by Alessandro Amicarelli — In these days, there are associations for “victims” of everything, from bullying in school to defective electronic products. As an attorney, I am sensitive to the fact that in the U.S. there are even associations of “victims” of lawyers. Several of these associations exist in the field of spirituality and religion. For example, groups such as Catholics Anonymous or Recovering Catholics gather “victims” of Catholicism—not of sexual abuse or with other specific grievances, just ex-members claiming that being part of the Roman Catholic Church was a victimizing experience.
HRWF (10.12.2020) – Fourteen human rights NGOs call upon the authorities of China, Iran and Russia to release religious prisoners under threat of being infected by COVID-19. These are the three countries that have the highest number of believers of all faiths behind bars, according to Human Rights Without Frontiers’ (HRWF) database of FoRB prisoners which documents thousands of individual cases.
A provision allegedly introduced to cut foreign funding to Islamic radical groups may in fact severely limit the activities of hundreds of different religious movements.
by Alessandro Amicarelli — Bitter Winter has covered the new French draft law on extremism, explaining why, as it previously happened in Russia, measures intended to contain Islamic radicalism and terrorism create dangers for freedom of religion or belief in general. One provision of the draft law that was overlooked by many, and which is no less dangerous than others, is Article 38.
On occasion of the Human Rights Day 2020 – December 10, 2020 – at 1 p.m. Brussels Time, it will be held on Zoom (no registration needed): https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84145475018, a webinar introducing the White Paper "Justice Denied: The Tai Ji Men Case in Taiwan" by CESNUR and Human Rights Without Fronties.
This year the awaited appointment with the Third Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom was held online due to the well-known situation of Covid-19. We publish the speeches that the president of FOB, lawyer Alessandro Amicarelli, gave on 18 and 19 November 2020, as well as a brief summary of the speeches by professor Massimo Introvigne of CESNUR (Center for Studies on New Religions) and the president of our associated CAPLC (European Coordination of Associations and Individuals for Freedom of Conscience) released on November 18.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tai Ji Men is a spiritual school and highly commended by many personalities in Taiwan. As European Federation for Freedom of Belief (FOB) we deal with cases of discrimination against religious and spiritual minorities and their members too. More than once fiscal and tax issues have been used by governments to the detriment of some groups in order to stop their activities, for instance, when the groups where growing too fast or when they were disliked by the authorities.
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 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.
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.