PAKISTAN: Christian in jail despite evidence of innocence

A Catholic father is still in prison six months after being arrested, despite a confession that exonerates him.

Zimran Asim
Zimran Asim has languished in jail on a false blasphemy charge in Pakistan since 27 August 2023 (Credit: Christian Daily International/Morning Star News)

Zimran Asim has not been released even though his co-accused, 17-year-old Akash Masih, has told police that he alone committed blasphemy.

According to Morning Star News, Zimran Asim’s family have been forced to leave their home for their own safety after Zimran was arrested in Chak No 37 village in the Punjab last August. It has been alleged that he helped to desecrate pages of the Qu’ran and wrote down blasphemies.

Zimran’s brother Zeeshan explained: “Zimran got implicated with Akash because one day he had taken the boy on his motorcycle to get a gas cylinder filled from a neighbouring village. When the police circulated Akash’s photo taken from the CCTV footage in a bid to trace him, the gas vendor recognised him and informed the police that he had seen the boy with Zimran. This is how my brother landed in police custody…

“The police know he’s innocent, yet they have made him a scapegoat.”

Zimran’s lawyer, Aneeqa Maria, said police have no justification for keeping him locked up: “Zimran’s only crime is that he was Akash’s neighbour.”

Akash told police that the blasphemy was due to his anger at the Muslims who had attacked Christians and burned churches.

USA: Flight attendants fired for Christian beliefs

Sacked flight attendant Lacey Smith
Sacked flight attendant Lacey Smith Credit: First Liberty Institute

Two Christian flight attendants are suing Alaska Airlines and a flight attendants union for religious discrimination.

Marli Brown and Lacey Smith were sacked in 2021 for questioning the airline’s support for the LGBTQ-promoting Equality Act.

The pair’s lawyer, Stephanie Taub, said: “Alaska Airlines has made it clear that employees who hold traditional Christian beliefs must stay silent if they want to keep their jobs.”

Court documents quoted by Fox News allege that the airline also broke its own “Three Strikes policy” after only one offence. ASSIST News reports that “even the Association of Flight Attendants union… turned hostile against Brown and Smith. Instead of defending the pair, AFA leaders wanted them fired from the airline.”

According to The Christian Post, one AFA rep wrote: “Can we PLEASE get someone to… put Marli and Lacey in a burlap bag and drop them in a well?”

Brown and Smith were also called “bigots” and “pukes”.

UGANDA: Couple killed after conversion

The Christian parents of four young children, who converted from Islam only two months earlier, have been murdered.

The bodies of Twaha Namwoyo and wife Nadiimu Katooko
The bodies of Twaha Namwoyo and wife Nadiimu Katooko, slain after leaving Islam (Credit: Morning Star News)

Twaha Namwoyo and his wife Nadiimu Katooko were “slashed to death” at their home in Bulalaka village in Uganda’s Kibuku District on 2 February.

Morning Star News quotes a Christian neighbour saying: “I heard people… saying that Twaha is to reap the fruits of leaving Islam. After a few minutes, I heard loud wailing coming out of Twaha’s house.”

Police found their mutilated bodies outside the house and the children locked inside, where swords, knives and an axe were left behind – probably as a warning to other Muslims not to leave Islam.

The friend who had led them to Christ had warned them to keep their faith secret.

BURKINA FASO: Church attack leaves 15 dead

Burkina Faso’s army has lost control
of a third of the country to Islamist
Burkina Faso’s army has lost control of a third of the country to Islamist insurgents

Gunmen opened fire during a Catholic church service, killing a total of 15 people.

The attack took place on 25 February in Essakane village in Burkina Faso’s Oudalan province. Initially 12 people died, with three more injured victims dying later in hospital. International Christian Concern reports that the attackers were suspected Islamic militants.

The atrocity was the latest in a series of attacks on churches in the last three years. Militants linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State have taken control of over a third of the country, displacing millions of people.

EUROPE: Court recognises conversion as grounds for asylum

The European Court of Justice has decided that genuine religious conversions should be regarded favourably in asylum applications.

This comes after fake conversions by immigrants seeking to better their chances of being granted asylum have recently hit the headlines in Britain.

The landmark ruling on 28 February means that an apparent convert fleeing a country where Christians are persecuted should not be returned to that country if the applicant can show their conversion arose from an honest “inner conviction”.

The decision arose from the case of an Iranian convert now living in Austria. After he was rejected for asylum he converted to Christianity and claimed that his life would be in danger if he was sent back to Iran. Austria gave him temporary residence but rejected him for asylum on the grounds that the man was not a Christian when he lived in Iran.

The ECJ disagreed with the Austrian authorities and stated that it should not be assumed that an applicant’s conversion was always an attempt “to instrumentalise the procedure for the granting of international protection”.

VIETNAM: Government clamps down further on religion

An “ominous” decree by Vietnam’s communist government will now facilitate shutting churches. At the same time it will be much harder to finance them, according to Morning Star News.

Influential politician Vu Chien Thang, the deputy minister of Home Affairs and head of the Government Committee of Religious Affairs, had declared that the existing laws on religion needed stronger enforcement, hence the introduction of Decree 95, which was due to come into force on 30 March. There was no public consultation on the measures.

An expert on religious liberty in Vietnam is quoted as saying that the negative consequences for churches could be “many and serious” if the decree is fully implemented.