North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Friday, March 4, 2011

A lone Christian Pakistani leader is buried

Christian faith understands the death of a believer as the beginning of an eternity with their Savior. It is then always a mix of sadness and joy at such an occasion. This week, an assassination of the lone Christian within the Pakistani government was another chilling reminder of the lethal reach of extremism.

There were emotional scenes as thousands of Pakistani mourners attended the funeral, and Christians buried Shahbaz Bhatti, the murdered Minorities Minister. Shahbaz Bhatti's body was flown by helicopter to his last place of rest in his home village near Faisalabad.

Mr Shahbaz Bhatti (at right), was Pakistan's Minorities Minister charged with protecting the rights of ethnic and religious minorities in this Muslim country.

From the BBC, "It took a full hour for the coffin to make its way into his village and the service was held outside the church, so large were the crowds. Weeping and chanting slogans in his praise, mourners thronged the ambulance carrying the glass-topped coffin of their murdered hero. Women and men broke down.

Click on map for full picture
Bhatti's home village is near Faisalabad, a major city in what is shown as a green (fertile, agricultural) section of Pakistan, some distance from the violence in the mountainous North and West, but apparently not far enough.

Bishop of Faisalabad Joseph Coutts told those present that the blasphemy laws - which Mr Bhatti wanted to reform - were being misused to persecute minorities. Referring to those who would glorify the minister's murderers, he said: "We don't want to worship a God who rewards killers."

Bhatti's assassination set off protests and public expressions of mourning, among a suddenly more insecure Christian population.

Mr Bhatti's assassination was not a complete surprise. The BBC noted that Mr Bhatti had become a martyr for the local Christian community because of his outspoken stance on the blasphemy laws. And critics (dwindling from speaking out and feeling under siege) say the Pakistani government seems to lack his courage to amend what many now call Pakistan's black law.

In January, an MP from the governing Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Sherry Rehman, dropped a bill to reform the law, because her party leaders would not back it. She has all but disappeared from view amid concerns for her security.

Pakistan People's Party (PPP) member, Sherry Rehman

Even before his assassination, Mr Bhatti had predicted his own death in a chilling video. He told the BBC he had been denied more protection by the government but would defy the death threats from Islamist militants for his efforts to reform the blasphemy laws.

The laws (or law referring to a related set) have been contentious since the formation of Pakistan in 1947, but have been especially in the spotlight since a Christian mother-of-five, Asia Bibi, was sentenced to death in November 2010 for insulting the Prophet Muhammad. In January 2011, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer - a prominent critic of the law - was assassinated by his bodyguard. The assassination divided Pakistan, with many hailing his killer as a hero.

Christians make up only an estimated 1.5% of Pakistan's 185 million population.

The offenses relating to religion were first codified by India's British rulers in 1860, and were expanded in 1927. Pakistan inherited these laws after the partition of India in 1947, but instead of reviewing and possibly reforming these codes for the 21st century, between 1980-86 a number of more severe clauses were added to the laws by the military government under General Zia-ul Haq. He wanted to "Islamize" them as well as legally separate an Ahmadi community - declared non-Muslim in 1973 - from the main body of Muslim population.

The body of law originally enacted by the British was general in nature, prescribing punishments for intentionally destroying or defiling a place or an object of worship or disturbing a religious assembly. These clauses also made it unlawful to trespass on burial grounds or insult religious beliefs through the spoken or written word or by innuendo or visible representation. The maximum punishment under these laws ranged from one year to 10 years in jail, with or without fine.

The blasphemy laws were expanded in several installments beginning in 1980, when a clause was added to the law making derogatory remarks against Islamic personages an offense, carrying a maximum punishment of three years in jail. In 1982, another clause prescribed life imprisonment for "willful" desecration of the Koran, the Muslim holy book. The anti-Ahmadi clauses were added in 1984, and ominously, in the last of the "updates," a clause was inserted in 1986 to punish blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad with the recommended penalty being "death, or imprisonment for life", in that order.

Bloody evidence of the close-in car attack on Mr Bhatti

Onlookers (family? friends?)react

The Islamic radicalization of Pakistan continues, Mr Bhatti's death is another sad step on a very dangerous path. In an eerie similarity, German intellectuals realized too late that not standing up in solidarity for any minority or scapegoat meant only that one group after another was targeted and picked off by the Nazi movement. German Pastor Martin Niemoller reflected on this realization ...

"First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me."

1 comment:

Teatree said...

From time to time, I even wonder about my own recapping the news. Am I semi-consciously providing an angle to a story reflecting my own bias?

Probably, that's why I encourage anyone to find other reports if something captures your attention.

However, at other times I would like to believe I'm simply putting it out there as it is.

Here's a story posted March 11, 2011 in Time Magazine which I believe confirms I'm not overstating the starkness of the issue.,9171,2058155,00.html