UKRAINE: Coalition of religions and believers to ban the Gay Pride in Odessa

Dumskaya (20.08.2019) – “Undermining the reputation of the city”: the Moscow Patriarchate, along with individual Catholics and Protestants, asks Trukhanov to ban the LGBT march in Odessa

 

A number of religious organizations in Odessa addressed Gennady Trukhanov, the mayor of Odessa, a one-million city on the Black Sea, asking him not to allow the LGBT action “Pride-2019” to be held in our city, announced for the second half of August.

 

The authors of the document cite the Bible and the 51st article of the Constitution of Ukraine, which states that “marriage is based on the free will of men and women”, and “family, childhood, motherhood and fatherhood are protected by law.”

Photo via Dumskaya

 

Signatories believe that the march of sexual minorities in Odessa is “inappropriate” and “undermines the city’s reputation.” They beg the mayor not to allow the Pride “for the sake of peace among the residents and visitors of the city” and promise to “pray for the souls of these people so that the Lord will help them free themselves from perversions.”

 

The first signature on the appeal was put by the Metropolitan of Odessa and Izmail Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) of the Moscow Patriarchate Agafangel. Also there are autographs of Odessa representatives of one of the Jewish communities(not the largest); Armenian Apostolic Church; Roman Catholic and Ukrainian Greek Catholic Churches; several Protestant organizations, including those whose believers were displaced from the occupied territories of Ukraine by Russian-backed fighters in the Donbas. Muslimsand the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU)ignored this initiative.

 

In the Odessa Exarchate of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (UGCC), they told us that the letter was signed by Father Superior Ruslan Ostafy, Rector of the Cathedral of St. Andrew, and this is his personal initiative. Moreover, when the Greek Catholic put his signature and seal, the signatures of Agafangel (Savvin) were not there.

 

Roman Catholicshave not yet commented on the situation. The appeal is signed by Bishop Bronislaw Berndsky, but it is well known that he is already at an advanced age, seriously ill and has not managed dioceses for a long time, where he has been appointed bishop-coadjutor (acting) – Stanislav Shirokoradyuk. Only the latter can officially represent the Catholic community of the south of Ukraine in such matters, but Father Stanislav did not sign the paper. According to our sources in the capital, the apostolic nunciature (Vatican Embassy) in Kiev urged the Catholic communities not to actively participate in such initiatives, especially if they come from the Moscow Patriarchate.

Photo via Dumskaya

 

HRWF Translation/adaptation of the article of Sergey Konkov/Reuters




North Korean soldier defects across DMZ

By Eugene Whong

 

Radio Free Asia (01.08.2019) – https://bit.ly/2ZkyfJ8 – A North Korean active-duty soldier crossed the military demarcation line (MDL) Wednesday night in the heavily fortified demilitarized zone (DMZ) into South Korea in an apparent defection.

 

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs (JSC) of Staff Thursday said in a press briefing that the soldier was detected by thermal imaging at 11:38 p.m. near the Imjin river, which flows from the North to the South in the central and western part of the Korean peninsula.

 

At first, South Korean security forces were unable to identify what they had detected, but confirmed it was a person at 11:56 p.m. and troops stationed nearby took the soldier into custody.

 

“The person that we took into custody is an active-duty soldier, and he expressed his desire to defect to South Korea,” said JCS Chief Kim Joon-rak during the briefing.

 

“Currently, identification and other related procedures are underway, so we will provide detailed information separately,“ he said.

 

South Korea’s KBS News quoted a JSC official as saying “it was the first time since 2010 that a defector came by way of the Imjin.”

 

It was the second time a North Korean crossed the DMZ with the intention to defect in eight months. On December 1, 2018 a North Korean soldier crossed over the armed land border in the eastern part of the peninsula.

 

One year prior to that event, a North Korean solider ran south through the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom, getting shot by other North Korean soldiers. Despite being wounded, he successfully made it to the South, where South Korean guards found him. He was later taken to the hospital for gunshot wounds to an elbow and shoulder.

 

While defections by soldiers are rare, more than 30,000 North Koreans have made their way to South Korea in recent decades, and women make up the overwhelming majority. According to statistics kept by the South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, in 2017 71% of all registered defectors living in the South were women.




European companies get rich in China’s ‘open air prison’

Volkswagen, Siemens and more are making money in Xinjiang, where minorities are being herded into detention camps.

By Benjamin Haas

The New York Times (21.08.2019) – https://nyti.ms/33Sh7d5 – Many people around the world may just now be learning that around a million Uighur Muslims and other minorities have been locked up in extrajudicial internment camps in the region of Xinjiang, in western China. There is a reason for that: Xinjiang is remote and the Chinese government has expended considerable effort to keep the news hidden, from harassing foreign journalists to seizing family members of activists to censoring information within its own borders.

Herbert Diess, however, should have no excuse.

Mr. Diess is the chief executive of Volkswagen, which opened a plant in Xinjiang in 2013 that employs almost 700 local workers and can make up to 50,000 cars a year. In an interview with the BBC in April, Mr. Diess said he was not aware of the system of camps or the Muslim minorities subject to mass detention, even though his company’s factory is within a 90-minute drive from four such detention centers. (The company issued a new statement saying it did, in fact, know about the treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang and was committed to human rights.)

What excuse do the other chief executives and board presidents use?

I have found that about half of the largest 150 European companies had some presence in Xinjiang, an area that Amnesty International has described as “an open-air prison.” Their investments merit far more scrutiny from both regulators and the public, and European governments need to form standards for companies dealing with Xinjiang.

At the top of the list of companies that deserve a thorough review is Siemens. This large German conglomerate collaborates on advanced technologies in automation, digitization and networking with China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, a state-owned military contractor that has developed a policing app used in Xinjiang that, according to Human Rights Watch, has led some people to be sent to the camps.

The Spanish telecommunications firm Telefónica has a joint venture with China Unicom that appears to use big data for tracking people. The company markets the software as a way to deliver location-based ads or monitor public transportation use, and while it says the data is anonymous, I reviewed an internal presentation that appears to have shown ID numbers unique to each cellphone user. It is easy to see how such software could be used by the authorities in Xinjiang to track minorities in real time, and it has already been deployed in the region, according to a presentation.

Other investments are less immediately tied to abuses of the Uighur population. KfW, a German state-owned bank, provided 100 million euros ($111 million) in funding for the construction of a subway line that opened in 2018 in the regional capital, Urumqi, built with components from ABB, a Swiss engineering firm, and Airbus Defense and Space, the European aircraft manufacturer. Unilever and Nestlé both buy tomato products from a state-owned company in Xinjiang that could end up in the ketchup in kitchens across Europe. Neither company responded to questions about how products from Xinjiang are used.

While this research did not uncover any direct relationship between European companies and the internment camps, conversations with executives in Germany showed that most headquarters have little understanding of how their businesses operate in Xinjiang.

The Chinese government has long pushed to develop its far-flung western regions, partly to shore up their links with the rest of the country and partly in the hopes that economic development will depress religious observance and quell the desire for basic freedoms. In some cases, European companies have been pressured to start operations in Xinjiang as conditions for expansion elsewhere in China. Carrefour, the French supermarket chain, is just one example. It opened stores in Xinjiang only after receiving “strong advice” from Chinese officials. Other European executives told me that they had received similar messages.

But China’s desire for investment gives foreign companies with ties in the region — and European governments — real power. Now they need to use it.

The European Union should enact laws that set standards for companies operating in Xinjiang and punish those that fail to live up to European ideals of human rights, with audits on whether camp labor was involved in any part of their supply chains, where profits end up in China and how products and technology are used.

If all European Union members fail to agree on regulations, the charge should be taken up by national parliaments, especially in countries like Germany with extensive business in Xinjiang. These standards should apply to any European company, not just the large multinationals, and would have powerful ramifications beyond just Xinjiang.

Companies found to be flouting these standards could be barred from bidding for government contracts as an initial measure, with fines and government-appointed monitors as additional punishments. The European Union also needs to immediately impose export bans on technology that could be used in the repression of dissidents and religious minorities.

Business leaders and politicians frequently bristle at the idea of directly confronting China on its human rights abuses, worried that a firm stance could jeopardize future deals. But while China may issue statements condemning such actions and threaten to stop buying products from critics, it’s unlikely that Beijing is ready for another economic fight amid a slowing economy and a trade war with the United States.

European exports could take a hit or Chinese regulators may begin investigations into European companies as a punitive measure. But such actions would only further isolate China, a country that knows it needs all the stable economic relationships it has. While plenty of diplomatic protests and bombastic editorials in state-run newspapers are sure to follow such a move, President Xi Jinping cannot afford to further destabilize the economy over a political spat with the European Union, which is China’s largest trading partner.

This confluence of circumstances is exactly why the European Union must act now to stand up for its values and leverage its economic relationship with China to pressure it to end one of the most egregious human rights violations in the world today. Feigning ignorance is no longer an option.




SOUTH KOREA: Hyeon-Jeong KIM: 50 days of confinement for forced de-conversion (1)

Presbyterian pastors inciting domestic violence and breaches of Korean laws

 

By Willy Fautré, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers

 

HRWF (22.08.2019) – Hyeon-Jeong KIM, the victim of kidnapping and confinement for the purpose of religious de-conversion, was born in 1989. Her parents, Sung-Jo Kim and Eun-Su Kim, are Presbyterians and raised their children in the Presbyterian Church. Her father is a retired teacher and her mother is a housewife. They were living together in Daegu, the fourth largest city of Korea, at the time of the incidents. In 2015, at the age of 27 (1), Hyeon-Jeong Kim started attending the religious services of the Shincheonji Church (2).

 

 

Interview of Hyeon-Jeong Kim

 

 

Q: How did your parents know about your interest in the Shincheonji Church and how did they react?

A: They heard from one of my friends. They were quite opposed and put me under strict surveillance. They also contacted Presbyterian pastors to ask them what to do. Knowing that my father could be violent, I told him I would not go to that Church any more. I was a pharmacy student at the time and so I managed to continue attending their meetings secretly for the next three years.

Last year (2018), I got a job in a pharmacy, but my parents found out that I had not severed my relations with the Shincheonji Church. On 8 April, during dinner, my father had an angry outburst about my change of religion. I didn’t say anything because I did not want to further inflame the situation. During this incident my father tried to hit me with a glass container and my mother held me by the neck while my brother also tried to hit me. This family crisis lasted for two hours.

In the aftermath of that fateful day, my parents did some research on the internet about the Shincheonji Church. They only found negative papers posted by the Presbyterian Church and media influenced by the Presbyterian Church. After that, they took my phone away and my father followed me to and from work every day as if I were a child. I was 30 years old at the time. In the meantime, they had been told by Presbyterian pastors to show me films and articles denouncing the Shincheonji Church as a heretic Christian movement. After work, I wasn’t allowed to leave the house and was denied access to my cell phone. I had to watch and read Presbyterian propaganda against the Shincheonji Church every day. My brother, who was married and was not living with us, was also taking sides with my parents and was threatening me.

Q: Did you try to get assistance from outside?

A: There was a police station near the pharmacy with a Women and Youth department counseling center. I thought I could get some help from them. However, due to the close surveillance of my father, I could only go to the police at lunch time. I did so and told them everything, including the reasons behind the domestic violence I was experiencing. The police response was catastrophic. They called my father and told him to give me back my phone and to put an end to my surveillance. My action further fueled his anger towards me.

At the pharmacy, I told my boss and my colleagues that I feared I was at risk of being abducted and confined by my family because of my change of religion.

Q: And were you abducted?

A: Yes. A few weeks later, on 27 April. My phone had ‘disappeared’, but I knew they had taken it away. I was very angry and I threatened to call the police on my father. I told my mother I would leave for work earlier and have breakfast in a nearby shop. She thought I was planning to run away from home forever and ran after me. My father caught me and forced me into his car. As I was screaming, passers-by tried to help, but my father told them I was his daughter and he was saving me from a heretic religious movement. He informed our family that he was taking me to my aunt’s, Kyung-Hee KIM. It was approximately a 15-minute drive. This is how my kidnapping and confinement started.

Q: Had the abduction been planned as an option in the minds of your parents?
 
A: Without any doubt, but not only in their minds. At my aunt’s place, about 15 minutes away, we were joined by my mother and brother. I was deprived of all my possessions, tied up and transferred to a faraway place: Hae-woon-dae, Busan. It took two hours by car. I was pushed into a studio on the 7th floor of a building.

 

My family had made this plan based on recommendations from the Presbyterian pastors. This option had been partially prepared and partially improvised as no date had been fixed. The renting contract of the studio was signed at the last moment, a day before the abduction, by my mom and my aunt.

 

I was locked in a room with closed curtains for 50 days under the surveillance of both my parents and my aunt. They threatened that I would never be able to leave if I did not agree to enter a de-conversion program. Members of my brother’s family who visited us on weekends cursed at me and threatened me as well. One day, my father tried to strangle me because I was still refusing to give up my faith. My mom and my aunt stopped him just in time. Otherwise, I would have been killed in the same way as another woman a few months earlier: Ji-in Gu (25 years old).

 

After about a month of staying at the studio apartment, my aunt went back to Daegu and the rest of the family remained with me. I started suffering from claustrophobia.

Q: The Presbyterian deprogrammers do not appear anywhere during your captivity? How do you explain that?

 

A: During the 50 days that I spent in captivity, no de-conversion pastor showed up because they do not want to be accused of complicity in a case of abduction and confinement for the purpose of forced change of religion, which is illegal in South Korea. However, they were in regular contact with my family and gave them instructions about how to force me to return to the Presbyterian faith. Of course, I do not have any records of their telephone conversations, but whenever I clashed with my parents, one of them would leave the room to make a phone call. So, I am assuming that they were receiving instructions on how to act in such situations.

 

For more than seven weeks I resisted the psychological pressure and the threats of my family and their Presbyterian advisers. I was alone against all of them, without any help or support, but I won my battle for my faith. I continued refusing to sign any agreement stating that I was freely asking to be de-converted in the framework of a so-called “conversion counseling program”.

 

Since my parents saw no solution in sight, some people from the Suyongro Presbyterian Church in Busan were sent to the apartment. This gave me the opportunity to attempt to escape. I was unsuccessful but was able to leave the apartment long enough to call for help. When I tried to escape that day, my family and the three envoys from the Presbyterian Suyongro Church dragged me back into the apartment. These three envoys were directly participating in my sequestration. Their names are Cho Hana and Choo Jin Wook, both evangelists of the Presbyterian Suyongro Church, and an unknown woman.

Q: How did you manage to recover your freedom?

 

A: On 16 June, the 51st day of my confinement, a combination of circumstances gave me an opportunity to run away. I was cleaning the bathroom when someone rang the front doorbell. My father started to remove the water bottles that were stacked at the front door to let the three people mentioned above into the apartment. When my father opened the door, I rushed out, barefoot and calling for help. However, I was on the 7th floor and so my parents were able to catch me. I was brought back into the apartment and the three visitors came inside for my de-conversion program.

I continued to scream and refuse anything they tried to force me to do. One of the neighbours came to our door and asked what was happening. I said, “Please call the police!” and my father closed the door again. That neighbor did call the police.

When the police came, they took everybody to the police station. My mother, my father and myself were in the same car and two of the deprogrammers – Cho Hana and Choo Ji Wook – were in another police car. My brother was in Busan and came to the police station an hour later after my parents called him. All I wanted was to be separated from my family.

After several hours of discussion, the police brought me to a women’s emergency shelter in Busan despite the opposition of my family. Not long afterwards, my brother managed to find my safe place and so, for my own security, I had to move to another shelter in Daegu. The police followed my case and I thank them for that.

Q: What happened at the police station?

A: The police checked the identity of the persons to be heard and asked me why I was held in the apartment.

I said that during 50 days my family had tried to force me to leave the Shincheonji Church, because they believed it was a cult, and to go back to the Presbyterian Church. To this end, they wanted me to follow a religious reeducation program run by the Presbyterian Church and to sign an agreement saying it was my personal decision. But I kept refusing because it was not my choice and they kept me in confinement.

A policeman took me to another room and said that what my family did was a crime. Additionally, since the victim – myself – wanted to be separated from the perpetrators, they have to abide by the victim’s wishes and provide a safe place.

The members of the Presbyterian Church in Busan – Cho Hana and Choo Ji Wook – emphasized that they were just normal believers and started to slander the Shincheonji Church. They also cursed and slandered me, and took sides with my family, saying I should go to a ‘normal church’.

The police listened to the slanders and accusations and did not make any comment.

Q: Could you get your position back at the pharmacy after almost two months of absence?

 

A: On the day of my abduction, my boss from the pharmacy received a call from my maternal uncle. He said that they were with me at a restaurant in Kyunggi-do (Kyunggi province) and that we were in the midst of a family trip, and then he immediately hung up.

 

Because of what I had told my boss about my family problems and risk of abduction, he filed a missing person’s report with the police.

 

Fortunately, I could get my job back.

Q: How are your relations with your family now?

 

A: When I was at the women’s shelter in Daegu, my father sent me a letter saying that I could return home and he would respect my religious choice. The local police, who had been informed of my situation by my boss, escorted me home. Now, I am living with my family again. I said I would live with them as long as they respect my religious choice. I feel better, but the trauma has not disappeared. (End of the interview).

 

 

 

The three deprogrammers from the Presbyterian Suyongro Church who showed up at the place of detention of Hyeon-Jeong Kim were aware that she was sequestrated by family members. When she tried to escape, they decided not only to deny assistance to a person in danger, but also to become accomplices of the prolongation of her confinement. Abduction and confinement of Hyeon-Jeong Kim for the purpose of forced change of religion are illegal and criminal activities in South Korea. The family members were prosecuted but not those who helped them to reincarcerate Hyeon-Jeaong. (3)

 

– Cho Ha-Na is a member of the Sooyoungro Church. She is a de-conversion counselor and directly consults with family members who come to the church for the coercive conversion program.

– Choo Jin-Wook is a member of the Sooyoungro Church. He is a de-conversion counselor and directly consults with family members who come to the church for the coercive de-conversion program).

– Unknown woman is a member of the Sooyoungro Church.

 

 

    1. In South Korea, a baby is considered to be one year old on the very first day of his/her birth.
    2. Shincheonji Church of Jesus Temple of the Tabernacle of Testimony (Shincheonji in short) is one of the largest Korean Christian new religious movements. The Church was founded in 1984 in South Korea by Chairman Man Hee Lee and currently has more than 200,000 members in 29 countries.

    3. Shincheonji teaches that it is the promised church in the Bible, pledged to appear in the times of the fulfillment of Revelation prophecies. It also teaches that, in this special time when the prophecies are fulfilled, the messenger of Jesus, i.e. Chairman Man Hee Lee, starts a new religious world to spread the gospel of the fulfillment of Revelation and to heal the nations. Because of its original theology and rapid growth, the Church has encountered the hostility of traditional Christian denominations.

      1. The details and the analysis of the prosecution will be the main theme of the next report about this case.



UGANDA: Kampala’s market women unite against harassment

Tired of suffering physical and verbal abuse at one of the Ugandan capital’s largest markets, female vendors are holding perpetrators to account

 

By Alice McCool

 

The Guardian (19.08.2019) – https://bit.ly/2Z1CtGe – Some men are in the habit of touching women, says Nora Baguma, a vendor at Nakawa market, in Uganda’s capital Kampala. “We call them bayaye,” she says, sitting at her banana stall.

 

“We give men punishment for this. I take men to the office if they cause problems. They can suspend that man for a week or a month,” Baguma explains. “It makes them stop. They fear us.”

 

Baguma is the women’s representative of Nakawa market, one of Kampala’s largest, where about 7,000 workers sell their wares.

 

The work of a local organisation, the Institute for Social Transformation, has increased awareness about sexual harassment among women at Nakawa. A protocol for dealing with cases has now been established; before, women in the market could only hold perpetrators to account informally.

 

The market is divided into six zones, each with 40 departments. Every department has a women’s representative, and they are the first port of call for sexual harassment complaints. Next is the zone leader, and above that the market’s disciplinary committee.

 

As she puts handfuls of mukene (dried silver fish) in bags for customers, market vendor Catherine Nanzige explains how punishments vary depending on the severity of the crime. “You pay a fee of 50 to 100,000 Ugandan shillings (about £10–20) and if you pay that fee and do the same thing again, you are given a month suspension from the market. If you continue, they expel you.”

 

A Nakawa market committee member, Nanzige has been working there since she was a child, helping at her mother’s stall.

 

“They see me and they fear me, because they know if I see them touching someone I will say that one is not in order, pay 100,000 shillings,” she says.

 

Many, though, are still reluctant to speak out – particularly younger women and girls. “Waitresses serving lunch here are young, 12 or 13 years old. When they take food to customers, those men harass them,” says Susan Tafumba, another vendor and secretary of Nakawa’s groundnuts department.

 

“They can touch the breast, make some gesture, say something, before they will give them the money,” sighs Tafumba. “Young girls here don’t know they can get help, so they end up keeping quiet.”

 

Worldwide, women working in the informal sector have long fought sexual harassment at work. A recently adopted international treaty influenced by the #MeToo movement is designed to offer such women new protections.

 

The convention concerning the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work has been praised for its focus on informal sector workers, who represent 61% of the world’s labour force and more than 80% of Uganda’s.

 

“It has redefined the world of work to go beyond the workplace itself, and provides for all kinds of employees,” explains Ophelia Kemigisha, a Ugandan human rights lawyer. The convention covers the formal and informal economy as well as public and private spaces, for example protecting the rights of women when commuting to and from work.

 

But whether the convention will be useful in Uganda depends on the government, argues Kemigisha. Uganda’s current sexual harassment legislation “was clearly made with women in the formal sector in mind”, she says. Regulations only require employers with more than 25 staff to have a sexual harassment policy, failing to cover women working in markets who also “often don’t have an ‘employer’ per se who would be held accountable”, she says.

 

At workplaces like Nakawa market women have “found spaces outside of the set legal systems to find redress for sexual harassment and abuse”, explains Kemigisha. The Ugandan government could do more to support these informal mechanisms, she says, “including providing them with more information on how to handle investigations, and sending labour officers to areas that have been neglected to guide them”.

 

Leah Eryenyu, a researcher at pan-African feminist organisation Akina Mama Wa Afrika, is optimistic that the convention will lead to improvements, despite Uganda leading a successful motion to remove a recommendation that explicitly listed the protection of vulnerable groups including LGBT people – although LGBT people are implicitly included as they remain protected under international human rights and labour standards.

 

Eryenyu hopes that the treaty can bring about change in Uganda, where she says the #MeToo movement is still small, even in the formal sector. For the informal sector, “the practice [harassment] has been normalised and accepted as a way of life,” she explains.

 

Eryenyu’s research on women who work on flower farms has found that sexual exploitation – sex in exchange for temporary work or higher wages – is rife. She says that while there are sexual harassment policies in place and women “can report to gender committees”, implementation by male-dominated leadership structures is often poor.

 

Eryenyu argues that to protect women working in the informal sector, better recognition of their contribution to the economy is needed.

 

“The informal sector contributes greatly to our GDP, but when it comes to issues of protection they are suddenly invisible,” she says. “The government should be made to realise this is an important part of the economy that deserves the same amount of respect and protection as anywhere else.”

Nakawa market chairperson Charles Okuni, whose background is in finance, understands the economic value women bring to the sector: they make up the majority of market vendors. Sitting in his office above the market, he says Nakawa is working to improve the capital of market women through access to bank loans and through the government’s Uganda women entrepreneurship programme, which funds small businesses.

 

Based on his observations at Nakawa, Okuni considers “women’s affairs highly because they are more responsible, more willing to do business”.

 

“Men nowadays, they don’t want to take their responsibilities,” says Baguma.

 

“They leave each and every thing to the woman, then the woman starts struggling, selling these things, buying food, paying rent, school fees, so their capital is lost,” she says.

 

“I counsel the women who come to me with these complaints. When you give power to that man, at the end of the day that man can kill you.”