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


Harvard Smears Homeschooling Parents and Their Children

An article in Harvard Magazine peddles stereotypes about parents using homeschooling as a guise for abuse and paints homeschool parents as incompetent and stupid. (Photo: Mayur Kakade/Getty Images)

In what has to be one of the most outrageous, misguided—frankly, garbage—pieces of elitist propaganda this year, Harvard Magazine and Harvard Law School have teamed up to attack homeschooling, of all things, in a clearly coordinated one-two punch.

Both attacks are baseless, stereotypical, and fundamentally flawed because they are rooted in the dangerous belief that the state has more authority over a mother’s child than she does.

In the May issue of Harvard Magazine is a piece by Erin O’Donnell headlined “The Risks of Homeschooling.” Sure, on its face, that sounds benign enough. I homeschooled my four children for six years, and I’d grant there are a few risks to that education model, just as there are to public and private schools.

Turns out, the article doesn’t weigh pros and cons to homeschooling, which now is being tried by countless Americans as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the article lacks any nuance whatsoever and instead acts as a vehicle for a biased onslaught of secular statism against parental rights.

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O’Donnell launches her hit piece on homeschooling with the premise that children have rights equal to or greater than their parents, and the state actually has more rights than the homeschooled child’s parents do. She begins by quoting Elizabeth Bartholet, an authoritarian, radical professor of public interest law who says she “recommends a presumptive ban” on homeschooling.

Bartholet, also faculty director of  Harvard Law School’s Child Advocacy Program, says that “homeschooling violates children’s right to a meaningful education and their right to be protected from potential child abuse,” and that parents have “authoritarian control over their children.”

Bartholet observes, wrongly, that since there are so few regulations, parents may not teach their children anything, or in fact may be abusive.

Bartholet was one of several professors who organized an anti-homeschooling conference at Harvard Law School scheduled to take place in June. A description of the conference, which is invitation-only, says: “The focus will be on problems of educational deprivation and child maltreatment that too often occur under the guise of homeschooling.”

One solution offered on the conference site for the problems created by homeschooling is, again, simply to ban it altogether.

The problems with this Harvard Magazine piece and the scheduled conference at Harvard Law School are multifaceted.

O’Donnell’s article peddles stereotypes about parents using homeschooling as a guise for abuse, which is incredibly rare, and paints homeschool parents as incompetent and stupid, which is also incredibly flawed. Statistics show parents who homeschool actually tend to be more educated and wealthier than parents who don’t.

The magazine cover is my favorite part: The illustration shows a boy imprisoned in a “house” made of books as his public and private school friends frolic happily outside. The books are, of course, titled Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and—my personal favorite—the Bible.

Not only did the fantastic illustrators at Harvard Magazine spell “arithmetic” wrong (as “artithmetic”) and later correct it, but the insinuations are obvious: Homeschooled children are imprisoned by religious zealots who educate their kids at home because they fear the outside world, with all its secularization and happy children.

Corey A. DeAngelis@DeAngelisCorey

Harvard Magazine misspelled “arithmetic” in an image accompanying their anti-homeschooling article.

Some people argued the misspelling was intentional to bash homeschoolers.

BUT THEY JUST CORRECTED THE SPELLING

That proves the embarrassing spelling mistake was not intentional.

View image on Twitter
797 people are talking about this

Again, few things could be further from the truth. Statistics show parents who homeschool actually do it so they can provide a more academically rigorous education than the one their kids would receive elsewhere. They don’t do it solely for religious reasons.

And as far as play and exercise: My 13-year-old, who was homeschooled until sixth grade, looked at it the illustration and laughed. He misses the days when he could get school done in four or five hours and play outside the rest of the day.

O’Donnell’s article also insinuates children who are homeschooled graduate dumber, which, again, statistics refute. Homeschooled kids end up with higher grade point averages, score higher on standardized tests, and get accepted into top schools—like Harvard.

In fact, parents homeschool for precisely the reason the article presents: They want to keep their children from progressive indoctrination that’s as biased as it is flawed.

Beyond all of this nonsense is the article’s single largest flaw, which is so obvious it’s hard to believe the thesis passed the inspection of a decent editor: These Harvard elitists don’t bother to hide their disdain for traditional family, parental rights, or the topic of homeschool education, which has increased in popularity in the United States over the past decade.

Despite this increase, by the way, fewer than 5% of children are homeschooled in the United States. From reading this article, though, you’d think homeschooling was the predominant model of education because it’s painted as such a pervasive threat.

Children do not belong to the state, at least not in America. Parents have the right, an inherent gift from God, to care for their little people until they are old enough to care for themselves.

It is the parents’ responsibility, nay, privilege, to teach their children everything from how to use the bathroom to how to do long division to how to process emotions and how to drive a car.

Parents can and should do everything they can to instill their values and pass down their beliefs, whether they choose to send their kids to school, educate them at home, or a mix depending on the year and season of life.

Typically, I’m not surprised by leftist propaganda. But when it comes to Harvard University, I am surprised and disappointed. Harvard should know better. After all, the university accepts homeschool students and expects them to thrive.

It’s humanist garbage to peddle an article and a conference that presume children are the property of the state and that homeschooling is dangerous and must be banned. And the garbage is where this belongs.

Source: dailysignal.com


The tiny premature baby who fought off coronavirus

  • 21 April 2020
Peyton MaguireImage copyrightTRACY MAGUIRE
Image captionPeyton Maguire was born eight weeks premature – weeks later she was diagnosed with coronavirus

Tracy Maguire remembers the moment she saw doctors insert a swab into her three-week-old baby’s nose to test for coronavirus.

The new mother says it is one of the “worst things” she has seen.

“It was the first time I’d seen my baby cry tears,” she said. “I held her, I was crying and we were just trying to get each other through the situation”.

Born prematurely at just 3lbs 5oz (1.5kg), baby Peyton was diagnosed with Covid-19 at just three weeks old.

Her arrival on 26 March – eight weeks before her due date – defied all of the family’s planning.

Despite feeling healthy, Tracy was told she may have pre-eclampsia during a routine appointment and was sent straight to Wishaw General Hospital in Lanarkshire.

Tracy Maguire
Image captionTracy had no idea she was unwell – and was taken straight to hospital

‘She’s fine – but she has Covid-19’

After those first weeks, during which Peyton enjoyed a bath in the ward, she began to show the slightest of symptoms – a sniffle and a few coughs, almost undetectable.

Tracy told BBC Radio Scotland’s Mornings with Kaye Adams programme the news that her baby had become one of the country’s youngest virus patients was traumatic.

“They said ‘she’s fine, don’t panic – but she has tested positive for coronavirus’,” said Tracy.

“I think the doctor was trying to keep me calm but I was sobbing.

“As much as she was fine I thought at what point was she with the virus? How is she fighting against it when she’s so wee? It was just the unknown.”

Tracy MaguireImage copyrightTRACY MAGUIRE
Image captionTracy and Adrian give Peyton a bath in the days following the Caesarean section

Peyton was given steroids to help strengthen her lungs and received “amazing” care from neonatal nurses in the days that followed her diagnosis.

However, after recovering from her Caesarean section, Tracy was told she would have to go home and isolate for 14 days away from her baby.

She said: “I was pleading on the phone with the doctor saying I don’t want to be away from her.

“As much as everyone was looking after her, I’m her mum. Even if it was the cold, I’d want to be there with her.”

Doctors relented and allowed Tracy to stay – but Adrian would have to go home and complete the isolation period in order to see his baby girl.

As days passed, the number of deaths in Scotland caused by the virus continued to increase – but Peyton recovered.

Media captionPeyton and her mum featured in BBC filming at the University Hospital Wishaw in Lanarkshire

She and Tracy were discharged on Monday and Adrian has now held her for the first time since leaving hospital.

Tracy said: “From Adrian’s point of view, I think he felt a bit useless – first his baby is coming early and secondly his wife isn’t well and he couldn’t be there.”

‘Put your trust in nurses’

Now home and settling into a routine, Tracy and family have praised the doctors and nurses at Wishaw General who guided them through a remarkable and daunting birth.

Peyton MaguireImage copyrightTRACY MAGUIRE
Image captionA smiling Peyton who fought off coronavirus just weeks after being born

Tracy said: “They are doing a job that is unreal – they put their life at risk to make sure my baby was getting fed and cuddled in their full PPE.

“It’s spectacular, you’ll never understand how grateful you can be to people. Peyton is my most precious thing in the whole world and I trusted them to look after her.

“To any mums that are worried, put your trust in these nurses.”

Source: bbc.com


Pro-life leaders call for coronavirus vaccine without abortion ties

Credit: Seasontime/Shutterstock.
Credit: Seasontime/Shutterstock.

.- Development of an effective, safe and widely available vaccine for the novel coronavirus is deeply important, but its development should avoid unethical links to abortion, said pro-life leaders in a letter to the Trump administration.

“It is critically important that Americans have access to a vaccine that is produced ethically: no American should be forced to choose between being vaccinated against this potentially deadly virus and violating his or her conscience,” said the April 17 letter to Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Fortunately, there is no need to use ethically problematic cell lines to produce a COVID vaccine, or any vaccine, as other cell lines or processes that do not involve cells from abortions are available and are regularly being used to produce other vaccines,” it continued.

The letter’s signers include Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities; the heads of three other bishops’ conference committees; and leaders of many other Catholic and non-Catholic groups.

The letter comes after the release of the Trump administration’s gradual three-phase plan to remove restrictions on economic and social life while seeking to contain the coronavirus spread, especially spread to vulnerable populations. A coronavirus vaccine, if effective, could help prevent infection and speed economic recovery.

The letter’s signers “strongly support” vaccine development “as quickly as possible.” At the same time, they urged the federal government to “ensure that fundamental moral principles are followed in the development of such vaccines, most importantly, the principle that human life is sacred and should never be exploited.”

“We are aware that, among the dozens of vaccines currently in development, some are being produced using old cell lines that were created from the cells of aborted babies,” signatories said.

They cited the case of Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc, which has a “substantial contract” from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is working on a vaccine produced using “ethically problematic cell lines.”

The letter encouraged other vaccine development that uses cell lines not linked to these “unethical procedures and methods.” These are in development by companies like Sanofi, Pasteur, and Inovio, they added, while also noting the work of the Iowa-based John Paul II Medical Research Institute.

The letter was copied to President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar, II.

Besides Archbishop Naumann, other bishops signing the letter are Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, chair of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, chair of the Committee on Doctrine; and Bishop John Doerfler of Marquette, chair of the Subcommittee on Healthcare Issues.

Signers include Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Michael Parker, president of the Catholic Medical Association; Joseph Meaney, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center; Ellen Gianoli, president of the National Association of Catholic Nurses, U.S.A.; Marianne Linane, director of the National Association of Pro-Life Nurses; Donna J. Harrison, executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Michael P. Farris, president, CEO and general counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom; Travis S. Weber, vice president for policy and government affairs at the Family Research Council; Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life America; and Lila Rose, president and founder of LiveAction.

Catholic teaching acknowledges the right to well-formed conscientious objection to many legal mandates and medical procedures, while also emphasizing vaccination as a matter of public responsibility.

2005 document from the Pontifical Academy for Life considered the moral issues surrounding vaccines prepared in cell lines descended from aborted fetuses. The Vatican group concluded that it is both morally permissible and morally responsible for Catholics to use these vaccines.

The pontifical academy also noted that Catholics have an obligation to use ethically-sourced vaccines when available, and have an obligation to speak up and request the development of new cell lines that are not derived from aborted fetuses.

The 2008 Vatican document Dignitatis Personae strongly criticized aborted fetal tissue research. However, as regards common vaccines, such as those for chicken pox and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), that may be derived from cell lines of aborted babies, the Vatican said they could be used by parents for “grave reasons” such as danger to their children’s health.

In a 2017 document on vaccines, the Pontifical Academy for Life noted a “moral obligation to guarantee the vaccination coverage necessary for the safety of others… especially the safety of more vulnerable subjects such as pregnant women and those affected by immunodeficiency who cannot be vaccinated against these diseases.”

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Eugenics Must Not Be Allowed To Sneak Through The Backdoor With Coronavirus

We must be aware of the danger of making medical decisions which would be detrimental to the most vulnerable in society, Care Not Killing CEO Gordon Macdonald writes.

GETTY CREATIVE
Now is the time to think about dying, author Diana Melly writes.

The NHS response to Covid-19 has been incredible. It has shown the strong commitment by the medical profession and society more generally to the principle of the sanctity of human life.

This is encouraging to see in the face of an orchestrated campaign by advocates for the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia for disabled people and those with terminal and chronic illnesses.

I do not doubt that it would be easy in this time of national crisis to embrace such a view. Doctors will face difficult decisions over the coming weeks and months as the capacity of the healthcare system is pushed beyond its limits. But we must resist these siren voices, because we can’t allow a return to the eugenics movement and its dark past.

The eugenics movement started in Britain during the late 19th Century, arising in the context of social Darwinism and the theory of the survival of the fittest. It quickly spread to other Western countries. It led to abuses such as the sterilisation of people with mental illness or learning difficulties in the USA during the 1920s. The movement reached its awful peak in Nazi Germany during the late 1930s with the euthanising of disabled people and those who had learning disabilities.

The underlying philosophy was of racial and genetic superiority and anyone who did not fit this model, or that was considered to be less than perfect, had “a life not worthy to be lived”. This dangerous philosophy ultimately resulted in the slaughter of six million Jews and five million other people in the horrors of the Holocaust.

Following the war, eugenics was discredited because of these atrocities. However, in recent years, a new eugenics movement has begun to appear with the opportunity provided by scientific advancement to alter the genetic make-up of human beings and to “breed out” disability and genetic conditions. The re-emergence of the idea that some lives are not worth living is being applied to vulnerable people who are deemed to have become a burden on society.

Worryingly this view has been given oxygen by former BBC Today presenter John Humphys, writing in the Daily Mail: “I know I’m among the vulnerable group for coronavirus, but just don’t believe all lives are equal.”

Similarly, Max Hastings, speaking on BBC World at One, stated that the elderly are “becoming a dead weight on the NHS”. Such thinking and sentiments are troubling.

Already stories are beginning to emerge of GPs contacting their patients with existing health conditions to ask whether they would want a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order to be included in their notes.

This might simply reflect a desire to ensure that if one of their patients with another serious medical condition also develops Covid-19, or gets admitted to hospital for another reason, there is no lack of clarity over the patient’s wishes. But whatever the reason, we must be cautious when extending clinical judgements to the subjective measure of quality of life.

We have already heard reports of DNR notices being placed on groups of vulnerable patients, such as those in care homes, in a carte blanche manner and without any consultation with the patients involved or their wider families. This has now been forbidden by the health secretary, and care homes have been instructed to rip up existing agreements. But concerns remain about whether vulnerable people will receive life saving treatment should they be admitted to hospital with Covid-19, and whether they will even be admitted in the first place.

Although such examples do not constitute euthanasia or assisting suicide because doctors are not actively hastening the end of patients’ lives, there is a danger that the same eugenicist thinking can feature.

Disabled rights spokespeople such as Baroness Campbell or Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson have expressed concerns that disabled people are increasingly being seen as “expendable”.

While we live through these unprecedented times, inevitably, very difficult decisions have to be taken about who to treat in a context of grossly overstretched healthcare resources. But we must be aware of the danger of changing medicine in a way which would be detrimental to the most vulnerable in society.

In responding to the Covid-19 virus, we must ensure no back door is left open to the dangerous philosophy of eugenics.

 Gordon Macdonald is chief executive of Care Not Killing. 

Source: huffingtonpost.co.uk


Six Children, Pregnant Mother among Nine Christians Killed in Herdsmen Attack in Nigeria

Muslim Fulani terrorists also strike in Niger state.

Niger state, Nigeria. (Profoss, from original by Uwe Dedering)

Niger state, Nigeria. (Profoss, from original by Uwe Dedering)

JOSNigeria (Morning Star News) – Six children and a pregnant woman were among nine people that Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed in north-central Nigeria Tuesday night (April 14), sources said.

About a dozen herdsmen armed with rifles and machetes raided Hura-Maiyanga village, in the Miango area of Kwall District in Plateau state’s Bassa County, shouting the jihadist slogan “Allahu Akbar [God is greater],” sources said.

“They were armed with machetes and AK-47 rifles as they attacked us,” Hanatu John, a woman who survived the attack, told Morning Star News. “They attacked our village at about 8 p.m., and they were shouting, ‘Allahu Akbar!’ as they shot into our houses.”

The assailants were speaking Fulfulde, the Fulani language, as they shot into homes, she said.

“Most families had already retired into houses to sleep when these Fulani gunmen came into the village and were shooting into houses,” John told Morning Star News in Miango town, where she took refuge. “As the herdsmen shot at us, we all ran out from our houses into the surrounding bushes. Some of the herdsmen chased after us and shot at us, while others were burning down our houses.”

Dalyop Solomon Mwantiri, director of the Emancipation Centre for Crisis Victims in Nigeria (ECCVN), confirmed the attack.

“Hura hamlet of Maiyanga village in Kwall District, Miango Chiefdom in Bassa Local Government Area, Plateau state was invaded last night on April 14th by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen, who surrounded the entire area and unleashed mayhem on the unsuspecting natives,” Mwantiri told Morning Star News by text message. “As a result, nine persons were gruesomely killed and two injured while 33 houses were completely torched by fire. Most of the persons killed were children.”

He identified those killed as Angela Daniel, 3; David Yakubu, 15; Luka Magwa, 5; Ishaya Yakubu, 7; Aba Ibrahim, 6; Stephen Ngwe, 7; the pregnant Talatu Daniel, 32, and her unborn child; Sunday Biri, 45; and Izhe Nkama, 43.

Those killed were buried in two separate mass graves, he said. Mwantiri identified the two people wounded as Esther James, 55, and 51-year-old Lami Ibrahim.

“Additionally, over 250 persons, mostly women and children, have been displaced with no means of livelihood,” Mwantiri said.

Miango resident Grace Gye sent a message to the Plateau state government on Wednesday (April 15) decrying the Fulani terrorist onslaught on area Christians and calling on state and federal governments “to protect the people and their property.” She questioned why Fulani herdsmen were moving about freely in spite of a lockdown in the face of the novel coronavirus.

The Rev. Ronku Aka, a former Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) pastor and now community leader of the Irigwe ethnic group, lamented incessant attacks on predominantly Christian communities.

“So many of my people have been killed over the years, including the attack of last night,” he told Morning Star News on Wednesday (April 15). “In spite of promises from the government to my people, the herdsmen have continuously been attacking our communities.”

The attack on Maiyanga comes on the heels of attacks by herdsmen in the area last month. On March 31, Christians were killed at Ancha village; the next day three more Christians were slain in the predominantly Christian community of Nkiedow-hro village, and seven others were killed in Hukke village.

On Jan. 14, 2018, armed herdsmen killed one Christian and wounded two others in an attack on Maiyanga village.

Killing, Kidnapping in Niger State

In northwestern Nigeria, Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Niger state on March 24 killed at least 20 people in two predominantly Christian villages and on March 2 kidnapped eight Christians in raids on a mission station, sources said.

The attacks on the villages of Galkogo and Zumba, killing more than 20 people, displaced 3,000 people, area residents told Morning Star News.

In Niger state’s Shiroro County, Fulani herdsmen raided a school in Maruba run by Calvary Ministries (CAPRO), kidnapping four missionaries, two volunteer staff members, another staff member and one student, according to Niyi Gbade, the ministry’s national director.

“Ask God to release them unharmed now,” Gbade told Morning Star News in a text message.

The school’s head teacher was shot and received hospital treatment, he said.

“Pray for the remaining missionaries on the base, that they will not be kidnapped, and that those being held should be released from any form of captivity,” Gbade said.

Herdsmen also raided Global Glorious Mission in Gofa, Shiroro County, on March 22, forcing missionaries and students to flee into bushes, according to a mission press statement last month.

“The Fulani herdsmen entered, ransacked and looted our Gofa field of Shiroro LGA, Niger and environs,” the statement read. “Some of the brethren have gone back in the night, and some returning this morning. Please stand with us in prayer for God’s intervention over this menace.”

In the past year, armed Fulani herdsmen have carried out a series of raids on Christian communities in the northwest, sending people fleeing to camps for the displaced.

On Jan. 30, Christian Solidarity International (CSI) issued a genocide warning for Nigeria, calling on the Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council to take action. CSI issued the call in response to “a rising tide of violence directed against Nigerian Christians and others classified as ‘infidels’ by Islamist militants in the country’s north and middle belt regions.’”

Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution but second in the number of Christians killed for their faith, behind Pakistan.

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UN Report on Religious Freedom Deems Abortion and Gender Identity as Human Rights

The United Nations report goes so far as to suggest an expanded role for the state in doctrinal matters if a religious institution has “harmful discriminatory gender norms.” (Photo: Lawrence Manning/Getty Images)

Billions of people around the world exercised their religious freedom during Holy Week, but a new United Nations report threatens to undermine both this freedom and women’s rights.

The report of Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N. expert responsible for protecting religious freedom, advances a “progressive” agenda of abortion and new “rights” based on membership in sexual identity groups.

It seems the U.N. is willing to trample the rights of the vulnerable and undermine the credibility of universal human rights to promote the values of a small number of wealthy countries—a travesty the Trump administration should oppose.

The report to the infamous U.N. Human Rights Council undermines the empowerment of women and girls by lumping their concerns together with novel claims based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It includes a controversial interpretation of “gender equality” that promotes acceptance of transgender ideology and the concept of multiple, fluid, “gender identities.”

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At one time, “gender equality” referred exclusively to decreasing the many inequalities that women face. But the U.N. bureaucracy has begun attempting to redefine gender to include “gender identity,” referring both to women who identify as men and men who identify as women.

In some nations, the creation of new rights based on gender identity has reduced safety and privacy for women and girls in places like shelters, prisons, and public restrooms. It has also decreased their opportunities to excel in athletics by forcing them to compete against biological males.

By focusing on the promotion of abortion and LGBTQ rights, the U.N. report turns the focus away from serious and pressing issues facing women and girls worldwide. Women comprise 52% of the victims of human trafficking each year, but the report makes no mention of this or of the work that religious groups do to combat it.

Eighty percent of the global population faces high restrictions on religious freedom, and many of these victims are women. But the report pays only superficial attention to this issue.

Instead, much of the report focuses on religion as justification for human-rights violations. The report accurately describes a few instances where religion is cynically used to justify human rights abuses perpetrated against women of minority faiths, including rape, forced sterilization, and forced abortion.

But then the report shockingly conflates conservative religious beliefs about life, marriage, and biological sex with religious justifications for abhorrent human rights violations.

Many women, as well as men, hold conservative religious beliefs, but the report treats their freedom to live according to these beliefs as secondary to abortion and new claims to rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity. No international treaty recognizes a right to abortion, but the report simply asserts that one exists and that it trumps a medical provider’s right to conscientious objection.

The report goes so far as to suggest an expanded role for the state in doctrinal matters if a religious institution has “harmful discriminatory gender norms.” It goes as far as to criticize religious believers in Africa who oppose introducing school books that promote homosexuality.

All people have human rights because of human dignity, including those who identify as LGBT, but this report bypasses the treaty negotiation process to simply assert that beliefs about sexual orientation and gender should trump the internationally-recognized human right of religious freedom.

Where treaties are silent, the U.N. bureaucracy should respect member states’ sovereignty and freedom to make their own laws. When a new right is asserted, it should be scrutinized to determine if it violates fundamental human rights. The established process by which member states debate and vote should be followed.

Bypassing this process devalues the votes of member states, particularly those that are small or poor. It opens the door to criticism that human rights are just a pretext for imposing Western values. The Holy See pointed this out, calling the report “ideological colonization.”

The Trump administration has taken bold steps to protect human rights, including by elevating the voices of women who survived the Islamic State genocide, Boko Haram, and the Holocaust. By hosting two groundbreaking ministerial summits on protecting international religious freedom, the U.S. has also created important multilateral alliances.

These alliances can do a great deal of good to protect this fundamental human right, including for women and girls. The U.N. bureaucracy should be a partner in this effort, not an adversary.

But for this to happen, the United States and like-minded allies must hold U.N. bureaucrats accountable for protecting human rights according to the texts of treaties, rather than undermining their very purpose.

Originally published in The Washington Times

Source: dailysignal.com


Chinese officials remove crosses from churches amid coronavirus for being ‘higher than the national flag’

 

Religious persecution grows in China and around the world

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Despite being under fire for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, China’s Communist government continues its crackdown on Christianity.

In March, Chinese Communist officials removed multiple crosses on churches in the eastern provinces of Jiangsu, Anhui and Shandong, claiming that religious symbols cannot physically be “higher” than the Chinese national flag, The Christian Post reports.

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China continues to incur a backlash over how it responded to the coronavirus crisis. An Associated Press investigation found President Xi Jinping warned the public six days after top Chinese officials determined the country was facing a pandemic, with Wuhan at its epicenter. At the time, millions were traveling for Lunar New Year celebrations.

“The government does not provide enough help during the epidemic but instead demolishes crosses,” a local believer told Bitter Winter, a religious liberty magazine.

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Tearing down crosses continues the government’s “sinicization” campaign. Government officials have told church leaders they removed the crosses because they “were too eye-catching” and would “attract people into the churches.”

KENTUCKY CHURCHGOERS MET WITH NAILS ON ROAD, POLICE RECORD LICENSE PLATES FOR EASTER SUNDAY SERVICE

In February, Chinese officials removed a cross from a government-approved Three-Self church in Hexi village, which had canceled all gatherings due to COVID-19.

Pastor Jian Zhu, director of the China Institute at Lincoln Christian University in Illinois, warns that China’s persecution against house churches is the worst he’s seen in decades: Neighbors are asked to spy on one another, and teachers and students are having to sign statements denouncing the faith.

“Now, they are trying to eliminate Christianity from public life,” Zhu explains. “Cameras are all over to watch church and Christians go to Sunday service. Families are threatened to not go to church, or they will be punished or their relatives could be in trouble.”

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China continues to rank as one of the worst persecutors of Christians and other religious minorities, according to watchdog groups.

Source: foxnews.com


CATHOLIC HOSPITALS UNDER ATTACK

Catholic hospitals are under unremitting attack—from prestigious medical journals, media, and lawyers in courtrooms. The goal is to coerce these venerable institutions into replacing their faith-based methods of medical practice with secular moral standards that deny the sanctity of human life.

A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine—perhaps the world’s most influential medical publication—illustrates the threat to medical conscience rights. Ian D. Wolfe and Thaddeus M. Pope, two prominent bioethicists, fret that one in six U.S. hospitals is “affiliated with a Catholic health system.” This is a problem, in their view, because religiously-affiliated hospitals often “refuse to provide legally permitted health services on the basis of institutional belief structures.” The authors are referring to services like abortion, sterilization (absent a pathology), assisted suicide (where legal), and transgender sex reassignment surgeries that alter a body’s normal biological functions. Refusing such procedures, the authors claim, leads to “substantial risks for patient choice, patient safety, and the fundamental principle of autonomy.”

Patient choice? Yes, sometimes. If a woman requests an abortion and the hospital says no, she is not getting what she wants. But safety? The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services allow Catholic hospitals to refuse interventions that violate Church belief, but nonetheless require that all patients receive proper care. That includes providing “all reasonable information about the essential nature of the proposed treatment and its benefits; its risks, side-effects, consequences, and cost; and any reasonable and morally legitimate alternative.” In practice, this may also include referring patients to non-Catholic institutions.

Worries over “safety” are more likely a deflection to mask anti-religious bigotry. Charles C. Camosy, associate professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University, believes that in many circumstances, the motive for attacking Catholic medicine “is about raw power. Certain influential people don’t want certain [medical] choices denied, so they try to use their power make things the way they want them to be.”

Wolfe and Pope urge states to legally require Catholic hospitals to provide medical procedures forbidden by Catholic teaching when patients ask for them, particularly when religiously-affiliated hospital systems merge with formerly secular institutions. They write (my emphasis):

State regulators could . . . require a public vote before approving hospital mergers that change a community’s access to services. Without proper protections, however, relying on a vote to approve mergers could undermine the rights of groups that are in the minority. We therefore believe that the most effective solution is to ensure that certain health services are protected by law and that access is not unfairly compromised by hospital mergers.

In other words, Wolfe and Pope would legally prevent Catholic hospitals from being “Catholic”—even though they admit that a minority of Catholic/secular hospital mergers save financially stressed institutions from closing. In such cases, it is a choice between either a local hospital becoming Catholic or having no hospital at all.

Most mergers do not involve such dire financial circumstances. But even here, mergers can improve quality of care beyond what a solitary hospital can offer. Bill Cox, president and CEO of the Alliance of Catholic Healthcare, gave me an example. “Being part of a multi-institutional system permits efficiencies of scale. By bringing together specialists and identifying the best practitioners in various practice areas, we can provide know-how and expertise that might not otherwise be available to underserved communities.” A specialist in Los Angeles might interface via telehealth with a patient in locations where trained specialists are few and far between. Cox told me: “In Alaska, Providence Saint Joseph Health [a Catholic hospital in Anchorage] is doing 1,000 telehealth visits a day throughout the state.”

Moreover, if states are allowed to essentially “ban” religious hospitals that merge with secular ones from adhering to the religious teaching of their affiliated faith, there are no logical reasons that such authoritarian prohibitions would only apply to mergers. After all, the issues of access, conscience, legality of controversial procedures, and freedom of religion are identical whether a hospital has recently merged with a religious organization or a Catholic hospital has been serving a community for 100 years.

The attacks on Catholic hospitals have already moved dramatically beyond the theoretical. Last year, in one of the most important religious freedom cases in the country, the California Court of Appeals okayed a lawsuit against a Catholic hospital known as Dignity Health (Minton v Dignity Health). A transgendered patient sued after the institution refused to provide a hysterectomy for the purpose of sex reassignment. There were two bases for Dignity’s refusal. First, the surgery would have removed a healthy uterus. Under Catholic healthcare directives, normal body functions can only be interfered with in order to treat or prevent pathologies. Second, the surgery would have sterilized the patient. Under Catholic moral teaching, medical acts that result in sterilization can only be performed to treat disease.

Note that these Catholic directives apply universally and do not invidiously target particular patient groups. It is the purpose of the procedure that is objectionable, not the patient. Thus, a man would be denied a vasectomy at a Catholic hospital. But if he had testicular cancer, he would be allowed surgery that resulted in sterilization—because the point of the procedure would be to treat a serious pathology. A transgendered patient with a broken arm in a Catholic setting would receive equivalent care to every other patient, without regard to sexual identity.

The ACLU and others have filed lawsuits against Catholic hospitals in various places around the country for refusing to provide prohibited interventions. Heretofore, they have all failed. The litigation against Dignity Health was originally dismissed as well. But in a shocking decision, the California Court of Appeals reinstated the case, ruling that the refusal to remove the transgendered person’s healthy uterus was a violation of California’s anti-discrimination law that freedom of religion does not protect. If the case goes to trial—the U.S. Supreme Court was just petitioned to grant a hearing—and large damages are assessed by the jury, coercion against Catholic healthcare will accelerate. And not just with regard to transgender issues. After all, if religiously-affiliated hospitals can be punished for refusing to excise healthy organs based on a patient’s subjective self-identification, why can’t they also be compelled to allow abortions or assist in suicide (where legal)? Indeed, why can’t they be forced to violate any Catholic dogmatic principle if it offends the secular mindset?

According to Cox, if the secularists prevails, “Either these institutions will have to shutter their doors or cease to be Catholic.” What a dilemma for a faith-based institution. Imagine the adverse impact if even half of these hospitals close. According to Alliance figures, in California Catholic institutions constitute 14.8 percent of acute care hospitals, representing more than 11,426 licensed acute beds and 2,664,205 (16.9 percent) of the state’s ER visits, and providing $1.79 billion in charity care or unreimbursed health services. Catholic hospitals have a particular mission to succor the poor, and they do. Cox told me that Dignity Health’s hospitals provide more MediCal services (California’s Medicaid) than any other state hospital system.

And this isn’t just happening in California. A federal case similar to the Dignity Health controversy was filed in New Jersey in 2017 by Lambda Legal. That case is pending. Proliferating litigation against Catholic medical institutions threatens the fundamental right of free exercise of religion. Beyond that, forcing Catholic hospitals to secularize would also obliterate comity—the societal glue that binds heterogeneous societies like ours together. If Wolfe and Pope get their way, and if lawsuits of the kind filed against Dignity Health succeed, we can kiss E Pluribus Unum goodbye.

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. His latest book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine.

Source: firstthings.com