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EU Envoy’s threat of trade sanctions played crucial role in Asia Bibi’s freedom

EU Envoy on religious freedom, Jan Figel, meets with Asia Bibi’s lawyer Saif ul Malook in Lahore, December 2017. (Photo: Jan Figel)

World Watch Monitor—Freed Pakistani Christian Aasiya Noreen, known to the world now as Asia Bibi, has pleaded for the many others like her accused of blasphemy who, she says, are still “lying in jail for years – their decisions should also be done on merit. The world should listen to them.

“The way any person is alleged (to have committed) blasphemy without any proper investigation, without any proper proof, that should be noticed. This blasphemy law should be reviewed and there should be proper investigation mechanisms while applying this law. We should not consider anyone sinful for this act without any proof.”

She made this appeal from her refuge in Canada through a series of answers she provided to the UK’s Sunday Telegraph.

Shortly afterward, the European Post released a video that it says was provided by Noreen, in which she speaks in her native Urdu about her faith and urges fair treatment for anyone accused of a crime.

It’s hard to get a specific tally of the numbers known to be imprisoned, either awaiting trial -sometimes for years – for blasphemy, or already convicted. Many are Muslims. One figure World Watch Monitor saw quoted but could not get confirmed, after Asia Bibi was finally freed in May, was that Christians make up 17 of the 40 current ‘blasphemy’ prisoners. Christians form around 2% of Pakistan’s total population according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, its Co-Director Gina Zurlo told World Watch Monitor.

One couple who hit the spotlight immediately after Asia Bibi’s acquittal was Shafqat Emmanuel and his wife, Shaguftah, of Gojra, Punjab, both accused of sending blasphemous text messages. Shafqat has to use a wheelchair and has a catheter, after his backbone was fractured in an accident in 2004. Shaguftah was the main breadwinner for their four children.

Lawyer Saif ul-Malook, who – at the risk of his own life – defended Asia Bibi and successfully argued her appeal in Pakistan’s Supreme court, then promptly left Pakistan for the Netherlands (he was reported to have said that he was forced to flee) but said that he would return if her successful appeal was challenged. At the same time, he said he would now take up Shafqat and Shagfuftah’s case.

‘Justice and dignity for all Pakistanis’

The Sunday Telegraph article also referred to the crucial role for Asia Bibi’s freedom played by the EU Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB), Jan Figel, from Slovakia, who’s worked tirelessly on her case, as well as for prisoners in Sudan and other countries.

He told World Watch Monitor that he had tried to visit Pakistan in his new role ‘from the start’ but that it had taken a year until a Pakistani high-level delegation (Minister of Trade and Attorney General) had visited his Brussels office. They invited him to Pakistan.

(In May 2018 Pakistan’s then-Minister for Interior, Ahsan Iqbal, who is known to support minority groups, survived an assassination after meeting with a group of Christians. Seven years earlier both the then-Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, and the Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti were targeted and killed for defending Asia Bibi). That particular Islamist network has many members outside Pakistan.

Following her acquittal Asia Bibi was detained for another seven months. Mr. Figel told the Sunday Telegraph “I think Imran Khan’s government and Pakistan’s military used this delay to get the situation in the country under real control.”

In December Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau publicly announced willingness to offer asylum at the Peace Centennial of World War I.

In January, in Pakistan’s capital, the “Islamabad Declaration” signed by over 500 Muslim clerics, publicly condemned terrorism, violence committed in the name of religion and fatwas (sacred edicts) widespread by radical Islamic leaders. Fides reported that “observers said it represents a turning point especially in the attitude towards religious minorities and sects such as Ahmadi Muslims. In fact, Fides wrote, ‘the Declaration recognizes that Pakistan is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, and notes that “it is the responsibility of the government to ensure the protection of the life of non-Muslim citizens in Pakistan”’.

In February, Pakistan’s Attorney-General again visited Brussels where he again met Jan Figel; the latter tweeted that he raised the fact that Asia Bibi, now freed by the Supreme Court, was still detained in effective ‘house arrest’.

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Pakistan’s Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari also visited Brussels. Figel liaised with Asia Bibi herself via Muhammad Amanullah, a human rights activist.

The EU Envoy confirmed directly to World Watch Monitor that the UK was not on the list of possible countries for her asylum, but that ‘there were a lot of rumours and problems around this’.

Asia Bibi was announced to have finally left Pakistan on 8 May, although it was not clear for a few days whether she had in fact joined her daughters who were already in exile in Canada.

Figel told WWM “Canada deserves international acknowledgement for its spirit of solidarity and real hospitality, also for the professionalism of its diplomacy and its immigration services. Security conditions are crucially important for Asia Bibi and her family”.

On June 25, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, signed the Fourth EU-Pakistan Strategic Engagement Plan (SEP) with the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini in Brussels.

Amongst points relevant to Asia Bibi’s plight were to “Develop mutually agreed co-operation on the implementation of the UN Security Council on Women, Peace and Security”, and (under ‘Democracy, Rule of Law, Good governance, and Human Rights’) the plan mentioned “Working together to ensure…protection of human rights at national and international levels” and “Enhancing…inter-faith dialogue and understanding to promote tolerance and harmony”.

EU Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief – role

Jan Figel, a former EU education and culture commissioner, was appointed in May 2016 when the post was created by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Twice extended for an additional year, Figel’s current mandate ends next month.

A report by Polish MEP Andrzej Grzyb, accepted by the European Parliament, but yet to be formally implemented, argued that Figel had “developed effective working networks” within the EU institutions and praised him for “continuous engagement and co-operation and complementarity of actions with the EU Special Representative for Human Rights”.

It also recommended that the Special Envoy’s role needs to be substantially reinforced, and that his new remit should include extending his term to match that of Commission’s five-year term, and “consolidated with sufficient human and financial resources”.

Figel does not currently have a budget and formal status in the EU institutions, beyond serving as a special advisor to the EU’s Development Commissioner. His staffing budget covers minimal assistance, less than the German government’s Commissioner for Global Freedom of Religion.

Campaigners also argue that freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) is not given the importance it deserves in the EU institutions.

The MEPs’ report also recommends the setting up of a “regular advisory working group of member states’ FoRB institutions and European Parliament representatives, together with experts, scholars, and representatives of civil society, including churches and other faith-based organisations”.

After the US, Canada was among the first countries to appoint a Special Envoy who could focus on the issue of Freedom of Religion or Belief, Andrew Bennett, although his role per se did not last into Justin Trudeau’s government. Since then, the UK has appointed Lord Ahmad to the first-ever UK FoRB role, the need for which has recently been highlighted by the Bishop of Truro’s independent review into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s response to the persecution of Christians globally.

This summer, the Netherlands has appointed its own Ambassador with an emphasis on FoRB, Jos Douma, a former Ambassador to both Iran and the Holy See.

Iranian Christians safe if ‘practise faith discreetly’ – European Court of Human Rights

Activists in the Swiss capital of Bern raise awareness of religious persecution of Christians around the world (2014). (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

(World Watch Monitor) The European Court of Human Rights ruled last month that an Iranian who sought asylum in Switzerland based on religious grounds could be deported to his home country because his life was not in danger, despite various reports detailing how Iran persecutes religious minorities and converts to Christianity.

Human Rights advocate Ewelina Ochab, in an article for Forbes Magazine, called it “another blow to the victims of religious persecution”.

The court said “Mr. A” did not have reason to expect torture or to fear for his life, as long as he didn’t pose a threat to the Iranian government and “practise[d] his faith discreetly”.

But quoting from various reports that provide evidence and detail stories of religious persecution in Iran, Ochab said: “It is concerning how the Swiss authorities concluded that converts ‘who practised their faith discreetly, did not face a real risk of ill-treatment upon their return’… The only reasonable conclusion is that by ‘practising faith discreetly’, the Swiss authorities meant not practising faith at all, as the practice requires some degree of manifestation and … this practice is significantly limited if not impossible in Iran”.

Ochab concluded that “the way in which the issue of religious persecution has been dealt with by the Swiss authorities and by the ECtHR shows that religious persecution continues to be misunderstood and neglected”.

Meanwhile an Iranian bishop in Tehran has faced criticism for his claims that Christians in Iran “have freedom of religion”.

“The Islamic government grants its Christian citizens every right to practise their faith, including observing their feasts such as Christmas,” Sibo Sarkisian, Armenian-Orthodox Bishop of Tehran, told Spanish news agency EFE. “They’re just not allowed to share their faith publicly, as it is forbidden under the Islamic government’s law.”

Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, said that “while the Iranian Constitution recognises Christians as an official religious minority, the state continues to persecute believers of the faith, especially converts”.

‘Your problem’

Amnesty International reported last year on the large numbers of Afghan asylum-seekers sent home from European nations, which Amnesty accused of being “wilfully blind” to the risks they face “of serious human rights violations”. It said religious minorities and converts to Christianity face additional risks.

In August an Iranian convert to Christianity was refused asylum in Sweden after she was told by migration board officials that it was her “personal life” and “not our problem if you decided to become a Christian; it’s your problem”.

Aideen Strandsson (who took a Swedish name) said a Swedish migration official told her it wouldn’t be as bad for her in Iran as she is expecting because “it would only be six months in prison”, and, in her words, for the official that was “no problem”.

Determine the ‘real converts’

The challenge for the authorities and also church leaders is to determine the “real” converts among asylum seekers, over those only pretending to help their case.

In September World Watch Monitor reported how Afghan and Iranian asylum-seekers in Germany were finding shelter in churches and how many of them were becoming Christians in the process. According to the Washington Post, “conversion is both a side-effect of church relief and a potential advantage for rejected asylum-seekers, who can claim deeper need for asylum if they are at risk of religious persecution in their home country”.

Meanwhile the Federal German Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) has been accused of wrongly rejecting asylum claims, where the applicant’s path to conversion had only taken a few months. German MP Volker Beck also criticised the Office for ruling that weekly church attendance did not amount to evidence of religious conversion, the German daily Handelsblatt reported. Beck accused the BAMF of considering itself more qualified than a parish priest to judge the authenticity of a person’s stated beliefs, based only on a two-hour interview.

A UK Parliamentary group in 2016 reviewed how the UK Home Office processes asylum-seekers’ claims. It found that, too often, “officials are asking about Bible trivia, rather than probing what someone really believes. And this lack of understanding of religion and belief is leading to the wrong people being rejected – meaning they could be forced out when they have genuinely been persecuted”. UK Home Office guidelines have been reviewed in light of the report.

Religious intolerance increasing, says report

Hungary: First Nation To Establish Government Office To Address Christian Persecution

Parliament Building Budapest Hungary Photo: Wikimedia

Parliament Building Budapest Hungary Photo: Wikimedia

(Voice of the Persecuted) Late August, at a meeting in Rome with Church leaders from the Middle East to discuss the threat Christians are facing, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban pledged to “take action” against Christian persecution. Setting an example for other nations, the Hungarian government has now created a specialized government office for the purpose of addressing the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and discrimination a portion of Christians in Europe are experiencing. Hungary is the first nation to establish a special government department to raise international awareness of the “untenable situation”of persecuted Christians and organize humanitarian actions.

Zoltan Balog, the Hungarian Minister for Human Capacities, whose ministry will oversee the newly established government department, told Catholic News Agency,

“Today, Christianity has become the most persecuted religion, where out of five people killed out of religious reasons, four of them are Christians.”  

“In 81 countries around the world Christians are persecuted and 200 million Christians live in areas where they are discriminated against. Millions of Christian lives are threatened by followers of radical religious ideologies.”

The Hungarian government is known for speaking in international meetings against the modern-day persecution of Christians. They’ve also helped Middle Eastern Christian communities morally and financially supporting them to survive in their homelands.”

Balog said his government will do everything in it’s power to help Christians living in the Middle Eastern region and added,

“The establishment of this new government office, whose very nature is to deal with this matter, is another manifestation of our dedication to this issue.”

European nations are struggling with the issues of the refugee crisis. A humanitarian crisis and clash of cultures, they were completely unprepared for, as in Germany and other European nations. A large number of Germans don’t agree with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy towards refugees and have lost faith in her claim Germany will successfully handle the situation.  Many have also criticized Hungary’s leadership for their efforts to stop the influx of refugees coming to and through their country.

But where is the outcry asking governments along the Persian Gulf why they have done too little to help refugees from Arab nations, such as Syria? These states are also said to be funding the instability which has caused the refugee crisis. Syrians make up the largest group of refugees in an exodus not seen since World War II. In a past report, Amnesty International noted the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council offered zero formal resettlement slots to Syrians by the end of 2014.  In 2015, even their own citizens rose the question, “Why don’t you let them in, you discourteous people?” A twitter campaign followed #ShameOnArabRulers.

Gulf officials refute the claims highlighting their large donations towards helping Syrian refugees in other Arab states, namely Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.  Saudi Arabia issued refugee numbers that were impossible to verify. In another state, thousands of Syrians were offered work visa’s, but many claimed they’d rather brave the journey to Europe than to continue facing severe restrictions in these countries. Others said they never felt safe and their residency could be cancelled at anytime, putting them in a precarious situation.

Some say it’s unfair to say they’re doing nothing. Certainly the Gulf states could do far more welcoming their Arab neighbors and be a part of a solution, culturally and economically. One must also consider another possible reason being raised for the inaction of these Islamic nations: An agenda to spread Islam, through demographics, into the ‘Christian’ west.

Voice of the Persecuted congratulate’s Hungary’s decision to be a voice and do more for Christians being persecuted throughout the modern world, one of the worst humanitarian crises of the planet. Praying to see other nations follow their lead to take Christian persecution and the severe violations of their human rights more seriously.

UPDATE: A dear Sister who cares deeply for the persecuted members of the Church shared the following prayer after seeing this report. We ask that you join us to pray with her for those taking a stand for our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ.

This report about Hungary is some of the BEST news we have heard in a LONG , LONG TIME!

May The LORD bless the Hungarian people and their leaders for their courageous stand in an era when defending Christians is not “Politically Correct” … according to the agenda of the 10 Kings of Revelation 17.

I pray they STAND STRONG against the pressure and economic blackmail they will surely encounter in this evil world.

Is Hungary going to be one of the SHEEP NATIONS, when The LORD comes to separate the SHEEP from the GOATS ?

Sincerely,
Sr. Judith Hannah + + +

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and to further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
You may also send your gift to:

2740 Third St
P.O. Box 122
Trenton, MI. 48183

Please help us to continue the mission. Donations always desperately needed

EUROPE: Report claims one in eight Christian refugees are attacked for their faith

 

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We have been warning of the persecution Christians are facing in refugee centers in Europe, Markus Rode head of Open Doors Germany said, the figures show “fear and panic” among Christians migrants.

Christian refugees have fled refugees centers after extreme intimidation and at times physical violence by Muslim refugees.

“Discrimination and violence against people of different beliefs exist in refugee centres much more extensively than authorities want to believe,” Rode said. “Converts are most exposed. They are seen as traitors by radical Muslims.”

231 Christian migrants residing in Germany were interviewed. The majority being  from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. 42 percent have reported insults, 37 percent said they suffered a physical injury, and 32 percent allegedly received death threats.

According to the survey, 88% said they’ve been targeted by other migrants because of their religion.Nearly half surveyed accused guards of discriminating against religious minorities or harassing them. In Germany’s refugee housing, both the migrants and the security are mostly Muslim.

The L’OBSERVATOIRE DE LA CHRISTIANOPHOBIE reported Cardinal Rainer Woelki said at an ecumenical meeting in Düsseldorf Saturday 13 February, “The fear increases that politicians and the authorities do not take seriously enough such threats [against Christians in refugee centers]. The persecution of Christians is not a thing of past ages.”  He demanded that Germany defend greater religious freedom. For his part, Pastor Gottfried Martens said the “harassment” against the Christian migrants in refugee centers in Germany has increased. He affirmed that Christians were forced to watch beheading videos, were banned from the common kitchen because  they were”unclean”, beaten and Christian necklaces torn from their necks. The pastor suggested Christians and Muslims needed to be housed in separate shelters. “When I talk to politicians, they tell me that the churches do not consider that necessary accommodations are separated and I look ridiculous (…) Our efforts to be tolerant, which is in itself praiseworthy, are not so far allow us to let Christians become a kind of guinea pigs. ”

World Watch Monitor reported Christians among the thousands of Middle Eastern migrants who have fled to Europe have discovered that a familiar burden has followed them: religious harassment.

Voice of the Persecuted shared last August how Christian refugees moved from asylum accommodation after threats by Islamists in Sweden. The Christians feared for their safety after it was demanded that they stop wearing Christian symbols, like crosses around their necks. And that they were not welcome in common areas when the aggressive Muslim group was there. After receiving no help when the atmosphere became intimidating, the Christian refugees dared not stay and decided it would be safer to find other accommodations.

Many Christians have left their homelands fleeing persecution and discrimination. They are already traumatized by their experiences. Imagine what it’s like to realize you will suffer the same discrimination and hate in a place of refuge.

Discrimination follows Christians not only from the Middle East, but those from Asia. Pakistani Christians seeking asylum in Thailand are living through extreme hardships in the UNHCR process which takes years, painstakingly long. Unable to legally work, send their children to school, constant fear of arrest and without a program to aid their basic survival and medical needs. They are trapped in a system that often fails them. Remember the horrific atrocities Nigerian Christians are facing. A staggering amount of Nigerian Christians suffer as internal refugees. They too face extreme discrimination from Muslims in the camps.  Let us shine as the Body of Christ and do more for them. Please consider partnering with us to care for those detained with their children in Immigration Detention Center and in refugee camps. To support those without means to care for their families. To give hope that they have not been forgotten by their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and to further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
You may also send your gift to:

2740 Third St
P.O. Box 122
Trenton, MI. 48183

 

Fleeing Christians Persecuted in Europe’s Refugee Centers

 

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(L’OBSERVATOIRE DE LA CHRISTIANOPHOBIE the growing concern of the Catholic and Protestant authorities about the persecution that Christians migrants suffer from Muslim migrants in Germany. Cardinal Rainer Woelki said at an ecumenical meeting in Düsseldorf Saturday 13 February, “The fear increases that politicians and the authorities do not take seriously enough such threats [against Christians in refugee centers]. The persecution of Christians is not a thing of past ages.”  He demanded that Germany defend greater religious freedom. For his part, Pastor Gottfried Martens said the “harassment” against the Christian migrants in refugee centers in Germany has increased. He affirmed that Christians were forced to watch beheading videos, were banned from the common kitchen because  they were”unclean”, beaten and Christian necklaces torn from their necks. The pastor suggested Christians and Muslims needed to be be housed in separate shelters. “When I talk to politicians, they tell me that the churches do not consider that necessary accommodations are separated and I look ridiculous (…) Our efforts to be tolerant, which is in itself praiseworthy, are not so far allow us to let Christians become a kind of guinea pigs. ” (Source: Catholic Herald , February 19)

Among the thousands of Middle Eastern migrants, Christians who have fled to Europe have discovered that a familiar burden has followed them, religious harassment = PERSECUTION.

World Watch Monitor reports that Christian migrants have been subjected to discrimination, harassment and violence from Muslim migrants with extremist views. One Iranian convert to Christianity was murdered.

The phenomenon has been observed in various locations across Europe, including in the camp of Grande-Synthe in northern France, where Iranian converts have been targeted by migrants from Iraq.

The situation has raised great concerns among local churches, which are now supporting migrants by supplying them with food, clothing, and, in some cases, even shelter.

It all started at the turn of the year, recalls Philippe Dugard, the Pastor of Église Evangélique du Littoral, or EEDL, a church in the neighbouring town of Saint-Pol-sur-Mer, which has spearheaded the relief effort in Grande-Synthe.

“Between November and December, there was a group of Iranians who confessed their belonging to Christ, who started to attend our church. Some were Orthodox, while others said they were Christians but were not truly converted. But we got to know them, and we felt they had a real spiritual thirst,” he said.

“And then one evening [14 December], we were informed that two of them were stabbed and the whereabouts of a third one was unknown.

“We then said that as Christians we cannot leave them alone in that situation, and the victims themselves told us that they no longer wanted to stay in the camp, as they felt threatened.”

The incident marked the beginning of EEDL’s support for migrant victims of persecution.

For the next few days, the victims were put up in hotels, before they were moved to a church in Dunkirk, the closest city to the camp.

Just one of the victims from the initial group remains, a 29-year-old who wished to remain anonymous.

“Generally the Kurdish mafia in the camp are against Christians,” he said. “When we gave our money to them for them to help us to go to England, they didn’t help us and they just stole our money and did not give it back. Then they attacked us and called us kafir [infidels] and dirty. They came and cut me with a knife and they beat my friends.”

He said there are still some Christians in the camp, but that many are too scared to speak about their faith.

“Yes, there are still some Christians there in the camp,” he said, “But they don’t prefer to stay there beside these strong Muslims. They are so racist, they just want to clear the camp to be without Christians.”

He added that a mosque has been created in the camp, and that the Call to Prayer resounds around the camp every day, but unlike the nearby Calais camp, there is no church.

An explosive cocktail

Located in the northwest of France, beside the English Channel, the camp of Grande-Synthe hosts around 2,500 to 3,000 migrants – mostly Kurds from Iraq and Syria, but also some Iranians.

Tensions and other forms of violence are common in the camp, said a social worker, who wished to remain anonymous for fear that the report could impact upon his work with the Christians.

Ethnic differences have created tension in the camp between the Iraqis and Iranians, of whom there are only around 50. The thousands of Iraqi Kurds are mostly Muslim, while some of the Iranian minority are Christians.

Some of them attend local churches secretly, because they are scared of the Muslim migrants and smugglers, who hold sway within the camp. Night raids, theft and violence are among the common threats.

On the night of 14 December, a knife attack left several Christians injured. One of them, a 19-year-old named Mohammad, was murdered. The local police were informed and an investigation is underway. Police did not respond to World Watch Monitor requests for information about the investigation.

A staff member at the Mayor’s office in Grande-Synthe said there is no security problem in the camp, which she said is open to external visitors. However, police now patrol the entrance.

On 26 January, a shooting between rival gangs of smugglers erupted, prompting a huge police deployment around the camp. Security checks are now carried out at the entrance of the camp, and visitors must acquire prior authorisation from the Mayor’s office.

There are some who fear members of the so-called Islamic State may be among the migrants, intent on radicalising other migrants and imposing Sharia inside the camp.

A settled tension

Two months after the attacks against the Iranian migrants, the tension has settled, according to Dugard.

The majority of the victims of the December attacks have moved on. Some managed to reach England, their preferred destination, while others, tired of waiting for a hypothetical crossing or because of a lack of financial resources, returned to Iran. Others have left for other European destinations, with the hope of reaching England another way.

“Sometimes they just won’t show up at dinner time, even though we have already laid the table,” said Dugard. “They are always in search of new routes because the passages via Calais and Dunkirk seem completely blocked.

“But in the meantime, other refugees, including moderate Muslims who heard about the support provided to the Iranians, have now arrived.”

A group of about 10 migrants, only one of whom professes a Christian faith, are currently staying in a church in Dunkirk. A non-religious Iranian in his 30s, who identified himself as Max, complained of the poor conditions and lax security of the camp. A fellow Iranian, a Muslim man in his 20s who identified himself as Farhad, agreed.

“The living conditions in the camp are deplorable,” he said. “It is no place for humans. It is very cold and people fall sick easily.”

Churches overwhelmed

Local churches are struggling to cope with the demands being placed upon them, as they seek to support migrants of all faiths and none.

What started as an emergency has become a long-term commitment, Dugard said.

“We are wondering: what is the best option for us? Do we have the spiritual, human and financial resources to continue this work, which is full-time social work?” he said.

“Yet the migrants are really suffering. They crossed a multitude of borders and faced various obstacles to get here, in the hope of a better life. But they realise that it is often hopeless to cross to England and have ended up living in precarious conditions often more difficult than in their countries.”

Those conditions could be improved if migrants exploring Christianity could do so safely, said Michel Varton, director of Open Doors France, part of a worldwide charity that supports Christians who live under threat because of their faith.

“Many Christians amongst the refugees are fleeing persecution and discrimination. They are already traumatised by their terrible experience in the Middle East,” Varton said. “Imagine their despair to realise that, once here in France, they are suffering the same discrimination and hate from fellow immigrants.

“The local churches have shown dedication to help the Christian refugees and those who are genuinely interested in the Christian faith. The authorities must allow them to have simple buildings where they can meet and worship God in security and make sure that values of freedom of belief reign in the camps. It’s totally unacceptable that someone could lose their life for their faith once in France.”

In addition to the lack of resources, there is a logistical problem, as different churches act without much coordination.

Moreover, various groups and associations from all over Europe are also providing assistance to migrants, which has only added to the pressure, said Dugard.

“If some groups are useful, others believe that they can save the world,” he said. “They often come with very aggressive speeches, for two to three days, and then leave. In the end, their actions are doing more harm than good, because after they leave it becomes difficult for us to do serious work.”

Talks are currently underway among churches, as they seek to create a regional platform, which would come underneath the umbrella of the Conseil National des Evangéliques de France, the national Evangelical Church network.

Humanitarian disaster

The Grande-Synthe camp stretches over 20 hectares (nearly 50 acres) of marshland. It is difficult to walk through the slippery mud without proper boots.

With thousands of people, including women and children, living in such unsanitary conditions, respiratory problems and infectious diseases are common, says Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), which provides emergency care alongside Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World).

According to MSF, a new camp, equipped with heated tents and located three kilometres from the current camp, will accommodate migrants in the coming days.

However, the migrant crisis remains a very complex issue, says Matthew Bosiger, the pastor of the Salvation Army Church in Dunkirk.

“They are a bit like in a prison,” he said. “It is good to try to improve their situation, but they have no plan to stay in France. The migrants have only one thought in mind: to cross the channel to England, at any cost.”

Many say they have relatives or friends already settled there and the living conditions seem very attractive – partly because many know a little English, but also because of the prospect of better economic opportunities. Smugglers take advantage of migrants’ desperation to reach the UK by charging them everything that they have, with no guarantee they will succeed.

Voice of the Persecuted shared last August how Christian refugees moved from asylum accommodation after threats by Islamists in Sweden. The Christians feared for their safety after it was demanded that they stop wearing Christian symbols, like crosses around their necks. And that they were not welcome in common areas, such as kitchens when the aggressive Muslim group was there.

After receiving no help when the atmosphere became intimidating, the Christian refugees dared not stay and decided it would be safer to find other accommodations.

Voice of the Persecuted

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European Effort to Control Unofficial Religious Groups, Homeschooling Disarmed

photo: Wikipedia

photo: Wikipedia

Opponents of a European initiative paving the way for governments to rule on the legitimacy of religious groups and reduce homeschooling rights won a battle this month in the Council of Europe, sources said.

April 22, 2014 (Morning Star News) – Opponents of a European initiative paving the way for governments to rule on the legitimacy of religious groups and reduce homeschooling rights – thus laying the groundwork for potential persecution of Christians – won a battle this month in the Council of Europe, sources said.
 
In Europe, where public education often includes teachings on morality at odds with churches, and officially unrecognized religious groups are labeled “sects,” the stakes were high for religious freedom advocates when resolutions granting European governments latitude to control “sects” and homeschoolers went to a vote in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) this month.
 
Religious rights group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) disseminated a memorandum arguing that the report and resolutions of Rudy Salles, rapporteur of PACE’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, contravened the European Convention on Human Rights and rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.
 
“The clear and unwavering jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights regarding state neutrality towards religious groups, coupled with the growing number of judgments from the Court against High Contracting Parties for improperly monitoring religious groups, stands in sharp contrast to the recommendations set forth by Mr. Salles,” the April 2 memo asserted. “Adoption of the Salles Report would further damage the rights of European parents in educating their children according to their own religious and philosophical convictions.”
 
A petition against Salles’ report, entitled “The Protection of Minors against Excesses of Sects,” obtained more than 10,000 signatures, and a wide array of rights organizations vigorously opposed the proposals. The report sought to establish a “European observatory” to monitor “groups of a religious, esoteric or spiritual nature to make it easier for national centres to exchange information,” according to a draft of the resolutions.
 
Salles, a member of France’s National Assembly, has been criticized for connections with a French agency, the Inter-Ministerial Mission for Vigilance and Action Against Sectarian Excesses (MIVILUDES), which is accused of conducting witch-hunts against independent religious groups. For his part, his report states that the Parliamentary Assembly had in 1999 attached “great importance to protecting those most vulnerable, and particularly the children of members of religious, esoteric or spiritual groups, in case of ill-treatment, rape, neglect, indoctrination through brainwashing and non-enrollment at school, which makes it impossible for welfare services to exercise supervision.”
 
In its memorandum, ADF argued that child-protection laws need not single out religious groups.
 
“To provide unfettered discretion to the state to extra-judicially monitor religious groups injures the very substance of religious freedom, parental rights and church autonomy,” the ADF memo asserted.
 
On education, the Salles report proposed state oversight, “in particular in terms of conformity of curricula and the quality of the teaching staff. In the case of home schooling, it would be useful for the children to be followed by the relevant departments of local authorities so that the latter can take prompt action if the children are not being properly schooled or there are other problems.”
 
The report proposed that member states would “make sure that compulsory schooling is enforced and ensure strict, prompt and effective monitoring of all private education, including home schooling.”
 
Curricula in many European countries violate many churches’ teachings on morality, and ADF argued that “adoption of the Salles Report would further damage the rights of European parents in educating their children according to their own religious and philosophical convictions.”
 
“In Salzkotten, Germany, 14 Christian parents were imprisoned, some for more than 40 days and most on multiple occasions, simply for opting their 9-10-year-old children from two days of mandatory ‘sexual education’ classes,” according to the ADF memo. “Also in Germany, a 15-year-old girl was placed in a mental institution for wishing to be home educated. The reason for her police detention and subsequent committal to the Nuremberg mental facility was the false diagnosis by a single practitioner that the young girl in question had ‘schoolphobia.’”
 
ADF further noted that police and social service representatives four years ago took 7-year-old Domenic Johansson off an airplane bound for Sweden simply for being home-educated. The family had been relocating to India to help with orphanages.
 
“The police had no warrant, and the family was accused of committing no crimes when young Domenic Johansson was taken from his parents nearly four years ago,” ADF asserted. “In Spain, the [José Luis Rodríguez] Zapatero government initiated mandatory classes known as ‘education for citizenship’ which indoctrinated young children with a bombardment of material promoting homosexual behavior, hypersexual behavior, communism and which aggressively mocked the Catholic Church. What was perhaps even more shocking was that the government refused all requests for parental opt-outs of the classes despite more than 50,000 complaints from parents, hundreds of lawsuits and ultimately a class-action style lawsuit at the European Court of Human Rights.”
 
In Strasbourg, France on April 10, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe removed language from the Salles report that threatened religious freedom and parental rights to educate their children, according to CARE (Christian Action Research and Education) for Europe, a Brussels-based rights organization that works alongside ADF.
 
“The threat to religious liberty from French MP Rudy Salles’ Report and Resolution calling for the French anti-sect approach (with the label ‘sect’ being applied to any small or independent churches or other minority religious groups) to be rolled out across Europe, was defeated at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly plenary session in Strasbourg by substantial amendments being passed which CARE had lobbied for,” said David Fieldsend, manager of CARE for Europe. “These largely stripped the text of the undefined terminology ‘excesses of sects’ and replaced it with calls for child protection laws to be applied even-handedly to all situations with no religious or other groups singled out for special investigation as prejudicially presumed child abusers, as well as reaffirming the right of those belonging to minority religious groups to full religious liberty and especially the right to an education for their children in accordance with their convictions and beliefs.”
 
Evangelical churches in countries with strong majority national churches, particularly in eastern Europe, have suffered from only limited toleration by national authorities and “a cultural climate of suspicion, which the original text of this Resolution could have exacerbated,” Fieldsend said.
 
The Parliamentary Assembly is one of the two statutory organs of the Council of Europe, which is composed of the Committee of Ministers (foreign affairs representatives) and the Assembly, representing the majority and opposition political forces in member states.

Morning Star News

 

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The European Crusade Against Christianity

EPA Photo

EPA Photo

The Christian civilization is in great danger. Today about 100 million followers of the teachings of Jesus Christ are being persecuted. People are suffering or sometimes even dying for their faith not only in the countries of the Middle East, Northern and Southern Africa but also in South East Asia – regions that are essentially non-Christian. The believers in Europe and America, i.e. residents of the states where the adoption of Christianity in the past determined their development and formation, increasingly often face anti-religious prosecution.

In 2013 Europe had a ceremonial celebration of the 1,700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan. At its time that document served as an important step towards turning Christianity into the official religion of the modern EU. However, that historic celebration did not stop those who are today convinced that there should be no place for religion in modern society. The latest scandal of the year was the firing of a Norwegian TV presenter this past November. The journalist was punished for showing up at work wearing a cross around her neck and refused to take it off. That is not the only such case in Europe. Such persecution is currently underway in practically all countries of the Old World. One of the main reasons for the growing phobia of Christianity is the total change of the view of the world and conscious abandonment of Christian values and rules, thinks Yuri Tabak, a specialist in religions:

The last few decades have been tied to the process of final separation of the European values from the religious values. The secularization of modern Europe is going very fast. Its goal is to leave the religious values only for private, absolutely individual use by the people. A few years ago when the European Constitution was adopted, they seriously debated the issue whether the word God could be left in the document. Back then it was decided that the word God should not be mentioned in that document. In other words, the entire religious component, traditional for the many centuries of Europe’s development, back then was left out of the modern view of the world. That is why they are currently trying to take out all the religious symbols and referrals from use”.

The persecutors are no longer shy to demonstratively give up their spiritual roots, to adopt laws that contradict the biblical rules, to ban all mass festivals with Christian attributes and try to replace the traditional faith by a non-traditional one. A couple of days ago the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom officially accepted scientology as a religion. In today’s EU, the cases when Christian churches and sacred objects are sold, desecrated or sometimes completely destroyed are taking place more and more often. With the silent consent of the European society about 200 unique ancient churches of Kosovo and Metohija have been lost. The Hagia Sofia, the famous church of Constantinople (now Istanbul) is also under threat. That grand cathedral-monument that goes back to the first centuries of Christianity might soon be turned into a mosque once again. With such an attitude towards the historic religion, muezzins’ call to prayer will soon be heard all over Europe. Pavel Svyatenkov, a political scientist, expressed the following concern:

“As the sacred place does not remain empty for long, the European Union is most likely in for islamization. Today Islam is actively spreading. Representatives of that religion come to Europe from Middle Eastern and African countries. However, I am convinced that with the current persecution of Christianity, the conservative layers of society will start protesting more loudly. For example, the decision made by the French president François Hollande to make legal same sex marriages, which this year went through the parliament, caused great protests in the country”.

Not only secular politicians, liberals and atheists are to blame for Christianity leaving Europe, but also the followers themselves. Despite the fact that the rights of Christians are violated practically every day, many people are in no rush to defend them. The appeals to the European Court to restore religious freedoms are quite rare. Meanwhile, there have been several cases at the European Court of Human Rights when the fairness in the area of faith has been restored, says Philipp Ryabykh, a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church at the Council of Europe:

“At some point a woman from Italy tried to prove that the schools in the country have no right to place a crucifix on the walls. Initially the ECHR passed a decision in favor of the woman and enacted that the country’s authorities took down all religious symbols from state schools. But then the same court revised its decision and passed a different verdict. The decision protected the presence in schools of crucifix as a symbol of Christian culture and identity”.

However, the revision of the crucifix case became possible only due to the protests expressed to the ECHR by many countries, including Russia. By the way, the Moscow Patriarchy has repeatedly expressed sharp criticism of any demonstration of Christianity-phobia and has appealed to the European community with a request to protect Christians. In 2011 a special document was passed at the meeting of the Holy Synod, in which Russian bishops called upon the political authorities, social activists and scientists, as well as international organizations to apply maximum effort in fighting the persecution of Christians.

Milena Faustova for Voice of Russia
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