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Jewish Identity and the Western Wall: Get Religion, April 14, 2013 April 14, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Civil Rights, Get Religion, Israel, Judaism, Press criticism.
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You couldn’t, he thought, find three Jews in the world who would agree on what it meant to be Jewish, yet there were apparently fifty million of these people who knew exactly what it meant to be German, though many of those on deck have never set foot in Germany.

Alan Furst, Dark Star, (1991), p. 380.

Who is a Jew? What is a Jew? Who decides who is a Jew? These questions lie beneath the surface of a Washington Post story that reports on the controversy of women worshiping at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The article entitled “Women challenge Orthodox practice at Israel’s Western Wall” links the political dynamics of the pressure being brought by American Jews upon the Israeli government to accommodate non-Orthodox Jewish worship at what the Post calls “Judaism’s holiest shrine” with an Israeli local news item. Yet the story could have fleshed out the religion ghosts — telling a non-Jewish, non-Israeli audience why this is the something more than a turf battle over worship space.

Because this article is written from an American secular Jewish perspective  — the Post states its support of the protesters in its lede — only half the story is told. The presuppositions of the author — call them biases or perspectives or relative truths — prevents a reader from understanding the political and religious calculus here. It begins:

JERUSALEM — A long-running battle over worship at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest shrine, was rejoined Thursday as Israeli police arrested five Jewish women who wore prayer shawls at a morning service, contrary to Orthodox practice enforced at the site. The arrests came two days after disclosure of a potentially groundbreaking plan that could allow for non-Orthodox services to be held in the area on an equal footing with those conducted according to Orthodox tradition.

Note the verb being used in second clause of the lede sentence: “enforced”. The Post is characterizing the dispute as one of power — he who has power can enforce his will. What trajectory would the story have taken it different verb were used stating that Orthodox practice is not merely enforced but required by law? The story then moves to quotes from the women activists and an “ultra-Orthodox heckler”, before moving to the political, summarizing the history of the dispute, taking it up to recent discussions in the cabinet:

[Prime Minister] Netanyahu asked Natan Sharansky, chairman of the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency, to come up with a plan for worship at the Western Wall that would accommodate the non-Orthodox branches of Judaism that are dominant overseas. The move signaled an increasing awareness in the Israeli government that the confrontations over ritual at the Western Wall are driving a wedge between Israel and Jewish communities abroad.<

Sharansky’s solution presented to American Jewish leaders was to build a platform “south of the main prayer plaza; men and women could pray together there, and women could lead services.”

The article closes with a quote from the Western Wall Orthodox rabbi who said he was in favor of the separate facilities and an Israeli reform rabbi who is given free reign to sound off on his views on the Orthodox hegemony of Judaism in Israel.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, director of the Reform movement in Israel, said that Women of the Wall had succeeded in making religious pluralism at the shrine a major issue of Jewish concern. “The Wall has become an ultra-Orthodox synagogue,” Kariv said, adding that Thursday’s arrests sent a signal that undermined Sharansky’s proposal. “You can’t make a serious attempt to reach a compromise while maintaining a situation where the rights of one side are seriously breached,” he said.

Still, Kariv predicted that if the proposal is implemented, the area set aside for non-Orthodox prayer at the Western Wall “will become the main platform for the vast majority of Israelis and Jews.”

I am not a Jew and have no dog in the fight between the traditional and progressive strands of Judaism. I am concerned with good journalism, though, and find this story unbalanced and incomplete.

Unbalanced because there is no explanation as to why the Orthodox object to bare-headed women leading prayers (as the accompanying photo from the Post shows) next to a gathering of Haredi men praying. While supporters of change have their say in this story supporters of tradition do not. I should say that I know the Talmud rejects the practice — but I do not know if other non-Jews know this. Without an explanation of the religious issues a casual reader might well assume that this is an issue of power.

It was an issue of power in 1928. On the Day of Atonement that year, 28 September 1928, a riot erupted when British police torn down wooden barriers separating male and female worshipers at the Wall. Protests from Jewish communities around the world greeted this action which in turn were followed by protests from Arabs in Palestine against Jews worshiping at the Wall. The British ban on sex segregation barriers became a ban on Jews at the Wall from 1948 1967 when it was under the control of Jordan.

When Israel took control of the Temple Mount area the Wall came under the authority of the Ministry of Religious Affairs. In the 1980s American and English emigrants to Israel began the Women at the Wall movement which sparked a riot by Haredi men at the wall in 1989. In 2003 Israel’s Supreme Court disallowed women from reading publicly from the Torah or wearing traditional prayer shawls at the plaza built by the Ministry in front of the Wall. However, it held the government must build a second area for women and mixed sex groups — as well as non-Orthodox Jews — on the site of Robinson’s Arch.  Sharansky’s solution is to expand this site — which is not under the control of the Ministry.

Without explaining the religious elements — the objections of the Orthodox or the determination of Jewish women to worship at the wall rather than near — the story is incomplete. Without touching upon the history behind this section, it’s context, a casual reader might well suppose this is just about power.

What does the wall symbolize for the religious Jew or the secular Israeli? Is this a continuing chapter in the saga of who is a Jew, what does it mean to be a Jew, and who gets to say who is a Jew? Written for an American or Diaspora audience — the story is incomplete.

First published in Get Religion.

Hong Kong push for gay civil rights: The Church of England Newspaper, April 14, 2013 p 7. April 13, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Marriage.
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Church leaders in Hong Kong have welcomed the proposal for public consultations on a Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance (SODO) that would protect the civil rights of the homosexual community. While declining to speak to the merits of any particular bill, Roman Catholic and Anglican leaders have voiced their general approval of civil rights legislation.

On 1 April 2013 Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, a leading Anglican layman and the former secretary for food and health, took office as chairman of Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunity Commission.

Last month gay activists attacked the appointment of Dr. Chow arguing that his religious principle would prejudice the debate. However Dr. Chow told the South China Morning Post he was a “liberal-minded” Christian and not prejudiced against gay people.

The issue should be handled discreetly. “In the process of legislation, there should be more discussion. Because not everyone would be courageous enough or would choose to disclose their own sexual orientation,” Dr. Chow told Radio Television Hong Kong.

“My religious background is relatively conservative, but even the Anglican Church in England is discussing this issue now,” he said adding that “regardless of what my religious background is or my personal view… these people should not be discriminated against.”

In November 2012 a proposal was put forward in the Legislative Council to launch a public consultation to gauge potential support for SODO. After vigorous debate the motion was defeated and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying dismissed calls for a consultation in a policy address in January.

Evangelical leaders had voiced concern that SODO would lead to gay marriage. Choi Chi-sum, secretary-general of the Society for Truth and Light, said they were “disappointed” that Dr. Chow had now offered his public support for the ordinance before consulting groups who opposed the legislation.

Created in 1996 the equal opportunities commission has a mandate to work towards the elimination of discrimination on the grounds of sex, marital status, pregnancy, disability, family status and race. This brief should be extended to sexual orientation Dr. Chow said.

Whistling in the dark about Islam and reform: Get Religion, December 3, 2012 December 3, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Civil Rights, Get Religion, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Islam, Press criticism.
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Has anyone seen a story in the U.S. press about the opening of France’s first gay-friendly mosque? I’ve not come across anything in the U.S. mainstream media so far, but the story has received a great deal of play from the European press.

Now the cynic in me would want to feign shock at the New York Times not having picked up this story as it deals with an issue dear to its heart. However, it is the foreign policy ramifications of this story that I thought would attract the attention of the U.S. media elite — for the underlying theme of this story has been the philosophical principle behind U.S. Middle East policy. All right-thinking people — government leaders, columnists, the professoriate — believe Islam can be reformed and its tenets brought in line with the Western liberal mind. I am surprised not to have seen America’s public intellectuals jump all over this story.

On Friday Le Monde published a tight, nicely written story entitled « Une “mosquée” ouverte aux homosexuels près de Paris ». Drawing from a Reuters wire service story and its own reporting, Le Monde reported that a gay French Muslim had opened a mosque in a borrowed room on the grounds of a Buddhist dojo outside Paris.

Reuters reported:

Europe’s first gay and lesbian-friendly mosque opens on Friday in an eastern Paris suburb, in a challenge to mainstream Islam’s long tradition of condemning same-sex relationships. The mosque, set up in a small room inside the house of a Buddhist monk, will welcome transgender and transsexual Muslims and seat men and women together, breaking with another custom where the sexes are normally segregated during prayer. Its founder, French-Algerian gay activist and practicing Muslim Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, will also encourage women to lead Friday prayers, smashing yet another taboo.

“It’s a radically inclusive mosque. A mosque where people can come as they are,” said Zahed, 35, whose prayer space will be the first in Europe to formally brand itself as a gay-friendly mosque, according to Muslim experts.

M. Zahed sounds like he has latent Episcopalian-syndrome and uses all the right sort of Christian left buzz words. The story offers a few more words of explanation from M. Zahed, negative reactions from French Muslim leaders and closes with comments from a French academic.

“The goal of these Muslims is to promote a form of Islam that is inclusive of progressive values,” said Florence Bergeaud-Blackler, an associate researcher at France’s Research and Studies Institute on the Arab and Muslim World. The push by gay Muslims for acceptance comes as a younger generation of Muslims is questioning some of the existing interpretations of the Koran as over-conservative. “Even though they are still a extreme minority, their views have a solid theological basis. So their message is not having an insignificant impact,” Bergeaud-Blackler said.

The Le Monde story goes a bit deeper. The comments from French Muslim leaders are much harsher than those reported by Reuters.

« Il y a des musulmans homosexuels, ça existe, mais ouvrir une mosquée, c’est une aberration, parce que la religion, c’est pas ça », estime Abdallah Zekri, président de l’Observatoire des actes islamophobes, sous l’autorité du Conseil français du culte musulman (CFCM).

Which I roughly translate as:

“There are Muslim homosexuals. They exist. But to open a mosque, that is an aberration because homosexuality is contrary to our religion,” said Abdallah Zekri, president of the Islamophobia (sorry AP but that’s what Le Monde calls it) Observer for the CFCM.

 Le Monde also has some choice quotes from M. Zahed as well.

« Les musulmans ne doivent pas se sentir honteux. L’homosexualité n’est condamnée nulle part, ni dans le Coran ni dans la sunna. Si le prophète Mahomet était vivant, il marierait des couples d’homosexuels. » Il rêve d’un islam « apaisé, réformé, inclusif », qui accepterait le blasphème car « la pensée critique est essentielle pour le développement spirituel ».

Which I understand to mean:

Muslims should not feel ashamed. Homosexuality is not condemned either in the Koran or in the Sunna. If the Prophet Muhammad were alive, he would marry of homosexual couples.” [Zahed] dreams of  “peaceful, reformed, inclusive” Islam which which accepts blasphemy as “critical thinking essential to its spiritual development.”

Le Monde frames the story in a sympathetic light to M. Zahed. He is the underdog seeking to reform an ossified, dyed in the wool religious establishment. The article offers both sides of the debate — M. Zahed’s beliefs and the institutional response. However, I am surprised this item has not received the New Yorker 10,000 word treatment. A Muslim who speaks like an Episcopalian I imagine would be catnip to the mainstream American media.

The Islam of M. Zahed is that of Presidents Bush and Obama. Government policy since 9/11 has been predicated on the belief that Islam is like Christianity or Judaism. Given enough time, money and jawboning, Islam can reform and accommodate itself within a secularist pluralist society.

Le Monde‘s article about M. Zahed and Islam is written from a Westernized Christian worldview. Change the location to Texas and Islam for Southern Baptists and you would have the exact same story — even down to the buzz words and phrases proffered by M. Zahed. How often is it repeated that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality?

However, Islam is fundamentally different from Judaism and Christianity and this difference is what makes it nearly impossible for Islam to reform. And, it is the consensus of Islamic scholars that Islam is in no need of reform. Writing in the Asia Times under the pen name Spengler, David P. Goldman’, stated:

Hebrew and Christian scripture claim to be the report of human encounters with God. After the Torah is read each Saturday in synagogues, the congregation intones that the text stems from “the mouth of God by the hand of Moses”, a leader whose flaws kept him from entering the Promised Land. The Jewish rabbis, moreover, postulated the existence of an unwritten Revelation whose interpretation permits considerable flexibility with the text. Christianity’s Gospels, by the same token, are the reports of human evangelists.

The Archangel Gabriel, by contrast, dictated the Koran to Mohammed, according to Islamic doctrine. That sets a dauntingly high threshold for textual critics. How does one criticize the word of God without rejecting its divine character? In that respect the Koran resembles the “Golden Tablets” of the Angel Moroni purported found by the Mormon leader Joseph Smith more than it does the Jewish or Christian bibles.

Now almost 10 years old, Spengler’s “You say you want a reformation?” remains fresh and his observations stand as a challenge to U.S. government policies that believe Islam can be transformed into another variety of American Protestantism.

Speaking at the U.N. in September, President Obama said of the Arab Spring:

“True democracy—real freedom—is hard work,” Mr. Obama said. “Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissidents. In hard economic times, countries must be tempted— may be tempted—to rally the people around perceived enemies, at home and abroad, rather than focusing on the painstaking work of reform.”

Can Islam, which allows for no distinction between church and state, reform? The academic cited in the Le Monde piece believes it can. France’s first gay mosque will be a symbol of the younger generation’s desire for an “Islam that is inclusive of progressive values,” she stated. A contrary voice speaking to Islam’s response to minority voices (past and present) would have been a welcome counterweight. And give pause to those expecting peace to break out all over the Muslim world.

First printed in Get Religion.

Church of Scotland moderator calls upon Parliament to eradicate slavery: Church of England Newspaper, November 11, 2012 p 6. November 13, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, Presbyterian/Church of Scotland.
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The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt. Rev. Albert Bogle, has written to Prime Minister David Cameron urging the government to tackle problem of modern day slavery.

In his 30 Oct 2012 letter, Mr. Bogle urged the government to back the private members bill offered by Labour MP Michael Connarty “Transparency in UK Company Supply Chains (Eradication of Slavery) Bill” which had its second reading in the House of Commons on 2 November.  The Bill has gained broad civil society support, including the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility but has not yet been endorsed by the Church of England.

“Surely tackling modern day slavery at the point of demand, by applying pressure on companies to desist from practices which involve the use of forced or child labour is imperative for ensuring the complete eradication of this abhorrent eradication of human rights,” asked Mr. Bogle.

Mr Bogle wrote that “The Church of Scotland’s approach to human trafficking is ‘to be silent is to be unfaithful.’ We have a commitment to the dignity of every human being, created in God’s image, and with bias to the marginalised, vulnerable and poor means that if we do not speak out against such monstrous injustices we are not living up to our calling.”

Anglican Unscripted Episode 28: February 13, 2012 February 13, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Albany, AMiA, Anglican.TV, CAPA, Church of England, Church of South India, Civil Rights, Development/Economics/Govt Finances, Women Priests.
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This week Kevin and George take on the year 1662 and the missing 2500 Anglican Clergy. Also, your hosts talk about CAPA and DEPO and how they are relevant or no longer relevant today. Peter Ould covers last weeks events in the Church of England. AS Haley and Kevin discuss Obamacare and the 13th Chime of the Clock. Oh… and how many AMiA parishes are moving to PEAR or ACNA?

Christian Dalits rally in India: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 19, 2011 p 6. August 21, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of North India, Civil Rights.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Christians have joined forces to protest the Congress Party-led government’s refusal to include Christian and Muslim Dalits among those given favored treatment under India’s Scheduled Caste programme.

On Aug 10, Christians across India were encouraged to observe “Black Day” by wearing a black badge to protest government discrimination against Christians.

At a Black Day rally held at the Church of North India’s offices in Delhi, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Delhi Vincent said “this is a day of mourning as our fellow Christians have been suffering for the last six decades,” Archbishop Vincent Concessao of Delhi told the gathering.

Christians had always protested peacefully, he told the rally.  “We don’t burn buses or throw shoes at people,” he said, but “perhaps our protests are not forceful enough. But as Christians we have to adhere to our principles and hope for success”.

The General Secretary of the Church of North India Alwan Masih told the gathering Christians must come together to wield their political muscle to fight for equal rights.  “I am hopeful that justice will be done for Dalit Christians,” Mr. Masih said.

An amendment to India’s Constitution in 1950 set aside preferences in government jobs, schools and created welfare schemes for untouchables, or Dalits—the members of India’s lowest caste who traditionally had been the victims of caste discrimination.  The Scheduled Caste law has since been amended to allow Sikh and Buddhist Dalits to qualify for benefits, but has not been opened to Christians or Muslims.

Under the law, a Hindu Dalit who converts to Christianity loses his Scheduled Caste assistance.

On July 28 over a thousand Christians participated in a two-day hunger strike, followed by a march on parliament to protest the government’s refusal to open the Scheduled Castes to Christians.

“Ours is protest that has resulted from hunger for justice…hunger for human rights and for equality,” the Rev. Roger Gaikwad of the National Council of Churches India told the rally, according the UCA news.  “We will follow the path of great leaders like Gandhi” in pursuing non-violent confrontation with the government, he said.

Mr. Masih told the rally that Christians were being “pushed against the wall” by government instransigence.

“Our government believes in inclusive development, but its failure in being even-handed” shows this promise to be false, he said

Ugandan murder condemned by Dr Williams: The Church of England Newspaper, Feb 11, 2011 p 8. February 11, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, Crime.
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Dr. Rowan Williams

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has condemned the murder of a gay activist in Uganda, denouncing a defunct tabloid for stoking a climate of hatred against homosexuals.

However, his intervention in the David Kato affair has proven to be politically parlous.  It has angered conservatives, distressed by Dr. Rowan Williams’ quickness to find homophobia in an unsolved murder, and liberals, annoyed by his defence of Archbishop Henry Orombi and the Church of Uganda from charges they contributed to a climate of hatred against homosexuals in the East African nation.

On Jan 28, Dr. Williams released a statement condemning the “brutal murder” of David Kato and “for all who live in fear for their lives.”

“Whatever the precise circumstances of his death,” David Kato “lived under the threat of violence and death,” the archbishop wrote, adding that “no one should have to live in such fear because of the bigotry of others.”

He went on to say that this murder should spur the British government to give safety to “LGBT asylum seekers” and to “address those attitudes of mind which endanger the lives of men and women belonging to sexual minorities.”

Asked why Dr. Williams chose to comment on the murder of the gay activist, and not the recent murder of the Anglican mission worker in Jerusalem by Hamas, a Lambeth Palace spokesman told The Church of England Newspaper the “archbishop tends to condemn all violence and persecution when he comments on a particular murder or massacre, otherwise he would be sadly commenting most days.”

Activists ranging from the Bishop of New Hampshire, gay pressure groups in the US and UK, to left wing television commentators denounced the Kato murder and the ‘homophobic’ climate in Uganda.  US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori stated Kato’s “murder deprives his people of a significant and effective voice, and we pray that the world may learn from his gentle and quiet witness, and begin to receive a heart of flesh in place of a heart of stone.”

In expanding upon his statement on Jan 30, Dr. Williams said “words have results”.

“You cannot go around sharing information about the identity of proposed lesbian and gay persons and urging people to ostracise them or worse ‘Hang Them’ as in the headlines of one of the Ugandan newspapers.”

“You cannot do that without taking responsibility for the consequences. Language which demonises gays and lesbians has consequences,” the archbishop said.

Dr. Williams was nonplussed, however, when a journalist asked whether the Archbishop of Uganda was morally responsible for the murder, and whether his absence from Dublin was symbolic of his church’s harsh tone towards homosexuals.

The archbishop rejected the assertion stating Archbishop Orombi along with other Anglican leaders had endorsed a statement “deploring and condemning all violence and language about homosexual persons.”

The Ugandan church practiced an “exclusion from ministry on grounds of behaviour, not orientation”.  However, the Rolling Stone newspaper, a “rotten, disgraceful Ugandan publication” which had named Kato as a gay activist on its front page, was responsible as, “effectively, his murder had been called for,” the Dr. Williams said.

Dr. Williams’ comments about orientation and behavior, along with his defence of the Archbishop of Uganda attracted the ire of American liberals, prompting one member of the Church’s executive council to write a harsh letter of complaint to the archbishop about his attitude towards gays and lesbians.

Conservative bloggers were distressed by Dr. Williams’ assumption that homophobia was behind the Ugandan murder and accused liberals of taking an opportunistic swipe against the African church., without waiting for the police to comment.  Comparisons to the archbishop’s 2007 ill-fated foray into the waters of Nigerian newspaper reporting, condemning an Anglican bishop for uttering anti-gay remarks without first having ascertained their veracity (they were untrue), resurfaced on conservative websites.

Police reports from Uganda indicate Dr. Williams may have been premature in ascribing a motive for the attack.  On Feb 3 the Inspector General of Uganda’s police, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura reported the death of David Kato had nothing to do with homosexual prejudice.

Nsuba Enock, who had been living with Mr. Kato at the time of his death had confessed to his murder and robbery.  The motive for the murder was financial.  “He claimed the deceased convinced him to play sex with him in the night after making him drunk from a nearby pub,” Maj. Gen. Kayihura reported, adding that Enock claimed to have been “provoked to hit the victim because he was demanding to play sex with him that afternoon and yet he was not interested in the same.”

The government press statement noted that the investigations “show no indications” that Mr. Kato’s activism was a “contributing factor to his death.”

Christmas cancelled in Northern Cyprus: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 7, 2010 p 6. January 7, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, Persecution, Turkey.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The United States has called upon the Turkish Cypriot authorities to honour the right of freedom of worship for Greek Orthodox residents in the Turkish-controlled northern zone of the island. In a statement released on January 3, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom chastised the Turkish Cypriot authorities for breaking up a Christmas service in the village of Rizokarpaso.

Police entered the Church of St Sinesios and demanded that worship activities cease because the local Turkish Cypriot authorities had not granted the congregation permission for the service. Following the invasion of Cyprus by the Turks in 1974, the Greek population of Rizokarpaso fell from approximately 3,500 to 350.

“It is wrong and a symbol of religious intolerance and repressive policies of the Turkish Cypriot authorities supported by Turkey’s occupation troops to require such a small church community to seek permission to hold Christmas Liturgy,” said US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Chairman Leonard Leo.

“Requiring such permission is simply a bureaucratic ploy that violates the universally protected right to freedom of religion and belief. The Greek Orthodox population has declined steadily in the area of Cyprus under the control of the local Turkish Cypriot authorities and Turkey’s occupation troops. The Turkish Cypriot authorities’ suggestion that such a small religious community would require advanced crowd control planning is not credible. We urge the US government to press Turkish Cypriot authorities to remove any hurdles imposed on Greek Orthodox Christians that prevent them from freely practicing their faith,” the USCIRF said on January 3.

The USCIRF is a bipartisan government commission charged with monitoring violations of religious freedom worldwide and making policy recommendations to the president, Congress and the State Department.

Cyber attack on religious freedom watchdog blamed on China: The Church of England Newspaper, Dec 10, 2010 p 6. December 11, 2010

Posted by geoconger in China, Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights.
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Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The website of the ChinaAid Association has been crippled by repeated cyber attacks, the American-based organization that monitors religious persecution in China  has reported.

On Nov 30 a distributed denial of service attack was launched against the group’s Chinese-language website www.chinaaid.net followed by an attack on its www.monitorchina.org website, which provides Chinese and English reports on state persecution of religious groups.

Tracy Oliver, ChinaAid’s media coordinator told The Church of England Newspaper that it was impossible to say with certainty who was behind the attacks, but the organization suspected the Chinese government’s hand in the attacks.

On Dec 7, Ms. Oliver said the attacks were “on-going.”  They “keep attacking the IP address” apparently in the hope that we will shut down or move the site, she said.

We “know the Chinese government has the capacity” to mount such a sustained and sophisticated attack, she added, noting that it was the “Chinese website that was attacked first.”

ChinaAid “has been unrelenting in reporting on the increased official persecution directed at religious believers, particularly house church Christians, that has been part of a wider government crackdown on dissent since the announcement in early October that the recipient of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize was imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo,” the organization said.

A distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) occurs when multiple systems flood the bandwidth or resources of a targeted computer system or website.  Unlike a denial of service (DoS) attack, a DDoS attack used multiple computer hosts to launch simultaneously attacks on a site.

According to US State Department documents released last week by Wikileaks, the US embassy in Beijing reported that China’s Politburo was being a 2009 DDoS attack on Google.

“The Google hacking was part of a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private security experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government. They have broken into American government computers and those of Western allies, the Dalai Lama and American businesses since 2002, cables said,” the New York Times reported on Nov28.

Security Week reports that WikiLeaks was under a mass DDoS distributed denial of service attack on Nov 28, as it was set to release classified State Department documents.

Founded in 2002, ChinaAid states that its mission is to “draw international attention to China’s gross human rights violations against house church Christians.”

Turkey rules that headscarves violate secular state: CEN 10.22.08 October 22, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, Islam, Turkey.
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Allowing women to wear Islamic headscarves in state schools violates the secular principles of the Turkish Republic, the country’s Constitutional Court said in an opinion released on Oct 22, defending its June decision to overturn pro-Islamic legislation passed by parliament earlier this year.

Parliament’s lifting of the ban on women wearing headscarves in universities — considered a political sign of Islamist sympathies — had “indirectly challenged” the secular nature of the Turkish Republic, the court held according to a report published by the Turkish news site, Hurriyet.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Turkey rules that headscarves violate secular state

Church joins forces to support women’s property rights in Uganda: CEN 9.12.08 p 8. September 15, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Uganda, Civil Rights.
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The Church of Uganda has joined forces with an American NGO to support the property rights of women and combat “land grabbing.”

The International Justice Mission (IJM), a Christian NGO based outside of Washington, DC, and the Church of Uganda are working to educate women about their legal rights to own property—independently of their fathers or husbands.

During the colonial era, control of land in Africa began to pass from a system of customary communal to private ownership. Countries with European settler populations—South Africa, Rhodesia, Kenya, and the Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique were the first to institute a system of land titling and registration — a trend that became near universal in the post-independence era. While private ownership of land permitted large scale development and efficient farm management, it also served to disenfranchise women, as African customs often forbad women from holding ownership of property. The result has been that in countries like Uganda, where women account for three quarters of all agricultural labourers, they own only a fraction of the country’s land.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church joins forces to support women’s property rights in Uganda

MEPs denounce Burmese referendum as a farce: CEN 5.01.08 p 6. May 1, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Myanmar, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, Politics.
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Senior General Than ShweThe European Parliament has denounced Burma’s May 10 constitutional referendum as a farce designed to cement the military junta’s hold on the country.

On April 24 MEPs adopted the non-binding resolution calling for increased sanctions against the country’s military junta. The resolution will be forwarded to the April 28-29 meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg for action. Burma’s “constitutional referendum process is devoid of any democratic legitimacy, as Burmese citizens lack all basic democratic rights that would allow them to hold an open debate on the constitutional text, amend it and subsequently freely express themselves through a referendum,” the MEPs said.

Speaking to the Southern Daily Echo upon his return from Burma following the February installation of the new Anglican Archbishop of Rangoon, the Bishop of Winchester the Rt. Rev Michael Scott-Joynt said the “situation is just as we have read it to be in our newspapers. Burma is a place where the regime is very much in control.”

“There are a lot of people who are very poor and for whom it is a real struggle to get the necessities of life. It is really not a place where any opposition to the regime can flourish,” he observed.

“I have talked to some clergy and it is a very demanding place for everybody and quite a frightening place,” Bishop Scott-Joynt said.

Copies of the 194-page draft constitution were also released for the first time on April 24. Under its proposed terms, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the formal name of the military junta led by General Than Shwe, will retain power through the set aside for the army of 25 percent of the seats in both houses of Parliament and in state assemblies. Any change to the constitution will requires a greater than 75 percent supermajority-giving the army veto power over the any changes.

The proposed constitution will also ban Nobel laureate and democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi from holding political office as “a person who is entitled to the rights and privileges of a foreign government, or a citizen of a foreign country” may not serve in the government. Suu Kyi’s late husband, Michael Aris, was British.

The leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Suu Kyi has been repeatedly place under house arrest since she won the 1990 general elections. The NLD has called for a “no” vote on May 10, but foreign monitors and correspondents have been banned from observing the election, and wide spread fraud is expected.

On March 19, the All Burma Monks Alliance—organizers of last year’s pro-democracy protests in Rangoon—called for a boycott of the referendum, saying religion could not prosper under a military regime that “kills and arrests monks and desecrates religious buildings.”

The military junta “continues to subject the people of Burma to appalling human rights abuses, such as forced labour, persecution of dissidents, conscription of child soldiers and forced relocation,” the European Parliament said last week. It urged the EU foreign ministers to “renew its targeted sanctions, and to broaden them, focusing on restrictions on access to international banking services” and to “campaign actively for a worldwide embargo on arms exports to Burma.”

Greek religious oaths under threat: CEN 5.01.08 May 1, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, EU, Free Speech, Greek Orthodox, Persecution, Politics.
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Religious oaths administered by the state in legal or civil proceedings may violate Article 9 (Freedom of Religion) of the European Convention of Human Rights, an EU court has held.

In a Feb 21 ruling, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg held that a Greek law requiring a lawyer to swear an oath to conform to the law before he was admitted to practice, or to make a statement of conscience if he were an atheist or if his principles forbad him to make an oath, was unlawful.

“The fact that the applicant had to reveal to the court that he was not an Orthodox Christian interfered with his freedom not to have to manifest his religious beliefs,” the court ruled in the case of Alexandridis vs. Greece (application number 19516/2006).

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper’s Religious Intelligence section.

Greek religious oaths under threat

Campaign to stop Nile Dam: CEN 3.18.08 March 18, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, Development/Economics/Govt Finances, Episcopal Church of the Sudan.
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SUDANESE democracy advocates have launched a campaign in Washington to generate pressure upon the National Islamic Front government in Khartoum to stop construction of the Merowe dam at the fourth cataract of the Nile.

“After attacking Christians in Southern Sudan and their fellow Muslims in Darfur, the Khartoum government is continuing its ceaseless campaign of arabization, this time against the Nubians,” Faith McDonnell, the director of the Religious Liberty Program at Washington’s Institute on Religion and Democracy, said on March 7.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper’s Religious Intelligence section.

Campaign to stop Nile Dam

Bermuda calls on Church to pay up: CEN 3.14.08 p 6. March 16, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Bermuda, Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies, Civil Rights, Politics.
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(Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, Hamilton, Bermuda)

A Bermudan government minister has called upon the Church of England to pay reparations in atonement for its role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The Minister for Culture and Social Rehabilitation Mr. Dale Butler MP released a statement on March 1 “inviting the Church to do more to show the religious community and the people of Bermuda that it is committed to help heal the wounds of racial divide in Bermuda.”

Butler’s Progressive Labour Party (PLP) won a third term in the Dec 18 general elections against the conservative United Bermuda Party (UBP). The racially charged campaign was marked by accusations of corruption and calls for group solidarity.

The UBP-which had governed the British dependency since self-rule was granted in 1968—was ousted from power in 1998 by the PLP which promised a “new Bermuda.” The PLP promised to empower blacks who comprise about 60 percent of Bermuda’s 62,000 people saying they continued to face discrimination and enacted laws mandating racial preferences in the workplace.

Following the Church of England’s 2006 apology for its role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Premier Ewart Brown called upon the Diocese of Bermuda to issue its own apology. Whilst he applauded the diocese’s subsequent statement of remorse, Butler-a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church—called upon the Church of England to back up its words with cash and endow a scholarship programme for black Bermudians.

“The Minister believes, that while investment in the future of Black youth in Bermuda could never adequately compensate for the injustices done to past victims of the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in Bermuda, a strengthened and long-lasting gesture on the part of the Anglican Church would contribute to healing a race that remains scarred by injustices that have not found acceptable resolution in Bermuda,” a statement released by Butler’s office said.

“The legacy of a scholarship could help heal this country that continues to be divided by race,” the PLP minister said.

The Bishop of Bermuda, the Rt. Rev. Ewan Rattray declined to comment, saying he was studying the request.

Government chided over inaction: CEN 3.07.08 p 4. March 8, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, House of Lords.
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west-papua-flag.jpgThe former Bishop of Oxford has condemned the government’s inaction in the face of on-going human rights violations by the Indonesian government in West Papua.

Speaking in the House of Lords on Feb 26, Lord Harries said the government’s “bland disingenuousness” over West Papua had been discreditable. The Indonesian government was guilty of torture, “systematic brutality” and “genocide” against the indigenous people of Papua he said.

Foreign Office Minister Lord Malloch-Brown conceded “the claim that there are major human rights abuses,” but noted the British government sought to work with the Indonesian government to “see it improve the conditions in Papua and to respect its special autonomy legislation.”

Lord Harries opened his remarks by saying that when he went shopping, he carried a bag displaying the West Papua “morning star” flag.  “If I shopped in West Papua with that bag, I would immediately be labelled a separatist and treated with brutality” and imprisoned, he said.

The government responded that Indonesia was making provisions for Papuans to be permitted to fly flag.  Lord Malloch-Brown called for “some understanding” for Indonesia as “flags are provocative things even in democracies that put an absolute premium on freedom of speech.”

“The Confederate flag in the United States continues to cause eruptions in every presidential campaign that I can recall,” the minister said.

Liberal Democratic peer Lord Avebury responded that “you do not go to prison for 20 years for flying the Confederate flag in the United States.”

“West Papua is a small country a long way away,” Lord Harries said, while “Indonesia is a big player with which we have major trade deals.”

“There are those who think that if only they stall long enough the problem will go away,” he said.  However, Lord Harries assured the government and the West Papuan people that their friends in the West would not abandon their cause in the face of economic self-interest or realpolitik, and asked the government to pursue this issue “with very great seriousness, conviction and urgency.”

Turkey ruling helps Christians and Jews: CEN 2.22.08 February 22, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, Orthodox, Turkey.
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TURKEY’S parliament has approved a law permitting Christian and Jewish foundations to reclaim property seized by the state.

The proposed law will allow religious minorities to redeem a portion of the £75 billion in property seized by the state in the wake of political disturbances following the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, and meets some of the conditions set by the EU for Turkish membership in the organization.

The law also will permit Muslim groups to receive financial support from overseas groups.

Nationalists denounced the vote as an affront to Turkish sovereignty, while secularists fear the lifting of the ban on foreign money will strengthen the growing Islamist movement in Turkey, with activists now able to draw upon financial support from Saudi Arabia to further their political ambitions.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper’s Religious Intelligence section.

President Abdullah Gül (pictured)


Archbishop of Sydney welcomes aboriginal apology:CEN 2.22.08 p 7 February 22, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights.
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Prime Minister Kevin Rudd

The Archbishop of Sydney has endorsed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to Australia’s aborigines for past government mistreatment.”

As Christians, we know that repentance and forgiveness liberates people to serve one another,” Dr. Peter Jensen said.

On Feb 13, Prime Minister Rudd offered a 360-word statement from the floor of parliament in Canberra. “For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry,” he said.

“To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry. And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.”

“We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation. For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.”

Dr. Jensen said he hoped the government’s “apology will help to reconcile indigenous and non-indigenous Australians and that it will make a real difference in the lives of those affected.”

In 1998 the Anglican Church of Australia offered its own apology for its complicity in the mistreatment of aborigines through government assimilation programmes.

Appeal for Saudi woman facing death penalty for ‘witchcraft’: CEN 2.15.08 February 15, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, Crime, Islam, Wicca/Druidism.
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AN AMERICAN civil liberties group has written an open letter to the King of Saudi Arabia, urging him to pardon a woman sentenced to death for witchcraft under Sharia law.

Fawza Falih was condemned to death by a court in the town of Quraiyat after confessing under interrogation to having used sorcery to bewitch people. Witchcraft is not a crime under the Saudi penal code, however Sharia, or Muslim religious law, forbids its practice.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper’s Religious Intelligence section.


Burmese elections denounced: CEN 2.13.08 February 13, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Myanmar, Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, NGOs, Politics.
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THE SNAP elections announced by the Burmese government have been denounced by Church groups and democracy activists as a ruse to legitimise the military junta’s hold over the country.

“Far from being a positive development, this timetable [for elections] will simply rubber-stamp the authority of this brutal regime,” the Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) Mervyn Thomas said on Feb 11.

On Feb 9 state radio announced that a referendum would be held in May on a proposed constitution for the “Union of Myanmar”, formally known as Burma, followed by General Elections in 2010.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper’s Religious Intelligence section.

Burmese elections denounced

Anglicans stay away from democracy protests: CEN 1.25.08 p 6. January 28, 2008

Posted by geoconger in China, Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui.
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cardinal-joseph-zen.jpgDemocracy activists led by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen and the President of the Hong Kong Christian Council, the Rev. Ralph Lee Ting-sun of the Methodist Church led some 6000 protesters through the streets of the city last week demanding Peking reverse its decision to delay the introduction of universal suffrage.

However, Anglican leaders in Hong Kong were absent from last week’s democracy marches, sources tell The Church of England Newspaper, as the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui under former Archbishop Peter Kwong, and the current Archbishop Paul Kwong have followed a policy of non-interference in political affairs.

At a prayer meeting held before the start of the Jan 17 rally, Cardinal Zen called Peking’s decision not to introduce universal suffrage by 2012 “brutal.” The Roman Catholic Church would continue to agitate for the civil rights of the people of Hong Kong as guaranteed by international treaty and the Basic Law—Hong Kong’s governing charter, he stated.

In contrast to the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church in Hong Kong does not offer its comments or opinions on political issues and has taken no stance, for or against, democracy. Its clergy have been pressured not to participate in pro-democracy activities, and its leaders were absent from last week’s rally, sources in the Hong Kong church tell CEN.

At his installation on Sept 26 at St. John’s Cathedral, the new primate of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, Archbishop Kwong told the congregation the Anglican Church would not take part in Hong Kong’s campaign for universal suffrage or in “political activities. But it will observe the general social situation in order to see how it can be of useful assistance”.

Future ‘grim’ for Pakistani Christians, says Bishop: CEN 1.18.08 p January 20, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan, Civil Rights, Persecution.
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samuel-azariah.gifPAKISTAN has entered a ‘spiral of violence’, reports the Bishop of Raiwind and the short-term prospects for the country’s Christian minority are grim.

Bishop Samuel Azariah told The Church of England Newspaper on Monday that his country was in the midst of a political and economic meltdown, and urged the government of President Pervez Musharraf to restore the democracy and the rule of law.

In 2007, 50 suicide bombings killed 770 people, and civil unrest has left almost 3,500 dead. “The common belief amongst the people is that the bombings are the work of either Islamic extremists, belonging to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, or rogue elements close to the military establishment,” he said.

“Whoever is responsible for these heinous crimes, the intent is clearly to subvert through terror the democratic process in order to negate the will of the people,” Bishop Azariah said. The Musharraf government was engaged in counter-insurgency operations in Waziristan, the North West Frontier and in Swat and ‘right or wrong people believe that this is an American war and the Pakistan army is killing its own people at the call of the Americans,’ he said.

The war on terror had led to ‘much anger and hatred against the West’ and paradoxically to America and Britain being blamed for the country’s social and political ills. “This of course has repercussions on the Christians and the Church in Pakistan as we are considered a legacy of the West because of our colonial heritage,” he said.

The resulting political instability has ‘had an adverse impact on the economy’ with essential foodstuffs and commodities like wheat flour, sugar, petroleum in short supply. All of this has led to the government losing ‘all credibility’ and becoming ‘virtually crippled.’

The mood among the country’s political elite was that the forthcoming ‘elections will not be free and fair,’ and opposition leaders have called for President Musharraf to step down and form a national unity government.

“This, however, is unlikely to happen because the US-led Coalition and the Pakistan military establishment continue to support Musharraf. The US Administration is of the view that Musharraf is indispensable to the war on terror and Pakistani Generals are not ready to share power with civilians because over the years they have accumulated huge economic, commercial and political interests,” Bishop Azariah said.

“Human life is a gift of God,” he said. “As such violence and acts of terrorism against innocent civilians are a sin against God and are contrary to his values of peace, love, forgiveness and compassion. As people of faith we are committed to universally condemn all forms of violence, particularly the type that inflicts indiscriminate death and injury on civilians,” he said.

Pakistan was ‘passing through a very difficult period in its history’. Bishop Azariah asked for prayers for his country and to ask God to ‘bring our people consolation and invest in them the hope and courage to face up to the challenge of healing and reconciliation.’

Government blamed for violence: CEN 1.18.08 p 7. January 18, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of North India, Civil Rights, Persecution.
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The government of Orissa State is complicit in the Christmas week pogrom of Christians in Northeast India, the Church of North India has charged.

The government condoned, and in some cases supported the campaign of “bigotry, the ideology of hate and violence” that swept across the Diocese of Phulbani for five days beginning Dec 22, the General Secretary of the Church of North India, the Rev. Enos Das Pradhan said in a statement given to The Church of England Newspaper.

“The destruction and desecration of churches and burning of houses of the innocent people are outrageous and violates any norm of civic societies,” and was accompanied by the “utter collapse of the law and order machinery,” he said last week.

The violence against Christians was “premeditated, pre planned and the work of a well disciplined group to ensure simultaneous eruption across the Kandhamal district within hours of the first incident, and to sustain it for five days despite the presence of the highest police officers in the region,” Mr. Das Pradhan said.

Results of a fact finding mission led by the Bishop of Phulbani, the Rt. Rev. Bijay Kumar Nayak found that 16 churches in the CNI’s Balliguda and Udayagiri deaneries were destroyed. Over 3000 Christians are sheltering in relief camps, while “out of fear, some are in the jungle, some are out of the district and some are missing. The situation is still critical,” he said.

Of the 650,000 people living in Kandhamal district, about 100,000 are Christian.

An investigation by the All-India Christian Council (AICC) found that 95 churches were attacked and the homes of 730 Christian families destroyed by Hindu extremists affiliated with the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) during the five days of sectarian violence.

“We are saddened to acknowledge the violence in Orissa will go into the history books as an unprecedented attack on Christians in India. The tragedy is deepened by proof that the violence was avoidable if the authorities had enforced the rule of law,” said AICC President Dr Joseph D’Souza.

The CNI urged “the Union and the State Governments and the National Commission for Minorities to deploy adequate [security] Forces in the troubled areas of Kandhamal and Phulbani District as the people are living in anxiety and fear.”

Mr. Das Pradhan asked Anglicans in Britain to pray for Bishop Nayak and “the members of the Diocese of Phulbani that they may stand firm and remain true to their faith and keep witnessing through their lives at this hour of oppression and atrocities.”

New Guinea rights call: CEN 1.18.08 p 6. January 17, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, Free Speech, House of Lords.
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richard-harries-2.jpgThe former Bishop of Oxford has tabled a series of questions in Parliament, asking the government to press Indonesia to improve its human rights record in Western New Guinea.

In July the NGO, Human Rights Watch, accused the Indonesia of mounting a campaign of repression including extrajudicial executions, torture and rape against Papuan separatists. A November report by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture also recorded instances of police misconduct.

“Conditions in Papua’s Central Highlands are an important test of how Indonesia’s security forces perform when political tensions are high and regions are closed to outside observers,” said Joseph Saunders, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch. “The police are failing that test badly.”

“No one is being prosecuted for the crimes we documented,” Mr. Saunders said. “The police are acting as a law unto themselves.”

The Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua are closed to the press and outside aid agencies. It has been the scene of a low-level insurgency by guerrillas of the Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, or OPM). The guerrillas have mounted a series of hit and run raids in recent years on the Indonesian security forces, who have responded by conducting anti-terrorist sweeps through remote jungle villages suspected of providing sanctuary to the OPM.

The former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries asked the government what measures it had taken to “promote peaceful dialogue between West Papuan leaders and the Government of Indonesia;” what it had done in response to published reports by the UN and Human Rights NGO’s “on the use of torture by Indonesian security personnel in West Papua;” and whether it would press Jakarta to “freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly” and allow the West Papuans to fly their flag in public.

Speaking on behalf of the government, the Foreign Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN Lord Malloch-Brown responded on Jan 8 that the British government endorsed the call for dialogue and had queried Indonesian government leaders about the “situation in Papua, including human rights.”

The government also welcomed the UN’s November 2007 report on West Papua and looked forward to the final report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Dr Manfred Novak. However, the UN’s initial findings were that “notwithstanding the very real concerns about treatment of detainees,” Indonesia had “come a long way in recent years and is trying to make positive progress on human rights,” Lord Malloch-Brown said.

Britain “supports the territorial integrity of Indonesia and therefore does not support independence for Papua,” Lord Malloch-Brown said, and would not press Jakarta on the question of flying the Papuan flag.

Court delay over Dalits ruling: CEN 12.07.07 p 8. December 11, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of North India, Church of South India, Civil Rights.
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India’s Supreme Court has postponed a hearing on a challenge to the country’s scheduled caste laws by Christian leaders.  On Nov 28 the court granted the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a continuance, after the country’s solicitor general stated they were not ready to proceed to trial.

India’s Christian and Muslim minorities have brought suit against the government, charging that laws designed to protect and support India’s Dalits, discriminate against non-Hindus.

The postponement comes after 36 bishops of the Church of North India, Church of South India, the Roman Catholic Church, and Orthodox churches led a rally in Delhi urging an end to government sanctioned discrimination against Christians.

In May 2007, a government sponsored report prepared by former Chief Justice Ranganath Misra’s panel recommended that Dalits who converted to Christianity or Islam be given the same legal privileges offered to Hindu Dalits or converts to Buddhism or Sikhism.  In 1950 the government introduced an affirmative action programme for Dalits, the lowest caste with Hinduism, setting aside 15 per cent of government jobs and school places for them.  Dalits who convert to Christianity or Islam loose this benefit.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Madras, Msg. Malayappan Chinnappa told the rally caste discrimination was a form of terrorism against Dalits.

“We want the government to end this discrimination,” Bishop Jeyapaul David Swamidawson the president of the National Council of Churches in India and Church of South India’s Bishop in Tirunelvely told the rally on Nov 29.  Government sanctioned discrimination against Christian Dalits was “a violation of fundamental rights and human dignity,” the bishop said.

Terror detention plans attacked by bishop: CEN 11.30.07 p 4. December 3, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church in Wales, Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, Politics.
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bishop_carl.jpgThe Bishop of St. David’s has attacked the government’s plans to extend beyond 28 days the time that terror suspects can be held without charge.

Bishop Carl Cooper argued the government was manipulating public fears about terrorism to restrict civil liberties.He told Radio Cymru on Nov 21 that “it is easy to use the politics of fear to justify repressive and regressive policies that, under different circumstances, would not be acceptable. Fear makes populations tolerant of extreme remedies, providing opportunities for the unscrupulous to create ‘emergencies’ and, consequently, put in place ‘emergency powers’.”

Last week the former Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf, the former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith and the Director of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald announced their opposition to the planned extension of government powers.

Lord Goldsmith told the parliamentary Home Affairs Committee on Nov 21 that although “the reasons for making the proposals are based on a genuine belief that it is the right thing to do in protecting the country,” extending the limit to 56 days was not warranted.

Suspected terrorists risked being browbeaten, he said, and there arose the possibility of “continually questioning them when there isn’t any new material at all.”

Bishop Cooper told Radio Cymru the “21st Century is already producing, under the guise of war on terror, a series of reductions in civil liberties. The language of ‘protecting rights of law-abiding citizens’ and ‘rebalancing criminal justice system in favour of victim’ has wide appeal.”

“However, as we consider the ousting of courts from reviewing asylum appeals, the imprisoning without trial of foreign citizens suspected of terrorist connections and the extension of detention without charge to more than the existing 28 days, we must be vigilant in protecting the civil liberty of every citizen,” Bishop Cooper said.

Fear, he said, “can lead to all kinds of inappropriate and dangerous measures and policies.”

Cherie Booth attacks religion for subordinating women: CEN 11.16.07 p 8 November 14, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, Islam, Judaism.
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THE DRIVE for the equality of women in society has not gone far enough, civil rights lawyer Cherie Booth QC said in a lecture delivered last week to the Royal Institute of International Affairs: Chatham House.

Ms Booth, the wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, told Chatham House that religion and tradition were being used to justify the subordination of women. However, in an interview with the Today programme she declined to condemn the veiling of women, saying it was not worth getting ‘hung up’ over.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Further work to do on women’s equality, says Cherie Booth

Law Lords Reject Control Orders Plan: CEN 11.09.07 p 4. November 10, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights.
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The Law Lords have rejected a portion of the government’s control order regime, but have stopped short of outlawing the government’s anti-terror measures.

In a ruling handed down on Oct 31, the Law Lords held the government’s 18-hour curfew rule was in breach of the right to liberty protected by Article 5 of the Human Rights Act.  It also held that control orders must be subject to “civil fair trial procedure,” and ordered a rethink of the anti-terror policies.

However, 12-hour curfews did not breach the right to liberty and did not constitute a “criminal penalty,” thus requiring criminal fair trial procedure,” they said.

“These decisions will cause few celebrations at Liberty or the Home Office, and fully satisfy neither fairness nor security,” the director of the civil rights group Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti said.  “The authorities have rightly lost their most draconian 18-hour curfews without trial. Whilst that is a body blow to Blairite policy, it is now left to the Strasbourg Court or Westminster Parliament to restore the age-old right to a fair trial.”

Last week the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs Council rejected plans for increasing the time the government may hold terror suspects without charge.  Responding to the Home Office paper on pre-charge detentions for suspected terrorists, the Council urged the government to improve the quality of its cases, if it sought to increase the 28 day time limit for pre-trial detentions under the new Counter Terrorism Bill.

Church leaders call for end to Burmese crackdown: CEN 10.12.07 p 9. October 11, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Myanmar, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Sweden, Civil Rights, Roman Catholic Church.
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general-than-shwe.jpgChurch leaders in Burma have pleaded with the leader of the ruling military junta to end the violence against pro-democracy activists.

On Sep 28, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Yangon, Msgr. Charles Bo and the Anglican Primate and president of the Myanmar Council of Churches, Archbishop Samuel San Si Htay wrote to General Than Shwe (pictured) calling for an end to the crackdown of pro-democracy activists.

Burma’s churches were united in prayer for the peace and reconciliation of Burma and “especially praying for the people and the leaders of the country.”

All Christians “greatly desire and are contributing all their best for unity, peace, justice, and the overall development of the country,” the message said. “All the respective leaders of the Churches are also giving proper guidance to the faithful.”

The statement said that “Based on the teachings of the religions on love, truth, righteousness, forgiveness and reconciliation, and considering the current situation of the country, we would like to earnestly appeal to you” that there might be “stability, peace and non-violence, which are also the desire of the people.”

Speaking from his summer residence outside Rome, Pope Benedict XVI said he had been following events in Burma with “great trepidation.”

“I wish to express my spiritual closeness to that dear people in this moment of sorrowful difficulty that they are experiencing” he said on Sept 30 according to the ZENIT news agency, adding that he hoped a “peaceful solution can be found for the good of the country.”

Archbishop Anders Wejryd of the Church of Sweden asked the military regime to honour the safety of the Buddhist monks leading the protests as they “are part of a multi-religious tradition that upholds human life and dignity,” he said.

In a message to pro-democracy activists rallying in Trafalgar Square on Oct 6, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Britain “will not tolerate the abuses that have taken place.”

“I want all the other leaders of the world to work with us, to achieve the progress that all of you people want to achieve in Burma – an end to abuse of human rights,” the statement to the rally said.

“We want the violence to stop against the people of Burma, and we want to move forward with a process of democracy and reconciliation,” the prime minister said.

Church leaders join in call for Burma action: CEN 10.05.07 p 6. October 5, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Myanmar, Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, Politics.
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Archbishop Samuel San Si Htay of Myanmar (Burma) Photo from Global South Anglican

Church leaders have joined the chorus of support for pro-democracy activists in Burma, adding their voices to the denunciation of the military regime’s crackdown on protesters.

On Friday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown condemned the government’s violent attacks upon unarmed protestors, and called for the international community to intensify diplomatic efforts to bring an end to the crisis. The “word is watching” he said.

In a statement released by Downing Street, Mr. Brown said the protesters had been exercising “great bravery” by protesting peacefully. “I had hoped that the Burmese regime would heed the calls for restraint from the international community.

“But once again they have responded with oppression and force. This must cease,” he said on Sept 28.

The Anglican Primate of Burma, Archbishop Samuel San Si Htay of Rangoon told ENI, “We pray for peace and the future of the country.”

Archbishop Si Htay said a meeting had been planned with the country’s Roman Catholic bishops to forge a common front in response to the week of street protests in Rangoon and Mandalay. The Associated Press reported that on Sept 24 over 100,000 protesters led by Buddhist monks filled the streets of Rangoon staging the largest protest in 20 years to military rule.

The Bishop of Colombo, Duleep de Chickera called upon Burma’s ambassador to Sri Lanka, delivering an open letter deploring the violence. “As a fellow religious leader, I wish to express my solidarity with the commendable leadership provided by the Buddhist monks of Myanmar to this mass agitation.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Sept 25 released a statement from Cape Town likening the marches to the non-violent protests against the apartheid regime in South Africa.

“It is so like the rolling mass action that eventually toppled apartheid,” the Nobel laureate said. “We admire our brave sisters and brothers in Burma and want them to know that we support their peaceful protests to end a vicious rule of oppression and injustice.”

Archbishop Tutu, who along with former Czech president Vaclav Havel has led the international campaign to bring Burma before the UN Security Council, called upon the military regime to release jailed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and restore the rule of law.

“Victory is assured. They are on the winning side, the side of freedom, justice and democracy,” Archbishop Tutu said.

On Saturday however, the AP reported Rangoon’s streets were empty, with democracy activists awaiting further international support.

Leicester Canon upsets Arroyo: CEN 8.31.07 p 4. August 29, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, Episcopal Church of the Philippines.
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The Philippine government has placed the urban canon of Leicester Cathedral, the Rev. Barry Naylor, on a “watch list” of politically suspect individuals, the Philippine human rights news service, Bulatlat reported on Aug 26.

Canon Naylor, along with 30 other Europeans has been placed on a blacklist by the government of President Gloria Arroyo due to their opposition to the government’s human rights record, and may ban his future entry to the country.

In August 2005, Canon Naylor served as spokesman for the International Solidarity Mission to the Philippines that looked into the spate of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

Canon Naylor told The Church of England Newspaper that he believed his appearance on the government’s enemies list arose from his “continuing commitment to speaking out about human rights abuses, forced disappearances and slayings that continue to take place in that land.”

The government saw enemies everywhere, he observed. “In a radio interview I participated in, when in the Philippines, my views were dismissed by a Colonel from the military who said they had incontrovertible evidence that I was in the pay of Osama Bin laden and the Abu Sayyaf (Islamist) militants,” he noted, whereas “my only funding came from my stipend, the Diocese of Leicester and USPG.”

Writing in the USPG’s journal Canon Naylor claimed the police and army were behind much of the violence aimed at keeping the poor and marginalized in place.

On Oct 3, 2006 Bishop Alberto Ramento of the Philippine Independent Church, a church in full Communion with the US Episcopal Church, was found stabbed to death at his Tarlac City rectory. An outspoken critic of the government, Bishop Ramento received threats warning him to cease his civil rights work prior to his murder.

Canon Naylor said that during his 2005 mission “We listened to many testimonies from witnesses and victims of human rights abuses, all alleging the involvement of the forces of ‘law and order’. We heard of forced disappearances and the forced displacement of communities, especially where foreign companies want to pursue mining or mineral extraction.”

He stated he met one “group of peasants who spoke about homes burnt, livelihoods lost and relations injured during forced mass evacuations by the military. We met weeping widows and distraught children, and their number is being added to week by week.’ In the summer of 2005, three Filipino priests were killed by masked assassins after speaking out on behalf of the poor.”

In the Philippines Canon Naylor said he found “a real darkness; a pervading sense of fear and terror.”

“There is a culture of corruption and collusion, as recent reports from both the United Nations and Amnesty International have highlighted as they have looked at the spate of extra-judicial killings,” he told us.

Church backs Australian Taskforce idea: CEN 8.24.07 p 8. August 25, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights.
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The Bishop of Australia’s Northern Territory Greg Thompson has backed an initiative by Australian Prime Minister John Howard to create an “emergency response taskforce” to tackle child abuse in Aboriginal communities.

In June the Prime Minister announced a series of reforms that included bans on alcohol and pornography in Aboriginal areas, government take over of indigenous township leases, removal of the Aboriginal land permits system and withholding of welfare payments to the parents of neglected or abused children.

Following the Northern Territories diocesan synod last month, which asked the Howard government to consult more widely with aboriginal leaders, Bishop Thompson said he welcomed the government reforms.

The situation had become so bad, there was blame enough for all, he said. “It does both sides of politics and all levels of government no credit that the situation has reached the crisis it has,” Bishop Thompson said.

The extraordinary reforms were proposed by Prime Minister Howard in response to the Little Children are Sacred report, which detailed chronic sexual abuse in remote aboriginal communities.
Some Aboriginal community leaders opposed the reforms, stating in an open letter that they went “well beyond an ’emergency response’.”

“Some of the measures will weaken communities and families by taking from them the ability to make basic decisions about their lives, thus removing responsibility instead of empowering them,” they argued.

In an extended attack upon the Howard government’s plans published in the Guardian last month, liberal activist Germaine Greer called the proposals racist, saying it was “hard not to view this as yet another attack on native title by the white establishment.

However, on Aug 17 the Australian Senate passed the reform package by a vote of 56 to 6. Community Services Minister Nigel Scullion called the vote historic, saying it would lift the “veil of silence” that surrounds child abuse.

“This legislation will help open indigenous communities to overcome the circumstances that led to the shocking accounts outlined in the Little Children are Sacred report,” he said.

Pakistan Christians appeal: CEN 8.24.07 p 8. August 25, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan, Civil Rights, Islam.
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Pakistan’s Christian community marked the sixtieth anniversary of independence with a march in Lahore last week and calls for a repeal of the country’s “blasphemy laws”.


The crowd, which organizers from the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) estimated at “tens of thousands,” delivered a 30-point petition on Aug 11 to the country’s Chief Justice calling for a return to the vision of a secular Pakistan articulated by the “Father of the Nation” Muhammad Ali Jinnah.


The leader of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party in the Punjab Provincial Assembly brought greetings from the national party leader Benazir Bhutto to the rally. The former prime minister expressed her support for the rally since “the country had never been in so great a need for a voice against religious intolerance and extremism.”


Roman Catholic speaker Fr Bonnie Mendes called upon the government to separate Islam from state. This is the “only way that we can make Pakistan the Pakistan of Quaid-e-Azam” [the Great Leader—Muhammad Ali Jinnah] Asia News reported.


The petition called for Jinnah’s words to the first session of Pakistan’s constituent assembly to be added to the nation’s constitution. “You are free. You are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State … We are starting with this fundamental principle, that we are all citizens and citizens of one state.”


Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry, Executive Secretary of APMA, told Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsees as well as moderate Muslims from across Pakistan attended the rally.

Benedict Rogers, CSW’s Advocacy Officer for South Asia, said: “Discrimination against minorities has been widespread for far too long in Pakistan. Such discrimination, hatred and persecution flies in the face of the vision that the nation’s founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, set out 60 years ago.


“This rally demonstrates that despite the rise of extremism, many people in Pakistan hold onto Jinnah’s vision for a nation which accepts its citizens equally, regardless of religious background,” he said.


Mozambique Churches oppose ‘necklacing’: CEN 6.22.07 p 6. June 22, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights.
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CHURCHES IN Mozambique have begun an anti-necklacing campaign, the Bishop of Limbobo, Denis Sengulane, reports. The failure of Mozambique’s police to stem crime, has led to criminals being “necklaced” by angry crowds. Suspected criminals have been bound and doused with petrol, and a tyre placed around their necks, which is then set a light.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper

Mozambique churches speak out against 'necklacing'

Indian Government Offers Hope for Dalits: CEN 6.08.07 p 6. June 7, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of North India, Civil Rights.
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AN INDIAN government commission has found that Christian Dalits (formerly known as Untouchables) continue to suffer from caste-based discrimination, and has urged the government to grant Christians the same legal rights as Hindu Dalits.

Christians in India have welcomed the commission’s findings and have called upon the government to an end a campaign of anti-Christian violence waged by Hindu extremists sparked by the report.

Speaking to a rally on May 29 in front of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian parliament, the Bishop of Delhi Karim Masih (pictured) urged Christians to set aside denominational divisions to work toward full civil rights. “Today I don’t come as a CNI leader. I come as a Christian. All denominations should unite until all the anti-Christian atrocities stop,” he said.

Indian government urged to give equal rights to Dalits

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.