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RUSSIA: U.S. adds Russia to list of nations violating religious freedoms

U.S. adds Russia to list of nations violating religious freedoms

By Carlie Porterfield (*)

Forbes Staff

 

FORBES (17.11.2021) – https://bit.ly/3cptYJp – The United States has added Russia to an index of countries called out over “egregious violations of religious freedom,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday, which could have economic policy consequences for nations listed.

 

KEY FACTS

 

Russia was added to the list amid media reports from ABC News, Foreign Policy and local media of police harassing, detaining and seizing property of the country’s Jehovah’s Witnesses, an offshoot of Christianity with roots in the U.S.

 

The domination was banned in Russia in 2017 over being “extremist,” and hundreds of worshippers have been jailed since, according to reports.

Authorities in Russia also target Muslim minority groups on the pretense of investigating terrorist threats, Blinken said.

 

Russia joins the list alongside countries noted to be places of “particular concern,” including North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Burma and China, the secretary of state said.

Congress is notified when countries are listed and economic measures can be imposed if other policy options do not stop “particularly severe violations” of religious freedom, according to the state department.

 

This summer, the Biden Administration warned American businesses against using materials or services created by Uighurs in Xinjiang, China, where the government set up forced labor camps, warning that it is a violation of sanctions preventing forced labor.

 

On Wednesday, the Russian Supreme Court ruled to ban criminal prosecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses for group prayer, which media outlets like the Moscow Times speculate may end police raids over services.

 

The list is part of the state department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report, which will be delivered to Congress. The U.S. will “continue to press” countries to address their shortcomings and ensure religious freedom, Blinken said Wednesday. Since the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, which pushed state atheism, religious practice has made a comeback in Russia. The most-practiced religion in Russia is Russian Orthodoxy, a branch of Christianity that traces its history back to the apostle Andrew, who according to tradition traveled and proselytized across the region north of the Black Sea.

 

(*) Carlie Porterfield

I am a Texas native covering breaking news out of New York City. Previously, I was an editorial assistant at the Forbes London bureau.

 

Photo : Jehovah’s Witnesses sing songs at the beginning of a meeting in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, in 2015 – THE WASHINGTON POST VIA GETTY IMAGES

Further reading about FORB in Russia on HRWF website





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EU: About the appointment of the new EU Special Envoy on freedom of religion

What Christos Stylianides should know as he takes the post of the Special Envoy on religion or belief outside European Union?

 

 

By Dr. Ewelina U. Ochab

 

FORBES (16.05.2021) – https://bit.ly/3wck2uw – On May 5, 2021, the European Commission appointed Christos Stylianides as Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside European Union (EU Special Envoy on FoRB).   Christos Stylianides has significant crisis management background, having served as the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management between 2014 and 2019 and as the European Union’s Ebola Coordinator. As we have seen over the years, in many cases, dealing with violations on grounds of religion or belief outside European Union will mean dealing with crisis scenarios.

 

According to the online announcement, “[EU Special Envoy on FoRB] The Special Envoy will establish a dialogue with national authorities and other stakeholders in countries suffering from discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief. He will support for intercultural and interreligious dialogue processes, including encouraging dialogue between representatives of different faiths and the setting up of joint initiatives. He will put in place measures to target de-radicalisation and prevention of extremism on grounds of religion or belief in third countries. In cooperation with authorities from third countries, he will promote religious diversity and tolerance within educational programs and curricula.”

 

The mandate of the EU Special Envoy on FoRB is relatively new. It was established in a February 2016 resolution on Daesh atrocities with the first appointment made in May 2016. At that stage the mandate was for a year, with the possibility that it would be renewed. This was the first mandate of its kind. However, in recent years, it has become very clear that the mandate needs to be strengthened to maximize the impact of the office. Among others, the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance, in its 2017 report, called for refining the mandate. The report identified that, as it stood, “the formal position of the Special Envoy is weak. It is not a full-time activity and with limited resources.” Similar recommendations on strengthening the mandate were subsequently made by Mr Andrzej Grzyb, the Rapporteur for the Committee on Foreign Affairs, who in his report on the “EU Guidelines and the mandate of the EU Special Envoy on the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU” recommended for the mandate to be extended to periods of a few years rather than for one year and renewed on a yearly basis. These recommendations have not been adopted yet.

 

The post of the EU Special Envoy on FoRB has remained empty for almost two years. The appointment of Christos Stylianides is a welcome sign that the European Commission continues to recognize the importance of engaging on the topic of freedom of religion or belief internationally.

 

What should Christos Stylianides expect as he takes the post? Not boredom, that’s for sure. A brief glance at the most egregious atrocities, many of which meet the legal definitions of genocide or crimes against humanity, confirms that there are several situations requiring urgent attention.

 

While we may not hear much about Daesh at the moment, there are still over 10,000 active members in Syria and Iraq. Daesh fighters have been using the pandemic to consolidate and so pose a renewed threat to religious communities, such as Yazidis and Christians. Furthermore, the communities once targeted for annihilation by Daesh continue to be in urgent need of assistance, let alone of psychological support. Those communities remain without justice.

 

In Myanmar, while international focus is on the coup, Rohingya Muslims, once targeted by the Burmese military, face renewed threat – their perpetrator now rules the country. Despite consideration by the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice, the atrocities against the Rohingyas are far from resolved. Similarly, other religious minorities in Myanmar face dire situations that continue to be overshadowed by the bigger picture.

 

In China, Uyghurs are subject to atrocities which legal experts determine meet the legal definition of genocide. Thousands of Uyghurs are detained, forcibly indoctrinated and subjected to torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, rape and sexual violence, forced abortions, forced sterilizations, removal of children to another group, and much more. Beijing denies the atrocities.

 

In Nigeria, Boko Haram and Fulani militia tore the country apart killing anyone who opposes their destructive ideology, both Christians and moderate Muslims.

 

In North Korea, being a Christian is the equivalent of a death sentence.

 

In Ethiopia, Orthodox Christians have been targeted with deadly attacks. Churches have been the scenes of massacres with hundreds of killed and mass-graves filled with bodies.

 

This is without even mentioning violations of the right to freedom of religion of belief other than international crimes discussed above, whether acts of violence based on religion or belief, acts of harassment, marginalization or discrimination.

 

While the EU Special Envoy on FoRB, Christos Stylianides, will have plenty to engage with, having Christos Stylianides with his significant experience of working on crisis management, will be an important skill that can make a difference.

 

Photo : European flags wave in front of the Berlaymont building – European Commission (EC) headquarter – in Brussels, Belgium, on January 14, 2019. (Photo credit: Michele Spatari/NurPhoto via Getty Images) NURPHOTO VIA GETTY IMAGES





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UK: Half of LGBT+ women are outed at work

By Jamie Wareham

 

Forbes (20.04.2020) – https://bit.ly/2RRI6kO – Half of LGBT+ women are being outed at work, a new survey reveals.

 

Women are going back in the closet when they get their first job, feeling unable to report issues to HR and struggling in “male-dominated and heteronormative environments.”

 

Released ahead of Lesbian Visibility Week, the new research by DIVA Magazine and Kantar looked at the experiences of LGBT+ women’s work life, financial stability, well-being, relationships and their overall feelings of safety.

 

The survey shows that LGBT+ women are fed up of male-dominated LGBT+ spaces and campaigns, feel most safe at home due to the violence and uncertainty they face out in the world and are facing disproportionate problems at work.

 

Unsurprisingly the women surveyed, who already face a higher number of barriers in the workplace, feel they are a ‘minority within a minority’ because of their queer identity.

 

Although three in four respondents are open about their sexual orientation to most of their work colleagues, the youngest age group (16-24) are far less likely to be out at work.

 

Only one in three of those under the age of 24 feel able to be out at work, which Kantar concludes that with LGBT+ people coming out younger than ever, that many are ‘going back into the closet’ when they get their first job.

 

It’s currently estimated in the graduate LGBT+ community, that six in ten, regardless of their gender identity, go back in the closet when they get their first job.

 

In a worrying statistic, the most common homophobic experience LGBT+ women face in the workplace is being outed. Half of the respondents saying they have been through this discriminatory ordeal.

 

The research, which also looked at trans women’s experiences found that one in four transgender people feel that they have faced barriers in their current workplace due to their gender identity.

 

Research reveals discrimination LGBT+ women face for Lesbian Visibility Week

 

“The DIVA research highlights the challenges that LGBTQI women face; feeling invisible and unsupported in key areas of their lives,” Linda Riley, Publisher of DIVA magazine, says.

 

The research is being launched as part of a week of events, extending the Lesbian Visibility Day on 26 April each year, into an extended celebration of queer and trans women’s experiences.

 

Claire Harvey, MBE, GB Paralympian, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant and DIVA Development Week Lead, believes with the current COVID-19 pandemic, now more than ever it is vital that there is a focus on women’s lives:

 

“We use the word community all too often, but what does it actually mean? For me, it means a sense of belonging, visibility and value.

 

“LGBTQI women are a diverse, talented and often unheard group – so now, more than ever, it’s important that we build up our community and help those who are most isolated feel connected.”


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