Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Embracing a religiously diverse future

The National Interest had an article the other day (December 18) regarding current religious freedom challenges in Western Europe.

Authored jointly by Mary Ann Glendon who serves as vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and Azizah al-Hibri who serves as a USCIRF Commissioner, of possible, particular note might be their concluding statement (bracketed comments added by yours truly):

"If the lamp of liberty is to remain lit, Western Europeans [Everyone everywhere] must accept that the age of conformity to an official monoculture—secular or religious—is at an end. In the coming year, their countries [Everyone everywhere] should embrace their [Our common and/or universal] religiously diverse future and accord religious freedom to all."

Friday, December 7, 2012

"Conscience protection" part of new agenda

Roman Catholic U.S. bishops yesterday announced a five-part pastoral strategy aimed at creating a movement dedicated to penance and prayer for "a renewed culture of life, marriage and religious freedom."

According to Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, while "not meant to be another program but rather part of a movement for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty," the movement "engages the New Evangelization."

Archbishop Cordileone chairs the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

Further it was stated that, this second campaign (a first was instituted/dedicated during the fourteen days of June 21—July 4, 2012) was "prompted by the rapid social movements and policy changes currently underway."

The so named "Fortnight of Freedom," will "emphasize faith and marriage in a particular way in the face of the potential Supreme Court rulings during this time," according to the bishops' conference, referencing, in particular, the approaching Aug. 1, 2013 deadline for religious organization compliance with federal contraception mandates, as well as "other threats to religious liberty in the realms of immigration, adoption and humanitarian aid."

In addition, emphasis will be placed upon "the need for conscience protection."

Follow@ and here.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Even in America?

controversial new study by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that restrictions on religion have risen throughout the world between mid-2009 and mid-2010 - including in the United States.

The U.S., among 16 countries examined (out of 197), including Switzerland, was included in the "hostilities jumped" category during that time period.

Brazil and Japan were ranked best (meaning; having the least) in the "government restrictions" category among the 25 most populous countries examined.

Russia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and India were included in the worst countries in both categories.

The ranking of the United States, according to researcher Brian Grim, was influenced by a spike in religion-related terror attacks in the U.S.

Examples used included the December 2009 Nigerian Islamist attempt to blow up an airliner arriving in Detroit, Michigan; the Times Square attempted bombing in New York by a Pakistani-American Islamist as well as the 2009 killings at Fort Hood by radical Islamist convert Major Nidal Hassan.

Moreover, the alleged killer of the Fort Hood incident was recently forced to shave his beard to appear in a military court.

Also in 2010, Oklahoma banned Islam's Sharia law in a statewide vote. Thankfully, a federal appeals court struck down the amendment in January 2012, saying it violated the First Amendment.

Reported religion-related workplace discrimination complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rose from 3,386 in the fiscal year ending on September 30, 2009, to 3,790 in the year ending on September 30, 2010. Cases determined by EEOC to have had "reasonable cause" rose from 136 to 314 during that period.

The 2009-2010 time-frame doesn't account for recent events including the August killings at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin or the Amish beard cutting incidents (verdict reached yesterday).

Is there perhaps a pattern in the above, somewhere?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thank you, Reverend Moon

Official Note from Daniel G. Fefferman (ICRF President):

Let me first express our feelings of deep gratitude for the life work of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, without whom the International Coalition for Religious Freedom would not exist. In addition to his work as the founder and spiritual leader of the Unification Church, Reverend Moon was a tireless campaigner for religious freedom and human rights. He has passed on to the next life now, but we at ICRF are strongly committed to carrying on his legacy.

Without religious freedom, God cannot fulfill His ideal… If you do not have religious freedom, you have no freedom at all.

–Testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, June 26, 1984

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fervent Prayers for Reverend Moon

Dr. Joon Ho Seuk
International Vice-President
Unification Church
President of the Korean Church

Excerpts from a letter to Unification Church members worldwide today:

"Heaven's providence does not always move according to human will.

"For a while it appeared that True Father's [Reverend Moon's] condition was improving;
however, during the last few days, the doctors reported that he has entered an irreversible stage of his condition . . . "

"Soon [he] will be transferred, while receiving care by the doctors from the Seoul St. Mary's Hospital, to the Cheongpyeong area where True Parents' Cheon Jeong Palace [Unification Church Holy Ground for All People) is located.

"It is my wish that a miracle from Heaven occurs in relation to True Father's
condition amid the prayers and holy songs of our many members . . . "

Reverend and Mrs. Moon in prayer

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Jews in Iran

Few may know or recall that under the Ayatollah Khomeini, Jews in Iran were afforded a respect unknown virtually anywhere else within the Muslim world.

Of course, the paradox or contradiction within that edict (revised, though continuing) is great.

Worth reading.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Majority of Muslims prefer a secular state

A study by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) analyzing constitutions in the “Muslim world” concludes that the majority of Muslims in the world by sheer numbers, at least, prefer living within a nation where a secular constitution is dominant.

According to the study (an update of one done in 2005), approximately 44% of the world’s Muslim population live in 23 majority Muslim countries that have declared Islam to be the state religion.

However, the remaining 56% live in countries that either proclaim the state to be secular or make no pronouncements concerning an official state religion.

The USCIRF 2012 study can be read here.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Internal affairs

Is religious freedom solely or primarily an "internal affair" not to be interfered with?

The People's Republic of China would like to have the world know that it answers that in the affirmative.

But who is interfering with the "internal affairs" of the world's most populous nation (and the United States largest trading partner), if not the PRC itself?

If vested as well as interested partners cannot speak up (and heavens, point to weaknesses that may effect current as well as future relationships) then who can?

Does the PRC seriously believe that it can bully the world just as it continues to bully its own people?

The U.S. State Department's most recent report on the declining state of religious freedom worldwide can be found here.

For informational purposes only.

The fine print:

Your agenda is your own affair unless it interferes with mine.

Please pray, spout, pontificate, gripe, complain, meditate as you will and as often as you like.

But let us be loving, most often, as well as ultimately.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Chinese Dissident escapes house arrest

After escaping from house arrest, blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng issued a dramatic video message calling on Premier Wen Jiabao to protect his family, punish the people who had attacked them and combat corruption, recounting alleged abuses he and his family suffered at the hands of police.

"Premier Wen, so many people do not know whether such illegal acts are the acts of corrupt local officials or commanded by the central authority. I think you must thoroughly investigate the truth and give your people a clear answer," Chen said. "If you continue to ignore this and do nothing, what will the people think?"

Chen, a 41-year-old lawyer, was jailed for four years after exposing forced sterilization and other abuses carried out by Chinese family-planning authorities, then placed under house arrest once his prison term was over. He escaped last weekend in a rescue operation mounted by his supporters.

"I finally escaped," Chen began his Friday video message to Wen.

Chen asked Wen to investigate and punish police officers who he said had repeatedly attacked his home, robbing and assaulting his family. In one instance, more than 10 men had pinned him to the ground, and beat and kicked him for four hours, Chen said.

His wife was beaten so badly that her eye socket bone was broken, but she was never allowed to call for medical treatment, he said. Chen said his child was followed to school every day by three officers. He said his mother was grabbed by the arm and thrown to the ground on her birthday, her head hitting a door.

"She accused them of the shame of hurting the old. And they actually said back to her: 'Yes, this is true! ... You old ones can’t beat the young.'" Chen said. "This is evil. Inhuman. Intolerable.

"You must see to the bottom of this," the activist said. "Even though I am free, my family ... are still in their grasp. While I was there, they were repeatedly harmed. Now that I'm gone, I can only imagine how it has blown up."

Chen's rescue appears to have been timed to coincide with U.S.-China discussions on human rights this week. His case has attracted global attention.

Source: LA Times

Sunday, March 18, 2012

To Japan and Beyond

The MacArthur Legacy lives according to this Religion News Service report posted Friday:

"Persecuted Christians [or any religious minority, technically] now can hold an entire seminary library on a fingertip.

Bible League International is working with the Digital Bible Society to carry the thumbnail-sized chips to Christians in countries such as China or Saudi Arabia, where possessing unapproved religious materials can result in prosecution or even death.

"It's like a miniature Christian bookstore," said Robert Frank, global CEO of Bible League International, an Illinois-based nonprofit evangelical ministry dedicated to training church leaders using the Bible.

The digital ministry continues the historic work of the Bible League, which went international after World War II when Gen. Douglas Mac Arthur asked U.S. Christian groups to send Bibles to Japan.

"In addition to several versions of the Bible, each of the Digital Bible libraries include worship music, movies, Bible commentaries, a study library, a copy of Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life and other landmark books about discipleship, ministry and history, as well as more than 1,200 images that can be used for a pastor's study and for teaching others.

The digital era brings religious freedom to the teaming electronic hordes.

Read more >>>>>

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When Apostates Attack!

A Christian pastor who [may have] converted from Islam may be put to death for [allegedly] leaving Islam following the recent ruling of an Iranian court.

Youcef Nadarkhani, 34, was arrested more than two years ago on charges of apostasy, and has now been sentenced to death by an Iranian court for refusing to renounce his Christianity, according to the pastor's legal team.

The father-of-two had defied a request by the Gilan provincial court, in Rasht, Iran, to repent, and now faces death by hanging.

Religious freedom advocates everywhere continue to desperately attempt to save the life of a man who is guilty of nothing more than adhering to a personal belief system.

Read more here.

Latest update(s) here.

Sign the petition created by The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) here.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Kyrgyzstan Bans Unification Church

Considering the Kyrgyz Republic's history of enforced atheism [Soviet period] followed by efforts to go secular within a predominantly (Sunni/Hanafi) Muslim milieu topped by an ever continuing, abysmal record on human rights, the decision is not surprising.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty posted this brief note on the subject today.

However, the Religious Law of Kyrgyzstan, (signed January 2009) and reaction to it, may be instructive:
Sergei Lysov, a pastor and head of Kyrgyzstan's chapter of Bible League, a non-profit Christian group, [noted at that time that he saw] the bill as yet another challenge to religious freedom in Kyrgyzstan and worries it will curtail his organization's activities. "We prayed this law would not be passed," Lysov said. But "I think it will only strengthen religious communities. For a true believer, it is important to have tests, because it only makes him stronger." 
Must torture, imprisonment, etc., ever be "tests"?

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) concerns have been lost within the political shuffle.

Last years' Jehovah Witnesses court victory offers a glimmer of hope, though "pretrial detention" is still imprisonment.

Continuing . . .

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Comedian Offends Sikhs with "Political" Joke

Freedom of speech crosses into perilous territory when it attempts to veil political humor with religious tones as Jay Leno (and his writers) might have known already.

But the subject was Mitt Romney, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), so what can we expect?

Miit Romney's summer home?


Salt Lake temple baptismal font