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

Thai authorities open bail after detainee dies in custody

We received wonderful news that Thai authorities opened up bails for medically vulnerable asylum seekers and mothers with children. Jubilee Campaign was able to assist in bailing out four Pakistani Christian asylum seekers. Those released included three mothers and a boy.  Bangkok, Thailand has been the temporary home for an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 Pakistani Christians who fled religiously motivated persecution in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.  These Christians and thousands of other asylum seekers from a number of countries have sought to apply for refugee resettlement with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Bangkok.  However, hopes for a swift hearing have been replaced by 4-5 years of waiting upon an overburdened UNHCR to provide a hearing date.  Thailand has become increasing hostile to these asylum seekers, cracking down in 2015 with numerous raids during which authorities primarily arrest and detain mothers and small children into the cramped and squalid conditions of the Immigration Detention Center (IDC).  Hope for release by the payment of $3,000 of bail per person was deferred when Thai authorities suspended bailouts since October 2015.
(Pictured above are two women Jubilee helped bail out.)

The decision to open up bails came after the death of another Pakistani Christian held at the IDC. Pervaiz Ghouri Masih, 53, passed away on January 10th after suffering with a tumor and reoccurring heart condition. The overcrowding, lack of nourishment, and unhygienic conditions of the detention center did not help his health. On January 6th, IDC wardens finally took him to the hospital after being detained since September 10th. However, exactly 4 months after Mr. Masih’s arrest, he lost his life to a heart attack.

 

Jubilee Campaign is also providing assistance for two more detainees to be released. Once bail is paid, the asylum seeker is protected from rearrest for two years. This is critical in order for the asylum seeker to have their appointment with the UNHCR and be resettled. If you would like to help Jubilee Campaign with providing bail for Pakistani Christian asylum seekers, please consider donating to the Christian Rescue Fund.

 

As always, please continue praying for the Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in Bangkok. Pray that the hearts of the Thai authorities will soften, as they currently do not protect refugees.

If you would like to read more on the story, visit:

Jubilee Campaign Advocates for the Release of Nguyen Van Dai and Religious Freedom in Vietnam

Jubilee Campaign recently partnered with Boat People SOS and others to initiate a NGO sign-on letter to President Obama calling for him to make human rights a priority at the U.S.-ASEAN summit on February 15th & 16th in Sunnylands, California. Exactly two months ago, Nguyen Van Dai, a human rights lawyer, was arrested by the Vietnamese government for his constant speaking up against the human rights abuses committed by the government. Unfortunately, this is not Mr. Nguyen’s first arrest by the government. The letter  below calls on the immediate release of Mr. Nguyen and other prisoners of conscience. Vietnam also continues to restrict religious liberty. Despite its efforts to draft a new law on religion and belief, the government continues to require religious organizations to submit to onerous registration and seek approval from the government; in addition, the government continues to interfere with the internal affairs and operations of religious groups. It’s time for the United States to push harder for human rights worldwide, especially with countries it has a long-standing diplomatic and economic relationship.

Members of Congress also sent letters to President Obama raising these important issues.

Letter from Senator Cassidy: http://jubileecampaign.org/advocacy-letters/senator-cassidys-letter-to-president-obama-ahead-of-us-asean-summit/

Letter from Representatives: http://jubileecampaign.org/advocacy-letters/letter-from-representatives-to-president-obama-ahead-of-us-asean-summit/

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February 10, 2016

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, are writing to ask that you make human
rights a priority at the upcoming U.S.-ASEAN summit in Sunnylands, California. Specifically,
we urge you to raise concerns with the Vietnamese delegation over their government’s pattern of
serious violations of internationally recognized human rights, particularly the right to freedom of
religion or belief.

After twenty years of diplomatic relations with the United States and billions of dollars in U.S.
trade and investment, the government of Vietnam continues to treat its own citizens –
particularly those who promote respect for human rights and democracy– in ways that suggest a
renewed US commitment to stand up for human rights in Vietnam is needed. Particularly
troubling is the recent arrest of human rights lawyer and former prisoner of conscience Nguyen
Van Dai. He was first arrested and imprisoned in 2007 for defending freedom of religion and
calling for the democratization of Vietnamese society. Ironically, not long before his most recent
arrest on December 16, 2015, Dai publicly supported Vietnam’s participation in the Trans-
Pacific Partnership.

As Vietnam aggressively seeks to expand trade with the United States, your administration
should insist that Vietnam unconditionally free all of the hundreds of people imprisoned for
peaceful expression of their opinions and beliefs, such as religious freedom activists Father
Nguyen Van Ly, Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh, Hoa Hao Buddhists Bui Van Trung and Nguyen
Van Minh, and Khmer Krom Buddhist monks Lieu Ny and Thach Thuol; democracy
campaigners Bui Thi Minh Hang and Tran Huynh Duy Thuc; labor rights activists Doan Huy
Chuong and Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung; and Montagnard Christians Runh, Jonh, and Y Ngun
Knul; young Catholic activists Dang Xuan Dieu, Ho Duc Hoa, and Nguyen Dang Minh Man;
cyber dissident Ngo Hao. We also request that you press Vietnam to honor its obligations as a
state party to both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN
Convention Against Torture by taking immediate steps to end pervasive police torture and
mistreatment of prisoners and detainees.

We also urge you to press Vietnam to repeal all laws and administrative decrees that deny
freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and religious belief, and that serve as the
basis for the detention and imprisonment of religious leaders and human rights advocates – such
as the provisions that criminalize “propaganda against the state,” “undermining national unity”
and “taking advantage of the rights to democracy and freedom to infringe upon the interests of
the state.” Instead, Vietnam should enact laws codifying and protecting the fundamental human
rights the government now routinely violates. We hope you will also make clear that Vietnam
must stop arresting pro-democracy bloggers and others who use the Internet to criticize the
government and that it must release those who have been imprisoned.

Persecution of those who are members of independent religious communities is also an alarming
issue. Types of persecution vary, and range from harassment tactics, such as the government
shutting off electricity in a village dominated by a particular religion or religious community, to
physical beatings of leaders by the police. Local authorities have at times reportedly resorted to
using beatings and torture to force people to renounce their faith. Vietnam should be encouraged
to create a safe environment for all to freely practice their faith without interference, and should
punish government officials who fail to protect freedom of conscience and religion.

A new Law on Religion and Belief currently under consideration by Vietnam’s National
Assembly will perpetuate the already repressive situation. The draft law places burdensome
registration requirements on religious organizations, while allowing excessive state control and
interference by the government into the affairs of religious organizations.

The draft law also includes ambiguous language that we fear could be used to further religious
discrimination. The draft law allows authorities to suspend religious festivities and activities for
the reason of “national defense or security, public order, social order, or public health.” The
draft law does not outline the circumstances under which this can be enforced, and we fear this
vague language may lead to arbitrary suspensions of religious activities, particularly by ethnic
minority and independent religious groups.

It is essential that the Vietnam government eliminate the onerous requirement that all religious
organizations submit to close supervision by the government as a precondition for conducting
worship services and other activities. The government should not determine the content of
religious education and training, nor should it be allowed to appoint religious leadership. We ask
that you urge the Vietnam government to redraft the law in ways that recognize freedom of
religion is a basic human right that is not conditional on approval by the government; otherwise
that draft law should be completely abandoned.

Similarly, we urge you to press the Vietnamese government to permit the existence of genuinely
independent non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Should Vietnam move forward with its
first-ever law on association, provisions allowing genuinely-independent NGOs must be
included in the law. Civil society in Vietnam continues to be constrained through various
restrictions on civil society groups, and by government efforts to cement control over civil
society by creating dozens of sympathetic government-organized NGOs (GONGOs) controlled
by the Communist Party or its constituent entities including the Fatherland Front and the
Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations (VUFO).

Finally, the Vietnam government must also allow workers to form labor unions that are truly
independent of the government and of the Communist Party. It must also end the practice of
forced labor and prosecute officials of state-owned labor export companies that are involved in
human trafficking. The Vietnam government uses forced labor in “rehabilitation” centers,
detention centers, and prisons, and looks the other way at abuses in its labor export program that
result in some of its citizens being forced into modern-day slavery in countries around the world,
and fails to protect victims from retaliation when they object to such treatment.

We hope you will make clear to the Vietnamese leaders attending the U.S.-ASEAN Summit in
Sunnylands that further expansion of the United States trade and security relationship with
Vietnam will not be acceptable to your administration, to Congress, or to the American people
unless it is contingent upon significant, verifiable and irreversible improvements in human rights
practices.

Thank you for your consideration of these requests.

Sincerely,

Organizations:
21st Century Wilberforce Initiative
Advisory Committee for Religious Freedom in Vietnam
Advocates International
Boat People SOS (BPSOS)
Campaign to Abolish Torture in Vietnam (CAT-VN)
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)
Church of Scientology National Affairs Office
Coalition for a Free and Democratic Vietnam
Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery in Asia (CAMSA)
Committee for Religious Freedom in Vietnam
Con Dau Parishioners Association
Council of Indigenous Peoples in Today’s Vietnam
Counterparts
Human Rights Lawyers Network Without Frontiers
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Without Frontiers International
International Office of Champa
Jubilee Campaign USA
Montagnard Human Rights Organization
National Vietnam & Gulf War Veterans Coalition
Popular Bloc of Cao Dai Religion, Overseas Representative Office
Red Eagle Enterprises
The Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church of America
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
VETO! Human Rights Defenders Network
Vietnamese American Community of the USA
Vietnam Human Rights Network
Vietnamese Women for Human Rights, Overseas Representative Office
Women for Human Rights in Vietnam

Individuals:
Dr. Cu Huy Ha Vu, former political prisoner
Northwestern University School of Law
Le Thi Kim Thu, land rights activist and former prisoner of conscience
San Diego, California
Pham Tran Anh, Friendship Association of Former Political and Religious Prisoners
Orange County, California
Ta Phong Tan, independent blogger and former prisoner of conscience
Orange County, California
Vu Hoang Hai, Bloc 8406 member and former prisoner of conscience
Orange County, California
William C. Walsh, Human Rights Attorney
Washington DC