RUSSIA: Jehovah’s Witnesses: 612 home raids since the 2017 ban

– HRWF (07.08.2019) – The state repression of Jehovah’s Witnesses is accelerating month after month in Russia according to recent statistics provided by the headquarters of their movement in the US to Human Rights Without Frontiers, such as those about home raids: 612.

2018

281 (23.4/month)

2019 (Jan-July)

331 (47.2/month)

Over 100% increase from 2018

June/July 2019

139 (69.5/month)

Nearly 200% increase from 2018

As of July 31, 2019

241 JWs facing criminal charges

39 in detention (pretrial or prison)

27 under house arrest

As of Aug 5

244JWs facing criminal charges

39in detention (pretrial or prison)

27under house arrest

Over 100 under a variety of other restrictions




China recruits 13 more in its Axis of Shame

Another 13 countries, including Iran, signed the letter supporting the CCP’s horrific treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang

Winter (29.07.2019) – https://bit.ly/2Kuq0kr – China continues its efforts at recruiting fellow travelers into its Axis of Shame of countries prepared to sign letters defending the indefensible and claiming that Xinjiang is a heaven of human rights. According to these letters, the dreaded transformation through education camps, where thousands are tortured, killed, or led to commit suicide are in fact “vocational schools.”

The original Axis of Shame, a label Bitter Winter is proud both to have created and to see increasingly used by others, included 37 countries. The CCP has now announced that 13 more have signed, mentioning Iran, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Djibouti, and Palestine. Indeed, that Iran, another egregious violator of religious liberty, was missing among the original 37, was somewhat surprising.

Most countries sign, but realize that what they are doing is not honorable. They are ashamed to be part of the Axis of Shame. They ask the CCP not to make their names public.

Others, among the original signatories, support the CCP with statements and interviews. Some belong to the category of involuntary humor. An “expert” working for Saudi Arabia claimed that, before the enlightened activities of the CCP happily opened their minds, Muslims in Xinjiang were “close-minded.” Perhaps nobody informed the Saudis that the CCP uses “de-saudization” as a synonym of “de-radicalization,” claiming that the resurgence of Muslim pride in China is due to the evil influence of Saudi Arabia. Or can we expect that CCP experts will be invited to Saudi Arabia to “open the mind” of local Muslims?

More involuntary comic relief was offered by statements from the Venezuelan and Cuban embassies in Beijing. The Cubans said that their government is opposed to any efforts aimed at “regime changes” in China and elsewhere. One may vaguely suspect that by “elsewhere” they mean Cuba.

Venezuela stated that “China’s leadership in human rights is indisputable.” This is literally true in Venezuela. Those who would “dispute” that all is well in China, a staunch ally of the Maduro regime-or in Venezuela, for that matter-would go to jail.

What the CCP believes it can achieve by putting together such a shameful circus of human rights violators is unclear. Perhaps, once again, these news are mostly used for domestic consumption in China.

Update July 30: Some media have now published a list, which seems authentic, of the 50 countries part of the Axis of Shame. One European country, Serbia, has unfortunately joined it.




CHINA: Pro-CCP hackers in action FOREF site attacked

Forum for Religious Freedom Europe’s most successful videos ever denounced the persecution against The Church of Almighty God’s refugees in South Korea. A dark hand (or rather a red hand) made them inaccessible.

Bitter Winter (04.08.2019) – https://bit.ly/2OEgVuI – On July 31, 2019, Bitter Winter published an article by Jia Zhigang. Jia was a well-known actor in China. After he converted to The Church of Almighty God, he had to flee China because of persecution and currently lives in South Korea. Our article led many readers to search Google for Jia Zhigang. They discovered that in 2018, he had already been interviewed by Austrian journalist Peter Zoehrer, and the video was posted on the Web site of FOREF, the Forum for Religious Freedom Europe, a NGO whose president is the world-famous human rightsactivist, Dr Aaron Rhodes.

Actually, for a somewhat exceptional coincidence – believers would rather say thanks to the providence of God – Zoehrer happened to be in Seoul for a conference in the same days when the 2018 false “spontaneous demonstrations” against The Church of Almighty God refugees were organized by the CCP and its Korean fellow traveler, Ms. O Myung-ok. The demonstrations were repeated on July 22-24, 2019 and in both cases ended in disgrace.

Zoehrer was able to document the 2018 false demonstrations, and to produce 14 videos where The Church of Almighty God refugees told their stories of detention and torture in China, and harassment in Korea. These videos were the most successful media production of FOREF ever. They have been downloaded or watched by more than 56,000 viewers.

In the last few days, hackers attacked FOREF’s YouTube channel and were able to make eight videos inaccessible, including the one about the false demonstrations of 2018 and seven interviews with members of The Church of Almighty God living in South Korea. One of them was actor Jia Zhigang.

The videos have now been made accessible again. The attack, however, confirms how much the CCP and its minions are afraid of truth. In Communist countries, as Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) used to say, “the lie has become not just a moral category, but a pillar of the State.”




Morocco’s hidden Christians see Pope trip as chance to push for freedom

– Ahmed Eliechtimi

– Reuters (22.03.2019) – https://reut.rs/2YlpFXt– Moroccan converts to Christianity, a tiny minority in an overwhelmingly Muslim country, are looking to Pope Francis’ visit next week as an chance to press their demands for religious freedom.

Francis will spend two days in Rabat on his first trip to the North African country from March 30-31 – the first visit there by any pope in nearly 35 years.

He will spend time with Roman Catholics – most of them expatriate Europeans, mainly French, and sub-Saharan African migrants – who are free to worship in churches such as the capital’s art deco St. Peter’s Cathedral.

But unlike those “foreign Christians”, Moroccan converts say they are forced to worship at home, in secret. Conversion from Islam to Christianity is banned – as it is in many Muslim countries – and proselytizing is punishable by up to three years in prison.

One group backing them – the Moroccan Association for Religious Rights and Freedoms – has already written to the Vatican, raising its concerns, and it is planning a sit-in outside a church in Rabat on the eve of the visit.

“We want laws that protect religious minorities in the country on an equal footing,” the head of the association, Jawad El Hamidy, said.

“We will seize the pope’s visit to put more pressure on the state to protect religious freedoms.”

“NO DISCRIMINATION”

Morocco has marketed itself as an oasis of religious tolerance in a region torn by militancy – and has offered training to Muslim preachers from Africa and Europe on what it describes as moderate Islam.

Government spokesman Mustapha El Khalfi said the authorities did not violate religious freedoms. “There is no persecution in Morocco and there is no discrimination on the basis of faith,” he told reporters when asked about the accusations.

But converts point to the constitution, which formally recognizes the existence of Moroccan Muslims and Jews – but not of Moroccan Christians. They also point to their day-to-day experience.

“When I went to a church to declare my faith, I was told that I was prohibited to do so by Moroccan law,” said a 40-year-old Moroccan Christian who gave his name as Emmanuel and asked not be shown while filmed.

“We call on Moroccan authorities and the Holy Father to seize the opportunity offered by this papal visit to launch a sincere dialogue on religious freedom for Moroccan citizens,” the Coordination of Moroccan Christians, a local lobby group, said.

There are no official statistics, but leaders say there are about 50,000 Moroccan Christians, most of them from the Protestant Evangelical tradition – outnumbering the estimated 30,000 Roman Catholics in the country.

There was no immediate response from the Vatican to the Association’s letter. But the most senior Roman Catholic in Morocco – the Archbishop of Rabat, Cristobal Lopez Romero – offered his support.

“We as Catholic Christians appreciate that we fully enjoy the freedom of faith but we will be happier if the Moroccan people could also enjoy that,” the Spanish cleric told reporters.

“I would love to be able to become Moroccan without having to change my religion.”




CHINA: Xi Jinping to teachers: Nourish the faith in the Chinese Communist Party

– In his “important speech”, the president asked educators to instill patriotism in young people and reject “misconceptions and ideologies”. Since 2012, a struggle against the spread of “Western values” and the ban on religious education for young people is underway in schools and universities.

AsiaNews (21.03.2019) – “Nourishing” faith in the Chinese Communist Party and rejecting “misconceptions and ideologies”: this is the program that Chinese president Xi Jinping proposed to a group of teachers gathered yesterday in the capital for a seminar on “ideological theory” and politics “.

According to Xinhua, Xi gave an “important speech”. In it, the party leader, who is also general secretary and head of the military commission, said that starting with toddlers China must “nurture generation after generation [of young people] who support Chinese Communist Party rule and China’s socialist system”.

“Most importantly,” he added “we must emphasise [taking the correct stance] on politics such that people who have faith [in the party] can preach what they believe in.”

He also asked all educators to instill patriotism in young people and reject “misconceptions and ideologies”.

Since Xi took power in 2012, the Party has launched a battle against the spread of “Western values” in schools and universities, banning books that promote “Western ideas” such as democracy and the rule of law.

At the same time, those who spread “religious” ideas among students are prosecuted. In the name of “patriotism” students are required to reject religions, especially those that come “from the West”, that is Christianity, making students swear to fight them.

The new regulations on religious activities prohibit young people under 18 from going to church or receiving a religious education.




RUSSIA: 150 Jehovah’s Witnesses under investigation

– JW Headquarters (19.03.2019) – Almost two years after the ban of their movement in Russia, 150 Jehovah’s Witnesses are currently under investigation.Already in 2019 Russian law enforcement has conducted raids on JWs in 10 cities in 6 regions (in 2018 Russian agents conducted 280 searches in about 40 regions throughout the Federation).

Latest figures regarding JWs facing criminal charges throughout Russia:

Pretrial Detention: 24

House arrest: 26

Ban on activities: 5

Recognizance: 55

Wanted: 4

Another EU citizen detained in Russia: Andrzej Oniszczuk from Poland

Andrzej Oniszczuk, 50, has been kept in solitary confinement for over five months, and is not permitted to lie down from 06:00 to 21:00. He is only allowed to take a shower with hot water once a week for 15 minutes. The administration of the detention center in Kirov refuses to allow Andrzej to have a Bible.

For the five months Andrzej has been detained, his wife, Anna, has not been allowed to visit him and has only communicated with him by letter. She has submitted several requests to visit Andrzej in prison; however the investigator in Kirov has repeatedly denied her requests. Typically prisoners in Russia can have visits from close family members, so it is unclear why such extreme action has been taken to keep Anna from seeing her husband.

You may recall that Andrzej was arrested on Oct 9, 2018, when local police and masked special-forces raided 19 homes and one former place of worship for JWs in Kirov, Russia. Andrzej is being accused of “extremist” activity for simply singing biblical songs, improving the skills of missionary work, and studying religious literature.

At the outset, Andrzej Oniszczuk was forced to sign a document under duress wherein he agreed to refuse visits by the Poland Embassy, so the embassy was initially unable to contact/assist. However, after several requests by the embassy, they have finally been allowed to visit/assist Andrzej. The address where Andrzej is being held:  FKU SIZO-1, UFSIN of Russia, Kirov Region, ul. Mopra, d. 1, Kirov, 610004. Andrzej’s pretrial detention has been extended twice (now through April 2, 2019).

A total of seven men in Kirov are facing criminal charges for practicing their faith. Four men (44-yr-old Maksim Khalturin, 66-yr-old Vladimir Korobeynikov, 26-yr-old Andrey Suvorkov, and 41-yr-old Yevgeniy Suvorkov) had been arrested in October 2018 and held in pretrial along with Andrzej. Yevgeniy continues in pretrial detention, however the three others have been released to house arrest. Two other men (63-yr-old Vladimir Vasilyev and 25-yr-old Vladislav Grigorenko) from Kirov have been under investigation since January 21, 2019 but are not yet under any restrictions.

BIO: Andrzej was born October 3, 1968 in the city of Białystok in northeastern Poland. After graduating from school, he became a lathe operator. Andrzej enjoys reading Russian literature, especially Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, and Pasternak. In 1997, he moved to Russia and worked for himself in the city of Kirov. There he met Anna, and they married in 2002.

Anna, Andrzej Oniszczuk’s wife, has agreed to talk to journalists (Polish or Russian only). Her phone number +7(961) 748 2088 (via Telegram or Signal).

Sergey Skrynnikov under threat of three years in prison

On the heels of the Zheleznodorozhniy District Court of Oryol sentencing Dennis Christensen to six years in prison, another one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Sergey Skrynnikov, also from Oryol is being criminally tried at the same court for his peaceful worship as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and a verdict is expected on April 1, 2019.

On 18 March, prosecutor Nadezhda Naumova recommended that the Court sentence 56-yr-old Sergey to three years in prison followed by one year of additional restrictions for so-called extremist activity. Closing statements by the defense will be next Thursday March 28, with the court’s verdict will be at 10am on Monday April 1.

For more information, please contact Yaroslav Sivulskiy in Russia: (ysivulsk@jw.org; call or WhatsApp +7 985 359 34 10+371 2 0044105).