Persecution and Freedom News

Priests visit anti-Christian riot-hit Indian villages

Visit aims to help them experience the strength of villagers’ faith

ndian priests during a tour of riot-hit Kandhamal villages in eastern Indian Odisha state. (Photo supplied)
Indian priests during a tour of riot-hit Kandhamal villages in eastern Indian Odisha state. (Photo supplied)

Priests  from several parts of India have visited villagers in Odisha state to learn how they coped with anti-Christian violence.

Coming from seven dioceses in northeastern India, 32 of them visited villages in eastern Kandhamal district where violence in 2007-2008 resulted in the murder of about 100 Christians who refused to abandon their faith. The regional Odisha bishops’ council organized the visit, the first in a series. This group of priests are involved in the spiritual and academic formation of seminarians.

“The Catholics of Kandhamal may not pass a catechism examination or win a prize at a catechism quiz but they came out with flying colors in the ultimate test of their faith,” said Bishop John Thomas Kattrukudiyil of Itanagar, who led the group. “Faith is more important than knowledge,” he said, read more at ucanews.com… 

Beijing tightens control of religion in Xinjiang

Parents or guardians should not ‘organize, lure or force minors into attending religious activities’

Friday Prayers, Urumuqi, Xinjiang.
Friday Prayers, Urumuqi, Xinjiang.

The Chinese government have tightened the screws on religious freedom in Xinjiang autonomous region with new regulations allowing for parents and guardians to be reported if they “force” children into religious activities.

The new regulations in the Muslim-majority state were passed by the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Regional People’s Congress on Sept. 29 and will come into effect Nov. 1.

Parents or guardians should not “organize, lure or force minors into attending religious activities,” according to the full text of the juvenile delinquency regulations published by state-run Xinjiang Daily on Oct. 12.

The regulations stated that parents should not teach children “hardline” beliefs, or force them to wear specific clothing or other symbols. Any organization or individual has the right to stop these kinds of behaviors and inform the police, they further stated.

The rules also ban all religious activities in schools, read more…

‘On the Edge’: Gallery of photos from the launch

Christian leaders pledge to support Indian government

Home minister assures them that religious persecution will not be allowed at any cost

Source: Orthodox Christian Network
Source: Orthodox Christian Network

Indian Christian leaders have extended their support to the Hindu nationalist federal government to help in the country’s development.

Some 1,000 Christians leaders told the Indian federal Home Minister Rajnath Singh Oct. 14 in New Delhi that the community did not indulge in any kind of “forced or fraudulent” religious conversions, that Hindu extremist groups cite as reason for anti-Christian violence, read more

 

Cardinal Bo endorses UCAN religious freedom report

‘On the Edge’ shows how the Catholic Church is deeply concerned about the erosion of this fundamental right.

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo said "It is timely, well researched, narrating the poignant stories of survivors of religious intolerance,"
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo said “It is timely, well researched, narrating the poignant stories of survivors of religious intolerance,”

The On the Edge book published by UCA News holds a mirror to religious based hatred and is a fitting warning to not compromise on freedom of conscience, said Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon.

“This document to me is the ‘magna carta’ of religious freedom in Asia,” said Cardinal Bo during the On the Edge book launch in Yangon Oct. 14. This book will shed great light on the need for religious freedom, he said.

On the Edge is the first of a series of annual reports about the state of religious persecution among religions in the region by governments and by each other. It is edited by Father Michael Kelly, S.J., UCAN Executive Director.

On the Edge articulates the agony of Asia — the mother of great religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam and Judaism and the freedom to believe and follow one’s own conscience in determining faith is an inherent right but violated by crooks and governments in theocratic societies as well as democracies,” he said.

The first report focuses on Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, China, India, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam.

“It is timely, well researched, narrating the poignant stories of survivors of religious intolerance,” the Yangon archbishop said.

In documenting the poverty stricken Christian settlements of Pakistan, the narratives of anti-Christian riots in India, the plight of Chinese underground Christians, the sad and moving stories of Rohingyas in Myanmar, the emergence of religious intolerance in Bangladesh, the role of extremist monks in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, the poison of hatred in tolerant Indonesia, “the documentation tells a story of tears, brokenness and resilience of the persecuted religious minorities,” he said.

“Dark clouds of hatred are gathering in Asia. Merchants of death have rolled down narratives of hatred. This book’s great contribution is to hold a mirror to that hatred,” he said.

“Genocides occur where religious freedom is restricted. Genocides occur where this is substituted by procrastination. This is not the time to compromise our conscience,” the cardinal said.

“So the book On the Edge is a fitting warning.”

Religious freedom is the right to hold any belief and the book addresses some of these issues such as the right to worship, observance, practice, expression and teaching, he said.

“Hence, On the Edge is an armor for peace and justice. I wish all Christians will read this book, to understand how the Catholic Church is deeply concerned about the erosion of this fundamental right,” Cardinal Bo said.

You can see more of the book and order a copy here.

 

 

Pakistani clerics demand Asia Bibi’s execution

Threats made as Pakistan’s top court prepares to address final appeal against her death sentence

asia-bibi

A group of influential Pakistani clerics issued a statement Oct. 11, calling for the execution of Christian woman Asia Bibi who was sentenced to death for blasphemy.

The statement by Sunni Ittehad Council, an umbrella group of Sunni clerics, came just days before Pakistan’s top court in Lahore was scheduled on Oct. 13 to take up Bibi’s final appeal against the death sentence. However, on Oct. 13 one of the three judges hearing Bibi’s appeal withdrew from the bench, leading to the case’s adjournment until Oct. 18.

The latest demand for Bibi’s execution was backed by 150 clerics in the council, read more…

Christians condemn threats to heir of lynched couple

Shama Masih and her husband Shahzad Masih were lynched to death and their bodies burned in a brick kiln in Kot Radha Kishan, a village in Kasur district of Pakistan's Punjab province on Nov. 4, 2014.
Shama Masih and her husband Shahzad Masih were lynched to death and their bodies burned in a brick kiln in Kot Radha Kishan, a village in Kasur district of Pakistan’s Punjab province on Nov. 4, 2014.

Relatives warned not to follow up on the case in which Christians were lynched by a Muslim mob

Christian rights activists in Pakistan are concerned over threats made against the legal heir of a Christian couple lynched by a Muslim mob on accusations of blasphemy in 2014.

Shama Masih and her husband Shahzad Masih were lynched to death and their bodies burned in a brick kiln in Kot Radha Kishan, a village in Kasur district of Pakistan’s Punjab province on Nov. 4, 2014.

Pakistan’s independent Human Rights Commission sent a fact finding mission after the killings, which found the blasphemy’s allegation was fabricated.

Dozens of people were rounded up by the police and put on trial.

Iqbal Masih, elder brother of Shahzad Masih, is fighting a legal battle on behalf of the slain couple.

He was reportedly harassed in order to intimidate him from pursuing the case against the perpetrators read more… 

Tibetan singers released after four years in jail

Their songs praised the exiled Dalai Lama and Tibetan self-immolation protests

Tibetan Musicians. Rikaze, Tibet. Source: Steve Hicks via Flickr CC BY 2.0
Tibetan Musicians. Rikaze, Tibet. Source: Steve Hicks via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Two Tibetan singers have been released from jail in southwestern China after they completed a four-year sentence given to them for a music CD they produced that included politically sensitive songs, reports RFA.

Pema Trinley, 27, and Chakdor, 35, were freed from a Sichuan province prison on Oct. 3 and returned to their homes in Ngaba county’s Meruma township, read more…

Congressional report slams China on human rights, religious freedom

Catholic at Mass in rrual China. Source: ucanews.com
A Catholic Mass in rural China. Source: ucanews.com

WASHINGTON – China’s “utterly disgraceful” human rights record is not just bad, it’s getting worse every year, a new Congressional report has warned.

“The Chinese government’s human rights record is utterly disgraceful, continuing a downward trend over the past three years,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chair of the bipartisan Congressional Executive Committee on China, which published the report, stated on Thursday.

“The Chinese government took extraordinary and unprecedented steps last year to decimate the ranks of human rights lawyers, crush independent civil society and religious groups, and expanded controls over the Internet and the press.”

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China released its 15th annual report on China on Thursday. Created in 2000 by the U.S.-China Relations Act, the commission “is mandated to monitor human rights and rule of law developments in China,” the report stated read more…

US Department of State International Religious Freedom Report for 2015

Id Kah Mosque, Kashgar, Xinjinag. Uighurs Muslims face constant harassment and discrimination. Source: Lukas Bergstrom via Flickr CC BY 2.0
Id Kah Mosque, Kashgar, Xinjiang. Uighur Muslims, native to Xinjinag, have to deal with constant harassment and discrimination. Source: Lukas Bergstrom via Flickr CC BY 2.0

US Department of State

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
August 10, 2016

The U.S. Department of State submitted the 2015 International Religious Freedom Report to the United States Congress on August 10, 2016.

Now in its 18th year, this congressionally-mandated Report comprises almost 200 distinct reports on countries and territories worldwide and continues to reflect the United States’ commitment to, and advancement of, the right of every person to freedom of religion or belief.

The 2015 Report notes a continuing trend of some governments enforcing strict laws against blasphemy, apostasy, and conversion from the majority religion, or restricting religious liberty under the guise of combatting violent extremism. Many non-state actors, including terrorists, continued their assault on religious and ethnic minorities.

The Report also notes the positive actions of civil society and other governments around the world to provide greater protections for religious minorities and to safeguard the fundamental freedom of individuals to believe, or not believe – according to their own conscience, and to manifest their religion or belief in worship, practice, observance, and teaching.

Excerpts

Since 2013, provincial authorities in Zhejiang, China have ordered the demolition of several state-sanctioned Protestant and Catholic churches and the removal of over 1,500 crosses as part of a government campaign targeting so-called “illegal” structures. Lawyers and religious leaders protesting the campaign face detention and arrest. In August 2015, Chinese authorities seized human rights lawyer Zhang Kai just prior to a scheduled meeting with the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. Zhang Kai had been providing legal counsel to church communities affected by a government-led campaign to demolish “illegal” churches and crosses. He was finally released in March 2016, but the U.S. government remains concerned about his well-being.

The exercise of religious freedom continued to be nearly non-existent in North Korea. In 2015, the United States co-sponsored annual resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council that condemn the country’s “systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations.” The resolutions further expressed their grave concern over the DPRK’s denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, as well as of the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, and association, and urged the government to take immediate steps to ensure these rights.

In 2014, Brunei implemented Phase 1 of a Sharia Penal Code (SPC), which expanded existing restrictions on minor religious offenses such as eating during Ramadan, cross-dressing, and close proximity between unmarried people of different genders. Phase 2 and Phase 3 are scheduled for implementation in 2017 and 2018. Phase 2 includes corporal punishments such as amputation for theft, and Phase 3 includes stoning to death for apostasy.

In Burma (Myanmar), between May and August, 2015, the previous military-led government adopted a package of four laws related explicitly to “protection of race and religion” that, if enforced, will infringe on the exercise of religious freedom and other human rights. These laws, which appear to target members of the country’s Muslim minority, were championed by prominent Buddhist leaders. The new government has not taken any steps to reverse these laws.

The Vietnamese Committee for Religious Affairs released a draft of the “Law on Religion and Belief” for public comment in April 2015. Despite representations by Vietnamese officials that the new law would begin to bring the country into compliance with its international obligations, the draft law appeared to make only minimal changes to the deeply problematic current regulations on religion. Several representatives of religious communities have asserted that a “bad” draft law would be worse than keeping the current, less formal patchwork of regulations. Others have argued the draft law, while imperfect, will legally “lock in” certain limited rights, such as the right of religious groups to rent property, hold events, or ordain clergy. Subsequent drafts have made some encouraging improvements, but many concerning issues remain unaddressed.

The Report is available at www.State.gov and www.HumanRights.gov.