Chinese Christians Caught Between Coronavirus and Persecution

03/23/2020 China (International Christian Concern) – Despite the Chinese government’s claim that there are no new confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in the country, China is still very engulfed in the battle against this disease.

Other than the patients and medical professionals who became direct victims from the outbreak, some Christians also face additional challenges during this time.

Christian persecution watchdog China Aid reports on the persecution faced by a member from the Fengle Church in Heshan city, Guangdong province.

Ruan Haonan, who used to be a chef at a hotel, is caught between the disease and harassment from the police. Though he has landed multiple jobs in the past few years, he was laid off repeatedly due to the police’s oppression.

“After our church was raided by the public security bureau in 2017, it has been difficult (for me) to look for a job. Every year local police would call me, question, and scold me, asking me not to share the gospel anymore,” Ruan said.

Ruan was criminally detained for a month for “Organizing and Using a Cult to Undermine Implementation of the Law” in June 2017. After that, he could only stay employed for a short period of time, since the police always find him and pressure his boss to lay him off.

“Now due to the virus, many restaurants are closed, it has become harder for me to find a job. […] Two days ago, I went to a factory (to look for employment), but they claimed that I have a criminal record and I am part of a cult. If I were to return to my hometown, the local police would ask me where I went and whether or not I am proselytizing. With little options left, I can only find a job that doesn’t require registration of ID, which pays little,” he added.

A Christian from Guizhou also told China Aid, “We have been meeting online since the Lunar New Year. Most people in Guiyang are staying at home, although some already started to work, we still gather online and avoid having it at home. First, we worry about the infectious disease. Second, we do not want to let the police know.”

House churches in China have been facing increasing pressure from the government in the last two years, often demanded to join the state-sanctioned Three-Self church, in order for them to survive. Those who refuse to comply face constant harassment or even closure.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].


How My Pregnancy Exposed The Silent Genocide Of Babies With Down Syndrome

It has never been a better time to be a person with Down syndrome, unless he is still in the womb.
Anna Bohach


When I was in my late 30s, I became pregnant with my youngest son. My family and I were overcome with joy and excitement at the promise of a new baby. My oldest son, having two younger sisters, had prayed every night for two and a half years for a baby brother named Charlie. God always listens to the prayers of children.

My excitement was short-lived and replaced with fear and uncertainty after a series of appointments wherein doctors told me I was of advanced maternal age and should consider genetic testing to be sure I wasn’t pregnant with a “defective” baby. I declined all genetic testing, much to my doctor’s dismay.

At 20 weeks, I had my first ultrasound and anatomy scan of my baby. My husband and I were very happy as we found out we were indeed having a boy. We came home that day and gave our children a box filled with blue balloons to reveal our baby’s sex.

The next day, I woke up on cloud nine, feeling healthy, happy, and joyful — until I got a call from my doctor informing me they had discovered an abnormality. She told me my baby had a mass on his neck that alarmed her, and she wanted to transfer me to a specialist in maternal fetal medicine. I asked what the mass might be, but she declined to tell me, saying she didn’t want to “freak me out.” Too late.

Finding a Doctor Who Actually Cared for Me and My Baby

I immediately contacted the specialist to schedule an appointment. I told the specialist I couldn’t come in right away because my husband had started a new job and we didn’t know the exact day our health insurance started. At first, they told me that would be fine, but when I called back a week later and told them my insurance began in four weeks, they told me I couldn’t wait that long as I wouldn’t be able to schedule an abortion that late in pregnancy.

At this point, I still had no idea what was wrong with my baby, and specialists were already telling me I would need to schedule an abortion. I asked the nurse what was wrong with my baby, and she told me she couldn’t discuss it over the phone.

I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. Never in my life had I felt so alone and desperate to protect my child. I declined the offer to make an appointment. I broke down in tears, sobbing uncontrollably until my husband came home and picked me up off the floor.

It took me three weeks to find a doctor who would treat my son and me like human beings. When I finally met with my new doctor at 26 weeks and five days, he informed me that my son had a marker for Down syndrome. The mass on his neck was called a “thickened nuchal fold,” which is commonly seen in babies who have Down syndrome.

My jaw dropped open, and I remember saying, “That is it? My baby might have Down syndrome, and they put me through all of this?” My doctor told me we could do a test to see for sure if Charlie had the disorder, or we could wait until birth to see, as everything else indicated he was a healthy baby boy. My husband and I decided to wait, since it did not matter to us.

When our Charlie was born, he did indeed have Down syndrome, and I loved him just the way he was. Down syndrome is just a part of who he is; it is not what he is. He is a perfect combination of love, joy, happiness, and hugs in the cutest little package imaginable.

How the Medical Community Lies About Down Syndrome

My shock at being told my baby should have been aborted was well justified. When I researched prenatal Down syndrome diagnoses, I found that in the United States, 65 to 90 percent of pregnancies prenatally diagnosed with the disorder are terminated. In countries such as Denmark and Iceland, nearly 100 percent of such pregnancies are terminated.

When mothers receive a Down syndrome diagnosis, doctors tend to present termination as their first option, giving them prejudiced, bigoted, and outdated information on the lives of people with Down syndrome. The literature often emphasizes and exaggerates the difficulties associated with the condition.

Even the Centers for Disease Control, as of today, lists outdated information, talking only about the detrimental aspects and costs of the disorder. Nowhere does it mention how those with the condition contribute to society nor the joy and happiness they bring to their families and community. Nowhere in the medical literature given to pregnant mothers does it discuss that people with Down syndrome live fulfilling lives, that their siblings are joyful, and that their parents are the happiest. The pamphlets never tell expectant moms that their children can one day go to college, get a job, fall in love and get married, have children, and even drive a car.

It has never been a better time to be a person with Down syndrome, unless he or she is still in the womb. Sadly, they have been targeted by a brave new world for genocide. How can women be expected to make a free choice when every piece of information they receive about Down syndrome is negative, and doctors bully them to abortThat is not a choice; that is coercion.

In 1930s Germany, people with Down syndrome were the first victims of Hitler’s final solution. They were viewed as drains on society, and it was seen as “merciful” to kill them. At the same time in the United States, eugenicists such as Margaret Sanger of Planned Parenthood advocated for the forced sterilization, imprisonment, and “mercy killing” of all people she deemed to be “morons.” Planned Parenthood to this day still promotes this dark ideology and praises Sanger for her work.

This is the same final solution governments and the medical community, including Planned Parenthood, use today to eradicate people with Down syndrome. Planned Parenthood heavily promotes genetic testing and abortion for pregnant women and advocates aborting babies who have been diagnosed with Down syndrome prenatally.

Iceland claims it has “eradicated” the condition through genetic testing. The country did not cure the condition, however. It killed an entire group of people who had it. That is called genocide.

Standing for the Rights of People with Down Syndrome

In the last 40 years, the lives of people with Down syndrome have greatly improved thanks to parent advocacy groups and prominent people shining a light on their plight. In 1980, the life expectancy for a person with Down syndrome was 25. Today it is 60.

Parent advocates created organizations such as the National Down Syndrome Society and the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. These organizations fight for the rights and dignity of people with the disorder. As a result of their tireless efforts, people with Down syndrome are thriving and living their lives in ways never thought possible before — living independently, going to college, and getting married.

Sadly, the majority of Down syndrome advocacy groups are purposely ignoring the silent genocide being carried out against this vulnerable people group. They don’t want to be viewed as political, and many who run the organizations are abortion supporters and refuse to say anything against the gruesome practice, even if their silence means the very people they fight for will disappear.

March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day, a time to highlight the inherent dignity of people with the condition and fight for their rights to live full and productive lives. We must start talking about the silent genocide being committed against this community of people. If we don’t, there will be no one with Down syndrome left.

Anna Bohach is the founder of 500 Mom Strong, an organization dedicated to fighting the misogyny of Drag Queen Story Hour and the transgender movement. She has a bachelor’s degree in Communication with an emphasis in Rhetorical Criticism from California State University Los Angeles. Anna lives in Spokane, Washington, and has been married to her husband for 13 years and is the mother of four.

Finnish MP now facing 4 investigations after speaking about Christian beliefs

A member of the Finnish Parliament and former Minister of the Interior, Päivi Räsänen, now faces police four investigations.

Mrs Räsänen has served as an MP since 1995, was chair of the Christian Democrats from 2004-2015 and from 2011-2015 she was the Minister of the Interior, during which she held responsibility for church affairs in Finland.

In June 2019, she directed a tweet at the leadership of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, questioning its official sponsorship of the LGBT event “Pride 2019”, accompanied by an image of Romans 1:24-27 from the New Testament that describes same-sex relationships as ‘shameful’.

She wrote: “How can the church’s doctrinal foundation, the Bible, be compatible with the lifting up of shame and sin as a subject of pride?”

Räsänen attended two police interviews about the tweet as well as a pamphlet she wrote 16 years ago on human sexuality for a Christian foundation.

She now faces further questioning regarding interviews she gave to a television program and a radio station and is being supported by Christian religious freedom charity Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

The police had already decided to drop the investigation into Mrs Räsänen’s pamphlet and concluded that there were no grounds to proceed with a prosecution. However, the Prosecutor General reopened the criminal investigation.

On 2nd March, the police interviewed Mrs Räsänen a second time about the tweet and on 5th March, Räsänen was informed that the Prosecutor General had launched two more investigations against her.

In 2018 the politician was on a show called ‘Maria Veitola, Overnight visit’, in which the presenter came to Räsänen’s home and stayed overnight. They discussed religious matters, including Räsänen’s personal beliefs. One of the investigations includes this programme.

The fourth investigation focuses on a radio interview from 20th December 2019, in which Räsänen commented on the show’s topic of discussion, “What would Jesus think about homosexuals?”

Responding to the police investigation, she said: “I never thought I would face a criminal investigation for sharing my deeply held beliefs. It came as a total surprise. As a Christian and a democratically elected Member of Parliament, I have often heard things with which I disagree – sometimes very strongly. At times, I have felt insulted. I believe the best response to this is more debate, not censorship.

“These police investigations raise concerns about limiting the freedoms that have been guaranteed in our Constitution and in international human right treaties. A major threat for freedom of religion and free speech is that we don’t make use of these rights. I hope these criminal investigations won’t lead to self-censorship among Christians. I am going to use my rights regardless of the police investigation. I encourage others to do the same.”

Lorcan Price, Legal Counsel for ADF International and part of the team supporting her case, said: “The European Court of Human Rights has affirmed that the right to freedom of expression does not protect merely popular ideas, but also those that challenge the status quo. You can support Mrs. Räsänen’s freedom of speech whether you agree with her positions or not. If we want to have freedom for ourselves, we have to extend it to those with whom we disagree. Tolerance is a two-way street. Driving people with different beliefs out of the public square is not only a violation of the rights protected in international and European law, but leaves our societies all the poorer for it.”


EUROPE’S DUTY TO KILL by Sohrab Ahmari

Can you spare a minute for a story that doesn’t involve the coronavirus? Here’s hoping.

I first met Ellinor Grimmark at her lawyers’ office in Uppsala in the spring of 2017. The 43-year-old Swedish midwife and mother of two was of diminutive stature, with tightly curled blond hair and striking blue eyes framed by angular features. There was a tender toughness to her that I knew she would need as she reluctantly played protagonist in perhaps the most important freedom-of-conscience battle in Europe.

Now, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has dismissed her case as inadmissible, suggesting in a ruling Thursday that governments can blacklist midwives like Ellinor who refuse to assist with abortions. Put another way, Europe’s highest human-rights court has in effect recognized a dutyto kill the unborn.

Ellinor decided to become a midwife amid a severe shortage. To induce new recruits, local governments pay modest stipends to nurses considering midwifery. In Ellinor’s case, Jönköping County offered her $1,900 a month while she finished her training. Ellinor, who hails from Sweden’s intensely evangelical southern Bible Belt, was aware that some midwives are called upon to participate in abortions, but she assumed there would be conscience exemptions.

Besides, as she told me, “there is so much to do as a midwife. So I just thought, ‘OK, that’s one part, but I will do everything else.’” There is indeed much more to midwifery than extinguishing new life, and as one 2007 study found, 35 percent of midwives had never been involved in that grim task across their entire careers; another 23 percent hadn’t participated in abortions in the previous two years. Rationality and freedom of conscience could thus go hand-in-hand.

But no. What Ellinor didn’t expect was the sheer zeal of Sweden’s medical establishment, its ironclad commitment to ideological uniformity on abortion, even if that meant exacerbating the midwife shortage. In 2013, as she was finishing her studies, she mentioned her pro-life views to her supervisors at the hospital that was to hire her. The response from her manager: “How could you even think of becoming a midwife with these opinions?”

A few days later, her stipend was cut off. Another hospital offered to hire her, then backtracked, while a third said it could provide Ellinor with counseling aimed at reconciling her obstinate mind with the good of abortion. Eventually, she accepted a job in next-door Norway, which, despite a relatively liberal abortion regime, allows midwives with conscience objections to do the job that midwives have done since time immemorial: namely, bringing new life into the world.

Though the commute to Norway was four hours each way, and Ellinor hated leaving her own children, she delivered hundreds of babies in Norway. But when she filed suit in 2014 against the county council in Jönköping, she became Public Enemy No. 1 in her homeland.

At a panel on Islamist radicalism, a former government antiterror coordinator said: “Those who refuse to perform abortions”—a clear allusion to Ellinor and a second conscientious objector, Linda Steen—“are in my opinion extreme religious practitioners” similar to jihadists. On a popular TV show, feminist writer Cissi Wallin quipped: “Those who are against abortion now, can’t we abort them — retroactively?” Her fellow pundits laughed and agreed.

National tribunals in Sweden ruled against Ellinor (and Steen), making their case ripe for appeal to the ECHR. On paper, the two midwives had a formidable argument. Health workers mustn’t be blacklisted “because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion,” the Council of Europe has repeatedly emphasized. The European Convention on Human Rights likewise enshrines a “freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” States can restrict freedom of conscience in narrow contexts, but they must do so for legitimate purposes, using means that are “proportionate” in a democratic society.

Norway, where Ellinor has now moved full-time with her family, permits abortions but also carves out exemptions for pro-life practitioners. Then, too, even some older Swedish midwives still enjoy conscience rights under grandfathered arrangements that were part of the legislative history of the country’s 1974 omnibus abortion legalization bill.

So, slam dunk at the ECHR, the last guarantor of religious-conscience rights in a continent ruled by the children of the Enlightenment? Nope. In a decision marked by an astonishing absence of actual legal reasoning, the ECHR stated that Sweden’s interference with Ellinor’s freedom of conscience was justified in a democratic society, because it comported with Swedish law (well, one wonders, why then even have a supranational court?).

The ECHR also observed that “Sweden provides nationwide abortion services and therefore has a positive obligation to organize its health system in a way as to ensure that the effective exercise of freedom of conscience . . . does not prevent the provision of such services.” Employers, it went on, with that simple and brutal logic of the managerial liberal society, have a right to organize work in such a way as to require employees to do “all duties inherent to the post,” including the killing of babies as a midwife.

To repeat: If you are a midwife, a European state can now compel you to kill the unborn child. There is no shirking the duty to abort, that is, unless you are prepared to leave your home country and/or lose your profession. If there is a silver lining here, it is the stark revelation of the inner logic of the liberal society, how its promise of “freedom” without ends or limits inevitably strangles true freedom.

This column has been updated to clarify the nature of the ECHR’s ruling.

Sohrab Ahmari is the op-ed editor of the New York Post. He is finishing a book exploring 12 questions our culture doesn’t ask.

Photo by Adrian Grycuk via Creative Commons. Image cropped.


The Holy See slams UN Report on religious freedom

A session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva - credit
A session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva – credit

The Holy See has attacked the latest UN report on religious freedom. Decrying particularly the document’s many references to gender ideology, the Holy See called the language a sort of “ideological colonization on the part of some States and international institution.” The Holy See said the Report is an “attack to religious freedom.”

“Particularly unacceptable and offensive are the numerous references that recommend that freedom of religion or belief and the conscientious objection must be surrendered for the promotion of other so-called ‘human rights’, which certainly do not enjoy consensus;” the Holy See statement remarks.

The Report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief was discussed on March 2 at the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council. The Holy See delegation was led by Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Holy See Permanent Observer to the international organization in Geneva.

The Report is based on fighting “worldwide religious precepts (that) underlie laws and state-sanctioned practices that constitute violations of the right to non-discrimination of women, girls and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+)”

One of the goals of the Report is “emphasizing the responsibility of States in creating enabling environments to advance the non-discrimination and freedom of religion or belief rights of women, girls and LGBT+ persons.”

In the end, the Report advocates a concept of freedom “from” and within” religion to protect the so-called new human rights; questions the existence of a right to conscientious objection; and also implicitly pushes doctrinal changes in religions on the basis of international law requirements.

 In addition to that, the Report was made available only at the last moment, not leaving States the possibility to look in-depth into it before the session.

Speaking at the Human Rights Council on March 2, Archbishop Jurkovic stressed that “the Report, at least in part, is an attack on freedom of religion or belief as well as freedom of conscience.”

Archbishop Jurkovic reiterated that “the Holy See has always understood ‘gender’ and related terms according to the ordinary, generally accepted usage of the word ‘gender,’ based on the biological identity that is male and female.”

The Holy See delegation lamented that “the Report seems to focus less on the protection of men and women, of any faith or personal belief, that are persecuted or discriminated against (a still too vivid reality for millions of persons worldwide), and more on pushing a vision of human society that is not shared by all and does not reflect the social, cultural and religious reality of many peoples.”

Archbishop Jurkovic noted that the Special Rapporteur made “no reference to the efforts made by religious leaders to intervene at the earliest opportunity to stop the shedding of innocent blood and bring an end to wars.”

This silence, the Holy See noted, is “ironic,” considering that the Report falls “in the year of the landmark Declaration on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together issued, on February 4, 2019, by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and Pope Francis.” The declaration, Archbishop Jurkovic added, “called on world leaders to work towards spreading a culture of tolerance and living together in peace.”

The Holy See also addressed the issue of ideological colonization. Quoting the 2019 Pope Francis’ speech to the diplomatic corps, the Holy See underscored “[t]he growing influence within the international Organizations of powers and interest groups that impose their own visions and ideas, sparking new forms of ideological colonization, often in disregard for the identity, dignity, and sensitivities of peoples.”

Archbishop Jurkovic added that “it is rather unfortunate, yet increasingly less surprising given its frequency, that a UN Report, which should defend the fundamental and universal human right of freedom of religion or belief as well as the right to conscientious objection, is now attacking the very reality it is called to defend.”

The Holy See mainly reacted to the frame of the Report, which builds on a twisted interpretation of the right to religious freedom to advocate LGBT rights, which are now considered on a par of human rights. The Holy See has always noted that the so-called “new human rights” have never gotten an international consensus, as the human rights of the Human Rights Charter did 70 years ago.

In particular, the Report targeted religions for preventing the States from defending gender ideology and LGBT rights.

“In all regions of the world, the Report read, actors citing religious justifications for their actions have advocated to governments and to the broader public for the preservation or imposition of laws and policies that directly or indirectly discriminate against women, girls and LGBT+ persons.”

The Special Rapporteur underscored “that States that maintain laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relations have occasionally referred to religious ‘justifications’ for maintaining them,” and that “many governments maintain legal provisions that discriminate against LGBT+ persons, including in healthcare, housing, social security, employment, marriage and parental rights, often on religious grounds.”

The Report also attacked the religious sentiment by saying that “laws criminalizing adultery are often rooted in patriarchal interpretations of religious doctrine and have a disparate impact on women”, while “discriminatory religious edicts inform laws and policies that restrict sexual and reproductive rights …., including, but not limited to, partial or total bans on access to abortion and contraception, prohibitions on assisted reproductive technologies and gender reassignment surgery, and limits on the provision of evidence-based sexuality education.”

The Report targeted religious institutions for “promoting and perpetuating interpretations of religious tenets to promote gender-based violence and discrimination against women, girls and LGBT+ persons; including physical, sexual and psychological harm.”

The Rapporteur underscored a misuse of “freedom of religion or belief across continents in the media, through litigation and political campaigns to counter human rights in the name of religion or belief.”

The Report even noted that “in three States, religious interest groups have attempted to change the constitution to define ‘the family’ according to religiously grounded heterosexual norms. Interest groups are also reportedly misusing freedom of religion or belief to oppose self-determination rights for gender diverse persons”.

Hence, the strong reaction of the Holy See. As Archbishop Jurkovic noted, it is not the first time that a UN report advocated for LGBT rights.

For instance, the Report of the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child on the Holy See, issued in February 2014, did not focus on how the convention was applied in Vatican City State, as it should, but rather asked the Holy See to change its teaching.

At that time, the Committee “regretted that the Holy See continues to place emphasis on the promotion of complementarity and equality in dignity,” which it claimed, “are often used to justify discriminatory legislation and policies.”

The committee asked “the Holy See to review its position on abortion … identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services can be permitted;” said that the Holy See should “assess … its position” regarding adolescents’ access to contraception;” urged the Holy See to “remove gender stereotypes from Catholic school textbooks … which may limit the development of the talents and abilities of boys and girls and undermine their educational and life opportunities.”

The Report, in the end, is nothing new under the sun. The Holy See strong stances against, by the way, shed light on how dangerous this position is for religious freedom. It is hoped that the Holy See’s words will not fall on deaf ears.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


Canadian hospice being taken over by government in euthanasia fight


Private facility gives up public funding, refusing to provide physician-assisted suicide.

Ahospice society in British Columbia, Canada, is refusing to make provisions for physician-assisted suicide, which is legal in Canada, and is being forced to give up government funding for the hospice they operate.

The board of the Delta Hospice Society is opposed to medically assisted death on moral and philosophical grounds, though it is not affiliated with any particular religion.

According to the contract the society has with the government to operate the Irene Thomas Hospice in Delta, a city that forms part of Greater Vancouver, funding will be provided for another year. But by February 25, 2021, the 10-bed facility will have to close.

“The Irene Thomas Hospice is dedicated to allowing patients access to expert symptom management for physical, emotional and spiritual distress,” the society said in a statement this past week. “It provides comfort, meaning, dignity and hope as one dies a natural death.” The statement expressed “shock and outrage” over the fact that the Fraser public health authority would “cut off all discussions and close the facility because it wants the hospice to provide MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying) at every facility.”

According to the B.C. Catholic, the Fraser Health Authority and provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix earlier this year said the hospice would have to start allowing assisted suicides on site by February 3. Delta Hospice Society president Angelina Ireland responded that the hospice would rather give up $750,000 of its government funding than end the lives of its patients. It is the policy of the Fraser Health Authority that all hospices receiving more than 50% of provincial funding for their beds must offer MAiD to their residents. The hospice receives $1.4 million of its $3 million operating budget from Fraser.

On February 25, Dix announced the government was terminating the contract with Delta. Ireland said in the press release that Fraser Health ignored her request to lower the amount of funding to below the 50% threshold, and also forbade the hospice from finding another partner to work with.

To ensure hospice care remains available in Delta, Dix said the government would take over management of the current building or open another 10-bed hospice somewhere else in the area.

The hospice was built at a cost of about $9 million, paid for without government funding, Ireland said. Hospice supporters are planning a rally at the B.C. Legislature Saturday, April 4, according to the B.C. Catholic. Ireland said the Delta Hospice Society is considering legal and other options to continue serving patients who don’t want to end their lives by assisted suicide or die in a facility that offers it.

“They tell us if we’re getting taxpayer money, we have to” provide assisted suicide, Ireland told the B.C. Catholic in a separate interview. But “the people we take care of are taxpayers too. We are on the side of the taxpayers who want to access hospice palliative care.”

“If the government wants to open MAiD facilities, that’s their option, but they must not be allowed to download it onto the backs of private palliative care facilities,” Ireland said.

Meanwhile, the federal government plans to change assisted dying laws to eliminate the requirement that a person’s death must be “reasonably forseeable,” the newspaper said.


Sexual violence leaves persecuted Christian women in ‘living death,’ hidden and isolated

Written by Release

Published: 21 February 2020

Christian girls and women in some countries are facing especially devastating forms of persecution according to a persecution watchdog group.

Globally, the two most-reported persecutions used against Christian women and girls globally are sexual violence and forced marriage. Both were identified by 84 per cent of respondents from the top 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian, according to Open Doors’ annual World Watch List (2020), published in mid-January.

Open Doors International releases its third Gender-Specific Religious Persecution (GSRP) report on February 24, 2020, with events in Toronto and on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to follow. This report studies global patterns of persecution experienced by Christian men and women across the 50 countries on the 2020 World Watch List and reinforces that persecution is gender-specific. Even when the situation is difficult for all members of a given Christian community, the situation of women is often worse because of their additional gender-based vulnerabilities.

In the countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian (the top 11 of the World Watch List 2020), women and girls describe this persecution, at its peak, as a kind of ‘living death’ (sexual violence, forced marriage, house arrest). In these instances, sexual violence is used both as a form of control and punishment. This ‘living death’ is experienced acutely by women who are converts from another faith – such as Islam or Buddhism. While these women are physically alive, they are hidden and isolated, separated from their Christian community and Church. This isolation also results in a lack of reporting of their experiences.

Open Doors says that in every region of the world, sexual violence continues to be the most prevalent means of exerting power and control over Christian women and girls, as well as to punish them. Often this sexual violence is outside marriage; but sometimes a woman/girl is forced into an unwelcome marriage, at times even with the perpetrator himself. It is used intentionally to dishonour the Christian woman/girl and, consequently, her family and community.

Open Doors’ Global Gender Persecution Specialist, Helene Fisher, says, “This year’s report highlights the lifelong impact of the persecution women and girls suffer because of their faith. When women and girls are sexually assaulted, they endure untold mental and physical abuse while also sometimes trapped in ‘marriages’ against their will. Even if they can escape the terrors of this fate, a devastating stigma and rejection will now follow them for the rest of their life. This shame is meant to leave these women alive but with no future. Sadly, even in Christian communities, rejection is practiced out of shame and a lack of knowledge. No future for them also means they won’t be part of a future family within their religious community.”

While the forced marriage gives an appearance of respectability, it can also become merely a contract for sexual violence from which a woman cannot escape, and within which other forms of violence and pressure are exerted.

The next most common Pressure Points are physical violence and forced divorce. Physical violence is a newcomer to the top three gender-specific Pressure Points for women; instances have been reported in nearly two-thirds of the top 50 WWL countries.

Gender-specific persecution affects men, women, boys and girls alike – no demographic is spared. Across these Christian communities, however, it is women and girls who typically face the hardest circumstances of all.

Open Doors’ World Watch Research 2020 Gender-Specific Religious Persecution Report releases on February 24, 2020, in time for International Women’s Day. The report features data gathered for the 50 countries appearing in the World Watch List (WWL) 2020 for the reporting period November 1, 2018, to October 31, 2019. Data was also gathered for 23 additional World Watch countries. In response, Open Doors is recommending that action be taken by international bodies, national governments and persons of influence in spiritual positions as well as the Global Church to address the double vulnerability of women and girls from religious minorities.

Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch will be launched to Parliamentarians on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on March 11, 2020, with a special emphasis on the Gender-Specific Religious Persecution Report.


Woman with Down’s syndrome takes UK Govt to court over allowing abortion up to birth for disabilities

Heidi and her legal team have set up a CrowdJustice crowdfunding page to help raise the initial £20,000 to start legal proceedings, pay for legal advice and begin the preparation of the case. To make a contribution to the case visit:


A 24-year-old woman who has Down’s syndrome has launched a landmark case against the UK Government over the current discriminatory abortion law that singles out babies with disabilities allowing abortion right through to birth for conditions including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.

Heidi Crowter has joined with Cheryl Bilsborrow from Preston, whose two-year-old son Hector has Down’s syndrome, to bring forward the case.

Currently, abortion is available up to birth in England, Wales and Scotland if the baby has a disability, including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot whereas if the baby does not have a condition, there is a 24-week time limit.

The United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ concluding observations on the initial report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland made a key recommendation that the UK change its abortion law on disability so that it does not single out babies with disabilities. However, the Government has decided to ignore this recommendation.

The Disability Rights Commission (now the Equality and Human Rights Commission) have said that this aspect of the Abortion Act “is offensive to many people; it reinforces negative stereotypes of disability…[and] is incompatible with valuing disability and non-disability equally”.

The 2013 Parliamentary Inquiry into Abortion for Disability found the vast majority of those who gave evidence believed allowing abortion up to birth on the grounds of disability is discriminatory, contrary to the spirit of the Equality Act 2010 and that it affects wider public attitudes towards discrimination. The Inquiry recommended Parliament reviews the question of allowing abortion on the grounds of disability and should consider repealing section 1(1)(d) of the Abortion Act which allows for it.

Disabled peer Lord Shinkwin has previously had a Bill in the House of Lords that would have repealed section 1(1)(d) of the Abortion Act – the Bill was undefeated but unfortunately ran out of time. Lord Shinkwin’s Bill was supported by Disability Rights UK.

Boris Johnson Government is currently deciding on the abortion framework that they will introduce to Northern Ireland ahead of March 31st. The proposed framework that the Northern Ireland Office has consulted on would allow abortion up to birth for disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot. 1875 people with Down’s syndrome and their families have signed a letter to Boris Johnson urging him to ensure that selective abortion for Down’s syndrome is not introduced to Northern Ireland.

Polling has shown that the majority of people in England, Wales and Scotland feel that disability should not be a grounds for abortion at all, with only one in three people thinking it is acceptable to ban abortion for gender or race but allow it for disability.

There were 3,269 disability-selective abortions in 2018 and 618 of these were for Down’s syndrome. This represents a 42% increase in abortion for Down’s syndrome in the last ten years with figures rising from 436 in 2008.

Mothers whose children were born with a cleft lip and palate have recently spoken out in horror against the current law in England, Wales and Scotland and that the proposed abortion framework that the Conservative Government is contemplating imposing on Northern Ireland will allow babies with the condition to be aborted up to birth.

In England and Wales, the number of abortions performed on unborn babies with cleft lip and palate has accelerated in recent years.

Official figures show that the number of terminations for those with the condition has more than tripled, from 4 in 2012 to an all-time high of 15 in 2018.

Since 2011, 75 unborn babies have been aborted because they had a cleft lip and palate.

However, findings from a European register have revealed that abortions for cleft lip and palate can be over ten times more common than what is being reported.

Eurocat, which was set up to register congenital abnormalities across 23 countries, found that 157 unborn babies, with the condition, were aborted in England and Wales between 2006 and 2010. The Department of Health only recorded 14 such abortions.

Joan Morris, national coordinator for Eurocat and professor of medical statistics at Queen Mary, University of London, said the group also found the number of babies aborted in 2010 for Down’s Syndrome was nearly double that recorded officially – 886 compared to 482.

The discovery suggests that the number of unborn babies being aborted because of a perceived disability is significantly higher than what is being reported.

The Department of Health confirmed in a 2014 report that some disability abortions had been wrongly recorded.

Heidi and her legal team have set up a CrowdJustice crowdfunding page to help raise the initial £20,000 to start legal proceedings, pay for legal advice and begin the preparation of the case. To make a contribution to the case visit:

Heidi Crowter, from Coventry, who has Down’s syndrome said:

“At the moment in the UK, babies can be aborted right up to birth if they are considered to be ‘seriously handicapped’. They include me in that definition of being seriously handicapped – just because I have an extra chromosome! Can you believe that?

“What it says to me is that my life just isn’t as valuable as others, and I don’t think that’s right. I think it’s downright discrimination! 

“The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recently said that the United Kingdom should change its abortion law to make sure that people like me aren’t singled out because of our disabilities. 

“Sadly, the Government decided to ignore their recommendations and didn’t change the law. So now, I am going to take the Government to court with other members of the Down’s syndrome community to make sure that people aren’t treated differently because of their disabilities.”

Paul Conrathe, the claimant’s solicitor from Sinclairslaw, said:

“This case addresses a matter that is fundamentally offensive and discriminatory- that unborn babies with a disability, and in this case Down’s syndrome, should be aborted up to birth. The current law reinforces negative stereotypes and attributes lesser value and dignity to people with disability. 

“In bringing this landmark case the claimants seek judicial ruling that the Abortion Act 1967 impermissibly violates the dignity of people with disabilities.“ 

Lynn Murray, a spokesperson for Don’t Screen Us Out, said:

“By stating that disability is grounds for termination, section 1(1)(d) of the Abortion Act, promotes inequality. It would be totally condemned if a country’s abortion laws singled out babies on the ground of gender or skin colour, but because it’s a disability such as Down’s syndrome, that’s somehow ok? This is inequality, sanctioned, sponsored and funded by the state.

“This provision in the Abortion Act is a hangover from a time when we had totally different attitudes to the inclusion and contribution of people with disabilities. You only have to look at the discriminatory language used by all sides of the debate in Parliament when this was discussed in 1967 and 1990 to realise how far attitudes have changed. Society has moved on but the law hasn’t. It’s time it did.

“We live in a society which proclaims that we want to empower those with disabilities, and that regardless of your background, you deserve a fair and equal chance at life. We believe that our laws must reflect this narrative.”


New York To Consider Allowing Men To Commission Babies From Rented Wombs

Third-party reproductive efforts are increasingly normalizing a build-a-baby culture that encourages people to commission designer babies in much the same way they would commission designer handbags.

By Kaeley Triller Haver

FEBRUARY 18, 2020

I sat in stunned silence last year at a Washington state Senate hearing about commercial surrogacy. The bill contained 55 pages of text, full of demands and bloviations about alleged parental rights. Its goal was to limitlessly legalize commercial surrogacy through the state.

I listened as concerned citizens pointed out the many dangerous loopholes in the bill and requested amendments that would safeguard the women and children involved from potential abuse, but every request was categorically shot down as unnecessary. There were no limits whatsoever to prevent abuse:

  • No required background checks for prospective parents (convicted pedophiles could commission children).
  • No limit to the number of children any given person could order. (One millionaire from Japan has fathered at least 13 children via surrogacy. His expressed goal is to father at least 1,000 over time.)
  • No limit to the amount of compensation any given surrogate could receive. (Hello, money-hungry human traffickers.)
  • No requirements for surrogates to be Washington state residents. (Again, traffickers?)
  • No language preventing mentally disabled women from being exploited for commercial gain

In all 55 pages of text, there was but one solitary reference to the needs of the child. The rest was emotionally manipulative language revealing a deep-seated sense of entitlement and a devil-may-care attitude toward the myriad ethical implications for the people most greatly affected by surrogacy: the women and children.

This week, New York is slated to consider a similar bill to legalize commercial surrogacy throughout the state. Aggressively peddled through heartstrings rhetoric and celebrity endorsement, the bill is positioned as progressive and loving. Both the evangelical and secular worlds eat it up with a silver spoon. After all, children are blessings, right? Who doesn’t love babies?

Make no mistake, commercial surrogacy is anything but loving. It is the exploitation and commodification of women’s bodies and the legalized buying and selling of humans.

Women Are More Than Their Wombs

The European Parliament in Brussels has concluded that “surrogacy undermines the human dignity of the woman since her body and its reproductive functions are used as a commodity,” and its resolution goes so far as to call surrogacy “an act of violence against women.” Even impoverished nations such as India have recently banned commercial surrogacy — a $3.3 billion annual revenue source — outright. If a poor country is willing to sacrifice $3.3 billion a year to protect women from the exploitation of commercial surrogacy, what’s our excuse?

One of the things that appeals to me most about first-wave feminism is the dogged commitment to empowering women to be seen and treated as more than sex objects or breeders. Now, in the name of compassion, we are going 180 degrees in the opposite direction. In the last month alone, I’ve seen countless headlines referring to surrogate mothers as “gestational carriers,” “a greenhouse for my seed,” and “incubators.” One gay man wrote, “What do I need women for — until I want to have kids?”

Commercial surrogacy is dehumanizing enough in theory and even more so in practice. Has anyone else noticed that the only people hiring surrogates are the wealthy or that the women they’re hiring are usually poor and desperate for money? As Jennifer Lahl, president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture, poignantly asked, “As Kim Kardashian and Kanye West welcome a new baby through surrogacy, I ask you: How many times have you seen a People Magazine cover tabloid where a wealthy celebrity is offering to be a surrogate for her low-income housekeeper?”

Surrogacy Harms Real People

When these bills are considered, why is the general public so rarely invited to consider the voices of the women and children who have been harmed by surrogacy? Why aren’t they invited to hear about women like Brooke Brown or Michelle Reaves, who both died from pregnancy-related complications during surrogate pregnancies?

Why don’t they hear from Kelli Martinez, who nearly died and was left with more than $9,000 in medical debt after being a surrogate? Why don’t they listen to women like Meghan, who nearly lost her ovaries through the egg-donation process? Or from Gina or Tanya or Jessica Allen, whose nightmare stories of surrogacy ought to give the world pause?

While egg donors and surrogates are promised generous compensation, no one ever seems to warn them of the often exorbitant costs of their labors that can sometimes include permanent sterility and even death. Why doesn’t it matter that there are virtually no long-term studies on the health of surrogates and egg donors?

Why isn’t anyone talking about the fact that while the average woman produces one egg per menstrual cycle, egg donors are put into a state of ovarian hyperstimulation so they can produce as many as 30 per cycle? Why don’t we care about the long-term effects of the drugs that allow this?

Why aren’t we talking about the countless groups of donor-conceived adults who are speaking out in defense of the rights stripped from them as children, such as Nick Isel?

Don’t even get me started on the appallingly shallow requirements for egg donors: supermodel looks, high IQs, low BMIs, no history of mental health issues. Third-party reproductive efforts are increasingly normalizing a build-a-baby culture that encourages people to commission designer babies in much the same way they would commission designer handbags, through a catalog of handpicked traits and superficial standards aimed at achieving a superior product. Why does this feel reminiscent of Josef Mengele?

Parenthood Is a Privilege, Not a Right

Some people reading this will feel tremendous rage at the things I’m saying — people who are amazing parents and grandparents of children conceived through surrogacy, people whose painful experiences with infertility have led them to consider surrogacy, good people whose lives have been transformed by the unspeakable joy of children they would not otherwise know and love.

I’m sorry for any pain my words cause. Your children, grandchildren, and loved ones are priceless, valuable, and important. This article is not personal, but an assessment of the dangers, pitfalls, and ethical dilemmas inherent in the surrogacy process.

It’s an age-old story that somehow continues to recycle itself. People never seem to learn the well-documented lesson: Personal desires do not justify the exploitation of other humans. In the Genesis account of Abraham and Sarah, we see the pain of infertility leading to the use of Sarah’s handmaid Hagar as a surrogate. We also see the surrogacy narrative play out as painfully as it usually does — the surrogate mother is used, resented, and discarded with zero regard for her wellbeing.

It’s a brutal but important truth: Parenthood is a privilege, not a right. No one is entitled to other peoples’ bodies. Women’s bodies should never be for rent, and babies should never be for sale.

Kaeley Triller Haver studied English at Northwest University and puts her education to use as the communications director of a local nonprofit organization. Of all the titles she’s ever held, Kaeley considers “mom” the most significant.


Persecuted Christians Are Not Given Much Hope In 2020

In January 2020, Open Doors, an international NGO advocating on behalf of persecuted Christians,  released their annual World Watch List. The World Watch List provides an assessment of 50 countries where Christians face the most severe types of persecution. At the very top of the list, the countries which show extreme levels of persecution, we see North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Sudan, Yemen, Iran, India and Syria. 

A statue is pictured next to shrapnel marks at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo on April 22, 2019, a day after the building was hit as part of a series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. (Photo credit: ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP via Getty Images)

The World Watch List 2020 does not give much hope for the persecuted communities. Indeed, it presents a grim picture of the situation of Christians globally making it very clear that the persecution encountered by them continues to get worse. The report identifies that, “in 2020, 260 million Christians live in World Watch List top 50 countries where Christians are at risk of high, very high or extreme levels of persecution. This is up from 245 million in 2019.” The report also emphasizes some important, negative changes within global trends of the persecution of Christians. Furthermore, it identified that: “countries which had previously avoided more intense levels of persecution, such as Sri Lanka and Burkina Faso have, in the reporting period, experienced destabilizing violence, highlighting the fragile persecution context in west Africa and south Asia.” 

The report suggests that we should be positive about the future for persecuted Christians globally, as “faith actors across the world are standing firm and strengthening communities against the odds. Church leaders, wider church networks and faith based non-governmental organizations provide a lifeline of care in isolated places, where no other help is forthcoming.” However, the numbers and the narrative gives a very different impression. According to the report, the situation in China continues to worsen as more and more churches in China are experiencing pressure at the hands of the Chinese state. Indeed, in the reporting period, over 5,500 churches have been destroyed, closed down or confiscated. In India, Christian minorities are subjected to extreme persecution which manifested in at least 1,445 physical attacks and death threats against Christians in 2019. In Nigeria, in 2019, approximately 1,350 Christians were killed for their faith. Indeed, these numbers do not give much hope to the persecuted.

One must acknowledge the great contribution of faith leaders across the world, standing up for the persecuted. However, it is important to recognize that their assistance can do only so much if states and international actors do not step up their game and address the issue. It is crucial to realize that more and more states are waking up to these issues, recognizing that it requires a comprehensive response. 

Among others, the UK, the US, Poland and Hungary have been leading the way. However, as the issue is a global phenomenon, it requires a truly global response. The response does not only require a response after the atrocities have occurred and efforts to assist the victims, it also requires a strong response in securing justice. Indeed, impunity will only beget further crime. This is visible in many parts of the world, no least in Nigeria. In Nigeria, Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen have been perpetrating mass atrocities unabated for several years. In January 2020, a new actor (to the region) has emerged: Daesh fighters. They have been reported to have killed several Christians with a promise to continue to spill more blood without mercy. 

Knowing the situation of Christians globally, it is difficult to hold hope of a better future. States and international actors must come to a conclusion, once and for all, that acts of violence as experienced by Christians (but also other religious groups) globally, will not cease on their own. Actions are required. These actions are required now.