Monday, August 30, 2010

Rhodes: "Japanese authorities in collusion with criminals"

At the recent European Leadership Conference and Fact Finding Tour to Japan, international human rights expert Aaron Rhodes discussed human rights abuses taking place in Japan.

Mr. Rhodes, the former Executive Director for the International Helsinki Federation of Human Rights (closed after filing for bankruptcy), said the forced conversions and abductions of members of the Unification Church in Japan are in direct violation of United Nations human rights agreements.

"This is a nightmare," Mr. Rhodes said of the Japanese government, "because public authorities are in collusion with criminals."

Mr. Rhodes described the forced deprogramming of Unification Church members in Japan a violation of the most basic human rights, saying victims are coerced by physical force to change and present a confession.

Members of the audience were encouraged to contact the Asian Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF) to pressure the Japanese government and embarrass them for their inactivity on abductions and forced conversions.

In 2009, the University of Chicago awarded Mr. Rhodes the prestigious Public Service Award. He is regarded as one of the world's leading human rights activists and is respected for his work on challenges in the Balkans, in Chechnya, and in Central Asia.

Mr. Rhodes rebuked Japan's judicial system for not acting independently but with prejudice against religious minorities – a grave indictment against a liberal democracy with an otherwise good record on human rights.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Exposing Japan's Human Rights Violations

A new website launched yesterday exposes human rights violations in Japan tied to abductions and forced conversions of religious minorities in Japan.

Forced conversions and abductions in Japan are a hidden human rights crime that denies people the fundamental right to worship freely.  The site,  will pursue justice on behalf of victims and hold the government of Japan accountable for their failure to prosecute these crimes against humanity.

The new website hosts news articles and videos of kidnap victims, as well as a petition, calling on the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission to hold Congressional hearings into Japan's violation of international human rights treaties.

The European Leadership Conference in a fact finding tour to Japan recently held a summit featuring world renowned human rights activists who attest to the abuses taking place in Japan.

According to human rights activist Aaron Rhodes: "This is a nightmare because public authorities [in Japan] are in collusion with criminals."

After many interviews with victims of religious abductions and forced conversions in Japan, Peter Zoehrer, a journalist in Europe, concluded:
  • Police in Japan often refuse to help victims of abduction and forced conversion
  • In some cases, police in Japan cooperate with the perpetrators
  • In several decades, not a single case has been prosecuted in Japan
  • Japanese civil courts treat the problem as a "family matter"
The website petition, from the International Coalition for Religious Freedom, calls on Congress to hold hearings before the end of the year about religious and human rights abuses taking place in Japan – one of America's great trading partners.  These hearings should be held by the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights, co-chaired by Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA).

Preserving Religious Hiring Rights

More than 100 religious organizations are urging members of Congress to reject pending legislation that would prohibit them from considering religion when hiring.

A letter – endorsed by such groups as World Vision, Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, U.S. conference of Catholic Bishops, and Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – was delivered Wednesday.

"The law has long protected the religious freedom of both the people who receive government-funded services, and the groups that provide the services – long before President Obama, and long before President Bush," said Anthony R. Picarello Jr., general counsel of USCCB, in a statement. "Stripping away the religious hiring rights of religious service providers violates the principle of religious freedom, and represents bad practice in the delivery of social services."

The groups are protesting a provision in HR 5466 – a bill introduced in the House in May that would reauthorize federal substance abuse treatment funding that is administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Sponsored by Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), the bill includes language banning faith-based groups from receiving federal funds if they consider religion in their hiring process.

The provision states: "With respect to any activity to be funded (in whole or in part) through an award of a grant, cooperative agreement, or contract under this title or any other statutory authority of the Administration, the Administrator, or the Director of the Center involved, as the case may be, may not make such an award unless the applicant agrees to refrain from considering religion or any profession of faith when making any employment decision regarding an individual who is or will be assigned to carry out any portion of the activity. This paragraph applies notwithstanding any other provision of Federal law, including any exemption otherwise applicable to a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society."

Though Kennedy has argued that faith-based hiring is discrimination, the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance says it is not discrimination, but rather a protection of the organizations' rights.

More from The Christian Post on this here.

And from the PBS Religion & Ethics Newsweekly back in May, read more here.

What do you think?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Memorial Service for Mrs. Takako Fujita

July 17, 2010
Mr. Luke Higuchi, President
Survivors Against Forced Exit

On the occasion of the U.S. memorial service for Mrs. Takako Fujita, I extend my heartfelt appreciation to all who have gathered to honor this holy martyr for religious freedom. Mrs. Fujita's death reminds us of the precious value of faith, which is more important, even than life itself. In honoring Mrs. Fujita we are reminded that she is not alone among the saints who chose to die rather than to deny their God. Many of the early Christian saints were persecuted to death not only by the Roman state, but by their own families. That is one reason why Jesus said, "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me." As a Jew, I also recall the hundreds of Jewish martyrs at the fortress of Masada, who took their own lives rather than allowing themselves to be captured by Roman soldiers. These Christian and Jewish saints surely join with us in spirit today.

One of the most tragic aspects of Mrs. Fujita's case is that the government refused to investigate the criminal circumstances of her death. Literally thousands of Unificationists, Jehevoh's Witnesses and other minority groups have suffered as a result of the failure of the Japanese authorities to protect the human rights of religious believers. This situation must change. I am confident that from now own, the spirit of Mrs. Fujita will be able to freely assist us in own mutual efforts to secure the rights of religious believers in Japan who face the persecution of kidnapping, confinement, and faith-breaking.

Very best regards,
Dan Fefferman
International Coalition for Religious Freedom

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Suicide of a Kidnapped Japan UC Believer

This is disturbing on many levels though the "incident" itself happened just over 13 years ago.

Life of Ms. Takako Fujita (English Version)

Has no one in Japan ever heard of dialogue or even the logic of belief revision?

The Japanese attitude, both current and historical in regards to religious freedom as well as the total lack of a human rights tradition continues to perplex and damage the heart of the family of modern nations.

An Autumn/Winter 2000 paper by Tokihisa Sumimoto in the International Journal of Peace Studies seems to confirm this with its conclusion still being ominously transparent today:
"Religious freedom in Japan is being gradually but steadily eroded by a variety of different political and social forces. Because average citizens are indifferent to these issues, prospects for a reversal of this trend appear bleak. The absence of a cultural atmosphere conducive to religious liberty is simultaneously a result and a cause of Japan's underdeveloped civil liberty tradition. Furthermore, there have been few influential religious movements-with the exception of some minority organizations such as Soka Gakkai-or educational reform efforts promoting the ideal of independent moral judgment as opposed to the dominant tradition of submission to authority. Finally, the judicial independence needed to effectively oppose state encroachment on religious and civil liberties is largely undeveloped in the Japanese system.

The Japanese government has recently claimed that it is prepared to take on more responsibilities in the sphere of international security, and has indicated a willingness to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. However, the development of a mature democracy and a robust tradition of civil and religious liberty is a necessary prerequisite for recognition as a truly civilized, peace-loving country which can assume such responsibilities. Japan's stature as the world's second largest economy is not, in itself, sufficient qualification for such a role without corresponding achievements in the reform of its social and political culture."
Part 2 of Takako Fujita's story can be found here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Iran Baha’i leaders sentenced to 20 years

Seven Baha’i leaders who have been in prison for two years were sentenced to 20 years in prison by an Iranian court, according to Baha’i activists who spoke with the media.

The five Baha’i men and two women had been charged with several baseless and unsubstantiated crimes which carry the death penalty, including espionage, propaganda activities against the Islamic order, and spreading “corruption on earth.” Their attorneys are in the process of filing an appeal.

“This is an outrageous miscarriage of justice and one more example of how the Iranian regime is a gross violator of human rights and religious freedoms,” said Leonard Leo, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) chair. “The prosecutions and sentences are, pure and simple, politically and religiously motivated acts, and the Commission calls for the unconditional release of these seven individuals.”

The Iran Sanctions Act, signed into law by President Obama roughly a month ago, for the first time imposes sanctions on Iran because it continues to engage in serious, systematic, and ongoing violations of human rights, including suppression of freedom of expression and religious freedom. USCIRF urges the Obama Administration to immediately implement sanctions on human rights and religious freedom violators included in the Iran Sanctions Act and urge our European and other allies to do the same.

The United States also should make use of another available and important tool, the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), to impose additional sanctions for the government of Iran’s violations of religious freedom or belief. Each year, since 1999, the State Department has designated Iran a “Country of Particular Concern,” or CPC, due to its systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom. As a CPC, Iran can be subjected to economic and other sanctions under the IRFA. Despite being designated a CPC for 10 years, no IRFA-related sanction has been imposed on Iran, with the U.S. government relying on existing sanctions already in place. USCIRF concludes that the rapidly deteriorating conditions for religious freedom justify specific, additional sanctions under IRFA.

“Sanctions against religious freedom violators signals the United States’ solidarity with the Iranian people and sends a stark message to the Iranian regime that it should end more than 30 years of repression,” said Mr. Leo.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Captive Capadocia

60 Minutes, the TV News magazine (made particularly infamous by Dan
Rathergate, etc.) had a very interesting report last evening on Turkey and the
dilemmas facing All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of the
Orthodox Christian Church.

Rock-cut temple in Capadocia
Patriarch Bartholomew, the leader of the Orthodox Christian Church, feels
"crucified" living in Turkey under a government he says would like to see
his nearly 2,000-year-old Patriarchate die out. 

Bob Simon reports.

Read and watch more here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mayor Bloomberg on the Ground Zero mosque

August 3, 2010

New York City Mayor Bloomberg on the Landmarks Preservation Commission Vote regarding the planned Ground Zero mosque at 45-47 Park Place and religious freedom: