The year 2023 ends with a good news for the Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses in Belgium. The Belgian Supreme Court definitively puts an end to the Ghent case, reaffirming the legitimacy of the practice, adopted by Jehovah's Witnesses and, essentially, by all religions and human associational groups, political or otherwise, of severing relations with those who have disaffiliated or been expelled from the congregation.
Right to truth
by Steno Sari — Isn’t it true that dishonest people take advantage of honest people? Therefore, what advantage does an honest person (from the Latin honestus, 'honoured', a derivative of honos, 'honour') have in a world where dishonesty prevails? First of all, it must be said that a society based on deceit and lies does not function well and the whole community suffers because dishonesty often leads to social disintegration and the devaluation of ethical and moral values.
La Libre Belgique (28.07.2022) – On 20 October 2018, La Libre mentioned a report that the Centre for Information and Advice on Harmful Sectarian Organisations, CIAOSN, had asked the House (the federal parliament) to investigate sexual abuse of minors committed within the Jehovah's Witness community.
When Belgian media wrongfully stigmatize and fail to publish the judicial truth: the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses (2)
HRWF — Human Rights Without Frontiers has identified three well-known TV channels – RTBF, RTL and VRT – and several major newspapers such as La Libre Belgique, La Dernière Heure and Het Laatste Nieuws which have failed to report the dismissal of the case against the association of Jehovah’s Witnesses wrongfully suspected of hiding cases of sexual abuse in its midst and holding so-called internal trials, generally favourable to the alleged perpetrators.
When Belgian media wrongfully stigmatize and fail to publish the judicial truth: the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses (1)
HRWF — Le Soir, La Capitale Sud-info, Bruxelles News, Nieuwsblad, VRT Nieuws and Bruzz who had very imprudently reported in 2018-2019, as a breaking news, the alleged failure of the Belgian Jehovah’s Witnesses association to report sexual abuse in their midst were the only media outlets to report about the 5th October 2021 court decision dismissing the charges against this religious group.
Press release of the Christian Congregation of JW/ Belgium (21.10.2021) - On 5 October 2021 the Court Chambers of Brussels declared that there were “no grounds” for the criminal accusations brought against the non-profit “Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses” at the instigation of the Center of Information and Advice on Harmful Sectarian Organizations (CIAOSN).
Six scholars look at the European anti-cult federation, and conclude it is seriously dangerous for religious liberty.
By Luigi Berzano (University of Torino, Italy), Boris Falikov (Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow, Russia), Willy Fautré (Human Rights Without Frontiers, Brussels, Belgium), Liudmyla Filipovich (Lesya Ukrainka Eastern European National University, Lutsk, Ukraine), Massimo Introvigne (Center for Studies on New Religions, Torino, Italy), and Bernadette Rigal-Cellard (University Bordeaux-Montaigne, Bordeaux, France)
by Massimo Introvigne — FECRIS, the European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects, is an umbrella organization for anti-cult movements in Europe and beyond. It is significantly funded by the French government, and has been identified by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) as a main international threat to religious liberty. When FECRIS branches are sued, they often claim that these are futile litigations started by “cults” with the only purpose of harassing them, since anti-cult movements serve a public function, and their exposes of “cults” are protected by free speech laws.
by Ruth Ingram — The Chinese government is running a concerted campaign to malign, discredit and terrorize Uyghurs who have lost touch with loved ones, in an attempt to claim the moral high ground in its propaganda war on terror. A text message out of the blue from a relative begging them to return, hounding calls from officials, or as in Aziz Isa Elkun’s case, a Chinese news feature with his elderly mother, castigating him for being a bad son, strike terror in the hearts of traumatized exiles, leaving them in a no man’s land of grief and longing.
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 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.
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".
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.
by Steno Sari — A few weeks ago I talked about fake news, starting the article with a quote from George Orwell on the courage of truth. Even today I would like to ask Orwell for help in resuming the talk left pending: "True freedom of the press is telling people what people don't want to hear." In other words, a journalist must know how to go against the tide if necessary. And it's not exactly easy.
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.
"We are scholars, human rights activists, reporters. and lawyers, all with a substantial experience in the field of new religious movements (derogatorily called “cults” by their opponents). Some of us have studied the Korean Christian new religious movement known as Shincheonji Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony (in short, Shincheonji).
by Nicola Colaianni
Former councilor of the Supreme Court of Cassation and full professor of ecclesiastic law, University of Bari
Freedom of conscience, religion and thought is the most fragile and vulnerable of all because it can be compressed and suppressed even subliminally, with messages and stimuli below the perception of the subjects. And the offense can come, not only from the public authorities, but also from the same communities in which individuals perform, in particular, their religious personality.
“Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as the truth is of systems of thought" – John Rawls
The lecture on the freedom of the press held a few years ago (here the transcript is published), intended and intends to underline the function of debunking that the "good" press (so it has been indicated) should do, or rather, must do. This intention of truth accompanies that freedom as its constitutive element which is often – if not very often – betrayed. The current experience of the "worst" journalistic communication is that of television programs of information or analysis which, with reference to belief or religious minorities, often betray the truth twice, given that they present themselves as a journalistic inquiry or article of debunking.