Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Appeal for Iraq's Imperiled Religious Communities

USCIRF Urges Upgrading Security in Iraq for Christians and Other Imperiled Religious Communities

WASHINGTON, DC - In advance of the December 15 UN Security Council meeting on Iraq, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has urged the U.S. government to redouble its efforts, and use the international forum as an opportunity, to address the grave situation facing that country’s Christians and other imperiled religious minorities.

The Security Council meeting is slated to address the progress in Iraq to date. The recent upsurge in attacks against Christians makes clear, however, that the country’s most vulnerable religious minorities remain in peril. The smallest Iraqi religious groups—including ChaldoAssyrian, Syriac, and other Christians; Sabean Mandaeans; and Yazidis—face targeted violence, including murders and attacks on their places of worship and religious leaders, intimidation, and forced displacement; they also experience discrimination, marginalization, and neglect.

As a result, these ancient communities’ very existence in the country is now threatened. The loss of the diversity and human capital these groups represent would be a terrible blow to Iraq’s future as a secure, stable, and pluralistic democracy.

This is a particularly important period in Iraq, with a new government being formed and the U.S. military presence drawing down. USCIRF recommends that the U.S. government take the following steps to protect these vulnerable communities:

• Provide Protection: In consultation with the Christian and other minority religious communities’ political and civic representatives, identify the places throughout Iraq where these targeted minorities worship, congregate, and live, and work with the Iraqi government to assess security needs and develop and implement a comprehensive and effective plan for dedicated Iraqi military protection of these sites and areas; as this process moves forward, periodically inform Congress on progress.

• Promote Representative Community Policing: Work with the Iraqi government and the Christians’ and other smallest minorities’ political and civic representatives to establish, fund, train, and deploy representative local police units to provide additional protection in areas where these communities are concentrated.

• Prioritize Development Assistance for Minority Areas: Ensure that U.S. development assistance prioritizes areas where these vulnerable communities are concentrated, including the Nineveh Plains area, and that the use of such funding is determined in consultation with the political and civic leaders of the communities themselves.

On December 4, in the wake of the recent spate of attacks, 16 Iraqi Christian parties and organizations issued a compelling joint call for greater protection. USCIRF urges both the U.S. and Iraqi governments to heed this call and work with these leaders, as well as the leaders of the other small endangered groups in Iraq, on implementing these and other measures to protect and assist these communities before it is too late.
Read more here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Facing restrictions to religious freedom in India

Organised by the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), a consultation [sic] (or conference) next week is scheduled to bring together leaders cutting across religious lines to study the outcome of anti-conversion laws that have been implemented in at least six (Indian) states.

The Dec. 13-14 meeting "will build opinion of different religions on freedom of religion and anti-conversion laws," said Anjna Masih, secretary of the Commission on Policy, Governance and Public Witness (COP), NCCI.

"The Constitution of India under Article 25 has granted freedom to confess, practice and propagate religion of one’s choice to its citizens. Thus voluntary conversion to any religion is a fundamental right," she said.
However, she rues that there is now "blind secularism in the country" and "anyone speaking about one particular religion is branded as a ‘fundamentalist’."

"The younger generation is interested in religious pluralism and we as a civil society need to come forward to enforce religious pluralism in India."

The consultation will be on the theme "Anti Conversion Law - A threat to Secularism."

For more details read here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Japan Diet members receive petition; Media ignores nationwide events, continuing blight

TOKYO, Dec. 6, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is being issued by the International Coalition for Religious Freedom:

More than 21,000 people throughout Japan rallied to protest human rights and religious freedom violations – yet the Japanese government and media continue to ignore calls for investigations into abductions and forced conversions.

Despite the massive outpouring in all 47 prefectures in Japan – with 3,200 people gathering in Tokyo alone – the government refuses to address the issue, and the Japanese news media continues to neglect coverage of the events. The Kyodo news agency even refused to run a media advisory on its basic newswire service.

In Tokyo, organizers presented a petition to the Diet, calling on Japanese lawmakers to investigate and hold public officials accountable to uphold Japanese anti-abduction laws and constitutional guarantees of religious freedom. The petition was addressed to the speaker of Japan's House of Representatives, Takahiro Yokomichi, and the president of the House of Councilors, Takeo Nishioka. Several Diet members received the petitions in front of the Diet Building.

The main speakers at the Tokyo event included Toru Goto, the victim of a 12-year confinement and now chairman of the Japanese Victims Association against Religious Kidnapping and Forced Conversion, and Masayoshi Kajikuri, chairman of the Unification Church's Japan Kidnapping-Confinement Task Force. "Faith-breaking under forced confinement is a kind of spiritual rape," Mr. Goto declared. "It is time for Japan to live up to our constitution and protect the rights of religious believers to choose their own religion."

In addition, Mrs. Namiko Katagiri, a former victim who had been confined to an apartment in Sapporo city for five months, read the petition. Despite the pleas of her husband, police refused to search for her or to assist in her release after he located her confinement place.

The protests in Japan come as similar marches and rallies are being held in the U.S. to draw attention to the human rights violations perpetrated on Unification Church members, who have been confined by "faith-breakers" in an attempt to force them leave the religion. Experts confirm that the government and police have done little to stop the practice – a violation of both Japanese law and international human rights standards.

Read more here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Yet another abduction in Japan

NEW YORK, Nov. 30, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire -- A member of the Unification Church in Japan is missing and believed to have been abducted because of her religious beliefs, the International Coalition for Religious Freedom announced today. Ms. AY has been reported missing under the probability of abduction and attempted forced conversion in Japan, the coalition said. Her fiance, Mr. Takafumi Fukuzaki, has filed a report with the police requesting an immediate investigation and said that Ms. AY was fearful for her safety to the extent that she previously filed a letter with the Unification Church, "requesting rescue in case of disappearance."

"My fiancée and I feared this day would come when one of us was abducted in Japan and held against our will because of religious beliefs," said Mr. Fukuzaki. "I am deeply concerned about the safety of my fiancée and her freedom." Church officials in Japan conveyed that police were unresponsive to Mr. Fukuzaki's pleas for help, taking the word of other relatives that she was "safe" despite her own letter requesting aid.

According to the State Department's International Freedom Report 2010, "For several years deprogrammers working with family members have reportedly abducted Unification Church members..." This includes a Unificationist who was released in 2008 "after reportedly being held against his will by family members and a professional deprogrammer for over 12 years.

"These abductions are normally carried out by relatives who confine the victim indefinitely while professionals pressure them to renounce their faith," said Dan Fefferman, President of the International Coalition for Religious Freedom. "Japanese police usually refuse to intervene despite the strict laws against forced abductions and kidnappings, particularly of adults. Law enforcement agencies in other developed nations including the United States have long recognized that religious abductions are dangerous, illegal, and not tolerated."

Ms. AY is one of an estimated 4,300 members of the Unification Church of Japan who has been subjected to human rights violations over the past 40 years. Between 10 to 20 Unification Church members are currently abducted each year in Japan to undergo forced de-conversions. Victims who escape their captors report the use of force, prison-like conditions, and intense pressure to change his or her faith. There have been reports of beatings, starvation, and rape. As frustration of Japan's inaction mounts, victims have been increasingly speaking out on the abduction issue.

Source: PRNewswire as posted on Daily Finance