SYRIA: Towards an international alliance of governments to support persecuted Christians

– Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Russia and the USA are the first candidates

Source: en.kremlin.ru

HRWF (02.11.2019) – At the end of October, Viktor Orban, Hungary’s Prime Minister, organized a conference to which he invited Russia’s President Putin and leaders of various Christian denominations from the Middle East to pave the way to an international alliance of European and other governments ready to prioritize support Christians in the Middle East and Africa persecuted by the Islamic State and other driving forces of political Islam.

A number of European governments – Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic – are planning to join such an alliance. The Vatican is interested in these developments.

Building up on his political and military success in Syria, Putin is now finding new allies in Europe where he wants to appear as the sole protector of Christians in the Middle East.

Russia and Hungary to discuss persecuted Christians

 Vatican News (01.11.2019) – Hungary wants to set up an international alliance of governments to support persecuted Christians in especially the Middle East, Africa, and other areas. The announcement came a day before Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Russian President Vladimir Putin were to discuss the issue in Budapest with Middle East church leaders.

 By Stefan J. Bos

Hungary’s state secretary, for the aid of persecuted Christians, Tristan Azbej, is worried. He told Vatican News that Christians are now the most persecuted people in the world.

That’s why, he says, Hungary wants to set up an international alliance to help Christian believers and other faith minorities during an upcoming conference next month. “We have an aim of collecting and mobilizing governments on one platform. That would coordinate its efforts to help the persecuted Christians of the Middle East, Africa, and also other minorities who are persecuted for their religion and belief,” he explained.

Coordination underway 

The Hungarian government is already coordinating efforts with the United States and Poland it seeks cooperation with other countries of Central and Eastern Europe such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Hungary says the move is also aimed to help persecuted to stay in their own countries rather than emigrate to the West.

The country has spent tens of millions of dollars on humanitarian aid, including such as rebuilding hospitals, schools, and churches in war-torn Syria and other nations.

The aid was welcomed at a conference in Budapest Tuesday attended by crucial church leaders representing Catholic, Orthodox and other Christians in the Middle East.

Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of the Syriac Orthodox Church noted that Christians feel alone amid ongoing violence that even killed infants. “Many times, we feel we are abandoned as Christians of the Middle East. We feel that we have no friends. That nobody cares about us,” he said.

Own interests 

“We have seen throughout these years of war that countries and governments are most interested in their interests about imposing their ideas and their agendas. But they don’t want to really care about the people,” the patriarch stressed.

He cited plans by the United States to protect oilfields in Syria as examples of such alleged egocentric behavior.

The patriarch and other church leaders warned there is little time to prevent the extinction of Christian communities in the Middle East.

Most Christians have fled the troubled region amid attacks by Islamic State and other extremist groups.

Recommended reading

https://www.vaticannews.va/en/world/news/2019-11/russia-hungary-protect-persecuted-christians-middle-east.html

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/61937

https://mospat.ru/en/2019/10/31/news179377/

https://hungarytoday.hu/orban-after-putin-meeting-russia-west-cooperation-in-hungarys-interest/

https://en.abouna.org/en/content/putin-orbán-patriarchs-east-discuss-situation-mideast-christians

https://cruxnow.com/church-in-europe/2019/10/31/hungarys-orban-good-relations-with-russia-are-a-necessity-can-help-middle-east-christians/

Putin pledges to ‘do everything to protect Christians in the Middle East’

 by Jeffrey Cimmino

After a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Wednesday, Putin expressed sorrow over the persecution experienced by Christians in the Middle East, according to the Associated Press. Russian leaders have worked to develop close ties with Syria’s Christian communities. Melkite Catholic Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart has called Russia’s intervention in the country a source of “hope for the country’s Christians.”

“The Middle East is the cradle of Christianity, and Christians are in peril there, facing persecution, being killed, raped, and robbed,” said Putin. “Russia will do everything to protect Christians in the Middle East. We must help them restore and preserve their holy sites, preserve their congregations.”

At a meeting later in the day, Putin expressed concern for the “massive exodus of Christians from the Middle East.”

“We are watching what’s happening to the Christians in the Middle East with tears in our eyes,” said Putin.

Russia’s efforts to work closely with Syria’s Christians have also earned praise from Syrian President Bashar Assad, who called Putin “the sole defender of Christian civilization one can rely on.” Putin has propped up the Assad regime against his opponents in the country’s civil war.

And while many Syrian Christians are concerned about Assad and his Russian backers, they also fear that any new government would either be weak or filled with extremists.




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.