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Blasphemy Charge Devastates Christian Family in Pakistan

  • 2023Nov 29

LAHORE, Pakistan
November 29, 2023 (Morning Star News)
A court in Pakistan this month granted bail to a Christian falsely charged with blasphemy, but he and his family have separated and gone into hiding amid threats to their lives, sources said.

Haroon Shahzad, 45, was released from Sargodha District Jail on Nov. 15, said his attorney, Aneeqa Maria. Shahzad was charged with blasphemy on June 30 after posting Bible verses on Facebook that infuriated Muslims, causing dozens of Christian families in Chak 49 Shumaali, near Sargodha in Punjab Province, to flee their homes.

Lahore High Court Judge Ali Baqir Najfi granted bail on Nov. 6, but the decision and his release on Nov. 15 were not made public until now due to security fears for his life, Maria said.

Shahzad told Morning Star News by telephone from an undisclosed location that the false accusation had changed his family’s lives forever.

“My family has been on the run from the time I was implicated in this false charge and arrested by the police under mob pressure,” Shahzad told Morning Star News. “My eldest daughter had just started her second year in college, but it’s been more than four months now that she hasn’t been able to return to her institution. My other children are also unable to resume their education as my family is compelled to change their location after 15-20 days as a security precaution.”

Though he was not tortured during incarceration, he said, the pain of being away from his family and thinking about their well-being and safety gave him countless sleepless nights.

“All of this is due to the fact that the complainant, Imran Ladhar, has widely shared my photo on social media and declared me liable for death for alleged blasphemy,” he said in a choked voice. “As soon as Ladhar heard about my bail, he and his accomplices started gathering people in the village and incited them against me and my family. He’s trying his best to ensure that we are never able to go back to the village.”

Shahzad has met with his family only once since his release on bail, and they are unable to return to their village in the foreseeable future, he said.

“We are not together,” he told Morning Star News. “They are living at a relative’s house while I’m taking refuge elsewhere. I don’t know when this agonizing situation will come to an end.”

The Christian said the complainant, said to be a member of the Islamist extremist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and also allegedly connected with the banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, filed the charge because of a grudge. Shahzad said he and his family had obtained valuable government land and allotted it for the construction of a church building, and Ladhar and others had filed multiple cases against the allotment and lost all of them after a four-year legal battle.

“Another probable reason for Ladhar’s jealousy could be that we were financially better off than most Christian families of the village,” he said. “I was running a successful paint business in Sargodha city, but that too has shut down due to this case.”

Regarding the social media post, Shahzad said he had no intention of hurting Muslim sentiments by sharing the biblical verse on his Facebook page.

“I posted the verse a week before Eid Al Adha [Feast of the Sacrifice], but I had no idea that it would be used to target me and my family,” he said. “In fact, when I came to know that Ladhar was provoking the villagers against me, I deleted the post and decided to meet the village elders to explain my position.”

The village elders were already influenced by Ladhar and refused to listen to him, Shahzad said.

“I was left with no option but to flee the village when I heard that Ladhar was amassing a mob to attack me,” he said.

Shahzad pleaded with government authorities for justice, saying he should not be punished for sharing a verse from the Bible that in no way constituted blasphemy.

Similar to Other Cases

Shahzad’s attorney, Maria, told Morning Star News that events in Shahzad’s case were similar to other blasphemy cases filed against Christians.

“Defective investigation, mala fide on the part of the police and complainant, violent protests against the accused persons and threats to them and their families, forcing their displacement from their ancestral areas, have become hallmarks of all blasphemy allegations in Pakistan,” said Maria, head of The Voice Society, a Christian paralegal organization.

She said that the case filed against Shahzad was a gross violation of Section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which states that police cannot register a case under the Section 295-A blasphemy statute against a private citizen without the approval of the provincial government or federal agencies.

Maria added that Shahzad and his family have continued to suffer even though there was no evidence of blasphemy.

“The social stigma attached with a blasphemy accusation will likely have a long-lasting impact on their lives, whereas his accuser, Imran Ladhar, would not have to face any consequence of his false accusation,” she said. 

The judge who granted bail noted that Shahzad was charged with blasphemy under Section 295-A, which is a non-cognizable offense, and Section 298, which is bailable. The judge also noted that police had not submitted the forensic report of Shahzad’s cell phone and said evidence was required to prove that the social media was blasphemous, according to Maria.

Bail was set at 100,000 Pakistani rupees (US$350) and two personal sureties, and the judge ordered police to further investigate, she said.

Shahzad, a paint contractor, on June 29, posted on his Facebook page 1 Cor. 10:18-21 regarding food sacrificed to idols, as Muslims were beginning the four-day festival of Eid al-Adha, which involves slaughtering an animal and sharing the meat.

A Muslim villager took a screenshot of the post, sent it to local social media groups, and accused Shahzad of likening Muslims to pagans and disrespecting the Abrahamic tradition of animal sacrifice.

Though Shahzad made no comment in the post, inflammatory or otherwise, the situation became tense after Friday prayers when announcements were made from mosque loudspeakers telling people to gather for a protest, family sources previously told Morning Star News.

Fearing violence as mobs grew in the village, most Christian families fled their homes, leaving everything behind.

In a bid to restore order, the police registered a case against Shahzad under Sections 295-A and 298. Section 295-A relates to “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” and is punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine, or both. Section 298 prescribes up to one year in prison and a fine, or both, for hurting religious sentiments.

Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, up from eighth the previous year.

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Photo Courtesy: @MorningStarNews/CanvaPro

Originally published by Morning Star News. Used with permission.

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The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.

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READ: 10 Lessons from a Navajo Christian Missionary and Lessons Learned from International Women Missionaries

Intoxicated Radicals Attack a Small Neighborhood Church in Pakistan

  • 2023Nov 28

Recent attacks by radical neighbors on a church in a small Christian community near Karachi, Pakistan, endangered the lives of a pastor, his family, and his congregation.

On October 24, 2023, a group mainly comprised of fruit and vegetable sellers with extremist ideologies targeted the church during a prayer service. One of the vendors arrived at the church grounds in a drunken stupor with his cart, which he used to block the church gate, preventing the congregation from entering.

A woman confronted the intoxicated fruit seller, requesting he move aside to allow a clear path for those worshiping at the church, but the man refused. The pastor’s son then urged the aggressor to stop his behavior and move away from the church. The man again refused and responded with abuse and physical violence, leading Paul*, the pastor of the church, to intervene. 

Despite Pastor Paul's efforts to mediate the confrontation, the man remained hostile. The conflict drew the attention of neighbors who sided with the pastor and his son, temporarily diffusing the situation. The trouble soon continued, however.

"In a matter of minutes, the drunk man returned with a group of radical individuals,” said Pastor Paul. “They were armed with knives, metal rods, and weapons. As they entered our street, the onlooking crowd, previously standing with us, became frightened and ran into their houses. It left me, my son, and a church elder alone in front of that angry, radical group of people.” 

The drunken attacker identified Pastor Paul as a companion who was holding a sharp knife. 

“He launched into a verbal tirade and then lunged at me with the knife,” said Pastor Paul. “The entire group joined in, attacking me with various weapons, including knives and rods. Through God's immense grace, I was shielded by His protective hands. Praise God, I was left with only bruises from this incident that could have been deadly. This was solely due to the grace of Jesus, who provided shelter and sent His angels for my protection."

The intoxicated radicals, seeking the Pastor's son, then launched an attack on his family’s home, connected to the church building. The mob stormed the church, chanted anti-Christian slogans, and vandalized sacred items, furniture, the sound system, and other items. Police arrived after the most serious damage had been inflicted.

Following the incident, Pastor Paul contacted local Christian political leaders to address the situation. Together with area elders, the political leadership supported the victimized community and condemned the attackers' actions. In the presence of these leaders, the head of police offered Pastor Paul the opportunity to file a report against the vandals and attackers, ensuring strict actions would be taken, but the pastor instead responded with forgiveness. 

"We are peaceful followers of Jesus Christ,” he said. "He forgave those who tortured Him, and He teaches us to forgive others. In that spirit, we forgive them, for He has taught us that by forgiving others, our own sins are also forgiven.” Quoting Matthew 5:44, he said, “’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’ My congregation and I have forgiven them, and we continue to pray for their transformation of heart and mind."

Pastor Paul highlighted the ongoing risks to his congregation. Churchgoers in this area are used to harassment while attending services, and vendors often intentionally obstruct church entrances on already narrow streets, shouting inappropriate chants and insults to women as they pass by.

“There are still occurrences of suspicious individuals entering our community on late nights, often carrying guns,” he said. “Additionally, there's a presence of drug and alcohol sale and consumption within the community, posing a serious danger to our children, women, and those who are socially vulnerable."

Photo Courtesy: Muneer Ahmed Ok/Unsplash

Global Christian Relief (GCR) is America’s leading watchdog organization focused on the plight of persecuted Christians worldwide. In addition to equipping the Western church to advocate and pray for the persecuted, GCR works in the most restrictive countries to protect and encourage Christians threatened by faith-based discrimination and violence.

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The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.

WATCH: 7 Lessons from Christians in South Asia

READ: 10 Lessons from a Navajo Christian Missionary and Lessons Learned from International Women Missionaries

Hamas' Cinematic Charade: Unraveling the 'Pallywood' Propaganda

  • 2023Nov 28

In the Academy Awards, no one has ever heard of an award recipient standing before a jubilant and envious audience and saying, “No, thank you, I really didn’t make this film, and I do not deserve your recognition. I am rescinding this honor you have bestowed upon me.” Of course not. People who don’t win an Oscar, the most prestigious award in the Hollywood film industry, repeatedly claim that it’s just an honoree to be nominated. They’d never return the coveted award. It sounds absurd even to think of it.  

Unlike Miss Universe and other such beauty pageants, where a second-place winner is selected in the event that Miss Universe is not able to complete her job, nobody has ever declined an Oscar or returned one for any reason. Not even after the 2022 brouhaha when Will Smith assaulted Chris Rock and then received the Best Actor award. Even accused sex offenders Roman Polanski and Woody Allen have been feted by the Academy, despite allegations against them.

There were three people in all the Academy Awards history to decline to receive their Oscar, but these were more in protest of the commercialization of the Academy and a strike in Hollywood than because they did anything particularly righteous or, conversely, wrong.

Today, there’s an up-and-coming new Oscar competing for recognition in infamy. Let’s call it the Ahmed. It’s the competition for best performance in what’s commonly known as Pallywood: the fake film industry coming from Palestinian Arab terror groups and aspiring individual propagandists to portray visually and graphically the most vile and vulgar aspects of their false narrative. The competition is fierce.

Pallywood productions are received, celebrated, and shared around the world today, and people accept them as if it’s video and historical gospel rather than the fake productions they are.

Recently, Pallywood was at its finest, starting with Hamas’ Islamic terrorists making videos from their own phones, GoPros, from the phones of their victims, and corroborated by CCTV and first responder videos, documenting the horrors of the massacre of more than 1200 people, injuring thousands, and kidnapping of hundreds more, on October 7.

Shockingly, despite their own documentation of the slaughter that they inflicted, and that it was all done entirely premeditatedly to the wild celebration of their “heroism,” much of the world is in denial that the massacres ever took place or that if they did, the carnage was as bad as it was. They blame Israel for perpetrating “lies” and accuse Israel of doctoring these images, which the terrorists filmed themselves as being “fake” and even generated by AI. It is classic and obscene, blaming the victim, and something surely not unique in Jewish history as there is no shortage of people who today deny the Holocaust even took place or that 6 million Jews were slaughtered.

While millions in the world deny that the slaughter took place on October 7, Hamas is using this just as another way to inflict psychological terror. It’s as if they filmed it all representing the “best Pallywood cinematography” but then denied doing it.

This vulgarity (a friend called pornography) displayed itself again this week as Hamas manipulated the reality of the kidnapping and holding hostage of 250 people. As videos have emerged of Israeli and other hostages being released from captivity, a careful observer will note that the hostages are accompanied by armed and masked terrorists.

It is depraved inhumanity. Hitler’s propagandist filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl would be proud. You see armed masked terrorists escorting their captives.  You see the masked terrorists holding their captives’ hands as if loving parents walking them down the aisle. But for many of the captives, their parents, children, spouses, and other loved ones were massacred by the same Hamas terrorists.

You see the terrorists waving and instructing their captives, “Keep waving.”  The only thing not heard is someone shouting from off camera, “Cut!” or “Take thirty-four” when their captives didn’t get their part right.

You hear masked terrorists sending them off, “Bye-bye now.”  As they enter the waiting vehicles, “Welcome, welcome” alongside people who appear to be Red Cross staff, accomplices, and supporting actors in the Hamas’ staged propaganda.

If the masked terrorists were humanitarians, why would they be masked? Why would they have captives in the first place? Why would they be instructing their captives to wave and smile for the camera? They want the world to believe that they are the humanitarian rescuers, but they are, in fact, the depraved inhuman captors.

It is Pallywood at its worst. The terrorists continue to inflict trauma on their captives and the world.

It is clear to anyone watching the charade about what was happening, but I never would have expected us to be so cruel and manipulative as to take the outtakes of all of this and splice it together as in one “best of Hamas terrorist kidnapping” film.

The terribly sad and crazy thing in all of this is that there are people around the world who are watching these terrorist depictions and coming away with the impression that somehow Hamas is the humanitarian organization and element behind the release of the host. “Cool. Pass the popcorn.”

If Hamas hadn’t brutally attacked Israel in humanely massacred more than 1200 people and taken hundreds of hostages, there would never be a situation in which they would have to “return” hostages home. Until, and unless, they make the sequel: “The Jamaican Bobsled Team Did It.”

They are not humanitarians. They are Islamic terrorists. They use all media at their disposal to take credit for and celebrate their evil at one moment, then deny that they ever committed these crimes. And then take credit again, as if their humanitarian gesture for the return of a fraction of the hostages that they took should be celebrated.

For the category of Best Supporting Act in a Film Disingenuously Made by Depraved Terrorists, the winner is Hamas.

To help free ALL the hostages, please sign the petition lending your voice here.

Photo Commentary: ©Getty Images/Amir Levy / Stringer

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.

Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the U.S. and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has been blessed by the calling to fellowship with Christian supporters of Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He writes regularly for a variety of prominent Christian and conservative websites and is the host of Inspiration from Zion, a popular webinar series and podcast. He can be reached at



The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.

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