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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.