Category : Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NYT front page) ‘They Have My Sister’: As Uyghurs Speak Out, China Targets Their Families

She was a gifted agricultural scientist educated at prestigious universities in Shanghai and Tokyo. She said she wanted to help farmers in poor areas, like her hometown in Xinjiang, in western China. But because of her uncle’s activism for China’s oppressed Muslim Uyghurs, her family and friends said, the Chinese state made her a security target.

At first they took away her father. Then they pressed her to return home from Japan. Last year, at age 30, Mihriay Erkin, the scientist, died in Xinjiang, under mysterious circumstances.

The government confirmed Ms. Erkin’s death but attributed it to an illness. Her uncle, Abduweli Ayup, the activist, believes she died in state custody.

Mr. Ayup says his niece was only the latest in his family to come under pressure from the authorities. His two siblings had already been detained and imprisoned. All three were targeted in retaliation for his efforts to expose the plight of the Uyghurs, he said.

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

(RCR) Asma T. Uddin–Defend Religious Liberty for All Despite Our Differences

I recently attended the inaugural Religious Liberty Summit hosted by the Religious Liberty Initiative at Notre Dame Law School, where attendees’ religious differences were obvious even to a casual observer. At this leading Catholic university, I watched a Jewish Rabbi praise a Mormon author. And as Rabbi Dr. Soloveichik spoke, I glanced up and saw an Elder from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a Catholic cardinal, and a notable Protestant leader sitting side by side. I saw secular agnostics and devout believers — reporters, advocates, and pundits. For all the differences in that room, there was a comfortable warmness, academic and earnest. It was apparent that the leaders who had gathered there shared an understanding that religious freedom is about our individual dignity as human beings and the demands of conscience.

Sitting inside that Catholic university, I remembered “Dignitatis Humanae,” Catholicism’s definitive 1965 document about religious liberty: “The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly and with power.” The document also argues that free will — free search — is foundational: “The inquiry is to be free, carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue, in the course of which men explain to one another the truth they have discovered, or think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the quest for truth.” Religious liberty as a whole is at risk when a society embraces the idea that some searches for truth are invalid because of where they lead.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(CT) Supreme Court Sides with Catholic Foster Care Agency

The United States Supreme Court ruled decisively in favor of a Catholic foster care agency on Thursday, with all nine justices agreeing that the city of Philadelphia violated the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty when it ended a contract with Catholic Social Services (CSS) over service to…[prospective adoptees with same-sex parents].

“It is plain that the City’s actions have burdened CSS’s religious exercise by putting it to the choice of curtailing its mission or approving relationships inconsistent with its beliefs,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

Philadelphia claimed the city could not contract foster care services with a Catholic agency that only served married heterosexual couples because of an antidiscrimination law ensuring that everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, has equal access to public accommodations. The court found, however, that foster parenting is not a “public accommodation,” since certification is not available to the public and “bears little resemblance to staying in a hotel, eating at a restaurant, or riding a bus.”

According to the court, there was also no evidence presented in the record that the Catholic agency’s policies ever prevented a same-sex couple from fostering a child, or that it would have that effect.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Roman Catholic, Supreme Court, Urban/City Life and Issues

(UCA) Anglican pastor among 50 killed in Congo attacks by an Islamist armed group

An Anglican pastor was among 50 people killed in separate attacks in the troubled eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Local officials and monitor groups said on June 1 that the attacks on May 31 night were the worst seen in at least four years in the troubled Tchabi and Boga regions in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, bordering Uganda.

The army blamed the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist armed group, for raiding villages.

Albert Basegu, head of a civil rights group in Boga, told Reuters that he came to know about the attack there by the sound of cries at a neighboring house.

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Posted in Anglican Church in Congo/Province de L'Eglise Anglicane Du Congo, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Republic of Congo, Terrorism, Violence

(Open Doors) Christians murdered in terror attack in Indonesia this week

On 11 May, four Christian men were murdered in a village in Indonesia. Members of a terrorist group are believed to be responsible. Open Doors partners are looking to help the families of the victims.

Tragically, four Christian men from a village called Kalimago in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, were beheaded by Islamic extremists on the morning of 11 May. The attack is believed to have been carried out by members of the terrorist group East Indonesia Mujahidin (MIT), which has links to so-called Islamic State – it’s the second attack in the past six months: four Christians were killed in Sigi, in the same region, last November.

The victims (who have yet to be named) were men aged between 42 and 61, and all attended churches in the area.

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Posted in Indonesia, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

(WSJ) What Do Dogs Really Think? Pet Psychics Are Standing By

Once or twice a year, Terri O’Hara visits a ranch in Littleton, Colo., to talk with the animals.

Ms. O’Hara strolls through the barn, mingles with the herd and sits down with the poultry. She says she drinks in telepathic images that reveal animals’ inner thoughts, be they profound or mundane.

On a typical visit, Ms. O’Hara will report that a gelding is concerned that human staff members get dangerously underfoot around the feeding stations. The miniature steer is miffed that the male pig has a female companion and he doesn’t. The alpacas divulge that cliques are forming among the volunteer ranch hands. The hens complain that the rooster is abusive.

Ranch owner Bernadette Spillane takes these reports into account when managing the 53-acre property. The ranch is a sanctuary for rescued horses, and Ms. Spillane says they line up to unburden themselves on Ms. O’Hara’s visits. “There were horses we didn’t realize were having an issue,” says Ms. Spillane, 65 years old. “Or they knew other horses were having an issue, and they wanted to talk about it.”

In humans’ long quest to communicate with their beloved pets, some are casting doubts aside and turning to animal communicators—sometimes called pet psychics—to try to learn what’s on Fido’s mind.

“Just because I don’t understand it doesn’t mean it’s not real,” says former Manhattan restaurateur Alex von Bidder, whose daughter brought an animal communicator to her horse farm in Aiken, S.C.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Animals, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

([London] Times) China guilty of genocide over Uighurs, international lawyers say in report

China’s campaign of persecution against its Uighur ethnic minority has violated every article in the UN genocide convention, a landmark independent review has found.

The report by more than 50 international law experts, which runs to 25,000 pages, is the first legal non-governmental examination of a swelling body of evidence over Beijing’s treatment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang province. It adds that the government under President Xi bears responsibility for an “ongoing genocide”.

Under the UN Genocide Convention, a party can be found to commit genocide if they carry out any of five acts, including murder, displacement and birth suppression, with “the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

Read it all (subscription).

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

(Reuters) U.S. ‘deeply disturbed’ by reports of systematic rape of Muslims in China camps

The United States is “deeply disturbed” by reports of systematic rape and sexual abuse against women in internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region and there must be serious consequences for atrocities committed there, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday.

A BBC report earlier on Wednesday said women in the camps were subject to rape, sexual abuse and torture. The British broadcaster said “several former detainees and a guard have told the BBC they experienced or saw evidence of an organized system of mass rape, sexual abuse and torture.”

Asked to comment, a State Department spokeswoman said: “We are deeply disturbed by reports, including first-hand testimony, of systematic rape and sexual abuse against women in internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang.”

The spokeswoman reiterated U.S. charges that China has committed “crimes against humanity and genocide” in Xinjiang and added: “These atrocities shock the conscience and must be met with serious consequences.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(Commentary) Adam White–The Turn Against Religious Liberty

America’s history of tolerance and accommodation, which the late Justice Ginsburg invoked at oral argument, reflected America’s constitutional institutions. When legislators representing diverse people and values meet on equal footing to debate and deliberate, the product is informed by values of toleration. The legislative process’s inherent tendency toward compromise and moderation is itself a crucial institution for the perpetuation of tolerance. But in dominance, intolerance.

And when Americans see the lawmaking power as a weapon to be won in warlike presidential elections and then wielded against one’s opponents for the four years that follow—not the shared responsibility of legislators—they too lose their capacity for tolerance and their memory of toleration.

Rebuilding that capacity, and restoring that memory, requires a return to Madison—not a “Madison’s Razor” of Rakove’s creation, but the genuinely republican constitutional institutions that Madison himself labored to help create, and the republican virtues that Madison knew undergirded those institutions.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Supreme Court

(The World) Undeterred by ICC decision, Uighurs hail EU, UK steps toward holding China accountable

After more than 70 years of Chinese rule over the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, there’s mounting evidence that in recent years, their occupation has intensified into an environment of strict surveillance, with more than a million Uighurs held in internment camps.

Reports show many are forced to pick cotton and work in factories that supply international brands and that some Uighurs are even subjected to forced sterilizations and organ harvesting.

For several years, Beijing repeatedly denied those allegations, while companies like Nike said they’ve made sure they’re not using Uighur slave labor. But some recent developments suggest 2021 may see a breakthrough in the Uighurs’ long struggle for justice, with help from a new group of international lawmakers.

“I’m accusing the Chinese authorities of the worst crime of the 21st century. I am also accusing the international community for being a part of this crime, for abetting it through its silence,” European Parliament Member Raphaël Glucksmann of France said during a Dec. 17 debate, through an interpreter. “I’m also accusing Nike and other multinational corporations that are taking advantage of slavery.”

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

(WSJ) Timothy Dolan and Toufic Baaklini–Remember the Persecuted at Christmas

For the first time in their lives, millions of Americans have been ordered by their government not to attend church. For millions of persecuted Christians across the globe, this is the only reality they know.

The theme of persecution lies at the heart of the Christmas story. The Holy Family were forced to flee their native land due to state-sponsored oppression. As citizens of a global superpower whose lawmakers are responsive to their citizens, we are called to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians. The U.S. government has shown during this difficult year that it is responsive to such advocacy.

The House unanimously passed a resolution in November calling for continued humanitarian assistance to Christians, Yazidis and other communities that survived the ISIS genocide in Iraq and Syria. Also last month, the State Department and the Polish government hosted the third annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, an international forum for governments and civil society.

At the same time, 2020 has presented unprecedented challenges for persecuted Christians world-wide.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(WSJ) Some Churches Push Back Against Coronavirus Restrictions

Religious leaders in Europe and the U.S. are pushing back harder against coronavirus restrictions than during the pandemic’s first wave, invoking their right to religious freedom and arguing churches are safe.

Protests in France and Britain, where bans on communal worship are now in place, have brought governments to the negotiating table with religious leaders. The Catholic diocese of Brooklyn, one of the largest in the U.S., is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court against numerical limits on worshipers.

Church leaders were largely deferential during the spring lockdowns to curb the spread of Covid-19. Many are taking a different tack now, convinced churches shouldn’t be treated more strictly than secular activities.

“We have demonstrated, by our action, that places of worship and public worship can be made safe from Covid transmission,” wrote a group of British faith leaders to Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this month.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(CT) Legal experts worry that ruling in landmark workplace discrimination cases can’t provide the nuanced exemptions evangelicals have advocated for

In an article for Christianity Today’s ChurchLawAndTax.com, attorney and senior editor Richard Hammar said churches retain important protections with employment decisions pertaining to clergy, despite Monday’s ruling. However, Monday’s decision fosters greater uncertainty for churches with employees in nonministerial roles, he said.“

Churches that take an adverse action against an employee or applicant for employment based on religious considerations should describe their action appropriately,” Hammar said. “Refer to the religious or doctrinal principle at issue, and avoid generic labels like ‘sex’ or other gender- or sexuality-based labels.”

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote that the ruling will have “seismic implications for religious liberty, setting off potentially years of lawsuits and court struggles, about what this means, for example, for religious organizations with religious convictions about the meaning of sex and sexuality.”

“This Supreme Court decision should hardly be surprising, given how much has changed culturally on the meanings of sex and sexuality,” he said. “That the ‘sexual revolution’ is supported here by both ‘conservatives’ and ‘progressives’ on the court should also be of little surprise to those who have watched developments in each of these ideological corners of American life.”

Read it all and there is a lot more there as well.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Language, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Supreme Court

(Wa Po) State Department rebukes China as one of the worst abusers of religious freedom

A State Department official singled out China on Wednesday as one of the world’s worst offenders of religious freedom, saying it backslid the most last year as thousands more people of faith were subjected to imprisonment and forced labor.

The accusation by Sam Brownback, the ambassador of international religious freedom, represented the latest salvo in an exchange of recriminations between Washington and Beijing. In recent months, tensions have grown as the two countries have sparred over the coronavirus, Hong Kong, press freedoms and trade. China has accused the United States of hypocrisy amid nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd and other African Americans who have died in police custody, and the Trump administration’s response to massive demonstrations.

The State Department used Wednesday’s annual Report on International Religious Freedom to increase the crescendo of criticism of China, which has been designated a “country of particular concern” on religious freedom since 1999.

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

(CT) Nigeria’s Government Agrees: Islamist Terrorists Target Christians

In comments given exclusively to CT, the administration of President Muhammad Buhari clarified that this targeting is not new.

“Yes, Boko Haram is targeting individual Christians. In doing so, their target is all Nigerians, and their goal is to divide Christian brother against Muslim brother,” Mohammed, the information minister, told CT.

“What Boko Haram seeks—and always has sought—is to drive a wedge between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria.

“By targeting Christians, they seek to promulgate the falsehood that the democratically elected Nigerian government does not care to protect them.

“By targeting Muslims, they seek to promulgate the falsehood that the terrorists themselves follow truthfully Islamic teachings, and those they target do not.

“It is the strategy of the desperate.”

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

(CT) Nigerian Christians Marched Sunday to Protest Persecution

Based on reports from its state chapters and local media, CAN estimates 5 million people marched in 28 of Nigeria’s 36 states on Sunday.

“Though we have protested before, this event took a new dimension,” CAN president Samson Ayokunle told CT.

“With one voice, we said ‘no’ to killings, ‘no’ to security negligence, and ‘no’ to the persecution of Christians in Nigeria. It is a wake-up call to the government.”

Read it all.

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

(Express) How Christian persecution overseas is set to become UK priority

A religious literacy programme will be rolled out to ensure that civil servants and diplomats are no longer ignorant of the dire threats facing Christians around the world.

Sir Desmond Swayne, a leading Conservative campaigner for religious liberty, said: “This is all part of global Britain… This is us now reaching out with our soft power, using our diplomacy to defend religious freedom.”

The new training package will also give Government staff a crash course in the importance of religion to billions of people – and it may make damaging diplomatic blunders less likely.

There was embarrassment in 2018 when Britain’s most senior diplomat had to apologise for calling one of the holiest Sikh sites a mosque.

Research by the campaigning charity Open Doors suggests the persecution of Christians is getting worse, with “an average of eight Christians” killed for their faith every day last year, and 23 were “raped or sexually harassed for faith-related reasons”. It found North Korea was the country with the worst record on persecution, followed by Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Pakistan.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NR) The Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in a Key Religious-Freedom Case

Ultimately, the Court in Trinity rejected the fungibility argument, a position that Justice Stephen Breyer reaffirmed in the opening arguments of Espinoza. The proposition, Breyer said, that the state will “give police protection to all schools, all people, but no religious institution” is a facially “unconstitutional” one. Lawyers for the mothers suing in Espinoza agreed, arguing that the revocation of their children’s scholarships was an unconstitutional exercise in religious discrimination: the denial of a neutral public benefit — a scholarship to be used as they please — because of their status as religious persons.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s rejoinder to the respondents during opening arguments helps to explain the fundamental difference between Espinoza and Locke. While he conceded that “funding religion, funding religious schools generally or training of clergy is . . . an establishment clause-concern,” as argued in Locke, Kavanaugh claimed that Espinoza raises “a separate issue when you set up a neutral-benefit program — police, fire, or scholarships — and allow people to use those things, allow religious institutions to obtain the benefits of those things on a non-discriminatory basis.”

Kavanaugh’s assertion reaches the question at the heart of Espinoza: Is it constitutional for a state to withhold a neutral public benefit — here, a scholarship that parents can use at either a secular or religious private school — because the recipient of that benefit might use it in furtherance of a religious end? The plaintiffs acknowledge that states do not have an obligation to subsidize private education. If a state decides to do so, however, it has a constitutional duty to treat all of its citizens, religious and non-religious alike, with an even hand. That duty is what’s at stake here, and we won’t have to wait too long to know the outcome: A ruling is expected this summer.

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

(CT) The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Be a Christian

Every day, 8 Christians worldwide are killed because of their faith.

Every week, 182 churches or Christian buildings are attacked.

And every month, 309 Christians are imprisoned unjustly.

So reports the 2020 World Watch List (WWL), the latest annual accounting from Open Doors of the top 50 countries where Christians are the most persecuted for their faith.

“We cannot let this stand,” said David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, during the 2020 list’s unveiling in Washington, DC, this morning. “People are speaking out and we have an obligation to hear their cry.”

The listed nations comprise 260 million Christians suffering high to severe levels of persecution, up from 245 million in last year’s list.

Read it all.

Posted in Globalization, Other Churches, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(CT) For Christian Women, Persecution Looks Like Rape

Dali’s work serves but a tiny number of the millions of women around the world who suffer from persecution. Of the 245 million Christians attacked for their faith last year, many are women and girls who are specifically and most frequently targeted through forced marriage, rape, and other forms of sexual violence. These are the findings of Gendered Persecution, an Open Doors report that examined the differences in persecution by gender in 33 countries for women and 30 countries for men. (An updated report will be released this March.)

While forced marriage is the “most regularly reported means of putting pressure on Christian women” and “remains largely invisible,” when analyzing the data on female persecution, researchers Helene Fisher and Elizabeth Miller found that

Among all forms of violence… the one most often noted [for women] was rape. The research found it to be a common characteristic of persecution of Christian women in 17 countries, with other forms of sexual assault being listed for exactly half of countries with available data. There are no mentions of this form of violence against men, nor is domestic violence one of the pressures mentioned as a tactic used against Christian men.

Not only must Christian women like the Boko Haram captives deal with their own trauma, they often can’t find sanctuary within their faith communities when they come home.

“Unfortunately, it is all too common that Christian communities do not distinguish themselves from their surrounding cultures and, as a result, will stigmatize their women and girls who have been victims of violence,” Fisher and Miller, the authors of the report, wrote in a statement to CT.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Sexuality, Violence, Women

(WSJ) Bernard-Henri Lévy–The New War Against Africa’s Christians

A slow-motion war is under way in Africa’s most populous country. It’s a massacre of Christians, massive in scale and horrific in brutality. And the world has hardly noticed.

A Nigerian Pentecostal Christian, director of a nongovernmental organization that works for mutual understanding between Nigeria’s Christians and Muslims, alerted me to it. “Have you heard of the Fulani?” he asked at our first meeting, in Paris, speaking the flawless, melodious English of the Nigerian elite. The Fulani are an ethnic group, generally described as shepherds from mostly Muslim Northern Nigeria, forced by climate change to move with their herds toward the more temperate Christian South. They number 14 million to 15 million in a nation of 191 million.

Among them is a violent element. “They are Islamic extremists of a new stripe,” the NGO director said, “more or less linked with Boko Haram,” the sect that became infamous for the 2014 kidnapping of 276 Christian girls in the state of Borno. “I beg you,” he said, “come and see for yourself.” Knowing of Boko Haram but nothing of the Fulani, I accept.

The 2019 Global Terrorism Index estimates that Fulani extremists have become deadlier than Boko Haram and accounted for the majority of the country’s 2,040 documented terrorist fatalities in 2018. To learn more about them, I travel to Godogodo, in the center of the country, where I meet a beautiful woman named Jumai Victor, 28. On July 15, she says, Fulani extremists stormed into her village on long-saddle motorcycles, three to a bike, shouting “Allahu Akbar!” They torched houses and killed her four children before her eyes.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Nigeria, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

(NYT) China Sentences Wang Yi, Christian Pastor, to 9 Years in Prison

A secretive Chinese court sentenced one of the country’s best-known Christian voices and founder of one of its largest underground churches to nine years in prison for subversion of state power and illegal business operations, according to a government statement released on Monday.

Wang Yi, the pastor who founded Early Rain Covenant Church, was detained last December with more than 100 members of his congregation as part of a crackdown on churches, mosques and temples not registered with the state.

While most of Mr. Wang’s parishioners, including his wife, Jiang Rong, were eventually released, Mr. Wang never re-emerged from detention.

As part of his sentence, he will also be stripped of his political rights for three years and have 50,000 renminbi, or almost $7,200, of his assets seized, according to the statement.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Politics in General, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NZ Herald) ‘This is mass rape’: China slammed over programme that ‘appoints’ men to sleep with Uighur women

In November, various Western media outlets reported that Han Chinese men had been assigned to monitor the homes of Uighur women whose husbands had been detained in prison camps.

The reports came out after an anonymous Chinese official gave an interview with Radio Free Asia, confirming the program but denying there was anything sinister about it.

As part of the “Pair Up and Become Family” programme, Han Chinese men stay with and sleep in the same beds as Uighur women.

According to the Chinese Government, the programme is designed to “promote ethnic unity”.

But to Rushan Abbas, a Uighur activist whose family members have been detained in the Xinjiang camps for more than a year, it’s nothing more than systemised rape – part of the Government’s brutal ongoing crackdown against the country’s ethnic minority.

“This is mass rape,” she told news.com.au. “The Government is offering money, housing and jobs to Han people to come and marry Uighur people.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Sexuality, Violence

(WSJ) How China Persuaded One Muslim Nation (Indonesia) to Keep Silent on Xinjiang Camps

A year ago, clerics here in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country expressed alarm over China’s treatment of ethnic-minority Muslims—around a million of whom have been detained in re-education camps, according to human-rights groups.

Leaders of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organization, issued an open letter in December 2018 noting reports of violence against the “weak and innocent” community of Uighurs, who are mostly Muslims, and appealing to Beijing to explain.

Soon after, Beijing sprang into action with a concerted campaign to convince Indonesia’s religious authorities and journalists that the re-education camps in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region are a well-meaning effort to provide job training and combat extremism.

More than a dozen top Indonesian religious leaders were taken to Xinjiang and visited re-education facilities. Tours for journalists and academics followed. Chinese authorities gave presentations on terrorist attacks by Uighurs and invited visitors to pray at local mosques. In the camps they visited classrooms where they were told students received training in everything from hotel management to animal husbandry.

Views in Indonesia changed. A senior Muhammadiyah religious scholar who went on the tour was quoted in the group’s official magazine as saying a camp he visited was excellent, had comfortable classrooms and wasn’t like a prison.

Read it all.

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

(ABC Aus.) Controversial religious discrimination bill overhauled as Australia Government releases new draft

The Federal Government has overhauled its proposed religious discrimination laws in an effort to win over faith leaders who rebuked the Coalition’s earlier attempts.

Attorney-General Christian Porter outlined 11 changes to the draft bill, which the Government opted against introducing to Parliament last month after facing criticism from religious and groups advocating for racial and sexual equality, and for those with disabilities.

As flagged, the new bill will allow religious bodies — such as hospitals and aged care providers — to continue to hire people on the basis of their religion.

The other changes include defining the word “vilify” as inciting “hatred or violence” and exemptions to allow religious camps and conference centres to take faith into account when deciding to provide accommodation.

Read it all.

Posted in Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(Guardian) ‘Allow no escapes’: leak exposes reality of China’s vast prison camp network

The internal workings of a vast chain of Chinese internment camps used to detain at least a million people from the nation’s Muslim minorities are laid out in leaked Communist Party documents published on Sunday.

The China Cables, a cache of classified government papers, appear to provide the first official glimpse into the structure, daily life and ideological framework behind centres in north-western Xinjiang region that have provoked international condemnation.

Obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and shared with the Guardian, the BBC and 15 other media partners, the documents have been independently assessed by experts who have concluded they are authentic. China said they had been “fabricated”.

However, the documents are consistent with mounting evidence that the country runs detention camps that are secret, involuntary and used for ideological “education transformation”.

When reports surfaced of mass internments without trial, authorities in Beijing initially denied the existence of the detention centres, whose inmates are mostly Uighurs and other ethnic minorities.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture, 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.

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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.

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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.

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