Two of Pakistan’s biggest religious riots have finally gotten their day in court, with strikingly different results. An anti-terrorism court in Lahore has sentenced 42 Christians for rioting after two churches in Pakistan’s largest Christian neighbourhood were bombed in 2015. According to reports emanating from Fides, the Vatican News Agency, the ruling came less than a month after the court acquitted more than 100 Muslims for rampaging through another one of Lahore’s major Christian communities in 2013 over one man’s alleged blasphemy. The 42 Christians were roughly half of those accused of murder and terrorism after two Muslim men suspected of bombing Sunday services in Youhanabad were killed.

The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), an initiative of Pakistan’s Catholic bishops, told Fides that they were disappointed that the church attackers have not been punished. Also left unpunished were the approximately 112 Muslims who were arrested for ransacking, looting, and setting fire to more than 100 homes in Joseph Colony in 2013. The court found them innocent despite eyewitnesses and videos of the attack. “The evidence was not enough to prove the crime,” said Judge Azam. Cecil Chaudhry, executive director of the NCJP, said that the Joseph Colony ruling was “quite upsetting. Despite video footage and pictures of thousands rampaging through Christian properties, the court has not found anyone guilty,” he said.

The two cases from Lahore stand in stark contrast to the promise of Pakistan’s prime minister that the country will soon “better the lives of minority groups.” Together with the lack of movement on steps demanded by the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan for the protection of religious minorities; and the fact that while the 12 seats reserved for women in the National Assembly was increased to 60 in 2012, the seats reserved for religious minorities remains only 10. Thus, a recently proposed national law that makes lynching and forced conversions to Islam illegal hasn’t been greeted with a lot of optimism, even though it has been passed by the National Assembly and awaits the prime minister’s signature.

“There are already laws that could be implemented in cases of mob violence, but they are rarely enacted, and when done so fail due to frightened witnesses absenting themselves from court,” stated Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association. “It is the implementation of the laws that is the crux of the problem, with a lack of desire from police due to a rife bribery culture and animosity towards ‘ritually impure’ Christians.” In other words, any progress that seems to be made on paper doesn’t make it to the pavement. Police stand by while mobs rampage. Attorneys for Christians accused of blasphemy face hostile crowds of hundreds outside the courtroom. Politicians, even those at high levels, who criticize the blasphemy laws have been assassinated.

Extremists didn’t wait for court dates to kill at least 65 of those accused of blasphemy, or their lawyers or judges, since 1990. The same day that Muslim suspects in the Joseph Colony riot were acquitted, a 70-year-old Christian Sawan Masih was jailed after being accused of writing two letters that included derogatory remarks about the Qur’an and Muhammad. His entire family was taken into custody. Masih, whose accuser sparked the Lahore attacks, has also been sentenced to death. Masih maintains his innocence, saying the accusation was a way for the Muslim man to seize his land, a common motivation for blasphemy accusations in Pakistan. Aware that blasphemy laws are often used to settle land disputes or personal feuds, Pakistan’s government recently attempted to take a look at its blasphemy laws.

The Senate Committee on Human Rights recommended offering bail to those accused of blasphemy and allowing only superintendents and above to investigate blasphemy cases. Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affairs said “The present government is fully determined to implement the true spirit of the existing law. It has no intention to make any change in the blasphemy law.” In fact, Interior Minister Chaundhry Khan went so far as to say religious minorities are not being unfairly affected by the blasphemy laws, since about 75% of the charges are brought against Muslims. “His contrived results have failed to recognize that a large proportion of the 26% of blasphemy convictions listed against minorities have been Christians, yet we contribute only 1.6% of the entire national population” Chowdhry said

Source: Asia News

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The French National Assembly has adopted legislation to make “spreading misleading information” about abortion punishable with up to a 2 year prison sentence and a fine. The law specifically targets “electronic” and “online” means of spreading information with the intention of dissuading women from ending their pregnancy, but its wording is not restrictive. Any person or group aiming to call public attention to the dangers and risks of abortion will be potentially at risk of prosecution. The vote was the final stage of a lawmaking process that saw various versions of the text come before the Assembly and the Senate. The upper house repeatedly tried to impose less severe wording without scraping the law entirely. The National Assembly however has the last word and it opted for virtually outlawing pro-life speech.

At the vote all left-wing representatives present as well as a majority of the centrists voted for the measure. It is the latest in a series of pro-abortion laws that have made “voluntary interruption of pregnancy,” as the French express it, a purely elective and 100% publicly-funded “right” since socialist Francois Hollande came into power 5 years ago. The criminalization of negative information on abortion began when members of Hollande’s socialist government realized that Google searches were linking women to pro-life groups. These sites explain the risks of the procedure and where to find assistance to help women keep their baby. The Ministry of Health responded by putting up a government information site on abortion that is limited to providing details about access to the procedure.

It characterizes as ‘misconceptions’ the allegations that abortion can have negative side effects and cause health or psychological problems. Included is a page on “misinformation about voluntary interruption of pregnancy” that claims there are pro-life sites masquerading as information sites. Women are urged to link to Planned Parenthood or sites that list abortion centre addresses. There is no information on help for expectant mothers. This initiative did not gag the pro-life sites the government wanted to relegate to insignificance. So it came up with a new law. It in effect expands an existing ban on “placing pressure to hinder abortion” that was adopted in 2001 to stop peaceful pro-life activists from speaking to women planning an abortion or organizing demonstrations near abortion centres and hospitals.

The law was rarely used, but a well-known pro-lifer, was fined for giving knitted baby boots to a woman in the building where Planned Parenthood has its Paris offices. The new law imposes a maximum of 2 years imprisonment and a $30,000 fine, for “spreading or transmitting allegations or information liable to intentionally mislead, for the purpose of deterring an abortion. The Republican party said the law was an infringement of freedom of expression and voted against it. They will also submit the text to the Constitutional Council in the hope of having it declared contrary to the French Constitution. But while the party was in power, it made no move to abrogate the existing law that already bans “moral and psychological pressure” aiming to dissuade a woman from having an abortion.

This has become a pattern in France over the last 40 years since abortion was made legal. All aggravating texts, once voted into law by the left, have never been disputed by the right when it came back into power. Marisol Touraine, the minister of health, said the law exclusively targets websites that do not present themselves as being pro-life while aiming to deter women from having abortions. Laurence Rossignol, minister for women’s rights, said opponents to abortion would still be free to voice their opinion “under the condition they openly state who they are, what they do and what they want.” However, the wording of the law does not match this restriction. As it stands, it can be used to prosecute those that present abortion in an unfavourable light and pushes women not to choose abortion.

The law does not define who has authority to judge whether information is officially “misleading.” That will be up to judges in principle and specifically to health and government officials. If government information on abortion is anything to go by, misinformation is likely to run rampant. It calls surgical abortion an “aspiration of the egg” and asserts that “abortion is not the removing of a life,” as Rossignol said in the National Assembly. Jean-Marie Le Mene, president of the Foundation Lejeune, commented: “That which dissuades from abortion is not false information, but correct information.” During the parliamentary debate, Rossignol went on record as saying: “Freedom of expression does not signify a right to lie.” Pro-lifers in France are slamming a law that attempts to prevent expression of an inconvenient truth.

Source: LifeSiteNews

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Chain store giant Target, the subject of a conservative boycott over its transgender bathroom policy, saw its shares plunge to a two-year low in its fourth quarter 2016 earnings. Reuters reported that although Target saw its e-commerce business rising, it was hit by its third straight quarter of lower sales from existing stores, with Brian Cornell, chairman and CEO of Target, admitting that there was “unexpected softness in our stores”. Target also forecast first-quarter profit short of Wall Street estimates. Shares sank 12.1 percent to $58.79, their biggest one-day percentage drop since 2008,” Reuters described. “The stock has lost a quarter of its value since the holiday shopping season started in November, back to levels last seen in August 2014.”

Several conservative organizations, such as 2ndVote and the American Family Association, campaigned heavily throughout 2016 for families to take their business elsewhere, arguing that Target’s decision to allow people to choose the restroom or changing facility that corresponds with their gender identity left women and girls exposed to the dangers of sexual predators. “This Christmas shopping season, customers sent a clear message by taking their dollars “anywhere but Target” and it’s not surprising,” 2ndVote Executive Director Lance Wray said in a statement. Wray accused Target of “pushing a radical agenda over common-sense and safety,” and said that the giant retailer is shooting itself in the foot by continuing to hold onto such policies.

“2ndVote’s campaign is helping conservatives and concerned shoppers engage Target directly for their politics and providing alternative shopping options that are a better match for their personal values,” Way continued. “Target’s disastrous fourth quarter is showing retailers that customers would rather do business with companies that do not carry the water for the liberal agenda.” Target has defended its policy by insisting that they are aimed at helping people feel comfortable.”We welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity. Everyone deserves to feel like they belong,” the company said in 2016.

AFA President Tim Wildmon pushed back against that argument in September and wrote that “Target’s policy is exactly how sexual predators get access to their victims. And the proof keeps mounting.” Cornell said in his latest statement that Target is looking at “long-term, sustainable growth,” revealing that the retailer will invest in lower gross margins to become more competitively priced. Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh, positioned that Target is making missteps in its business, however. “Target didn’t do its job of trying to engage its customers and the theory is they may have lost the ability to do it,” Forrest said. “That’s what the stock market is telling you.”

Source: Christian Post

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The Washington Supreme Court has ruled that a florist who refused to provide services for a same-sex wedding broke the state’s antidiscrimination law. Barronelle Stutzman had been fined by a lower court for denying service to a same sex couple in 2013. Stutzman said she was exercising her First Amendment rights, and her lawyers immediately said they would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the ruling. She had previously sold the couple flowers and knew they were homosexual. Stutzman told them that she couldn’t provide flowers for their wedding because same-sex marriage was incompatible with her Christian beliefs. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the couple sued her, saying she broke state anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws, and the lower court agreed.

The state’s nine high court justices upheld that verdict. The case thrust the great-grandmother into the national spotlight and she testified before state lawmakers in Indiana and Kansas. “Americans were told repeatedly that redefining marriage would have little impact on their lives. Yet now courts are seeking to drive families from their businesses, and now today even their homes as the result of crippling government-imposed fines designed to force them to deny their faith. Barronelle knew her customer and friend identified as homosexual, yet happily served him for years; she just didn’t want to be involved in his wedding. But the ACLU and the Washington State government couldn’t stand this, and decided to make an example out of her.

“The Supreme Court must correct this injustice to ensure the federal government does not engage in the same discriminatory behaviour as states like Washington. Americans of all backgrounds have suffered the loss of their religious freedoms because of Obama-era policies. This outrageous ruling confirms that ever since the U.S. Supreme Court redefined marriage to allow same sex marriage the religious rights of people of faith are being systematically sacrificed on the altar of political correctness and LGBT extremism. This case illustrates why President Trump must act immediately to protect the religious liberty rights of people of faith. Liberal judges will not act to protect people with traditional views on marriage and sexuality when they conflict with the  demands of LGBT extremists.

The state’s argument in the case rested on longstanding principle, and uprooting it would weaken antidiscrimination law. After the arguments in the Supreme Court case last November, at a packed theatre at Bellevue College, a large crowd of Stutzman’s supporters greeted her outside, chanting her name and waving signs with pictures of roses that said “Justice For Barronelle.” In a February ruling, Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander Ekstrom found that Stutzman’s refusal to provide flowers because of sexual orientation violated Washington’s anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws. She has been fined $1,000, plus $1 in court costs and fees. Stutzman entered the florist business 30 years ago, when her mother bought a flower shop and she started as a delivery person.

Source: Associated Press

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McCorvey died from heart ailments at an assisted-living home in Texas. McCorvey was just 22 years-old when she stepped into the spotlight as “Jane Roe” in the historic Roe. v. Wade Supreme Court case of 1973. However, while Roe v. Wade officially legalized abortion in America, McCorvey later deeply regretted her role in the case and became a Christian. “Back in 1973, I was a very confused twenty-one year old with one child and facing an unplanned pregnancy,” she said nearly 10 years ago. “At the time I fought to obtain a legal abortion, but I have three daughters and never had an abortion. Upon coming to know God, I realized that my case, which legalized abortion on demand was the biggest mistake of my life. It’s safe to say that the abortion industry is based on a lie” she added. 

McCorvey did not want to be remembered as having helped legalise abortion in America, but as a vocal pro-life activist. “I am dedicated to spreading the truth about preserving the dignity of human life from natural conception to natural death,” she said. Father Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, was a friend to McCorvey. “Norma has been a friend of mine, and of Priests for Life, for more than 20 years,” Father Pavone said following her death. “She was victimized and exploited by abortionists when she was a young woman but she came to be genuinely sorry that a decision named for her has led to the deaths of more than 58 million children.” Fr. Pavone said “I’m sorry she won’t be here to celebrate with me when we finally abolish legal abortion in this country, but I know she will be watching.” 

Source: CBN News

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Nazi Paikidze is the reigning U.S. chess champion, but when the Iranian government told her she had to wear the Muslim head veil, and restrict contact with men in order to compete in the world competition in Iran this year, she refused. The “morality law” were supported by FIDE, the international organization that coordinates the world chess championship event. “By participating, I would be submitting to forms of oppression designed specifically for women,” Paikidze said. “It sets the wrong example, particularly for young girls interested in chess.” In an Instagram post she said she boycotted FIDE’s decision because she thought it unacceptable to host a Women’s World Championship in a place where women do not have basic fundamental rights and are treated as second-class citizens. 

She said “For those saying that I don’t know anything about Iran: I have received the most support from the people of Iran, who are facing this situation every day. Paikidze also tweeted “I will not wear a hijab and support women’s oppression even if it means missing one of the most important competitions of my career.” When an Iranian chess player criticized her boycott saying the tournament presented Iranian women with an opportunity for show their strength, Paikidze said I am not anti-Islam or any other religion. I stand for freedom of religion and choice. I’m protesting FIDE’s decision not because of Iran’s religion or people, but for the government’s laws that are restricting my rights as a woman. For boycotting the event, Paikidze forfeited the opportunity to win over $100,000 in award money. 

Source: Marie Clare

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