Persecution and Freedom News

Congress Passes Key Bill to Combat Religious Persecution

Senator Dan Coats (R-IN) in brown jacket, and Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) visit the 212 MASH Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, Camp Bedrock, Bosnia-Herzegovina during their visit to the area. US Army via Flickr CC BY 2.0

A key religious freedom bill that would bolster the State Department’s ability to help counter terrorism and the increasing persecution of religious minorities throughout the world has been sent to President Barack Obama’s desk.

Both the United States House of Representatives and the Senate have passed the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, which is named after the former Virginia congressman who spent over two decades advocating for persecuted religious minorities across the globe.

The legislation, which was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., in the House in 2015 and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in the Senate in 2016, was co-sponsored by over 100 lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle and aims to strengthen and modernize the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.

The House passed the legislation on Tuesday after it passed through the Senate unanimously last week. Read more at The Christian Post….

Muslims and Christians in Burma still face persecution

Burma Army and hardline buddhists continue destruction of homes and places of worship, and threats to their lives

European Commission officials visit camps for internally displaced Rohingyas in Burma. Credit: Evangelos Petratos EU/ECHO, Pauktaw via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
European Commission officials visit camps for internally displaced Rohingyas in Burma. Credit: Evangelos Petratos EU/ECHO, Pauktaw via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Throughout the country’s history, Burmese officials have maintained control “through a divide and rule strategy, pitting Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims against each other,” said Fr. Thomas Reese, SJ, Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in a Dec. 13 discussion in Washington, D.C.

“The plight of both Rohingya Muslims and Christians results from successive governments that have both perpetuated and supported religious violations,” Fr. Reese continued. “It’s time for Burma to defend religious freedom,” he urged. Read more at Catholic News Agency….

The persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan and beyond

A mob has attacked a mosque belonging to the Ahmadi sect in Pakistan, raising concerns about a growing religious intolerance in the country. But Pakistan is not the only Muslim nation where Ahmadis face persecution.

Ahmadi mosque, Chakwal. source: Rabwah Times Twitter
Ahmadi mosque, Chakwal. source: Rabwah Times Twitter

As Pakistanis marked the birthday of Prophet Muhammad on Monday, thousands of religious fanatics attacked a mosque belonging to the minority Ahmadi sect. In what appears to be a well-coordinated attack, the hardliners besieged the Ahmadi place of worship in Chakwal, set the mosque furniture on fire, and wounded several people inside the building. According to Mahmood Javed Bhatti, a local police official, armed men also opened fire on Ahmadis and clashed with security forces.

“A mob attacked the worship place, threw stones and shot gunfire. Police could not stop them because of weak deployment,” Saleemuddin, a spokesman for the Ahmadi community in Pakistan, told the Reuters news agency.

The spokesman said the mosque was built by the community in 1860 and has been in use since then. Read more at Deutsche Welle….

Philippine missionaries call for tribal people abuse probe

Appeal comes after various groups call for ‘self-governance’

Philippine missionaries call for tribal people abuse probe

A student activist displays a placard calling for an end to attacks on tribal schools during the observance of International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

A group of missionary sisters called on government and church leaders in the Philippines to look into the situation of tribal people who have been complaining of abuse and discrimination.

Sister Famita Somogod of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines said the church has an “obligation to combat discrimination” and should “always side with those in the margins.”

The nun issued the statement following calls by various tribal groups for “self-governance” during a three-day meeting of 12 indigenous people groups in the southern region of Mindanao last week.

Sister Somogod also urged the government to “investigate and act” on human rights violations perpetrated against tribal communities. Read more at ucanews.com….

Bangladesh’s indigenous people persecuted  

The Santal tribe are fighting the authorities in a land dispute

A group of Santal women wait for relief aid after being evicted from disputed land in Gaibandha district of northern Bangladesh on Nov. 6. (ucanews.com photo)
A group of Santal women wait for relief aid after being evicted from disputed land in Gaibandha district of northern Bangladesh on Nov. 6. (ucanews.com photo)

On a sunny November morning, Sonamoni Murmu and her 12-year-old son, Sajal collect grass to feed their only cow, from a small paddy field in northern Gaibandha district, Bangladesh.

Murmu, 40, a mother of three sons, knows how to get food for their cow but can’t say the same for her family

“We have gruel in the morning given by a voluntary aid group and we have some leftover rice from last night soaked in water. Maybe we will eat that for lunch, we don’t know what we will have for supper,” Murmu said….

They are among about 2,500 indigenous Santal people, mostly Catholic Christian, who were forcibly evicted off disputed land by workers from Rangpur Sugar Mill with approval from a local lawmaker, administration and police. Read more at ucanews.com

China police detain Hong Kong Christians

Couple from the Gospel Drug Treatment Church run several addiction treatment centers

Two Hong Kong Christians who run addiction treatment centers in China have been taken into police custody in southern Guangdong province, reports a rights group.

Hong Kong residents, Lin Haixin and his wife (no named provided) were taken by police over the weekend of Nov. 26-27, reports U.S.-based China Aid.

Officials from the public security and religious affairs bureaus reportedly entered the center run by the Gospel Drug Treatment Church and seized computer equipment and religious materials. Read more at ucanews.com…

PM Najib slams Suu Kyi over Rohingya Muslim ‘genocide’

‘What’s the use of Aung San Suu Kyi having a Nobel [Peace] Prize?’ Najib asked a raucous crowd in Kuala Lumpur

rohingya

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak led a protest rally on Sunday against what he called a “genocide” of Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority, as he urged Asian neighbours and the world to step up the pressure to stop the violence.

Najib said the rally at a stadium in suburban Kuala Lumpur will send a strong message to Aung San Suu Kyi’s government.

“What’s the use of Aung San Suu Kyi having a Nobel prize?” Najib asked a raucous crowd.

“We want to tell Aung San Suu Kyi, enough is enough … We must and we will defend Muslims and Islam,” he said as supporters chanted “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”).

“UN please do something. The world cannot sit by and watch genocide taking place,” Najib said to loud cheers from thousands of Muslims, including Rohingya refugees. “The world cannot say it is not our problem. It is our problem,” he said. Read more at the South China Morning Post…

Jakarta governor to face yet another rally from Muslim hardliners

Pressure mounts against Christian governor over blasphemy allegations

Merdeka (National Monument) Square.
Merdeka (National Monument) Square.

A large number of Muslim hardliners are expected to join a rally in Jakarta on Dec. 2 to again protest against the Christian governor of Jakarta who they accuse of blasphemy.

Muhammad Rizieq Shihab, counselor of the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council’s Fatwa, said this third rally against Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, commonly known as Ahok, would be peaceful.

“The rally will be in the form of a mass prayer gathering,” Shihab, who is also patron of the Islamic Defenders Front, told tempo.co.

Shihab said his movement to safeguard the Indonesian ulema council will not take responsibility for any other rallies besides the mass prayer gathering which is to be held at the National Monument Square in Central Jakarta.

“If there is a rally held outside the venue we have agreed the national police have the right to take preemptive measures,” he said. Read more at ucanews.com

Indonesian military issues warning to Muslim hardliners

Vows to suppress planned protest against Jakarta’s Christian governer, saying motives are political rather than religious

Din Syamsuddin, the chairman of Advisory Board of the Indonesian Ulema Council, says Muslims should not protest on the street but monitor the blasphemy case against Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama. (ucanews.com photo)
Din Syamsuddin, the chairman of Advisory Board of the Indonesian Ulema Council, says Muslims should not protest on the street but monitor the blasphemy case against Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama. (ucanews.com photo)

Indonesia’s military has vowed to suppress another mass demonstration threatened by hard-line Muslims in Jakarta against the capital’s Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama — popularly known as ‘Ahok.’

The demonstration, scheduled for Nov. 25 to call for Ahok to be prosecuted for alleged blasphemy, would dwarf a protest staged on Nov. 4 in which one person died and at least 100 were injured, organizers said.

More than 100,000 people attended the Nov. 4 rally, according to organizers and authorities.

The threatened rally is to go ahead despite legal action being taken against the governor for allegedly insulting the Quran in a speech. Read more at ucanews.com….

Development as Unfreedom

Shrinking democratic spaces in Asia

The real sign of development and democracy is how a country respects, protects and promotes freedoms and human rights. The biggest challenge of our times is the increasing gap between the promises and performance of states and governments in relation to the protection of the freedoms and human rights of their people. This is most evident in many countries in Asia, with the shrinking of freedom and democratic spaces resulting in increasing attacks on human rights defenders.

Amartya Sen in his acclaimed book “Development as Freedom” defined development as the expansion of human freedoms and capabilities. However, the biggest paradox among most of the countries in the Asia-Pacific region is that there is a new stress on an economic development model that often leads to “unfreedoms”  and  economic and social inequality. Therein, the freedoms of people, particularly those belonging to poor and marginalized groups, are increasingly compromised. Read more at The Irrawaddy…