2020

Fake news used to discredit minorities

by Steno Sari — George Orwell wrote: "In times of universal lies, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
Lately I often cite Treccani [encyclopedia] to deepen a topic, outline the hidden or revealed meaning of an expression, and reveal its beauty or its dangerousness. Today I would like to talk about fake news, about this unstoppable tide of false news that is drowning our civil life.

The USCIRF Report on the Anti-cult Ideology, and the Statement of the Conference on the Situation in Russia

By Alessandro AMICARELLI, attorney, London, president of the European Federation for Freedom of Belief (FOB) — Speech held on September 3, 2020 at the online Seminar “Jehovah’s Witnesses and Their Opponents: Russia, the West, and Beyond”.

It is my pleasure to introduce the topic of the role of anti-cult organizations’ ideology in the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide and the role of FECRIS and its allies within this field.

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Their Opponents: Russia, the West, and Beyond

A seminar conducted via Zoom has been organized by CESNUR (Center for Studies on New Religions), Vytautas Magnus University, Vilnius, Lithuania, and New Religions Research and Information Center, Vilnius, Lithuania. At the end of the seminar a Final Statement and a White Paper "The New Gnomes of Zurich" on Jehovah's Witnesses were released.

The New Gnomes of Zurich

On July 9, 2020, the Swiss anti-cult associations JW Opfer Hilfe (Aid to the Victims of Jehovah’s Witnesses) and Fachstelle infoSekta (Center for Information on Cults) issued a press release, announcing that a 2019 decision of the District Court of Zurich had become final, which acquitted Dr. Regina Ruth Spiess, a former employee of infoSekta and current representative of JW Opfer Hilfe, from criminal charges of defamation brought by the Swiss Jehovah’s Witnesses, (JW Opfer Hilfe and Fachstelle infoSekta 2020).

The Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia: An International Human Rights Concern

On July 13, 2020, armed officers raided 110 homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Voronezh Region. This was the largest number of coordinated raids on Jehovah’s Witnesses in modern Russia. Unfortunately, this action marks an escalation in the persecution of the Witness community following the April 20, 2017, ban imposed by the Russian Supreme Court on the Witnesses’ national organization and its 395 regional divisions on grounds of “extremism.”

New book by expert Rosita Šorytė: “We Can Lift This World While Quarantined”: Scientology and the 2020 Pandemic

New religious movements are rarely given credit for their humanitarian work. A case in point is the Church of Scientology during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Opponents used the epidemic as an opportunity to accuse Scientology of spreading conspiracy theories and not respecting anti-virus precautions.

Shincheonji: Chairman Lee has been arrested

In the night between July 31 and August 1, 2020 (UTC+09:00), Chairman Lee Man Hee, the founder and leader of the South Korean religious movement Shincheonji, has been arrested.

He is accused of having contributed to his movement’s alleged lack of cooperation with the authorities after a member was infected with COVID-19, of having embezzled funds belonging to Shincheonji for building the Palace of Peace, and of having maintained an event in 2019 that the authorities had asked to cancel because of a “typhoon alert.”

COVID-19: Scapegoating Shincheonji in South Korea - A Second White Paper

On July 20, a webinar on a new religious movement in South Korea, its political, religious, and social dimensions, and its discrimination during the COVID-19 crisis was organized by CESNUR, the Center for Studies on New Religions, and Human Rights Without Frontiers. International scholars in the fields of religion, international law, and human rights discussed the theme, “COVID-19 and Religious Freedom: Scapegoating Shincheonji in South Korea.” Speakers at the webinar were Rosita Šorytė, J. Gordon Melton, Massimo Introvigne, Alessandro Amicarelli, Willy Fautré and Ciarán Burke.

180+ Orgs Demand Apparel Brands End Complicity in Uyghur Forced Labour

Today, 72 Uyghur rights groups are joined by over 100 civil society organisations and labour unions from around the world in calling on apparel brands and retailers to stop using forced labour in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (“Uyghur Region”), known to local people as East Turkistan, and end their complicity in the Chinese government’s human rights abuses. The groups have issued a call to action seeking brand commitments to cut all ties with suppliers implicated in forced labour and end all sourcing from the Uyghur Region, from cotton to finished garments, within twelve months.

Also Europe in the Special Watch List?

«U.S. Government: Publicly censure Alexander Dvorkin and the Saint Irenaeus of Leon Information-Consultation Center (SILIC)) for their ongoing disinformation campaign against religious minorities.» U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recently published the report entitled “The Anti-cult Movement and Religious Regulation in Russia and the Former Soviet Union”.

Arrests and torture of Jehovah’s Witnesses: Russia challenges Europe

There have been numerous declarations of condemnation of the discriminatory and illiberal attitude that the Russian Federation has shown for years towards Jehovah's Witnesses. Among these statements, the one issued on 11 December 2018 by Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation, stands out, in which he states that "Jehovah's Witnesses are also Christians and I do not understand why they should be persecuted".

A Letter to the Foreign Minister of South Korea on the Situation of Shincheonji

Dear Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha:

We represent NGOs and academic research centers specialized in the defense of freedom of religion and belief. We write to you as we are aware of your distinguished career at the United Nations, and appreciate your attention to human rights. We have followed with great concern the problems in South Korea of a new religious movement known as Shincheonji. Some of us have studied Shincheonji for years, and some have produced academic studies about it.

COVID-19 and Religious Freedom: Scapegoating Shincheonji in South Korea

A webinar organized by the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR) and Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF)

Date/Time: Monday, July 20, 2020, 17:00 (UTC +2, Brussels time)

The fact that one member of Shincheonji, a Christian new religious movement in South Korea, was not timely diagnosed with COVID-19, attended church services, and set in motion a chain of events where thousands of her church's members were infected, led to the government's requests for lists of all members of the group and massive testing.

Big Win! Key Religious Liberty Position, Petitioned for by iFamNews, Reinstated by European Commission

The position of Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the European Union has been reinstated by the European Commission after having previously been discontinued. Mr. Ián Figel' has served in that role until is mandate expired in December 2019.

By Marco Respinti (member of FOB's Advisory Council) — A great, strategic victory has been won. The position of Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the European Union has been reinstated by the European Commission!

Russia: Abnormal penalties imposed on Jehovah's Witnesses

On March 3, 2020, Mr. Artëm Gerasimov, a member of the Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, was sentenced by the Yalta Court (Crimea) to a penalty of 400,000 rubles (about € 5,300) on charges of practicing his religion, a crime sanctioned by the wretched Yarovaya law which labels Witnesses and other religious minorities disliked by the dominant Orthodox religion as "extremist". Gerasimov did not lose heart and appealed, but on June 4, 2020, the Crimean high court sentenced him to six years in prison, again on the basis of being a "dangerous extremist".

America and the Worldwide Religious Freedom

On June 2nd, President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order on Advancing International Religious Freedom, instructing the U.S. State Department to prioritize international religious freedom in its implementation of foreign policy and budget.

«Religious freedom, America’s first freedom, is a moral and national security imperative» the executive order reads. «Religious freedom for all people worldwide is a foreign policy priority of the United States, and the United States will respect and vigorously promote this freedom».

Violence and Discrimination Against Members of Shincheonji in South Korea

Report to the United Nations General Assembly on Eliminating Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief and the Achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 16 (SDG 16)

Dear General Rapporteur:
We are NGOs specialized in defending religious liberty, and scholarly organizations promoting research on new religious movements. We are concerned about discrimination against a Christian new religious movement known as Shincheonji in South Korea (on Shincheonji, see Introvigne 2019, Introvigne 2020).

Jehovah's Witnesses and conscientious objection

Holocaust victims, derided, discriminated against, subject to virulent attacks by anti-cult organizations and fake news fabricated ad hoc, Jehovah's Witnesses have always been an example of integrity and altruism that materialized with epochal human rights achievements. This was the case for the freedom of therapeutic choice and for the right to conscientious objection, now recognized as an inalienable right.. A survey promoted by the national headquarters of the Christian Congregation of Jehovah has brought to light the heroic efforts sustained by young Witnesses during the period spanning from 1960 to 1990.

Letter in Support of Vietnamese Hmong and Montagnard Christians

The Honorable Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Trump,
We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, are writing to applaud your appointment of the Special Adviser to the President on International Religious Freedom within the National Security Council, and to respectfully request your attention to the situation of religious minorities in Vietnam.

25 Years After: Release the 11th Panchen Lama!

by Marco Respinti — In 1995, the CCP kidnapped the second highest authority in the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism to substitute him with a puppet. European MPs now call for his release. Parliamentarians of different European countries have issued statements calling upon China to immediately release Tibet’s 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, and his entire family on the 25th year of their “disappearance.” 15 Swiss parliamentarians, 4 from Italy, 16 Czech MPs and 16 Czech Senators signed four different requests.