Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Post 55--Persecution in Tajikistan

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 428 | Wed 18 Oct 2017

by Anneta Vyssotskaia


Tajikistan is a country in Central Asia bordering Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, 
Kyrgyzstan and China. Tajikistan was part of the Soviet Union and became an 
independent country after the  dissolution of the USSR in 1992. Tajikistan 
suffered a five-year civil war which resulted in many deaths and had a 
devastating effect on the country's life and economy. It is officially the 
poorest country in Central Asia and one of the most corrupt countries in the 
world. Its population approaches nine million and is predominantly Muslim 
(about 98%).  

The Christian churches are a tiny minority and face a lot of pressure from 
the government and Muslim society. The law prohibits children and young 
people under 18 participating in religious activities in both churches and 
mosques. The greatest pressure is on the Christians with Muslim background 
who experience persecution at all levels - from their family members, the 
Muslim community and state officials. The pressure is especially strong in 
rural areas. The persecution can take different forms, from verbal  to 
physical abuse, beatings, abduction, home detention, discrimination, losing 
jobs and in other ways. The number of Christian churches remains small and 
there are many secret believers. It is illegal to meet for worship without 
state registration, but it is also extremely difficult and practically 
impossible to get state registration. For that reason many Tajik Christians 
meet secretly in house churches, facing the risk of police raids, detention, 
interrogation and fines.  

President Emomali Rahmon was bestowed the official title, 'The Founder of 
Peace and National Unity, Leader of the Nation'. During his 25 years' rule, 
the religious freedom situation in Tajikistan has worsened significantly. 
Since 2016, human rights in general are also considerably worse, with many 
arrests and imprisonment of members of the opposition parties, including top 

Christian churches also have been experiencing increasing pressure in 2017. 
In the capital city, Dushanbe, two kindergartens were closed because of the 
Christians employed and a Christian book being found. In March, a registered 
church in Konibodom was raided, believers interrogated, threatened and beaten 
and the church was closed. In June, a non-registered Baptist church in 
Dushanbe was raided, books confiscated, believers videotaped, interrogated 
and their details taken. Demolition of the church building was threatened. 
Other non-registered churches were raided, books confiscated, church leaders 
threatened and fined.  

In April, Bakhrom Kholmatov (42), the pastor of a registered Sunmin church in 
Khudzhand, was arrested, accused of inciting religious hatred and sentenced 
to three years' imprisonment. The accusations were based on Christian hymn 
books found in the church with songs like 'God's army is marching' and 'Our 
fight is not against flesh and blood', as well as the 'More Than a Carpenter' 
book by Josh McDowell. The judges considered they were all 'extremist 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Post 54--Victims of Muslim Intolerance


The stories of Zafar Bhatti, Aasia Bibi, Mashal Khan

Zafar Bhatt
Zafar Bhatti, a Pakistanti Christian accused of sending blasphemous text messages about Muhammad 
from a mobile phone, was given a life sentence on May 3. There 
is a mandatory death sentence in Pakistani law for “defiling the name” of Muhammad, but the judge in this case awarded the life-term in prison instead, because there was no concrete evidence against Zafar. For example, the phone used to send the messages was not registered in his name. Pray for Zafar, who has been in prison since 2012, that he will not lose hope. Pray also for the courageous Zafar Bhatti is a Pakistani Christian accused of sending blasphemous text messages about Muhammad from a mobile phone, was given a life sentence on May 3. There Christian legal team representing him, asking the Lord to protect them and grant them favour as they take his case to a higher court.

So, given a life-sentence, even when there was no concrete evidence as admitted by the judge.  What kind of justice is that?  And why should the lawyers need our prayers?  Are they not doing what they are supposed to?  The issue, of course, is that ordinary Pakistani might attack and kill them because they are defending an alleged Christian “blasphemer!” 

And then there is Aasia Bibi. She has been in a Pakistani prison for eight years. She was a Christian fruit picker, who was falsely accused of blasphemy by her Muslim co-workers after a quarrel djuing whey they rebuked her fron drinking water from the same cup that Muslims used and she said, “I believe I n my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Muhammad ever do to save mankind?”  She was sentenced to death in 2010 and has been appealing against it ever since. Her case has now reached the Supreme Court, the scheduled hearings keep being postponed. In April 2017 her legal request for an “early hearing” by the Supreme Court was rejected. Pray that God will intervene for her and grant her justice and freedom.

This story has been circulating around the world for years. People have prayed and prayed as well as written numerous letters on her behalf, but nothing is moving. If anything is moving, it is in the wrong direction.

Imran Khan, a prominent Pakistani Muslim politician in Pakistan, pledged he would make sure no one misuses the blasphemy law again. In April 2017, a 23-year-old Ahmadiyya student by the name of Mashal Khan was lynched because he allegedly had committed blasphemy. Imran Khan defended him and said that he was “framed and murdered.”  Like Christians in Pakistan, Ahmadiyyas are persecuted and easily accused of blasphemy. Previous politicians who have taken a stance against the blasphemy law have been threatened or assassinated. Pray that all minorities become safe from malicious false accusations.  

In reaction to Mashal’s murder, a Pakistani Mufti called Haneed Qureshi said that Aasia Bib should be hanged immediately, for that would prevent any further mob violence. He said it was because of the repeated delays in implementing Aasia Bib’s death sentence that “people have lost faith in the state, due to the carelessness of the institutions and their criminal silence.”  In other words, if the state delays executing blasphemners, Muslim mobs can hardly be blamed for taking on the job themselves. 

After such shocking stories, does anything more need to be said?  Where are the Canadian and American Pakistanis to defend these victims of intolerance?  Their silence leads to suspicions of approval. Instead, we find Muslims complain about discrimination and prejudice against them and their pure religion.  Muslims, don’t you get it?  Why do people mistrust you?    

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Post 55--Some Good Ramadan Habits

Ramadan was great for Sarah. She actually started praying five times a day on time. But once the blessed month is over she fears the momentum, drive and motivation that kept her going will fade out. Sarah is worried that this good habit might not last.
But it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, a number of psychologists agree that a person needs about three weeks to develop a good habit. If you've been praying regularly, fasting, controlling your temper, trying to be more patient, or keeping any other good habit during Ramadan, you're almost sure, Insha Allah, to keep up with it afterwards.
Nonetheless, we all slip up. As well, the drive that pushes us to do good in Ramadan is usually not as strong the rest of the year. Here are a few things you can do to maintain the good habits you picked during Ramadan:

1. Make Dua

It was Allah who gave you the ability to keep the good habit in Ramadan, and only He can help you maintain it afterwards. Make Dua that Allah helps you not only keep the habit, but that He accepts it and makes it a way for you to grow in closeness to Him.

2. Make it a habit

If you want to keep good habits, you've got to make sure they remain part of your daily schedule. For instance, fasting. Did you know that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) encouraged fasting on Mondays and Thursdays? He said: A man's deeds are reported (to Allah) on Mondays and Thursdays and I prefer that I should be fasting when my deeds are reported (Tirmidhi).
This is a great way of maintaining the habit so you're not rusty by next Ramadan.
Or for example, were you extra generous during Ramadan? Well, maybe you can portion out a set amount of your weekly or monthly paycheck to a charitable cause to maintain the habit of giving.
Make the habit part of your daily and weekly schedule. The point is to keep the action in practice, and of course gain rewards from Allah.

3. Think about your day each night

Evaluating ourselves, our intentions, words and actions, every night is a very good way to maintain good habits (see a sample self-evaluation form).
Self-evaluation doesn't only help you see where you are and where you've got to go. It's also a great reminder of what you were supposed to do and didn't.
Add a question or two (or three or four) about your specific habit into a daily self-evaluation questionnaire. Ask yourself, for instance, how often did I pray today? What was the quality of my prayer? Did I pray on time? etc. These serve to remind you to keep up the habit and do better next time.

4. Evaluate yourself weekly

This helps you see the bigger picture. You'll be able to evaluate on a more long-term level how well you've been keeping your habit in practice. You can do the same thing on a monthly and yearly basis.
For those who are really into the technical aspect of self-evaluation, maybe you can make a graph to help you chart how well (or not so well) you've been keeping up with your good habit.

5. Get a friend to help

What are friends for anyway? If you've got a close friend you feel you can share your new habit with, let them join you in keeping up with it and keeping tabs on you while they're at it. This will not only encourage you, but Insha Allah, it'll deepen your brother/sisterhood as well.
Alternatively, look for groups where you can maintain the habit. If, for instance, you memorized Quran regularly in Ramadan and want to keep the habit, join an Islamic study circle focused on memorization.

6. Don't fall apart once you make one mistake

The beauty of Tawbah (repentance) in Islam, is that Allah blesses us with this opportunity to return back to Him after doing something wrong. We should remember that we are humans and that we will err. Only Allah is Perfect.
This is why, for instance, if we were able to pray on time all through Ramadan, but become slack afterwards, we must realize it, seek Allah's forgiveness sincerely, and try our best to get back on track, asking Allah to help us.
We should not give up trying to pray on time just because we have missed doing so on a couple of occasions.

7. Ask yourself WHY you kept the habit

Niyyah or intention is a key to Allah's acceptance of our good deeds. If we developed a habit to impress others, for instance, we may be able to keep the momentum for a while, but most probably it'll wear out afterwards.
But if we maintained a habit sincerely for the sake of Allah, Insha Allah, not only will we be rewarded for it, but our intention will help us maintain the necessary motivation to continue to do good.

8. Don't expect the same results

If you were ready to spring out of bed in anticipation for Fajr during many of the days of Ramadan, but find yourself barely waking up for the prayer afterwards, don't be surprised, but don't become slack either.
Good habits are often easy to maintain in Ramadan, the blessed month. The hard part is doing so after the "high" of Ramadan. This is where you'll have to work hard to force yourself to maintain your habit, whether it's waking up for Fajr, not smoking, eating less, being more patient, etc.
Be thankful when you're able to maintain your habit and think about practical things you can do to keep it up on a regular basis.

9. Work your way up slowly

Aisha reported that Rasulullah said: Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately, and remember that you shall enter Paradise only through Allah's Mercy, and also remember that the most beloved deed to Allah is that which is regular and constant even if it is little (Bukhari).
The wisdom in this Hadith is tremendous and it is one way of keeping up good habits you have picked up in Ramadan.
For example, let's say you were motivated to read Quran for half-an-hour on a daily basis in Ramadan. But now that it's over, you feel sluggish, lazy and want to give it up. Yet, you had wanted to maintain this habit after the blessed month was over.
Instead of trying to read Quran for the same amount of time, reduce the time period to as much as you are initially able to do, even if it's just five minutes a day.
If you keep up this 'five minutes a day' habit, Insha Allah, you will see the amount of Quran you read will increase slowly but gradually, perhaps even surpassing your Ramadan maximum in the long-term, Insha Allah!

10. Don't give yourself the option

What makes you get up for work in the mornings, no matter how tired you are? What makes you drag yourself out of a warm bed on a cold morning to get ready for school? It's the fact that you have no option, and you know that there are negative consequences to not going to work (you'll be fired) or school (you'll fail).
Use the same kind of psychology on yourself when it comes to maintaining your good habit. Tell yourself, for instance, that Allah will be very angry with you if you do not pray Fajr, no matter how cold your room is on a frosty December morning. That in turn can lead to more bad deeds, which could lead to decreased faith, and a downward spiral in your life. And Allah can punish you in various ways in this world as well as the next for not praying. You could lose your job; you could have a family crisis, etc.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Post 54--The Roots of the Islamist Crisis

To begin with: a disclaimer. The document below is about a book I have not read and have never even heard about till just a few moments ago.  However, I used to be member of its publishers, the Book of the Month club, and I was always impressed with their selections. So, I take the chance on the strength of their reputation with me. 

Many books have been written about these kinds of subjects and all too many try to reduce the basic reason for or cause of our current Islamist--in distinction from Islam--problem(s), that I am skeptical about all of them, including this one. Many point to one single cause and try to convince us that that's the basic or even only cause. If we can solve that one particular cause, then we're done and the chaos will be a thing of the past. 

I myself have written an 8-volume series about Christian-Muslim relations in Nigeria. You can find it on my website   <
islamica.htm >.  During the course of my 30 years in Nigeria and of my years of research, I have come to the conclusion that there are a number of causes that worked together to create our present situation.  It is not all due to Islam; Western imperialism has contributed no small proportion. 

So, though I am thus skeptical about the book offered below, I do suspect it lays its finger on an important component of today's crisis. So, I decided to draw your attention to it.

A confession: During the course of writing the above, I suddenly wonder whether this Book of the Month is really the same as the club that used to have that name.  Who or what is "Intercollegiate Studies Institute?"  Well, if they are someone else than what I first thought, they have only themselves to blame for taking on a name that can cause confusion. Check them out for yourself--but do read the book.  Here goes:

Dear Philip,

The Manchester and London Bridge terrorist attacks have reignited the debate over Islamic radicalism. But you’ve probably noticed that the terms of the debate haven’t changed in years; pundits on all sides rely on the same talking points.

That’s why I’m so grateful for Robert Reilly’s eye-opening book The Closing of the Muslim Mind. Reilly goes well beyond the simplistic analyses we always hear. He reveals that our contemporary crisis can be traced to a heated battle within Islam itself, waged a thousand years ago. It was a battle over the role of reason—and the side of irrationality won.

This was, as Reilly writes, “one of the greatest intellectual dramas in human history.” And we’re still feeling the reverberations today.

I’m excited to make Reilly’s masterful work the Book of the Month so you can purchase it at a special 30% discount. As National Review notes, The Closing of the Muslim Mind is a “brilliant and groundbreaking” book that “should be read by anyone who wants to understand one of the most fundamental causes of conflict in the twenty-first century.” Roger Scruton, widely considered the greatest living conservative intellectual, calls Reilly’s book “lucid and fascinating.”

Please pick up your copy today. This book will change how you understand the Islamist crisis.


Jed Donahue
Editor in Chief, ISI Books

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Post 53--Why the Ramadan Violence?

Why so much violence during Ramadan?
Dr. Jim Denison | June 5, 2017
Last night, ISIS claimed responsibility for the London attack that killed seven and wounded forty-eight. One of the terrorists wore a fake bomb vest. According to ABC News, the vest was likely intended to guarantee a police response that would lead to his martyrdom.

He was the father of a toddler; his wife was expecting a child. What would motivate him to carry out such an atrocity at the cost of his own life?

The day of the attack, an ISIS message called on its followers to use knives, guns, and vehicles in an "all-out war" on "infidels" during Ramadan. The audio message instructed jihadists to "attack them in their homes, their markets, their roads and their forums."

When Ramadan began this year, jihadists attacked a bus filled with Christians in Egypt, murdering twenty-nine. Ten of the victims were children. The day after Ramadan began, a suicide bomber murdered eighteen people in Afghanistan, two of them children.

Last year's Ramadan was the bloodiest on record. A gunman killed forty-nine and wounded fifty-three at an Orlando gay night club. An Islamist then stabbed a police officer and his wife in Paris. He claimed that he was responding to ISIS's call for violence during Ramadan. Later that month, three ISIS suicide bombers killed forty-five and wounded more than 250 at Istanbul's main airport. When Ramadan ended last year, the final global body count was 421 dead and 729 wounded.

Why would terrorists make Ramadan a time to escalate their violence?

Ramadan is the ninth month on the Islamic calendar. Muslims believe that Muhammad received the first of a series of "revelations" that became the Qur'an on the seventeenth day of Ramadan in the year AD 610. For this reason, the month has always been holy to them (Qur'an 2:185). The month begins eleven days earlier each year on the solar calendar; this year, it extends from May 26 to June 24.

During this month, Muslims fast from their first prayer of the day (at dawn) to the fourth (just after sunset). They also refrain from smoking and sexual relations during the day. They pray more fervently during the month and increase almsgiving.
Their increased fervor is not just to honor the month—it is also to receive greater rewards for themselves. Muhammad is believed to have preached a sermon on Ramadan in which he said, "Whoever performs an obligatory deed in (this month) shall receive the reward of performing seventy obligations at any other time." A Taliban spokesman recently stated, "Our fight is Jihad and an obligatory worship. And every obligatory act of worship has 70 times more reward in Ramadan."

We can expect further attacks this month as radical Islamists seek reward in heaven for committing atrocities on earth. But Ramadan is also an important time for Christians to intercede for Muslims and especially for jihadists. As Muslims focus more intensely on prayer and worship, many are seeing visions and dreams of Jesus.

Saul of Tarsus was committed to killing Christians until he met Christ (Acts 9:1–31). It's vital that we pray for Islamist terrorists to experience the same transformation. F. B. Meyer believed that "the greatest tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer."

Is his warning especially true this month?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Post 52--Free Christian Christian Brick Kiln Workers in Pakistan

The topic today is about bonded brick kiln workers in Pakistan who are the virtual slaves of their compatriots.  Read the whole story below; it is heart breaking.  It is also very surprising, for what I hear from Canadian and American Muslim writers is that Islam is all about justice, freedom, equality, democracy, etc. etc. So, I am surprised that Pakistani Muslims get away with oppressing non-Muslims not only but that the world Muslim Ummah is not climbing all over their fellow Muslims for such oppression not only but, perhaps worse from the Muslim point of view, shaming Islam. Muslims are quick to accuse Christians of oppression etc., but what of themselves?  What of this particular case, not even to speak of innumerable cases throughout the Muslim world?  Muslims: show your stuff!  Stand up for your religion!  Demonstrate its hunger for justice and freedom! I want to believe Muslims when they claim justice as central to their religion, but this and similar situaons make it hard for me.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Post 51--Pakistan and Global Blasphemy Law

This article is originally published by BarnabasAid, an international organization with its headquarters in the UK.  Though I do not always agree with them, I have good reason to be confident about their reporting. They're not a fly-by-night type of organization but have a good reputation with the EU and the UN. The article is clear enough and does not need any further introduction or explanation. Here goes:

In an alarming development, the Pakistan government is seeking to introduce what is in effect a global Islamic blasphemy law that prohibits any internet material critical of Islam.
The government is pursuing a twin track approach to this: it has met with ambassadors of 27 Muslim-majority countries to get international agreement to prosecute anyone who posts online any material deemed to be blasphemous; and it is pressurising internet companies such as Facebook and Twitter to remove immediately such content.
Already, the Pakistan government is claiming that Facebook has agreed to remove such content and over the past few months had blocked 17 such sites and has blocked a further 45 since being pressed further in March.
Disturbingly, the Pakistan government is seeking to prosecute people who post material not only in Pakistan but also across the world. According to Reuters, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan claimed that Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington had already spoken to both the US Justice Department and the FBI, and both agencies “had been receptive”.
The aim is not simply to remove anything posted on the internet deemed offensive to Islam, but to find out who posted it and prosecute them. The Interior Minister has already said that he wants to extradite anyone overseas accused of Islamic blasphemy. In fact, the Pakistan government is asking internet providers to tell them the names of people posting such material, saying:
"Facebook and other service providers should share all information about the people behind this blasphemous content with us."
Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper implied that one of those currently being investigated for Islamic blasphemy on social media was actually based in the USA, quoting the Interior Minister as saying “our embassy in Washington has also taken up the matter [with the US government]”.
The implications of this for Christians are far reaching. Christians accused under Pakistan’s so-called “blasphemy laws” face a mandatory death penalty if found guilty of offensive comments about Muhammad. Even if acquitted, they have to flee the country as Muslim vigilantes seek to kill them. Now, even if they flee to a free and democratic country such as the US , they could still face the Pakistani government trying to extradite them back to Pakistan.
Comments deemed blasphemous could potentially include any denial of the tenets of Islam. Followers of Christianity or and other non-Islamic religions are therefore in a very precarious position as merely affirming certain aspects of their own faith might be construed as blasphemy. It is all too likely that any criticism of Islamic theology, history or practice could also be taken by certain Muslims as not just offensive but also blasphemous.  
This also of course potentially impacts anyone who writes online about the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world. At the very least it is likely that internet companies such as Facebook and Twitter will set their IT systems to remove anything that constitutes Islamic blasphemy. This means material about persecution of Christians in the Islamic world could also be removed, despite having been published in the West. Even something on a church Facebook page could be removed.
The Pakistan government is also seeking to extradite and prosecute people overseas who post material online that they deem offensive to Islam. Of course, countries such as the UK or USA are very unlikely to allow one of their citizens to be extradited for something that is not a criminal offence in their own country. But if someone were to visit one of the other 26 Muslim-majority countries involved with this initiative, they could be arrested and accused of Islamic blasphemy for something they wrote in Australia, New Zealand, the UK or USA. It is even conceivable that it could happen to someone who wrote about persecution of Christians on their church website and then visited one of those countries on holiday.
This is not the first such attempt to create a global Islamic blasphemy law. Since 2005, the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) has been sponsoring UN resolutions which attempt to make it a criminal offence to criticise Islam. However, what is particularly disturbing about the Pakistan government’s latest move is that internet companies are already taking action to enforce it.
Make no mistake, this is a serious attempt to introduce a global Islamic blasphemy law, and one that will not only increase the persecution of Christians but also make even reporting the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world much more difficult. It will inevitably lead to self-censorship. Internet companies such as Facebook need to realise that there is a huge problem of anti-Christian hatred and persecution in the world and that their actions in suppressing reporting of this are, for want of a better word, ”Christianophobia”.