WEA calls on Sweden to better protect religious freedom of asylum seekers

A view of Stockholm, in Sweden. / Photo: <a target="_blank" href="https://unsplash.com/@peteriveyphotography">PeterIvey </a>,

A view of Stockholm, in Sweden. / Photo: PeterIvey

Sweden was one of the countries reviewed in the 45th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC).

Throughout its “cycles”, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) gives a chance to countries and NGOs to present recommendations to all member states.

During the September 2020 session, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), which holds a NGO status, gave a statement on Sweden. Previoulsy, they had also spoken about Pakistan, Zimbabwe, and Turkey.


Christian converts face risks of persecution in country of origin

“We call on Sweden to take more effective measures to protect the rights of asylum-seekers to leave their current religion or to change their religion for another, and who run from the significant risks of persecution in their countries of origin”, said Michael Mutzner, one of the WEA spokespersons at the UN HRC in Geneva (Switzerland).

“Studies have shown that Christian converts had faced politicized and arbitrary procedures in Sweden and that the personnel of the Migration Agency lacks the necessary expertise and does not sufficiently collaborate with civil society when it verifies the genuineness of a conversion claim”, he said.

The WEA also underlined the lack of freedoms for refugees already living in the Nordic country. They called on “Sweden to extend its National Plan against racism and hate crimes to include specific measures to combat all categories of hate crimes, including specific affirmative measures to combat harassment of Christian refugees in asylum centres”.

Abortion and conscientious objection

In its statement, the WEA also spoke about the lack of freedoms of health personnel in ethical issues. The evangelical body said it “regrets that Sweden is one of the rare countries where the right to conscientious objection for medical personnel unable to participate in abortions due to their convictions, is not respected”.

“No one should be discriminated against because of a refusal to participate in an abortion procedure, and reasonable accommodation should be discussed in order to find compromises that respond both to the imperative of a person’s conscience and to the requirement of public health services”.

WEA calls on Sweden to better protect religious freedom of asylum seekersMichael Mutzner, Wissam Al-saliby and Albert Hengelaar, World Evangelical Alliance representatives at the United Nations Human Rights Council. / WEA

The WEA added that it is “unfortunate” that Sweden “takes a hard line” in this matter when there would be alternatives to have “a more pragmatic approach that would respect the freedom of conscience of its medical personnel”.

Mutzner closed the WEA statement by calling on Sweden “to renounce its proposed legislative ban on faith-based private schools”.

Source: evangelicalfocus.com

Summit speakers discuss ongoing efforts to combat religious persecution

Summit speakers discuss ongoing efforts to combat religious persecution

Displaced women and children wearing protective masks wait in the medical center of a camp in Dahuk, Iraq, March 7, 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Credit: CNS photo/Ari Jalal, Reuters.)

WASHINGTON — A digital summit sponsored by In Defense of Christians, “Combating Global Christian Persecution,” showed that the fight against all forms of religious persecution continues with a renewing cast of political leaders.

Rep. French Hill, R-Arkansas, last year’s winner of the group’s Congressional Champion award for his support of Coptic Christians in Egypt, pointed out in his remarks that while “religious freedom is part of American foreign policy,” attacks on Coptic Christians continue.

A House resolution introduced by Hill last year called for the Egyptian government to abolish its “culture of impunity” and to hold local officials responsible.

This year’s Congressional Champion, Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, a former Navy SEAL, was recognized for advocating for the preservation of Christians in the Middle East. The event was held Sept. 23.

“I saw this lack of freedom in my first three deployments” in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, seeing “firsthand the history of a country run by extremists.”

He called the Islamic State “evil incarnate” and “the consequences of seeing a world as we wished it were rather than as it really is.”

The American government allowed that to emerge because “we stopped believing in advancing the ideology of freedom. Evil like the Islamic State can only exist when American refuses the chance to lead.”

The work of In Defense of Christians gained the endorsement of New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan.

When he travels to parts of the world where Christians are known to be threatened with slaughter, he said in a recorded statement, “they constantly say to me, ‘We feel forgotten. We don’t hear anyone speaking up for us. We feel like we’re orphans. And we need your love, we need your support.’ And I tell them, you got it.”

Other issues include the formal U.S. condemnation — passed by Congress, but not yet signed by President Donald Trump — of the Armenian genocide of 1915; the ongoing Christian genocide in Nigeria; and anti-blasphemy and apostasy laws used to stifle dissent in the Middle East and Asia.

“We’re not going to be bullied or bribed into silence,” said Richard Ghazal, an Air Force judge advocate who acts as a senior adviser to In Defense of Christians.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, has co-sponsored a Senate resolution calling for the global repeal of blasphemy, heresy and apostasy laws, which, he observed, affect Muslims as well as members of other faiths and those who express no faith at all.

He pointed to the example of an American, Tahir Naseem, who on July 20 was shot and killed inside a Pakistani courtroom, where he’d been charged with blasphemy against Islam.

Saudi Arabia, Lankford said, promotes religious intolerance on social media, and in Russia in 2017, a blogger, Ruslan Sokolovsky, received a suspended prison sentence for blasphemy simply for playing a video game, Pokemon Go in a cathedral. The incident was widely condemned as an abuse of the legal system.

“One of the most important drivers of intolerance” in the Middle East “is education,” said Rep. Joe Wilson, R-South Carolina. Official textbooks approved in Saudi Arabia teach that Christians and Jews are “enemies of Islam and its people.” Those textbooks became “materials of choice for ISIS.”

Last year, Wilson and Rep. William Keating, D-Massachusetts, co-sponsored the Saudi Educational Transparency and Reform Act, intended to require the U.S. State Department to review Saudi textbooks for religious bigotry.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, explained the need for the House resolution he introduced last year to “make the repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws a priority in bilateral relationships between the United States and countries that have such laws” and further, to ” oppose efforts by the United Nations to implement an international anti-blasphemy norm.”

“Any religious adherent can be a victim,” he said, and the oppressor can be “whoever has the power of the state behind them.”

Raskin reminded the gathering of “a basic principle of humanity: That people have got to be safe to worship as they please, or not worship at all.”

Former Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia pointed to a recent Pew Research Institute survey showing that “80% of the world’s population … at this very moment lives in a repressive religious environment.”

“The cries of the persecuted are met by the sound of silence by many in the faith community and many in the West,” he said. “In the pulpits of many Western churches, we have really heard the sounds of silence.”

The Washington-based In Defense of Christians focuses most of its advocacy on the Middle East. In addition to gaining, in 2019, congressional condemnation of the Armenian genocide, the organization also backed the 2018 Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act, signed into law by Trump. This provides direct aid for Christians who survived persecution by the Islamic State.

Source: cruxnow.com