ALGERIA: Church-run nursery ordered to close

World Watch Monitor (24.04.2018) – https://bit.ly/2KpLTR5 – Authorities in Algeria’s north-eastern city of Tizi-Ouzou, in the Kabylie region, have closed down a day-care centre for Christian children.

 

The Early Childhood Home was established more than 10 years ago by Église Protestante du Plein Évangile (The Full Gospel Protestant Church), also known by its French acronym EPPETO.

 

EPPETO is the biggest church in Algeria. It welcomes 1,200 members for its weekly services and oversees 15 other smaller churches in the region.

 

On 17 April, the pastor of the church was summoned to the Central Police Station, where he was given a notification (issued by the Governor of Tizi-Ouzou region) to seal the door leading to the care centre, which is located on the premises of his church.

 

The authorities accused Pastor Salah Chalah of “unlawfully” running the centre, which has been ordered to remain closed “until the situation is administratively settled”.

 

This came after the centre was initially asked to close three weeks beforehand, on 25 March, following a visit by the Directorate of Social Action (DAS), accompanied by security forces.

 

Around 20 children, aged between one and five, used to attend the centre, under the supervision of four teachers, who are also members of EPPETO.

 

Pastor Chalah has expressed his dismay at the decision, telling World Watch Monitor the centre had no commercial purposes.

 

“Since it was established 14 years ago, the care centre has never been threatened by authorities, though the church premises have been inspected on a regular basis by the intelligence agency,” he said.

 

“The centre only exists to teach Christian values to our children in their early childhood, because in neighbouring nurseries, the teaching of the Quran and Islamic values form an integral part of the official curriculum.”

 

Islamic values are taught in all schools from early childhood in Algeria, including the recourse to Arabic as the main language of teaching in all subjects, which used to be taught in French.

 

In a 2016 article published by the French Magazine Le Monde, a group of Algerian scholars pointed out the influence of Salafist and extremist groups in imposing Arabic as the sole language of instruction in public schools.

 

“Those who think that the Arabic language is a sacred language, or even the sacred language by excellence, they are nothing less than followers of foolishness,” wrote the scholars.

 

They said this has led to ignorance among children, with far-reaching consequences.

 

Administrative hassles

 

This is not the first time that a day-care centre for Christian children has been targeted by local authorities in Tizi-Ouzou.

 

Exactly one year ago, in April 2017, the authorities refused to grant a permit to set up a childcare facility to a Christian woman, despite her five years’ experience in childcare management.

 

The applicant had met all the conditions required by law, and set up a facility which could accommodate up to 80 children.

 

But her application was declined, without explanation. Many believe that the authorities rejected the application on religious ground, as she was known to be a Christian.

 

The woman took legal action in an attempt to revert the decision and demand compensation for her losses (estimated at equivalent to $20,000).

The case is still pending.

 

Background

 

Algeria’s churches have faced growing pressure in recent months.

Since November four churches have been closed down: three in Oran and one in Akbou, as World Watch Monitor reported.

 

A number of other churches, including EPPETO, have received notifications to close down immediately.

 

The authorities have accused them of operating without permission, despite their affiliation with the legally recognised EPA (Église Protestant d’Algeria), the main umbrella of Protestant churches in Algeria.

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GERMANY/ EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE: Judgment in Case C-414/16 Vera Egenberger v. Evangelisches Werk für Diakonie und Entwicklung eV

The requirement of religious affiliation for a post within the Church must be amenable to effective judicial review

 

That requirement must be necessary and objectively dictated, having regard to the ethos of the church, by the nature of the occupational activity concerned or the circumstances in which it is carried out, and must comply with the principle of proportionality

 

EU Court of Justice (17.04.2018) – https://bit.ly/2H6eRYh – Ms Vera Egenberger, of no denomination, applied in 2012 for a post offered by Evangelisches Werk für Diakonie und Entwicklung (Protestant Work for Diaconate and Development, Germany). This was a fixed-term post for a project for producing a parallel report on the United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The work included the representation of the diaconate of Germany vis-à-vis the political world and the general public and the coordination of the opinion-forming process internally. According to the offer of employment, applicants had to belong to a Protestant church or a church belonging to the Working Group of Christian Churches in Germany. Ms Egenberger was not called to an interview. Since she considered that she had been discriminated against on grounds of religion, she sued Evangelisches Werk in the German courts, seeking for it to be ordered to pay her €9 788.65 compensation.

 

The Bundesarbeitsgericht (Federal Labour Court, Germany), which is hearing the case, asked the Court of Justice to interpret in this context the Anti-Discrimination Directive,(*) which aims to protect the fundamental right of workers not to be discriminated against on grounds, inter alia, of religion or belief. However, that directive also takes into account the right of autonomy of churches (and other public or private organisations whose ethos is based on religion or belief), as recognised by EU law, in particular the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

 

Thus the directive provides that a church (or other organisation whose ethos is based on religion or belief) may impose a requirement related to religion or belief if, having regard to the nature of the activity concerned or the context in which it is carried out, ‘religion or belief constitute[s] a genuine, legitimate and justified occupational requirement, having regard to the organisation’s ethos’. The Bundesarbeitsgericht observes in this respect that, in accordance with the case-law of the Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court, Germany) on the churches’ privilege of self-determination, judicial review of compliance with those criteria should be limited, in Germany, to a review of plausibility on the basis of the church’s self-perception. It therefore puts questions to the Court in particular on whether such limited judicial review is compatible with the directive.

 

In today’s judgment, the Court starts by finding that, under the directive, the right of autonomy of churches (and other organisations whose ethos is based on religion or belief), on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the right of workers, inter alia when they are being recruited, not to be discriminated against on grounds of religion or belief must be the subject of a balancing exercise, in order to ensure a fair balance between them.

 

According to the Court, in the event of a dispute, it must be possible for such a balancing exercise to be the subject of review by an independent authority, and ultimately by a national court.

 

Thus, where a church (or other organisation whose ethos is based on religion or belief) asserts, in support of an act or decision such as the rejection of an application for employment with it, that by reason of the nature of the activities concerned or the context in which they are to be carried out, religion constitutes a genuine, legitimate and justified occupational requirement, having regard to the ethos of the church (or organisation), it must be possible for such an assertion to be the subject of effective judicial review. The court hearing the case must ensure that, in the particular case, the criteria laid down by the directive for striking a balance between the possibly competing rights are satisfied.

 

The Court observes in this respect that, in principle, it is not for the national courts to rule on the ethos as such on which the purported occupational requirement is founded. They must nevertheless decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether the three criteria concerning a ‘genuine, legitimate and justified’ requirement are satisfied from the point of view of that ethos.

 

Consequently, the national courts must ascertain whether the requirement put forward is necessary and objectively dictated, having regard to the ethos of the church (or organisation) concerned, by the nature of the occupational activity in question or the circumstances in which it is carried out. In addition, the requirement must comply with the principle of proportionality, that is to say, it must be appropriate and not go beyond what is necessary for attaining the objective pursued.

 

Finally, as regards the point that an EU directive does not, in principle, have direct effect between individuals but has to be transposed into national law, the Court recalls that it is for the national courts to interpret the national law transposing the directive, as far as possible, in conformity with that directive.

 

Should it prove impossible to interpret the applicable national law (in the present case, the German General Law on equal treatment) in conformity with the Anti-Discrimination Directive, as interpreted by the Court in today’s judgment, the Court states that a national court hearing a dispute between two individuals will have to disapply the national law.

 

Since the Charter is applicable, the national court must ensure the judicial protection deriving for individuals from the prohibition of all discrimination on grounds of religion or belief (laid down in Article 21 of the Charter, that prohibition is mandatory as a general principle of EU law) and the right to effective judicial protection (laid down in Article 47 of the Charter). Both that prohibition of discrimination and the right to effective judicial protection are sufficient in themselves to confer on individuals a right which they may rely on as such in disputes between them and other individuals in a field covered by EU law.

 

(*)  Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation (OJ 2000 L 303, p. 16)

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RUSSIA: A second Jehovah’s Witness behind bars

HRWF (29.04.2018) – On 10 April 2018, police came to the home of 32-year-old Anatoliy Vilitkevich and took him into custody, accusing him of organizing the activity of an extremist organization. Vilitkevich was merely considering Bible-based publications with a small group of others who also were subjected to searches.

Two days later, the Leninskiy District Court of Ufa (Republic of Bashkortostan, Russia), ruled to keep Anatoliy in pre-trial detention for 1 month and 22 days, that is, until June 2, 2018. Anatoliy faces up to 10 years imprisonment.

Anatoliy is the first Russian Jehovah’s Witness to be held in detention since the Supreme Court’s banning decision of 20 April 2017.

It is unclear why Jehovah’s Witnesses in Ufa are suddenly being targeted, but authorities claim to have “volumes” of information against the local Witnesses.

The legal team for Anatoliy filed an appeal regarding his detention on 16 April but it was denied three days later.

Dennis Christensen in prison since May 2017

On May 25, 2017, heavily armed police officers and agents of the Federal Security Service (FSB) disrupted a peaceful weekly religious service of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Oryol, Russia. Since authorities there had liquidated the Oryol Local Religious Organization (LRO) in June 2016 on extremism charges, they alleged that the congregation’s religious services were continuing the activity of an extremist organization.

The prosecutor initiated criminal charges against Dennis Christensen, one of the elders in the Oryol Congregation, for his role in the congregation’s religious services. The Sovietskiy District Court ordered that Mr. Christensen be held in pretrial detention. His trial is currently ongoing.

250 violations of the rights of JW in 1 year

Since the Russian Supreme Court ruled to ban the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses a year ago (20 April 2017), there have been at least 250 violations of the rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, including attacks, vandalism, and other kinds of discrimination. Seventeen of their properties have been confiscated, and lawsuits have been launched to seize another 52 properties.

These most recent raids represent a serious escalation of state-sponsored human rights abuse, reminiscent of Soviet era repression and Nazi persecution experienced by minority groups in the early days of these former regimes. Without international awareness, it can be expected that this situation will increase in both severity and frequency in the days ahead.




French politicians, celebrities condemn ‘new anti-Semitism’

France24 (23.04.2018) – https://bit.ly/2qQPdeZ – More than 250 French dignitaries and stars have signed a manifesto denouncing a “new anti-Semitism” marked by “Islamist radicalisation” after a string of killings of Jews, published in the Sunday edition of Le Parisien newspaper.

The country’s half-a-million-plus Jewish community is the largest in Europe but has been hit by a wave of emigration to Israel in the past two decades, partly due to anti-Semitism.

“We demand that the fight against this democratic failure that is anti-Semitism becomes a national cause before it’s too late. Before France is no longer France,” reads the manifesto co-signed by politicians from the left and right including ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy and celebrities like actor Gérard Depardieu.

 

The signatories condemned what they called a “quiet ethnic purging” driven by rising Islamist radicalism particularly in working-class neighbourhoods. They also accused the media of remaining silent on the matter.

“In our recent history, 11 Jews have been assassinated – and some tortured – by radical Islamists because they were Jewish,” the declaration said.

The murders referenced reach as far back as 2006 and include the 2012 deadly shooting of three schoolchildren and a teacher at a Jewish school by Islamist gunman Mohammed Merah in the southwestern city of Toulouse.

 

Three years later, an associate of the two brothers who massacred a group of cartoonists at satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo killed four people in a hostage-taking at a Jewish supermarket in Paris.

 

In April 2017, an Orthodox Jewish woman in her sixties was thrown out of the window of her Paris flat by a neighbour shouting “Allahu Akhbar” (God is greatest).

The latest attack to rock France took place last month when two perpetrators stabbed an 85-year-old Jewish woman 11 times before setting her body on fire, in a crime treated as anti-Semitic.

 

Her brutal death sent shockwaves through France and prompted 30,000 people to join a march in her memory.

 

Condemning the “dreadful” killing, President Emmanuel Macron reiterated his determination to fighting anti-Semitism.

 

“French Jews are 25 times more at risk of being attacked than their fellow Muslim citizens,” according to the manifesto.

It added that some 50,000 Jews had been “forced to move because they were no longer in safety in certain cities and because their children could no longer go to school”.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

 

More information :

Le Parisien: https://bit.ly/2qSuNCthttps://bit.ly/2qOXQaH

L’Express: https://bit.ly/2HQ0Meq

Le Vif: https://bit.ly/2HnkSvH

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GERMANY: Justice Minister Katarina Barley warns of rising anti-Semitism

Deutsche Welle (21.04.2018) – https://bit.ly/2HQCRM7 – “Anti-Semitism is becoming socially acceptable again,” said Katarina Barley. Her statements came in the wake of an anti-Semitic attack that shocked Berlin.

 

Germany’s Justice Minister Katarina Barley warned about rising anti-Semitism on Saturday following an assault on a young man wearing a kippah in Berlin.

 

“We have to admit that anti-Semitism is becoming socially acceptable again,” Barley told the Funke Media Group. “It’s our job to work against this development.”

 

Barley said that it was important to stress to newcomers that religious discrimination “has no place in Germany,” and that “anyone who promotes anti-Semitism will have to reckon with the firm hand of the law.”

 

On Tuesday, a young man called Adam, an Arab Israeli, decided to wear a Jewish skullcap in his Berlin neighborhood as a social experiment – to see if he would face prejudicial treatment, as a friend told him he might.

 

In a video shared widely on social media, Adam and his companion were rushed at with belts by a man yelling “Jew” at them in Arabic.

 

“At that moment I realized I have to take a video of it. I wanted to have evidence for police and the German people and the world to see how terrible it is these days as a Jew to go through Berlin streets,” he told DW. His alleged assailant has been arrested.

 

In response, Berlin’s Jewish community is planning a “Berlin wears a kippah” campaign, mobilizing people of all religions to don the head covering in a show of inter-faith solidarity.

 

According to Germany’s anti-Semitism commissioner, “1,500 anti-Semitic attacks are registered by police every year.”

 

Additional information about anti-Semitism in Germany:

 

Huffington Post: Germany Confronts Rising Anti-Semitism After Rap Duo With Holocaust Lyrics Wins Award (19.04.2018) – https://bit.ly/2Hi1SP1

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German police investigate anti-Semitic attack in Berlin

Video https://jfda.de/blog/2018/04/17/antisemitischer-angriff-in-berlin-prenzlauer-berg/

 

BBC (18.04.2018) – http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43812273 – German police are investigating an assault on two young men in Berlin, in which the attacker was filmed shouting anti-Semitic abuse.

 

The men say they were harassed in the Prenzlauer Berg area on Monday while wearing Jewish skullcaps (kippahs).

 

A video of the incident, which was later shared on Facebook, shows the attacker hitting the men with his belt.

 

He is heard shouting “Yahudi”, an Arabic word for Jew, before being dragged away by another man.

 

One of the victims, a 21-year-old Israeli called Adam, then reportedly followed the attacker but gave up after a glass bottle was thrown at him.

 

“I’m surprised something like this happened to me. I’m still in shock,” he told Israel’s Kan television channel.

 

“It happened right here, next to my home, when I was on my way to the train station with my friend.”

 

He said a group of three men started insulting them and became angry when they were asked to stop.

 

“One of them ran at me,” he said. “I immediately felt it was important to film because I didn’t think we could catch him before police arrived.”

 

The video of the attack was shared on Facebook by the Jewish Forum for Democracy and against Anti-Semitism (JFDA), which said the attack was unbearable to see.

 

“I used to always advise my Jewish friends and acquaintances not to wear a kippah so as not to show their Jewish identity. I changed my opinion,” a spokesman said.

 

“We must take up this fight and be visible again in public.”

 

In a twist to the story, the Israeli victim later told German media that he had grown up in an Arab family in Israel and was not himself Jewish. He had been given the kippah a few days before by a friend from Israel who had told him it was dangerous to wear one in Berlin and he wanted to see if that was true.

 

Germany’s Jewish population has grown rapidly since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

 

Before 1989, the population was below 30,000 but an influx of Jews, mainly from the former Soviet Union, has raised the number to more than 200,000.

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