife, Razia, had already phoned her husband and asked him to come home urgently. Khan accused the eldest son (11) of blasphemy, drawing a crowd. As Razia pleaded for mercy someone in the crowd hit her on the head with a hard object, causing her to bleed and her children to cry. The agitated crowd began baying for blood, and by the time Jamshed Masih got home, his wife and four children lay murdered -- massacred. Masih tried to file a complaint, but the Station House Officer refused to register a FIR.

On 1 July Rev. Rashid Emmanuel (32) and Sajid Emmanuel (30), leaders of United Ministries Pakistan, were falsely accused of blasphemy. They were supposed to have written a blasphemous document and signed their names to it (a highly unlikely scenario in any case, except for someone with a death wish).

Over 10 and 11 July many hundreds of enraged Muslims marched through the predominantly Christian colony of Dawood Nagar. Spewing abuse and obscenities, they called for the immediate death of the two Christian brothers. According to Compass Direct News, while Islamic extremists led the protests, most participants appeared to be teenagers who pelted the main gate of the Waris Pura Catholic Church with stones, bricks and shards of glass and pounded the gate with bamboo clubs.

It was widely expected that the brothers would soon be exonerated as handwriting experts had notified police that the signatures on the papers denigrating Muhammad did not match those of the accused.

On 19 July 2010, the brothers were shot dead outside the Faisalabad courthouse by five masked men. The bodied of the slain brothers showed signs of torture. The killings have caused religious tensions in Faisalabad to soar.

In Farooqabad in eastern Punjab, on the night of 21 July, three Muslim co-workers of a Christian man allegedly raped his 16-year-old daughter at gunpoint. Then, on 29 July, after Masih complained to police, two other Muslims who work for his employer, kidnapped him and took him to the employer's farmhouse where they allegedly shackled and tortured Masih, leaving him in critical condition.

In Rawalpindi district, students from the local Jamia Islamia Madrassa have been harassing Christians in the villages around Gujar Khan. According to a local pastor, they routinely beat Christian children and throw stones at the church. 'They openly announce that "the Christians are our enemies, we should not talk to them, eat with them or do business with them".' (NOTE: the Qur'an repeatedly commands Muslims to maintain enmity towards and separation from Christians.) On 22 July, a 12-yr-old girl from a local Christian family was gang-raped by 7 or 8 madrassa students. A teacher who witnessed the incident overheard one of the 16-strong student-mob saying: 'We will teach these Christians a lesson they will never forget'.

When the girl's distraught parents subsequently went to the police station to file a complaint, the officer in charge refused to register it, yielding to local Muslim pressure. According to the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), 'Such vicious incidents are not being stopped by the government, and day by day the rate of rapes of Christian girls is escalating instead of plunging.' (As would be expected when rape is rewarded with impunity.)

SINDH PROVINCE.

On 13 July 2010, Dr. Abdul Jabbar Meammon, his driver, another Muslim doctor and two other men, beat, tortured and gang-raped Christian trainee nurse Magdalene Ashraf at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center, Karachi, Sind Province. In an effort to cover up their crime, the three Muslim men then attempted to kill Magdalene by throwing her out of a window on the hospital's 4th floor. While Magdalene survived the attack, she is a critical condition with serious head and shoulder injuries.

Magdlene told the Christian Lawyers' Foundation (CLF) that a nurse named Sajjad Fatima had set her up, sending her to Dr Meammon's room on false pretenses. When Magdalene entered Dr Meammon's office, he grabbed her. “When I resisted and tried to escape, nurse Fatima slapped both my cheeks and pushed me into Dr. Jabbar,” Ashraf said. “I cried out but no one arrived there to rescue me. They not only gang-raped me, they also tortured me physically and ruthlessly beat me.”

Dr Jabbar Meammon, a known sexual predator, has been charged with attempted murder. No-one has been charged with rape or assault. Meanwhile, as Dr Meammon and his legal team work on his contrary story (where he the victim!), Ashraf's family is receiving threats.

On 15 July, Pastor Aaron John, Rohail Bhatti, Salman John, Abid Gill and Shamin Mall were shot dead -- massacred -- and six others were wounded when a dozen masked men opened fire on them as they exited their church property in Sukkur, Sindh Province.

Students from a local madrassa (Qur'anic school) have been threatening the church since 2008, and according to reports, while the gunmen had young physiques like those of students, their manner of attack indicated they were trained militants.

The church members had been meeting to discuss security in the light of a threatening letter the church had received in May from Islamic extremist group Sip-e-Sahaba warning the Christians to leave the area because they were not welcome and were polluting the land.

The police and ambulance took 45 minutes to arrive.

A church member told Compass Direct News that, not only had the police refused to register a FIR in relation to the threats, they have also yielded to Muslim pressure and refused to register a FIR in relation to the Sukkur massacre.

FLOODS

Pakistan's devastating floods are the result of unprecedented monsoonal rains AND bad governance, for Pakistan has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world.

Pakistan today has less than 5 percent forest cover. (Five percent is the official government figure, but the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says forests only amount to about 2.5 percent of the country's total area.)

The floods have wiped out millions of homes AND, accord to TIME magazine, some 17 million acres of agricultural land have been submerged, and more than 100,000 animals have perished.
A humanitarian crisis of monumental proportions is unfolding.

Further to this, Bishop Humphrey Peters of Peshawar warns that aid is unlikely to reach marginalised minority Christians.

Meanwhile, the people's anger, hunger and desperation, combined with the government's virtual collapse in credibility, and the Army's diversion into rescue and relief, provides the al-Qaeda-Taliban with a phenomenal window of opportunity. As TIME magazine notes, it will be difficult -- suicidal in fact -- for the government to crack down on Islamic fundamentalist and militant groups -- like the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, an Islamic "charity" with alleged links to the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba -- when these groups are extending aid and assistance to the displaced and are receiving donations from the "urban middle class of Punjab, who are turning increasingly to religious conservatism".

Is the battle for Pakistan essentially already over?

In a 4 Aug 2010 column for Dawn (Pakistan), Rafia Zakaria (a US-based attorney who teaches constitutional history and political philosophy) writes that while the Pakistani army might be having some military successes against the Pakistani Taliban, the Taliban's "social project of producing a radicalised Pakistan attracted to literal and intolerant interpretations of faith is flourishing. Examples of such societal radicalisation abound, a notable one being the lack of public outcry against the rampant persecution of minorities who do not fit into the idealised mould of the Sunni Muslim Pakistani citizen."

See: Everyday intolerance
By Rafia Zakaria, for Dawn, Wednesday, 04 Aug 2010

In lamenting the Islamisation of Pakistan, Zakaria notes not only the persecution of religious minorities -- Christians, Ahmadis and Hindus -- but also the banning of Facebook (deemed blasphemous, the ban was supported by 70% of Pakistanis), and the banning of Teray Bin Laden, a comedy film that pokes fun at Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden and features Pakistani pop star Ali Zafar. "The affinity for bans suggests the increasing prevalence of a worldview that wants to eliminate perspectives that are repugnant, rather than develop intellectual arguments against them."

Zakaria deplores the Islamisation of college campuses, noting that some have banned "Western dress", and decries the rise of Islamic vigilantism.

Zakaria expresses a widely held fear that, "while the Pakistani military may be winning the territorial conflict, the war for the Pakistani psyche may already have been lost."


This post is an extended version of Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 069 | Wed 18 Aug 2010, "PAKISTAN: SITUATION CRITICAL".

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

The Persecution of Palestinian Christians

Date: Tuesday 7 February 2006
Subj: Palestinian Territories - 1.
The Persecution of Palestinian Christians.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.


A detailed and scholarly description of the suffering of Palestinian Christians can be found in a recently published work entitled: "Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society" by Prof. Justus Reid Weiner, under the auspices of the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs. (The monograph may be downloaded freely from this site, but it is also available through Amazon.)

Professor Weiner commences his monograph with a brief look at the wider issue of "Christians living in a Muslim world". He notes, "Despite the liberal and secular trends that gained strength from the middle of the nineteenth century, this statute [Islam] continues, to this day, to influence cultural, social, and legal practices. Moreover, the recent resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism entails a reversion to historical, cultural, and religious traditions that do not reflect modern social standards."

Pros. Weiner then narrows his focus to examine the plight of Christians under Palestinian Authority (PA) rule. He notes that the Palestinian Authority's Draft Constitution declares that "...in the State of Palestine... the religion of Islam will be the official religion", and "the Sharia will be the primary source of legislation".

As Weiner explains, the PA's promotion of Sharia (Islamic Law) immediately placed Christians in a precarious position, as Sharia does not afford them equality before the law. Escalating hardship and lawlessness, combined with the inequity of Sharia, makes Palestinian Christians exceedingly vulnerable, and their life increasingly unbearable. According to Prof. Weiner, while the intifada and the economy are significant factors forcing Christians to flee the Palestinian Territories, religious persecution at the hands of increasingly intolerant Muslims is the primary catalyst.

Prof. Weiner's research indicates that the present high rate of Christian emigration out of the Palestinian Territories is not normative, but a response to a phenomenon. He believes that the phenomenon that is driving Palestinian Christians from their homeland is the escalating hostility and persecution they are experiencing due to the dramatic escalation of Islamic extremism in the PA-administered territories. He says this is a direct result of the systematic and pervasive radicalisation of Palestinian Muslim society.

School curriculum in PA-run schools is infamous for its glorification of suicide bombers, its radical Islamic fundamentalism, its denial of Israel's right to exist, and its denigration of non-Muslims. As a pre-election Hamas video boasts, "We succeeded, with Allah's grace, to raise an ideological generation that loves death like our enemies love life." (Link 1)

For more information on the what Palestinian children and youths have been fed through PA-run schools and media, see links below.

Weirner describes the persecution of Christians as "diverse and widespread", adding that "institutionalised discrimination pervades virtually all realms of life and has become an inexorable part of Palestinian Christian existence".

In his monograph Prof. Weirner details the various forms this diverse, widespread, institutionalised discrimination and persecution takes. In summary, Christian communities and individuals suffer the following:

MARGINALISATION

The deliberate and strategic marginalisation of Christians in the Palestinian Territories is achieved by means of gerrymanders combined with Muslim immigration that alter the demographics of a formerly majority Christian area. This of course has drastic implications for local elections.

Bethlehem is a classic case. In 1990 Bethlehem was 60 percent Christian. After the PA acquired control of Bethlehem in 1994, Chairman Arafat extended the city's municipal borders to include the 30,000 Muslims living in nearby refugee camps. He also encouraged Muslims in Hebron to immigrate to Bethlehem. After nine Christians members of the Bethlehem City Council were driven to resign their posts in protest of Islamisationist policies, Arafat appointed a Muslim from Hebron as Governor of the Bethlehem District. The entire political structure of Bethlehem was then gradually cleansed of Christians. Christians are leaving. By 2001, Bethlehem was only 20 percent Christian.

BOYCOTTS AND EXTORTION

Christians suffer economic hardship as Muslims boycott their businesses. Islamic militants have also forced some Christians to close their businesses. The practice of extortion of Christian businesses is so widespread that one Christian businessman interviewed told Prof. Weiner, "There isn't a Christian businessman exempt." He said that around 90 percent of Christian businesses in Bethlehem have been forced to close. Those that remain in business are paying protection money to militants.

Christians in business in the Palestinian Territories are also harassed, beaten and robbed by PA police (Weiner cites examples). They are targeted simply because they are Christian. Refusal or inability to pay bribes can lead to torture and even death. These atrocities are committed with impunity.

NO PROPERTY RIGHTS

Prof. Weiner also explains that, in violation of international human rights norms, Palestinian Land Law prescribes the death penalty to anyone selling land to Jews. According to Weiner, Jerusalem's Arafat-appointed mufti, Sheikh Ekrima Sabri has issued a fatwa to the effect that death will be the penalty to anyone selling land to any non-Muslim. This law extends to Christians, so that they cannot sell land to each other.

In addition, adds Weiner, "...internationally recognised holy sites in the West Bank are threatened, being vandalised and desecrated by the PA without consequence." The impunity granted to those who attack Christians and Christian property only encourages Muslim criminals to break in to churches and monasteries to steal valuable items.

RAPE OF CHRISTIAN WOMEN

According to Weiner's research, violence against Christian women in the Palestinian Territories was rare before the PA took control. Christian women testify that before 1993, security was such that they could walk the streets in safety. However, after the PA took control, Christian women could be attacked with impunity. Weiner gives several reasons for the sharp rise in sexual violence against Christian women since the PA took control of the Palestinian Territories: the rise is Islamist attitudes (such as Muslim superiority and contempt of infidels); the denigration and relegation of Christians to dhimmi (second class citizen) status with limited rights and no equality before the law; combined with the PA's inaction, regardless of whether that is due to lack of authority or lack of will. Once again, Muslim criminals know they can rape Christian women without fear of retaliation or legal consequence.

Weiner reports that many Christian girls are being advised to dress as Muslims to avoid problems. "The abuse of Palestinian Christian women," writes Weiner, "extends well beyond verbal harassment and intimidation. The widespread occurrence of rape by Muslim men against Christian women exemplifies perhaps the most blatant denial of basic human rights as a result of religious identity."

One Palestinian Christian girl (aged 23) told Prof. Weiner that Muslim men often rape Christian women purely to render them undesirable to Christian men. "She can't get married, at all, after that," she said.

According to Weiner, Christian girls are also being forced into marriages with Muslim men. He retells the story of a wealthy Christian family man who had to resort to force to protect his daughter. A Muslim family came to his home, their son dressed for a wedding and accompanied by a sheikh and 15 Muslim men. They demanded that he hand his daughter over for marriage. After opening fire on the Muslim entourage, the Christian family had to immediately flee the Palestinian Territories. Other girls are less fortunate. There are even reports of PA officials leveling death threats at Christian families to force them to hand over their daughters for marriage to a Muslim.

PERVASIVE PA INCITEMENT

Prof. Weiner's research makes it clear that the negative attitudes held by Palestinian Muslims against their Christian counterparts are supported by the overwhelmingly Muslim PA leadership. Mosques broadcast sermons that drive home the Quranic injunction not to partner with, trust or befriend Jews or Christians, providing Muslims with religious justification for their religious intolerance.

Weiner quotes Joseph Farah, a Lebanese-American Christan editor of the WorldNetDaily online, as saying of Christians under the PA, "They are being driven out. They are being murdered. They are being raped. They are being systematically persecuted. They are being harassed. They are being intimidated." Weiner reports that Palestinian Christians under PA authority are discriminated against "...in the field of education, the receipt of medical benefits, and other government aid". A Lutheran pastor told Weiner, "...if food aid is brought in from Saudi Arabia, Christians are told that they are not entitled to receive any because they are not Muslims."

PA POLICE

According to Prof. Weiner, PA security personnel frequently combine ignorance of the law with Islamist sentiment to become persecutors rather than protectors. Christians are often imprisoned on trumped up charges of collaborating with Israel. Apostates can expect to be punished mercilessly through torture in PA prisons. Weiner writes, "The attitude of the police toward Christians constitutes one of the most egregious forms of institutional persecution... When subjected to harassment and worse by Muslim extremists, Palestinian Christians usually opt not to report incidents to the PA police... Palestinian Christians remain silent because they consider the PA police to be hostile to them."

ABUSE OF CHRISTIAN SITES

As has been well documented before, Islamic militants frequently choose to launch their attacks on Israel from Christian churches and homes, in order to draw the Israeli response to those sites.

CHRISTIAN DENIAL

Prof. Weiner's monograph contains material that will help people understand why Palestinian Christians are often quick to deny their suffering. Some Christian leaders deny the sufferings of Christians in order to retain privileges from the PA: for example, access to the media, or permission to travel – privileges that are granted in exchange of the dissemination of PA propaganda. Some deny the sufferings of Christians because they are simply blinded by Palestinian nationalist aspirations. But most are simply acting (or rather, not acting) out of fear of violent retribution – they are paralysed into silence by threat of terror, crippled by dhimmitude.

Weiner reports that one Christian cleric in Jerusalem compared the behaviour of Christian dhimmis to that of battered wives and children. A vulnerable, trapped, battered wife knows she cannot afford to provoke her abuser's wrath. For the victim it is easier, psychologically, to blame oneself (or to gain the approval of the abuser, blame the abuser's "enemy") and it is easier, physically, to avoid confrontation all together.

PALESTINIAN CHRISTIANS: "SACRIFICIAL PAWNS"

Weiner recounts one horrific case of a Palestinian apostate and persistent evangelist named Ahmad El-Achwal, a married father of eight, who struggled for seven years with persecution that included severe torture in PA prisons (the horror of which is described in Weiner's text), as well as frequent severe beatings and death threats from Hamas. Ahmad El-Achwal was murdered on his doorstep by Islamic militants, on 21 January 2004. US State Department officials, who were fully informed, had persistently refused to address his case.

Weiner regards Palestinian Christians as the sacrificial pawns of the Middle East peace process. He writes, "The importance of monitoring the PA's record, even during the ongoing violent intifada, cannot be overstated... The future of the Palestinian Christian community and any other religious minority living under the PA will rest on the potential for religious tolerance...," something Weiner fears is unlikely, at least in the short term.

Elizabeth Kendal

Links

Teach Kids Peace. http://www.teachkidspeace.com/
Teach Kids Peace is affiliated with Middle East Media Watch. It
monitors and documents progress in children's education for peace.
This site contains analysis of Israeli and PA educational materials.
ALSO
2003 Palestinian Authority Textbook Calls for Jihad and Martyrdom
http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sr&ID=SR2203
Incitement in the Palestinian Authority After the Aqaba Summit
http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sr&ID=SR2003