Displaying items by tag: religious freedom
India is the most ethnically diverse nation on earth, with over 2,500 people groups, 22 official languages, and thousands of castes. It hosts most of the world’s Hindus and Muslims. The country traditionally maintains free speech and religious freedom, but these are being tested by Hindu nationalism; this mainly targets Muslims, but Christians also face discrimination, persecution and anti-conversion laws. Pray that India’s proud traditions of tolerance and freedom will continue and strengthen. Its churches have sent 100,000 people across India to communicate the gospel, start churches, and relieve suffering and injustice: resulting in tens of thousands of new congregations. Pray that this amazing missionary movement will transform India through Christ. However, this week the most urgent prayer need is for the millions displaced by floods in the north and 25 days of heatwave in densely-populated Delhi, where vast numbers are falling ill from heatstroke. Some have little access to clean water.
Islamic teacher, Hiire Sadiki, was poisoned on April 2, shortly after his wife learned he had converted to Christianity. He put his faith in Christ on March 27 after several months of discussions with a Christian pastor. After he didn’t observe the Ramadan fast and his wife noticed him praying in the name of Christ she questioned his mode of praying. He told her he believed in Issa (Jesus]). His wife had studied the Koran and knew verses about apostasy punishment. She left the room and began phoning Muslim leaders, then returned and prepared supper. ‘After 30 minutes, a neighbour arrived, went to the kitchen and then immediately left. After supper Sadiki suffered convulsions and vomiting and phoned the pastor who took him to hospital. Tests indicated his food was tainted with insecticides used to kill rats. The assault was the latest of many instances of Christian persecution in Uganda.
Justin Welby and other faith leaders contributed to a symposium marking the 80th anniversary of the ‘Final Solution’ when six million Jews were murdered before the Nazis were defeated. In his message, broadcast on 27 January, he said that for centuries antisemitism has been like a volcano that from time to time erupts with absolute destruction, emitting noxious and terrible gases, poisoning the atmosphere in Europe and around the world. ‘We must constantly be vigilant against the first signs of an eruption coming. We can never ever tolerate any antisemitism. There is no acceptable level of antisemitism.’ Representing the Jewish community of Europe, Gady Gronich, said we must carefully consider the challenges facing Jewish communities. Jews are asking themselves if there is still a future in Europe. New legislation is restricting Jewish practices of religious freedom. Without circumcision and kosher slaughter there can be no religious Jewish life in Europe.
Promoting religious freedom in countries like Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen, officials must be creative. Sanctions can weaken dysfunctional governments and destroy conditions for Christians living there. Instead, a ‘love your neighbour’ approach in ‘hot spots’ can facilitate peace and save entire communities. It is recorded that Afghanistan, Algeria, and Azerbaijan have tried to eliminate at least one religious group. Experts say a deeper understanding of the culture and engaging with those under duress makes a tremendous difference. English speakers are not the best representatives of the communities. Rural people have different understandings of how they see themselves and how they think the world works. They know the lived faith traditions, the lived conflict, they know what is in the way and how to remove it. This knowledge held within the communities includes how local cultures and customs mesh with religion. A Lebanese Christian is very different from an American Christian.
Nigeria regularly sees ongoing massacres of indigenous Christians, and security forces imprison free thinkers for the ‘crime’ of blasphemy. Nevertheless, the USA removed Nigeria from its Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) list. On 2 December Rev John Hayab wrote an article in Nigerian Voice stating, ‘The US’s delisting Nigeria from its CPC list is appalling, as the persecution of Christians is still at its peak. Because Nigeria still has grave problems with religious persecution, this action is like a doctor discharging a patient from hospital even though they are still critically ill. What that signifies is telling the patient to go home and die. The USA was either ill-advised or does not care what happens in Nigeria. It does not comprehend that the current regime wants to impoverish and weaken the Christian community without letting the international community notice it. The Nigerian government employed highly professional lobbyists to convince the US state department to reach its decision.’
International Christian Concern (ICC) has observed a marked increase of reported religious freedom violations within Turkey since the start of the New Year. While most of these recent violations impact church buildings, they also include a lack of interest by the authorities in pursuing and protecting justice for Christian victims. Churches are seen as a source of income both by the government (faith tourism) and by society (treasure hunters). Otherwise, church buildings are neglected by the government and often turned into mosques. Pray for the protection and perseverance of believers in Turkey. Pray that the government will honor Christian landmarks and churches.
The draft religion law now in parliament would, in defiance of human rights, continue to ban all exercise of freedom of religion without state permission, banning teaching about religion without state permission, continuation of compulsory censorship of all religious materials and to ban sharing of faith. ‘There's not much difference between the draft law and the current one’, commented human rights defender Bahodyr Eliboyev. Although the draft reduces the number of adult citizens required to apply for a community to be allowed to exist from 100 to 50, it would retain the registration process and most of the restrictions. ‘The state must not be afraid of giving full religious freedoms,’ insists Abduvohid Yakubov, an independent rights defender from Tashkent who is also critical of the draft law.
Two Protestant families who were forced to sign an illegal agreement to renounce their right to hold religious services in order to have their access to essential services reinstated have now been told they risk being cut off again if they cannot pay the remainder of a fine that was levied as part of the agreement. In 2019 they refused to sign a similar document renouncing their faith when other Protestants in the village signed it. Their refusal to do so caused their access to water, drainage, government benefit programmes and the community mill cut off for over a year until they signed it. They were also threatened with forced displacement by community leaders unless they contributed to local Roman Catholic festivals and participated in other activities which conflicted with their religious beliefs.
What began as an activity restriction in South Korea is turning into an assault on religious freedom. In June, police stopped Voice of the Martyrs Korea from sending Bibles across the border to North Korea. Today, the ministry and its co-founder, Eric Foley, face criminal investigations. ‘Balloon launching has been difficult since we began in 2005. However, now there is a large scale effort to declare balloon launching illegal’, Foley explains. ‘It’s unclear, at this point, how things will go.’ He said the government’s motives and methods remain dubious, as launching has become a deeply political subject. He added, ‘North Korea made a very public offensive against balloon launching that was adopted by South Korean authorities. This was the impetus to say it is illegal, not through new laws, but through the application of other laws. The issue is not about balloon launching; it’s about the legal right to do private ministry work outside government mediation.’
Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron and Conservative MP Steve Baker stand united by their Christian faith and conviction that all have the right to freedom of conscience and religion, and it must be protected everywhere. 80% of Montenegrins are Orthodox Christians, yet worshippers, including the Archbishop, have been arrested. Parishioners are being beaten and buildings destroyed. One of their bishops has written of his arrest, along with hundreds of others. Tens of thousands have taken to the streets to defend their church and freedom of expression. The British MPs say, ‘It is important for Britain and her allies to act, and in haste. In recent days, with further Christian arrests, it is clear the authorities do not intend to pause. We should not stand by and allow political avarice to transcend the right to freedom of faith. There must be a reckoning.’ Pray for peace in society and safety for people.