by Ruth Ingram — A last-ditch attempt by the ruling UK Conservative Party to persuade the Lords to rethink their stance on trade with genocidal states, failed dramatically this week. Peers defied pressure from the government to jettison an amendment to the Trade Bill, which would ban bilateral deals with states that commit genocide, by voting overwhelmingly in favor of the move for the second time, by 171 votes.
The practice of deprogramming is one of the sad - and sinister - topics denounced by FOB and other friendly organization and part of the battle for the respect of freedom of belief. Recent reports recounting the abuses suffered by believers of Shincheonji in South Korea, have brought the practice back into the public eye. In a ruling issued on November 27, 2020, the Hiroshima High Court confirmed that the abduction and detention of believers for the purpose of coercively "de-converting" them, is a crime.
by Massimo Introvigne — Many in the world know the names of Shincheonji and its leader, Chairman Lee Man Hee, only because they were accused by South Korean authorities of voluntarily obstructing the campaign to contain COVID-19 in the country, after a member of the movement had emerged as a “superspreader” of the virus. As I discussed in previous articles analyzing the decision, on January 13, 2021 the Suwon District Court acquitted Chairman Lee from all COVID-related charges and recognized that, rather than obstructing the health authorities’ efforts, “Shincheonji actively” and “promptly” cooperated with them.
Today, February 3, 2021, The Church of Almighty God released its 2020 Annual Report on the Chinese Communist Government’s Persecution of The Church of Almighty God, exposing the Chinese Communist Party’s continued assault on religious beliefs under the shadow of COVID-19. In 2020, at least 7,055 Christians from The Church of Almighty God were arrested, 1,098 were sentenced, and 21 were persecuted to death.
by Alessandro Amicarelli — A disproportionate number of cases involving forced adoption at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) come from Norway. Norwegian social services are quick to deprive parents of their rights, accusing them of neglect, and to place children in foster care, which then leads to adoption. Often, this happens to children of poor immigrant single parents, who end up being adopted by well-off Norwegians.
The Italian Supreme Court grants the re-examination of the asylum requests of the Church of Almighty God
Since its inception, FOB has supported the rights of refugees by bringing the issue to the attention of the OSCE HDIM, the Week for Religious Freedom at the US Senate and the UN. The awareness-raising activity promoted by FOB and friendly organizations begins to bear the hoped-for results, as reported in the following article by professor Massimo Introvigne published on Bitter Winter web magazine.
by Massimo Introvigne — On January 13, 2021, the Suwon District Court acquitted Chairman Lee Man Hee, the founder and leader of the South Korean Christian new religious movement Shincheonji, from charges that he had obstructed the anti-COVID-19 efforts by the health authorities. Debunking widespread fake news, the judges concluded that, in fact, after one of its members was diagnosed with COVID-19 and it became clear that, before the diagnosis, she had attended church events and infected co-religionists, “Shincheonji actively cooperated with the submission of data [requested by the authorities] and promptly provided them to the Central Disease Control Headquarters [CDCH].”
by Massimo Introvigne — For several months, South Korean and international media depicted Shincheonji, one of the largest Korean Christian new religious movements, and his founder and leader Chairman Lee Man Hee, as “plague-spreaders” responsible of the first outbreak of COVID-19 in South Korea. Now, a South Korean court of law has debunked this claim as fake news.
Marlène Schiappa entrusts MIVILUDES to write a report on "sectarian drifts imported from the United States"
During the program "Dimanche en politique" Marlène Schiappa, Minister Delegate at the Minister of the Interior, in charge of Citizenship, declared that "More and more families influenced by Evangelical branches from the United States are asking for certificates of virginity".
At a time when the debates on the bill confirming the respect of the principles of the Republic began in the National Assembly, it seemed to us wise to think about ways to enrich and improve it, where we felt it could be. Far from being exhaustive and covering all aspects of a text that is intended to be major in the history of the Fifth Republic, we focused on the part of the text that reformed the 1905 law on the separation of churches and the state.
HRWF/ Bitter Winter (11.01.2021) — While the bill Consolidating Respect for the Principles of the Republic (former bill on separatism) is currently being examined by a special committee of the French National Assembly, three renowned experts have just published a white paper entitled Laïcité, How to Preserve it.
One of the tragic aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic is the limitation of individual freedoms at almost all latitudes. In some countries this adds up to the deplorable and blamed limitations on freedom of belief. The 2020 report on the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia tells of a long history of abuses that do not seem to diminish, indeed, they seem to be getting worse and worse.
Below is a 2020 year-end report illustrating the scope of Russia’s crackdown on Jehovah’s Witnesses. For its incessant persecution of Witnesses, among other offenses, Russia is listed on UN Watch’s 2020 “Top 10 Human Rights Abusers.”
As of December 31, 2020 (Russia and Crimea):
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.