Category : Religious Freedom / Persecution

(1st Things) Matthew Schmitz–God’s Garbage People

Fr. Botros Roshdy, a priest who serves there, tucks an iPhone into his black cassock. He has a social media presence and is known across the country. He is more willing than most to discuss the persecution faced by the zabbaleen and Egypt’s other Christians. “Neither the church leaders you have met, nor those you are going to meet, are speaking freely,” he says after we sit down. “If they could speak freely, they would discuss the discriminatory laws, the infiltration of the judicial system by the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Roshdy notes that little has changed for the Copts over the last decade, despite the hollow promises of freedom that came with the Arab Spring and current president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s self-presentation as a defender of Christians. “We are still being used as a playing card in political games. When the government wants to win the support of Copts during the elections, they offer to let us build a church.” But these overtures have not changed the landscape. “Take the blasphemy law,” ­Roshdy says. “It has been applied only against Christians.”

Roshdy mentions some typical incidents of persecution. One involved an elderly Coptic woman in Minya who was attacked, stripped naked, and dragged through the streets. “Everyone knows who did this crime, but there has been no punishment.” A group of Coptic students in Bani ­Mazar filmed a video in which they mocked ISIS. “People in their town accused them of blasphemy for mocking Islam. So these young children were arrested and jailed. . . . They were finally freed and received asylum in ­Europe.”

Despite the persecution, Egypt’s Christians are winning converts. The number and names of converts must be carefully guarded, however, because conversion from Islam carries a high price. “Some of them are kicked out of their houses, some of them are fired, some of them have their kids taken away,” Roshdy says. “But they consider all of these troubles nothing for the sake of Christ. Their faith is so strong, they see him.” Cast out by their families, these men and women are adopted into the household of God.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Coptic Church, Egypt, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(WSJ) Kristina Arriaga–Congress May Set Back Religious Freedom

Cuban Communist Party official Caridad Diego comes to the U.S. regularly to shop and visit relatives. When she returns to Cuba, she resumes her 9-to-5 job as director of Havana’s Office of Religious Affairs. The title sounds bland, but Ms. Diego oversees the repression of independent Cuban religious leaders. Like many bureaucrats in corrupt regimes, Ms. Diego arbitrarily enforces the law against her political enemies while flouting the same rules as she pleases.

Officials like this operate around the world, often in relative anonymity. But a small U.S. government organization, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, helps change that. When a Cuban Methodist pastor was detained in Havana last month, USCIRF called on the U.S. Embassy in Havana to ban Ms. Diego from visiting the U.S. until Cuban religious leaders can travel abroad to attend conferences. Pastors on the island tell me she was so rattled by USCIRF’s call for a visa ban that change may soon come.

This kind of direct action has been at the core of USCIRF’s mission since its creation in 1998. Its architects knew that the enemies of religious freedom aren’t only tyrants. They include simple bureaucrats who share their rulers’ desire for control. Believing that a bureaucracy can’t be defeated by creating another bureaucracy, Congress ensured the nine USCIRF commissioners were unpaid, independent volunteer voices selected from both political parties. They were to answer to no one, apart from the American people whose principles of liberty they represent abroad. This is part of why I accepted House Speaker Paul Ryan’s appointment to the commission in 2016.

But now USCIRF may be changing. In September the Senate introduced a bill that would shift its stated purpose and burden commissioners with new bureaucratic hurdles. The bill was introduced by Sens. Marco Rubio, Bob Menendez, Cory Gardner, Dick Durbin and Chris Coons, who say the reforms are necessary for transparency and accountability. Whatever their intentions, the damage would be real.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Senate

(Channel 7 Denver) Pueblo white supremacist arrested in ‘domestic terrorism’ case after plans to bomb synagogue

A white supremacist from Pueblo was arrested Friday when he met up with three undercover FBI agents in an attempt to bomb the Temple Emanuel synagogue in Pueblo as part of what he called a “racial holy war” and to wipe the synagogue “off the map” in what the FBI says amounts to “domestic terrorism.”

Richard Holzer, 27, made his first court appearance at 2 p.m. Monday at the U.S. District Court of Colorado. Court records show he faces one count of attempting to obstruct religious exercise by force using explosives and fire.

According to a criminal complaint , undercover FBI agents had been talking with Holzer since September and had been tracking multiple Facebook accounts of his in which he talked to other white supremacists through private messages about attacking Jewish people and other minority groups.

Among the messages he wrote was one in which he said, “I wish the Holocaust really did happen,” and another in which he said he was getting ready to shoot people while showing pictures of him holding guns and white supremacist regalia.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Judaism, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

(EF) IDOP 2019: “Persecuted but not abandoned”

This year, the IDOP is on 3th and 10th November, with the theme ‘Persecuted but not abandoned’, inspired by 2 Corinthians 4:9.

Godfrey Yogarajah, executive director of the WEA Religious Liberty Commission, invites Christians and local churches to “pray that, in spite of the pressure and persecution, our suffering brothers and sisters — where ever they may be in the world — would stand firm in their faith, hold fast to the promises of God, and live victoriously in Christ”.

“Pray that they would relentlessly follow Christ, remembering that they are…’persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed'”, he added.

Read it all.

Posted in Other Churches, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Spirituality/Prayer

(NPR) An Advocate For Kazakhs Persecuted In China Is Banned From Activism In Kazakhstan

One afternoon last month, Serikjan Bilash went to the watchdog organization he co-founded in Almaty, Kazakhstan, to celebrate the opening of its new office.

Since its founding in 2017, the organization, Atajurt Eriktileri, has publicized thousands of accounts of ethnic Kazakhs who are among the primarily Muslim minorities rounded up in detention centers in Xinjiang, China.

But instead of entering the office that day, Bilash hovered outside the door, reaching only his hand in to greet well-wishers. The Kazakh government barred him from political activism for seven years for the charge of “inciting ethnic tensions.”

“I can work as a taxi driver. I can work as a cleaner or a barman. But I cannot work as a political person,” says Bilash, a Kazakh citizen born in China. “I can’t stand up, and I can’t speak openly to my nation. They closed my mouth.”

The punishment against Bilash has bolstered suspicions among Kazakh rights advocates that Kazakhstan’s government is working to silence a prominent critic of China in order to please its powerful neighbor and investment partner. That has sent chills through Kazakhstan’s Chinese-born community.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(Sightings) Peter Sherlock–Religious Discrimination: The Australian Debate

Most submissions in response to the consultation draft of the bill agree that discrimination on the basis of religious belief—or its absence—should be prohibited. In this respect, the bill simply gives effect to article 18 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, that everyone should have a right “to manifest … religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” Moreover, in Australia, the national Constitution was written in the 1890s with a view to preventing religious interference in the making of laws. While Parliament still opens each day with the Lord’s Prayer, there arguably is a need for legislative protections against religious discrimination.

Several submissions, however, indicate significant opposition to the bill as it stands because its religious protections would facilitate other forms of discrimination. This includes, for the first time in modern Australia, the introduction of religious exemptions in discrimination legislation covering race and disability, paralleling those in sex discrimination legislation. Furthermore, the bill does not go far enough for some religious groups, who argue it would open them up to what the Catholic Church has described as “lawfare” in relation to employment practices at faith-based schools or agencies. The Sydney Anglican submission, for its part, dramatically argues that, as it is presently drafted, the bill would force the church to make its campsites available for hire for satanic black masses.

All the same, the debate surrounding the bill has largely overlooked two aspects of religious liberty. The first is religious harassment. This is a concept found in other discrimination laws, such as measures to define and prosecute sexual harassment. What will happen when conflicting religious beliefs and behaviors come into contact, including not only religious speech but religious dress, sounds, or rituals? How can the rights of people of no religion be protected? What are the limits of accommodation and respect?

The second regards the nature of power. We can glimpse this point in a unique provision of the bill: companies with a turnover greater than $50,000,000 would be prohibited from preventing its employees from expressing religious views that discriminate against others unless it can prove that such expression would lead to serious financial harm for the company. Discrimination which may lead to the harm of others is acceptable, in other words, unless it is going to cost a business a great deal of money. In modern Australia, money equals power; the widow and her mite would appear to have no protections whatsoever.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Australia / NZ, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

Gafcon General Secretary Ben Kwashi and his Wife Gloria Honoured with Religious Freedom Award

Randel Everett, former executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and former pastor of First Baptist Church of Midland, is the founder and President of 21Wilberforce. Randel Everett says, “their life story is one of courage, faith and boundless love.”

Archbishop Kwashi is the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Jos, Nigeria and General Secretary of GAFCON. He is well known as an evangelist throughout Nigeria, Africa, England, and the United States. Dr. Gloria Kwashi has been Diocesan President of the Mothers’ Union, Women’s Guild and Girls’ Guild, and is the Provincial Trainer for the Mothers’ Union (Church of Nigeria).

For many years Boko Haram, one of the deadliest terrorist groups in the world, has spawned unrest, displacement, and death in northern Nigeria. The Kwashi’s have not escaped the violence. Their vicarage and church were burned to the ground and they have survived several assassination attempts. In response, the Kwashi’s took in 50 orphans who lost their parents due to the violence. Dr. Gloria Kwashi also founded the Zambiri Outreach and Child Care Centre. The primary and secondary school serves 400 pupils – all of whom receive free education, free feeding, uniform, and medical care.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria, GAFCON, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

(NYT) China Wants the World to Stay Silent on Muslim Camps. It’s Succeeding.

When Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, visited Beijing this summer, he hailed a new Silk Road bridging Asia and Europe. He welcomed big Chinese investments for his beleaguered economy. He gushed about China’s sovereignty.

But Mr. Erdogan, who has stridently promoted Islamic values in his overwhelmingly Muslim country, was largely silent on the incarceration of more than one million Turkic Muslims in China’s western region of Xinjiang, and the forced assimilation of millions more. It was an about-face from a decade ago, when he said the Uighurs there suffered from, “simply put, genocide” at the hands of the Chinese government.

Like Mr. Erdogan, the world has been noticeably quiet about Xinjiang, where China has built a vast network of detention camps and systematic surveillance over the past two years in a state-led operation to convert Uighurs into loyal, secular supporters of the Communist Party. Even when diplomats have witnessed the problems firsthand and privately condemned them, they have been reluctant to go public, unable to garner broad support or unwilling to risk financial ties with China.

Backed by its diplomatic and economic might, China has largely succeeded in quashing criticism. Chinese officials have convinced countries to support Beijing publicly on the issue, most notably Muslim ones in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. They have played to the discord within the West over China. And they have waged an aggressive campaign to prevent discussion of Xinjiang at the United Nations.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(Christian Today) Baroness Caroline Cox–Genocide in Nigeria: does anyone care?

I have visited many of the worst affected areas and seen the tragedies of death and destruction.

One survivor told me: “The Fulani militants took my brother, his wife and all their six children. They tied and slaughtered them like animals. My sister was raped, and her wrists cut off before she was shot through the heart”.

A lady from a neighbouring village shared a similar story. She said: “The Fulani were hacking and killing people, making sure that those that were shot were finished off. They wore red to conceal blood on their clothes as they butchered their victims.”

In every village, the message from local people is the same: “Please, please help us! The Fulani ​are coming. We are not safe in our own homes.” Yet time and again, we have ignored their cry for help. We are indifferent to their suffering.

International law is clear: when something is a genocide, it is appropriate to act. No more excuses. The UK must give greater effect to our obligations as a signatory to the 1948 Genocide Convention and our duty to protect. For the longer we tolerate these massacres, the more we embolden the perpetrators. We give them a ‘green light’ to carry on killing.

Read it all.

Posted in Nigeria, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Violence

(EF) Gideon Para-Mallam–An existential threat to Christianity in Nigeria? Systemic persecution and its implications

Terrorism as we know it today in West Africa thrives on religion, ignorance, and social disaffection. Christians in Nigeria are being killed with targeted precision, posing an existential threat to the church.

The virtual abandonment of missions and evangelism in some affected areas represents a clear danger. To succeed in the fight against terrorism, the youth across the religious and ethnic divide need to be united in working proactively to address this existential challenge. We cannot wait for governments to end the cycle of violence in our communities and nations.

We each have a role to play. Jesus has motivated and inspired me in the role I am playing: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God’ (Matt 5:9). Thankfully, the church’s hope in Nigeria remains firmly rooted in the God who promised: ‘I will not leave nor forsake you’ (Heb 13:5).

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Muslim-Christian relations, Nigeria, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

Albert Mohler–The Eclipse of God, the Subversion of Truth, and the Assault upon Religious Liberty

The cultural Left in the United States now dares to use the term “religious liberty” only with scare quotes.

How did this happen?

I believe that conservatives in the United States have vastly underestimated the reality and comprehensiveness of the challenge we face. All of us see parts, but it takes concentrated attention, a devotion to history, and a serious reckoning with ideas to see the whole—the vastness of our crisis. We see religious liberty denied when a cake baker in Colorado experiences sustained efforts to put him out of business, or worse, accompanied nationwide by florists and photographers and a host of others. We see the Fire Chief of Atlanta, Georgia removed because he dared to teach a biblical pattern of human sexuality, and then dared to put his convictions into print—primarily for his own church. We see Christian schools and ministries confront unprecedented challenges across several fronts and we see a continual effort to coerce Christians to surrender to the new regime of sexual rules, gender identity, intersectionality, and identity politics. The enemies of religious liberty are playing hardball, and we were warned.

Chai Feldblum, formerly of Georgetown University Law Center and later appointed by President Barack Obama to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, over a decade ago admitted in a public statement that religious liberty would have to give way to the new sexual or erotic liberty. This new sexual liberty was invented by moral revolutionaries, enshrined by the U.S. Supreme Court, and now used as a weapon of cultural and legal warfare. Then, looking to the day when same-sex marriage would be legalized and religious liberty would be inevitably denied or redefined, Feldblum said: “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win… Sexual liberty should win in most cases. There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases sexual liberty should win because that’s the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.”

In oral arguments before the Supreme Court of the United States, President Obama’s Solicitor General, Donald Verrilli, was asked if the legalization of same-sex marriage might require a Christian college to be coerced into compliance on the question, for example, of married student housing. The Solicitor General responded candidly: “It will be an issue.” Indeed, it will.

It will be an issue for every Christian school, college, or university. It will be an issue for every Christian in the professions, in business, in public service, in uniform. It will be an issue for us all, and particularly for our children and their children and their children’s children.

Read it all.

Posted in Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(Christian Today) ‘High time’ Christian persecution given same attention as climate change

It is “high time” that the denial of freedom of religion and belief is given the same attention as climate change, says the bishop behind a major government review into persecution.

The Bishop of Truro, the Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen, said that religious freedom was under “grave threat” around the world, but the global response had typically been “inaction”.

“How grave does this situation have to become before we act?” he said.

“It seems to me that we currently face two existential threats to human flourishing and harmonious communities: climate change and the systematic denial of FoRB. We are beginning to pay proper attention to the former. It is high time we paid proper attention to the latter.”

Read it all.

Posted in Religious Freedom / Persecution

(Telegraph) Tim Stanley–The West owes Iraq’s persecuted minorities a lot more than just talk

I’m here to interview Christians but I’m also invited to meet the pope of the Yazidis, an ancient native religion, and I’m never one to turn down a pope, so off we go. The venerable Sheikh Baba is in his Eighties, tired, and his son and brother take over the meeting. Conversation – as with all Iraqis – is robust.

“The situation is very bad,” says the Sheikh’s son, and the West offers only “talk”. That’s not entirely fair – some money has been spent by the US – but this is a community in crisis. Daesh killed thousands of Yazidi men and raped the women. When the Jihadists disappeared, they took 3,000 girls with them. Where are they? The Yazidis “are now in camps and [suffer] psychologically and materially. No jobs. We want our people to return to their land.”

He doesn’t think much of its chances in Europe, either. The more Islamists who move there, he says, the more children they have, the less Christian the West will be. The Sheikh’s family are perplexed that we haven’t figured this out yet. There are good and bad Muslims, adds one man, and who can forget what Christians did to the Jews in Germany? But the West “must say the reality”, which is that Daesh was Islamic.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Bp Philip Mounstephen calls for sanctions on countries which persecute Christians

The Bishop of Truro Philip Mounstephen has finally published his independent report on persecuted Christians across the world, and it doesn’t disappoint. The review was commissioned by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt last December, and launched in January, and the intervening six months have been worth the wait, not least for its impeccable justification:

..this particular focus is justified because Christian persecution, like no other, is a global phenomenon. And it is so precisely because the Christian faith is a truly global phenomenon. Thus Christian persecution is not limited to one context or challenge. It is a single global phenomenon with multiple drivers and as such it deserves special attention. More specifically it is certainly not limited to Islamic-majority contexts. So this review is not a stalking horse for the Islamophobic far-right, and nor does it give the Islamophobic right a stick to beat Islam with. To focus on one causative factor alone is to be wilfully blind to many others.

..Because the Christian faith is perhaps the one truly global faith it has become a bellwether for repression more generally. If Christians are being discriminated against in one context or another you can be confident other minorities are too. So renewing a focus on Christian persecution is actually a way of expressing our concern for all minorities who find themselves under pressure. And ignoring Christian persecution might well mean we’re ignoring other forms of repression as well.

Bishop Philip not only calls for the UK to impose sanctions upon countries that persecute Christians, but also for the adoption of a specific definition of anti-Christian discrimination and persecution. Since the Government has refused to adopt a specific definition of Islamophobia, and the definition of Antisemitism is not without contention, it will be interesting to see how anti-Christian discrimination (which some call ‘Christophobia‘) is actually finally defined.

Significantly, Bishop Philip affirms the view expressed by the Rev’d Jonathan Aitken last December in his Christmas sermon to the Foreign Office, of an essential lack of religious literacy among FCO staff.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(BBC) Faith in ruins: China’s vanishing beards and mosques

“The BBC has found new evidence of the increasing control and suppression of Islam in China’s far western region of Xinjiang – including the widespread destruction of mosques.

Authorities provided rare access to religious sites and senior Islamic officials to support their claim that their policies only target violent religious extremism, not faith itself.

But after his official tour was over, China Correspondent John Sudworth set out to investigate.”

Watch it all (about 5 1/3 mins).

Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(USA Today) David Curry–Global Christian persecution is worsening while American churches slumber

On May 18, extremists in Nigeria interrupted a church choir practice and abducted 17 Christians. They are being ransomed and might never see their families again. Some of the Christian women may be sold into slavery or raped and forced to marry the jihadist. It’s the latest attack in the escalating violent war on Christians within Nigeria, where 3,731 Christians were killed last year.

If such violence had occurred in Nashville rather than Nigeria, it would dominate nightly news broadcasts and saturate social media feeds. American churches would be launching fundraising campaigns for victims’ families and addressing it in their weekly gatherings. In this case, however, the American church has barely acknowledged it. Unfortunately, when violence occurs somewhere “over there” instead of in our backyard, it is often dismissed as just another story. American churches must do better.

I constantly bear witness to this sort of violence and the corresponding malaise by the nature of the organization I lead, Open Doors USA. We track such incidents of Christian persecution around the world through our annual World Watch List, a comprehensive ranking of countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. To us, this is more than just “another story”; it is another data point in a global crisis of persecution. One of every nine Christians experience high levels of persecution and suffer for their faith, and it’s picking up pace.

It’s not just in Nigeria.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(BBC) Inside China’s ‘thought transformation’ camps

The BBC has been given rare access to the vast system of highly secure facilities thought to be holding more than a million Muslims in China’s western region of Xinjiang.

Authorities there insist they are just training schools. But the BBC’s visit uncovers important evidence about the nature of the system and the conditions for the people inside it.

Watch it all (just under 12 minutes).

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NYT) China Frees Church Leader After 6 Months in Detention

A key figure in one of China’s best-known churches was released on bail this week, six months after she and dozens of other members of the congregation were detained and their church was closed.

The release on Tuesday of Jiang Rong, 46, still leaves her husband, Wang Yi, pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church, and four other church members in detention. According to a church news release posted on the church’s Facebook page, Ms. Jiang was reunited with the couple’s son, Shuya, who had been living without his parents since they were detained on Dec. 9.

News of the release of Ms. Jiang and another church member was confirmed by a human rights lawyer familiar with the case, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of government retribution.

More than 100 members of Early Rain, which is based in the southwestern city of Chengdu, were detained on Dec. 9 as part of a continuing crackdown on churches, mosques and temples not registered with the state. About half of them were quickly released, but 54 were held for a period of days or months.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(CLJ) Daniel Philpott–Both Sides of the Culture War Are Partially Wrong About Islam

One side, let us call them Islamoskeptics, will say that the attacks remind us of what only fools fail to perceive: Islam is a violent religion. Westerners who let down their guard or indulge hopes of a peaceful Islam are latter day Neville Chamberlains and invite further violence….

Who is right about Islam? This is the question I take up in Religious Freedom in Islam: The Fate of a Universal Human Right in the Muslim World Today, just published by Oxford University Press. There, I propose religious freedom as the yardstick for assessing whether Islam is peaceful and tolerant or violent and intolerant. A universal human right, religious freedom requires people and states to respect the beliefs and practices of those who espouse different answers to the ultimate questions of life, to accord them the full rights of citizenship, and to refrain from invidious discrimination against them. Religious freedom means that nobody pays a penalty for his or her religious beliefs. I pose this criterion for the world’s 47 (or so) states where Muslims are a majority. This is a good test, for in these states, Muslims possess the demographic power to carry out repression if that is what they wish. If freedom obtains here, then the Muslim world’s capacity for freedom is evidenced.

What results emerge? A landscape view shows that on average, Muslim-majority states are less free than the rest of the world and even less free than Christian-majority states. In the 2011 book, The Price of Freedom Denied, sociologists Brian J. Grim and Roger Finke document that 62% of Muslim-majority countries host a moderate to high level of persecution, in comparison with 60% of all other countries and 28% of Christian countries. More sharply, they show that 78% of Muslim-majority countries contain high levels of government restrictions on religion as compared to 43% of all other countries and 10% of Christian countries. Overall, the Muslim-majority world has a religious freedom problem.

A closer look at this world, however, reveals a more complex and hopeful picture. It turns out that 11, or 23%, of Muslim-majority states are religiously free according to a scale devised by the Pew Forum. These are too numerous to be outliers. In the other 36, or three-quarters, of Muslim-majority states that are not religiously free, Islam is not necessarily the reason for the lack. 15 states are “secular repressive,” meaning that they are governed by a regime that aspires to become a modern nation-state and is convinced that religion can only be a hindrance to this quest—an ideology borrowed from the French Revolution. Examples are Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Uzbekistan, and the other “stans” of Central Asian. True, the other 21 of these unfree states are “religiously repressive” because they are governed by an ideology of Islamism that calls for the imposition of a strict and traditional form of Islam by the state. While these states bear out Islam’s capacity for repression, they are 45%, or less than half, of the total. The French Revolution vies with the Iranian Revolution as the dominant form of repression in the Muslim world.

Both sides of the culture war, then, are partially right and partially wrong, at least on the criterion of religious freedom in today’s Muslim-majority states. That these states are religiously unfree in the aggregate supports Islamoskeptics; that they are diverse supports Islamopluralists. Both positions point to prescriptions. The dearth of religious freedom shows the need for its increase. The diversity in the Muslim world—the presence of some religiously free states, the fact some are unfree because of secularism, not Islam—shows the possibility of its increase. The case for its increase lies in justice. Religious freedom is a human right not only in the legal sense that it is articulated in the world’s major human rights conventions but also in the moral sense that it protects the dignity of persons and communities in their search for and expression of religious truth. Scholars also have shown that religious freedom fosters goods that Muslim states disproportionately lack, including democracy and equality for women, and reduces ills that these states disproportionately suffer, including terrorism, civil war, and poverty.

Read it all.

Posted in Globalization, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

Anglicans and Catholics make joint submission to Foreign Office review on persecuted Christians

From there:

The Church of England and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales have made a joint submission to the Independent Review of Foreign and Commonwealth Office support for persecuted Christians.

In a joint letter accompanying the submission, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, said that in many places “our Christian sisters and brothers face persecution of an intensity and extent unprecedented in many centuries.”

However, the Archbishops added that these threats to freedom of religion or belief are not restricted to Christians alone, but are a widespread experience of the followers of other faiths.

“We ask Her Majesty’s Government to take note of the practical recommendations offered by our Churches in this Submission and to take meaningful action not only in protecting Christians facing persecution but also in promoting freedom of religion and belief more widely,” they said

(follow the link to see the 2 full letters).

Posted in Church of England, Ecumenical Relations, Globalization, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Roman Catholic

(CT) Free at Last: Andrew Brunson Released by Turkey After Two Years

American pastor Andrew Brunson has been released after being detained for two years in Turkey.

At a hearing this morning, a Turkish court freed him from judicial control, which lifts his house arrest and travel ban.

Despite a guilty verdict sentencing him to 3 years, 1 month, and 15 days in prison, Brunson may return home to the United States as soon as today due to good behavior and time already served.

NBC News broke the news yesterday of the expected deal between Turkey and the United States over Brunson, a North Carolina pastor who had worked in Izmir for decades and was arrested on terrorism and espionage charges in the aftermath of a failed coup in 2016.

US officials and religious freedom advocates considered the charges against Brunson to be erroneous, and multiple witnesses retracted their testimonies against him during today’s hearing.

Trump administration officials were optimistic but cautious that Turkey would follow through on the deal, reported The Washington Post. The deal would likely lift recent US sanctions in exchange for Brunson’s release by being sentenced today to time already served.

Officials expect Brunson to “be handed back his passport and put on a plane to the US,” reported The Wall Street Journal….

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Missions, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Turkey

(1st Things) Hadley Arkes–Recasting Religious Freedom

The truth that dare not speak its name is that even many friends of religious freedom have been content to argue for that freedom on terms that accept this reduction of religion to “beliefs” untested by reason. They do so because they don’t wish to put themselves in the position of speaking the uncomfortable truth: that not everything that calls itself religion in this country may be regarded as a legitimate religion. And so we try to vindicate a “ministerial exception” to the laws on employment. We insist that churches must be free to determine who counts as a minister according to their own criteria and teaching. But does that freedom from the intrusion of the government apply as well to the ministers appointed under the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or even worse, does it apply to Satanists claiming the standing of a religion?

We cannot detach ourselves from judging Satanism, or radical evil, and in the same measure we cannot detach ourselves from the task of discriminating between religions that are more or less plausible, more or less legitimate, based on the substance of what they teach. No argument that seeks to explain a just regime of religious freedom—and a sweeping protection for anything that calls itself religion—could possibly offer a coherent moral account when it seeks to incorporate in its understanding a posture of indifference to radical evil. The canons of reason will ever be woven into the laws on religion—even in judging what is plausible or implausible in what is reported to us about the word of God.

Aristotle taught us that the mark of the polis, the political order, was the presence of law, and law springs distinctly from the nature of that creature who can give and understand reasons concerning matters of right and wrong. Aristotle expressed the classic understanding of the moral ground of the law in that way, and I would suggest that the freedom of religion will find firmer ground by insisting again on that connection between moral reasoning and the law—between the reasons that support our religious convictions and the religious freedom we would protect through the law. The beginning of the argument would be to remind people of that connection between the very logic of a moral judgment and the logic of law. In the strictest sense, a “moral” judgment moves beyond statements of merely personal taste or private belief; it speaks to the things that are right or wrong, just or unjust, generally or universally—for others as well as ourselves.

In a corresponding way, the law moves by overriding claims of mere private choice, personal freedom, subjective belief. It imposes a rule of justice that claims to hold for everyone who comes within its reach.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(CT) Christian Baker Masterpiece Cakeshop Wins at Supreme Court

The high court ruled that state penalties levied against Jack Phillips, the Colorado business owner at the center of Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, violated his First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion since the regulations were not applied neutrally.

While the court clearly came down in Phillips’s favor, Anthony Kennedy acknowledged in the court’s opinion that similar cases (like those that have come up involving photographers and florists, as well as pizza shops and a range of other businesses) may be adjudicated differently.

As SCOTUSblog wrote in summary, the decision still allows for the government to bar discrimination against same-sex couples, “so long as the law is applied neutrally and without hostility to religion. But whether the very same law could sometimes violate free speech rights is still totally open.”

Today’s decision still has religious freedom advocates celebrating.

“No one should be forced to violate their faith in order to earn a living, and Jack, who I’ve met and consider a friend, just wants to be free to live out his faith in his chosen profession,” stated Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, who was “delighted” at the ruling and its implications for religious freedom.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Supreme Court

(BP) Albert Mohler tells NRB of a ‘new regime of invented rights’

Mohler quoted a 2016 official report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in which the chairman, Martin R. Castro, wrote, “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.”

The commission’s report, Mohler pointed out, placed both religious liberty and religious freedom in scare quotes as if they are “linguistic constructions without any objective reality.”

“We are now witnessing a great and inevitable collision between religious liberty and newly declared and invented sexual liberties,” he said, listing various incidents illustrating how the collision is now taking place.

Mohler encouraged Christian leaders to hold on to the truths expressed in the Declaration of Independence and to defend these truths “that should be, but often are not, recognized as self-evident.”

And to the generation of young people who are committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ but assume that the defense of religious liberty is political, Mohler said they also need to be committed to the free propagation and voicing of the Gospel, without which sinners will not hear the Gospel.

“We’re in a fight that’s worth fighting,” Mohler said. “And we understand that as we contend for the freedom of religion, and the freedom of speech, and the freedom of press, again, we’re doing this not just for ourselves and for our children, not just for our churches, but for the world.

“Let’s pray that God will give us wisdom to hold these truths in perilous times,” Mohler concluded.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Media, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(Christian Today) It is as if prayer is a crime: Egypt’s Christians appeal for help after church closures

Following the closure of a number of churches in recent weeks, Coptic Christians in the south of Egypt have renewed calls on local authorities for an end to discrimination.

Two churches in two separate villages in the southern province of Minya have been shut down by the authorities, a statement by the Minya diocese said.

It said worshippers were harassed at both churches and pelted with rocks at one of them.

‘We have kept quiet for two weeks after the closure of one of the churches, but due to our silence the situation has worsened … it is as if prayer is a crime the Copts must be punished for,’ said the statement, which was released on Saturday.

A third church was closed following rumors of a pending attack, but the diocese said no attack has taken place since and the church remains closed.

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Posted in Coptic Church, Egypt, Middle East, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Violence

[Premier] Three Christian converts appeal Holy Communion lashes

Three Christian converts each facing 80 lashes for drinking alcohol during Holy Communion are due before an Iranian court to challenge their sentences.

They were arrested on 13th May 2016 and charged with “acting against national security”, alongside Youcef Nadarkhani, a pastor once sentenced to death for apostasy.

Miles Windsor from Middle East Concern, an organisation which defends the religious freedoms of Christians, told Premier Christian Radio: “Do be praying that these men would be acquitted, that they will be freed.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(CC) Philip Jenkins–When does faith become fraudulent?

Should truth in adver­tising laws apply to religious claims? Should governments be in the business of defining authentic miracles? Which pastors are genuine, and which are fakes?

However fanciful such questions might seem, all these issues are very much alive in contemporary Africa. The Christian upsurge of the past half century has been marked by widespread claims of healing and miracles, often in the context of charismatic revivals and crusades. As in any such great awakening since apostolic times, a number of wild and bizarre claims have been made, and there is some evidence of active fraud. Every society has its own versions of Elmer Gan­try, people who use religious deception as a money-making tool. The question then arises of who is meant to regulate or suppress such outbreaks.

One early attempt oc­curred in Nigeria in 2004, when the National Broad­casting Commission tried to prohibit anyone from showing “unverifiable” miracle healings on television.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Theology

[Christian Times] China shuts 'unofficial' Christian churches ahead of G20 summit

Chinese authorities are banning “illegal” and “unofficial” churches in preparation for the G20 summit, which will be held in Hangzhou.

Many heads of state will arrive in the city for a two-day meeting in September. Authorities say closing the churches in Hangzhou was meant for safety purposes.
……..
One unofficial Protestant church that has existed for 40 years in the city’s Jianghan district and has around 2,000 members received a warning about the “illegal gatherings” they were apparently holding. The religious affairs bureau instructed it to “reform its illegal gathering activities,” according to Radio Free Asia.

Along with the notice came officials who took down a large cross on a church wall.

The church, which has since then been prohibited from meeting together, sought counsel from lawyer Li Guisheng.

Li said authorities have attempted to convince the church to become part of the Three-Self church, but they continually refused. Their refusal could be the reason behind the ban on church meetings, Li said.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Religious Freedom / Persecution

[CT] Canon Andrew White suspended in dispute over alleged payments to rescue ISIS sex slaves

By Ruth Gledhill
The Vicar of Baghdad was suspended by the charity he founded amid an investigation into alleged payments used to rescue Islamic State sex slaves, according to The Times.

Canon Andrew White, 52, who was ordered to leave Iraq at the end of 2014 by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby over fears for his safety, has continued working in the Middle East and worldwide to help Christians, Yazidis and other minorities fleeing ISIS.

He was suspended after the Charity Commission launched an investigation into the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, the charity he set up in 2010 when he was Vicar of St George’s Church, Baghdad.

Last October Canon White posted a notice on Facebook where he said: “Want to know what we are doing to help the Yazidi sex slaves?”

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Religious Freedom / Persecution

Sudan: Massacre in Heiban as Nuba ”˜genocide’ enters its sixth year

By Elizabeth Kendal at Lapidomedia
At 6 pm on 1 May, two Sudanese Air Force MiG fighter jets attacked residential areas within Heiban town in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan, killing six children, three from one family.

The dead children were named as: Nidal Abdolrahman Ibrahim (12), Ibrahim Abdolrahman Ibrahim (10), Jihan Abdolrahman Ibrahim (5), Hafez Mahmud (10) Kuku Dawli (4), and Yusif Yagoub (4).

Despite an almost complete news blackout, the ”˜Heiban Massacre’ is not an isolated incident.

The Government of Sudan’s genocidal jihad against the non-Arab and mostly non-Muslim peoples of Sudan’s ”˜New South’ ”“ Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile ”“ continues a campaign that has just entered its sixth year.

For the Christians of the Nuba Mountains, it is the second ‘genocide’ in a generation.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Religious Freedom / Persecution