By Alessandro Amicarelli — Covid-19 has stopped the world, but it did not stop the persecution of minority groups in several countries. Our organisation, the European Federation for Freedom of Belief (FOB) which works with the All Faiths Network, had more work to do denouncing abuses and reporting the perpetrators to protect the victims, whilst keeping on advocating the protection of freedom of religion and belief for everyone.
Tax justice and religious freedom increasingly interact. The European Court of Human Rights is just one jurisdiction that ruled that the tax system cannot be used to discriminate against religious minorities. One of the longest lasting tax cases raising issues of religious liberty involved the Taiwan-based spiritual movement Tai Ji Men.
On 13 November 2020, the All Faiths Network held its yearly Interfaith Week event to celebrate religions in their diverse manifestations as well as demonstrate how religions can work together. This year brought us new challenges with a UK-wide lockdown and many months of disrupted society, so we went on-line to hold a memorable and uplifting 2-hour event. AFN members were determined to rise above all these issues and show that religious communities contribute so much to breaking through the negative surrounding us to bring about a better world.
Washington, DC, November 10, 2020 – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released the following new report: “The Global Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses” Issue Update. This update describes official discrimination against Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world, with a particular focus on countries where members have been imprisoned for their beliefs.
To Mr Emmanuel Macron
President of the French Republic
Brussels, the 28th October 2020
Eleven NGOs and academic research centers specialized in human rights and religious liberty, two of them with special consultative status at the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) wrote on October 28, 2020 to Disney CEO Bob Chapek, protesting an episode on A&E’s History Channel, part of its program “America’s Book of Secrets,” entitled “Cults, Hate Groups, and Secret Societies.” Disney is the co-owner of the A&E Networks, which in turn owns the History Channel.
In 2020, our team published two White Papers on the crackdown on Shincheonji in South Korea after incidents related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We feel that a third White Paper is now needed, as we continue to collect documents and interview witnesses (via Zoom, due to the pandemic’s restrictions), and new developments have followed the arrest and detention of Shincheonji’s founder, Chairman Lee Man Hee.
A 66-year-old Jehovah's Witness has already been given nearly two years in pre-trial detention. From the mists of this controversial judicial case now comes to light an outrageous detail that confirms the worst hypotheses feared by the defenders of religious freedom: the Vice President of the French FECRIS (Fédération Européenne des Centres de Recherche et d'Information sur le Sectarisme, i.e.
by Aaron Rhodes — China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia and Uzbekistan – all notorious for abusing human rights – were among the 14 states elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Oct. 13, bringing the proportion of nondemocratic states on the world’s top human rights-promoting body to 60%. Cuba received 170 votes, or 88%, in the secret-ballot General Assembly vote.
But the Human Rights Council’s problem isn’t simply the presence of bad actors. The real issue is the intrinsic moral relativism embedded in any all-inclusive, multilateral human-rights system.
Too often the media report incorrect or incomplete news, if not bluntly false, in relation to religious minorities. Evidently, such news is the result of prejudice by certain unscrupulous journalists. Mind you, this prejudice does not arise from a closed mentality but, in its own way, "honest", that is, from stupidly fixed ideas in which one believes "honestly".
By Massimo Introvigne — Anti-cultism is back in France. Media around the world have covered President Macron’s announcement of a new law against “separatism,” explaining it as a measure against radical Islam. It is surely true that Islam is targeted but, not for the first time, a law introduced to fight Islamic radical groups is then used against other religious movements. The Russian law against extremism is an obvious example.
Barnabas Fund (06.10.2020) – Pakistani Christian Sawan Masih was acquitted of “blasphemy” charges by the High Court in Lahore on 5 October, after enduring more than six years imprisoned on death row.
His defence lawyer, Tahir Bashir, told the court that the case against the father-of-three was fabricated by his Muslim accuser in March 2013 because of a property dispute in Joseph Colony, the Christian area of Badami Bagh in Lahore where Sawan Masih lived. The accusation triggered riots that left hundreds of Christians homeless.
HRWF (05.10.2020) — As Scientologists celebrate the 50th anniversary of the settlement of their Church in Germany, Ivan Arjona, their European representative, requested a UN investigation into discrimination against Scientologists in Germany during a statement at the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Eileen Barker, Europe’s most senior scholar of new religions, notes in her entry “New Religious Movements” in the 2020 SAGE Encyclopedia of the Sociology of Religions, that “one does not often see reports of the charitable work in which many of the NRMs engage,” even if it is sometimes “outstanding.” That this happens, is evidence of the phenomenon social scientists call “gatekeeping.” For different reasons, the media filters out news that do not correspond to certain agendas or established stereotypes. New religious movements, derogatorily identified as “cults” are by definition malignant, and cannot do anything good.
by Steno Sari — Under certain circumstances, being intolerant is not so out of place. Murder, theft, rape, child abuse and kidnapping are all considered intolerable in most societies, and with reason. However, in the course of the centuries in Christianity, deplorable forms of intolerance towards heretics and schismatics have been justified: real persecutions in no way justifiable.
We publish the following news that does justice to parents subjected to public scorn because "guilty" of being Jehovah's Witnesses and of observing the dictates of their religion, without having committed, de facto, any crime. The case, dating back to September 2019, is a textbook example of how the fake news mechanism works admirably explained by Roberto Guidotti in this article.
Torino, Italy (l.c.) — Fifty leading international scholars of religion have signed an appeal calling for the immediate end of the persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, a country where members of the religious organization are routinely arrested and sentenced to terms in jail, and where all activities of their congregation are forbidden.
“Anti-extremism” legislation and religious freedom in the Russian Federation. The case of Jehovah's Witnesses
by Germana Carobene — associate professor of Ecclesiastical and Canon Law at the University of Naples "Federico II", Department of Political Sciences; councillor of FOB. — The application of "anti-extremism" legislation to minority religious groups in the Russian Federation has led to a progressive institutional tightening of the persecution and heavy discrimination, especially against Jehovah's Witnesses.
by Steno Sari — A few weeks ago I talked about fake news, starting the article with a quote from George Orwell on the courage of truth. Even today I would like to ask Orwell for help in resuming the talk left pending: "True freedom of the press is telling people what people don't want to hear." In other words, a journalist must know how to go against the tide if necessary. And it's not exactly easy.