Contact: Jerry Dykstra, Open Doors USA
, 616-915-4117, firstname.lastname@example.org
SANTA ANA, Calif., March 3, 2011 /Christian Newswire
/ -- Dr. Carl Moeller, president/CEO of Open Doors USA, is condemning the Wednesday assassination of Pakistan's Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti and is calling for prayers regarding the deteriorating situation for Christians inside the country.
"I condemn the assassination of Mr. Bhatti -- Pakistan's only cabinet-level Christian and an outspoken critic of the country's blasphemy laws -- by suspected Islamic extremists," said Moeller. "This was a cowardly act and is another blow against religious tolerance for Christians and all minorities in Pakistan. He was a devoted and outspoken advocate in protecting the rights of all minorities, not only in Pakistan, but around the world.
"This comes on the heels of the assassination of Punjab Province Governor Salman Taseer two months ago and the sentencing of Asia Noreen (Bibi) to death on blasphemy charges last year. Obviously, Muslim extremists are determined to purge the country of anyone supporting the release of Asia and the possible repeal of the blasphemy laws."
Brother Andrew, founder of Open Doors International, knew Bhatti well. "I am deeply shocked," Andrew said. "We lost a valuable human being, but not hope. God is still in Pakistan. He's building His church and will finish His work, just as the Bible promises."
According to Compass Direct News, suspected Islamic extremists from Pakistan's Taliban and al Qaeda reportedly left a letter at the scene of Bhatti assassination, saying "those who try to change Pakistan's blasphemy laws would be killed." Police are investigating the letter's authenticity, according to Compass.
Last month, in an interview with the Pakistan Christian Post, Bhatti said he had received threats.
"I received a call from the Taliban commander, and he said, 'If you will bring any changes in the blasphemy law and speak on this issue, then you will be killed,'" Bhatti told the newspaper. "I don't believe that bodyguards can save me after the assassination (of Taseer). I believe in protection from heaven."
In a recent interview with the BBC, Bhatti had said he was "ready to die for a cause" as a Christian.
Controversy over the controversial legislation flared both within Pakistan and internationally after Asia, a mother of two and step-mother to three others, was convicted and sentenced to death for allegedly blaspheming against Islam's prophet Muhammad. According to Compass, politicians and radical clerics in Pakistan have been at loggerheads over whether Asia should be pardoned. But following Taseer's death, the government made it clear it does not support reform of the blasphemy law.
Moeller says Open Doors is urging Christians in the West to passionately pray for Christians in Pakistan, which is ranked No. 11 on the Open Doors 2011 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.
"Unfortunately, Pakistan is becoming a country of martyrs," he says. "I plead for Christians to unite in prayer for the situation in Pakistan and the toll it is taking on Christians and other minorities. God answers prayers in a mighty way -- just last week Christian aid worker Said Musa was released from prison in Afghanistan after concerted prayer."
Moeller says some of the prayer requests include:
- Comfort for the Bhatti family in this time of mourning for loss of a loved one
- New Christian leaders will rise up to the fill the vacuum of the assassinations of Bhatti and Taseer
- Christians will not let fear dominate their lives, but remain strong in the faith
- The perpetrators of the assassinations will be brought to justice, and the Lord will work in their hearts to seek forgiveness
- Blasphemy laws in Pakistan and in other Muslim-dominated countries will be overturned.
To share your prayers, go to members.opendoorsusa.org/site/PageNavigator/prayforpakistan2011
Moeller will be one of the speakers at a conference addressing persecution in the Middle East. The Persecuted Church: Christian Believers in Peril in the Middle East will be held Saturday, March 12, in Downers Grove, a suburb of Chicago. For more information, call 888-736-3672 or go to www.camera.org/events
An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world's most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to our Website at www.OpenDoorsUSA.org
(To set up an interview, contact Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email email@example.com