Ukraine’s MFA condemns OCU eviction from cathedral in Russia-occupied Crimea

Over 90 administrative cases against religious organizations in Crimea have been documented.


UNIAN (05.08.2020) – – The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) condemns the eviction of the community of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) from the Cathedral of the Holy and Equal-to-the-Apostles Volodymyr and Olha in Simferopol.


“This decision by the occupying authorities reflects the policy of systemic oppression of the Ukrainian Orthodox community in temporarily occupied Crimea,” the ministry said in a statement on August 5.


Only a week ago, the Russian occupying administration handed over to Archbishop Klyment an order on the demolition of the temple in Yevpatoria, the ministry said. In the course of the last year, the occupying administration detained Archbishop Klyment himself without justification in March, refused to register the local religious organization following his application in April, and terminated the lease of the premises of the acting cathedral in June. In July 2019, all the church utensils of the diocesan administration were stolen from this cathedral under the guise of building renovation.


“Oppression of the Ukrainian Orthodox community in Crimea aims at erasing the Ukrainian identity on the temporarily occupied territories and is a part of the policy of oppression of all religious communities in Crimea uncontrolled by Moscow,” the ministry said.


The largest-scaled oppression is unfolded against the Crimean Muslims. According to human rights defenders, 71 Crimeans of Muslim confession are behind bars under the fabricated charges.


Contrary to international humanitarian law, the Russian Federation extended the application of its legislation to Ukrainian Crimea thus outlawing about 8,000 followers of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The occupying administration imprisoned two members of that community for their religious beliefs.


“The Russian occupying administration in Crimea abuses the anti-extremist legislation and uses the administrative legislation to the effect of oppressing the religious communities. Administrative pressure is being exercised not only against the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. This year, the fines for missionary activities were issued to the rabbi of the Jewish Messianic community and imam of the Alushta Muslim community,” the ministry said.


Overall, since the beginning of the occupation, human rights defenders have documented 91 administrative cases against religious organizations and their members in Crimea, resulting in 73 administrative fines for a total amount exceeding 1 million Russian rubles (about US$13,700).


Only Orthodox churches controlled by the Moscow Patriarch enjoy freedom from obstacles to their religious activities.


“We call on Russian Federation as an occupying power to abide by the norms of international law, including the international humanitarian law, and to stop the oppression of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and other religious communities in Crimea,” the ministry said.

IRAN: Prison sentences for Rasht converts

Article 18 (05.08.2020) – – Four Iranian Christian converts have received prison sentences of between two and five years for “acting against national security” by belonging to a house-church and “spreading Zionist Christianity”.


Ramin Hassanpour was given a five-year sentence, Hadi (Moslem) Rahimi four years, while there were two-year sentences for Sakine (Mehri) Behjati and Ramin’s wife Saeede (Kathrin) Sajadpour.


The sentences were pronounced on Saturday, 1 August.


The four Christians were first arrested in February, though initially Mehri’s identity was not made public.


In May, they spent a week in Lakan Prison in Rasht, having been unable to afford the 500 million toman bail ($30,000) set for them after the charges against them were read out at Branch 10 of the Revolutionary Court in Rasht.


They were eventually released on a reduced bail of 200 million tomans ($11,500).


Ramin and Kathrin have two sons – one of whom is 16 years old and was forced to stay at home by himself while they were in prison, and the other just seven and therefore went to stay with his grandfather.


They are part of the Rasht branch of the “Church of Iran”, a non-Trinitarian group, which has been especially targeted by the Iranian authorities.


Reacting to the news, CSW’s chief executive Mervyn Thomas called it “the latest development in a relentless crackdown on specific religious groups in Iran”.

News about Baha’is in Iran in July

Review court cuts sentences for 11 Baha’is in Fars Province


Sen’s Daily (21.07.2020) – – The Review Court for Fars Province (Shiraz) has sentenced Nilufar Hakimi to five years and nine months in prison. In May, Judge Sayyid Mahmud Saadaati, sitting in the Revolutionary Court in Shiraz, had sentenced her to eight years in prison. Navid Bazmaandegaan and his wife Bahreh Qaderi, Sudabeh Haqiqat, Elaheh Sami`zaadeh and Noraa Pourmoraadian were sentenced to six years by Judge Saadaati: this has been reduced to two years and nine months. Ehsanollah Mahbub-Rahwafa was given a one-year sentence by Judge Saadaati, which the Review Court has changed to a fine of one million tumans (200 euros ; $US 240). All were charged with propaganda against the regime and membership of groups opposed to the regime.


Mrs. Sami`zaadeh has also been sentenced — in a criminal court — to one year in prison by Judge Fakhaarzaadeh on a charge of “misuse of scientific titles,” which refers to her studies at the Bahai Institute of Higher Education. In addition to the prison sentence, he added a 2-year suspension from holding all governmental and public jobs. This seems to be a bit of black humour on the part of the Judge: all Bahais in Iran are permanently barred from governmental and public jobs, and also from work in many economic sectors, and from tertiary education. According to this report, Nilufar Hakimi has also been sentenced to five years in prison by a criminal court, but the report does not give further details. The only additional charge against Mrs Hakimi that I know of, is one count of blasphemy.


In a separate story, HRANA reports that the Court of Review has given two-year sentences to Farhaam Saabet, Farzaan Ma`sumi, Shahnaaz Saabet and Soheila Haqiqat. Mr Saabet and Ma`sumi were previously sentenced to five years in prison (with an additional one-year concurrent sentence), while Mrs Saabet and Haqiqat were sentenced to six years in prison, by Judge Saadaati. They were charged with “propaganda against the regime and membership in anti-regime groups. The report also says that Soheila Haqiqat faces additional charges, but that no details are available.


The same Review Court recently confirmed Judge Saadaati’s 5-year sentence for Shahryaar `Ataareyaan.


Mehrdaad Mousavi Khoulenjaani begins 6-month sentence


Sen’s Daily (11.07.2020) – – Mehrdaad Mousavi Khoulenjaani, a Baha’i from Shahin Shahr, was arrested in that city on July 9 after being summoned by telephone to the office responsible for the implementation of criminal (i.e., not ideological) crimes. He was taken the central prison in Dastgerd to begin a six-month sentence on what are apparently ideological charges : “propaganda against the regime in the form of teaching the Bahai Faith.” Shahin Shahr and Dastgerd are both towns just north of Isfahan City.


On June 10, the Provincial Review Court for Isfahan Province, headed by Judge Seyyed-Javaad Mansouri and Counsellor Mohammad Mohammadi Kalaal-Abaadi, confirmed his prison sentence.


Following a house raid and the seizure of personal effects in August/September 2018, he was summoned on November 27, 2018, arrested and taken to Dastgerd Prison in Isfahan. Some time later he was released on bail. He was acquitted [by the Review Court?] and the court ordered the return of confiscated items except those relating to the Bahai Faith.


However the Ministry of Intelligence then intervened to obtain a warrant sealing his place of business for “propaganda against the regime in the form of teaching the Bahai Faith.” On March 18, 2019, he was summoned, supposedly in relation to the return of confiscated items, and was again arrested — thanks to the intervention of the Ministry — on the charge. His case was then reopened.


Negin Qadamiaan granted early release


Sen’s Daily (07.07.2020) – – Negin Qadamiaan, a Bahai prisoner who began a furlough from Evin Prison in Tehran on June 9, has been informed by telephone that she has been granted early release and will not need to return to prison. She began serving her 5-year sentence for educational crimes in relation to the Bahai Open University (BIHE) on December 16, 2017, and was granted a medical furlough April 22 to April 27, 2019. She was arrested, along with many others associated with the Open University, in May, 2011. On March 12, 2013, she and nine other Bahais associated with the Open University were tried, in absentia in a closed court, by Judge Moqiseh, a notorious abuser of human rights, and of judicial procedures, who was responsible for the imprisonment of the seven “Yaran.”

Pastor in Nepal jailed for more than three months released on bail

Charges violate religious freedom rights, advocates say.


Morning Star News (29.07.2020) – – A pastor arrested in Nepal in March on charges that violate religious rights, and then re-arrested moments after release in April, was released after paying an exorbitant bail this month, sources said.


First arrested on March 23 on charges of spreading false information for saying prayers can heal the novel coronavirus, pastor Keshab Raj Acharya had been released on April 8 only to be re-arrested moments later on charges of “outraging religious feelings” and “proselytizing.” After more than three months in prison, he was released on July 3 after paying bail equal to about $2,500, sources said.


“It was very difficult for me,” Pastor Acharya told Morning Star News. “I would think of my little children and my wife, and I would cry out to the Lord in prayer. I would look up at Him in hope that if it is in His will that I should be put through this, He would get me out of this.”


Government officials and police worked together against him, he said.


“They were laying a thorough plan to make sure I would stay in the jail for a longer period,” Pastor Acharya said.


The charges against the father of two young children violate a freedom of religion agreement to which Nepal is a signatory, rights advocates and Christian leaders in the Himalayan country said.


“I was released on bail after my wife paid 5,000 Nepalese rupees [US$41] on April 8, but after few minutes I was again taken into custody,” Pastor Acharya told Morning Star News.


When he asked why officers were arresting him again, police said he had gone against Nepalese religious customs by distributing gospel tracts in several places, he said. Officers further questioning him mocked and harassed him as they ordered him to explain each photo they found in the cell phone they had confiscated from him, he said.


Pastor Acharya had stored files of and about gospel tracts on his mobile phone. Seeing photos of different areas of Nepal and people he had met there, the officers mocked him, saying he had been to every district, and that the photos were solid evidence against him, he said.


“They ridiculed, ‘Oh, you have gone all around this country preaching about Christ against the Sanathan Hindu culture and customs. You are a threat to our nation. You should not be let go that easily,’” Pastor Acharya said.


When he asked officers why he was held in custody so long despite cooperating in every possible way, they spoke respectfully to him while at the same time fabricating false charges against him, he said.


“The officers told me, ‘Sir, you are not a criminal. You are a man of God. The Lord will save you,’ but they would twist the context of my narration and write statements on their own to only make the cases against me stronger,” Acharya told Morning Star News. “Only when I was produced before the judge did I get to know what all they have written about me. And, each time I was surprised to see the police twisting my statements and presenting them before the court so that the judge would really think I am a threat to national security.”


Police filed charges of outraging religious feelings and proselytizing, and on April 19 a Kaski District judge set a bail of 500,000 Nepalese rupees (US$4,084), considered disproportionately high for the level of charges against him.


“Every time I had asked the police to show me the statements they have written about me, they did not allow me to read them and took my signatures without me reading a word,” the pastor said.


Transfer to Dolpa


After 25 days, police planned to transfer him to the more remote Dolpa District jail, which has a reputation for mistreatment and poor conditions.


On May 13 officers arrested him from court premises on a third set of charges and sent him to the Dolpa jail. They treated him like a most-wanted criminal, stopping at every police station along the way and frequently changing the personnel taking him on the three-day trip, he said.


“Some of the police personnel who accompanied me did not wear masks,” Pastor Acharya told Morning Star News. “I was offered food in plates that were not clean, and especially since the COVID-19 spread in Nepal was rising, I had concerns about safety and hygiene. But I gave thanks and ate whatever they offered.”


Accusing Pastor Acharya of printing and distributing gospel tracts, the Dolpa District Attorney’s office on May 21 filed charges under the Nepal Criminal Code’s Section 158(1), which prohibits converting anyone from one religion to another, and Section 158(2), which prohibits undermining one’s religion with the intention of converting another person.


He was denied bail on May 22, but more than a month later the district judge reviewed the order decided to release him temporarily on bail of 300,000 Nepali rupees – about $2,500. Five days after the order, he was released on July 3, he said.


Pastor Mukunda Sharma, executive secretary of Nepal Christian Society, told Morning Star News that Christian individuals and organizations concerned about religious freedom around the world came forward to extend support in prayer and action. The Nepal Christian Society’s Rapid Response Team formed a three-member committee to work on his case soon after hearing about it, he said.


“We had talks with the police officials at all the three police stations where Pastor Acharya was framed in cases of spreading false information that prayers could heal COVID-19 and outraging religious feelings and proselytizing Hindus to Christianity,” Pastor Sharma said. “Since Nepal is a secular state and the constitution of Nepal guarantees religious freedom and the freedom of expression to all the citizens equally, the committee studied Pastor Keshab’s case and came to the conclusion that he had been falsely framed in cases that are against the Nepalese law of the land and also international human rights laws.”


The society hired Supreme Court lawyer Govinda Bandi and petitioned the court, but their pleas were rejected.


“All through the imprisonment, Pastor Acharya was treated like a notorious criminal. His hands were tied behind as police shifted him from place to place,” he said. “Worried by the arrest and inhumane treatment of Pastor Keshab Acharya, the Nepal Christian Society along with individuals and organizations from across the globe petitioned the attorney general of Nepal, Mr. Agni Kharel, to drop all the wrongful charges against Pastor Acharya and uphold the freedom of religion and belief.”


Thankful for support


Pastor Acharya’s wife, Junu Acharya, told Morning Star News she wished to thank all who have prayed for and supported her family throughout the ordeal.


Unable to pay the rent on their worship facility, she added, the church has vacated the building.


“Outraging religious sentiments” under Section 158 of the Nepal Penal Code is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 50,000 Nepalese rupees (US$403). Under Section 156, it is punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 20,000 Nepalese rupees (US$163).


While Nepal’s 2015 constitution establishes it as a secular and democratic republic, its definition of “secular” appears to protect Hinduism and allows others only to worship in their own faiths. Article 26 forbids anyone to “convert a person of one religion to another religion, or disturb the religion of other people.”


Advocacy groups have detected increased enforcement and other anti-Christian efforts as officials seek to placate Hindus incensed that the new constitution did not re-establish a more prominent place for Hinduism. A landlocked country between the giants of India and China, Nepal is said to be more than 75 percent Hindu and 16 percent Buddhist. Christians are estimated to make up nearly 3 percent of Nepal’s population, and Muslims 4.4 percent.


Legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom’s allied attorney in Nepal said Christians who were once primarily hit with false accusations of “forcible conversion” are now being charged with preaching or speaking about their faith publicly.


An increase in persecution of Christians in Nepal began after a new criminal code was passed in October 2017, which took effect in August 2018.


By criminalizing conversions, Nepal has infringed on the fundamental freedom of religion or belief which is guaranteed not only by its constitution but also secured by several international covenants, according to ADF-International.


“Nepal’s constitution prohibits the attempt of religious conversion,” according to an ADF press statement. “At the same time, Nepal is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, an international treaty explicitly protecting freedom of religion and expression.”


Nepal is ranked 32nd on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Special Weekly FORB Newsletter (26.07-03.08-2020)

03.08.20 – Ama Adhe, Tibetan Hero, dies at 88

She organized an underground network of women fighting for human rights and freedom, and was tortured for 27 years in the CCP jails.

Continue reading…


03.08.20- Only ‘politically correct’ religious venues allowed to reopen

Places of worship are issued strict prerequisites to open their doors after the coronavirus restrictions are lifted. The primary must—loyalty to the Communist Party.

Continue reading…


02.08.20 – Crosses toppled from two protestant venues in one village

 Amid the CCP’s nationwide cross removal campaign, a state-run and a house church in a Zhejiang Province village were attacked by government-hired security guards.

Continue reading…


01.08.20 – Uyghurs, CCP fake news exposed by new UHRP report

The Uyghur Human Rights Project reveals new details on Beijing’s massive campaign to persuade the world that there is no persecution in Xinjiang.

Continue reading…


31.07.20 – 52 Church of Almighty God members given long jail sentences

One of the sentenced believers will spend 15 years in prison merely for keeping at home CAG-related e-books and videos.

Continue reading…


30.07.20 – A popular Tibetan Buddhist Palace demolished in Hebei

 The Tushita Palace in the ancient Lingyan Temple was destroyed in November last year, after months of rectifications ordered by the local authorities.

Continue reading…


 30.07.20 – CCP offers high monetary awards to those who report on banned religious groups

To create an atmosphere where “every person participates and all population report” on xie jiao, the government offers up to 100,000 RMB (about $ 14,000) for delation.

Continue reading…


30.07.20 – Morally ensnared in Xinjiang: A young researcher reflects on genocides

 Xinjiang and other theaters of genocide may seem far away from us. They aren’t, as products of forced labor are in our shops.

Continue reading…


29.07.20 – Vatican-China deal: “The CCP hacked Vatican computers”

One of the largest international cybersecurity firms claims that the Chinese have hacked since May the Vatican agencies involved in the renewal of the agreement.

Continue reading…


27.07.20 – Ekrem Mehmet: No welcome, no goodbye

A young father dies before being allowed to see his newly born child. Another Uyghur victim of the transformation through education camps.

Continue reading…


27.07.20 – You can’t believe in God in China,’ police tell believers

Attacks on house churches across China intensified in the past few months, as police and government officials raid places of worship and intimidate congregations.

Continue reading…


27.07.20 – Numerous folk religion temples destroyed in Henan and Hebei

China’s folk religion venues, an integral part of rural life for generations, suffer severe crackdowns, as the communist regime aims to eradicate all religions.

Continue reading…


26.07.20 – Poverty alleviation in Xinjiang: slaving in jail-like plants

An ethnic Han manager at a garment factory in Xinjiang discloses disturbing details of local Uyghurs’ abuse, disguised as bogus projects to improve their lives.

Continue reading…


26.07.20 – Believers beaten and injured trying to protect their rights

As the CCP sends armed police to rectify or demolish places of worship, congregations resist them bravely defending the right to practice their faith.

Continue reading…


26.07.20 – A book trailer launched for Massimo Introvigne’s book on The Church of Almighty God

The volume published this year by Oxford University Press has now its own video introduction.

Continue reading…








Uzbekistan lifts ‘ban’ on minors attending prayers in mosques

Interior ministry says Muslim minors accompanied by ‘close relatives’ can attend mosques, ending a de facto ban.


Al Jazeera (03.08.2020) – – Uzbekistan has allowed children to attend Muslim prayers again, ending a de facto ban first enforced under the country’s late first president, Islam Karimov.


The country’s interior ministry said during the weekend that minors will be able to attend mosques “accompanied by fathers, brothers and close relatives” after restrictions on general worship imposed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak are lifted.


While the video statement posted on the ministry’s Telegram channel stressed there were no laws banning minors from attending mosques, a de facto ban was enforced under hardliner Karimov and persisted after his death in 2016.


According to a 2019 United States State Department report on religious freedom, police last year detained two bloggers who called for authorities to allow children to attend mosques, girls to wear hijabs and men to grow beards.


Religion is a sensitive topic for Uzbekistan’s government, which remains strongly secular nearly three decades after the country gained independence from the Soviet Union.


President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has introduced several political and economic reforms while keeping the authoritarian government intact.


Mirziyoyev served as prime minister under Karimov for more than 13 years and has continued to honour him in public despite reversing some of his most repressive policies.