Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Australian study reveals religious freedom tensions

Some interesting conclusions from a unique study by the Australian Human Rights Commission, in association with the Australian Multicultural Foundation, RMIT University and Monash University.  The report, Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century involved consultations with Australian heads of faith, national and state/territory governments, NGOs, the Australian public via a national call for submissions (more than 2000 reportedly received) as well as a series of commissioned papers related to faith and society.

Overall results purportedly reveal "a vastly more complex religious landscape than 1998," when the last similar survey was done.

Of particular note, though perhaps not completely surprising, "distrust of Muslims as well as hostility towards homosexuals and pagans" (e.g., Aboriginals) apparently remain widespread (or concerns) throughout the nation.

The Australian Multicultural Foundation director and co-author, Hass Dellal, noted that the report's role was to record the varying views, so that every group could hear its own voice represented. It did not make recommendations but would be a resource for governments and faith communities.

According to co-author Gary Bouma, "Over the past 15 years - so it's not a result of September 11 - religious voices have re-entered the political domain vigorously. It's the resurgence of religion around the world - but it doesn't mean people are going back to church."

"Faith in general, and specific faiths, are often misunderstood or feel misrepresented, and this report highlights the importance of faith to many Australians, and the central role faith plays in Australian society," Dr Dellal said.

The report can be found and downloaded in its entirety here with several of the papers available here.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tyranny of the majority endures in Indonesia

If nothing else, some level of press freedom apparently does yet exist in Indonesia.

Otherwise, if you're not part of the Muslim majority, continue to speak, act and walk very softly.

A revealing, anguish ridden piece on the frustrations of at least one Indonesian in The Jakarta Globe . . . >>>

Friday, March 11, 2011

Statement of the Dalai Llama on Anniversary of Uprising

This statement on "the 52nd anniversary of the Tibetan people’s peaceful uprising of 1959 against Communist China’s repression in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, and the third anniversary of the non-violent demonstrations that took place across Tibet in 2008," yesterday, seems to be of some significance:
"One of the aspirations I have cherished since childhood is the reform of Tibet’s political and social structure, and in the few years when I held effective power in Tibet, I managed to make some fundamental changes. Although I was unable to take this further in Tibet, I have made every effort to do so since we came into exile. Today, within the framework of the Charter for Tibetans in Exile, the Kalon Tripa, the political leadership, and the people’s representatives are directly elected by the people. We have been able to implement democracy in exile that is in keeping with the standards of an open society.

As early as the 1960s, I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power. Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect. During the forthcoming eleventh session of the fourteenth Tibetan Parliament in Exile, which begins on 14th March, I will formally propose that the necessary amendments be made to the Charter for Tibetans in Exile, reflecting my decision to devolve my formal authority to the elected leader.
Read the entire statement here . . . >>

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kidnap victims tell their stories

Interview of SAFE President Luke Higuchi and US survivor Gail Veitch on the local Time-Warner Cable station in Bergen County, New Jersey that aired last week.

Kidnap Victims Tell Their Stories on New Jersey TV from UC on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Christian critic of Pakistan's blasphemy laws killed by assassins

Self-described Taliban gunmen have shot dead Pakistan's minorities minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, an advocate of reform of the country's blasphemy laws, as he left his Islamabad home.

Two assassins sprayed the Christian minister's car with gunfire, striking him at least eight times, before scattering pamphlets that described him as a "Christian infidel." The leaflets were signed "Taliban al-Qaida Punjab."

Bhatti's assassination was the second killing of a politician in Islamabad over blasphemy in as many months, following the assassination of the Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer outside a cafe a few miles away on 4 January.

Dismayed human rights activists said it was another sign of rising intolerance at hands of violent extremists. "I am sad and upset but not surprised," said the veteran campaigner Tahira Abdullah outside Bhatti's house. "These people have a long list of targets, and we are all on it. It's not a matter of if, but when."

The only Christian in Pakistan's cabinet, Bhatti had predicted his own death. In a farewell statement recorded four months ago, to be broadcast in the event of his death, he spoke of threats from the Taliban and al-Qaida.

But he vowed not to stop speaking for marginalised Christians and other minorities. "I will die to defend their rights," he said on the tape released to the BBC and al-Jazeera. "These threats and these warnings cannot change my opinions and principles.

Last November Bhatti joined Salmaan Taseer in championing the case of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who was sentenced to death last November for allegedly committing blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad.

"This law is being misused," Bhatti told Open magazine at the time. "Many people are facing death threats and problems. They're in prison and are being killed extra-judicially."

The government later distanced itself from the blasphemy reformists, repeatedly stressing that it had no intention of amending the law, leaving Bhatti and Taseer politically isolated. Now that both men are dead, angry supporters say the government bears some responsibility for not protecting them politically, if not physically.

"The government distanced itself from anyone who took a stand on blasphemy. I blame them for being such chickens," said Abdullah.
Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch said Bhatti's death represented "the bitter fruit of appeasement of extremist and militant groups both prior to and after the killing of Salmaan Taseer".

Read more, watch the video . . . >>>

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Japanese religious freedom battle goes back to school

In mid-September 2006, with the heat of summer still not over, a master's student named “N” of Osaka University was stepping out of a research ward when he was surrounded by six waiting individuals, including his parents and other relatives. The stunned N was not only kept immobile as his belt was tightly grabbed by two of his captors, but he was also held incommunicado as his cellular phone was confiscated, making it impossible to signal an SOS to his friends.

N was placed in the middle seat of an apparently rented van and was flanked on both sides., Parked in the campus lot, the vehicle's navigation system was covered with a handkerchief so as not to reveal the abductors' destination.

Due to this kidnapping, N was deprived of the opportunity to give a presentation at an academic society, for which he had ardently worked. "I was at a loss when he went missing," N’s faculty advisor later reported. N's academic career was hampered by a barbaric act against his will.

Similar barbarism was rampant in Okayama University in 2002. When Ms. “I” was coming out of her department building after class, she was kidnapped by about 15 people, led by her relatives. (During that period at Okayama, there were at least seven confirmed cases in a row, in which students were abducted by their families.) Several of Ms. I’s friends tried to rescue her in the ensuing scuffle, but her relatives forced her into a vehicle and drove away.

Okayama University Library (Tsushima Campus)
But it was after the year 2006 that many universities across the country began to witness ominous “persecution” against members of religiously-oriented on-campus clubs under the pretext of “anti-cult measures.”

The targets included a new Korean Christian group called "Setsuri” (Providence), the Buddhist group "Jodo Shinshu Shinrankai" affiliated with the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist sect, the group "Fuji Taishakuji Kenshokai," which challenged the administration of a Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist sect, as well as "John's Waseda Church," of the Protestant line.

The most victims by far, however, have been from the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP), a student organization affiliated with the Unification Church. In the past five years, about 40 confirmed cases of kidnappings and confinement involving CARP members took place within college campuses.

Read more . . . >>