Franziskus: Schutz Ungeborener von “überragender Priorität”

Franziskus zeigte sich überrascht, als er erfuhr, dass seit der gesetzlichen Freigabe der Abtreibung in den USA im Jahr 1973 mehr als 60 Millionen ungeborene Kinder getötet wurden
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Papst Franziskus hat vergangenen Woche bei einem Treffen mit US-Bischöfen in Rom betont, dass der der Schutz der ungeborenen Kinder von “überragender Priorität” für die Kirche sei und stimmte damit mit er Prioritätensetzung der US-Bischöfe überein. Dies berichtet CNS. Er zeigte sich überascht, als er erfuhr, dass seit der gesetzlichen Freigabe der Abtreibung in den USA im Jahr 1973 mehr als 60 Millionen ungeborene Kinder getötet wurden. Erzbischof Joseph F. Naumann von Kansas City, der auch Vorsitzender des Pro-Life Komitees der US-Bischofskonferenz ist, war einer einer 15 Bischöfe, die beim Papst zum “Ad Limina”-Besuch waren.


The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Be a Christian

Martyrdoms drop in Nigeria but soar in Burkina Faso, while China brings 16 million more Christians onto Open Doors’s 2020 World Watch List of Christian persecution.

Every day, 8 Christians worldwide are killed because of their faith.

Every week, 182 churches or Christian buildings are attacked.

And every month, 309 Christians are imprisoned unjustly.

So reports the 2020 World Watch List (WWL), the latest annual accounting from Open Doors of the top 50 countries where Christians are the most persecuted for their faith.

“We cannot let this stand,” said David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, during the 2020 list’s unveiling in Washington, DC, this morning. “People are speaking out and we have an obligation to hear their cry.”

The listed nations comprise 260 million Christians suffering high to severe levels of persecution, up from 245 million in last year’s list.

Another 50 million could be added from the 23 nations that fall just outside the top 50—such as Mexico, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo—for a ratio of 1 in 8 Christians worldwide facing persecution.

Last year, 40 nations scored high enough to register “very high” persecution levels. This year, it reached 45.

Open Doors has monitored Christian persecution worldwide since 1992. North Korea has ranked No. 1 since 2002, when the watch list began.

The 2020 version tracks the time period from November 1, 2018 to October 31, 2019, and is compiled from reports by Open Doors workers in more than 60 countries. The list “provides the most comprehensive grassroots data on Christian persecution,” said Curry. “But it is much more than that. It is sounding an alarm.”

Last year, CT noted “Asia Rising” as India entered the top 10 for the first time while China rose from No. 43 to No. 27.

That trend continues, as 2 in 5 Asian Christians now face high levels of persecution, up from 1 in 3 the previous reporting period. China’s crackdown on both state-sanctioned and underground churches and its growing surveillance network added 16 million to Open Doors’s tally of Christians facing persecution.

“The Chinese government is committing unparalleled human rights crimes against Christian citizens and seeking to wipe religious sentiment from its country,” stated Curry in a press release ahead of today’s event. “Yet, as the Chinese Christians who will join me will testify, the persecution Christians face—including extensive surveillance, raids on churches, and imprisonment—have not succeeded in eliminating Christianity.

“Instead, the underground Christian community has banded together and is actively working to call the world’s attention to the plight of the Chinese people. We will join them in that call.”

At the DC rollout, Curry was joined by Chinese pastor Jian Zhu. “The persecution of Christians is the worst I have seen since 1979,” he said. “Christians have a worldwide brotherhood, and the government sees this as a threat.”

“It is time for religious persecution to stop once and for all,” said Robert Destro, Assistant Secretary of State in the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, at today’s rollout. “But as we all know, that is a long-term proposition.”

The point of the annual WWL rankings—which have chronicled how North Korea now has competition as persecution only gets worse and worse, is to aim for more effective anger while showing persecuted believers that they are not forgotten.

This year the top 10 is relatively unchanged. After North Korea is Afghanistan (No. 2), followed by Somalia (No. 3), Libya (No. 4), Pakistan (No. 5), Eritrea (No. 6), Sudan (No. 7), Yemen (No. 8), Iran (No. 9), and India (No. 10).

Image: Open Door USA

Open Doors tracks persecution across six categories—including both social and governmental pressure on individuals, families, and congregations—and has a special focus on women.

But when violence is isolated as a category, the top 10 persecutors shifts dramatically—only Pakistan and India remain.

Five of the most violent countries for Christians are located in the Sahel, a horizontal belt of semi-arid grazing areas and farmland located between the Sahara Desert and the African savannah.

Militant Islamist rebel groups and terrorists have proliferated in the Sahel in recent years. Conflict between Muslim herders and Christian farmers has also resulted in violence. And weakened government structures leave the population vulnerable.

Nigeria, where Africa’s largest Christian population has no cheeks left to turn, ranked No. 12 overall but is second behind only Pakistan in terms of violence, and ranks No. 1 in the number of Christians killed for reasons related to their faith. Open Doors tallied 1,350 Nigerian martyrs in its 2020 list.

The Central African Republic (ranked No. 25 overall) ranks fourth in violence against Christians. Burkina Faso (No. 28) ranks fifth. Cameroon (No. 48, its first time on the list) and Mali (No. 29) join Egypt (No. 16), Colombia (No. 41), and Sri Lanka (No. 30) in rounding out the top 10. (Another Sahel country, Niger (No. 50), rejoined the list for the first time in five years.)

Sri Lanka rose 16 spots from No. 46 last year, primarily due to the Easter suicide bombings which killed over 250 people at Catholic and Protestant churches, and hotels.

But the year’s largest and most dramatic jump was in Burkina Faso, which jumped 33 slots after not even qualifying for the top 50 last year (it would have been No. 61).

Dozens of Burkinabe priests and pastors have been kidnapped or killed. Over 200 churches have been forced to close. The United Nations estimates 500,000 people have been displaced from their homes. The African Center for Strategic Studies calculates that extremist attacks have quadrupled since 2017, and deaths from violence increased 60 percent in 2019. Open Doors counted 50 Christians among that number.

Meanwhile, a transition in Nigeria from village raids to kidnapping by militant Muslim Fulani herdsmen—whose attacks were six times as deadly as Boko Haram’s, according to the International Crisis Group—resulted in an overall decrease in Christians killed in the Sahel, as well as worldwide.

Due to this shift in tactics, worldwide martyrdoms fell to 2,983 in the 2020 report, down from 4,305 the year before. (Open Doors is known for favoring a more conservative estimate than other groups, who often tally martyrdoms at 100,000 a year.)

Abduction of Christians is a new category tracked by Open Doors in this year’s report, with 1,052 tallied worldwide. Nigeria tops the list, with 224.

Nigeria also leads the newly tracked categories of forced marriages (accounting for 130 out of 630 worldwide), attacked Christian homes (1,500 out of 3,315), and looted Christian shops (1,000 out of 1,979).

Other new categories return the focus to Asia.

Of the top 7 nations where Christians are raped or sexually harassed, 4 are recipients of migrant workers in the Arabian Peninsula: Saudi Arabia (No. 13), Qatar (No. 27), Kuwait (No. 43), and the United Arab Emirates (No. 47). Nigeria is eighth. Worldwide there were 8,537 recorded cases, but Open Doors warns this tally is just the tip of the iceberg, as many assaults occur in private and are not reported.

India ranks first in the new category of physical or mental abuse, which includes beatings and death threats. The continuing rise in the subcontinent of a militant Hindu nationalism contributed to 1,445 of the reported 14,645 cases worldwide.

China is the chief violator in Open Doors’s other two previously tracked categories.

Beijing has jailed or detained without charge 1,147 Christians for faith-related reasons, out of a total of 3,711 worldwide. This number rose from 3,150 last year.

But attacks and forced closures of churches have skyrocketed from 1,847 to 9,488, with China accounting for 5,576.

Angola was second with 2,000 and Rwanda was third with 700. (Neither ranks among the top 50 persecution countries; Angola would be No. 68, Rwanda No. 71.)

Open Doors cautioned that in several nations, the above violations are very difficult to document precisely. In these cases, round numbers are presented, always leaning towards conservative estimates.

Its research is certified and audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom, a World Evangelical Alliance-backed network based in Germany.

In the Middle East, Open Doors noted little change, with 4 of 5 Christians experiencing “high” levels of persecution. The main and continuing trend is the dwindling number of Christians from Syria (No. 11) and Iraq (No. 15).

Syria has lost 75 percent of its Christian population since the outbreak of civil war in 2011, down to 744,000 last year from an estimated 2.2 million. Iraq has lost 87 percent of its Christian population since the Gulf war in 2003, down to 202,000 last year from an estimated 1.5 million.

Open Doors believes it is reasonable to call Christianity the world’s most severely persecuted religion. At the same time, it notes there is no comparable documentation for the world’s Muslim population.

All nations of the world are monitored by its researchers and field staff, but in-depth attention is given to 100 nations and special focus on the 73 which record “high” levels of persecution (scores of more than 40 on Open Doors’s 100-point scale).

The only good news in the 2020 watch list comes from Ethiopia (No. 39), where recent reforms removed 2.5 million from Open Doors’s global total of Christians facing high levels of persecution. Despite increasing sectarian strifeas its Nobel Prize-winning evangelical president makes peace and attempts reforms, the Horn of Africa nation declined in rank from No. 28 to No. 39.

Open Doors also noted the positive case of Pakistan’s Asia Bibi. In May 2019, the Christian mother of five was allowed to emigrate to Canada after the Supreme Court of Pakistan overturned her death penalty conviction for blasphemy. She had been in prison for nine years.

“The suffering of persecuted Christians cannot be recorded in statistics,” stated Open Doors. “Millions of people are found behind the numbers. Each one of them has their own story.

“This often includes deep suffering, but also courage and strong faith.”



The persecution of Christians is getting more severe than ever, affecting increasing numbers of believers around the world. That’s one of the findings of the newly published World Watch List, which reveals the 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution.

A staggering 260 million Christians in the top 50 countries on the World Watch List face high or extreme levels of persecution for their faith. That’s 15 million more people than the previous year. Open Doors estimates that there are another 50 million Christians facing high levels of persecution in a further 23 countries outside the top 50. Persecution comes in many forms, from the Easter Sunday church attacks by Islamic extremists in Sri Lanka, to a believer being denied their rights or ostracised by their family and community.

North Korea remains the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian, having been at number one since 2002. Owning a Bible could mean that you and your whole family are put in horrific concentration camps, or killed.

Each year, the publication of the World Watch List is an opportunity to pray for and support Christians around the world. The 50 country profiles include background information, recent developments, testimonies from courageous Christians and ways that supporters can respond through prayer and gifts.

“Thanks to your support, the secret believers experience that God loves them and provides in everything they need,” says Sang-Hwa*, a North Korean Christian.

The World Watch List is based on an analysis of faith-based persecution in five spheres of life, from private life to the national laws, and the scale of violence believers face for their faith.

To speak to our Media team, please contact: 07484000441

*Name changed for security reasons


2020 begins with record-breaking attendances at pro-life marches

Thousands of pro-life campaigners marched in Denver and Chicago on Saturday calling for an end to abortion.

The marches are part of a nationwide effort to draw attention to the more than 600,000 abortion procedures carried out in the US each year and call for laws that support women and protect unborn babies.

These two marches took place just two weeks before the national March for Life in Washington, which attracted hundreds of thousands of pro-life marchers last year.

A record-breaking 9,000 people attended the March for Life in Chicago, Illinois which had the theme ‘Life Empowers: Pro-Life is Pro-Woman!’.

Ahead of the march, the March for Life Chicago board president, Dawn Fitzpatrick, told the Chicago Tribune, “There’s more people in Illinois and the Midwest who recognize the urgency of this. We recognize that there’s a human being that’s created from the moment of conception.” 

Over 8,000 people gathered for the Celebrate Life rally in Denver, Colorado carrying signs that read, “Civil rights begin in the womb” and “I am the pro-life generation.”

Participants were given the chance to sign a petition to support a policy on the 2020 Colorado ballot, which seeks to protect unborn babies by ending the practice of late-term abortion in the state.

Under Initiative 120, a person conducting an abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy could be subject to having their medical license suspended for a least three years, except in cases where the life of the mother is at risk.

According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, a pro-life research group, in 2018, there were 323 abortions that occurred in Colorado at 21 weeks or later in a pregnancy. The survival rate for babies born at 22 weeks has doubled over the past decade prompting new guidance in the UK, allowing doctors to try to save babies born as early as 22 weeks into a pregnancy.

Colorado became the first state to allow abortion in limited instances in 1967. Currently, the state doesn’t have any restrictions on when a pregnancy can be terminated and abortion rights advocates have pushed to keep it that way. Abortion providers in the state can opt-out of providing post-abortion care and don’t require parental consent for minors seeking abortions.

Among the speakers at the rally was Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, who shared how his experience of working in a hospital as a college student and seeing aborted babies there changed his life.

Revealing details about an abortion procedure that still impacts him decades later, Aquila toldColorado Public Radio “It is tragic and I remember being stunned… I can still remember the horror on the young woman’s face [during the abortion].”

Referring to Initiative 120, the Catholic archbishop assured attendees of the rally that it does not amount to an endorsement of abortion during the earlier stages of a pregnancy.

“But we also desire to protect, even in increments, the gift of given life. We are not voting for abortion, nor are we saying we agree with abortion up to 22 weeks. What we are saying, is that we respect life, and we respect it for all the pregnancy,” Aquila said.

David Bereit, co-founder of pro-life group 40 Days For Life, said “We are not going to rest because what started in Colorado will end in Colorado… Colorado has tried other ballot initiatives on the pro-life side in the past that have failed. This is the one that a large majority of people agree upon.”

Pro-life demonstrations across the world have also seen record numbers in attendance in recent years. In 2019, over 50,000 Slovakians called on the country’s leaders to protect unborn babies. Pro-life demonstrations in Northern Ireland reached over 20,000 people, over 11,000 marched for life in the Netherlands, over 5,000 people marched for life in the UK, and over 2,000 people attended New Zealand’s March for Life.

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“What a wonderful way to begin 2020, continuing with the trend of the record-breaking numbers of people attending pro-life demonstrations that we have seen over the past few years, not just overseas but also in the UK. 

“In 2020 and beyond, we will be using this momentum and the momentum of a more pro-life parliament to call on the Government to urgently bring forward increased support for women with unplanned pregnancies to reduce the tragic number of abortions that happen each year. 

“We are excited to see the pro-life movement continue to grow around the world this year and are hopeful of innovative new laws and safeguards that will support women and protect unborn babies.”


Could Roe v. Wade be overturned? Hundreds of members of Congress sign amicus brief ahead of key SCOTUS case

Several hundred members of Congress filed “amicus,” or supporting, briefs in a closely watched upcoming Supreme Court case that could decide the future of abortion access.

The brief from 207 mostly GOPers included signatures from Sens. Mitt Romney, John Cornyn, Marco Rubio and Reps Steve Scalise and Liz Cheney. The opposing brief was signed by 197 members of Congress — a mostly Democratic group that included Sens. Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein, as well as Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Jerry Nadler.

The mostly Republican signatories — 39 senators and 168 representatives — argued that Louisiana clinics are rife with safety violations — and that the time is ripe to reconsider the legal underpinnings of Roe v. Wade, the seminal 1973 Supreme Court case that established a constitutional right to an abortion. All were Republicans except Democratic Reps. Dan Lipinski and Collin Peterson.

“Roe’s jurisprudence has been characterized by Delphic confusion and protean change,” the members wrote.


They argued that Roe claimed to establish a fundamental right to abortion — only for the 1992 Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood v. Casey to establish a new standard, which required that the government not impose an “undue burden” on abortion rights. Multiple incoherent exceptions and balancing tests have since been employed by the courts, according to the amicus brief.

For example, one Supreme Court case post-Casey defined a law as an “undue burden” on abortion rights if in a “large fraction of the cases in which [the law] is relevant, it will operate as a substantial obstacle” — a test later abandoned. then revived by the high court.

Meanwhile, the Democrats primarily argued that stare decisis, the principle through which existing Supreme Court cases are given deference, dictated that Roe should remain good law.

The high court will hear arguments in March on the case, which involves a Louisiana law that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The Louisiana statute is virtually identical to a Texas law that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016.

That decision came when Justice Anthony Kennedy was on the bench and before President Donald Trump’s two high court picks, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, joined the court.


At least one justice is likely to find the amicus brief agreeable. Last summer, in a concurring opinion in a Supreme Court case, Justice Clarence Thomas issued a lengthy call for his colleagues to overturn “demonstrably erroneous decisions” even if they have been upheld for decades — prompting legal observers to say Thomas was laying the groundwork to overturn Roe.

Pro-choice activists take part in a photo call in the grounds of Stormont Parliament, Belfast, Monday Oct. 21, 2019. Abortion is set to be decriminalized and same-sex marriage legalized in Northern Ireland as of midnight, bringing its laws in line with the rest of the U.K. (Niall Carson/PA via AP)

Pro-choice activists take part in a photo call in the grounds of Stormont Parliament, Belfast, Monday Oct. 21, 2019. Abortion is set to be decriminalized and same-sex marriage legalized in Northern Ireland as of midnight, bringing its laws in line with the rest of the U.K. (Niall Carson/PA via AP)

The 5th Circuit Court of appeals recently lifted an injunction issued by a lower court against the Louisiana law, but the Supreme Court quickly restored the injunction.

The Supreme Court’s upcoming decision comes as abortion has taken center stage in legal battles across the United States, with numerous states passing stricter limits on abortion.

Last August, Planned Parenthood announced that it was pulling out of the Title X federal family planning program rather than abide by a new Trump administration rule prohibiting participants from referring patients for abortions.

Fox News’ Bill Mears, Shannon Bream and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


China imposes harsh new rules governing religious groups in 2020

By Leah MarieAnn Klett, Christian Post Reporter

A cross is seen behind a poster with the logo of Communist Party of China near a Catholic church on the outskirts of Taiyuan, North China’s Shanxi province, December 24, 2016. | REUTERS/Jason Lee

China announced it will soon implement harsh new measures requiring all religious personnel to support and implement total submission to the Chinese Communist Party, sparking concern among Chinese Christians.

Asia News reports that the new administrative measures will be put in place for Chinese religious groups starting Feb. 1. The measures complete the“Regulations on religious affairs” revised two years ago and implemented on Feb. 1, 2018.

The new measures include six chapters and 41 articles dealing with the organization, functions, offices, supervision, projects and economic administration of communities and groups at both a national and local level.

Under the new rules, every aspect of the life of religious communities — from formation, gatherings to annual and daily projects — is subject to approval by the government’s religious affairs department.

Additionally, all religious personnel are required to support, promote and implement total submission to the Chinese Communist Party among all members of their communities.

Article 5 reads that “religious organizations must adhere to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, observe the constitution, laws, regulations, ordinances and policies, adhere to the principle of independence and self-government, adhere to the directives on religions in China, implementing the values ​​of socialism …”

According to Article 17, “Religious organizations must spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party, as well as national laws, regulations, rules to religious personnel and religious citizens, educating religious personnel and religious citizens to support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, supporting the socialist system, adhering to and following the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics …”

The law stipulates that “without the approval of the religious affairs department of the people’s government, or registration with the civil affairs department of the people’s government, no activities can be carried out in the name of religious groups.”

Persecution watchdog International Christians Concern warns that the latest measures will be used by the Communist government as a ”legal tool to further tighten space for religious groups.”

A Chinese Catholic priest told Asia News the new provisions are just another example of the CCP’s continued crackdown on religion.

“In practice, your religion no longer matters, if you are Buddhist, or Taoist, or Muslim or Christian: the only religion allowed is faith in the Chinese Communist Party,” he said.

Since the initial implementation of the “Regulations on religious affairs” in 2018, Christians and other religious groups have experienced heightened levels of persecution. China has banned online sales of Bibles, leveled churches, and arrested hundreds of Christians for “inciting subversion of state power.”

In December, China sentenced Wang Yi, founder of one of China’s largest unregistered churches, to nine years in prison for “subversion of state power.” The U.S. condemned the sentencing as “another example of “Beijing’s intensification of repression of Chinese Christians and members of other religious groups.”

The Chinese government has also been accused of detaining more than a million Muslims in what it calls re-education camps.

In a letter released Dec. 31, the China Human Rights Lawyers Group warned that it seems as though the “Cultural [Revolution] is returning in covert form” across China.

“Basic freedom of speech is being suppressed, sensitive news is prohibited, ideological discussions in universities are being shut down. Many matters of societal welfare are politicized, and internet censorship is the norm,” they wrote. “The state of human rights in China is in rapid decline.

“Human rights violations in the Chinese frontier are being roundly criticized and condemned by many countries. China’s leaders seem to have become the enemies of civilized countries overnight. By the looks of things, there is really no reason to be optimistic as we look at the festering regression of China’s human rights situation throughout 2019.”

Despite oppression, the lawyers urged human rights advocates and others to continue making the “most fundamental efforts for the sake of advancing the cause of human rights in China.”

China is ranked 27th on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List of 50 countries where it’s most difficult to be a Christian.


42.4M babies killed by abortion in 2019; here’s what’s ahead for US abortion laws in 2020

By Brandon Showalter, CP Reporter

In 2019, around 42.4 million pregnancies ended in abortion worldwide.

According to Worldometers, which tabulates global statistics on abortion procedures based on the most current available figures from the World Health Organization, 40 to 50 million abortions are performed annually worldwide.

The website notes that in the United States, approximately half of pregnancies are “unintended” with four in 10 ending in an abortion, amounting to over 3,000 abortions being performed every day. Not including miscarriages, 22 percent of all pregnancies end in abortion. Globally, around 125,000 abortions happen every day.

The figures come following an increased push in Southern and Midwestern state legislatures in the U.S. to save lives by setting limits on abortion and enforcing health and safety standards for clinics. Alabama passed a near-total ban on abortion, while progressive states such as New York and Illinois passed laws allowing abortion up until a baby is born. Whereas Louisiana, Georgia Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio passed laws banning most abortions as soon as a preborn baby’s heartbeat can be detected.

The abortion rate in the U.S. has fallen significantly in recent years, a decrease that is attributed to a variety of factors.

From 2014 to 2017, the number of abortions performed in the U.S. dropped from 926,190 to 862,320, a 7 percent decrease and record low, according to data compiled by the Guttmacher Institute.

The means by which abortions are carried out has also changed with medication abortions (abortion pill) increasing from 5 percent of all abortions in 2001 to 39 percent in 2017, even as abortion rates have declined.

Abortion clinics also continue to close around the nation.

The Christian Post reported Dec. 19 that a pro-abortion group called Abortion Care Network released a report titled “Communities Need Clinics” showing the number of independently owned abortion clinics — not including Planned Parenthood facilities —  has declined by 32 percent since 2012, with 136 clinics having closed since 2014.

2019 also saw the abortion issue enter the public discussion in a different way through storytelling with the film “Unplanned,” which is based on the experiences of former Planned Parenthood director turned pro-life advocate Abby Johnson. The film earned $21 million at the box office.

As the 2020 presidential election nears, the debate over abortion will likely animate politics as the Democratic and Republican parties write their platforms at their respective national conventions and as contested state laws are be adjudicated in court.

Every Democratic presidential candidate that remains in the race is on record saying they support taxpayer-funded abortion at the federal level. In response to questions from The New York Times, all of the candidates said they would “codify Roe v. Wade” and “repeal the Hyde amendment,” the legislative provision first instituted in 1976 that forbids the use of federal funds through Medicaid or other government entities to pay for abortions. For decades the amendment had notable bipartisan support.

The Democratic presidential candidates also said they would preserve government funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion business.

Later this year, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case of June Medical Services v. Gee, which centers around a Louisiana law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The case is the first abortion rights case to be heard since the confirmation of President Trump’s nominees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the high court bench.

Depending on how the court rules, the decision will either uphold or reverse a recent ruling on a similar statute. In 2016, the court handed down a 5-3 decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, striking down a nearly identical Texas law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic where they practice.

Yet, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which adjudicates matters from both Texas and Louisiana, has maintained that “stark differences” exist between the factual records in the two cases.

The author of the Louisiana bill, then-state representative and now a state senator Katrina Jackson, who is African American and a Democrat, will be arguing before the Court on March 4 alongside the Office of the Louisiana Attorney General. She will again be featured as a speaker on the main stage of the March for Life on Jan. 24, having also spoken last year from the same stage.


Europe: Anti-Christian Attacks Reach All-Time High in 2019

by Soeren Kern

Northern Ireland bishops say ‘unjust’ abortion law requires ‘conscientious objection’

Northern Ireland bishops say ‘unjust’ abortion law requires ‘conscientious objection’

Pro-life supporters stand with signs outside the High Court in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Jan. 30, 2019. (Credit: Brian Lawless/Reuters via CNS.)

LEICESTER, United Kingdom – No one is obliged to cooperate with Northern Ireland’s new abortion legislation, according to the Catholic bishops of the province.

In July, the pro-life protections in Northern Ireland were removed in a series of amendments to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act, that had the primary function of dealing with the exercise of government functions in Northern Ireland, since the power-sharing agreement collapsed in January 2017. The amendments also imposed same-sex marriage in the North, which is already legal in the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

The law went into effect in October, and although it removed the pro-life protections in Northern Ireland, it didn’t impose the restrictions on abortion that exist in England, Wales, and Scotland, meaning Northern Ireland currently has the most liberal abortion laws in the United Kingdom.

However, the Executive Formation Act mandated the creation of a new framework to provide lawful access to abortion services in Northern Ireland by March 31, 2020. The consultations on this framework closed on Dec. 16.

In response to the consultation, the bishops declared the new abortion law was “unjust,” and said that everyone “is morally obliged to oppose this law by conscientious objection.”

“A civil law which legitimizes the direct and intentional killing of innocent human beings by means of abortion disregards their inviolable right to life. By seeking to establish regulations and procedures to facilitate the killing of unborn children, which society exists to protect and care for, such a law undermines the common good and the equality of all persons before the law,” the bishops wrote. “Therefore, this law cannot be regarded as possessing any authentic juridical validity or any morally binding force.”

That being said, the bishops called on the new regulatory framework to provide all healthcare professionals to be given the “right to refuse to participate in any aspect of the delivery of abortion services such as consultation, administration, preparation, in addition to the direct and intentional act of abortion itself.”

They also called for pharmacists working in hospitals and pharmacies in the wider community to be able to exercise conscientious objection when asked to provide or stock medications designed to assist another person in carrying out an abortion.

“Those who have recourse to conscientious objection must be protected from legal penalties, disciplinary proceedings, discrimination or any adverse impact on career prospects. Obstetrics and gynecology must not become the domain of only those doctors and other medical staff who are willing to participate in abortion services,” the bishops wrote.

In addition, they are “completely opposed” to any attempt to include abortion services of any kind in the schools of Northern Ireland, the majority of which are sectarian.

“With regard to Catholic schools, central to our school ethos is the promotion of the dignity and life of every human being. The provision of abortion services in our schools would be contrary to everything a Catholic school stands for with regard to respect for all citizens and the promotion of the common good. Similarly, any inclusion within the school curriculum of information about how to access abortion services would fundamentally undermine the Catholic ethos of our schools,” the bishops said.

The bishops also called on any legislation to include “appropriate counselling services and a significant time period be provided for careful reflection on the serious nature of a decision to abort the unborn child” for women considering abortion.

Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome


Europe needs a “climate change on religious freedom,” says EU Special Envoy

Jan Figel during a speech - credit: Jan Figel
Jan Figel during a speech – credit: Jan Figel

According to the latest report of the Observatory on Intolerance and discrimination Against Christians in Europe, there have been in the last year about 500 cases of anti-Christian discrimination on European soil.

Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world.

In Europe, the persecution might be subtle or take place in the form of attacks on  sites of worship. The situation in the world is different. This is the reason why the exiting European Commission looked attentively at the religious persecutions and established the office of the EU Special Envoy for Religious Freedom outside  the European Union.

EU announced the establishment of the office on the very day Pope Francis was given the Charlemagne Prize in the Vatican.

Jan Figel was chosen as the EU special envoy for religious freedom. In that capacity, Figel was able to carry out some remarkable successes, as the liberation of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death. The woman won her final appeal, but she was in danger in her country. It was thanks to Jan Figel that she and her family were able to leave Pakistan and find a haven in Canada.

The new European Commission, along with the new EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, will have to decide whether to renew the mandate to Figel or not.

On Oct. 15-16, an event about the “Inventory of religious freedom” took place in Brussels. The event’s goal was to summarize the step forward in terms of religious freedom and assess how religious freedom is important for the future.

Jan Figel took the floor at the end of the meeting, wrapping up the discussion. In his intervention, he stressed that “Freedom of religion and belief is a condition of good governance, important for believers and non-believers,” and it is “a civilizational objective and criterion, representing freedom of thought, conscience, religion.”

Figel then stressed that “we need a climate change on religious freedom.”

Figel underscored that “religious freedom for decades was a neglected, abandoned, misinterpreted human right.”

Mentioning Pew Forum figures, Figel said that “today, 79% of the global population lives in countries with high or very high obstacles against freedom of religion or belief.”

Figel distinguishes four levels of problems and crises, based on Pew Forum’s 2019 book “A Closer Look at How religious restrictions have risen around the world,” which analyses figures on religious freedom in the decade from 2007 to 2017: intolerance, discrimination, persecution, and genocide.

Figel notes that “government restrictions on religion – laws, policies, and actions by state officials – increased markedly around the world. Indeed, 52 governments – including some in very populous countries like China, Indonesia, and Russia – impose either ‘high’ or ‘very high’ levels of restrictions on religion (up from 40 in 2007)”.

The figures also show that “social hostilities involving religion – including violence and harassment by private individuals, organizations or groups – also have risen since 2007. The number of countries where people are experiencing the highest levels of social hostilities involving religion has risen from 39 to 56 throughout the study”.

Figel also mentioned the UK Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ special report on religious freedom. The report said that religious persecution against Christian is “almost at the level of genocide.”

Figel also stressed that there is also good news on the religious freedom side.

Among the good news are items such as the EU Guidelines of 28 Member States, adopted in 2013; the establishment in the European parliament of first Intergroup for freedom of religion and belief and religious tolerance, with 38 members so far; the International Contact Group of Freedom of Religion and Belief diplomats, set up in 2015 and joined by a growing number of countries; and, finally, the establishment of the EU Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion Outside EU.

Figel finally advanced five recommendations: work on the freedom of religion and belief within a human rights framework; boost the freedom of religion and belief literacy; support the engagement with religious actors and inter-religious dialogue; implement a more strategic and contextualized approach at the country level; step up coordination among member States and European Union on religious freedom.

During his five-year mandate, Figel also launched the Declaration for Human Dignity for everyone and everywhere, signed by politicians and members of the academy.

As mentioned, Figel was also involved in the Asia Bibi case. The case was an evident abuse of religious freedom, and Figel could, in his capacity, shed light on the issues of religious freedom. Figel was able to go to Pakistan for the first time in December 2017 and paid a second visit in 2018.

“During the talks – Figel recalled – I spoke about the importance of dignity and justice for every Pakistani citizen, especially minorities. I tirelessly spoke with my high-level interlocutors about the importance of having clear signs that the Pakistani authorities are moving toward the rule of law and justice for all. Delayed justice is denied justice.”

Figel’s involvement in Asia Bibi’s case was decisive for the Asia Bibi released. According to Figel, this showed that “European Union is a soft power that can facilitate positive changes in the world on justice, sustainable development, human rights protection and more effective promotion of religious freedom.”

It is not yet known whether the office of the Special Envoy for Religious Freedom outside the EU will be renewed. The outcomes, however, showed that religious freedom is a crucial factor and that EU commitment in advancing religious freedom in the world might be of benefit for the same EU.