Rome — Maira Shahbaz was 14 years old when she was kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam last year.
The girl – a Catholic – was had been raped, then forced by the Lahore High Court to marry one of her abductors. She’s one of an estimated 1,000 Christian and Hindu girls who are kidnapped, forced to convert and marry their captors in Pakistan each year.
The papal charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is asking the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to grant Shahbaz asylum: She managed to escape her captors, but after receiving a series of death threats, both her and her family were forced to go into hiding.
On April 28, 2020, in Medina Town, Pakistan, Shahbaz was bundled into a car at gunpoint by three men. She was filmed and photographed being raped and was then forced to convert to Islam and marry Mohamad Nakash Tariq.
Her case went to court and she was placed in a women’s shelter, before the Lahore High Court judged that she should be returned to Nakash because she had supposedly embraced Islam.
She returned to his home but managed to escape four months later. Speaking with the police at the time, she said her abductors had “threatened to murder my whole family” and shared pictures and videos that show her being raped.
Her captor answered by accusing her of apostasy, a crime punishable with death in the Muslim-majority country. He also requested the arrest of the victim’s mother, her uncles, and a friend of the family, claiming that they had kidnapped the girl and taken her away from his home.
Shahbaz told the police that she hadn’t converted from Christianity, but that she was instead forced to sign blank documents, with the constant threat of violence and public humiliation.
The family has requested Nakash be arrested for sex crimes involving a minor.
According to Sumera Shafique, Shahbaz’ lawyer, the girl is “in constant danger because she is condemned as an apostate by her abductor and his supporters.”
“Unless Maira and her family can leave Pakistan they will always be at risk of being killed,” Shafique said.
On Thursday, ACN’s UK office delivered a petition signed by over 12,000 people to Fiona Bruce, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, calling for asylum to be granted to the girl and her family, on the grounds that their lives are in danger.
In a statement released after presenting the petition, ACN quoted Bruce saying “Maira’s situation, and that of her family, is a tragic one and hearts goes out to her – as demonstrated by the thousands upon thousands of people who have signed Maira’s petition which I have received today.”
“I am immediately drawing it to the attention of the Home Secretary for her urgent consideration,” she said.
The asylum petition was organized by the papal charity as part of its “Red Wednesday” campaign that draws attention to religious persecution around the world.
Open Doors International, a Christian human rights organization, found in its latest report, that on a daily basis more than 340 million Christians suffer discrimination, inequality or active persecution in at least fifty countries in the world, a situation made worst by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2018-2019, 2,983 cases of Christians being killed for their faith were recorded by the international watchdog group, while there were at least 4,781 between Oct. 2019 and Sept. 2020. Over 90 percent of the deaths were in Africa, where a terrorist group blamed Christians for the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Open Doors report, Christians in Pakistan face extreme persecution in every area of their lives, with believers who have converted from Islam facing the greatest levels of persecution, but with all Christians being considered second-class citizens.
The report also notes that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are used to target Christians, and Islamic extremist groups vehemently “defend” these laws, including extrajudicially attacking or killing those believed to have contravened them.
The open letter to the prime minister on behalf of Shahbaz has been supported by more than 30 members of parliament, bishops and charities, the statement from ACN claimed.
Among those supporting the asylum appeal is Bishop Philip Mounstephen, an Anglican prelate who in 2019 produced the Bishop of Truro’s Independent Review of the Persecution of Christians for the UK foreign office.
“Tragic cases like that of Maira Shahbaz are a test case for the UK Government’s commitment to put freedom and religion front and center in its foreign policy,” Mounstephen told.
“I urge the Government to recognize how Maira’s rights have been potentially fatally compromised and offer her asylum,” he said.
Do Christians Really Donate More? Bible’s Stunning Impact on Charitable Giving Revealed in Fascinating New Study
As the debate over the impact of Christianity on charitable behavior forges on, a new study reveals Scripturally-engaged Americans are “far more likely than others to donate to charity.”
In fact, the majority of these individuals — people who interact consistently with Scripture and allow it to shape their lives and relationships — report giving to such causes, according to the eighth chapter of “The State of the Bible” report.
“Americans who are engaged with the Bible gave $145 billion to charitable causes in 2021,” a statement from the American Bible Society read. “And … Practicing Christians, those who are actively living out their faith, are much more likely to give.”
The results are pretty stunning when comparing people engaged in the Bible with those who are disengaged as well as the so-called Moveable Middle, a group falling between those dynamics.
Bible-engaged Americans gave a total of $145 billion to charities in 2021, amounting to about $2,907 per household. The same figure for the Bible disengaged was just $924.
To underscore the monumental nature of that giving, consider that Scripturally engaged Americans account for just 19% of adults yet give 44% of every dollar donated.
The finer details point to the fascinating nature of this group’s generosity.
“People who are Scripture-engaged gave six-times as much to churches as those in the Movable Middle and 13-times as much as those who are Bible-disengaged,” a statement explained. “When it comes to non-church giving, Scripture-engaged Americans gave 9% more than the Bible-disengaged and 165% more than the Movable Middle.”
Giving among active believers is, thus, much higher than for other cohorts.
Dr. John Farquhar Plake, director of ministry intelligence for the American Bible Society, said his organization’s research continues to show “a strong correlation between charitable giving and human flourishing.” This is particularly relevant among Christians surveyed in the annual report.
“Engaging with the Bible and actively living out our faith doesn’t simply mean reading the words in the pages of Scripture — rather, it is a transformation of the heart that inspires us to love and live well,” Plake said.
The results for this chapter of the “State of the Bible” were collected from 2,598 phone and online responses from American adults in January 2022.
Atheists will often decry the Bible and its contents, yet study after study shows the strong benefits faith offers individuals and, in turn, the culture at large.
As Faithwire reported, an earlier chapter from the “State of the Bible” report showed “Americans who consistently read and apply the Bible report greater levels of hope and resilience.” Read more about the Bible’s significant impact on the faithful here.
PASTOR JACOB MATHEW – 57 MEMORIAL SERVICE 12/02/2022
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel,and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. We walk by faith, and not by sight! Pastor Jacob Mathew (57 ) has been promoted to his eternal home and went to be with Jesus on 11/24/2022 . He served as the assistant Pastor of the Mizpah Church of God. Pullad. He lived a life that exampled Jesus Christ, a life of servitude,faith,and love. He will be missed by his family, his wife Shiney,daughter Jesna Jacob and son Joel Jacob.
We kindly request for prayers at this time for the family. He is Survived by his mother, Thankamma Mathew, sister Mary Mathew, and brother Paul Mathew and family.
Christian Organization Wins Legal Battle, Will Be Allowed to Hire Christians
Just two months after the Wyoming Rescue Mission filed its federal lawsuit against state and federal agencies for threatening to punish the Christian nonprofit for hiring employees who share the ministry’s religious beliefs, attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) announced they reached a favorable settlement in the case.
As part of the settlement, state officials acknowledged that the rescue mission, as a religious organization, is free to hire like-minded employees who share the ministry’s religious beliefs and mission to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ through its homeless shelter, clothing voucher service, faith-based recovery programs, and life-rebuilding assistance to Casper residents.
“The First Amendment protects Wyoming Rescue Mission’s freedom to hire those who share its beliefs without being threatened and investigated by the government,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jacob Reed. “We’re pleased to favorably settle this case for the rescue mission so it can continue its critical work of serving some of Casper’s most vulnerable citizens and spreading the Gospel.”
On behalf of the faith-based organization, ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, Wyoming Rescue Mission v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in the US District Court for the District of Wyoming.
According to court documents, the mission requires all employees to agree with its religious beliefs. Before being forced to remove it, the mission’s “Career Opportunities” webpage explicitly stated that “Employees are expected to commit to the precepts in our Statement of Faith, and to help the Mission fulfill its mission statement, vision statement, and ends statement.”
And the Mission’s employment application says: “The Mission considers every position one of ministry and a vital and valued part of our team. Therefore, it is essential that all employees of the Mission have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and subscribe to our Statement of Faith and Ministry Principles. Employees must be willing to lead and/or participate in Bible study, prayer, devotions, and sharing the Gospel.”
As CBN News reported, in 2020, the mission decided not to hire a self-proclaimed non-Christian for one of its Rescued Treasures Thrift Store associate positions. Included with this job is the responsibility of teaching the mission’s Discipleship Recovery Program guests how to spread the gospel and model Jesus Christ.
The lawsuit explains that the mission advised the applicant during the pre-screen interview that it is a Christian ministry and that all employees must agree with the Mission’s statement of faith and demonstrate Christian principles in their life and work as a condition of employment. The applicant responded that she did not have any faith.
The non-Christian applicant then filed a discrimination charge against the mission with Wyoming’s Department of Workforce Services and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), according to Decision Magazine.
State officials conducted a 16-month-long investigation to determine if the mission engaged in discrimination as prohibited by law.
The officials determined the mission likely violated the Wyoming Fair Employment Practices Act of 1965 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for refusing to hire the non-Christian applicant, ignoring the fact that neither of those laws applies to faith-based organizations’ religiously based employment decisions.
After ADF attorneys filed suit, the government capitulated and agreed the mission can hire only “those individuals who agree with and live out the mission’s religious beliefs and practices.”
“Like-minded employees who share the mission’s purpose to spread the Gospel and uplift the Casper community by providing free meals, shelter, recovery programs, and job training are essential for the Wyoming Rescue Mission to continue its important work,” said ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries. “Wyoming officials have rightly recognized that both state and federal laws protect religious organizations’ ability to hire those who share their beliefs.”
As part of the settlement in Wyoming Rescue Mission v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) agreed to pay the rescue mission’s attorneys’ fees. In light of the settlement, the court dismissed the EEOC from the case and signed a consent decree settling the case with the state.
A press release from the ADF revealed that in 2021, the mission served 60,862 free meals to the public; provided 41,037 beds for men, women, and children; enrolled 92 Discipleship Recovery Program participants; offered 5,597 case management sessions, and gave 1,208 thrift store vouchers worth $39,649.92 that provided free clothing and essentials to families and guests in need.
John G. Knepper, one of more than 4,600 attorneys in the ADF Attorney Network, served as local counsel for the Wyoming Rescue Mission.
Sources:BREAKING CHRISTIAN NEWS
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