World News in Brief

Legal firm receives threats in Pakistan blasphemy case

A legal firm in Pakistan has received threats for attempting to offer representation for a young boy accused of blasphemy.

The Voice group, an NGO led by a Christian lawyer Aneeqa Maria Anthony, has been linked to the case of 16-year-old Nabeel Masih who is accused of blasphemy on the basis of sharing a photograph seen as insulting of the Kaaba, the central construction at the heart of Mecca.

Masih’s case was due in court on October 8, but lawyers arriving found a mass demonstration around the building which prevented their entry as protestors demanded that the youth and his family be killed and threatened the legal team for dealing with his case.

In a subsequent statement, The Voice insisted that “Nabeel is innocent, the accusation against him has not yet been proven. It is Nabeel or any other defendant’s fundamental right to have legal assistance in the course of a judicial proceeding or ask for bail. In a state of law, every defendant is given legal guarantees.” 

Amid the mood of fresh anger at a case of blasphemy, the final appeal of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman on death row arising from a blasphemy accusation, was scheduled to take place on October 13. Mrs Bibi has been in prison since 2010, and remains in isolation due to threats against her.


Church produces brochure for migrants

The Catholic Church in Austria has produced a brochure for arriving migrants explaining the Christian roots of the country.

Entitled ‘God’s Greeting in Austria’, the initial run of 34,000 brochures are printed in both German-Arabic and German-Farsi, with a full English version to follow. The document aims to help newly arrived migrants to understand Christian symbolism and how Christianity lies at the heart of upcoming events such as Christmas and at the roots of religious freedom and tolerance. 


Four Catechists murdered in Mexico

The Church in Mexico has been left stunned by the murders of four Catechists in the state of Michoacán.

The four, Willibaldo Hernández, Adán Valencia, Jesús López Urbina and Jesús Ayala Aguilar, had gone missing on October 1 and were found October 4, bound and dumped near a road. All of the bodies showed signs of torture prior to being shot dead.

The murders come just days after the triple murders of priests in Veracruz and Michoacán, allegedly by members of drug cartels.

The four catechists, members of a missionary group called Rainbow, have been described by a member of one local self-defence group as “good people, hardworking people. These young men worked with their parents, their families.”

The ongoing murders of Catholic priests in Mexico – some 15 have been killed in the last four years – means that the country is now more dangerous for clergy that Syria and Iraq.


Outspoken anti-drugs priest found dead in Argentina

An investigation is underway in Argentina after a priest known for his outspoken opposition to drug traffickers was found dead.

Fr Juan Heraldo Viroche was found hanged in his room at San Miguel de Tucuman on October 5. Due to his public stance against the drugs trade, the priest had received numerous death threats. This had culminated in the priest requesting a transfer to new pastoral duties, and this had been agreed to. At the time of his death, Fr Viroche was only present in his parish to complete a novena. Initial reports suggested that the priest may have killed himself, as it was found that the body was discovered inside a locked room, though it was also revealed his personal belongings had been scattered about his room. 


Kazakhstan dig unearths ancient Christian headstones

Archaeologists in Kazakhstan have discovered evidence of Christianity there which pre-dates the Russian Orthodox influence, long believed to be the source of Christianity in the country.

Working on an excavation at Usharal, near to the Chinese border, and close to the ancient Silk Road trade route, researchers uncovered seven Christian gravestones pre-dating both the arrival of Islam and Orthodox Christianity. One headstone could be dated by its inscription to 1162AD.

The dig at Usharal was launched two years ago when a local builder uncovered a stone bearing an inscribed Nestorian cross.