A 19-year-old Christian, Sunny Waqas, was arrested in Pakistan on charges of blasphemy, which is punished with the death penalty in the South Asian nation. The young man was arrested on 29 June as he was playing at the back of a friend’s house. The police charged him with violating 295-C of the Pakistani Penal Code, more commonly known as the blasphemy law, which punishes insults against the Holy Prophet (Muhammad).
The family began searching for him after his arrest, worried that he had not come home. When the parents went to the police station, they were told that no one by the name of Sunny was in custody. Only the next day, were they informed that their neighbour Bilal Ahmad had filed a complaint against their son. According to police, the young man had a bag with flyers and other blasphemous material inside.
The mother notes that her son has “many Muslim friends. He can never do anything to hurt the feelings of anyone. He’s an obedient son and is very sensitive towards inter-faith issues.” At present, he is being held in the Bahawalpur district jail, as police gathers evidence for the investigation. In Pakistan, being accused of insulting Islam can trigger violent reactions by radicals, like in the Asia Bibi’s case.
The 49-year-old Liao Qiang arrived in Taiwan last week after fleeing China with five family members. He and his 23-year-old daughter, Ren Ruiting, described living under constant surveillance for the past seven months after authorities detained them and dozens of other members of their prominent but not government-sanctioned church in December.
China’s ruling Communist Party has carried out a widespread crackdown on all religious institutions in recent years, including bulldozing churches and mosques, barring Tibetan children from Buddhist religious studies and incarcerating more than a million members of Islamic ethnic minorities in what are termed “re-education centers.” President and party leader Xi Jinping has ordered that all religions must “Sinicize” to ensure they are loyal to the officially atheistic party.
In contrast, Taiwan’s democratically elected government has long taken a hands-off approach to religion on the island, where most follow Buddhism and traditional Chinese beliefs, but where Christianity and other religions also thrive.
A Moscow-based newspaper has published an open letter addressed to Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, after Archpriest Dmitry Smirnov told the Orthodox Christian Radonezh radio station in a July 7 interview that intelligent women “are still rare.”
The open letter also asks Patriarch Kirill to clarify if Smirnov’s position is also the official position of the church.
“If Archpriest Dmitry Smirnov’s statement saying that women are ‘not that smart’ contradicts the Russian Orthodox Church’s official position, do you consider that statement offensive and humiliating?”
The letter, which questions Smirnov’s capacity to occupy the post, ends by reminding Kirill that a large part of his flock consists of women.