GUINEA: It takes a village: Ending FGM by creating new rituals

Rural communities in Guinea are creating new rituals that bring together the whole community with the aim of abolishing female genital mutilation (FGM) – for good.

Plan International (23.07.2018) –– At the end of the afternoon in this rural community in Guinea, Madeleine Bongui Camara’s megaphone is heating up. And not just because of the sun.


A community facilitator from the NGO AFASCO (Accompaniment of Socio-Community Action Forces), one of Plan International’s partners, Madeleine spares no effort to make her message resonate as far as possible.


“We are joyful! Joyful about abandoning this harmful practice for all women! We are happy and we are proud!”


Madeleine smiles, around her dozens of women dance and sing. This day is historic: after three years of work, the village will today officially celebrate the abandonment of female genital mutilation (FGM). Many discussions, debates and exchanges with authorities, religious leaders and the community cutter have led up to this point.


It takes a village to end FGM


The local cutter is also the centre of attention. Surrounded by dancers, who through song ask her to finally put down her knife, Nantenin Mara dances one last time with the blunt blade that has cut more than 250 girls here during her long career. A blade that, once the dance is over, is dropped into the village latrines.


A few minutes earlier, the mayor of the community, accompanied by representatives of the prefecture, Plan International and AFASCO, formalised the big news in front of hundreds of gathered villagers.


“In view of the consequences of FGM, I am announcing the abandonment and total rejection of cutting in our community, and our commitment to do everything possible to extend this abandonment to the entire district! Do I speak for myself or for everyone?”


“On behalf of all!” The crowd answers.


Celebrating uncut girls


Faced towards the platform where the speeches are taking place and protected from the sun by a large mahogany tree, a group of a hundred girls stand out. All wear a white t-shirt with the message ‘An uncut girl is pure and complete’.


“It is the uncut girls that the village is committed to protecting from this practice,” explains Raphael Kourouma, from Plan International’s ‘Save girls from FGM’ project. “Today’s ceremony does not mean that the work is finished. Every village that gives up FGM is, of course, a victory. But now, the protection structures that we put in place in the village will ensure that the commitment is respected by all the community, and to act as needed.”


More than 2,000 girls have been identified as vulnerable to FGM and will be monitored by the community.


The role played by the Imam of the village in the abandonment of the practice was a key element in the process. From the beginning of the project, the imam was involved in discussions with the community and was a strong ally in the work to convince community members.


To symbolise the village’s commitment to renounce FGM, a tree is planted in the mosque garden next to the main entrance. “We hope that in its lifetime, this tree does not see any girl mutilated in our village,” the Imam states when planting the shrub.


For Raphael Kourouma, planting this tree here at the entrance to the mosque is a rare act and sends a very strong message. “All believers who come to the mosque must pass by this tree and will remember the words of the Imam today. It is a way of saying that FGM is not tolerated by religion. This is extremely important in our fight for its abolition”.


Education and communication to end FGM


“Plan International used a gradual and highly structured approach based on generational dialogue, says Raphael. “The principle is to organise, over a cycle that can last more than a year, a series of separate meetings for men, women, elders and young people.”


Each meeting is an opportunity to shed light on the issue from the point of view of the target group. Exchange sessions between the different groups are then set up and then debated again in smaller groups.


The goal is ultimately to educate each group on why others are supporting or preventing FGM and to gain a common understanding of the consequences of the practice, the benefits of abandoning it, and the actions needed to achieve this.


Launched in 2007, Plan International Guinea’s FGM project has worked with 19 communities to formally abandon female genital cutting, protecting thousands of girls from mutilation.


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ARGENTINA: Abortion Bill fails, but movement takes hold across Latin America

Analysts say movement’s rise is changing the region in ways that would have been impossible just years ago

The Irish Times (12.08.2018) –– They narrowly lost the vote. But as supporters of a Bill to legalise abortion in Argentina began to shake off a stinging defeat in the Senate last Thursday, they took consolation in having galvanised a reproductive-rights movement across Latin America and began to consider how to redirect their activism.


A coalition of young female lawmakers who stunned the political establishment by putting abortion rights at the top of the legislative agenda this year seemed to be on the verge of a historic victory with the Bill. But intense lobbying by Catholic Church leaders and staunch opposition in conservative northern provinces persuaded enough senators to vote against it.


After a 17-hour hearing, the Bill was defeated early on Thursday by a vote of 38-31, with two abstentions. “We will no longer be silent and we won’t let them win,” said Jimena Del Potro, a 33-year-old designer who fought back tears as she spoke. “Abortion will be legal soon. Very soon.”


Despite the setback, many proponents marvelled that Argentine lawmakers had come so close to passing the measure, which would have allowed abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy and fractured the near-total prohibition on abortion in Latin America.




The measure had already been approved in the lower chamber of Congress. Current law allows abortions only in cases of rape or when a mother’s life is in danger. The Bill energised hundreds of thousands of demonstrators across Argentina in a women’s rights movement known as Ni Una Menos – Not One Less – and enthused women from Brazil to Mexico.


“What Argentina did was mobilise young women and create the memory that we almost won,” said Debora Diniz, an anthropologist at the University of Brasília who helped write a petition now before Brazil’s supreme court that challenges the constitutionality of its anti-abortion laws.


“They changed the way we talk about abortion,” Diniz said. “It’s not just feminists, intellectuals. It’s young women, your daughter, your sister.”


Ninety-seven per cent of Latin American women live in countries that ban abortion or allow it only in rare instances. Only Uruguay, Cuba, Guyana and Mexico City allow any woman to have an early-term abortion.




“Abortion rights was a priority and it will be deeply discouraging to have come this far and fail,” said Benjamin Gedan, an Argentina expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. But he said women’s rights advocates already had achieved successes, such as the passage of a law that seeks to have an equal number of male and female lawmakers.


“If we make a list of the things we’ve gained and the things we’ve lost, the list of things we’ve gained is much bigger,” said Edurne Cárdenas, a lawyer at the Centre for Legal and Social Studies, a human rights group in Argentina that favours legal abortion. “Sooner or later, this will be law.”


President Mauricio Macri of Argentina opposed the Bill, but said he would have signed it. After the vote, administration officials said they planned to ease abortion penalties in an overhaul of the penal code that will be presented on August 21st. Women getting abortions can be charged with a crime and imprisoned under the current law, although that happens very rarely.


The penal code changes had been in the works for some time, but they appeared to reflect Macri’s realisation that the reproductive-rights movement in Argentina was now an established force.


“The women’s movement mobilised all regions of Argentina; it was intergenerational and exceeded everybody’s expectations,” said Françoise Girard, the president of the International Women’s Health Coalition, which supports legal abortion. “The new generation of teenage girls who came out in such numbers will not be stopped.”


Violent death


The organised movement that pushed the Bill started in 2015 with the brutal murder of a pregnant 14-year-old girl by her teenage boyfriend. Her mother claimed the boyfriend’s family didn’t want her to have the baby. A journalist, Marcela Ojeda, despairing over yet another woman’s violent death, posted a tweet: “Aren’t we going to raise our voice? They’re killing us.”


Her anger struck a chord. Within weeks, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators marched across Argentina, after organising on social media around the hashtag #NiUnaMenos. The slogan spread to neighbouring countries, including Mexico, Peru, Chile and Colombia, where it was used to denounce violence against women, demand reproductive rights and draw attention to related causes.


Analysts said the movement’s improbable rise already had begun to change the region in ways that would have been impossible just years ago. The campaign is credited with inspiring debate on a variety of women’s issues, including domestic violence, a subject that has long been taboo.


Ahead of the vote, supporters rallied in Uruguay, Brazil and neighbouring Chile, where they gathered in front of the Argentine embassy in Santiago, chanting and wearing the green handkerchiefs that symbolised the movement. Many coupled their disappointment at the outcome in Argentina with optimism.


“When you undergo a process like this, you must keep fighting,” said Susana Chávez, an activist in Lima, Peru, who directs the Centre for the Promotion and Defence of Sexual and Reproductive Rights, a nongovernmental group. She said activists were already planning a march in Lima on Saturday.


Public outcry


The abortion debate in Mexico has been accompanied by a public outcry over violence against women and a renewed push for gender equality, led mostly by women’s and human rights groups. Last autumn, protests under the Ni Una Menos banner in at least five Mexican cities demanded an end to violence against women. The protests were a response to the rape and murder of Mara Castillo, a college student, after a taxi ride in the city of Puebla.


In El Salvador, which bans abortion under all circumstances, two Bills were proposed in Congress this spring that were pushed by women’s rights groups and their allies, opening debate on the issue for the first time.


For Argentina, the debate over abortion tugged at the country’s sense of self. It is the birthplace of Pope Francis, who recently denounced abortion as the “white glove” equivalent of the Nazi-era eugenics programme. But the country in recent years has inched away from a close church-state relationship.


In 2010, Argentina became the first country in Latin America to allow gay couples to wed – a move the church fought with a vigour similar to its battle against abortion. Francis, then the archbishop of Buenos Aires, called that Bill a “destructive attack on God’s plan.”


‘Very emotional’


The church had many allies in the abortion debate, including women who spent hours outside Congress in the Argentine winter cold as the debate got under way on Wednesday night. Many expressed relief at the result. “It was a very emotional day,” said María Curutchet, a 34-year-old lawyer. “We were out in huge numbers and showed that we will defend the two lives, no matter the cost.”


Some prominent female political leaders also came out against the measure, including vice-president Gabriela Michetti. But Macri’s health minister, Adolfo Rubinstein, testified in Congress in favour of legalisation and estimated that some 354,000 clandestine abortions are carried out every year in the country.


Complications as a result of those abortions are the single leading cause of maternal deaths in the country, according to Mariana Romero, a researcher at the Centre for the Study of State and Society, a nonprofit organisation.


While the measure failed in the Senate, it made some inroads. Among the senators who voted for it was Cristina Kirchner, who as president had opposed legalising abortion. “The ones who made me change my mind were the thousands and thousands of girls who took to the streets,” she said.


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IRAQ: Bride’s killing shows new law needed

Iraq’s new parliament should prioritize passage of domestic violence law

By Belkis Wille

HRW (08.08.2018) –– The horrific case of an Iraqi woman apparently murdered at home should prompt Iraq’s new parliament, once formed, to finally pass a draft domestic violence law which has been pending since 2015.


According to Iraqi media and BBC Arabic, one day last week a bridegroom returned his bride to her parents the day after their wedding, complaining that she was not a virgin. Media reports claim that upon hearing the accusation, a family member beat her to death. Media reports say that police have arrested a male relative.


While the man will likely now face trial for murder, it is possible that he may benefit from a reduced sentence under a provision in Iraq’s penal code allowing for shorter sentences for violent acts – including murder – for so-called “honorable motives.” But there is no “honor” in such brutal and needless killing. Moreover, the murdered bride would be just one of hundreds of women and children who suffer violence at the hands of their families in Iraq each year.


If passed, Iraq’s new domestic violence law would oblige the government to protect domestic violence survivors, including with restraining orders and penalties for breaching them, and the creation of a cross-ministerial committee to combat domestic violence. It would also require the government to provide shelters so women at risk of violence have a safe place to go if they are forced to flee their home.


The draft law is not perfect. It contains several flaws, including a preference for families to address violence through “reconciliation committees” rather than prosecution, and could be improved. Iraqi authorities should also set clear penalties for the crime of domestic violence, and close the loophole that lets abusers receive reduced punishments for so-called “honor” crimes, both not addressed in the draft law.


If improved, this draft law is the best chance Iraq’s new parliament has to tackle the scourge of violence in the home, fulfill its international legal obligations on domestic violence, and save the lives of countless Iraqi women and children.


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IRAN: Prison sentence was issued for “Payam Kharaman”, another Christian convert in Bushehr

Mohabat News (11.08.2018) – – The Christian convert, “Payam Kharaman”, has been sentenced to one year in prison on charge of propaganda activities against the system and in favor of Zionist Christianity through holding house meetings, evangelism, and invitation to Christianity and inclination to the land of Christianity. This Christian convert was among 12 citizens who were arrested in Bushehr (on Tuesday, April 7, 2015).


The cases of these 12 individuals with similar accusations have been under review until late April, 2018 while they were released on bail.


According to the verdict issued by Islamic Revolutionary Court of Bushehr headed by Judge Abbas Asgari, Payam Khoraman and 11 other individuals including “Shapour Jozi” and his wife, “Parastoo Zariftash” were sentenced to one year in prison, and they would be informed of the verdict on Wednesday, June 20, 2018.


The Christian convert, “Payam Kharaman” says to Mohabat News in detail about the case: on Tuesday, April 7, 2015, at around 8 A.M. – 8:30 A.M., 3 plain-clothed security agents came to the house, entered with a warrant, and rummaged throughout the house for 2 hours, and after inspection, seized computer case, mobile phone, flash memory, CDs, books and pamphlets and even private photo album, and transported me to the intelligence office of Bushehr near Bisim Avenue, and they started interrogating me from the first hours of my arrival in prison and continued until the evening of that day.


One of the special terms cited in the case of these 12 Christian converts is “inclination to the land of Christianity”, which is less common. Payam Khoraman says: interrogations were obviously indicating that they were looking for the accused’s confession to communication with abroad, especially America, Britain and Israel, and this term has originated from this matter.


He said: “the pressure and harassment of the security forces on me began in early 2012, and I was repeatedly summoned by the Office of Police Monitor Public Place in Bushehr and interrogated about evangelism and communication with abroad, and I always insisted on the belief in Christianity for myself and not for promotion of Christianity. Because I had a boutique shop in Bushehr, a number of officers’ family members in the office knew me and informed of heavy sentences against me, and the case which was under investigation by intelligence office. I thought it was just an empty threat, but unfortunately became a serious issue one or two years later.”


Advocacy director of Article 18, Mansour Borji introduced the charges attributed to these Christian converts and the process of judicial review on their cases “as example of inquisition and the violation of the freedom of religion and belief”, and he added: “Security agencies, following an ineffective policy in recent years, have tried to eliminate Farsi-speaking Christianity through unlawful pressures and false accusations in revolutionary courts and seemingly legal route.”


While corruption, theft and embezzlement of senior government officials and their relatives are the greatest problem in the country, and judicial systems infected with the corruption do not have the ability to fight against these problems, the harassment of religious minorities particularly Christians have been mandated for the Islamic Republic’s security apparatuses. Many Iranian Christians have preferred to abandon their homes in the last two decades and leave Iran to avoid the securities and judges.


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USA-CHINA: Hope for Sister Zou Demei: Lawyer files motion to reopen her case

Bitter Winter (13.08.2018) –– Readers of Bitter Winter may be familiar with the case of Ms. Zou Demei, a Chinese woman detained in Detroit and facing deportation back to China, where she will be arrested and probably executed.


Ms. Zou was until 2016 the regional leader of The Church of Almighty God (CAG), a Christian new religious movement banned in China, in the four provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou, Chongqing, and Sichuan. This made her one of the top leaders of the CAG in China, and one of the most wanted by the authorities, with a substantial bounty placed on her head. As all CAG members, she destroyed all evidence of her true identity and went under the pseudonym of Yao Lu.


In 2016, Ms. Zou was informed that she was wanted not only as a leader of a banned religious movement, which was already bad enough but on trumped up charges of espionage, which might lead to the death penalty. She managed to escape from China with the passport of another person with her picture pasted on it and reach South Korea. Since South Korea, unlike the U.S. and Canada, has not granted asylum to any CAG refugee and it was unsafe for her to live there with a false passport, she decided to move to the U.S. She landed in Detroit on January 24, 2017, where her passport was detected as false and she was arrested.


Language problems prevented her and a few co-religionists who initially tried to help her to make her case understandable to the American authorities, and her asylum request was denied on December 4, 2017, with an order that she should be deported back to China. Her appeal was rejected on May 22, 2018.


At this stage, the CAG contacted several NGOs and instructed a specialized lawyer, Mr. Russell Abrutyn of Detroit, who took over representation of Ms. Zou and was informed that Homeland Security intended to deport her back to China after August 15, 2018.


Mr. Abrutyn has now filed a motion to reopen with the Board of Immigration Appeals, the highest administrative immigration court in the United States. This motion was based on new evidence that only recently became available thanks to the campaign by the international human rights community, a campaign that has drawn increased attention to Ms. Zou’s plight. As a result of this campaign, the people whose lives she touched through her leadership role in China with the CAG recognized her picture (although she had known her under a different name) and came to her defense by corroborating her role within the CAG.


Also, Mr. Abrutyn explained, “the Board of Immigration Appeals has been provided with official government reports, which should have been but weren’t provided before, highlighting the religious persecution in China against the CAG and its adherents.”


Bitter Winter, who has led the campaign in favor of Ms. Zou, trust that, with the new documents, deportation to China, which would lead to her arrest and detention and most probably to her execution, may be avoided. However, Ms. Zou needs any help she may receive from institutional and private advocates for religious liberty and human rights.


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NORTH KOREA: Thousands of North Korean workers enter Russia despite U.N. ban

Moscow’s approval of new North Korean laborers keeps cash flowing to Pyongyang and may violate sanctions, U.S. officials say

By Ian Talley in Washington and

Anatoly Kurmanaev in St. Petersburg, Russia


WJS (02.08.2018) –  – Russia is letting thousands of new North Korean laborers enter the country and issuing fresh work permits—actions U.S. officials say potentially violate United Nations sanctions aimed at cutting cash flows to Pyongyang and pressing it to give up nuclear weapons.

The U.N. Security Council in September barred governments from issuing new work permits to North Koreans, though some existing labor contracts were allowed to continue.

Since the ban, more than 10,000 new North Korean workers have registered in Russia, according to Russian Interior Ministry records reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, at least 700 new work permits have been issued to North Koreans this year, according to Labor Ministry records.

The labor prohibition, part of a broad array of sanctions, is aimed at eliminating an important revenue stream for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s regime. Most of the money North Koreans earn abroad ends up in government coffers, U.S. and U.N. officials say. Often, workers toil in grueling conditions.

Russian government records also show that some companies hiring North Koreans are joint ventures with North Korean entities, an apparent violation of sanctions banning “all joint ventures or cooperative entities” with North Korean companies and citizens. Many of the companies appear to be expanding even as they are supposed to be scaling down.

While sanctions have reduced North Korea’s total labor force overseas, a U.S. official said, those numbers haven’t fallen in Russia and China. “We don’t want to underestimate the extent to which there may be serious violations.”

U.N. officials are probing potential violations of the sanctions, which contain narrow exceptions, according to people familiar with the matter.

Russia’s Interior and Foreign ministries didn’t respond to requests for comment. In the past, the Foreign Ministry has said it accepted the U.N. sanctions.

Efforts to reach North Korea’s embassy in Moscow were unsuccessful. A man who answered the phone at North Korea’s mission to the U.N. in Geneva said he had no knowledge of the matter.

China and Russia have drawn U.S. ire in recent months, accused by Washington of allowing North Korean illicit activity and sanctions evasion. Chinese and Russian firms continue to help the pariah nation import oil products in excess of U.N.-mandated caps, including through previously sanctioned tankers, according to U.S. and U.N. officials and a declassified intelligence briefing prepared for the U.N.’s committee on North Korea sanctions and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

North Korean laborers have helped feed the construction boom in St. Petersburg, according to local businessmen.

“They work till they drop,” said a contractor who hires North Koreans across the city. Workers arrive at construction sites at 7 a.m. and work until 10 p.m. or even midnight, taking just two half-hour breaks for meals of rice and dried fish, he said.

Local developers say they pay companies that hire out North Korean workers—firms they say often represent North Korean institutions such as the military or state conglomerates—about 100,000 rubles ($1,600) a month per worker. In government filings and job advertisements, such companies list monthly worker salaries of 16,000 to 20,000 rubles.

That 80% difference is in line with U.S. assessments that North Korea’s government takes the bulk of earnings.

U.N. sanctions mean these laborers should be gone by September, a year after they went into effect, because the workers are required to leave once their permits expire, usually within a year. Even workers with multiyear permits must be out by the end of 2019 under the sanctions.

Yet many firms contracting out laborers—Russian companies owned and run by North Koreans, according to corporate documents and researchers—are investing in new offices, applying for new work permits and negotiating new projects.

“The Kim regime continues to dispatch citizens abroad,” said C4ADS, a nonprofit that advises the U.S. government on security risks, in a report released Thursday. “In doing so, it continues to flout international sanctions to generate foreign currency.”

About 100,000 or more North Korean laborers have been working overseas in recent years, the U.S. State Department said. Pyongyang’s labor exports earned as much as $2 billion a year for the Kim regime, analysts say.

According to Russian government data, around 24,000 North Koreans were officially working in the country at the end of last year.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the U.S. envoy to the U.N., Nikki Haley, said recently that while Russia has helped pass North Korean sanctions, they questioned Moscow’s enforcement.

“We’re going to demand that every country in the world do their part,” Mr. Pompeo said.

Kuwait, Poland and other countries have said they have stopped renewing North Korean worker visas. The clampdown, along with other sanctions, is credited by U.S. officials with helping compel Mr. Kim to start denuclearization talks.

C4ADS has mapped out networks of firms and individuals using North Korean workers, mainly in Russia and China. Cross-referencing corporate registry documents, official labor statistics, tax filings and trade records, C4ADS said many firms contracting North Korean laborers from St. Petersburg to Siberia appear to violate sanctions.

One such company identified by C4ADS and examined by the Journal is Sakorenma Ltd., which has employed North Korean workers since at least 2015 and whose ownership structure appears to put it in breach of U.N. sanctions.

According to Russian corporate documents, one of its owners is North Korea’s General Corporation for External Construction, or Genco. The U.S. sanctioned the firm in 2016 for employing North Korean labor overseas, alleging that some Genco revenues are funneled into Pyongyang’s Munitions Industry Department, which supports Mr. Kim’s weapons programs.

Local Russian authorities on Sakhalin Island awarded this year Sakorenma two contracts valued at a total of $180,000, according to public records.

Sakorenma and Genco didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Genco appears to operate elsewhere in Russia through firms with similar names, C4ADS said. Some of those firms are seeking new permits for North Korean laborers, according to records reviewed by the Journal.

Zenco-39, a firm based in Krasnodar that was approved to hire 1,550 North Korean workers over the past three years, posted ads in late July seeking Korean translators. In Russia, companies must post jobs to see if locals are available before applying for permits for foreigners.

That firm was linked through C4ADS’s research to more than half a dozen others using the same email address, physical addresses, directors or corporate names.

Another company, agriculture giant Yuzhny-Agrokombinat, obtained authorizations to hire 91 North Korean vegetable growers this year, according to Russian Labor Ministry data. The company is owned by Russian billionaire Vladimir Evtushenkov.

A spokesman for Mr. Evtushenkov’s holding company, Sistema Financial Corp. , said the vegetable company’s North Korean workers were hired before the U.N. ban in September 2017 and fully comply with Russian law. He said the company doesn’t plan to hire any new North Korean workers.

In St. Petersburg, the Journal reviewed copies of new work permits issued by local authorities to North Korean workers as recently as June. Those hires aren’t reflected in Labor Ministry data, which indicate there were no applications for North Korean work permits in the city or surrounding region this year.

Three of the firms that received local permits—Mokran Ltd., Bu Khyn Ltd. and Kanson Ltd.—list addresses in a warehouse inside a dilapidated industrial estate south of the city center.

Neighboring businesses said the firms have been upgrading the facility. Several sought Korean-speaking translators in job postings in February and again in July.

When contacted about the positions, representatives said they were filled. Other calls to the companies went unanswered.

Some real-estate companies say they are aware of sanctions and are gradually winding down use of North Korean labor. But they said they were given no guidance by the government. Some plan to keep using the workers until the next decade, hoping Mr. Kim’s promise to end weapons programs will lead to relaxed sanctions.

“They are like soldiers. They’ve got the discipline,” said an executive at a large real-estate firm in St. Petersburg. “We want to keep working with them.”


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UK: Restrictions lifted on Dartford nurse who gave Bible to patient

A nurse sacked from a hospital and then placed under restrictions for imposing her religious beliefs on patients has been told she is fully fit to practice.

BBC (08.08.2018) –– Sarah Kuteh was dismissed from Darent Valley Hospital in Kent two years ago after giving her Bible to a patient.


The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) said it was now in the public interest for her to return to practice.


Ms Kuteh told BBC South East she was absolutely elated at the decision because nursing was her passion.


She said: “I didn’t expect to be sacked so I was shocked. This means so much to me because I can go back to the profession I love.”


Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust said it was pleased she could continue her career as a nurse unrestricted.


Patients’ faiths

It said her case had never been about religion and she was dismissed for gross misconduct after she was made aware of several complaints from patients and asked to refrain from preaching to them.


“We took no satisfaction in having dismissed Sarah but must always act in the best interests of our patients and in accordance with professional codes of conduct,” a statement said.


The mother of three had worked at the hospital in Dartford from 2007 and had 15 years of nursing experience when she was sacked in August 2016.


Her job had involved asking patients about their faith as part of a pre-operative assessment questionnaire.


She said that although she had no intention of imposing her beliefs on others, she would sometimes tell them about how her own faith had helped her overcome adversity.


Ms Kuteh launched legal action in December 2016, supported by the Christian Legal Centre, and in a statement at the time she said: “How could it ever be harmful to tell someone about Jesus?”


Her dismissal was ruled as fair by an employment tribunal in April 2017.


Ms Kuteh subsequently found a new job in a nursing home, but was only allowed to work as a nurse subject to a range of conditions imposed by the NMC.


At a hearing before an NMC panel last month, her supervisor praised her as “a kind, caring, honest, friendly nurse” and “a valuable member of the team”.


Ms Kuteh conceded that giving her personal bible to a patient was “going too far” and “crossing professional boundaries”, and she should have used a bible from the hospital chaplaincy instead.


The NMC unanimously ruled the restrictions should end.


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CHINA: Thousands of Muslims protest against the demolition of the Weizhou Grand Mosque (11.08.2018) –  – Protests have broken out in the Ningxia Autonomous Region after the authorities decided to tear down the Grand Mosque in Weizhou.


Thousands of ethnic Hui Muslims protested Thursday, when they occupied the square in front of the place of worship. As a result of the rally, the authorities were forced to postpone the demolition.


The head of the county tried to reassure the faithful, telling them that the mosque would not be torn down until a deal is reached to build another one.


The mosque’s management committee said that the authorities sent a demolition notice on 3 August with a deadline for this Friday. According to the order, the mosque, which was completed last year, had not been granted the necessary planning and construction permits.


After days of negotiations between the authorities and religious leaders, it was agreed earlier on Thursday that the government would not demolish the mosque but remove eight of its domes.


The new mosque replaced an earlier one that had been built to replace Weizhou’s 600-year-old Chinese-style mosque, which was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.


One of two red banners strung from the mosque’s exterior walls read: “Resolutely support the Chinese Communist Party, defend ethnic unity, safeguard the freedom of faith”.


The banner stress subordination to the Party but demand religious freedom as promised by the Chinese constitution.


Tearing down places of worship, including many churches, is part of an ongoing campaign to “sinicise” China’s religions, Christianity included. Churches too have been affected.


“Sinicisation” means submission to the Party and the elimination of foreign influences, including in art and architecture.


In the case of Islam, Muslim icons and Arabic signs have been removed from streets in towns and counties across the region.


For decades, China’s Hui Muslims have been left in peace by the regional government. However, as the government intensifies its crackdown against Uyghurs in Xinjiang, the Hui are also being targeted.


The government fears a rise in radicalism. For this reason, several mosques in Ningxia have been ordered to cancel public Arabic classes, whilst a number of private Arabic schools have been told to shut down.


Children under 16 are no longer allowed to engage in religious activity or study in Linxia, a deeply Islamic county in Gansu, a province next to Ningxia, in western China. The latter had been a haven of comparative religious tolerance for local ethnic Hui Muslims.


Recently the authorities have instructed mosques to display national flags and stop sounding the call to prayer to reduce “noise pollution”.


In view of what is happening, Hui Muslims fear they will be subjected to the kind of surveillance and repression that Uyghurs have to endure in Xinjiang.


In the past year, “The winds have shifted”, said a senior local imam who requested anonymity. “Frankly, I’m very afraid they’re going to implement the Xinjiang model here.”


“They want to secularise Muslims, to cut off Islam at the roots,” he added. “These days, children are not allowed to believe in religion: only in communism and the party.”


More than a thousand boys used to attend his mid-sized mosque to study Quranic basics during summer and winter school holidays but now they are banned from even entering the premises.


Parents were told the ban on extracurricular Quranic study was for their children’s own good, so they could rest and focus on regular coursework.


There are more than 10 million Hui in China, half of the country’s Muslim population, according to 2012 government figures.


In Linxia, ​​they are well integrated with the Han ethnic majority and have always had the opportunity to practise their faith freely.


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CHINA: Underground Catholic priests removed

Authorities send two priests packing in Gansu province for holding a summer camp for youngsters.

Tianshui Diocese’s open church holds a summer camp for young people in 2017. Two underground priests of Maijiqu Ganquan Catholic Church have been removed after being accused of holding a summer camp. (Photo by Faith Weekly)

UCA News (09.08.2018) – – Two underground parish priests in China’s Gansu province have been removed after being accused of holding a summer camp for a youth group at their church.

Father Wang Yiqin of Hui county and Father Li Shidong of Leling city of Shandong province were serving Maijiqu Ganquan Catholic Church in Tianshui Diocese.

Tianshui Municipal Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee has sent a letter asking the local branch of the state-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association to send personnel to replace the priests, who were accused of holding a summer camp for Bosco Youth Group at the church and sent back to their hometowns.

On July 21, the committee issued a letter stating that no association personnel were involved with the church, which had become a base for underground clergy.

It asked the association to appoint personnel “to strengthen the management of religious affairs in accordance with the law and according to the regulations on religious affairs.”

Father Zhao Jianzhang of Tianshui’s open church is deputy director and secretary-general of the Gansu Catholic Patriotic Association and Catholic Administration Commission.

He told that he had been informed of the incident and the parish office had received a letter but he was out of town and would handle the incident when he returned.

“There are people in the government who want to break the current situation. They do not allow the underground church to exist and must convert it to be open because only Tianshui in northwest China still has an underground community,” a source said.

Maijiqu Ganquan Catholic Church is one of only two underground churches in Tianshui Diocese.

Built in 1921, the church grounds cover 7,000 square meters containing a church, complex buildings and houses. The church has been approved by Yuanbeidao district government.

CHINA: More destroyed mosques in Xingiang

Seven out of eight mosques in one of the areas of Lianmuqin town in Xinjiang have been demolished; the remaining one is strictly supervised.

Bitter Winter (09.08.2018) – – According to a local source, seven of the eight mosques in the Shanshan county’s 11th Brigade of Lianmuqin town, have already been destroyed. The local Muslims are allowed to attend the remaining mosque, but there are more than twice as many government officers as worshipers inside it during prayers. The local authorities keep some guards in between the prayers as well. “Every time there are 13 Uyghurs practicing namāz, 37 government personnel are on duty,” a local Uyghur Muslim said. “We need to show our ID or give our fingerprints each time we enter the mosque for the five daily namāz prayers. Every time we kneel down and pray to Allah, the government officials stand beside us and stare directly at us. When they’re looking right at you, it’s impossible to feel calm. I finally stopped going.”

Reported by Li Benbo