by Alessandro Amicarelli — “We put a lot of enthusiasm in our work as volunteers. If we said we were Scientologists, we were accused of proselytizing for our church. If we didn’t say it, we were accused of hiding our identity for some sinister purpose.” This was Luigi, an Italian Scientologist, raising his hand and offering a comment during the Webinar organized on January 5 by the Lithuanian Society for the Study of Religions on “New Religious Movements in the time of COVID-19: Actions, Counteractions, and Consequences.”
A Supreme Court case about the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church raises concerns among Catholics too.
by PierLuigi Zoccatelli — Eastern Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics in India are watching with concern a Supreme Court case about confession. Last week, the Supreme Court of India agreed to consider a petition by three lay members of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, who argue that the requirement of mandatory annual confession in their denomination violates the Constitutionally protected right to privacy.
Despite criticism it has received from mainline international scholars of new religious movements, anti-cultism is a dominant force in Russia. Its origins date back to the repression of groups labeled as sekty in the Russian Empire. In Soviet times, the State dealt directly with religious groups it regarded as dangerous, and offers of collaboration by the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) were rejected. However, cooperation between the ROC and the State in the fight against “cults” was resumed in the 21st century, and focused particularly on Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Japanese judges confirm that kidnapping and detaining believers for the purpose of coercively “de-converting” them is a crime.
by Willy Fautré — On 27 November, the Hiroshima High Court in Japan found guilty five persons involved in the kidnapping and confinement of a married couple for the purpose of forcibly de-converting them. The accused will have to pay damages to the victims: 610,000 yen (about 6,100 EUR) to the husband and 1,110,000 yen (11,100 EUR) to the wife.
On December 10, 2020, we announced an appeal signed by 14 NGOs, including FOB, to the authorities of China, Iran and Russia to release the religious prisoners, at risk of being infected with COVID-19. This appeal was based on HRWF's annual report: “In Prison for Their Faith 2020”. Today we are publishing a brief summary of the HRWF report.
In recent times, much has been said and written about China's possible role in the spread of the SARS CoV 2 virus, which gave rise to the COVID 19 disease associated with this virus. Much is being said and written about China's possible involvement in the 2020 US presidential election. But all this must not make us forget a long-standing and dramatic active role of Communist China in the uprooting (often bloody) of the cultures and traditions of ethnic and religious minorities that have had the misfortune of falling under Chinese hegemony.
We publish the testimony of a South Korean faithful from the Shincheonji Church, who was first forcefully hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital for her faith and then subjected to a coercive conversion program (deprogramming) by her family in early 2020. All supposedly "for her sake", as cynically stated by her family.
HRWF (17.12.2020) — LEE Su-ran lives in Busan Metropolitan City, Suyeong-gu with her husband and ten-year-old daughter. She had no previous religious affiliation before she joined the Shincheonji Church in March 2019.
The recent articles published on this site show a never dormant and ill-concealed intolerant regurgitation towards the beliefs of others. Freedom of belief is protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and by subsequent similar declarations, but in the light of the facts this right requires constant and further commitment, so that it is effectively recognized and respected as an inalienable right. Below we publish an article by professor Massimo Introvigne, internationally renowned sociologist of religions, who gives an example of how easy it is to fall into intolerance and incitement to hatred.
In parts of Germany, to work for the government and for several private companies, or even play violin in an orchestra or obtain a bonus for buying an e-bike, you should declare you are not associated with a certain religion. Claudia is a violinist. She had started a promising career when she defended her religion, which had come under criticism from certain quarters, in a TV show. Then, all hell broke loose. She started losing job opportunities, and the director of one orchestra she worked with, a personal friend, was threatened until he was compelled to fire her.
Administrative liquidation, harassment of groups labeled as “cults,” total ban on home-schooling are deemed as being against the French Constitution.
by Massimo Introvigne — French Council of Ministers will examine on December 8 the controversial draft law against “religious extremism.” I am among the authors of a White Paper arguing that, while some provisions of the draft law make sense in a country plagued by terrorism using ultra-fundamentalist Islam as its ideology, several provisions are dangerous for religious liberty. Bitter Winter also called the attention on the religious freedom problems of the text.
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.
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.
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.