U.S. State Department declares actions by ISIS genocide

Last week history was made as Secretary of State John Kerry announced the United States’ recognition that the atrocities committed by ISIS against Christians, Yazidis, and Shiites in the areas controlled by the terrorist group are indeed genocide.

The State Department had received pressure from multiple entities to make the designation, including Congress. In an omnibus bill from the beginning of this year, a deadline of March 17 was included for the State Department to make a decision on a designation. However, there were doubts whether the State Department would follow through. In a unanimous 393-0 vote prior to Kerry’s announcement, the House of Representatives declared the Islamic State’s crimes as genocide, putting more pressure on the government to act.

On March 17 at 9 a.m. Kerry made the designation stating, “Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims. Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions.”

The looming question the international community now has is, “What’s next?” The designation does not have any binding actions, however there is hope that the designation will increase support to the groups facing genocide by increased military support and allowing refugee settlement in the United States. Now that the United States has declared “genocide,” our hope is that the United States can no longer avoid the atrocities being committed.

Join us in thanking the Lord for working on the hearts of our nation’s policy makers to recognize the crimes committed against those who oppose ISIS’s ideology. We continue to pray for peace and reconciliation in Iraq and Syria, and for the conversion of ISIS’s fighters.

 

BBC Investigates Horrible Conditions Facing Christian Pakistani Asylum Seekers in Thailand

This past week, Chris Rogers, a BBC reporter, informed the world of his findings while going undercover in Thailand to expose how the country treats asylum seekers. Jubilee Campaign was happy to provide the BBC our report we published last year to help their investigation. Pakistani Christians, who come to Thailand fleeing religious persecution in Pakistan, make up the second largest asylum seeking group in Thailand. Because Thailand is not a signatory to the  Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, asylum seekers in Thailand are subject to arrest and unhygienic conditions in the Immigration Detention Center (IDC). Though most are registered with the UNHCR office, which in the past had offered protection from arrest, Thai authorities disregard their registration and arrest them anyway, often separating families and detaining the asylum seekers for an indefinite amount of time.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has designated Pakistan as a Tier 1 Country of Particular Concern (CPC). Although the United States Department of State has not shared in this designation, Pakistan has proved to have one of the worst situations in the world for religious freedom.

Pakistan’s blasphemy law tends to be one of the main reasons many Christians leave Pakistan. Christians are often arbitrarily accused of defiling Islam’s holy book, the Koran, or insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Most recently, a Christian couple was sentenced to death after they were found guilty for sending a text message that “blasphemed” against the Prophet Muhammad. The couple insist that their phone had been stolen, and that they did not send the message. There is no evidence that has linked the couple to the text messages, but the sentence has remained.

Other asylum seekers have fled Pakistan due to the threat of suicide bombers targeting churches. Individuals and families are also targeted by extremists, threatening to kill them unless they convert to Islam.

These dangerous conditions have forced Christians to seek out a refuge. Asylum seekers that go to Bangkok hope to be resettled in the West; however, they are subject to further persecution while they await resettlement. In recent months, the Thai authorities have arrested hundreds of Pakistani Christians. Unfortunately, two have passed away while detained because of the poor conditions of the facilities.

We urge you to write to your Thai embassy and ask for the immediate release of all the Christian Pakistani asylum seekers. In addition, the Thai authorities should be urged to stop arresting those registered with the UNHCR while they await their resettlement appointments.

To watch the BBC video in which Jubilee Campaign is mentioned, visit: https://vimeo.com/user18375217/review/156847557/edd7ed8b33. The password to view the video is: Pakistan

Faith-page

Join the Global Day of Prayer for Burma on March 13th

March 13th is the Global Day of Prayer for Burma!

The people of The Republic of the Union of Myanmar, a country also known as Burma, have experienced continued hardship as they have endured ongoing conflict, political instability, extreme economic hardships, and natural disaster. Burma is one of the least developed countries in the world, ranking 148 out of 188 on the UN’s Human Development Index in 2015. In this underdeveloped country, people suffer from severe poverty, and many have fled due to violence and the harsh military rule. Please take a few moments to join people around the world in praying for the people in Burma.

The following information can aid you in praying:
 pray for burma
Fighting between ethnic minorities has put many civilians at risk. Many schools within ethnic minority areas have been destroyed during attacks on villages, which has taken the lives of many children and injured others. However, education persists as teachers continue to meet with students. Hope could lie within these learning students who have the potential to make a great impact on Burma as it develops. “Pray for protection of school children and teachers, for both opportunity and perseverance as they build together the future of their country.”
 
On October 15, 2015, eight Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) signed a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the government and Myanmar army. However, about 10 EAOs did not sign, and the agreement has also not been ratified by Parliament. Therefore, the NCA has not accomplished complete peace between groups and the military. There is still fighting between EAOs and the Myanmar Army has continued their attacks against civilians and EAOs that did not sign the NCA. “Pray for the ongoing, complicated peace process, for the continuing ceasefire negotiations, and for the new government.”

Kachin State is especially afflicted with rape, murder, attacks, and displacement. Last January, two young women who were missionaries sent by the Kachin Baptist Convention were raped and killed by the Burma Army. Members of the army came to the church compound while the girls were sleeping and assaulted and killed them. Villagers heard their screams and found the girls dead after the army left. They notified the police, but the police took no action. Please keep the families of these girls in your prayers as well as others threatened by similar assaults. The widespread displacement of minority tribal people has stemmed from people fleeing violence such as this.“Pray for the over one hundred thousand displaced people in Kachin State, that they could be free from fear and free to return home.”

Last year a resurgence of a cholera outbreak spread throughout remote villages and into more developed regions of Burma. Five emergency response teams went to the places that had the largest outbreaks to try and tackle the issue. Disease is a huge problem in Burma, as the public is largely uneducated on diseases and disease prevention, and people die from easily curable illnesses. New medics are being trained at the Jungle School of Medicine-Kawtholei, and programs have been launched to educate people on how to prevent particular diseases. “Pray for new medics, that they would be inspired with a clear and powerful vision of their vocation, and the opportunity to live it.” 

Eritreans and Somalis Face Some of World’s Harshest Conditions

Last year, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea published an extensive 484-page report documenting the human rights atrocities facing those in Eritrea. As corruption and perils persist today, many are fleeing as refugees to seek a place where they can live in safety and freedom. Below is an update on the conditions of Eritrea, including a link to a brand new website launched by the UN Refugee Agency to provide real-life stories from those who have fled from both Eritrea and Somalia.

The small East African countries of Eritrea and Somalia have produced thousands upon thousands of refugees who have fled to other African countries and Europe. The large masses of people who are fleeing these countries stems from a wide array of atrocities that make it too dangerous for them to stay. Reports have estimated that nearly 5,000 people flee Eritrea each month.

The Eritrean government treats its people so poorly that it has been compared to North Korea. However, Eritrea has gotten very little attention or compassion from the international community. The Eritrean government is extremely controlling of its people. The Committee to Protect Journalists stated Eritrea is “the most censored country in the world.” Only 1 percent of Eritreans can access the Internet, while 23 journalists remain in jail, the highest number in all of Africa. What’s more, as the Eritrean government is so strongly guarded against its citizens, any public gathering of seven or more requires a permit from the government.

Eritrea also has extreme restrictions placed on religious groups. Currently, only four religious denominations are officially recognized by the government of Eritrea: Sunni Islam, the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea, and the Roman Catholic Church. Any unregistered group found practicing their faith may be arrested and detained without charge or trial and can face torture or even death. In many cases, those belonging to recognized groups also face repression.

Thousands of mostly Evangelical Christians are thought to be detained indefinitely, some of which are held in metal shipping containers. Although some were initially released after pledging to renounce their faith, none have been formally charged or tried and all are held until they provide similar denials of faith. During the past 15 years, these deplorable detention conditions have been inflicted upon tens of thousands of Evangelical Christians caught during Bible studies in private homes or otherwise seeking to practice their faith outside of the registered denominations. Consequently, tens of thousands have fled and many of those suffered even more brutal conditions as refugees, including death.

There have also been accounts of forced labor in both government operations and private businesses backed by the Eritrean government. Elsa Chyrum, Director of Human Rights Concern- Eritrea, interviewed Eritrean refugees who claimed they had been forced to work for the military and at the Bisha mine. If they refused, they would be killed, tortured, or detained. The interviewees reported that they worked in extreme heat and often experienced malaria, diarrhea, and collapsing due to their circumstances.

Situations such as these have created the harsh conditions that require people to flee. Unfortunately, many flee based on false hopes and rumors they have heard that promise security and hope. Often times, their attempts to reach safer grounds bring much suffering as they face corrupt smugglers along the way and then unwelcoming countries once they arrive. Many times, receiving countries refuse to treat Eritreans as refugees and instead declare them to be migrants and send them back to Eritrea with no protection.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has launched a website-tellingtherealstory.org-with the purpose of getting more accurate information to Eritreans and Somalis to prevent them from embarking on their journeys as refugees uninformed. The website gives real-life stories from people who faced immense dangers as they traveled as refugees with the hope of finding safety. Please take a moment to browse this site and pray for Eritreans and Somalis who have fled their countries or who have stayed and continue to face injustice.

To see more on human rights abuses in Eritrean mining, please see the following broadcast: http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/episodes/2015-2016/nevsun-in-eritrea-dealing-with-a-dictator