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Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Some good news in Pakistan and Egypt
For the past couple of months now I have been praying for Pakistan and Egypt in particular for the Christians who live there. The church has lately been undergoing even more suffering than usual - and this in turn has affected the whole country(ies). Religious extremism and terrorism affects everyone.
So it is good news for me to see how God is answering my prayers and that of countless others in unexpected ways.
It is to me really good news to see many Muslims standing up for justice and willing to put their lives on the line for their oppressed Christian minority Christian fellow citizens.
See the two news articles below ...
Monday, January 10, 2011
Pakistani Christians hold memorial services for slain Punjab governor, Shaheed Salman Taseer
Benazir Bhutto son hits out over Pakistan governor killing
By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST MinistriesISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Christians across Pakistan on Sunday, January 9, 2011, held memorial services for slain Punjab governor Shaheed Salman Taseer, who was assassinated by a police guard for defending Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy.
Punjab governor Shaheed Salman Taseer
A report by www.zeenews.com said, "Congregations offered special prayers for Taseer on the call of the All Pakistan Minority Alliance. Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, joined prayers at Fatima Church in Islamabad.
"Special prayers were also offered for national integrity and prosperity of the country. The large gathering at Fatima Church showered flowers and lit candles at a shrine for Taseer as armed policemen stood guard outside."
Bhatti said the special congregations were arranged to promote inter-faith harmony, national integrity and religious harmony. Condemning the assassination of Taseer, Bhatti said the killer wanted to disrupt peace in the country.
"Taseer always tried to protect the rights of minorities," Bhatti said.
He then urged liberal, progressive and political forces to fight the forces who want to harm peace.
"Extremist elements want to destabilize Pakistan by creating anarchy," he added.
Pakistani police guards carry the coffin of the late Punjab governor during his funeral in Lahore under heavy security. Inset, the governor speaking at an event
Bishop Alexander John Malik led a gathering at a cathedral. Praising the slain governor, Malik said: "He was a voice for the oppressed. We dedicate this day to him."The Pakistan Masiha Millat Party, a Christian organization, organized a candle-light vigil in memory of Taseer in Lahore. Pakistan. People's Party (PPP) chief, Aslam Pervez Sahotara, and different Christian leaders, participated in the ceremony held outside the Governor's House.
People offered prayers for Taseer and his family. Speakers said Taseer's martyrdom was a big sacrifice for the Christian community that will always be remembered.
Taseer had angered religious hardliners by defending Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death last year under the controversial blasphemy law. He also called for the amendment of the law to prevent its misuse.
Meanwhile www.sify.com is reporting that the son of slain Pakistani ex-leader Benazir Bhutto has condemned those who have praised the assassination of a provincial governor opposed to the country's blasphemy laws.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari told mourners on Monday at the Pakistan High Commission in London, England, that people who have voiced support for the killer of Punjab provincial governor Salman Taseer were "the real blasphemers.""Because of you, the message of Islam is distorted in the eyes of the world," said Bhutto Zardari, whose father is Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.
"Those who attack my religion, especially those who corrupt its peaceful message, you are what I call covert blasphemers and you will be defeated," he continued.
"This will be our jihad."
Bhutto Zardari further pledged to defend Christians and other minorities in the country.
"We will defend you. For those who wish to harm you for a crime you did not commit, they will have to go through me first," he said.
Taseer was a member of the main ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of which Bhutto Zardari is co-chairman with his father.
The governor was shot dead by his bodyguard outside an Islamabad coffee shop on Tuesday last week, in the most high-profile assassination in Pakistan since ex-PPP prime minister Benazir Bhutto was killed in December 2007.
Many from Pakistan's conservative religious quarter have praised Taseer's killer for acting to silence the outspoken moderate politician.
The gunman, police commando Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, has said he killed in the name of religion because of the governor's stance on blasphemy laws.
More than 50,000 people from religious groups rallied in Karachi Sunday in support of Qadri, calling him a hero and demanding that any effort to reform the blasphemy law -- recently used to sentence a Christian woman to death -- be dropped.
Speaking at the memorial meeting late Monday, Bhutto Zardari compared the killing of Taseer with that of his mother three years ago, saying they both died defending the real message of Islam.
"My mother embraced martyrdom while defending our faith. She was martyred doing her jihad against those who had hijacked our religion," said Bhutto.
"On January 4, Shaheed Salman Taseer was assassinated because he too refused to be silenced. He too was assassinated in defense of our religion. He died defending the message of Islam."
Dan Wooding, 70, is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for 47 years. They have two son, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and was, for ten years, a commentator, on the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC. He now hosts the weekly "Front Page Radio" show on KWVE in Southern California which is also carried on the Calvary Radio Network throughout the United States. The program is also aired in Great Britain on Calvary Chapel Radio UK. Besides this, Wooding is a host for His Channel Live, which is carried via the Internet to some 200 countries. He is the author of some 44 books. Two of the latest include his autobiography, "From Tabloid to Truth", which is published by Theatron Books. To order a copy, press this link. Wooding, who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, has also recently released his first novel "Red Dagger" which is available here
** You may republish this story with proper attribution.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Egypt’s Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as ‘human shields’
By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News ServiceCAIRO, EGYPT(ANS) -- Muslims turned up in droves for the Coptic Christmas mass Thursday night (Jan.6), offering their bodies, and lives, as “shields” to Egypt’s threatened Christian community.
Yasmine El-Rashidi, writing online for http://english.ahram.org.eg says that
amidst clashes and threats, Copts feel marginalized in the Egyptian elections.
El-Rashidi says that from the well-known to the unknown, Muslims had offered their bodies as “human shields” for last Thursday night’s mass, making a pledge to collectively fight the threat of Islamic militants and towards an Egypt free from sectarian strife.
She states that: “We either live together, or we die together,” was the sloganeering genius of Mohamed El-Sawy, a Muslim arts tycoon whose cultural center distributed flyers at churches in Cairo Thursday night, and who has been credited with first floating the “human shield” idea.
The online article says that among those shields were movie stars Adel Imam and Yousra, popular Muslim televangelist and preacher Amr Khaled, the two sons of President Hosni Mubarak, and thousands of citizens who have said they consider the attack one on Egypt as a whole.
“This is not about us and them,” said Dalia Mustafa, a student who attended mass at Virgin Mary Church on Maraashly Street. “We are one. This was an attack on Egypt as a whole, and I am standing with the Copts because the only way things will change in this country is if we come together.”
The story goes on to say that in the days following the brutal attack on Saints Church in Alexandria, which left 21 dead on New Year’ eve, solidarity between Muslims and Copts has seen an unprecedented peak.
It stats that millions of Egyptians changed their Facebook profile pictures to the image of a cross within a crescent -- the symbol of an “Egypt for All.”
Around the city, banners went up calling for unity, and depicting mosques and churches, crosses and crescents, together as one.
According to the article, the attack has rocked a nation that is no stranger to acts of terror, against all of Muslims, Copts and Jews.
In January of last year, on the eve of Coptic Christmas, a drive-by shooting in the southern town of Nag Hammadi killed eight Copts as they were leaving Church following mass. In 2004 and 2005, bombings in the Red Sea resorts of Taba and Sharm El-Sheikh claimed over 100 lives, and in the late 90’s, Islamic militants executed a series of bombings and massacres that left dozens dead.
El-Rashidi writes: “This attack though comes after a series of more recent incidents that have left Egyptians feeling left out in the cold by a government meant to protect them.”
She reports that last summer, 28-year-old businessman Khaled Said was beaten to death by police, also in Alexandria, causing a local and international uproar. Around his death, there have been numerous other reports of police brutality, random arrests and torture.
El-Rashidi goes on to write: “Last year was also witness to a ruthless parliamentary election process in which the government’s security apparatus and thugs seemed to spiral out of control. The result, aside from injuries and deaths, was a sweeping win by the ruling party thanks to its own carefully-orchestrated campaign that included vote-rigging, corruption and widespread violence.
"The opposition was essentially annihilated. And just days before the elections, Copts -- who make up 10 percent of the population -- were once again the subject of persecution, when a government moratorium on construction of a Christian community center resulted in clashes between police and protestors. Two people were left dead and over 100 were detained, facing sentences of up to life in jail.”
She states: “The economic woes of a country that favors the rich have only exacerbated the frustration of a population of 80 million whose majority struggle each day to survive. Accounts of thefts, drugs, and violence have surged in recent years, and the chorus of voices of discontent has continued to grow.”
El-Rashidi concludes: “The terror attack that struck the country on New Year’s eve is in many ways a final straw -- a breaking point, not just for the Coptic community, but for Muslims as well, who too feel marginalized, oppressed, and overlooked by a government that fails to address their needs.
“On this Coptic Christmas eve, the solidarity was not just one of religion, but of a desperate and collective plea for a better life and a government with accountability.”
** Michael Ireland is Chief Correspondent for ANS. He is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB UK, a British Christian radio station. While in the UK, Michael traveled to Canada and the United States, Albania,Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany,and Czechoslovakia. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China,and Russia. Michael's volunteer involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department -- 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' (MIMM) -- of A.C.T. International of P.O.Box 1649, Brentwood, TN 37024-1649, at: Artists in Christian Testimony (A.C.T.) International where you can donate online to support his stated mission of 'Truth Through Christian Journalism.' If you have a news or feature story idea for Michael, please contact him at: ANS Chief Reporter
** You may republish this story with proper attribution