Montréal, December 9, – Now available in Canada in PDF format, in English and French, the report Set Your Captives Free, by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), is a first look at Christians unjustly detained for their faith with a foreword by Asia Bibi.
“As is customary, our colleagues in the UK office have produced a new fall report,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of ACN Canada. “On the eve of International Human Rights Day on December 10th, we are drawing attention to prisoners whose existence is rarely talked about and relatively unknown: Christian men and women detained because of their faith. For while it is true that prisoners of conscience are better known thanks to other international bodies, those presented in this new report are experiencing a situation that receives very little attention. “In addition to painting an overall picture of the situation, the report focuses on four global hotspots: China, Eritrea, Nigeria and Pakistan.”
How many people, for example, are aware that a patriarch is imprisoned in Eritrea? In fact, Patriarch Abune Antonios, head of the Eritrean Orthodox Tawahedo Church, has been under house arrest since January 20, 2007. He has been replaced by another, whose authority is disputed by the diaspora of this Church throughout the world, except – of course – in Eritrea. In this country in the Horn of Africa, whose closure to the world, authoritarianism and poverty have become legendary, the State wants to ensure its authority over the whole of social life, including that of the Churches. “From the moment that he was enthroned in 2004, Patriarch Antonios refused the government’s orders to excommunicate 3,000 people, among other things. He is still paying the price,” says Ms. Lalonde.
Asia Bibi: “It is time that the world hears these stories.”
One of the best-known personalities in the world because of the persecution she experienced as a Christian is the Pakistani woman, Asia Bibi. “We are very honoured that she has agreed to sign this foreword. She was imprisoned for more than nine years in terrible conditions; she really knows what she is talking about!” said Ms. Lalonde.
Ms. Bibi recalls: “Today, as you read this, there are countless numbers of people who are unjustly detained; like me, their only offence is the faith they refuse to renounce.”
She highlights the situation of women in Pakistan, which she had to leave for Canada in 2018. “And then there are girls like 14-year-old Maira Shahbaz, the Catholic girl, also from Pakistan, abducted off the streets near their homes, forcibly converted, brutally raped and blackmailed. They are easy targets: their Christian faith makes them nobodies in society. The courts will not side with them. Indeed, nobody in our faith community can have their safety guaranteed. As this report makes clear, even the most senior fall victim to acts of unjust detention. Such is the evil carried out by sexual predators, militant groups and cruel regimes – all of them contemptuous of Christ and the Gospel’s call to show mercy.”
In fact, in Pakistan, Christians have declared December 10 to be the Black Day for Human Rights. In addition to inviting the “world to hear these stories,” Ms. Bibi concludes by writing: “We should not rest until the oppressor finally hears our cry: Set your captives free.”
The report is now available in PDF format at the following address: https://acn-canada.org/publications/
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