CHINA: CHURCH OF ALMIGHTY GOD COUPLE ARRESTED, DRUGGED AND TORTURED

HRWF (14.12.2017) – On 24 October 2016, two members of the Church of Almighty God from the Pukou District in Jiangsu Province, 46-year-old Yang Jun and his wife, 47-year-old Li Mei (aliases), were arrested by the Chinese police. During their detention, police allegedly put drugs into their food and tortured them, leaving them unconscious at times. Both Yang Jun and Li Mei have suffered serious mental and physical scars.

Timeline: The arrest

According to Yang Jun, on 24 October, at approximately 10:00 a.m., six officers forcefully entered his home.

Included in the six was: Jiang Congzhou, the chief officer of social security from the Longjing Community of Tangquan Street, accompanied by one other policeman from the office, Zhao Huagui, the head of the Comprehensive Management Office of Tangquan street, accompanied by the deputy-head, Yuan Lianghong, the community director of the Women’s Federation, and Gao, the chief officer of the National Security Group of Pukou Public Security Bureau of Nanjing City.

The officers issued an arrest warrant for Yang and Li, allowing them to only examine the document for a quick moment. They confiscated a laptop, tablet, and two cellphones from their home. The officers then proceeded to forcefully take Yang and Li to the Tangquan Police Station of the Pukou District, Nanjing City on charges stating that “believing Almighty God is a violation of the State law and a disturbance of social security”.

Upon their arrival to the police station, they were separated and put into cells with a glass wall between them.

Around 18:00 that very day, officers placed hoods on the heads of Yang Jun and Li Mei, escorted them onto a bus and transferred them to a nearby basement belonging to the Shixing Hostel, where they were separated and secretly interrogated by the National Security Group.

The brutal torture of Yang Jun & Li Mei

Yang was kept in a small room. Officers ordered him to remain standing against the wall. They deprived him of sleep and provided him three meals per day.

Yang reports that on the third day, he noticed a strange taste in his breakfast and felt groggy – soon after his vision went blurry.

While partially unconscious, Yang Jun was interrogated by four policemen, asking for information about the church. When he refused to answer the questions, they beat him – slapping and punching his face at first before turning to kicking his body on the ground.

Over the following days Yang Jun reports that he continued to eat the food provided, but often had hallucinations, blurred visions, and experienced mental abnormalities, such as uncontrollable vocalizations. The torture continued over the days, beatings, being subject to freezing temperatures, and being forced to strip and stand in front of an air conditioner while guards watched and laughed.

According to Yang, a medical examination after his release showed scapula ligament injuries, a broken rib, many bruises and general swelling.

In a nearby room, Li Mei, Yang Jin’s wife, suffered similar torture. During the first two days, she was forced to remain standing – not allowing her to sleep. They repeatedly asked her questions about the Church, to which Li Mei did not reply. The following day, she noticed a difference in the taste of her food and felt groggy. Li Mei reports that she was unable to control her speech or actions – often acting in strange ways, uncontrollably laughing and asking questions to the guards, as if she was under the influence of a drug.

One day, she fell unconscious. When she awoke, she cried out ‘Almighty God!’. One policeman then covered her mouth while another began to slap her face. They shouted at her and beat her, knocking her head against the floor until she fell unconscious again. When she awoke again, officers asked her for information about the Church and fellow church-goers, to which she did not reply.

Li Mei soon experienced hallucinations as well and the beatings continued.

In the afternoon of 2 November 2016, Li Mei was taken back to the Tangquan Police Station and then to the Pukou Hospital for blood tests. The police then escorted her to Shifosi Detention Jail in the Nanjing district of Pukou. During her physical examination, one doctor at the detention center noticed her injuries. A male officer at the detention jail was reluctant to admit her into their facility in the case that she died while there, leaving the detention center with the responsibility of her death. After negotiations with the officers, the Shifosi detention center allowed her to stay temporarily.

The next morning, Li Mei felt sick and was vomiting. Officers took her back to the hospital. The medical report from this visit reported that she was suffering from a lung infection, hypo-leukemia, acute coronary syndrome, and acute muscular injury – the doctor ruled her in urgent need of hospitalization.

The officers however, took her back to the prison. The prison doctor, however, vetoed her re-admission into the prison after seeing her medical report. Reluctantly, the officers took her back to the National Security Group.

During the following hours, her health began to deteriorate. At 15:00, she was returned to the hospital.

Due to her life-threatening condition, the hospital required a signature of a family member. The police had no choice but to release Yang Jun and Li Mei on that same day.

The couple still suffered from grogginess and physical pains in the coming days. They reported that they had physically fully recovered in February 2017. However, the couple reports that they remain under the surveillance of authorities and residents in their community.

Li Mei reports that her hospitalization resulted in a 3,800 RMB [approximately 485 Euro] bill – which she herself had to pay.

Trends of torture & drugging

Many other members of the Church of Almighty God have suffered inhuman punishment, including arrest, beating, torture, even drug torment, etc. at the hands of the Chinese authorities solely because of their faith.

In February of 2005, one member of the Church from a city in Henan was arrested while on her way home. On the 12th day of her detention, the police forcefully fed her drugs, even though they knew she was pregnant. The drugs and inhumane treatment during her imprisonment resulted in a miscarriage. In the following weeks and months, police continuously gave her injections of an unknown substance. It is reported that she became schizophrenic for three months.

On 9 December 2012, another member was arrested in Beijing. He reportedly was force-fed drugs, which caused mental problems for eight months.

On 29 June 2013, a member of the church from Helong City was arrested, brutally tortured, burned, and force-fed drugs.

Many other cases of mental and physical torture, including the use of forcefully-administered drugs, have happened to members of the Church of Almighty God.

Human Rights Without Frontiers calls on EU member states to grant asylum to members of the Church of Almighty God and not to send them back to China where they will be arrested and tortured.




OP-ED: ABOUT THE ISLAMIC TOTALITARIANISM

An ideology that wants to radically change the existing nature of a state into a theocracy to be dominated by one religious worldview

An ideology that wants to change the structure of a diverse civil society into a society to be dominated by one religious worldview

An ideology that wants the daily life and the behavior of each individual to be dominated by one religious worldview

is a totalitarian ideology, as was the Communist ideology inspired by the political philosophy of Marx and Engels.

Islamic totalitarianism is a totalitarian ideology inspired by the Quran but it is not a religion.

It divides and fragments the Muslim communities around the world.

The primary “collateral victims” of the fight for power of Islamic totalitarianism are Muslims, who in many countries adhere to an historically peaceful Islam.

Christians are a second category of “collateral victims” of Islamic totalitarianism in Muslim majority countries.

Diverse civil populations in countries where Islam is not professed by a majority are the third category of “collateral victims” of Islamic totalitarianism.

The Islamic totalitarian virus infecting the software of the ummah must not infect humankind. An antidote must be administered.

Combating Islamist totalitarianism with ideas, with words and in practice is legitimate. It is obligatory. It is the self-defence of states, of non-Muslim societies and minorities, and of individuals.

Combating groups and individuals, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic universities such as al-Azhar, which promulgate Islamic totalitarian ideologies is a must. This is not Islamophobia. It is a fight for human dignity for all, for equality for all and for human rights for all.

 

Willy Fautré




Moscow Patriarchate promotes the Kremlin’s interests and its own in the Middle East

HRWF: ‘The West’ is losing the hearts and minds of Christians in the Middle East*

 By Paul Goble

 

Eurasia Daily Monitor (12.12.2017) – http://bit.ly/2nUW74J – The Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is intensifying its efforts to promote the Kremlin’s interests and its own in the Middle East. Although the Church, either directly or as a cover for Soviet and Russian security agencies, has long been active in that region-the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society is the only Russian post there that lasted from Imperial times through Soviet ones to the present (http://bit.ly/2CbKHMY Mospat.ru, October 11; http://bit.ly/2CemnKD Portal-credo.ru, December 9) the Moscow Patriarchate is now expanding its efforts. These activities help Vladimir Putin in his drive to expand Russian influence in the Middle East, given the waning of US power there (see http://bit.ly/2nX4Q6h Jamestown.org, October 5). At the same time, they ensure that Orthodox Churches in the region will continue to back the Moscow Patriarchate against the Universal Patriarchate in Constantinople on issues like autocephaly for Ukraine and the Moscow Patriarchate’s claim of “canonical territory” over the entire former Soviet space.

The Kremlin is currently convinced it can fill the niche that Washington had in the Middle East for three reasons: First, as Putin’s recent visit to the region shows ( http://bit.ly/2AkuIuz  Kremlin.ru, December 11), the perception of victory of Russian forces over the Islamic State in Syria as well as Moscow’s successful backing of President Bashar al-Assad are popular. Second, the Russian president has presented himself as the chief defender of Christians in the region, something popular even among Donald Trump’s base in the United States; it is, thus, yet another means of projecting influence at Washington’s expense. And third, the Kremlin has positioned itself against Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, a widely unpopular view in the region (http://bit.ly/2j0FSOk Yerkramas.org, December 12).

In support of those policies, Moscow Patriarch Kirill organized a meeting last week (December 4) between Putin and eleven patriarchs and two heads of delegations of Orthodox Churches who were in the Russian capital for a major conclave of the Russian Orthodox Church. Most of the churchmen attending were the leaders of the historical Orthodox patriarchates in the Middle East, and all appeared more than willing to lend their support to the idea that cooperation at the Church-to-Church level would boost the policies Putin and Kirill now back (http://bit.ly/2BhEUbg Russkaya Liniya, December 5).

A major reason behind their agreement on this point is that the Russian president promised to offer his support to all the Orthodox Churches in the entire world, including, as the Russkaya Liniya religious affairs portal noted, “in the Middle East in particular.” That was music to the ears of many if not all in attendance, who are under pressure not only from the predominantly Muslim populations in which they function but also from the Universal Patriarchate in Constantinople. The latter has pretensions, as the senior Orthodox body, to becoming a kind of eastern papacy that can give orders to the others, including making decisions-as it has already-on the autocephaly of groups within their canonical areas that want independence from the existing patriarchates (http://bit.ly/2CbJ8yD  Russkaya Liniya, December 5).

Of the 14 universally recognized Orthodox Church organizations in the world, only four were not represented: Constantinople, the Greek, the Bulgarian and the Georgian, the latter three being closely related to and dependent on the former. Thus, Moscow feels the Putin meeting in effect not only “eclipsed” but rendered null and void the efforts of Constantinople at the 2016 Crete conclave to unite the Orthodox World under its scepter. Indeed, the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian government have very much opposed this play by Constantinople, to the point of being willing to promote a new schism in the Christian East (http://bit.ly/2ymRfoN  Rosbalt, June 9, 2016; http://bit.ly/2ABSCWT  Windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com, June 13, 2016).

Putin thanked the churchmen for coming to Moscow and said they, together with the Russian Church and the Russian state, must struggle against the mistreatment of Christians in the Middle East as well as against those who would destroy existing states and thus put Christian communities at risk-as has happened in Syria. The Kremlin leader said he considers it particularly important that the Churches work with Moscow and others to ensure the return of the peaceful Christian population of Syria now that the conflict there is winding down and to help them rebuild their parishes and their communities (http://bit.ly/2ABptet  Russkaya Liniya, December 5).

Clearly, Putin hopes that cooperation on this issue will lead to cooperation on others, with the Orthodox Churches-other than Constantinople and its allies-speaking out on behalf of Russia. The Kremlin leader has few qualms with presenting Russia as being the chief defender of these cooperative Orthodox Churches; and at least some of the Moscow-friendly Churches are willing to accept it as such.

The Moscow Patriarchate, given its caesaro-papist traditions, would likely have gone along with the Kremlin’s above-mentioned overtures even if the Russian Orthodox Church itself gained nothing out of the deal. But from Patriarch Kirill’s point of view, the Moscow Patriarchate actually obtains three important benefits: First, it returns into the Kremlin’s good graces after the problems that have arisen over Church leaders’ recent obscurantist talk about the supposed ritual murder of the Imperial Family (TASS, http://bit.ly/2o07w3a  November 29, http://bit.ly/2AAdZaZ  30). Indeed, Kirill may have in this way edged out Bishop Tikhon Shevkunov, Putin’s sometime spiritual advisor, who took the “wrong” stance on this issue. Second, Kirill has ensured that the Kremlin will continue to work with him against the influence of Constantinople, which recognized autocephaly in Estonia and elsewhere, and thus will not be inclined to make any deal about independence for the Ukrainian Church. And third, Kirill will certainly use Putin’s support to reaffirm his notions about the Moscow Patriarchate’s “canonical territory” embracing the entire post-Soviet space. No such concept actually exists in Orthodoxy, but both Kirill and Putin nonetheless support it.

All this means that the Orthodox Churches of the East, at the urging of both the Kremlin and the Moscow Patriarchate, are set to become more politically active. Such a situation will further complicate the position of the West in the Middle East and give Putin new allies he can deploy for his own purposes.

(*) The sub-title is from HRWF, not Eurasia Daily Monitor

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Azerbaijan Court compensates Irina Zakharchenko and Valida Jabrayilova

JW World Headquarters (11.12.2017) – http://bit.ly/2Bf7LNj – On August 4, 2017, a district court in Baku, Azerbaijan, awarded damages to Irina Zakharchenko and Valida Jabrayilova, two of Jehovah’s Witnesses, for their unjust 11-month imprisonment. Although the monetary compensation was meager in comparison with the ill-treatment they suffered, the decision acknowledged that State authorities convicted them without grounds, caused them emotional and physical harm, and discredited their good reputation.

Supreme Court vindication leads to appeal for compensation

On February 8, 2017, the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan acquitted Ms. Zakharchenko and Ms. Jabrayilova of the criminal charge of distributing religious literature without State permission. The Court found that the brochure in question, Teach Your Children, had been approved for import and was not harmful to society. Additionally, the Court found that the women had the fundamental right to share their beliefs with others. The Supreme Court based its ruling on rights guaranteed by Azerbaijan’s Constitution and by international treaties that Azerbaijan had ratified.

The Supreme Court left the issue of compensation in the hands of the civil courts. Subsequently, Ms. Zakharchenko and Ms. Jabrayilova complained to the Baku City Nasimi District Court, seeking damages from the Ministry of Finance because of their ill-treatment at the hands of the State Security Service (and its predecessor, the Ministry of National Security). Both women were present in court, even though Ms. Zakharchenko was not well. Judge Shahin Abdullayev allowed them briefly to recount their distressing experiences.

District court concedes mistreatment

The district court’s decision reconfirmed Azerbaijan’s commitment to respect the fundamental rights of its citizens and partially satisfied the Witnesses’ claims. Ms. Zakharchenko, whose health has been greatly affected by the ordeal, was awarded 9,744 manat ($5,737 U.S.), while the younger Ms. Jabrayilova received 8,200 manat ($4,828 U.S.). The decision stated: “The Court believes Plaintiffs’ unlawful detention and unsubstantiated criminal prosecution resulted in moral damages.”

The Ministry of Finance appealed the decision awarding damages to these two Witness women. On November 20, 2017, the Baku Court of Appeal dismissed the Ministry’s appeal and left the district court’s decision unchanged.

“[The] Azerbaijan Republic in its Constitution declares its highest aim is to guarantee human rights and freedoms, establishes the duty of the courts to restore human rights and freedoms—and in accordance with Article 41 of the Convention and the European Court case-law, when human rights and freedoms are violated, to restore to the previous state by means of just satisfaction.”—Baku City Nasimi District Court, decision dated August 4, 2017.

Will the court decisions have a positive effect?

Jehovah’s Witnesses in Azerbaijan persevere in their worship in the face of serious violations of their fundamental right to religious freedom and threats to their personal security. They continue to face harassment, fines, and mistreatment when meeting together for worship and when engaging in their peaceful religious activity. The government has not implemented alternative civilian service for those who conscientiously object to military service. Authorities have denied the Witnesses legal registration outside of Baku. There are currently 18 applications pending with the European Court of Human Rights and 11 complaints before the UN Human Rights Committee concerning the government’s mistreatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Azerbaijan.

Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide hope that the recent court rulings will encourage officials to honor the rights of their fellow believers in Azerbaijan.

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Over 800,000 call on UN to protect Christians in Middle East

World Watch Monitor (12.12.2017) – http://bit.ly/2C9vhJ1 – A petition signed by more than 800,000 people will be presented at the United Nations in New York today (12 December), calling for the protection of Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria, and recognition of the key role faith leaders can play in rebuilding efforts post-Islamic State.

The ‘Hope for the Middle East’ petition will be handed over by 12-year-old Noeh and his father, Hathem, from Karamles, northern Iraq, to representatives of the UN General Assembly, diplomats and members of other international bodies.

Video: Father Behnam, a priest from Erbil in Iraq, reflects upon the situation of the country’s Christian minority, one year after militants from the Islamic State group were ousted from the Nineveh Plains.

 

“We all hope to have our full rights in Iraq… This is the most important thing we need to continue staying in Iraq,” said Father Behnam Lallo, a Syriac Catholic priest from Bartella, northern Iraq, who is also part of the delegation. “The material things are really important. But to continue staying, to continue existing, we need to gain our full rights as real citizens of Iraq.”

Another Iraqi priest, Father George, who is coordinating the Church Supreme Board for Reconstruction in Qaraqosh, said the petition is “very important for Christians here because … our issue … will be empowered by support of other Christians in the world. So the political decision will be made stronger as well, to support our life here and to stay here in this land”.

Video: George, a priest from Qaraqosh, Iraq, gives his reaction to the Hope For The Middle East petition, signed by over 800,000 people, being presented to the UN in New York.

 

‘Tipping point’

The petition, an initiative of the charity Open Doors, calls on the UN and other decision-making bodies to collaborate with religious leaders and faith-based organisations in establishing and maintaining peace, and rebuilding Syrian and Iraqi societies.

It says there is a need for legal frameworks that protect the rights of all citizens, irrespective of race and religion.

According to a June report by three Christians charities, including Open Doors, for many of Syria and Iraq’s Christians the emergence of IS in 2014 was only the “tipping point” for their displacement, and it will require more than just protection from IS, the army or other militant groups, for them to return.

An estimated half a million Christians fled Iraq in the 10 years before IS swept across the Nineveh Plains in 2014.

Another Iraqi priest, Father Thabet, who oversees the reconstruction of buildings in Karamles, says “there is a lot to do … to help the Iraqi government create a just situation of freedom for all components of society, and especially for the Christians. To stop the ‘bleeding’ of emigration and to help the Christians to continue in their active role in society.

“We will need international support and protection. That is the only way our future as Christians in this country can be guaranteed.”

Trail of destruction

More than 200,000 of the signatures came from inside the Middle East, including 65,000 from Iraq. The next highest number came from the UK and Ireland – over 185,000 – while India and Brazil each recorded over 60,000.

Father Thabet and Noeh’s family were among the many Christians from Karamles forced to flee to safer cities like Erbil, after IS arrived in 2014.

By the time IS was forced out of the village, over two years later, the militants had left a trail of destruction, with hundreds of homes and other buildings burned-out or destroyed.

In a poignant first visit back to his village earlier this year, Noeh discovered several marbles amidst the rubble and ashes of what was once his bedroom.

“I feel very sad about what happened,” he said then. “Still I am very eager to return to my village. This is our land.”

In New York, he will hand over some of his scorched marbles to those in leadership positions, so they will remember him and his people.

Video: 12-year-old Noeh returns to his home in Iraq after ISIS has left and finds an unexpected treasure.

 

Father Thabet says 270 families, including Noeh’s, have now returned to Karamles in the year since IS left. Noeh’s school has reopened, but he and his parents are currently staying with Noeh’s aunt, while they save money to rebuild their home.

Slowly returning

Syrians are also slowly returning to rebuild their homes and lives. But human rights advocate Ewelina Ochab says that while many Syrian Christians believe they still have a future at home under President Bashar Al-Assad, many Iraqi Christians feel they have no future in the region anymore.

In May, church leaders in northern Iraq launched an ambitious US$262 million “Marshall Plan” for the reconstruction of Christian-majority villages devastated by IS.

The Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Warda, said the US in particular had a responsibility to help rebuild Christian villages because of its leading role in the 2003 invasion.

In October US Vice President Mike Pence announced that the US State Department will favour “faith-based groups” in future aid distribution, saying UN agencies “often failed to help the most vulnerable communities, especially religious minorities”. Pence is scheduled to visit the Middle East later this month.

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Humanists “actively persecuted” in seven countries in 2017, finds IHEU report

IHEU (04.12.2017) – http://bit.ly/2l2w7U2 – The 2017 Freedom of Thought Report — on discrimination and persecution against humanists, atheists and the non-religious — highlights seven countries that have actively persecuted non-religious people this year.

The report published today (5 December) by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) emphasizes the murders of humanists and atheists in the past 12 months, including Mashal Khan in Pakistan, Yameen Rasheed in the Maldives, and H Farook in India.

In Malaysia, a backlash against atheists was escalated to government levels, when officials threatened to “hunt down” apostates. An anti-atheist campaign in Pakistan saw several activists ‘disappeared’ or prosecuted for alleged “blasphemy”, with two men facing a possible death sentence.

The “apostasy” cases of Mohamed M’kheitir in Mauritania (who was released after an involuntary psychiatric assessment), Ahmad al Shamri in Saudi Arabia (whose death sentence for apostasy to atheism was upheld) and Mohamed Salih in Sudan (who had asked that he be allowed to specify ‘atheism’ on his identity papers) are highlighted as part of the wider threat to those who speak out as “non-religious” or who challenge religious power structures, in particular in Islamic countries where “apostasy” is often reviled.

The report documents 12 countries where leaving or changing religion by “apostasy” is punishable by death.

Even these incidents are only “the most noticeable moving parts on the extensive machine of anti-non-religious discrimination” globally, according to the 2017 edition’s Editorial Introduction. 85 countries are listed as having one or more elements of “severe discrimination” or worse. Such elements include for example imprisonable “blasphemy” laws, fundamentalist proselytization in state-run schools, the derivation of state law from religious doctrine, and control over family and personal status law by religious courts.

The report warns that the increasing number of anti-atheist murders and other incidents of persecution should not be thought of as disconnected events, but as part of “a pattern of regression on a global scale”. While there is much global attention on rising populism and authoritarianism, the Freedom of Thought Report warns that, “The rhetorical opposition and very real threats to democratic norms extend far beyond ‘fake news’ and Twitter bots… Any remaining notion that secularism and human rights must inevitably establish themselves… must now be cast aside as deeply complacent and apathetic.”

Ahead of the report’s launch at the European Parliament on Tuesday, president of the IHEU Andrew Copson said, “More and more people are coming to us in the humanist movement from Saudi Arabia, or Afghanistan, or Pakistan, and saying: ‘I am humanist’ or ‘I am atheist, and I cannot speak out, I cannot say what I need to, even online’. They are afraid they’re going to be attacked for it, maybe even killed.”

Copson continued, “This report shows that this is not an irrational fear. There have been extrajudicial killings occurring in multiple countries and near impunity for the killers. The international community cannot continue to placate states which criminalize leaving religion as a capital offence. We call on the international community to condemn the persecution of humanists and atheists, and to work with human rights defenders around the world to bring an end to this injustice. We also call on all those who are able to support our ‘humanists at risk’ crowdfunding campaign to help ensure that IHEU can continue to do our valuable advocacy work for the non-religious around the world.”

 

A full online country index, interactive global maps, and the complete data derived from the report’s ratings system are available via freethoughtreport.com.

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