Monthly Archives: October 2010

Story of torture and humiliation of a Christian…

This incident is about a man who happens to be a Christian and that too in a country where the easiest thing is to get away with any crime behind the excuse of religion. The treatment Fayaz Masih has received at the hands of a Muslim land lord forced me to think that how far a man can go to pursue his desire to rule those who are weak and vulnerable. Masih refused to work as a slave in Zafar Iqbal Ghuman’s fields and this “disobedience by a choohra” urged the land owner to make his life hell.

His head, beard and moustache were shaved, charcoal was rubbed on his face and he was forced to sit on a donkey. Above all, he was accused to have illicit relation with his own niece to legitimize his ‘disobedience” for people and police.
The villagers shouted anti-Christian slogans and now the victim is in the jail as a culprit for having illicit relations with his niece. And the land owner and his accomplices are at large because they have servered Islam and helped the police in  arresting a criminal and a corrupt man–Fayaz Masih.

WOW, I am speechless and have no words to suggest how to reciprocate this gesture of these great Muslim men. How dare a Christian refuses to be a slave and that too to a man who is superior because he is a Muslim and belongs to majority.

Before refusing to him, Masih should have realised that the whole system is designed in a way to ensure injustice where the word “religion” is used owing to the old practices of misusing it. The police have enough excuses not to aim to investigate the truth because Masih is poor, weak, without any influence and position, accused of adultery, and above all a Christian. On the contrary, Ghuman is rich, influential, and a Muslim.

This appeal should be made to the Chief Justice of Pakistan who is taking up many issues now and promising justice. He should ensure that our minorities be protected through legal backing and the system should be with all those who are right. How long they have to face humiliation and discrimination because they are not Muslims. Something has to be done to stop this injustice before it is too late and we need not to forget that how revolutions come.

Below is the story:

SARGODHA, Pakistan (CDN) — A Muslim land owner in Pakistan this month subjected a 25-year-old Christian to burns and a series of humiliations, including falsely charging him with having sex with his own niece, because the Christian refused to work for him without pay.

Fayaz Masih is in jail with burns on his body after No. 115 Chitraan Wala village head Zafar Iqbal Ghuman and other villagers punished Masih for refusing to work as a slave in his fields, said the Rev. Yaqub Masih, a Pentecostal evangelist. The village is located in Nankana Sahib district, Punjab Province.

Sources said neither Fayaz Masih nor his family had taken any loans from Ghuman, and that they had no obligations to work off any debt for Ghuman as bonded laborers.

Yaqub Masih said the young man’s refusal to work in Ghuman’s fields infuriated the Muslim, who was accustomed to forcing Christians into slavery. He said Ghuman considered Masih’s refusal an act of disobedience by a “choohra,” the pejorative word for Christians in Pakistan.

On Oct. 3 Ghuman and 11 of his men abducted Masih from his home at gun-point and brought him to Ghuman’s farmhouse, according to Yaqub Masih and Yousaf Gill, both of nearby village No. 118 Chour Muslim. Gill is a former councilor of Union Council No. 30, and Yaqub Masih is an ordained pastor waiting for his denomination to assign him a church.

Fayaz Masih’s family members told Yaqub Masih that Ghuman was carrying a pistol, and that the 11 other men were brandishing rifles or carrying clubs, axes and bamboo sticks. They began beating Masih as they carried him away, calling him a choohra, Yaqub Masih said.

Gill said that Ghuman’s farmhands tied Fayaz Masih’s hands and legs and asked him once more if he would work in Ghuman’s fields. When he again refused, Gill said, Ghuman summoned four barbers; three ran away, but he forced one, Muhammad Pervaiz, to shave Masih’s head, eyebrows, half of his mustache and half of his beard.

After they had rubbed charcoal on Masih’s face, Ghuman then announced that Masih had had relations with Masih’s 18-year-old niece, Sumeera, and called for everyone in the village to punish him. He and his men placed Masih on a frail, one-eyed donkey, Yaqub Masih and Gill said, and a mob of Muslim men and children surrounded him – beating tins, dancing and singing door-to-door while shouting anti-Christian slogans, yelling obscenities at him and other Christians, and encouraging villagers to beat him with their shoes and fill his mouth with human waste, Yaqub Masih said.

Some threw kerosene on Masih and alternately set him on fire and extinguished the flames, Gill said. He added that Muslims made a garland of old shoes from a pile of garbage and put it around Masih’s neck.

Yaqub Masih said the abuse became unbearable for the young man, and he collapsed and fell off the donkey.

Police Ignore Court

Masih’s sister, Seema Bibi, told Compass that the accusation that Masih had had sex with her daughter Sumeera was utterly false. She said Ghuman made the allegation only to vent his fury at Masih for refusing to work for him.

Seema Bibi said that Ghuman told her daughter at gun-point to testify against Masih in court on Oct. 4. Sumeera surprised the Muslim land owner, however, saying under oath that Masih was innocent and that Ghuman had tried to force her to testify against her uncle. A judge ruled that Sumeera had not had illicit relations with Masih, and that therefore she was free to go home.

Her mother told Compass, however, that since then Ghuman has been issuing daily death threats to her family.

After Masih collapsed from the abuse, Yaqub Masih and Gill called local police. Police did not arrive until three hours later, at 3:30 p.m., they said, led by Deputy Superintendent of Police Shoiab Ahmed Kamboh and Inspector Muhammad Yaqub.

“They rebuked the Muslim villagers that they could have killed this Christian youth, and they told them to give him a bath at once and change his clothes, in order to reduce the evidence against them,” Gill said.

Family members of Masih said Kamboh and Inspector Yaqub arrested some of the leading figures within the mob, but soon thereafter they received a call to release every Muslim.

“Instead of taking the Muslim men into custody, they detained my brother, and he was taken to the police station,” Seema Bibi said.

On Oct. 4 police sent Masih to District Headquarters Hospital Nankana Sahib for examination, where Dr. Naseer Ahmed directed Dr. Muhammad Shakeel to mention in the medical report how severely Ghuman and his farmhands had beaten him, Gill said. He said the medical report also stated that Masih had sustained burns and that his head, mustache, eyebrows and beard were shaved.

In spite of the court ruling that Masih had not had sex with his niece, police were coerced into registering a false charge of adultery under Article 376 of the Islamic statutes of the Pakistan Penal Code, First Information Report No. 361/10, at the Sangla Hill police station.

At press time Masih remained in Shiekhupura District Jail, said Gill. Gill also has received death threats from Ghuman, he said.

The 11 men who along with Ghuman abducted Masih and brought him to Ghuman’s farmhouse, according to Masih’s family, were Mehdi Hussain Shah and Maqsood Shah, armed with rifles; Muhammad Amin, Rana Saeed, Muhammad Osama and four others unidentified, all of them brandishing clubs; Muhammad Waqas, with an axe; and Ali Raza, bearing a bamboo stick and a club.

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Posted by on October 30, 2010 in Christians


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Being a Hindu in Pakistan

by Marvi Memon, Express Tribune

It’s not easy these days being a Hindu in Pakistan. The number of cases of members of the Hindu community being kidnapped for ransom is on the rise, both in Sindh and in Balochistan. While recently attending a meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee for Law and Justice, I realised that a stringent law was already in place under which a person convicted of this offence could be sentenced to life in prison or even death. As usual, the discussion revolved around the fact that while we had good laws, they were not being implemented.

Personally, I am against capital punishment — and the logic is quite straightforward: since we don’t give life, we have no right to take it away. And hence life imprisonment is acceptable but not capital punishment. However, the rise in cases of kidnapping, often of children, has altered this view. Those who kidnap people for ransom need to be dealt with a heavy hand, more so because in Pakistan where we hardly ever see anyone punished for this crime. In August, before the floods had hit Sindh, I visited a Hindu Sindhi family in Kashmore whose six-year-old had been kidnapped. The state of the mother was enough to convince me to press for severe punishment as a deterrent to stop this kind of crime.

I was told that Hindus were being targeted because, by and large, they lacked political clout and made for easier targets. Furthermore, those involved in kidnapping for ransom often had connections to powerful people, and this explained why, in most instances, the kidnappers were never caught.

The tragedy is that as a result of these kidnappings, many Hindu families have migrated to India. After all, it is better to live in another country than in perpetual fear. This is the biggest failure of the so-called Islamic Republic of Pakistan — that its minorities don’t feel safe on their own soil.

Clearly, the government’s package, called ‘Aghaz-e-Huqooq Balochistan’ has not achieved much in that province. For instance, in 2009 a 13-year-old was kidnapped and released after a ransom of Rs1.8 million was paid. Another Hindu was kidnapped from the busy Sariab road and released after a ransom of Rs4.2 million was paid. A Hindu man was kidnapped and released after his family paid Rs1.5 million. A Hindu shopkeeper was asked to pay Rs6million at which point he migrated to India — this happened in August of this year. And this is just a partial list.

The Hindu community is peaceful — so what is its biggest sin? It is a minority in a land where there is no rule of law. All that is needed is the political will to go after those involved in these kidnappings — the incidents will stop and our Hindu compatriots will stop fleeing to India.


Posted by on October 20, 2010 in Christians


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One million buys freedom for culprits in rape and murder case

Being anyone except a Muslim is hard here in Pakistani society, but I do not intend to deny the issues and pain of what Muslim majority suffers from. But the religion factor brings another dimension of problems for those who have been created by same God, but Who has different names. Those who refuse to accept a simple reason of why minorities need special protection in comparison with majority, need to be told that they are the most fragile and prone to attack segments of society.

The story below has not surprized me much for a fair reason that it was not the first incident of this nature or because I am becoming immune to such incidents. Raping and murdering a 12-year old Christian girl by Muslims is what has happened exactly, and all the efforts of different rights organisations proved futile when the family accepted 1 million rupees in return to this newly “bought freedom” of the culprits.

We can all imagine how tough and painful it must be for the parents to forgive the culprits of their daughter, but they did it. Their decision brought disappointment for all those who were behind the struggle of getting justice in this case, but if I try hard to detach myself from their decision, I can very well understand the state of mind they are in and the bitter realities of life they face on day-to-day basis. 1 million can give them good food, shelter and a secure future in monetary terms. Poverty, hunger with a status of minority is too big to fight against for this family who has sacrificed justice and pain of their daughter in this case with this assurance that they will never be hungry again.

I am ashamed of representing the “other side” of society who kill and rape women from other religions because of their weak positions in this society. We need to know about the implementation of all those decisions the President Zardari has taken including establishment of a “direct telephone line”. Is anyone out there to confront those who buy their freedom from the victims after committing such heinous crimes?

Below is the story:

Lubna Masih was a 12-year-old Christian girl raped and murdered by Muslims in Rawalpindi. Despite opposition on the part of human rights campaigners, the family accepted a money settlement, thereby closing the case.

The parents of Lubna Masih, the twelve-year-old Christian girl who was raped and murdered in Rawalpindi by a group of Muslims, accepted a compensation of one million rupees (approximately 11,600 Euros) to abandon the legal proceedings against those responsible for the crime. Her family, still in mourning, is saddened and bewildered.

After a struggle between the Christian organizations that had encouraged the parents to reject any proposed agreement and other envoys and mediators, including several members of Parliament, Saleem and Guddi Masih gave in, accepting the significant cash contribution, which closes the case on a legal status. Saleem, Lubna’s father, said: “I forgive the men who killed my daughter. We’ll start a new life.”

Karman, Saleem’s brother, said “They are upset, but the decision is up to them.” Gudde, devastated by the pain cannot utter a word. Life for All, a Christian-based NGO that has fought against impunity and to raise the issue of violence against Christians, told Fides with regret: “If the parents do not even have the strength to defend the memory of their daughter, nobody can do anything.”

Carrying out the negotiations was the organization “Ephlal Ministry” (“Justice Service”), specializing in civil and legal mediation. The organization will take 20% of the agreed sum. Among the determining factors were the poverty and hardship of the Masih family. Fides sources point out that “the technique of buying the silence of victims is nothing new and is part of the uneven distribution of forces in the field: Christian families are often the last on the social scale and they are forced to confront members of the Muslim upper middle class or wealthy landowners.”

In response to the many cases of violence against Christian girls, last March the President of Pakistan, Ali Zardari, announced the establishment of a “direct telephone line” with a response office, to report the most serious cases of violence against religious minorities. Zardari, in agreement with the minister for religious minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, had also called for the establishment of an international commission to dialogue with the government and address the most urgent issues. The Christian community had welcomed and supported the project, but currently none of these initiatives has yet come to pass.


Posted by on October 19, 2010 in Christians


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EWTN airs documentary on Pakistan’s Christians on Nov. 10 at 10pm

Documenting the Middle East’s Christians

Elisabetta Valgiusti is a documentary producer and filmmaker as well as president of Salva i Monasteri (Save the Monasteries). Salva i Monasteri is an Italian association of academics, scholars, artists and media experts who want to safeguard Christian religious sites in areas of crisis. They do this through cultural and media projects.

Valgiusti has two documentaries about Pakistan and India which will be aired on EWTN this November and December. She spoke with Register correspondent Sabrina Arena Ferrisi.
Given your interest in the rights of Christians and preserving monasteries, did you grow up in a strongly Catholic family?

I was born in South America, in Caracas, from an Italian family, and grew up in central Rome. I received the sacrament of confirmation at St. Peter’s Basilica. For my Christian education, the example of my parents was the most important. My father, Orlando, was a doctor and my mother, Falaride, a teacher. They were always involved in caring for the needs of other people. I keep clear in my eyes their generous behavior towards everybody, as well as their uprightness and honesty.
How did you become interested in making films?

I went and studied film in New York when I was 20 years old. It was there where I made my first short films. I feel that New York is the place where I became an adult, and I always feel at home there. I used to live in a building next to the Twin Towers, and it was a deep shock when 9/11 happened. I visited Ground Zero afterwards, and it was unreal.
How did you develop this interest in creating documentaries about Christians in lands where they are a minority?

I visited the Holy Land in 2001 out of personal devotion. I was there several times in that year and did some film work. It was the most difficult year of the Intifada. No tourists were around. It was an incredible spiritual and cultural experience. I understood how fundamental to our faith is the existence and culture of Christians in the Middle East.
Has your life ever been in danger while filming?

Of course I went through dangers. I always try to keep behaving normally. I dress my way. I do not hide. I just go ahead. But a few times I went through real panic.
Have your documentaries ever been a catalyst for positive change?

Well, about Iraq, it was a very long and hard work. I am extremely grateful to EWTN, which has been supportive since 2007. It took years before seeing some results, before being able to attract the attention of the mainstream media to the Iraqi Christians. But when that happened it was already 2009, and it was too late. I witnessed the terrible change in the bi-millennial history of the Iraqi Christians: the fleeing of most of them from Iraq because of fear, persecution and attacks. Of course, all the Iraqis have suffered a lot in the last decades, but Christians were, in particular, under siege — and still are.

It’s hard to see positive changes for them. I would like to report a case that I find extremely touching, and this is an example of positive change: When EWTN aired my first Iraqi documentary, I received a letter from Richard and Vickie Pinion, an American couple from Tennessee. Richard wanted to know how to help the Iraqi Christians. He took it so seriously and was so good that in a few months he managed to help an Iraqi displaced family come to the U.S.A.

Another positive example regards the Salva i Monasteri’s petition to the United Nations for the right of Christian students to study in Iraq and for the safeguarding of Iraqi Christian heritage. I started this after a horrible attack on the buses carrying Christian students to Mosul University on May 2, 2010: bombs directed against teenagers going to study.

And it was not the first time. Some died, some lost their legs, their eyes. Some were horribly hurt. The petition was signed by people all over the world. Many Americans have signed it. If you read their comments on our website, it is clear that people have begun to care about the problems of Christianity in a new global way.
Tell me about Save the Monasteries.

After the 2001 experience in the Holy Land, I started Salva i Monasteri, my association, with a campaign for the monasteries in Kosovo that underwent heavy attacks and destruction. I made a film there called Enclave Kosovo. Then, in 2004, I went to Iraq, to Nineveh, where very ancient Christian communities have been living continuously since the first century. I kept working in Iraq, making the films Christians of Nineveh, Iraq’s Christians, Iraq SOS Refugees. I also traveled extensively through Syria, Jordan and Lebanon and made another documentary, Christian Witnesses in the Middle East. I love Iraq and the Middle East.

In 2010 I traveled through Pakistan and India and made the new documentaries that EWTN will air from November onwards: India’s Christians and Pakistan’s Christians. It’s very hard to keep working on these issues. It is very difficult to find the financial means to produce them. Some of the members of Salva i Monasteri

What did you learn while filming the documentary on Pakistan’s Christians? Specifically, explain the blasphemy laws — and how they affect Christians.

Pakistan’s Christians are having a very difficult time. All of the country suffers a complex political situation. But the Pakistani government must intervene and stop the sufferings of the Christians.
The blasphemy law is a tool in the hands of extremists against the Christians. It is a law that prescribes the death penalty to those accused of having insulted or offended the Quran in some way. Usually the accusations are false, but the debate of these cases in the tribunal is highly dramatic, and many are executed. Pakistan’s Catholic Church through its Commission of Justice and Peace is strongly committed to fight discriminations and is extremely active in defending and protecting those falsely accused by the blasphemy law. The Catholic Church is now extremely active in helping all the Pakistanis as a consequence of the flood. The country needs a lot of help to recover.

What is the situation of Christians in India?

It is a much better situation compared to Pakistan. India is a tolerant country and a religious country. Of course, it is going through significant social and cultural changes as a result of its modernization. This provokes the reaction of fundamentalists. There was a terrible episode in 2008: the attack of Christians in the Orissa region. The Catholic Church reacted very well and managed to have the central government intervene.

In your years of travel and filmmaking, how have you grown in your spiritual life? What have you come to appreciate the most about the Catholic faith?

It was a great journey. I consider it a special grace. I have seen and met hundreds of people and places. I have prayed and participated in Masses in many different languages. I feel indebted with all these people I have met. I think very highly of them and of their courageous witness. Anyway, I always feel like the useless servant.

When will your documentaries be shown to the American public?

EWTN will air Pakistan’s Christians starting on Wednesday, Nov. 10 at 10pm. India’s Christians will follow on Dec. 15 at 10pm (Eastern Standard Time). It’s really a grace that EWTN is watched by millions of Christians throughout the world. I love Mother Angelica.

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi writes from New York.

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Posted by on October 19, 2010 in Christians


Hindu Girl Abducted and Forcibly Converted to Islam

Hard to believe, but facts prove that some sections of Pakistani society are going insane in their pursuit of “one religion syndrome”. The word “force” logically does not fit in any lingo related to any religion where all preach humanity, freedom and respect for each other. But some orthodox forces seem capable of changing this rhetoric and tradition while kidnapping people and forcing them to convert to Islam. If we want Islam to become the most dominant religion and rule the world even then this approach is irrational and unaccepted.

Through such gestures, we will further push people away from us rather bringing them closer. Unfortunately, it hurts a religion the most where such forces voluntarily represent it and mostly in a bad way. Same is happening to Islam which is at the mercy of these orthodox who have even exploited law to hide behind its shield. The victim families when approach police often face disappointment and threats and no justice in the end. Same happened in the story pasted below, but the question is  how far we can go in expressing our helpless attitude in front of every injustice. Let’s start raising our voices for things which are just. Let’s defeat these religious fanatics. Let’s join hands in making this country for Pakistanis not for Muslims, Hindus, Christians or Sikhs.

Below is the story:

Karachi, Pakistan (CHAKRA) —In the town of Lyari in Pakistan, a 13-year-old Dalit girl, Poonam, has been abducted and forcibly converted to Islam.

According to Poonam’s uncle Bhanwroo she went missing last Wednesday and was not seen until neighbours spotted her at a Madrassa in the town and informed her parents.

When her parents went to the Madrassa to bring her back, they said that she seemed very scared and was under the influence of the imams there.  She reportedly stated that they would not let her go and that she was ready to live at the Madrassa as a Muslim.

When the family turned to police for help, they immediately refused and stated it was not a big enough case to be officially registered. Poonam’s parents were told by the police that there was no point in lodging a complaint or report because as soon as the court proceedings would take place the report would become null and be cancelled.

Poonam’s parents are left hopeless and have no where or means to turn to by which they can get their beloved daughter back.  And their crime for such a punishment was nothing.


Posted by on October 12, 2010 in Hindus


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Christianity is the most persecuted religion, say European bishops

Catholic Herald

Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world, according to a European commission of Catholic bishops.

A report issued this week by the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) said that at least three-quarters of all religious persecution was directed at Christians.

In the report the bishops urged the European Union to apply more pressure to countries around the world that failed to protect the religious freedom of their citizens.

They called on the EU’s foreign ministry, headed by the Labour peer Lady Ashton, to set up a “religion unit” to promote the cause of religious freedom more effectively.

Their report coincided with a conference at the European Parliament on the persecution of Christians organised by COMECE and Polish and Italian MEPs.

Speakers included Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, Iraq, Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura-Yambio, Sudan, and Professor TM Joseph, principal at Newman College in India, whose right hand was cut off in a brutal attack after he set an exam question that allegedly defamed Islam.

The bishops said in their report: “It is important to recall that at least 75 per cent of all religious persecution in the world is directed against Christians. The number of the Christian faithful discriminated against, oppressed or persecuted in this regard amounts to approximately 100 million people.”

The bishops said that tackling this persecution would help stem the “demographic haemorrhage” of religious minorities fleeing to the West.

They urged EU institutions to put pressure on countries such as Pakistan to abolish blasphemy laws used to persecute minorities. In July, for instance, two Pakistani Christians were murdered outside a courtroom in Faisalabad after they were accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

The bishops proposed that EU delegations to countries that do not adequately protect religious freedom must make sure they raise the issue during their visits.

The bishops also urged Lady Ashton, the British head of EU foreign policy, to “integrate religious freedom fully into EU human rights policy”. The bishops suggested she ensure that the European External Action Service “be provided with a ‘religion unit’ devoted to the cause of religious freedom”.

In the report bishops said religious minorities were particularly under threat in Asian countries such as India, China, Burma, Laos, Vietnam and North Korea.

They said that in other parts of the world religious believers in general were oppressed because of the state’s opposition to religion. They cited countries in Central Asia, where there was “a leftover of atheist Communism”.

At the conference in Brussels Archbishop Sako spoke about the persecution of Christians in Iraq, which he said included “killings, abductions, beatings, rapes, threats, intimidation, forced conversions [and] marriages, and displacement from homes and businesses, and attacks on religious leaders, pilgrims, and holy sites”.

The archbishop said the persecution could eventually lead to the extinction of the Christian community in Iraq.

For Christian families, he said, the war had been a disaster, and America was responsible for it.

“They [Americans] should not leave them behind and pull their troops out of Iraq without caring,” the archbishop said.

“The future of Christians in Iraq, but also in the Middle East, has one of two ends: emigration, or accepting life as a second-class citizen with many difficulties and fears,” he said.

The archbishop argued that Christians could only survive in Iraq with strong international support and clear plans to protect them and foster reconciliation among Iraqis.

He said the Synod of churches in the Middle East, which starts on Sunday, was a chance “to revise the whole situation for Christians in the Middle East”.

Prof Joseph, from Kerala, whose hands were chopped off in an attack by Islamists earlier this year, talked to the conference about religious freedom in India.

He said that although the concept was enshrined in India’s constitution it was subject to considerations of “public order, morality and health” and did not include the right to convert.

The professor said persecution of Christians in recent years had included “violence against the leadership of the Church, killing of priests, raping of nuns, [and the] destruction of Christian institutions”.

But he said these were “stray incidents” that were part of a law and order problem rather than being merely religious persecution. “Such incidents do occur within single communities as well,” he said.

Prof Joseph argued that since the Indian state could not curb this violence, there was “a crisis of governance” in the country that needed to be addressed. He said India was a “by and large peaceful” country where a countless diversity of people lived in “relative harmony”.

Prof Joseph was attacked by eight people as he was returning home from church with his mother and his sister, who is a nun.

Shortly before the attack he had set an exam question which allegedly contained a derogatory reference to the Prophet Mohammad, an accusation strongly denied by his family. The conference at which he spoke was organised by MEPs Mario Mauro and Konrad Szymanski together with COMECE, Aid to the Church in Need and the NGO Open Doors International.

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Posted by on October 9, 2010 in Christians


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