Model of humanitarian aid for persecuted Christians must change, experts say

Model of humanitarian aid for persecuted Christians must change, experts say

In a file photo, Stephen Rasche, the U.S. lawyer who serves the archbishop of Irbil, Iraq, as coordinator for the return of Christian refugees, and Father Sala Kajo, who oversees resettlement of Christian refugees to the Iraqi village of Teleskeof, are pictured outside the Cathedral of Christ the King in Liverpool, England, Oct. 10. (Credit: Simon Caldwell/CNS.)

NEW YORK – Advocates for Christians in the Middle East are calling for an overhaul of the way humanitarian aid is distributed by western governments and international agencies to those on the frontlines of persecution.

“It’s a model that’s not working and yet the people inside of it insist that it is working,” said Stephen Rasche, Vice Chancellor at the Catholic University in Erbil and Director of the Institute for Ancient and Threatened Christianity, who argues that the current mechanism for distributing aid is fueled by corruption and does not prioritize the people that the aid, in theory, is meant to support.

Rasche’s remarks came during an online launch on Tuesday for his recently released book, The Disappearing People: The Tragic Fate of Christians in the Middle East.

RELATED: Author: ‘Peace in Iraq’ is best remaining hope for country’s Christians

Rasche, who has worked full time in Iraq since 2015, said that the donors and implementers of aid grants, primarily from the west, operate in a “process driven paradigm” and that the “people who are benefiting supposedly see it as the biggest disaster” and one that is easily corrupted and “skews behavior from desirable ends.”

Since arriving in Iraq at the request of Archbishop Bashir Matti Warda of Erbil, Rasche has served as a liaison to both western governments and private organizations that have pledged support to rebuild the fledgling Christian community in the region.

He told the online attendees that he arrived with “no axe to grind,” but quickly came to the assessment that “this is broken,” with large sums of money being poured into the wrong places and with the people who need it most being denied access.

“The end product of humanitarian aid is the human being,” he said, lamenting the fact that large sums of aid are wasted on processes and systems and very little of it goes directly to communities in need and field experts who know how to best appropriate it.

Those sentiments were echoed by Kent Hill, co-founder and senior fellow for Eurasia, Middle East, and Islam at the Religious Freedom Institute, which sponsored the event.

Hill said that there has been a “reluctance” to trust faith-based organizations to administer assistance on the ground, despite the fact that they are the ones with the best expertise and direct ties to the people.

Western governments need to “get over” being uncomfortable sending aid through faith organizations, he argued, as the assistance is not used for the purposed of evangelizations but rather to rebuild decimated communities.

Both Hill and Rasche noted that there has been a recent “sea change” at USAID, the government’s primary agency responsible for administering aid.

“Christians have been in the Middle East since the day of Pentecost,” said Hill, “and it would be a real tragedy if they disappeared from that important land,” noting that their number has dwindled from some 13 million to, by most estimates, a mere 150,000 that remain today.

Western governments have a vested interest, he argued, in helping to sustain the local Christian population as a fundamental national security matter, as pluralism helps to create a more stable society.

Decline has been steady, serious problems with the delay and focus of aid to Christians and other minority groups, not a niche issue but a fundamental national security matter, as pluralism helps create a more stable society.

Rasche said that in order to keep Christians in their ancient homeland, it requires a renewed understanding of human dignity that is more than just keeping them alive. These individuals, he said, have robbed of their communities, churches, jobs, and homes.

“It robs them of their dignity,” he continued. “All of a sudden, they’re beggars, they’re wards of somebody else, they’re living on the street, they’re deprived of even the basic things that make people human.”

“If there’s going to be any hope for these people to stay here, we have to give them lives that at least approaches dignity,” said Rasche.

Both Hill and Rasche applauded the efforts of private donors whom they said understand that humanitarian aid means “engaging in charity, engaging in mercy.”

“We’ve got to do a better job of helping those stuck in harm’s way,” Hill continued, also highlighting the millions who have fled to neighboring Turkey and Jordan and now find themselves unable to return home or to migrate elsewhere.

Hill noted that there are more refugees today since World War II, many of whom are victims of religious persecution and violence, and they, too, cannot be forgotten.

“There’s no excuse not to do everything in our power to help them survive and thrive,” said Rasche of the Christians at risk in the region.

Follow Christopher White on Twitter: @cwwhite212 

Source: cruxnow.com


Scaring Parents Of Trans Kids With Suicide Shuts Down Their Ability To Consider Options For Their Kids

If parents of transgender kids have no soft place to land when they realize what’s been done to them and their children, how can they ever hope to heal?

By 

As one of the co-founders of the Arlington Parent Coalition, an organization that helps parents demand accountability from public schools on issues of parental rights, sex and gender training, and children’s protections, I receive considerable venom from transgender-rights groups and people who have been led to believe that transitioning a gender-dysphoric child is the only kind and scientifically rational thing to do.

My team and I — and myriad others who have pushed back on this agenda — have been hissed at during school board meetings, called names and lied about in the media, and personally attacked in parts of our lives completely unrelated to this issue. Such are the despotic strategies taught and modeled by certain unscrupulous factions of the LGBT lobby: attack, defame, and destroy in order to make the rest of society too scared to resist.

I understand the playbook, but I struggle to grasp the depth and pervasiveness of the hostility I encounter from parents in my district who have children who identify as transgender. Many times I’ve reached out to these parents, offering to take them out for coffee so we could talk. It would make sense to have a confab since we both have a strong interest in policies that profoundly affect our children’s lives at school.

After every single one refused my coffee offer, I did some soul-searching. Am I scary? Have I behaved hatefully or in any way belittled or hurt these parents? I don’t think so. I tried to put myself in their position, to see things from their perspective.

Maybe it’s as simple as this: If pro-transgender parents allow themselves to consider even the whisper of the possibility that they’ve made the wrong decision for their kids, they’ll then have to consider that they may bear responsibility for their children’s physical and psychological destruction.

That is a terrible, gut-wrenching thought for a loving parent — because of course these parents love their kids. They really do. I can see it in their eyes and hear it in their impassioned voices. They are genuinely trying to do what they think is right to give their children the best lives possible. The problem is that they have been systematically and pervasively lied to.

Experts Are Failing Parents and Children

Time and again I hear about the same experience from parents of gender-dysphoric children: After their child announces that he or she wants to change genders, the parents consult the “experts” — the principal, the school counselor, the pediatrician, the therapist — who tell the parents, “Affirming the child’s gender transition is the only option. If you don’t, your kid will likely commit suicide.”

Nothing about that guidance is supported by research, data, or long-understood principles of child development, but this emotional manipulation coerces parents like the thumbscrews of a torture device, terrorizing them with the idea that unless they capitulate to the transgender industry’s demands, they will inevitably lose their child.

To quote my colleague at the Arlington Parent Coalition, “The gatekeepers have failed parents.” In no other medical, psychological, or educational field does a one-size, simplistic answer fit all.

The transgender lobby has been clever at getting its preferred guidance — with little-to-no research or empirical evidence backing it up — accepted and promulgated by the American Pediatric Society, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, and the National Education Association.

 One frequently finds, as is the case with the 37-person group who wrote (without input from the other 67,000 member doctors) the American Pediatric Society’s transgender guidance document cited above, that the team leads have financial ties to some of the gender clinics that have sprung up like dandelions around the country over the last few years. While I’m sure some in the LGBT lobby believe, as do the parents of trans kids, that their pushes for trans ideology are in the best interests of children, other players face perverse incentives, such as in education, health care, and entertainment.

The deck is stacked against parents before they even know a card game is going on.

Parents Are Coerced into Transgender Ideology

It’s hard to swim against the flow of a powerful river. It’s even harder when there’s so little real scholarship out there about what’s actually going on with this burgeoning population of kids who claim a transgender identity. This is still a relatively new phenomenon, and the research hasn’t begun to catch up.

I often hear people who support their child’s transition decried as absolute fools and terrible parents. For the most part, however, the ones I’ve met are neither. Rather, they and their kids have been brainwashed by a powerful team of Machiavellian strategists who have political, social, and financial reasons to suck as many children as possible into the trans pipeline.

If these parents have any doubts or hesitations about the right pathway for their kids, they are not allowed to express them. If they do, they risk being socially and publicly ousted, roasted, and devoured by the same community that applauds, defends, and gushes over how stunning and brave trans kids and their parents are.

It’s hard to give up that kind of affirmation, admiration, and sometimes even celebrity, especially when you know that doing so will make you a pariah.

Speak the Truth with Love

My heart breaks for these families, and it’s for that reason that I try to keep the door open. I desperately hope a parent will seek help from one of the many organizations like mine that are working to save kids from this destructive ideology. I hope that just one parent will remember that my offer to go for coffee is still on the table, and call me.

No lie can persist forever. This insidious episode in our culture’s history will eventually come to an end, and there will be pieces to pick up and lives to rebuild.

Until then, we must continue speaking truth, enduring the venom without returning any hostility. If these parents have no soft place to land when they realize what’s been done to them, their children, and society at large, how can they ever hope to heal? How can any of us?

Maria Keffler is one of the co-founders of the Arlington Parent Coalition, which supports parents in holding schools accountable to parental authority, and in keeping their children safe at school. Keffler is a former middle and high school teacher who holds a masters degree in educational psychology. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband and three children.

Religious freedom ‘under threat’ in Europe

Religious freedom 'under threat' in Europe

Believers at the Lourdes grotto in Oostakker, Belgium on 08 May 2020. Normally in May it is very busy.
Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto/PA Images

The Brussels-based commission representing the European Union’s Catholic bishops, COMECE has warned against the continued forced closure of places of worship during the Covid-19 pandemic, and called for their reopening to be consulted and coordinated with Church leaders.

“Freedom of religion, including freedom of worship, is a fundamental right and real necessity for many people”, said Fr Manuel Enrique Barrios Prieto, the commission’s Spanish general secretary. “COMECE takes this opportunity to restate that any erosion of fundamental rights in the current emergency context, including freedom of religion, must not become the new norm. These rights have to be fully re-established as early as possible”.

The statement was issued as Masses and liturgies cautiously resumed across Europe from early May in line with national coronavirus regulations. It said dialogue between churches and EU governments was “as crucial as ever” during the pandemic, adding that respect for religious freedom was vital when the EU was showing “ever growing attention” to the rule of law in its member-states. However, the EU Commission’s roadmap for lifting virus containment measures had made no mention of religious services, COMECE sais.

“This is disappointing, since it neglects the key role of religion in European societies,” Fr Prieto noted in a rare criticism of EU practices. “The reopening of churches in compliance with rules of sanitary caution must be implemented by civil authorities in a clear and non-arbitrary way, in full respect of and dialogue with ecclesial institutions”.

Church leaders have raised concerns that anti-clerical politicians could seek to retain some curbs on religious rights after the Covid-19 pandemic, after armed police were filmed on social media entering churches to stop Masses at altars in Spain and Italy. In France, where churches have remained open for private prayer, the Bishops Conference condemned a late April government announcement that no services could be conducted until June, warning in a communique that freedom of worship was “a constitutive element of democratic life”. In neighbouring Spain, Cardinal Antonio Canizares of Valencia rejected “false claims” by local authorities on Sunday that a Mass for the Virgin of the Forsaken had breached safety guidelines, and accused politicians of using “manipulation and distortion” against Catholics.

In his statement, Fr Prieto said the Council of Europe had also warned in its recent coronavirus “Toolkit for Member-States” that religious freedom was “a benchmark of modern democratic societies”, and had called on governments to ensure any restrictions were “clearly established by law, in compliance with relevant constitutional guarantees and proportionate to the aim it pursues”.

“The aggressive approach of certain secularist actors against religion in the public square may have contributed to its marginalisation in the context of the current crisis”, the COMECE general secretary said. “COMECE reiterates that religion is not a merely private issue: it also has a public and collective dimension, as clearly expressed in all main human rights texts, including the EU Charter”.

Source: thetablet.co.uk


Marie Stopes abortion charity – which ’empowers women to take control of their futures’ – accepted millions of pounds in funding from US porn baron

  •  Marie Stopes International (MSI) has received more than £7.5million from sex-toy salesman Phil Harvey CEO of the Adam & Eve porn company
  • Critics have accused the charity of betraying its stated aim of ’empowering women and girls to take control of their futures’
  • Adam & Eve gives away 25 per cent of its profits through Mr Harvey’s charitable foundation, DKT International

A controversial abortion charity has accepted millions of pounds of funding from a pornography tycoon, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Marie Stopes International (MSI) has received more than £7.5million from sex-toy salesman Phil Harvey, prompting critics to accuse the charity of betraying its stated aim of ’empowering women and girls to take control of their futures’.

Mr Harvey’s business, Adam & Eve, was established as a mailorder firm in 1971 and it has become one of America’s leading suppliers of erotica, with £60million of adult film and sex-toy sales last year.

Adam & Eve gives away 25 per cent of its profits through Mr Harvey’s charitable foundation, DKT International.

According to accounts seen by this newspaper, this includes at least £7.5million in cash and supplies to MSI since 1995.

Philip Harvey, the president of Adam & Eve porn company has given at least £7.5million in cash and supplies to MSI since 1995

Philip Harvey, the president of Adam & Eve porn company has given at least £7.5million in cash and supplies to MSI since 1995

Mr Harvey, 82, is a trustee of MSI, but the charity makes barely any mention of him on its website.

London-based MSI, which arranged about five million abortions last year and received £48million of British foreign aid funding, was recently reprimanded by the Charity Commission after chief executive Simon Cooke had his pay doubled to £434,000.

The charity was established by British doctor Tim Black after he saved the Marie Stopes abortion clinic in London from bankruptcy.

He studied at University of North Carolina with Mr Harvey in the late 1960s and they went into business selling condoms through the post, which was illegal at the time.

In 1986, Mr Harvey was charged with distributing obscene material.

The Marie Stopes International clinic in Leeds. Mr Harvey, 82, is a trustee of MSI, but the charity makes barely any mention of him on its website

The Marie Stopes International clinic in Leeds. Mr Harvey, 82, is a trustee of MSI, but the charity makes barely any mention of him on its website

After an eight-year legal battle, he cleared his name and successfully sued the government.

Meanwhile, Dr Black – the pioneer of the so-called ‘lunchtime abortion’ – was building MSI into an organisation that now operates in 37 countries.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, which opposes abortions, said: ‘Serious questions need to be asked about why MSI, an organisation which says it is dedicated to empowering women, has received millions in funding from an industry that achieves the opposite.’

MSI said: ‘Phil Harvey has spent his life defending sexual and reproductive health and rights, and has played a significant role in expanding access for women across the world. We are proud that he continues to contribute to the organisation.’

Mr Harvey did not respond to requests for a comment.

1920s libel battle behind the story

The scale of the financial links between a porn baron and Marie Stopes International was unearthed by the grandson of a man involved in a high-profile legal fight with the birth control pioneer almost a century ago.

While researching Exterminating Poverty, a book about the libel battle between Dr Halliday Sutherland and Dr Stopes, Mark Sutherland examined MSI’s accounts in detail.

‘I wonder whether donors to MSI, a charitable organisation which promotes itself on ’empowering women and girls to take control of their futures’, realise it is funded from proceeds from the adult industry and pornography,’ Mr Sutherland said.

Dr Sutherland was sued by Dr Stopes in 1923 after describing her call for laws to compulsorily sterilise those she considered ‘unfit for parenthood’ as a ‘monstrous experiment’.

Judges rejected Stopes’s claim and ruled she was a eugenicist. ‘It staggers me that there is a charity named after this woman given her abhorrent views,’ Mr Sutherland said.

MSI said: ‘Our connection to Marie Stopes the woman lies in a historic building in Central London – the first family planning clinic in the UK.

Our founders chose to use her name in recognition of her pioneering work bringing contraception to women in the UK.’

Source: dailymail.co.uk


THE UNITED NATIONS IS USING CORONAVIRUS FUNDING TO PROMOTE ABORTION | OPINION

 As the world stands transfixed by the decision of the United States to evaluate its funding of the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations is moving forward with a $2.01 billion response to the coronavirus pandemic. The plan raises significant cause for concern, given the emphasis on the provision of abortion for women—including girls.

Despite laudable efforts to contain and address damages from the pandemic in the areas of food security and nutrition, physical and mental health, and water and sanitation, the plan carries with it serious implications for state sovereignty related to unborn human life. Designed to focus on those countries with existing humanitarian crises as those most in need of coronavirus-related assistance, the U.N. plan will inevitably pose a serious threat to governments committed to protecting human life.

The plan allocates $120 million to the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), $450 million to the WHO and the remaining funds to other branches of the U.N. system. UNFPA is the “responsible entity” for coronavirus actions relating to pregnancy, including access to emergency obstetric care and maternal health services. It also is tasked with ensuring access to “sexual and reproductive health services,” which is U.N. parlance for abortion. According to UNFPA, “women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health choices and rights must be respected regardless of…COVID-19. This including access to contraception, emergency contraception, safe abortion where legal and to the full extent of the law, and post-abortion care.”

UNFPA references to abortion “where legal” do little to appease concerns that the agency will use pandemic-related funds to perform abortions when against the law. Ample evidence points to UNFPA’s circumvention of prohibitions on abortion via strategic partnerships with on-the-ground providers that perform abortions in countries that ban or restrict the practice. Although the nature of the partnerships is not specified in the plan, it notes that “most of the funding to U.N. agencies will be implemented through NGO partnerships.” The existence of longstanding UNFPA partnerships with International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International gives reason to fear that U.N. funds will be appropriated for abortions in countries where it is illegal. Moreover, the plan highlights UNFPA’s Minimum Initial Services Package—a set of actions for humanitarian emergencies that include abortion as a central component.

Countries identified as the foremost recipients of assistance from the plan include Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Lebanon, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela and Yemen. These are countries where a traditionally pro-life culture continues to inform laws and policies that either completely protect unborn life or heavily restrict access to abortion. High levels of conflict and poverty render these governments particularly vulnerable to the strings that come attached to U.N. aid. Their need for assistance is likely to outweigh attempts to ward off the imposition of unwanted services, thus threatening the lives of the unborn and the rights of women and girls to authentic maternal health care.

United Nations logo
United Nations logoLUDOVIC MARIN/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

In addition to UNFPA, the WHO has been one of the foremost promoters of abortion within the U.N. system. The agency has long identified abortion as core to “reproductive health” and a “human right,” although such a right exists nowhere in international law. In addition to investigating failures to coordinate a timely and appropriate response to the pandemic, it is in light of the agency’s radical pro-abortion stance that the U.S. government is evaluating WHO funding.

In many ways, the virus mimics the darkness that befell the world following the World Wars, prompting the creation of the U.N. One can say that this is precisely the kind of situation in which the value of the institution is indisputable—who will end wars, find cures, save children and provide food if not the U.N.? As the only international monolith of its kind, the U.N. is uniquely poised to respond to this crisis—which is precisely why, as thousands die at the hands of the virus, the killing of the innocent unborn with U.N. funds is exceptionally abhorrent.

The millions of dollars allocated for abortion-centric purposes reveals, more so than merely the problems with the U.N. system, the broader failings of the international human rights project as a whole. Abortion funding reveals that which political elites prioritize in a time of crisis—piecemeal “solutions” that rob the innocent of life and in no way fortify us with the physical and spiritual nourishment that we need to survive the pandemic.

Absent a renewed respect for the fundamental human rights enumerated in the aftermath of the World Wars, the U.N. will proceed with a ruthless “cultural imperialism” that displaces humanitarian assistance and imperils its very legitimacy in a time of great need. Now, more than ever, governments must stand at the ready to reject coercive pressures from the U.N., affirming their sovereign prerogative to protect life.

Elyssa Koren is the director of United Nations advocacy at ADF International.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.

Source: newsweek.com


Sewer Cleaners Wanted in Pakistan: Only Christians Need Apply.

In Pakistan, descendants of lower-caste Hindus who converted to Christianity centuries ago still find themselves marginalized, relegated to dirty jobs and grim fates.

Jamshed Eric working in a sewer in Karachi last year. He feels it is only a matter of time before he dies on the job.
Jamshed Eric working in a sewer in Karachi last year. He feels it is only a matter of time before he dies on the job.Credit…Zia ur-Rehman

By Zia ur-Rehman and 

KARACHI, Pakistan — Before Jamshed Eric plunges deep below Karachi’s streets to clean out clogged sewers with his bare hands, he says a little prayer to Jesus to keep him safe.

The work is grueling, and he wears no mask or gloves to protect him from the stinking sludge and toxic plumes of gas that lurk deep underground.

“It is a difficult job,” Mr. Eric said. “In the gutter, I am often surrounded by swarms of cockroaches.”

After a long day, the stench of his work lingers even at home, a constant reminder of his place in life. “When I raise my hand to my mouth to eat, it smells of sewage,” he said.

A recent spate of deaths among Christian sewer cleaners in Pakistan underscores how the caste discrimination that once governed the Indian subcontinent’s Hindus lingers, no matter the religion.

Like thousands of other lower-caste Hindus, Mr. Eric’s ancestors converted to Christianity centuries ago, hoping to escape a cycle of discrimination that ruled over every aspect of their lives: what wells of water they could drink from, what jobs they could hold. Manual sewer cleaners, known as sweepers, are at the bottom of that hierarchy, the most untouchable of the untouchable Hindu castes.

But when the Indian subcontinent broke up in 1947 and Pakistan was formed as a homeland for the region’s Muslims, a new, informal system of discrimination formed. In Pakistan, Muslims sit at the top of the hierarchy. And as one of Pakistan’s small Christian minority, Mr. Eric has now been forced into the same work his Hindu ancestors had tried to avoid through religious conversion.

ImageSome areas of Karachi are plagued with sewage and trash. In the sewers, cleaners use their bare hands to unclog drainpipes of feces, plastic bags and hospital refuse.
Some areas of Karachi are plagued with sewage and trash. In the sewers, cleaners use their bare hands to unclog drainpipes of feces, plastic bags and hospital refuse.Credit…Mustafa Hussain for The New York Times

Although India has outlawed caste-based discrimination with mixed success, in Pakistan it is almost encouraged by the state. In July, the Pakistani military placed newspaper advertisements for sewer sweepers with the caveat that only Christians should apply. After activists protested, the religious requirement was removed.

But municipalities across Pakistan rely on Christian sweepers like Mr. Eric. In the sprawling port city of Karachi, sweepers keep the sewer system flowing, using their bare hands to unclog crumbling drainpipes of feces, plastic bags and hazardous hospital refuse, part of the 1,750 million liters of waste the city’s 20 million residents produce daily.

On a recent day Mr. Eric, 40, had been hired to clean three sewers for $6.

Mr. Eric sends his son to school far from the crowded and segregated neighborhood the city’s sewer cleaners live in, hoping to free him of the discrimination that forced him into this work. Back home, the neighborhood lacks safe drinking water and schools. Swarms of mosquitoes, piles of garbage and overflowing gutters are the area’s only abundance.

While most sweepers like Mr. Eric are illiterate, his generation has been more determined to push their children to attend school to break the cycle of discrimination, just as their ancestors tried to do when they converted. But the children still find themselves discriminated against, forced to adopt the profession of their fathers.

Mary James Gill, a former parliamentarian who runs the Sweepers are Superheroes advocacy group, has lobbied for years to pressure the government to formally ban manual sewage cleaning work. But most of the sweepers are illiterate and unorganized, she said, making it easy for the authorities to pressure them to accept the jobs as their only means of income.

While Christians make up only 1.6 percent of Pakistan’s population of some 200 million, according to a 1998 government census, rights groups believe they fill about 80 percent of the sweeper jobs. Lower-caste Hindus mostly fill the rest of the slots.

When Karachi’s municipality tried to recruit Muslims to unclog gutters, they refused to get down into the sewers, instead sweeping the streets. The job was left to Christians like Mr. Eric, known derogatorily as “choora,” or dirty.

They spend hours inside the city’s sewers. Almost all of them develop skin and respiratory problems because of constant contact with human waste and toxic fumes. And for some, the job has been lethal.

“I have seen death from very near,” said Michael Sadiq, legs trembling as he thought about his two-decade career as a sweeper.

Image

“This work has become so dangerous that I need to find a way out,” said Michael Sadiq, a sewer cleaner for two decades.
“This work has become so dangerous that I need to find a way out,” said Michael Sadiq, a sewer cleaner for two decades.Credit…Zia ur-Rehman

Last August, Mr. Sadiq and his relatives, Rafiq Murad and Riaz Masih, sweepers for Karachi’s municipality, were relaxing on their only day off when they were interrupted by a call from their supervisor, ordering them to snap to it.

Mr. Murad was the first to step into a gutter 18 feet deep with a rope tied around his waist. As he cleaned the detritus, a flood of putrid black water carrying sand, stones, sludge and a swarm of gases swept him away.

Mr. Sadiq scrambled into the sewer to save his cousin but was overwhelmed by the toxic mix and fainted. Mr. Masih followed to help his cousins, but the fumes asphyxiated him, his lifeless body swept away without a struggle.

While Mr. Sadiq and Mr. Murad were saved, Mr. Masih was buried so deep, an excavator worked for four hours to extract his dead body from the stinking sludge it was buried under.

“This work has become so dangerous that I need to find a way out,” Mr. Sadiq said. But he, like the rest of the sweepers, is a poor and illiterate Christian, and no other jobs are open to him, he lamented.

Two months after Mr. Masih died, two more sewer cleaners died on the job a few miles away. Another sweeper died at the beginning of this month.

Doctors often refuse to treat the sweepers, who are seen as unclean and untouchable.

Officially, Pakistan denies the existence of caste-based practices in the country. But across the country, the discrimination persists.

One form of abuse commonly meted out on Pakistan’s religious minorities has been to accuse them of blasphemy, a crime that is punishable by death in the country, and that at times has been used to settle personal disputes.

Image

Pendants for sale in Karachi in 2018. Pakistan has taken a few steps to protect and empower some minorities, but the efforts have failed to help much.
Pendants for sale in Karachi in 2018. Pakistan has taken a few steps to protect and empower some minorities, but the efforts have failed to help much. Credit…Shahzaib Akber/EPA, via Shutterstock

In one infamous case in 2010, Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, was sentenced to death, accused of blaspheming Islam. It later emerged that her Muslim colleagues had ordered her to fetch water as they harvested berries on a hot day. When she drank from the communal cup, they accused her of polluting it and an argument ensued.

The case was eventually thrown out for lack of evidence, after Ms. Bibi spent eight years on death row and her family was forced into hiding by the death threats they received.

Pakistan has taken a few steps to protect and empower some minorities, but the efforts have failed to help much. A bill was passed in 2009 to reserve 5 percent of all government jobs for non-Muslims. But over a decade later, that goal has not been reached, officials say.

Mr. Eric feels it is only a matter of time before he dies on the job. But he hopes his son can excel in school and shake off the discrimination that has plagued the family for generations.

“After hearing of the deaths in the gutters, I think about what will happen to my family if I die,” Mr. Eric said. “But Jesus Christ will take care of them.”

“I don’t care about my life as long as I can provide my family with a decent living.”

Source: nytimes.com


China’s Religious Persecution in the Time of Coronavirus

By Susan Crabtree – RCP Staff

April 27, 2020

China's Religious Persecution in the Time of Coronavirus
(Xie Huanchi/Xinhua via AP)

It’s a portrait of contrasts in the age of pandemic. In the United States, small but passionate protests have broken out in recent weeks as some workers and worshipers chafe at being quarantined — even as most federal and state governments caution against full and abrupt re-openings.

Meanwhile, in the People’s Republic of China, where the coronavirus originated, citizens live in abject fear over voicing the mildest of criticism about their government’s response to the outbreak and aftermath, including government actions designed to place ethnic and religious minorities in harm’s way.

Among the abuses: Chinese authorities are continuing to operate some factories by forcing Uyghurs, Muslims from a Central Asian ethnic group, to fill in for workers sidelined by COVID-19. To groups monitoring religious freedom, this was merely the latest example of official persecution of the Uyghurs, predominantly Turkic-speaking Sunni Muslims who number more than 10 million and live in the northwest area of the country known as Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous region. Uyghurs consider Beijing as a colonizing power and have pushed for a separate homeland or, at least, greater autonomy for their region. In recent years, China has tightened its grip on the region, forcing at least 1 million Uyghurs into 85 identified detention camps.

The pandemic has also increased levels of mistreatment against other groups. African residents of Guangzhou, a manufacturing hub, have been force-tested for the virus, evicted from their homes and hotels, and corralled into quarantined areas with few resources. Images on social media have showed groups of black residents sleeping on a sidewalk, visibly shaking from the cold and wearing surgical masks to protect themselves. Several African ambassadors wrote a letter to China’s foreign minister earlier this month complaining that these people were being mistreated and falsely blamed for the spread of the virus to China.

“The Group of African Ambassadors in Beijing immediately demands the cessation of forceful testing, quarantine and other inhuman treatments meted out to Africans,” they wrote.

Beijing has also used the pandemic as an excuse to crack down on churches that aren’t officially sanctioned by the government. In some regions, officials have removed crosses from Christian church rooftops on the pretext that religious symbols cannot be “higher” than the national flag. In December, as China’s began dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, church leaders reported that government officials told them the crosses were “too eye-catching” and would attract groups of people to gather, undermining the strict lockdowns in place.

Pastor Jian Zhu, who was raised in China and now serves as the director of the China Institute at Lincoln Christian University in Illinois, said persecution against unsanctioned Christian churches in China is “now the worst” he has seen since the late 1970s. The systematic harassment, according to Zhu, has included asking neighbors to spy on one another as well as pressuring schoolteachers, professors and students to sign a statement denouncing their faith.

“They are trying to eliminate Christianity from public life,” he told The Christian Post in mid-April. “Cameras are all over to watch church and Christians go to Sunday services. Families are threatened not to go to church or they will be punished or their relatives could be in trouble.”

Since the reports about forcing Uyghurs into factories began leaking two months ago, China’s systematic efforts to cover up the origins of the coronavirus and sow disinformation about it have sparked international outrage. But neither that indignation, nor the stepped-up persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, stopped the United Nations’ Asia-Pacific group from selecting China to represent the region on the United Nations Human Rights Council Consultative Group. The consultative body consists of five member states tasked with screening applicants to become independent U.N. human rights experts.

China’s selection on April 1 drew immediate condemnation from U.S. human rights advocates.

“The Chinese government is one of the worst abusers of religious freedom and other human rights,” said Gary Bauer of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan federal government entity that monitors international threats to religious freedom. In its 2019 annual report, USCIRF called on the Trump administration to impose targeted sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for severe religious freedom violations, especially Chen Quanguo, the current Communist Party secretary of Xinjiang region.

Other Washington officials see the pandemic as a warning against the natural tendency by those with autocratic impulses to impose top-down, heavy-handed controls.

Police in places as disparate as Kenya and India have beaten citizens avoiding curfew; nations such as Iran and North Korea are believed by health experts to have followed China’s example in vastly underreporting COVID-19 cases; and Philippines strongman Rodrigo Duterte has used the crisis to threaten declaring martial law.

But the United States has not been immune from these impulses. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was widely criticized for a sweeping stay-at-home order that precluded residents from driving from one house to another and for closing off entire sections of large stores that sell gardening supplies, include plant seeds. And when President Trump said he had “absolute power” over states to determine how and when to re-open their governments, the backslash from both conservatives and liberals was fast and furious. The president quickly backtracked and has allowed governors to make their own decisions, even as Trump has publicly second-guessed Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s statewide re-opening of salons, gyms, and bowling alleys.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in early April warned that autocracies will use the crisis “to become more aggressive, deny people their rights,” and “lie more.” He said that “in the end, they do enormous harm to the people of their nation and put the rest of the world at risk as well.”

In Washington, most of the fury at China so far has focused on the government’s delay and dissembling over the source and extent of the epidemic and its unseemly sway over the World Health Organization, which initially minimized the effects the outbreak. Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, through her advocacy group Stand for America, last week launched a petition to Congress urging lawmakers to investigate Beijing for its role in the coronavirus crisis and pass measures to halt China’s influence in the U.S. and around the world.

But China’s religious persecution amid the pandemic is also spurring congressional scrutiny.

Sen. Ted Cruz, who has sought to shed a light on the China’s oppression of religious minorities and political dissidents throughout his career, said he planned to amplify the need for several bills he has written aimed at punishing China for the forced Uyghur labor, along with other measures addressing Beijing’s ongoing suppression of medical experts, journalists and political dissidents.

“Those atrocities must be confronted, not just for their own sake but because, as we have now seen through the global spread of COVID-19, they are a direct threat to America’s national security and global public health,” Cruz spokeswoman Jessica Skaggs told RealClearPolitics. “Once we defeat this pandemic, Sen. Cruz will continue fighting to hold China accountable for its religious persecution of minorities and its broader repression on free expression and medical information.”

Rep. Michael McCaul, the ranking GOP member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said China’s and the WHO’s handling of the coronavirus crisis enabled a regional epidemic to become a global pandemic  resulting in innumerous deaths in China and around the world. McCaul, along with 16 other House Republicans, sent a letter to the White House last week asking the president to condition future funding of the WHO on Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ resignation.

“This malfeasance is another example of the CCP’s treatment of their own people and reminds us this is the same regime who puts millions of their own citizens in ‘concentration camps’ and uses them for forced labor,” he said.

“The international community cannot let these appalling abuses go unpunished,” he told RCP. “We must work together to hold the CCP accountable for these egregious human rights violations, especially amid this public health emergency that they exacerbated.”

This is not solely a Republican concern. Rep. James McGovern, who chairs the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China, is calling on the international community to investigate Beijing’s efforts to repress religious and ethnic minorities in the midst of a pandemic. McGovern in March sponsored a bill that would bar the U.S. from importing any goods made in the Xinjiang factories and has urged all American companies, including Amazon, Nike, Apple and Calvin Klein, to investigate their supply chains in China and cease operation if they cannot definitively rule out the use of forced labor. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio wrote a similar Senate bill.

“Forcing Uyghurs and others to work in factories while the risk of infection is high, tearing down Christian symbols and crosses, or condoning discrimination against African migrants is completely unacceptable an should be roundly condemned by the administration and investigated by the international community,” the Massachusetts Democrat said in a statement to RCP.

“The virus exposed what we already knew: The Chinese government is all too willing to violate the human rights of the Chinese people, and its policies pose a real risk to the world’s health as well,” McGovern added.

Susan Crabtree is RealClearPolitics’ White House/national political correspondent.

Source: realclearpolitics.com


International report identifies worst violators of religious freedom

Summary

  • USCIRF notes tentative steps forward in some countries such as Sudan and Uzbekistan
  • Report urges U.S.-Administration to continue to prioritize international religious freedom

WASHINGTON DC (29 April 2020) – Religious liberty remains under threat worldwide. This is the finding of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom in its annual report published this week. The report identifies 14 countries as “countries of particular concern” for their “systematic, ongoing, and egregious” violations of religious freedom, and recommends 15 other countries as needing special monitoring for their severe violations.

“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. The persecution of Christians and other religious minorities across the globe has not only been an ongoing concern for a long time but has also risen in intensity and scale. Christians in countries like Pakistan, Iran, and Myanmar are regularly victims of violence, false or unjust accusations, and imprisonment. USCIRF’s Annual Report continues to draw attention to the worst abusers against people of faith and even no faith, and stands as one of the key resources for advocates and governments. We welcome the new report and hope the United States Government will follow its recommendations,” said Kelsey Zorzi, Director of Advocacy for Global Religious Freedom for ADF International.

Religious persecution is widespread

The 2020 Annual Report assesses religious freedom violations and progress during calendar year 2019 in 29 countries and makes independent recommendations for U.S. policy. USCIRF recommends that the U.S. Department of State designate China, Eritrea, India, Iran, Myanmar, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam as “countries of particular concern.” USCIRF also recommends that Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Central African Republic (CAR), Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Sudan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan be placed on the State Department’s “Special Watch List.”

USCIRF noted that Sudan and Uzbekistan had made positive, although tentative, steps regarding religious freedom. In many other countries, however, religious freedom conditions deteriorated.

With the rise in religious persecution, advocates and governments have begun to increase their responses to the issue. In 2019, the “International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief” was observed for the first time. The day was created by the United Nations and experts consider it an important step towards the prevention of religious persecution in the future.

Similarly, the U.S. Department of State hosted the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in July 2019. The Ministerial highlighted the stories of those who have faced persecution and provided a forum for advocates and government officials to discuss goals and strategies to better protect religious minorities and those persecuted for their religion.

At the release of the 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF commended the U.S. Administration “for continuing to prioritize international religious freedom in 2019.”

Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, said: “The recent USCIRF report reminds us that around the world people are facing persecution because of their faith. Christians in particular face widespread and severe persecution. No one should turn a blind eye to the plight Christians are facing today, everyday.”

Source: adfinternational.org


Dutch cardinal fears surge in euthanasia

An unidentified man suffering from Alzheimer's disease and who refused to eat sleeps peacefully the day before passing away in a nursing home in Utrecht, Netherlands. Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht predicted the number of euthanasia cases in the Netherlands will surge after the country's highest court gave the green light to allow the killing of dementia patients no longer able to give their consent.

An unidentified man suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and who refused to eat sleeps peacefully the day before passing away in a nursing home in Utrecht, Netherlands. Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht predicted the number of euthanasia cases in the Netherlands will surge after the country’s highest court gave the green light to allow the killing of dementia patients no longer able to give their consent.CNS photo/Michael Kooren, Reuters

BY  SIMON CALDWELL, CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
  • April 29, 2020

MANCHESTER, England — A Dutch cardinal predicted that the number of euthanasia cases will surge after the Netherlands’ highest court gave the green light to allow the killing of dementia patients who are no longer able to give consent.

The court ruled April 22 that doctors could euthanize patients with severe dementia and who could no longer express their wishes if they had left an advance request in writing to say they wished to die.

Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht, president of the Bishops’ Conference of the Netherlands, said, however, the court’s ruling would not only make it easier for doctors to take the lives of dementia patients but would also put them under pressure to do so. He said the ruling created greater uncertainty rather than clarity over the practice of euthanasia.

“Patients and their relatives could think on the basis of the judgment … that there is a kind of a right to euthanasia in cases of advanced dementia with suffering, deemed without prospect (of recovery) and unbearable, though the Supreme Court does not say that and the law on euthanasia does not oblige a physician to perform euthanasia,” Eijk said in a statement.

“Physicians of nursing homes therefore fear that they will be put under pressure by patients with dementia and their relatives to perform euthanasia as a consequence of the Supreme Court’s judgment,” he said.

The court ruling was in response to the acquittal of a doctor who in 2016 drugged a woman with Alzheimer’s disease, who had been resisting his attempts to give her a lethal injection, so he could finally euthanize her.

The 74-year-old patient had earlier instructed her family that she wanted to die by euthanasia, but at a time of her choosing. She became so demented that she was unable to say when she wished to die so her family interceded. Because she fought against the injection, the doctor slipped sedatives into her coffee and her family held her down.

Prosecutors accused the doctor of ignoring a requirement of consent written into the Dutch euthanasia law of 2002, arguing the patient might have changed her mind about wishes she had expressed in writing four years before her death. A lower court ruled the doctor had not behaved illegally and in 2018 acquitted him, and the case was referred to the Supreme Court for legal clarification “in the interest of the law.”

The Supreme Court concluded that “a physician may carry out a prior written request for euthanasia in people with advanced dementia,” providing other criteria on “unbearable and endless suffering” also were met.

In his statement, Eijk noted that in 2017, during the prosecution of the doctor, the euthanasia rate fell by seven per cent, but in 2019, following his acquittal, it rose by nearly four per cent.

The cardinal also questioned whether an advance declaration could accurately express the actual will of a patient.

“In her declaration, the woman said that she wanted euthanasia, when she would have been admitted to a nursing home one day, but something in this declaration remained unclear: she determined that the euthanasia should take place at a moment that she thought she would be ready for it,” he said.

“But after having been admitted to a nursing home, she was not able to indicate whether she desired euthanasia or not,” he said.

Source: catholicregister.org