A Christian boy, who was doing well in his studies despite being from a poor home, was beaten to death by his Muslim classmates inside his school in Pakistan’s Punjab Province. The victim’s parents say he was targeted for being a Christian soon after he joined the school.”You’re a Christian; don’t dare sit with us if you want to live,” a Muslim student had once told the victim, Sharoon Masih, who was studying at MC Model Boys Government High School in the Vehari area in Punjab, according to the British Pakistani Christian Association, which has reported on the killing.
Masih was beaten up by several students on Aug. 27, his fourth day at the school. He died on the spot, inside the classroom.
The attacking students were shouting insults at him while beating him, but no teacher or school staff came to his rescue.
The Head Teacher has been dismissed, and the prime suspect, a student identified as Muhammad Ahmed Rana, has been arrested.
The victim’s father, Elyab Masih, who works as a laborer in a brick kiln, had saved his hard-earned money for the admission of his son.
The victim’s mother, Riaz Bibi, said her son had been warned by his peers not to mix with Muslims at the school. She said her son was called a “chura,” a derogatory term which refers to the people who belong to the lowest caste, according to the hierarchy in some South Asian societies.
Some even tried to convert the boy to Islam, Bibi said.
“My son was a kind-hearted, hard-working and affable boy,” the mother was quoted as saying. “He has always been loved by teachers and pupils alike and shared great sorrow that he was being targeted by students at his new school because of his faith.
“Sharoon and I cried every night as he described the daily torture he was subjected to. He only shared details about the violence he was facing. He did not want to upset his father because he had such a caring heart for others.
“The evil boys that hated my child are now refusing to reveal who else was involved in his murder. Nevertheless one day God will have His judgement.”
BPCA Chairperson Wilson Chowdhry said Christians are “despised and detested” in Pakistan.
The murder, he said, “serves only to remind us that hatred toward religious minorities is bred into the majority population at a young age, through cultural norms and a biased national curriculum.”
He added, “The government of Pakistan failed to remove offensive texts within their national curriculum despite it having being highlighted by the United States Commission for International Freedom and potentially being a bar to future foreign aid.”
Last month, a 16-year-old Christian boy in Pakistan was arrested for allegedly burning pages of the Quran, which under section 295-B of Pakistan’s penal code, could mean the death penalty.
USCIRF ranked Pakistan among the top five countries with the strictest blashpemy laws in the world in a recent report, and warned that such laws are often used to target religious minorities.
GOP Senator Marco Rubio of Florida blasted left-leaning media, Politico, which published an article commenting that he was tweeting “the most Republican part of the bible,” referring to his use of verses from the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament.
“Proverbs is the Republican part of the bible? I don’t think Solomon had yet joined the GOP when he wrote the first 29 chapters of Proverbs,” Rubio wrote, after an article in Politico said, “Each day, the Florida senator is quoting a verse from Proverbs, the GOP’s favorite part of the book.”
The article couldn’t stop Rubio from quoting Proverbs.
Hours after commenting on the Politico article, the senator’s tweet read, “Where words are many, sin is not wanting; but those who restrain their lips do well. Proverbs 10:19.”
The article quoted Rubio’s tweet from last month: “As dogs return to their vomit, so fools repeat their folly. Proverbs 26:11.”
The author, Joel B. Baden, professor of Hebrew Bible at Yale Divinity School, wrote that the senator had been tweeting bible verses since May 16.
“He has tweeted a biblical verse almost every day since then. Almost all of them come from the Old Testament, and specifically the book of Proverbs,” Baden wrote, remarking that “Proverbs is probably the most Republican book of the entire Bible.”
The author said other Republicans also like to quote Proverbs, citing Ben Carson as an example.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Carson “compared himself favorably to the blustery style of then-candidate Donald Trump by quoting Proverbs 22:4: ‘By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life.'”
Gerald Ford’s favorite Bible passage was Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust wholeheartedly in Yahweh [the Lord], put no faith in your own perception; in every course you take, have him in mind: He will see that your paths are smooth,” Baden added. “Ford repeated this when he served in the Navy during World War II, throughout his presidency and in his swearing-in.”
President Trump also likes the idea of Proverbs, the author went on to say, quoting from a September 2015 interview on CBN. Trump claimed in that interview that some of his most appreciated verses were from Proverbs, however, he said his favorite verse in Proverbs was “never bend to envy,” which doesn’t appear in Proverbs or anywhere else in the Bible.
“There is surely nothing wrong with a politician turning to the Bible for spiritual, ethical and moral guidance,” Baden wrote. “The Bible is the foundational text of Western civilization, after all. But concentrating exclusively on the parts of it that affirm one’s own perspective is a form of confirmation bias.”
Baden suggested Rubio should read and tweet from Ecclesiastes or from Prophet’s such as Amos: “Because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of stone — but you shall not live in them” (Amos 5:11).
The author also quoted Leviticus 19:33–34, “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself.”
When Rubio first started posting Bible verses to Twitter, there were some negative reactions, which Rubio described as a “Twitter freak out.” One political blogger called the Bible verses “oddly terrifying.”
The Southern Baptist Convention failed to pass a resolution aimed at condemning the “Alt Right” movement, with a new resolution being scheduled for debate on Wednesday afternoon.
During the first day of its annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday, the SBC entertained a resolution meant to denounce the far right movement known as the “Alt Right.”
The Alt Right is a political movement generally associated with white nationalism and known for launching intense attacks on ideological enemies on social media.
At the end of their Tuesday meeting, SBC delegates failed to pass a resolution denouncing the Alt Right, with the Baptist Press noting that a new resolution is scheduled for a vote on Wednesday afternoon.
“The Resolutions Committee chose not to report out the proposal to messengers. An effort by the resolution’s author to bring the ‘alt-right’ measure to the floor failed in the afternoon session,” reported the Baptist Press.
“… a motion by another messenger in the evening session also fell short. Each motion required a two-thirds majority, and the evening vote received only 58 percent approval.”
William Dwight McKissic, an African-American Texas pastor, introduced a draft resolution denouncing the Alt Right last month.
“… there has arisen in the United States a growing menace to political order and justice that seeks to reignite social animosities, reverse improvements in race relations, divide our people, and foment hatred, classism, and ethnic cleansing,” read the draft.
“… this toxic menace, self-identified among some of its chief proponents as ‘White Nationalism’ and the ‘Alt-Right,’ must be opposed for the totalitarian impulses, xenophobic biases, and bigoted ideologies that infect the minds and actions of its violent disciples.”
Todd Benkert, messenger from East Lake Baptist Church in Crown Point, Indiana, posted on the blog SBC Voices on Wednesday that he feared the failure to pass the resolution was a “huge misstep.”
“I awoke this morning tired and frustrated that we didn’t, in fact, get it right. The world is watching. Our brothers and sisters of color are watching. They’re getting a mixed message,” wrote Benkert.
“Southern Baptists should be leading a lost world in racial unity and biblical reconciliation. Instead, we are once again caught flat-footed, communicating to the world that we just don’t get it and communicating to our fellow brothers and sisters of color that we don’t really care.”
SBC Resolutions Committee Chairman Barrett Duke explained to reporters that the Alt Right resolution failed because “we just didn’t see a way that we could speak to the multiple issues that were raised in that resolution in a way that we felt would be constructive,” adding that much of the proposal “already had been addressed recently.”
Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said Wednesday morning on Twitter that he expects the SBC to “enthusiastically pass” the resolution. He also noted Alt Right ideologies are “anti-Christ and satanic to the core.”
The Scottish Episcopal Church approves gay marriage
Pakistan’s interior ministry has said the two Chinese nationals who were kidnapped and killed by Islamic State-affiliated militants last month were preachers who allegedly violated their business visa rules.
According to Reuters, the terrorist-linked Amaq News Agency announced last Thursday that IS (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) was responsible for the killing of two Chinese nationals who were abducted last month in the Baluchistan province and were believed to be Mandarin language teachers.
“Islamic State fighters killed two Chinese people they had been holding in Baluchistan province, southwest Pakistan,” Amaq was quoted as announcing in a statement.
On Monday, the Pakistani government identified the two Chinese nationals killed as 24-year-old Lee Zingyang and 26-year-old Meng Lisi. The interior ministry also claimed that both Lee and Meng were in violation of their visa rules because they were preaching instead of learning Urdu.
“Instead of engaging in any business activity, they went to Quetta and under the garb of learning (the) Urdu language from a Korean national … were actually engaged in preaching,” Reuters quoted the ministry as saying in a statement.
The statement didn’t indicate whether the Korean national was from South Korea or North Korea or what the Chinese nationals were preaching.
According to the online news outlet Quartz, The Global Times and Shanghai-based The Paper, the slain Chinese nationals belonged to a 13-member Christian missionary group in China being led by a South Korean national.
Quartz also cited Chinese reports indicating that a local Muslim community complained about the group trying to evangelize to them. Additionally, Quartz reports that a Chinese journalist has said that Chinese foreign ministry officials briefed reporters in a closed-door session and gave them much of the same information that has been reported.
Following the killing of the two Chinese nationals, Pakistan’s interior ministry has decided to “streamline” its visa policy for Chinese nationals, Pakistan’s The Nation quoted a ministry spokesperson as saying.
According to The Nation, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan called for a databank of Chinese nationals present in Pakistan during a meeting.
“This data bank, to be prepared by National Database and Registration Authority, should be shared with all security agencies,” the minister said, reiterating their claim that the deceased Chinese nationals violated the terms of their visas.
The killing of the two Chinese Christians come as IS has attempted in the last year to establish its presence in Pakistan, just like it has in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Afghanistan. IS-linked militants have carried out a number of attacks in Pakistan this year, including a suicide bombing at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan that killed at least 90 and injured over 300 in February.
Last month, IS claimed a bomb attack on a convoy of Senate Deputy Chairman Abdul Ghafoor Haideri south of Quetta that killed 25 people.
Additionally, this is not the first time that IS has claimed responsibility for the killing Chinese nationals.
In 2015, IS in Syria killed 50-year-old Beijing native Fan Jinghui who was held hostage for months.
Tens of thousands of people across the nation are expected to attend or watch what evangelist Greg Laurie has referred to as the “Super Bowl of evangelism” this Sunday.
Laurie, senior pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, and Harvest Crusades will be hosting the annual Harvest America revival event in Glendale, Arizona, which this year will feature a number of well-known Christian musical talents, a Gospel message from Laurie and a sneak peek at Laurie’s upcoming documentary on the faith of Hollywood icon Steve McQueen.
The event, which is billed as “the nation’s largest one-day evangelistic outreach,” will be held at the University of Phoenix Stadium and begins around 4:30 p.m. It will be livestreamed online and telecast on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
The show will feature performances from “The Voice” star Brennley Brown, “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks, Christian bands MercyMe and NEEDTOBREATHE, contemporary Christian musician Phil Wickham and Christian rapper Trip Lee. The night will be capped off by a sermon and call to profess faith in Christ from the 64-year-old Laurie.
“Super Bowl Sunday, which for many now is a religious holiday, is a day when many of us watch a football game on TV. It is something we all do across the country at the same time. There will be Super Bowl parties where you will invite people over to your home and then watch the game,” Laurie told The Christian Post in an interview this week.
“I use that as a picture to describe what Harvest America is,” he continued. “Yes, it happens in one place — Phoenix, Arizona — but the reason we call it Harvest America is there are thousands of host sites around the nation in places ranging from church sanctuaries to movie theaters to open fields to front rooms. We ask everyone simultaneously to watch this event as it happens live in Arizona.”
Harvest America 2016 was hosted at the home of the Dallas Cowboys, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and was attended by over 82,000 people while an estimated 180,000 people across the world watched the event at 7,000 different simulcast hosting locations. An estimated 25,000 people made professions of faith at the end of the night.
As Laurie has maintained that America is in need of a “spiritual awakening,” this year’s Harvest America coincides with Laurie’s declaration earlier this year that 2017 is “the year of Good News.”
“I think that right now there is a real anxiety in many people. There is a fear in the air,” Laurie told CP. “Recently, I read that the No. 1 phrase typed in the Google search engine was ‘Is World War III near?’ because of a nation like North Korea threatening to nuke us in doing missile tests. I think that people are agitated, they are concerned, they are wondering the answers to those age-old questions. I think we need to be there with answers from the Bible.”
“As we have gotten away from that [biblical] virtue and those moral absolutes because we have gotten away from God’s Word and we have gotten away from God Himself, we have a nation in need, a nation in crisis, a nation where the family is breaking down, a nation where we have riots in our streets and racial unrest,” the evangelist added. “The answer is we need another spiritual awakening.”
Laurie said that since the event will be televised on TBN and livestreamed on Harvest America’s website, it creates an opportunity for people across the nation to invite their friends and neighbors to their homes and churches to watch the event in fellowship with their communities.
“When I am calling people to Christ in the University of Phoenix Stadium, I will be calling them to Christ wherever you are,” Laurie said.
An aspect that will be entirely new to this year’s Harvest America is Harvest’s partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board’s Crossover Phoenix 2017, an outreach event in which believers will be trained and expected to evangelize people on the streets of Phoenix.
“They felt like they needed an event, sort of a catalyst to wrap it around,” Laurie said of NAMB’s Crossover. “I thought it was a perfect fit. We, like NAMB and the SBC, are passionate about evangelism and about calling people to Christ and so we agreed.”
Laurie said that experienced evangelism leaders associated with Harvest will conduct a training class for people who plan to take part in the Crossover event on Friday.
“We are hands-on involved in training and we do a lot of this sort of thing,” he explained. “We train people and take them out in the streets all year long. So this is in our wheelhouse. This is a perfect cooperative effort between Harvest Ministries and NAMB because we all have the same objectives.”
Laurie said that it remains to be seen if the Crossover evangelism efforts will lead to an increased attendance at Harvest America but knows that the partnership will help Harvest have a greater impact on the Phoenix community.
“People are coming in from around the country and they are being trained in sharing their faith. They are going to go out and engage people,” Laurie stated. “Even if people don’t come to the event itself, the fact that we are sending people out into the community to talk to people about their faith is, in itself, a really great thing. The fact that we are coordinating with the crusade itself is an even better thing.”
The Scottish Episcopal Church voted on Thursday to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, becoming the first major U.K. church to break from the Anglican majority, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
The change to canon law on marriage was agreed by the required two-thirds majority in each section of the synod — the bishops, clergy and laity. Sixty-seven percent of clergy and 80 percent of bishops and laity voted in favor of gay marriage.
The new clause removes the language stating that marriage is a “physical, spiritual and mystical union of one man and one woman.”
It recognizes that there are different understandings of marriage within the church and allows clergy to solemnize marriage between same-sex couples. Clergy who do not agree with gay marriage will not be obligated to go against their conscience.
“This is the end of a long journey,” said the Most Rev. David Chillingworth, Bishop of St. Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church. “We have studied, thought and prayed.
“This is a momentous step. By removing gender from our marriage canon, our church now affirms that a same sex couple are not just married but are married in the sight of God.”
The Scottish Episcopal Church, which has over 350 churches across Scotland, is a member of the Anglican Communion — a global church body that defines marriage as between a man and a woman and rejects homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture.
Responding to the controversial vote, the Church of England said that it will continue opposing gay marriage, noting that the majority of the Anglican Communion stands by its side, despite growing disagreement on the issue.
“The Church of England is unable by law to marry couples of the same sex and the teaching of the Church of England remains unchanged. However, this is a matter on which there is real and profound disagreement in the Church of England,” a spokesperson said.
Ian Ferguson, of Aberdeen and Orkney, the only Scottish diocese to oppose the change to redefine marriage, lamented the vote, saying, “This is one of the saddest and most painful days for us … We are broken. This schismatic move … will cause serious harm to our unity.”
He added that some congregants “may seek alternative episcopal oversight.”
The Telegraph pointed out that the conservative Anglican group Global Anglican Future Conference had said before the vote: “If this action is taken it will further marginalize faithful Anglicans in Scotland who seek to uphold Jesus’s teaching on marriage.”
Chillingworth acknowledged that the decision is “difficult and hurtful” for those who believe redefining marriage is unbiblical and wrong. “For them this new chapter will feel like an exclusion — as if their church has moved away from them.
“So the journey which we now begin must also be a journey of reconciliation.”
He said the Scottish church body will move forward with “two honorable and historic understandings of marriage —– one which sees the marriage of same sex couples as an expression of Christ-like acceptance and welcome — and another which says that the traditional view of marriage is God-ordained and scripturally defined.”
Supporters of the change in marriage law praised the outcome of the vote, BBC News noted, with the Episcopal Church’s Bishop of Edinburgh, the Right Reverend Dr. John Armes, stating: “I am very pleased for the couples who can now have their relationships recognized by the church and blessed by God.”
“I’m also pleased for what this means about our church and the way we have been able to do this. But obviously any change like this creates pain and hurt in some as well, so as a bishop of the church I feel for them.”
Other major members of the Anglican Communion, such as the U.S. Episcopal Church, have also voted to support gay marriage. The U.S. church was temporarily suspended from the Communion for its stance last year, but it has refused to go back on its decision despite the controversy.
Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, said that the Scottish church has made “a departure from the faith and teaching upheld by the overwhelming majority of Anglican provinces on the doctrine of marriage.”
He pointed out that that the churches within the Communion are “autonomous and free to make their own decisions on canon law,” however, and said the Scottish Church’s change to canon law will be discussed at the next meetings of the primates of the Communion in Canterbury in October.
The growth of the Christian faith in China continues its remarkable rise, with one pastor reporting as many as 100,000 new followers of Christ per year, despite the worsening human rights abuses and crackdown by communist authorities.
The Rev. Erik Burklin of China Partner, which trains Chinese Christian leaders, said that God is in the business of “changing lives” and “building His Church.”
“Like Jesus said to Peter, ‘On this rock I will build my church.’ When He said that, He said, ‘I will build my church.’ Not, ‘You Christians build my church,’ but, ‘I will,'” Burklin told Mission Network News.
He talked of surprising developments, such as a person with the central government donating close to $7.3 million for a new chapel at Union Theological Seminary in the city of Nanjing.
“I was just scratching my head, thinking to myself, ‘How in the world is it possible that in China, where Communism still runs the country, a person in the Central Government would donate so that a local school — in this case, the national seminary in China — can finish constructing their chapel?’ It’s unbelievable,” Burklin stated.
Moreover, the Chinese continue coming to Jesus on a growing basis.
“Then we met with leaders for dinner that night, and we asked the pastors there, ‘How many baptisms did you have last year? How many new converts did you have in your city?’ he then gave us an overview of what God is doing in their whole province. He was proceeding to explain to us that they have up to 100,000 new believers on the average every year. … That’s unheard of,” Burklin described.
The atheistic government of China has for the most part been carrying out a large-scale crackdown on religious belief, especially against underground Christians worshiping in nonsanctioned house churches.
It has been destroying church rooftop crosses, leading to clashes with hundreds of congregants, and arrests of Christian pastors and human rights activists. Leaders of the government-controlled Catholic churches that have spoken out against the cross demolitions have also faced arrest.
Groups such as Freedom House have said that 100 million people face persecution in China, including Christians of various denominations, with Protestants facing “high” levels of persecution.
Although Chinese President Xi Jinping has tried to establish cordial relationships with the West and major institutions, such as the Vatican, persecution watchdog groups, like China Aid, continue sharing the stories of people who have suffered atrocities under his regime.
Li Heping, a Christian lawyer, talked about the “sadistic torture” he suffered following his arrest on July 9, 2015, as part of a crackdown. “There were times that I wanted to commit suicide. I survived because of my Christian faith, the courageous advocacy of my wife and the attention of the international community.”
China Aid President Bob Fu argued in The Wall Street Journal last week that Xi has “sought to eviscerate China’s network of human rights lawyers and rights advocates, viewing their peaceful efforts at legal reform as a national-security threat.”
“Mr. Xi has re-instituted the Maoist practice of televised public confession and embraced a system of torture so horrific it demands an international response,” he added.
About 200 Christian families in Iraq have filed a lawsuit against the head of the country’s Shia Endowment for inciting sectarian violence against the Christian minority by saying in a video that Christians should be converted to Islam or killed.
“Either they convert to Islam, or else they are killed or they pay the jizya [a tax on non-Muslims],” said Sheikh Alaa Al-Mousawi, who heads the government body which maintains all of Iraq’s Shia holy sites, in a sermon, according to a YouTube video uploaded by Middle East Monitor.
Declaring Christians to be “infidels and polytheists,” Al-Mousawi called for “jihad” against them. “Jews and Christians” must be fought and killed if they do not accept Islam, he went on to say.
The cleric is being compared to the Islamic State terror group, which is also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, which had asked Christians in Iraq’s northern provinces in 2014 to covert, flee or be killed. As a result of that warning, about 100,000 Christians had to flee at the time.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby recently met with Iraqi Christians during a visit to Jordan.
“People are divided from their children and families and have no idea what will happen. One woman has children in both Germany and the Netherlands, but has been refused entry to both so she doesn’t know when or if they will ever be reunited,” Welby said. “Young men are vulnerable to being recruited to extremist causes because their community and networks have been stripped away.”
Since 2003, as many as 1.5 million Christians, or close to 75 percent of all followers of Christ in Iraq, have fled the country, according to Josef Sleve, an Iraqi Christian lawmaker.
“The number of Christians living in the country now stands at between 500,000 and 850,000,” Sleve told Anadolu Agency earlier this month. “This means that over the past 14 years, some 1.5 million Christians have emigrated to other countries.”
IS has said it wants to wipe out Christians, and has beheaded, executed, tortured and enslaved thousands of people within its captured territory, which extends into Syria and other regions.
However, some Christians are now returning to their homes on the Plains of Nineveh in Iraq, and three major church groups have come together to rebuild more than 12,000 houses that were destroyed or damaged. The Syriac Catholic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Chaldean Catholic Church have formed the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee to plan and supervise the rebuilding of the houses.
Security forces backed by a U.S.-led international coalition last year took back several cities in Iraq from IS and liberated eastern Mosul in December. They are now trying to liberate the western parts of the city.
In an interview with Fox News earlier this year, Canon Andrew White, an Anglican priest known as the “vicar of Baghdad,” said the “time has come where it is over, no Christians will be left. Some say Christians should stay to maintain the historical presence, but it has become very difficult. The future for the community is very limited.”
He added, “If there is anything I can tell Americans it is that your fellow brothers and sisters are suffering, they are desperate for help. And it is not just a matter of praying for peace. They need a lot — food, resources, clothes, everything. They need everything.”
The government of Pakistan has reportedly pardoned a young medical student who joined the Islamic State terror group but was stopped before blowing up a Christian church on Easter, insisting that she can serve as an example to others.
Major General Asif Ghafoor argued on Samaa TV that Noreen Laghari is not a terrorist, and due to the actions of Pakistan’s armed forces who caught her before carrying out the bombing, her mind has been rescued from brainwashing, the British Pakistani Christian Association reported on Wednesday.
“So should we treat Noreen like a terrorist or release her so that she can tell others how she was trapped and used for terrorism?” Ghafoor asked. “In this way, awareness will be created among the younger generation and parents as well as institutions.”
The BPCA noted that Pakistan’s Muslim majority had pressed for Laghari’s freedom, but wondered if they would have been so merciful if the medical student, who had left to join IS in Syria, had attempted to blow up a Muslim school instead.
“Noreen Leghari is a woman intelligent enough to be considered for a role as a doctor yet is being described as pliable and immature,” BPCA Chairman Wilson Chowdhry said.
“Miss Leghari’s animosity for Christians would no doubt have led to many deaths including her own, yet a ‘soul searching nation’ have a strong will and desire to show her mercy.”
Chowdhry continued: “How many of these same Pakistani citizens would be so forgiving had Miss Legahri planned to bomb a Muslim School?
“If it were Muslims that were targeted by Legahri I am certain many of the campaigners would find her crime too offensive for granting a pardon — Christian lives are ostensibly less valuable in Pakistan.”
Chowdhry argued that it is “hard to believe” that Legahri’s “deep-rooted hatred” has simply vanished when she was ready to kill Christians this Easter.
“Years down the line I pray we do not discover a series of ‘Shipman’ type deaths of Christians at any hospital she is employed by,” he warned, referring to British GP and serial killer Harold Shipman.
“I asked several Pakistani Christians whether they would trust a doctor who had previously attempted to bomb a church on Easter Day, to administer care for them. It was no surprise to me that the unanimous response was a resounding no.”
While Laghari has been pardoned, Christians in Pakistan continue being targeted by the nation’s blasphemy laws, and severely punished if found guilty of insulting the Islamic faith.
A court in Pakistan sentenced a Christian man to life in prison earlier in May for sending “blasphemous” text messages from his mobile phone.
Legal advocacy group CLAAS vowed to continue fighting for Zafar Bhatti’s freedom despite the harsh sentencing.
“The lower court’s judges always hesitate to make decisions on the merit, or free people accused of blasphemy, and instead transfer their burden to the higher court without realizing how their decision will impact the accused and their families’ lives,” Nasir Saeed, director of CLAAS-UK, said in a statement.
“Bhatti is innocent and will be freed by the higher court. But it will take several years for his case to be heard by the High court, and until then he and his family will continue suffering needlessly.”
Accoridng to the Center for Research and Security Studies in Pakistan, at least 65 people have been killed over blasphemy allegations in the country since 1990, and dozens more convicted of the crime have been placed on death row.
Toni Richardson, a devout Christian teacher and mother of two who was warned by the Cony School in Augusta, Maine, that she could be fired for using phrases such as “I will pray for you” and “you were in my prayers” while at work has filed charges of religious discrimination and retaliation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The charges were filed on behalf of Richardson last Tuesday by Eaton Peabody and First Liberty Institute, the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.
A memo warning Richardson about her use of religious language in school, notes that the Christian teacher had lodged a complaint against a male teacher whom she alleged had behaved aggressively toward her during a disagreement.
The school charged that their investigation revealed that Richardson was alleged to have imposed her religious belief on the male teacher by using phrases such as “I will pray for you,” during their interactions.
“An investigation of your concerns indicated that you may have imposed some strong religious/spiritual belief system toward Mr. [redacted]. Stating, ‘I will pray for you,’ and ‘you were in my prayers’ is not acceptable — even if that other person attends the same church as you,” school officials warned Richardson.
“In the case of, Everson v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court applied the ‘establishment clause’ of the First Amendment to the states. In the context of the ‘separation of church and state,’ this case prohibits public school-sponsored religious expression. Therefore, in the future, it is imperative you do not use phrases that integrate public and private belief systems when in the public schools,” the memo continued.
“Going forward, I expect when you disagree with a staff member, you will address it in a discrete and professional manner with no reference to your spiritual or religious beliefs,” it added before threatening Richardson with possible dismissal.
“This coaching memorandum is not considered disciplinary in nature and will not be included in your personnel file. If you have any additional interactions that are deemed unprofessional by administration, you will be subject to disciplinary action and/or possibly dismissal,” said the warning.
A release from First Liberty, however, paints a different picture of the case, noting that Richardson had used religious language in private conversation with a colleague who is a member of the same Baptist church she attends in Augusta.
“What Augusta Public Schools did by punishing Toni for discussing her faith in a private conversation with a coworker is unconscionable,” Timothy Woodcock of the Maine law firm Eaton Peabody said in the release.
“We want to make sure that teachers and employees everywhere understand that you can certainly talk about your faith in private conversations at work,” First Liberty Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys said in an interview with Baptist Press. “No employee, whether at a school district or elsewhere, should be punished or be threatened with dismissal for engaging in private conversations that say something like, ‘I’m praying for you.'”
Richardson said when she got the memo about her religious speech, she was “shocked.”
“I was shocked that my employer punished me for privately telling a coworker, ‘I will pray for you. I am afraid that I will lose my job if someone hears me privately discussing my faith with a coworker,” she said.
“Because my faith is an integral part of who I am, my religious beliefs influence how I see the world and sometimes affect the words and phrases I use as a part of casual conversations with friends and colleagues. I pray often for the people I care about and sincerely believe in the power of prayer,” she added.
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