PAKISTAN A Pakistani family converted to Christianity is hounded, victim of death threats – Asia News
A Pakistani family converted to Christianity is hounded, victim of death threats
by Stephen John
Since 2006, the couple has had two children and constant persecution from certain Muslims because the wife converted to her husband’s religion. Attempts to file a case against their tormentors have fallen on deaf police ears. After years on the run, the family is now in hiding. Human rights activists want the government to defend religious freedom, human rights and the country’s constitution.
Islamabad (AsiaNews) – A Christian family has been on the run for almost ten years, finding temporary refuge but no safe haven. Jobless and desperate, they are unable to meet their own needs, as they continue to be threatened, hounded, and attacked because they want to live a Christian life and raise their children in accordance with Christ’s teachings.
After hearing their tragic story, AsiaNews decided to present it. Names, places and other details have been changed to protect the family, but their fate is part and parcel of the fight for religious freedom and the rights of Christians in Pakistan.
In May 2006, Amina, a 29 year-old Muslim woman, married 34-year-old Salamat Masih, a Christian. Her family was against it from the start, especially since they had already arranged her marriage to a trusted Muslim man.
However, Amina would not give in to her family’s pressures, and decided to marry the man she loved. The two also wanted a Christian wedding, but no pastor was willing to do it for fear of retaliation by her relatives.
To stop the marriage, Amina’s family filed a case against the would-be husband for rape and kidnapping. Thus, fearing arrest, Amina and Salamat decided to elope in accordance with Islamic law. This meant that Salamat, a Christian, had to convert to Islam since Muslim women are not allowed to marry non-Muslims.
Two Muslim men, Naveed Asim and Kareem Ahmad, acted as witnesses to the Islamic wedding. Proud of converting a Christian to Islam and of the greater standing they achieved among Muslims, they also took on the responsibility of monitoring the newlywed’s life.
With this purpose in mind, the two “guardians” forced the couple to move to Sadar, a town near Karachi, and live according to Islamic traditions, including fasting during Ramadan.
Still, Amina and Salamat did not want to live as Muslims and sought help from a local Church to arrange a Christian marriage and live among local Christians.
Eventually, the pastor of a local church agreed to register their marriage as Christian on 26 October 2006. The couple also found refuge among local Christians because of threats of reprisal from Muslims.
In the following years, the couple had two daughters. Yet, their secret did not last and threats started again, especially from the two men who had taken on the task of acting as their “guardians”.
For Amina, constant threats and pressures proved too much and she miscarried a third child. This further aggravated the conflict because the father chose to give his son a Christian burial rather than laying him to rest in a Muslim cemetery. The family’s enemies had one more reason to persecute them.
Fearing for their life, the family went from city to city, finding temporary shelter in various homes. Muslims from Amina’s community, especially the two “guardians”, kept tracking them down, proffering fresh threats and exerting more pressure on them.
Two years ago, threats turned into an actual attack. Gunmen shot at Salamat, in the leg, then drove their motorcycle over the injured limb. Only the presence of bystanders forced the attackers to flee, thus preventing them from finishing off their victim.
Because of the family’s difficult economic circumstances, Salamat was never properly treated and his leg has not fully healed. Such an impairment has limited his ability to work, making family life that much harder.
The couple’s relatives are no longer able to help for fear of reprisals and attacks by Muslims. The same goes for co-workers and friends who helped them and gave them refuge. The fear of an attack has proven stronger than the desire to help.
Since March 2015, the family has been hiding in one of the country’s largest cities. Since the family has been tracked down once and attacked before, the location has been kept secret for security reasons.
Attempts to file a case with police for the violence and threats against the family have fallen on deaf years. Law enforcement agencies have refused to deal with it.
Forced into hiding for weeks on end, Amina and Salamat have been unable to work and lead a normal life. Although a local NGO has helped them with their immediate needs, the couple and their children have gone to bed hungry on several occasions.
For Amina’s family, marrying a Christian and converting to Christianity are dishonourable acts, hence the threats. This is the more acceptable since her attackers have walked away, scot-free, ready to strike again.
However, not everyone has stood idly by. Citing the Constitution of Pakistan, the Asian Human Rights Commission has called on Pakistani authorities to respect the principle of equality of citizens, and guarantee freedom of religion. Likewise, it has called for action against the police officers who failed in their duty to protect the family.
Portadown film-maker Paul Moorehead in White House screening
8 September 2015
- From the section Northern Ireland
Image copyright Paul Moorehead Image caption Paul Moorehead and Thomas Glass working on Ticking the Box
A former teacher turned film-maker from County Armagh is taking part in a prestigious conference at the White House this week.
Paul Moorehead, from Portadown, has been invited to show his film Ticking the Box at the President’s Inter-faith and Community Service Challenge National Gathering.
The film focuses on what is meant by community engagement and the ways in which it is happening.
It includes interviews with Dr Terrence Roberts, one of the Little Rock Nine who helped to desegregate one of the largest schools in the US in 1957, as well as former commissioner of education Ernest Boyer.
The film was made for American higher education and has been shown on cable TV in the US.
Mr Moorehead said getting the opportunity to screen his work at the White House was a real honour.
"It’s basically the principals of American colleges, plus some international people who have been chosen," Mr Moorehead said.
"The film that I made is being shown at the President’s Inter-faith gathering and then I’ll be talking about it afterwards.
"We make films about community and faith and education, so in terms of where we’re going to, I suppose this is as high as we can get."
He said the fact his films could be used to try to help bring people together in Northern Ireland was an important part of the White House invite.
"I was told it was based on people that they felt could make a difference in the communities they’re in," he said.
"I’ll be making two visits to the White House, one a kind of meet and greet thing and the second will be to talk about the work I’m doing here in Northern Ireland."
It is all a long way from a studio at Lurgan Junior High School where Mr Moorehead – then a teacher – started making films, initially to be shown within the school.
"We started broadcasting on the internet and then we started to go out and do outside broadcasts," he said.
Image copyright Paul Moorehead Image caption Ticking the Box was made in America but Mr Moorehead said it relates to Northern Ireland
"I started into making films and the first film I made was nominated at the Learning Onscreen Awards and I thought ‘good grief’. Then it was taken up by the Department of Education and it kind of made changes to the history curriculum.
"I thought by making films you can have quite a voice."
He formed the community enterprise company LJHSTV and hasn’t looked back, with his career since landing him awards, as well as White House invitations.
"We made a film two years ago [A Step Too Far] that won the Chicago Peace on Earth film festival – best feature documentary," he said.
"We brought that back and that is being used here [in Northern Ireland] between inter-faith groups.
"Because things are so difficult here, if you make a film elsewhere and sort of relate it to here, it can make a difference."
Mr Moorehead’s US visit will include dinner with the principals of the prestigious Georgetown and Howard universities.
"I can’t say I don’t feel a bit out of my depth here, but you’re not going to miss chances like this," he said.
Image copyright Paul Moorehead Image caption One of Mr Moorehead’s previous films won an award at the Chicago Peace on Earth Awards
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Syrian Priest, 270 Christian and Muslim Hostages Kidnapped by Islamic Militants Reportedly Alive
By Stoyan Zaimov , Christian Post Reporter
September 7, 2015|9:32 am
(Photo: Reuters/Rodi Said)
Displaced Assyrians, who fled from the villages around Tel Tamr, gather outside the Assyrian Church in al-Hasaka city, as they wait for news about the Assyrians abductees remaining in Islamic State hands, March 9, 2015. Islamic State released 19 Assyrian Christian captives in Syria on March 1 after processing them through a sharia court, a monitoring group which tracks the conflict said. More than 200 Assyrians remain in Islamic State hands, said the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
A Syrian priest, along with 270 Christian and Muslim hostages kidnapped by Islamic militants earlier this summer in an offensive on the city of Homs, are reportedly alive and hoping that they’ll be released after negotiations.
Fides News Agency said that Father Jacques Murad, who belongs to the monastic community of Deir Mar Musa, is still alive, according to local sources, but is being held hostage with groups of Christians and Muslims taken by jihadists in August. The hostages are reported to be "stable and secure," and are waiting as local ecclesial communities are carrying out negotiations through mediators for their possible release.
"The sources contacted by Fides confirm that all the hostages are still in Quaryatayn, and specify that the news on the story of father Murad broadcast in recent days by Lebanese television network Nursat TV did not include any statement regarding the religious person kidnapped, but only reassuring considerations about his fate, expressed by another priest," the report added.
Murad was captured in May by two armed men on motorbikes who arrived at the Mar Elian monastery, before forcing the priest into his car and taking him to an unknown destination.
The monastery has reportedly been hosting hundreds of refugees from the Syrian civil war, including over a hundred children younger than 10. Before he was captured, Murad had been helping provide basic necessities for the refugees.
It was not made clear which groups the jihadists belong to, though the country has been torn apart by clashes between government forces and various Islamic rebel groups seeking to take power.
Christians have been targeted especially heavily by the Islamic State terror group, which has captured significant territory in Syria, and has forced believers to agree to live under strict conditions or be driven out of the captured cities.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights obtained a copy of a document Christians in the captured town of al-Quaryatayn are being forced to sign, which lists 11 stipulations that must be followed.
The contract prohibits: the establishment of churches, the displaying of crosses, making Muslims hear Christian prayers or rituals of worship, the hiding of spies, offending Islamic religious beliefs, the carrying of weapons, the sale of pork or wine to Muslims, and failing to dress modestly.
Father-of-five to leave UK to fight ISIS despite admitting he may NEVER see family again
A FATHER is leaving behind his life in the UK to join the battle against Islamic State (ISIS) – despite admitting he might never see his family again.
By Selina Sykes
PUBLISHED: 17:36, Wed, Sep 2, 2015 | UPDATED: 20:25, Wed, Sep 2, 2015
Jamie McCarroll is taking the fight against extremism into his own hands
Former soldier Jamie McCarroll, 40, is taking the fight against extremism into his own hands as he feels the UK government is not doing enough to help persecuted Christians in northern Iraq.
The father-of-five from Glasgow, who quit his job to fight ISIS, has not yet explained his decision to his three daughters and two stepsons but has told them the news.
He said: "I’m leaving my life here and my kids, they’re my whole life.
"I’m giving up a lot to go over there to nothing. But I understand what I’m doing and why I’m doing it."
Mr McCarroll, who is self-funding his efforts, plans to join Dwekh Nawsha, a militant group founded in 2014 to help protect the country’s Christian population.
The group’s Facebook page refers to them as "The Sacrificers" who are "doing our duty to the Assyrian people who are in need".
Mr McCarroll said: "They aren’t getting any help from any organisations, and just looking at everything that’s going on is so difficult.
"They’re being murdered all over that part of the world by Islamic State if they refuse to convert their religion.
"It’s very bleak for them as there’s no one helping them at all. The UK and US governments aren’t doing anything to help them."
Mr McCarroll admitted he might never see his family again
I’m giving up a lot to go over there to nothing
Mr McCarroll, who fought with the Royal Highland Fusiliers, said: "I don’t really think about something bad happening. It’s not something you think about because if you do you won’t last long.
"I’d rather think about going over there and helping those people than worrying about my own safety."
He is hoping to fly out to Erbil, northern Iraq, in the next six to eight weeks, where he’ll be taken to a safe house and undergo training before fighting on the front line.
It is thought more than 2,000 Britons have joined ISIS, while a small handful have also flown out to Iraq and Syria to fight against the extremist group.
Mr McCarroll said: "I’ll be on the frontline fighting, putting my life at risk, and knowing that my children might never see their father again.
"I couldn’t live with myself doing nothing, when I knew I could help."
Mr McCarroll, who joined the army at 18 and served during the Bosnian genocide, stressed there are too many untrained men going over to fight who are a liability to professional soldiers.
He said: "You need to have formal training if you want to go out and help, but there’s people out fighting at the moment who’ve not got any formal training and who’ve been there for over a year now."
Migrant crisis: Are these happy young men really timid souls fleeing war and persecution?
THEY aren’t quite the heartrending image of dishevelled, traumatised refugees fleeing the horrors of their war-torn home country one might expect.
PUBLISHED: 11:32, Mon, Sep 7, 2015 | UPDATED: 12:44, Mon, Sep 7, 2015
A group of Syrian men pose for snap using selfie stick
Indeed this bunch of asylum seekers – laughing as they take a group selfie on the Greek beach where they have just landed – could be any gang of mates ready to whoop it up on a booze-fuelled sunshine holiday.
The well-dressed, happy and confident looking group of men, ready to claim EU asylum on the island of Lesbos, serves as a remarkable counter image to last week’s heart-breaking photograph of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi whose body was washed up on a Mediterranean beach.
One of the Syrian men holds up ‘selfie stick’ to capture the moment he and his friends arrived in Lesbos – one of the two Greek Islands bearing the brunt of the mass exodus of refugees and migrants.
A series of photos captured by a photographer on the island show the group of young men doing the two-fingered peace sign and grinning with joy after making the treacherous journey on a rubber boat.
The image of young Aylan Kurdi washed up dead on a beach rocked the world
Tomorrow they will join thousands of refugees waiting to be registered on the island before they are given the go-ahead to travel to Athens – the door to mainland Europe and Britain.
The last 24 hours has seen a worsening situation in Lesbos, where violent clashes between police and frenzied crowds waiting to board ferries to Athens erupted.
Some collapsed, while frightened children screamed in their mother’s arms.
The Mayor of Lesbos pleaded for help from the country’s Government, likening the escalating situation to a bomb "about to explode".
Sypros Galinos said: "I appeal to the prime minister for immediate measures. We all have victims."
Athens has so far chartered just two ferries to transport refugees off of the island.
But Mr Galinos added: "I don’t need one ship, I need a fleet."
Alvand, 18, from Kobani, Syria takes a selfie with his friends as they walk along a railway track
The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR estimates 124,000 have landed on Greek islands this year.
The Greek coastguard sad it saved more than 500 people from the water in just 24 hours on Friday, with scores more expected.
And in complete contrast, thousands arrived in Germany on trains from Hungary and Austria after being invited to settle in the country by Chancellor Angela Merkel.
However Hungary’s Prime Minister Vitkor Orban accused the migrants of targeting Germany for "a German life", instead of physical safety away from war-ravaged countries.
Politicians scramble to offer their homes to Syrian refugees
People traffickers sick ‘kids go free’ offer onboard doomed death…
Migrants take a selfie while waiting for a bus to Austria
He said the stream of migrants flowing through south-eastern Europe were immigrants, attracted by the prospect of life in Germany, not refugees.
Mr Orban said: "If they want to continue on from Hungary, it’s not because they are in danger, it’s because they want something else."
The right-wing leader, who has attracted praise and opprobrium for his hardline handling of Europe’s immigration crisis, defended a controversial package of measures that would include deploying the army to the frontier.
The prime minister said he hoped this would "hermetically seal" the country’s southern border.
Get the latest breaking news from Express.co.uk
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Islamic State: ISIS orders parents to MARRY OFF their daughters to its depraved fighters
TERRIFIED parents in Libya have been ordered to MARRY OFF their daughters to depraved Islamic State (ISIS) fighters, it emerged today.
PUBLISHED: 03:27, Mon, Sep 7, 2015 | UPDATED: 11:07, Mon, Sep 7, 2015
Isis has ordered parents to hand over their daughters in marriage
Sex-crazed Islamists in the coastal city of Sirte are looking to force mothers and fathers to hand over their young girls in the name of jihad.
Those who refuse could find themselves hauled before a Sharia court, with public floggings and even the death penalty amongst the punishments routinely handed down by Isis militants.
The move comes after Express.co.uk revealed how Nigerian terror group Boko Haram has sent hundreds of fighters to Sirte to help the jihadis hold the city.
The hated terror group has declared the Sirte its new capital in north Africa as part of its bid to create a so-called caliphate.
A billboard in Sirte shows women what they are allowed to wear
In a sermon to Sirte’s terrified people – who recently rebelled against their new Isis rulers – militant Hassan al-Karami ordered locals to marry off their female relatives to Isis fighters.
He said that mothers and fathers should "step up and take the initiative" by handing over their daughters as part of jihad. Isis has made similar demands in areas it has captured in Iraq and Syria, with many women revealing the horrific treatment they have received at the hands of its twisted and depraved fighters.
Black flags on Europe’s doorstep: Inside ISIS’s new capital Sirte…
Boko Haram sends militants to ISIS in Libya as map shows horror…
The Benghazi-born jihadist also declared the city, once the hometown of Colonel Gaddafi, to be part of the so-called caliphate.
Isis has declared its intention to use the Mediterranean city as a springboard from which to invade Europe.
The hated terror group has declared Sirte part of its so-called caliphate
Speaking at a mosque in the city’s third district, where an ill-fated anti-Isis rebellion was brutally crushed two weeks ago, al-Karami announced that the group will set up Sharia Law courts in Sirte to hand down brutal punishments to anyone who questions their rule. Penalties for anybody who disobeys the Islamist fanatics will include public flogging and even the death sentence.
He also said that the city’s university will be reopened in a bid to brainwash local inhabitants. It will teach a strictly Isis-approved curriculum, and men and women will be completely separated. ,
Hundreds of Boko Haram militants have joined the Isis in Sirte
Boosted by hundreds of heavily armed Boko Haram warriors, al-Karami also taunted the group’s enemies, who are trying to take back the city.
Referring to a newly formed Arab League force, which has vowed to fight Isis, he boasted: "The Islamic State does not fear the infidel apostate Arab coalition against it."
Libya’s embattled government has called for international air-strikes on Isis to halts its rapid spread through northern Africa.
Last month Isis announced plans to use Sirte as a springboard to invade Europe, urging its militants to make the short journey across the Mediterranean and "conquer Rome".
The jihadists in Sirte have threatened to turn their attentions on nearby Europe, saying in propaganda videos that they will "conquer Rome".
The fight against ISIS
Mon, August 10, 2015
The battle against ISIS militants (also abbreviated as Daesh, ISIL, IS and Islamic State) continues in the Middle East.
Forty years This January 2016
In Memory Of One Of My Best Friends…….JBoy2244
John McConville, a devout Christian and only 20, was working to save up his fees for Bible College when he was gunned down on a cold, dark winter’s day in January 1976, along with 10 other Protestant workmen. Today, in the second extract from ‘A Legacy of Tears’, a new book by David Patterson the McConville family of south Armagh tell how the murder of their son has left them with an open wound.
By David Patterson
06 July 2006
The McConville family Tommy and Esther, with their four children, John, Karen, Mandy and Tania, lived at 30 Moninna Park, Cloughrea, about two miles from the village of Bessbrook.
Bessbrook was a close knit rural community and a model industrial village, initiated by Quakers in the 18th century. The McConville children enjoyed a happy childhood playing in the countryside and spending time with their grandmother and her sister. The family attended the local Presbyterian church, where the children were involved in Sunday school, the Boys’ Brigade and Girl Guides also played an important role in their lives during their formative years.
Village life was most harmonious and although two diverse denominations lived side by side, the McConville children grew up in an environment in which they were not aware of any tensions or divisions between the two communities.
Mrs McConville and her eldest daughter, Karen, described John as, “a gentle, caring considerate and fun loving young boy.” They recalled his sense of humour and the constant flow of laughter with his sisters through childhood and teenage years.
They bantered and played pranks on each other continually, much to the dismay of their mother.
John became a Christian at the age of 16 and sometime following his conversion became a member of Newry Baptist Church. John’s only desire was to go to Bible College to prepare for missionary work in South Africa, to which he believed God was calling him.
He enrolled and completed various Bible correspondence courses in which he gained distinctions. He also sought to be a faithful and inspiring advocate for Christ.
John would faithfully, in the most practical and unassuming way, seek to share God’s Word with all whom he met. His faith in God and subsequent witness was a great inspiration to all who knew him. He touched many lives across the community divide by his honest and humble ministry.
At the age of 20, John was accepted at a Bible College in Scotland where he was to commence full time study in the autumn of 1976. He was delighted and shared with the family how he felt so sure that this was God’s plan for his life.
To save up for the college fees, John had taken a job at Compton’s Spinning Mill at Glenanne, about four miles from Bessbrook, where he had been working for about two years.
On the January 5, 1976, the ‘Mill’s’ minibus set off to return 12 workers to their homes. John McConville was among the passengers on that minibus. As the vehicle wended its way along the dark, lonely country roads of South Armagh, its happy occupants were having a very normal conversation about a recent football match.
The conversation also turned to the tragic events of the previous night when two Roman Catholic brothers had been shot and killed at their home in nearby Whitecross.
As the minibus approached the brow of a hill near the Kingsmill crossroads, a red torchlight was spotted by the driver, who slowed down and stopped, believing this to be a routine Army check. Men wearing combat jackets, with their faces blackened, immediately joined the man waving the torch.
The occupants were ordered out of the minibus and were asked to state their religion. Initially, the one Roman Catholic passenger was thought to be the intended target, but when the gang ordered him to run, it was quickly realised by the Protestant passengers that only his life was to be spared.
The remaining 11 workmen were then lined up at gunpoint along the side of the minibus, and 10 of them were slain in a hail of gunfire. One man, though badly wounded, survived the attack and was able later to relate the horrific event that saw his colleagues murdered.
That evening, Mrs McConville had returned from work and had made the tea when she heard on the television news that there had been an incident involving a minibus. Mrs McConville immediately said to her husband Tommy: “John’s on that minibus.” Tommy told her to phone the police and enquire, but when she phoned Bessbrook RUC station they couldn’t tell her anything and asked her to ring back later.
Mrs McConville then asked her husband to take her out to Kingsmill, though at this time she did not think about death, she simply thought that maybe it was some kind of an accident.
Her husband agreed to take her to the house of a neighbour, a Mrs McWhirter, whose husband would also have been on the minibus.
Said Mrs McConville: “Mrs McWhirter came to the door and related that she had also heard about the minibus incident. She asked me to make her a wee cup of tea and Tommy went up to the police station. When Tommy returned some time later he had no further information about the incident and I insisted that he take me out to Kingsmill.
“We went out to the scene where a policeman, Constable Billy Turbitt, who was also to be abducted and murdered by the IRA in 1978, stopped us. We told him who we were, and explained to him that our son was on the minibus and could he tell us what had happened.
“Constable Turbitt told us that he couldn’t, but to pull our car in to the side of the road. At that point, three ambulances arrived at the scene and Constable Turbitt told us that the best thing to do was to follow the ambulances into Daisy Hill hospital in Newry.”
Tommy and Esther followed the ambulances to the hospital, where they met one of the ambulance drivers, Stuart Roland, and asked him: “What about John?” He said that he couldn’t tell them, but that their daughter Karen was also at the hospital.
Mrs McConville had left the three girls at home and told them not to move, but they had heard further news on the radio about the incident and Karen had gone up to her uncle’s and asked him to take her to the hospital.
As soon as Mrs McConville entered the hospital, she met their local minister, the Rev Nixon. With tears, Mrs McConville recalled how he just caught her by the two arms and said: “John’s gone.”
They waited in a room and Mr Nixon gave Mrs McConville a tablet as a doctor and a policewoman arrived to offer help. The family then headed home to find it overflowing with neighbours – many of them Roman Catholics.
Overcome by grief
Tommy went over to break the news to Esther’s mother, then brought her over to the house where, overcome by grief, she took a ‘turn’. The intensity of the family’s grief was at times uncontrollable. Karen at times screamed, such was her anguish.
Mrs McConville was in such shock that she did not know the details of how her son had been killed and thought that it had been a road accident involving the mini bus. She later had to be told of how her son had actually died.
A policeman who arrived first at the scene described it as an, “indescribable scene of carnage.” The survivor had been shot 18 times.
More than 3,000 people attended the funeral services of the 10 murder victims.
The funeral service for John McConville was held jointly with five other massacre victims in Bessbrook Presbyterian Church on January 8 amid driving rain, and his body laid to rest in the adjoining graveyard.
Mrs McConville treasures the hundreds of sympathy cards the family received on her son’s death. She has a beautifully inscribed Bible which was presented in John’s memory, while a hymn written especially for children in Northern Ireland was published by the John McConville Memorial Trust.
Mrs McConville became a Christian at the time of the murder and believes that only by God’s grace and her faith in Christ was she able to cope and to keep going.
After the tragedy, Mandy and Tania, the younger children, experienced nervous reactions as a result of their grief and had to attend the hospital.
The following June, the McConvilles moved house to Riverside Crescent in Bessbrook, as they felt it impossible to stay in their home at Moninna Park. But Karen felt she had to move to Belfast to live and work.
Mrs McConville returned to work just two weeks after the murder, but was on anti-depressants.
“It was a terrible time, it was awful, I wouldn’t wish it on anybody,” she said. “I just had to go on. Only by God’s help did I get through it.”
The McConvilles have found the strength to go on, but still keenly feel a great sense of pain and loss. Yet they bear no bitterness or resentment to the evil perpetrators of this most atrocious crime.
Like dozens of murders in Co Armagh, no one has been brought to the courts or convicted of the Kingsmill Massacre.
Karen said: “Evil men had in the most brutal and inhuman way extinguished the life of John in his prime and I am going to miss him for the rest of my life.
“The loss of John has taught me many things, not least the sanctity and preciousness of life. I had been forced into a position where I was confronted with the effects of the hatred, courage and intolerance of certain members of society that had claimed the lives of innocent people.
“If John and his companions were murdered in order to create further hatred within society then for that reason I would not allow myself to be so influenced.
“I have learned to leave justice, retribution and revenge in the hands of the Lord. This is a great comfort to me, as I know that God will have the final say as far as the perpetrators of this evil deed are concerned.
“More so, considering that no one has been charged with the Kingsmill murders. Although these men walk free, they are tethered to this dreadful event for the remainder of their lives.
“I, on the other hand, can remember my dear brother with pride, happiness and admiration for his devotion, tolerance and love. He is in a much better place and for this I am happy. No one can take him or these memories away from me ever again.”
David Patterson is a baptist pastor who has previously worked in banking and as a political researcher.
To obtain a copy of A Legacy of Tears (£5.99) email firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: (028) 3755 2808. Also available in bookshops
Andrae Crouch dies aged 72
Legendary gospel musician Andrae Crouch has died at a hospital in Los Angeles following a heart attack last week, his publicist has confirmed.
The seven-time Grammy winning composer, producer and singer has worked with stars like Michael Jackson and Madonna.
He also arranged pieces for Disney’s film "The Lion King" and "The Color Purple", which he received an Academy Award nomination for.
After reportedly writing his first gospel song at the age of 14, Crouch went on to become one of only a handful of gospel musicians to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
"The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power" and "Soon and Very Soon," and ”My Tribute (To God Be the Glory)" are among his most-loved works.
Born in San Francisco, he started his music career at his father’s church in the San Fernando Valley, where he played piano.
He went on to perform at the White House, the Grand Ole Opry and at Billy Graham’s rallies.
He and his twin sister were both pastors at the New Christ Memorial Church in the Los Angeles suburbs.
Image: Rex features
Pastor Sandra Crouch has paid tribute to her brother, saying: "Today my twin brother, womb-mate and best friend went home to be with the Lord,"
"I tried to keep him here but God loved him best."
Grammy-winning gospel singer, Jason Grabb, says: "We’ve lost a true pioneer and he will be missed,"
During an interview with Associated Press in 2011, Andrae Crouch highlighted how his faith was integral to his music:
"When I finish a song, I thank God for bringing me through,"
"You have to press on and know your calling. That’s what I’ve been doing for all my life. I just went forward."
Leader of the KICC Church, Pastor Matthew Ashimolow, was a good friend of Andrae Crouch and the last one to bring him to the UK.
He says Crouch "left the legacy of a holy life, a good life" but also of "a man who has changed the world with the quality of his music":
"I think he’s also one person whose music cut across cultures, race, and, in fact, also cut across into certain places somebody who may not be considered Christian or religious would play his music."
"He was the one, really, who took away that artist who played very slow, quiet music, and brought life into Gospel music.
"I think if you ask the average gospel artist today, they will have taken a lot of inspiration from him."
Pastor Matthew says his favourite memory of him was a service in America that clearly showed how loved and popular he was:
"In the early days, in the late 70s, Andrae Crouch had gone to a church in the United State of America, they had invited him to come and minister in their church.
"But they did not expect the magnitute of crowd that showed up; The crowd outside was more than the people inside!
"The church did not know that this man’s music was so strong."
Premier Gospel’s station director, Muyiwa Olarewaju, says words used to describe him will be ‘father’, ‘innovator’, ‘leader’ and ‘legend’:
Are you special, basic or complex? Behind North Korea’s caste system
‘Songbun’ separates citizens according to ancestral and social standings – or whether they’ve had their photograph taken with the great leader. NK News wonders how will it coexist with Kim Jong-un’s proposed reforms
North Korean Army soldiers and civilians on the stands of the Kim Il Sung Stadium, a photograph by Ilya Pitalev which won at the Sony World Photography Awards in 2013. Photograph: Ilya Pitalev/Sony
Fyodor Tertitskiy for NK News, part of the North Korea network
Wednesday 4 March 2015 05.00 GMT Last modified on Wednesday 4 March 2015 12.13 GMT
It might not be obvious from the outside, but experts agree that North Korea is undergoing significant upheaval. Kim Jong-un’s regime is said to be serious about reforms, with the so-called “30th May measures” promising to increase personal income and allow greater social mobility.
But this has left many wondering how North Korea’s strict songbun system of social classification will coexist with such unprecedented reforms.
Songbun was most important element in the social structure of Kim Il-sung’s North Korea. Sung, who established the Democratic People’s Republic in 1948, initiated the system of social classification in the late 1950s, dividing the population into groups according to the actions and status of their paternal ancestors during the Japanese colonial period and the Korean War.
Songbun determines, among other things, whether North Koreans are allowed to live in the capital or in special cities, the workplace they’re allocated, and what kind of education they can receive.
While there has been some research into songbun, much of it is either outdated or incomplete. Researchers aren’t allowed to access official North Korean documents of this kind, which are always classified, but fortunately I have a friend who served in the North Korean police and is very familiar with the songbun documents, who was able to explain it in more detail.
Brahmins and untouchables, North Korean style
According to this system of social classification North Korean society is divided to five groups, from the best to the worst: special, nucleus, basic, complex and hostile. Earlier research has usually only mentioned three strata, because the existence of the special class was largely unknown, and the complex classification was only introduced in the 2000s.
Nucleus, also known as core, is the standard. Special is very rare and acts as a bonus in status. In contrast, basic (also known as wavering) can lead to slight discrimination, while people deemed complex and especially hostile face substantial prejudice.
‘Awarded with an audience’ is a title given to North Koreans who have talked to the leader for 20 minutes or more
A possible exception from this system would be blood relatives of the Kim family, who are seemingly excluded from all official documentation, although this remains to be verified.
Songbun is calculated from two factors. The first measures the social position and actions of one’s paternal ancestors during the Japanese colonial period and the Korean War. Did they fight with Kim Il-sung and later remain close to the Great Leader? Congratulations, your ancestry songbun is as good as it can be. Or, did they work as a clerk in the colonial administration, or worse, were they part of a faction in the independence movement that later proved hostile to Kim? Well then, your ancestry songbun is very bad and you’re unlikely to advance to any meaningful position in society.
The second – social songbun – measures the place occupied by a person in North Korean society; a worker, farmer, military man, teacher or policeman. There is, however, one variation of social songbun which overrides all others – party member – and another, the strange sounding “awarded with an audience”.
Portraits of North Korea’s national founder Kim Il-sung (left) and late leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang, North Korea. Photograph: AP
The latter is a title given to North Koreans who have talked to the leader for 20 minutes or more, or who have had their picture taken with him. That’s why commemoration photos printed in the official newspaper of the ruling Worker’s Party, Rodong Sinmun, often include thousands of people – the songbun of all of them has just increased.
Songbun influences many aspects of life in North Korea. If your songbun isn’t good enough, you cannot live in Pyongyang. Or, you cannot enter a good university, no matter how smart you are. You cannot be employed as a teacher or a policemen with bad or even average songbun. And if you want to join the ranks of the secret police (as many North Koreans do) not only you, but all you relatives up to the sixth generation must have a good songbun, or you do not qualify.
Can you alter your songbun? When it comes to ancestry , the answer is almost always no. Records are kept in four locations: at the local administration office, ordinary police, secret police and at specific organisations, like the Worker’s Party, Women’s Union, or labour union.
The situation during the Kim Il-sung era was much the same: a person of bad ancestry could not get a good job, so his or her songbun remained bad too. However, many things have changed since Kim Il-sung died in 1994, and the role of this system of classification is one of them. Now, a person who has worked for three years gets a new social designation decided upon by the decision of the local party committee. And these days even people of questionable ancestry can join the party. Some North Korean officials have also started to simply ignore songbun, reasoning that punishing someone for the sins of their ancestors is unfair and unjust.
The role of songbun is gradually reducing, as the country embraces new ways and new economic models. If Kim Jong-un really wants to proceed with promised reforms, one of the necessary steps would be to abolish songbun, at least in practice.
A version of this article first appeared on NK News
Introducing the retirement home for old age pussycats
Elderly cats can spend the last years of their nine lives in comfort at special accommodation dedicated to looking after senior felines.
By Becky Barnes
Last updated: 04 March 2015, 16:19 GMT
Elderly cats whose owners pass away or can no longer look after them can live out the rest of their years in comfort at a retirement home dedicated to felines.
There are 76 ‘Old Age Pussycats’ aged 10 to 20 living at the Lincolnshire Trust for Cats retirement home, which has been adapted especially for moggies.
Pet owners must pay a one-off fee of £850 for their cat to be taken in at the home, which is south-facing – giving animals plenty of sunshine to relax in – and furnished for their comfort.
Jain Hills, who set up the retirement home in 2001, wanted to do something for older cats when she saw they were being rejected by rehoming charities.
“I don’t think anywhere else does it because people come all the way from London with the cats to come here,” the 65-year-old said.
The oldest cat at the home is Henry, 20, whose owner died. He has a favourite armchair, which the other cats know not to sit in.
The home is also open to cats whose owners leave the country. One of the whiskered residents gets parcels sent to her from overseas, which she is apparently happy to share with her furry friends.
The seven-acre retirement facility offers individual rooms for new arrivals while they get settled and has three sitting rooms for the cats to lounge in, linked by enclosed outdoor areas.
The house is kept warm with central heating, is decorated in cat memorabilia and has leather sofas and Indian rugs for the cats to nap on.
There are also more than 400 stray cats taken in by the charity now living on the grounds.