29 APRIL: TREVI FOUNTAIN IN ROME WILL TURN RED AS AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED (ACN) COMMEMORATES THE CHRISTIAN MARTYRS

Königstein/Rome, 26.04.2016. On 29 April at 8 pm the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome will turn red – for the first time in its history. (Fontana di Trevisitingerà di rosso). The international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has organised this event as a way of visibly commemorating the thousands of Christian martyrs of modern times who today, in even greater numbers than in the early centuries of the Church, have shed their blood for Christ, murdered in odium fidei.

By means of this unique initiative, the Italian national office of ACN hopes to draw attention to the dramatic issue of anti-Christian persecution. A similar initiative was staged in October 2015, when the Brazilian national office of ACN illuminated in red the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. “The systematic violation of the right to religious freedom, above all that of Christians, ought to be a central issue in the public debate”, say the president of ACN Italy, Alfredo Mantovano, and its national director, Alessandro Monteduro, “in order to avoid the danger of indifference and the consequent prolonging of this intolerable suffering.”

Ever since its origins in 1947, the charity ACN – now a pontifical foundation of the Catholic Church – has stood up for those persecuted for the sake of their religious faith. This commitment has found powerful expression since 1999 in the publication of the report by ACN on Religious Freedom Worldwide, the next edition of which will be published on 15 November this year. However, as Mantovano and Monteduro observe, “The content of the report will be of little value if it does not become our common patrimony, if it does not shake our consciences and produce a widespread public reaction in support of the countless victims of persecution who cannot speak for themselves”.

A number of different organisations and agencies in Italy and elsewhere have expressed their support for the initiative. For example, the community of Sant’Egidio, the movement Comunione e Liberazione, the Focolare movement and the organisation RinnovamentonelloSpirito Santo, along with media agencies such as Avvenire, Catholic News Agency/Aciprensa and Romereports. The event will also be broadcast live by the television channel of the Italian bishops’ conference, TV2000.

The event will begin with an introduction by the President of ACN Italy, Alfredo Mantovano, and an address by the international president of ACN, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza.

This will be followed by four invited guests giving personal accounts of Christians killed on account of their faith. A sister from the Missionaries of Charity, the sisters of Mother Teresa, will speak of the four nuns of this congregation murdered in Yemen on 4 March this year. The Pakistani Minister for the Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, will be remembered by his friend Professor ShahidMobeen, the founder of the Association of Pakistani Christians in Italy. Then Maddalena Santoro will speak about her brother, Father Andrea Santoro, who was murdered in Turkey in 2006. And finally, a student from Kenya, Luka Loteng, will pay homage to the Christian students murdered in Garrisa in April 2015.

After these four interventions, the Trevi Fountain will turn red and will form the backdrop to the testimony given by Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria.

The evening will conclude with the recital of the prayer of Pius XII for the persecuted Church. Following this, and throughout the night, images of anti-Christian persecution will be projected onto a Trevi Fountain stained with the blood of the Christian martyrs.

San Valentino in Pakistan e fondamentalismo islamico

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Si tratta “di difendere le nostre case. I secolaristi e i liberali condannano i leader religiosi per le loro credenze antiquate, ma poi non tollerano che le loro figlie e sorelle escano con uomini. Dobbiamo salvare la nostra generazione e propagare la cultura dell’onore e del rispetto”. È la denuncia di Samia Raheel Qazi, presidente dell’ala femminile del Jamat-e-Islami (Jl, partito conservatore islamico), durante una protesta organizzata davanti al Press Club di Lahore. Le donne, al grido di “I nostri valori, i nostri beni”, hanno distribuito volantini ed esposto striscioni contro la cultura “occidentale” e consumistica che permea il giorno di San Valentino. I cattolici, pur non partecipando alle manifestazioni, sostengono con i musulmani i valori familiari.

Le manifestanti hanno anche regalato ai passanti libri sullo stile di vita islamico, il matrimonio, la protezione della famiglia, il sistema di valori e la dignità dei genitori. Lo snodo stradale dove è avvenuta la manifestazione era già colmo dei venditori di fiori, palloncini, orsacchiotti e altri accessori per la festa del 14 febbraio. Il movimento manderà anche lettere di protesta a quelle compagnie che pubblicheranno pubblicità immorali su quotidiani e riviste.

Il Jl vede nella festa di San Valentino l’inserirsi di una cultura diversa e immorale, che rischia di minare alla base i valori fondanti della società islamica. L’ala femminile del partito ha annunciato altre proteste davanti a librerie, saloni di bellezza e negozi. “L’uso di internet e dei media – afferma Samia Raheel Qazi – sta ferendo la nostra cultura. I nostri giovani vengono avvelenati dall’immoralità e il loro cambiamento di atteggiamento sta distruggendo il sistema familiare. Credo che le Chiese cristiane invece giochino un ruolo positivo nella creazione di una società sana, appellandosi a tutti i non musulmani per promuovere un giusto codice di condotta”.

Da parte sua, la parrocchia del Sacro Cuore di Lahore ha organizzato per San Valentino la visita alla “Casa dell’amore”, struttura gestita dalle Missionarie della carità che ospita disabili sia fisici che mentali. Fratello Yousaf Yaqoob afferma: “Noi vogliamo promuovere l’amore; forse il Jl dovrebbe leggere di più sulla storia di San Valentino, che si può trovare su internet. Però noi concordiamo con loro sul fatto che il giorno di San Valentino debba essere festeggiato con la famiglia”.

San Valentino è stato un vescovo romano del terzo secolo, che celebrava matrimoni per i soldati durante l’impero di Claudio II. Per la sua fede e le sue azioni è stato condannato a morte e decapitato il 14 febbraio.

Vedi il link:

http://www.asianews.it/notizie-it/Lahore,-donne-islamiche-e-cattolici-contro-la-festa-di-San-Valentino:-Distrugge-la-famiglia-36657.html

LEGGE DELLA BLASFEMIA E LIBERTÀ RELIGIOSA: CONFERENZA STAMPA giovedì 28 maggio ore 16.00

LEGGE DELLA BLASFEMIA E LIBERTÀ RELIGIOSA
CONFERENZA STAMPA

giovedì 28 maggio ore 16.00
Sala Stampa di Palazzo Montecitorio
Ingresso Via della Missione, 4

Per la prima volta uno studio interamente dedicato alle leggi della blasfemia.

Giovedì 28 maggio alle ore 16:00 presso la Sala Stampa di Montecitorio – in via della Missione n. 4 – sarà presentato il volume “Legge della blasfemia e libertà religiosa. Il caso della Repubblica Islamica del Pakistan” (APES, Roma, 2015), a cura del Prof. Shahid Mobeen, docente di storia e del pensiero islamico presso la Pontificia Università Lateranense e di Dialogo Islamo-cristiano presso la Pontificia Università Urbaniana.
La presentazione è organizzata dall’on. Paola Binetti e dall’Associazione Pakistani Cristiani in Italia.

Interverranno: on. Paola Binetti, UDC; S. E. Monsignor Enrico dal Covolo, Rettore Magnifico della Pontificia Università Lateranense, Prof. Antonio Iodice, Presidente Istituto di Studi Politici “San Pio V”; padre Gilbert Gill, assistente ecclesiastico Associazione Pakistani Cristiani in Italia; Marta Petrosillo, ufficio stampa di Aiuto alla Chiesa che Soffre; sen. Maria Pia Garavaglia, PD; on. Fabrizia Giuliani, PD.

Lo studio all’origine del volume ricostruisce il concetto di blasfemia sin dalle sue origini, analizzandolo dapprima nelle religioni abramitiche e poi nel particolare contesto pachistano.
La cosiddetta legge anti-blasfemia corrisponde in realtà ad alcuni articoli del codice penale pachistano, alcuni dei quali ereditati dalla legislazione dell’impero britannico. Tuttavia negli anni 80 e 90 l’introduzione di alcune modifiche hanno permesso un’enorme abuso della legge «facendo vittime di tutte le confessioni religiose, incluso l’Islam». Tra queste l’aggiunta dei commi B e C dell’articolo 295 – che puniscono chiunque profani il Corano o insulti il profeta Maometto rispettivamente con l’ergastolo e la pena capitale – che fornendo una descrizione piuttosto ampia del reato di blasfemia, si prestano ad un uso improprio della norma.
Sono infatti innumerevoli i casi in cui la legge anti-blasfemia viene utilizzata per risolvere questioni personali, «con la differenza che quando l’accusa viene mossa contro un cittadino di fede islamica, è il singolo a subire le conseguenze dell’imputazione, mentre quando viene incriminato un cittadino di altra fede religiosa, il rischio è che a subirne le conseguenze sia l’intera comunità di appartenenza».
L’indefinitezza delle norme contribuisce inoltre a «fomentare una recrudescenza delle violenze soprattutto nei confronti dei soggetti più deboli, che in tal caso vanno identificati negli appartenenti alle minoranze religiose», come testimonia l’altissimo numero di omicidi extra giudiziali dei presunti blasfemi.
Lo studio mostra anche il tentativo del Pakistan di promuovere la legge anti-blasfemia a livello internazionale. La Repubblica islamica è stata infatti portavoce dall’Organizzazione degli Stati Islamici (Oic) per la risoluzione sulla Diffamazione delle Religioni, un testo «che ha innescato una campagna islamica volta a far applicare la legge della blasfemia in tutte le nazioni accreditate presso le Nazioni Unite». Soltanto dopo la morte del governatore del Punjab Salman Taseer e del ministro per le minoranze Shahbaz Bhatti, il Pakistan ha ritirato la risoluzione, approvata nel 2010 dal Consiglio delle Nazioni Unite per i diritti umani, grazie al voto favorevole di Cina, Russia e Cuba.
Infine il volume suggerisce accorgimenti finalizzati a ridurre gli abusi della legge anti-blasfemia.
«Cancellare radicalmente le leggi in discussione forse non sarà possibile, ma un lavoro tramite educazione, dibattiti pubblici sulla promozione del dialogo inter-religioso e inter-culturale, mettendo in risalto il contributo nella società da parte dei cittadini pakistani delle fedi come cristianesimo, induismo, sikhismo e gli ahmadi, potrà aumentare la possibilità di ascolto dell’altro senza pregiudizi».

Per partecipare è necessario accreditarsi, inviando una email a questo indirizzo (petrosillomarta@gmail.com) indicando nome, cognome e testata. Gli operatori foto-televisivi dovranno inoltre comunicare: data di nascita; n° tessera ordine dei giornalisti; tipo di apparecchio.

Per gli uomini è obbligatorio presentarsi in giacca.

Libertà per Asia Bibi: Conferenza Stampa con il Marito e Figlia minorenne di Asia Bibi

CONFERENZA STAMPA
Libertà per Asia Bibi

martedì 14 aprile ore 13.00
Sala Stampa di Palazzo Montecitorio
Ingresso Via della Missione, 4

Condannata a morte per un bicchiere d’acqua. Asia Noreen Bibi, pachistana cristiana madre di cinque figli, è stata arrestata nel 2009 con l’accusa di aver insultato il profeta Maometto e condannata nel 2010 alla pena capitale. Divenuta il simbolo dell’ingiustizia e dell’abuso della legge anti-blasfemia, la donna non ha mai smesso di proclamare la propria innocenza.
Il marito di Asia Bibi, Ashiq Masih, la figlia, Eisham Ashiq, e l’avvocato Joseph Nadeem sono in Italia per chiedere l’intervento della comunità internazionale affinché la donna cristiana venga finalmente liberata.

Per dare voce ai familiari di Asia Bibi, il sen. Mario Mauro e il sottosegretario di Stato alla Difesa, on. Domenico Rossi, assieme all’Associazione Pakistani Cristiani in Italia e all’associazione CitizenGO, hanno indetto una conferenza stampa che si terrà martedì 14 aprile alle ore 13.00 presso la Sala Stampa di Palazzo Montecitorio.

Interverranno tra gli altri: On. Domenico Rossi, Sottosegretario di Stato alla Difesa, Ashiq Masih, marito di Asia Bibi, Eisham Ashiq, figlia di Asia Bibi, Ignacio Arsuaga Rato, presidente di CitizenGO, Joseph Nadeem, avvocato di Asia Bibi, Sara Fumagalli, presidente onoraria Associazione Pakistani Cristiani in Italia; on. Mario Marazziti, Per L’Italia-Centro Democratico, on. Paola Binetti, Unione di Centro, on. Marco Rondini, Lega Nord; modera Marta Petrosillo, giornalista esperta di libertà religiosa.

In cella da più di 2000 giorni, dal carcere di Multan Asia Bibi continua a proclamare la propria innocenza.
La storia della donna cristiana è ormai tristemente nota. Nel giugno del 2009 Asia, che lavorava come bracciante, è stata ingiustamente accusata di blasfemia da alcune colleghe musulmane a seguito di un alterco. Nonostante la donna abbia sempre respinto le accuse, nel 2010 è stata condannata a morte per impiccagione. La sentenza è stata confermata in secondo grado dall’Alta Corte di Lahore lo scorso ottobre.
La vicenda di Asia mette in luce la facilità con cui si possa essere incriminati per blasfemia in Pakistan. Un reato che, come stabilito dai commi B e C dell’articolo 295 del Codice penale pachistano – più noti come legge anti-blasfemia – prevede la detenzione a vita per chi profana il Corano e la condanna a morte per chi insulta il profeta Maometto. Come nel caso di Asia, per essere arrestati per blasfemia è sufficiente un’accusa, il più delle volte infondata. Si ritiene infatti che circa il 95% delle accuse siano false. La norma non prevede l’onere della prova da parte dell’accusatore e sta quindi al presunto blasfemo provare la propria innocenza.
È inoltre altissimo il numero di omicidi extragiudiziali legati ad accuse di blasfemia. Molti presunti blasfemi sono stati uccisi prima ancora di essere stati arrestati, giustiziati in carcere o perfino assassinati dopo essere stati scagionati. Ricordiamo a tal proposito due uomini che sono stati uccisi a causa del loro grande impegno contro la legge sulla blasfemia e in difesa di Asia Bibi: il governatore del Punjab Salmaan Taseer e al Ministro per le Minoranze Shahbaz Bhatti.

È infine da notare come la cosiddetta legge nera sia usata in particolar modo per colpire le minoranze religiose. Recenti studi mostrano che sebbene gli appartenenti alle minoranze religiose costituiscano meno del 4% della popolazione pachistana, a loro è rivolto circa il 50% delle accuse di blasfemia.

Per partecipare alla conferenza stampa è necessario accreditarsi entro le ore 15 di lunedì 13 aprile, inviando una email a questo indirizzo (petrosillomarta@gmail.com) indicando nome, cognome e testata. Gli operatori foto-televisivi dovranno inoltre comunicare: data di nascita; n° tessera ordine dei giornalisti; tipo di apparecchio.

Per gli uomini è obbligatorio presentarsi in giacca.

In defence of minorities: Peter Jacob

In defence of minorities

Peter Jacob February 22, 2015

Before quitting the term ‘minority’, we ought to put alternative safeguards in place for the protection of rights of minorities

Among scores of lines immortalised by William Shakespeare is, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” The lines gained proverbial importance attributable to an appeal to realism and simple symbolism used by the author. Many of us agree with his logic and do not give two hoots to change of names or identities.

Conversely, Faiz Ahmad Faiz used satire in one of his most popular Urdu poems to capture the politics of names and changes thereof. He says “Hum se kehtey hain chaman waley ghareeban-e-chaman, tum koe achcha sa rakh lo apney veeraney ka naam.”

During the Independence movement, Gandhiji named the marginalised sections of India, the Harijan (children of God) replacing the historical characterisation of Shudra, whom the British rulers classified as Scheduled Castes. The experience over a century showed that social discrimination was hard to eliminate merely by changing the identity until pervasive social and economic injustice and political inequality was addressed.

Ultimately the concerned communities in independent India chose to name themselves Dalits (the suppressed). Today the term Dalit is commonly used, though the constitution of India (Article 341) and other laws use the terms Scheduled caste and Scheduled tribes to introduce affirmative action.

While Gandhiji tried to elevate the status of these people by using a term which had a religious connotation, Shudra or the Untouchables was a social construction to maintain class based marginalisation. The term Scheduled Caste was a technical categorisation basically for official records such as the population census. Finally, Dalit is more of a realist choice to fight discrimination in the political arena. Each characterisation after the term Shudra helped create social space and alleviating the suffering of these people incrementally.
The emphasis on minorities in today’s political discourse in the country is due to an exaggerated emphasis on majority religion in the constitution, polity and public policies.

Similarly, the African-Americans were called by other names, considered derogatory, before the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Hence growing social sensitivity in North America made it possible in the past few decades that those terms were replaced. Nevertheless, this was milestone of the continuing struggle against racial discrimination rather than a victory.

The educated Muslims in British ruled India, preferred to be called Mohammdans or Musalmans before they settled and are widely known as Muslims. In the official records of Pakistan, Muslim-Sheikh remains the caste identity of the Muslims who converted from a socially marginalised class.

The scholars, politicians and social activists in Pakistan are in search of a suitable term for the communities who do not subscribe to the majority religion. Ironically though, because these faith communities have been living here for generations and centuries, some of them also formed a majority religion at some point in history.

Whilst the constitution of Pakistan makes distinctions and preferences on the basis of religion and the term minority is a legal term, some despise the use of the term minority, thinking that it reinforces religious divide and inequality among the citizens. The objectors are concerned about religious extremism and intolerance that prevails and thus they would like to use inclusive and non-discriminatory terminology.

Keeping in view that a choice of an identity has been part of the movements for civil rights against discrimination in many societies. The objection therefore is a blessing, showing signs of life among us. However, the critical question is, which choice of terminology will serve the purpose of inculcating equality and acknowledging diversity among citizens better.

The term “non-Muslim citizens” has gained currency in this wake and the term “minorities” is under a criticism. An opposition leader announced a few weeks back that his party will do away with the word minority when it comes to power. The statement completely ignored the fact that the use of term non-Muslims has serious repercussions in concept as well as in practice.

The term non-Muslims tells what a host of religious identities (Hindus, Christians, Bahai’s, Sikhs, Ahamdis, Buddhists, Parsis, Jews) living in Pakistan are not, rather than explaining what they are. Thus the term falls short of a positive portrayal of one or more faith communities. Secondly the term itself divides and defines people using the majority religion as a standard therefore it cannot serve the purpose of respecting religious diversity or strengthening the pluralistic democracy.

On the other hand the term minority is universal, religiously and neutral. Moreover, it is widely used in the protective legislation throughout the world. The international treaty laws including the International Convention for Civil and Political Rights (1966), Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (1992) add important protections for minorities’ rights.

United Nations had a sub-commission on protection of minorities for about 60 years which played a pivotal role in framing and developing human rights norms. The UN has also appointed an independent expert on minorities’ issues since 2005. Therefore, before we resign the term minority, we ought to put alternative safeguards in place that have been devised over the decades for protection of rights of minorities.

The protection of rights of minorities being the raison d’être for creation of our country, we in Pakistan cannot undervalue the need for special protection and legal guarantees for religious minorities. It is another matter that besides religious minorities we need to expand this recognition to ethnic, linguistics, national and perhaps sectarian minorities in order to protect the entire spectrum of minorities or communities vulnerable to abuse of their human rights.

As far as religious minorities, we should not ignore that the emphasis on the minorities in today’s political discourse in the country, by default and design, is due to an exaggerated emphasis on majority religion in the constitution, polity and public policies. Therefore, we might have to address the cause first in order to treat the religious discrimination and social inequality.

The religious communities of smaller demographic representation have not reacted negatively to assimilative trends though that implied losing some of their cultural strengths. They are victims of identity crisis. The purpose of preserving religious diversity will necessitate recognising their individuality rather than bracketing them in a generic category with reference to the majority religion.

Till the time we march towards integration of all sections of society, “religious minorities” is not a bad term to use.

See the link: http://tns.thenews.com.pk/in-defence-of-minorities/#

Pakistani Christians have nowhere to go: ‘They will kill us’: Pakistani Christian family seeks asylum in Bangkok after escape

BANGKOK: They were a middle-class family in Pakistan, living in a comfortable three-bedroom apartment with a modern kitchen and a PlayStation for the three kids, reports The Associated Press.

Fluent in English, the father ran his own moving company while the mother taught art.

A death threat signed by an extremist group with three bullets attached compelled the Christian family to leave it all behind 18 months ago.

Now they live in a barren room in Bangkok, where the children share a double bed and the parents sleep on the floor. They cook on a propane burner on a tiny balcony.

A picture of Jesus, the source of their solace and their troubles, hangs on the inside of the door.

In this January 12, 2015, photo, an asylum-seeker sits on her bed in a one-room apartment on the outskirts of Bangkok,

This, increasingly, is the life of the asylum-seeker and refugee.

More than half the 14 million refugees and asylum-seekers under the mandate of the UN refugee agency do not live in the camps they are often associated with.

A growing number live in cities and towns around the world. Across Asia, from India to the Pacific islands, there are about half a million such “urban refugees,” according to the agency.

The Pakistani family no longer fears for their lives, but they face other fears like arrest, hunger and the possibility that they will never be able to live freely.

Unable to work legally and with no legal status in Thailand, they and others like them must remain mostly hidden while they scrape by on odd jobs and donations from churches, aid groups and individuals.

Their children, all elementary-school age, do not go to school and spend their entire day indoors.

“We just wanted to save our lives,” said the father, who has overstayed his visa and like the dozen other asylum-seekers interviewed for this story asked not to be identified for fear of arrest. “We didn’t know anything when we arrived. Now we are just trying to survive.”

Many asylum-seekers pin their hopes on an elusive prize: resettlement in a third country such as the US or Canada through a process overseen by the UN High Commissioner of Refugees.

That can take five years or more, and it often doesn’t happen at all.

The surge of urban refugees challenges reluctant host countries like Thailand, which in the past has allowed refugees from surrounding countries into border camps, but doesn’t legally recognise asylum-seekers or refugees.

It’s relatively easy to obtain a Thai tourist visa.

One reason is that the number of asylum-seekers in Bangkok has jumped several-fold to more than 8,000 over the past few years, according to numbers from the UNHCR.

The biggest and fastest-growing contingent here is from Pakistan, experts say, while other big groups come from Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Somalia and Syria.

When they land, many are shocked to discover they face arrest once their visas run out.

They expect the UNHCR will protect them, but refugee advocates say Thai police generally ignore UN letters declaring them to be “persons of concern.”

Thailand never signed the 1951 UN Refugee Convention that protects refugees’ rights; neither have neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia, where thousands more asylum-seekers live.

So these urban refugees scrape by in limbo, freer than those in camp settings but in some ways more vulnerable.

“This is the future,” said Mireille Girard, the Thailand representative for the UNHCR. “We really have to adjust to providing assistance in urban environments.“

Despite the hardships, many say they will never return home. They are too afraid. “We’ll just face the same sort of threats again,” said the mother. “I’m not willing to sacrifice my children for that. “

‘We will shoot you and your children’

In Pakistan, the couple and some Catholic friends helped run a small, free school for poor children.

One morning in 2013, a warning signed by an militant group was slipped under the door of the school office.

“Stop giving missionary education to Muslim children. Otherwise, we will shoot you and your children,” said the threat, which was viewed by The Associated Press.

Ten days later, the school received another warning, only this time it was with bullets.

The school volunteers filed a complaint to the police; the AP viewed a copy of the document, which had been stamped by local police to indicate they had received it.

The couple’s account was corroborated by several people contacted by the AP. The couple said the school never taught Christianity to Muslim children, but did teach Bible stories and prayers to the Christian kids when their Muslim classmates were not there.

They said that sometimes the Muslim kids would hang around, hear the prayers and recite them at home. Pakistan’s religious minorities are increasingly persecuted – not only Christians but Hindus and Ahmadis.

They say that although no one has been executed under the country’s harsh blasphemy law, it has been used to threaten non-Muslims and incite mob violence. In November, a Christian couple was killed by a mob for allegedly desecrating the Quran.

An estimated 12,000 religious minorities have fled Pakistan since 2009, according to Farrukh Saif, who heads a minority advocacy group that supports asylum-seekers in Bangkok.

The threatened couple fled to Thailand because friends said it was easy to get a tourist visa and because other Christians had gone there.

“People told us, ‘Save your lives first, then worry about the other things, “’ the father said. After hiding for a month, they packed two suitcases of their belongings and boarded a midnight flight for Bangkok. When they arrived in the steamy Thai capital, relief quickly turned to anxiety.

The food, the language – everything was new.

The father went to the UNHCR to register as an asylum-seeker and was shocked to learn he would have to wait two years – until September 2015 – just to get his first interview in the “refugee status determination” process.

Now, for new arrivals, the wait is three years.

The UN agency has more than 60 staffers in Bangkok working to verify thousands of asylum-seekers’ stories and determine whether they are refugees with well-founded fears of persecution, said the UNHCR’s Girard.

Each case must be examined to screen out those trying to exploit the system, such as those being trafficked by smuggling rings.

“We have to be very strict in recognising who is a genuine refugee and who is not,” she said. For those waiting, money quickly becomes an issue.

After exhausting their savings, the Pakistani family visited churches for support. Most turned them down.

Eventually, one congregation offered about $100 a month. The mother found a job teaching English to Thai children.

She earns $250 a month, enough to cover rent, utilities and a bit of food.

The father, jobless for many months, recently found work at a nursery, but that means their three children are alone in the apartment all day. And now both parents could be arrested for working illegally.

“When I go to work, I don’t know if I’m going to come back to my kids or not,” said the father.

Those arrested typically wind up in the Immigration Detention Center. The only way out is paying for your own flight home or finally gaining resettlement overseas.

Some stay in detention for years. Veerawit Tianchainan, executive director for the Thai Committee for Refugees Foundation, said the Thai government fears that recognising asylum-seekers and refugees would draw more of them.

He said Thailand’s location and ease of access will draw desperate people anyway, and reforms are needed to address that reality.

Government ministries have had informal discussions about legislation that would protect asylum-seekers and refugees for one year, without granting the right to work, Veerawit said.

Sihasak Phuangketkeow, the permanent secretary at Thailand’s Foreign Ministry, said the proposal merits a serious look, but is not in the pipeline for formal consideration.

The first interview with the UN can be traumatic.

People are asked to provide evidence of persecution. Some break down in tears or can’t express themselves clearly, said Medhapan Sundaradeja, the Thailand director for Asylum Access, a nonprofit group that gives asylum-seekers free advice.

Decisions can take months. Inconsistencies can lead to cases getting rejected, though asylum-seekers can appeal.

Files of people recognised as refugees are then sent to potential host countries to be considered for resettlement, a process that typically takes another 12 to 18 months.

But of the roughly 860,000 most vulnerable refugees worldwide believed to need resettlement in 2013, only 80,000 spaces were available.

The US accounted for about 70 per cent of those.

The Pakistani father says they have no choice but to wait.

He has no doubt what extremists will do if he returns: “I know they will kill both of us, my wife and me, and they won’t spare my children.“

So he waits and dreams of a life where they don’t need to hide and where his children can freely attend school. “We just want to go where our lives are safe,” he says with a sigh, “and we have some freedom.”

See the link: http://tribune.com.pk/story/844567/they-will-kill-us-pakistani-christian-family-seeks-asylum-in-bangkok-after-escape/

Salman Taseer Tweets on Pakistani politcal Parties and their real face!

One of the best things about Salmaan Taseer was his wit. The following list of select Twitter updates from the late governor’s Twitter profile @SalmaanTaseer encompass his lighter side:

(Tweets have been proofread for readability)

TASEER ON PML-N

* MQM in Punjab? Excellent, all parties should go national.

* Sharifs are transporting Paul the Octopus to Raiwind to predict their future! I’m afraid he may end up in their Paya if he tells the truth.

* I only wish PML-N could get off the GT road and go national.

* In May I will complete 2yrs as Governor Punjab. Please send your flowers gifts etc to Raiwind to thank the Sharifs for their love and support.

* Noting with concern the Sharifs are only paying rs5000 per month tax. I have asked for them to be included in the Benazir Income Support Program.

* Let the Sharifs teach the UK Conservative Party the method of coalitions aka lota’s and forward blocks.

* I heard CM Punjab has joined Twitter after my debut. Imitation is the sincere form of flattery, bare mian to bare mian, chote mian subhanallah

* Perhaps the best thing Nawaz Sharif ever did was declare Sunday the national holiday.

* Like a newly married wife doesn’t take her husband’s name PML-N refuses to say TALIBAN.

* I need input what sharmili dulhan PML-N should call Taliban. Tweeters have suggested MERE VO or MUNE KE ABU etc…

* I’m writing to WWF to replace Panda as symbol of endangered species with Nawaz Sharif! In the political jungle he’s become extinct.

* News item today the US Govt wants to buy Governor’s House. I think the PML-N govt will sell it for $1 provided they take the Governor with it.

* Shahbaz Sharif threatens ANOTHER long march. If he can walk unaided from his new house in model town 2 Raiwind I’ll resign as Governor!

* Nawaz Sharif and George Bush have degrees. Jomo Kenyatta and Mao ze Tung had no degrees. Form your opinion!

* After a long time PML-N has come out Number one for the first time? Topped the list of fake degrees holders by a long way. Mubarik Chote bare Mian

* Initially I was targeted by PML-N, Islamic fundo hate groups etc. Now it’s Hindu lunatics RSS and Pak haters. I must b doing something right!

* Interviewing with Najam Sethi CM Shahbaz said Governor “honest good person”. Sethi “Govnor Punjab?” CM “no governor SBP!” I was shattered.

TASEER ON PPP

* Vo jo karz rakhte th jan par vo hisab aj chuka diya… PPP gave the 1973 Constitution and now PPP gives the 18th historical Amendment.

* 18 Tarameem ka matlab hai 2018 tak Zardari rehay ga!

* Told Bangladesh press delegation that by releasing Mujibur Rehman in 1971, Bhutto saved Pakistan from ignominy and shame.

* In politics there is no ultimate power and no ultimate defeat… 18th Amendment is good for the evolution of power… it is a victory for Pakistan.

* Signing of 18th Amendment by the President was a historic moment. Some people looked sad! Jahan shehnai bajti hae vahan matam bhi hota hae.

* Ranj se khoogar hua insaan tu mth jata hae ranj…Mushkelein itne pari mujh par ke ahsaan ho gayen

* The great Bhutto quoted that Ghalib sher before his judicial murderers in the Supreme Court.

* Like 1973 constitution what PPP sows is RAPED by others. This time Inshallah PPP will again be in power 2017.

* Perhaps UK Conservative Party should take advice from PPP as to how form a government with a hung Parliament.

* Of BB’s political life of 30 years she was in office 5 years only. Ironically she is more powerful in death than in her life as an icon visionary.

* I started my political career with Bibi witnessed the poisonous attacks on the Bhuttos. Today they are the symbol of the federation of Pakistan.

* Koi mere dil se puchay Tere teer e nim e kasha ko Vo kalaash kayan se hoti, Agar jagar se paar hota – Daily low-intensity attacks on PPP govt.

* Zulfikar Ali Bhutto once remarked, “politics is a ruthless game of mutual reciprocity.”

TASEER ON IMRAN KHAN

* Imran Khan says he can solve Pakistan’s Problems in 90 days: terrorism, power, population growth water etc. What about Imran? Who is going to solve that?

* People messaged me Imran Khan must be given a chance. Unfortunately for him and fortunately for Pakistan it requires 173 seats in the NA. Thank God for democracy.

* Does this mean we will never be a welfare state! RT @ImranKhanPTI vows to make #Pakistan ‘welfare state if PTI comes to power.

* Imran Khan and Sarah Palin is a match made in heaven.

TASEER ON INDIA

* I’m always amazed to see how eager to believe Pakistanis are when there is anything negative about their country unlike Indians who cover up.

* The killing fields of Kashmir have overtaken Palestine. Under the cloak of shining India is a brutal story of murder, rape and suppression.

* The Indian occupation of Kashmir is an exact parallel of the Israelis in Gaza. Same tactics, same brutality.

* I am anti Indian hegemony and brutality of Kashmir occupation, otherwise I support friendship and trade with India as well as Arundhati Roy and Aishwarya Rai!

* We pray for the heroic brave people of Kashmir. InshAllah may 2011 bring them azadi from the brutal occupation they have faced for so many years

ON HUMANITY, TOLERANCE AND TERRORISM:

* Leaving for district jail Sheikupura to see Assia Bibi with mercy petition from President Zardari.. Hum ne gulshan ke tahfuz ki qasm khai hai

* It is a time to stand up for Pakistan. I do not fear the terrorists. Never give in.

* Want all Pakistanis to stand firm behind the army and support your troops. A united Pakistan under one flag.

* How can the ISI aid Taliban who are killing Pakistani troops ? Irresponsible selective WikiLeaks are poison.

* I’m not a conspiracy believer but there are shadowy spook agencies that cannot see Pakistan as an Islamic moderate democratic nuclear success story.

* Held press conference in Sheikupura jail with Aasia Bibi. Got her clemency petition signed to forward to President Zardari. Said we want Jinnah’s Pakistan.

* The white strip in our flag is for minorities. Our religion commits us to their protection. She is a poor woman who could not defend herself.

* In South Africa, Interior Minister Botha said they will release Mandela if he renounced terrorism, to which the great man replied, “first Botha renounce terrorism”. So they had to release Mandela on his own terms as the jailers had become the prisoners. A lesson in moral authority. You can detain persons but u cannot arrest ideas which is why prisoners of conscience are always free

* Trader bazaari mullah axis pressure from the street supporting blasphemy law.Same crowd that agitated against PPP in 1977 & welcomed Gen Zia

* Demonstration against Blasphemy Laws & Shariat Court in Islamabad. Stand up, be counted.

* Held a Quran khwani for BB at Governors House. Very well attended, emotional, lots of students

* Merry Xmas to all Christian brothers and sisters all over Pakistan. We respect ur patriotism & great role u have played building Pakistan

* Someone anonymously sent me a White gold taveez wth MSG “Allah nige baan”. I was very touched & am wearing it

* My observation on minorities: A man/nation is judged by how they support those weaker than them not how they lean on those stronger

* The best thing we can do for our soft image this Xmas is to dress up Maulana Fazal ur Rahman as Santa Claus. He will be a big hit

Was in Camp Jail Lahore charged with murder and terrorism and 15 Danish students wrote to me that I was their “symbol of courage”. Never forget

* Happy Diwali and best wishes to all our friends.

* Mullah backlash attacking my stance and demanding my resignation. Rakhte dil bandh lo Dil farrago chalo. Phir hami qatl ho ayen Yaro chalo

Aasia bibi case mobilized public opinion against extremists like Rosa Parks in US South.

* Religious right trying to pressure from the street their support of blasphemy laws. Point is it must be decided in Parliament not on the road.

I was under huge pressure to cow down before rightist pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I’m the last man standing

Mera azam itna buland hae, Parae sholon se dar nahin. Mujhe khauf hae to Aatish e gul se hae, ye kahin chaman ko jala na dey. Significant

Covered in the righteous cloak of religion and even a puny dwarf imagines himself a monster. Important to face and call their bluff.

* Today is the birthday of the great Quad e Azam. We need to pledge to uphold his liberal progressive humane version of Pakistan.

* Javed Ghamidi Islamic scholar says blasphemy laws are against Islamic tenets.

My advice 2 mullahs who r telling little madrassah boys that they have a ticket 2 heaven: Grab it urself or give it 2 ur son

Knowledge can only thrive in a liberal atmosphere!

OTHERS

* Police beating doctors… Doctors beating media… Media beating lawyers… Lawyers beating police……….. Circle complete!

* Kuch unj ve ravan aukhian san, Kuch gal vich gham ta tauk vi see, Kuch shehr de log vi zalm san, Kuch sanu maran da shauq vi se. Munir Niazi jeay

* 24 poor orphan students under Aitchison Governor scholarship I introduced are doing very well.

* I have taken leave from the affairs of state to master my new iPad. Who says politicians cannot be techies?

* I was driving today without security talking on the phone and a policeman challaan’ed me. I had to explain I have constitutional immunity! I still paid my fine.

* Nothing in the Constitution prohibits a Governor from being member of a political party. So-called Non-political governors turn out the worst.

* A politician’s personal spending habits are his business as long as he is not stealing from the Government. I know many frugal thieves – we are not Gandhi.

* Nobody has accused me of a fake degree. NRO safe passage, bank default, tax fraud. Kya baat hae? Maza nahin a raha. I’m feeling left out!

* A judicial coup cannot work in Pakistan. The only formula is democracy, democracy and more democracy.

* The best thing about the APML (2) is that both their leaders Chaudhry Shujaat and Pir Pagaro can’t speak.

* One thing is clear from WikiLeaks – that elected persons with peoples mandate don’t run Pakistan. Makes elections pointless.

* Corruption! I believe rich and wealthy are more susceptible to greed than the poor.

* It is the rich educated and privileged who have destroyed Pakistan, not the poor illiterate and dispossessed.

* For the last 48 hours I’ve been trying to sell Pakistan to US investors in the background of Kasab – now Faisal Shehzad! Chalo himat na haro

* My wit is not appreciated by all. Someone agitated ‘no governor in the universe Twitters like you’. I took it as a compliment.

* Doctors have become an endangered species… I am going to recommend a wildlife fund to take out the panda and put in the Pakistani doctor.

* Twitter is off my BB so I’m using my iPad now. I assume my silence these past few days must have been devastating.

* PM spoke for 3 minutes to give General Kiyani 3 year extension… Suppose he had spoken for 10 mins?!

* Tried for Angelina Jolie to accompany me to Muzaffargarh to visit flood victims but got Farzana Raja. Sare khawashat pure Nahin hote.

* I think Angelina Jolie who donated $100,000 for Flood victims is the real “daughter of Pakistan”, not Aafia

* Watching horror movie on HBO or Rana Sanaullah Ijaz Haq Ikram Sehgal on talk shows? Chose HBO as its less scary.

* Just don’t push me over the LOC! RT @marvi_memon: @SalmaanTaseer U r cordially invited. U must make a dhoohandaar speech. My only demand.

* Abdul Razzaq is the Asma Jehangir of one day cricket.

* A thief stole my credit card a week ago but I didn’t report it because I saw he was spending less money than my wife. True!

* Its 6 am child reciting naat on Masjid loudspeaker to tune of “Muni badnam ho gaye darling tere leye” when does this madness stop?

* Najam Sethi joins GEO. Is this a case of Razia gondon mein phass gaye?

* I have an Iphone Ipad & now a Samsung Galaxy. Fully armed and dangerous !

* It’s my observation that whether it’s politics journalism or social issues the worst enemy of women are women

* Btw those apt comments on Ansar Abbasi were not mine I merely retweeted them. My own opinion is worse Having a small dinner tonight 4 new US Ambassador Cameron Muenter & Marlyn his wife. Try not 2 discuss Wikileaks

* Ostrich at my farm who I assumed was male and named Mandela laid an egg last week! I’ve renamed her Winnie.

* Spent four hours with experts discussing water distribution, power, reservoirs, Kalabagh, irrigation systems and other dams. We have to build Kalabagh Dam.

* The Punjab Assembly has followed my line and come out in support of Kalabagh Dam. It is a must for Pakistan.

* Today I’ve launched my special project with Engineering University students and teachers who will construct Shujabad, a village destroyed by floods

* Heading to Shujabad Nawabpur where I have completed houses and a masjid I started 26 days ago with students. 150 more in Kot Addu

* Press suffers from suspect and scam mania. Wild accusations to get eyeballs. Every government transaction is attacked. How can we progress?

* After a certain politician’s latest assault on the microphones at Alhambra & hysteria ppl r urging me 2 invoke Art 63(1) (a) . Dismissal 4 insanity

* Any relation of Husain Haqqani? RT@Pakistannews: Nasiruddin Haqqani arrested

* Apple is worth more than $300bn. In other words much much more than 180 mn Pakistanis. Something our politicians shud think about

* Peace prosperity & happiness for The New Year. 1 -1 – 11. I’m full of optimism

See the link:http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/national/04-Jan-2015/the-lighter-side-of-taseer

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