Jubilee Campaign Participates in a Panel Discussion at the Family Research Council

This Wednesday October 26th, our very own Ann Buwalda participated in a Panel Discussion at the Family Research Council.

The topic of International Religious Persecution is very near and dear to our hearts at Jubilee Campaign. We see the critical impact that U.S. foreign policy has on the survival of religious minorities in both positive and negative ways.

Unfortunately as the panel discussion revealed, over the past 13 years religious persecution has grown significantly around the world and the U.S. has still not really engaged on the issue.

Click Here to watch a video of the Panel Discussion. Ann’s presentation begins at 17:29 and her prepared remarks are below.

The Panel Discussion was noted in articles by the Washington Post and the Christian Post.

Prepared Remarks

October 26, 2011

The Urgent Need for the United States to Engage an International Religious Freedom Policy

I would like to thank the Family Research Council for hosting this panel discussion and for drawing everyone’s attention to The Pew Forum report entitled, “Rising Restrictions on Religion.” The Pew Forum’s report found that restrictions on religious beliefs and practices rose during the three year period between mid-2006 and mid-2009 in 23 of the world’s 198 countries or 12% of the world’s countries. However, due to the population sizes of countries found to have restricted religious freedom, 32% of the world’s population suffered a decline in their freedom to practice their faith.

Most of the period of time covered by The Pew Forum study occurred during the Bush administration. Most people would agree that the Bush administration did make international religious freedom a key aspect of its foreign policy goals. Despite the Bush administration’s more overt efforts to protect international religious freedom than prior administrations and certainly than the current administration, one-third of the world’s population experienced an increase in restrictions according to the Pew Forum’s report.

Will the Obama’s administration diminished foreign policy emphasis on international religious freedom continuing this downward trend of countries curtailing religious freedom? So far, the answer appears to be dramatically, “yes.” The need for the United States to engage countries to protect religious freedom is more urgent today than ever before.

Consider these examples of current, real time urgency:

Libya

Within hoursof the death of Dictator Muammar Gaddafi this past week, the transitional government declared that Shari’a or Islamic Law will be the basis of all law, which likely exceeds the demands of the more secular society within Libya as well as the pre-Gaddafi constitution. Although Libya’s ambassador to the United States is seeking to downplay the impact of setting up a religious rather than a secular civil society, banning the charging of interest in lending is hardly an example of moderation. Considering the $140 million in aid given to Libya since the start of the uprising, one would have hoped that the recent visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Libya would have at least included religious freedom on the agenda. If in fact religious freedom was mentioned by Secretary Clinton, the subsequent Shari’a law announcement by the transitional leadership appears to disregard any recommendation for a secular society.

Egypt

An increase of attacks in frequency and brutality against The Coptic Christian minority in Egypt has occurred since January of this year. Muslim extremists and the military have been involved in numerous attacks on peaceful Christian demonstrations and on Coptic houses of worship this year. Two brutal examples occurred this month. On Monday, October 3, Muslims surrounded and attempted to demolish the St. Mary’s Church in the Upper Egyptian village of Elmadmar, in the Tema district, in the Sohag province. On October 9, the military attacked a Peaceful Coptic protest resulting in reports of up to 27 dead and over 300 persons wounded as a result, these numbers according to Coptic Solidarity Press Release. The situation for Coptic Christian minorities is not getting better, and Coptic Christians are fleeing Egypt in droves. My office has been receiving phone calls from panicked Coptic Christians in Cairo pleading for help to flee the country.

Iraq

Despite the best efforts of the Bush Administration to seek religious freedom for a significant minority population, in Iraq hundreds of thousands of minorities have been forced to flee. Most estimates claim 1.2 million to 1.5 million Christian minorities lived in Iraq prior to the removal of Dictator Saddam Hussein. Some reports state that less than 345,000 Christians now remain in Iraq, and some estimates go as low as 150,000. The Sabean-Mandeans report their population has declined from approximately 100,000 before the war to less than 5,000 today. Religious minorities have been forced out by uncontrolled murders, kidnappings, and violence against houses of worship.

Afghanistan

The Afghan Constitution does not support the freedom of religious choice. Shari’a Law is found as the source of its legal underpinnings as Article 3 of the Afghan Constitution. The recently released U.S. Department of States’ International Religious Freedom report noted that there is no longer any public Christian church in that country. Likewise, the once significant Jewish minority has been expunged from the country.

Iran

Always hostile towards anyone found who has converted away from Islam, Iran launched a public and aggressive effort to arrest their citizens participating in Christian church activity. Following the arrest of over 150 converts to Christianity in December 2010 and January 2011, currently, at least eight Iranian Christians are still imprisoned for their faith. Six have spent several months in jail. One, Pastor Yousef Naderkhani, has been sentenced to death solely because of his conversion away from Islam.

Pakistan

Pakistan’s religious-based oppression of minorities was dramatically highlighted by the March 2, 2011, assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti. Bhatti, the Federal Minister for Minority Affairs, was the sole Christian in the cabinet and a staunch opponent of Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy laws. The blasphemy laws are a major player in the destabilization of Pakistan. The trial of Asia Bibi, accused of blasphemy by a neighbor, and the suspicious death of Qamar David, serving a life sentence for blasphemy are recent examples of the ongoing persecution these laws encourage. Each year an average of 45 Pakistanis are charged with blasphemy, and the discrimination encompasses Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Ahmadis, other minority groups, and has even been used against other Muslims.

According to the Pew Forum report, the rising restrictions on religion have occurred in each of these countries.

  • Libya’s Government Restrictions are High and have increased significantly over the past three years. Its Social Hostility is Moderate, and did not increase significantly over the past three years

  • Egypt’s Government Restrictions are Very High and increased significantly over the past three years. Its Social Hostility is also Very High, but did not increase significantly over the past three years

  • Iraq’s Government Restrictions are High and did not increase significantly over the past three years. Its Social Hostility is Very High and did not increase significantly over the past three years.

  • Afghanistan’s Government Restrictions are High and did not increase significantly over the past three years. Its Social Hostility is Very High and did not increase significantly over the past three years.

  • Iran’s Government Restrictions are Very High and did not increase significantly over the past three years. Its Social Hostility is High and did not increase significantly over the past three years.

  • Pakistan’s Government Restrictions are High and did not increase significantly over the past three years. Its Social Hostility is Very High and did not increase significantly over the past three years.

Clearly, the “Arab Spring” has turned into the “Arab Winter” for minorities in affected countries. During this time of dramatic change in several countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, the United States needs to assertively engage emerging governments to ensure religious freedom for all citizens including minorities. Yet, this administration seems to be backing down at the worst possible time on this crucial issue. Some of the consequences of failure to engage IRF within our foreign policy thrust are a rise in refugees and the internally displaced and a rise in violence perpetrated against minorities.

Jubilee Campaign promotes the human rights and religious liberty of ethnic and religious minorities; advocates the release of prisoners of conscience imprisoned on account of their faith; advocates for and assists refugees fleeing religious based persecution; and protects and promotes the dignity and safety of children from bodily harm and sexual exploitation. Jubilee Campaign holds special consultative status with ECOSOC at the United Nations.

Chen Guangcheng Alive As Of July 28th

Valiant Lawyer Tortured In Front of His Family For Contacting the Outside World

On October 10th we passed on to you unconfirmed reports that Chen Guangcheng may have been killed by Chinese authorities. We now know that as of July 28th Chen was still alive. Unfortunately, as the article below details, on July 28th he was brutally beaten in front of his wife and four year old son by local Chinese officials.

Chen first drew the ire of the Communist government of China by exposing government abuse and brutality in the course of over 100,000 forced abortions in a single Chinese county in a single year. Since then Chen has become a living example of the inhuman brutality of the Communist regime enduring beatings, denial of medical treatment and even deprivation of food. To learn more please watch the Free Chen Guangcheng! video made by our friends at Women’s Rights Without Frontiers.

We ask that you continue to pray for Chen and his family. We will keep you informed as more information continues to escape the media blackout imposed by the Communist government. If you have not yet done so, please add your names to the petition asking for Chen’s release. As always, we thank you, on Chen’s behalf, for all your prayers and support.

Details of Brutal Beating & Torture of Blind Legal Activist Chen Guangcheng Emerge

China Aid Association

(Linyi, Shandong – Oct. 27, 2011) ChinaAid has learned the details of a brutal four-hour beating by local authorities of blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng and his wife, about whom there has been no reliable news for months.

The July beating, which was witnessed by the couple’s elementary school-age son, is but one episode in a pattern of horrific persecution against Chen because he had exposed the violent and deadly measures used by Chinese authorities to enforce the nation’s one-child policy.  The couple endured a similarly brutal beating in February after they had smuggled out a videotape documenting the shocking conditions of their illegal house arrest following Chen’s release from prison.  (See the ChinaAid report)

A reliable source told ChinaAid that the July beating occurred after a storm knocked out equipment that authorities had installed in Chen’s house to cut off all their telecommunications contact with the outside world.  With the equipment disabled, Chen was able to make phone calls on July 25, but the calls were intercepted by authorities.  On July 28, Shuanghou town mayor Zhang Jian led a group of people to Chen’s home and beat and tortured the couple for four hours.

This is the sequence of events:
2 p.m. – authorities clear out everyone from Chen’s village
3 p.m. – authorities conduct an exhaustive search of Chen’s home and find a phone card in a pile of ashes
4 p.m.-authorities start the beating. Chen’s screams of pain were heard first, while his wife Yuan Weijing was heard shouting angrily along with their daughter Kesi’s cries. After a while, Weijing’s screams of pain could also be heard. From then until 8 p.m., the only sounds were screams of pain.

Some time later, a village doctor was permitted to give Chen some cursory medical treatment.

During the four-hour beating, Chen’s elderly mother, who lives with them, was prevented from entering their home.  When she was finally allowed to go in, neighbors heard her burst into tears, and her anguished cries -described as “gut-wrenching to hear” – continued for a long time.

According to the source, Zhang tortured Chen to try to get him to tell how he got the phone card to make the calls on July 25 and to reveal where he had hidden it.  When Chen and his wife refused to give any details, their house was ransacked until the phone card was found in a pile of ashes.

Then the mayor’s men viciously beat up Chen and his wife in the presence of their son Kesi.  “As family men themselves with parents and children, how could they inflict such inhuman pain on a little boy?” the source asked.

ChinaAid’s founder and president Bob Fu said, “We condemn the Shandong authorities for their extreme brutality against innocent blind Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng and his wife.”

“The Chinese government’s brutality against  brave individuals like Mr. Chen who promote the rule of law should certainly make the world seriously doubt the sincerity of the Chinese government’s commitment to international  human rights,” Fu said.

Chen was imprisoned for four years and three months for exposing the violent measures used to enforce China’s one-child policy, including forced abortions and involuntary sterilizations that in his county alone in 2005 numbered 130,000.

Since his release from prison in Sept. 2010, Chen has been kept under illegal house arrest, denied medical treatment for serious intestinal problems and deprived of all contact with the outside world.  Reporters and activists who have tried to visit him have been roughed up and turned away.

As a result, there has been no reliable information about Chen and his family for months, although there have been unconfirmed reports this fall that Chen might have been killed by Chinese authorities.

On July 21, the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed an amendment to the State Department 2012 appropriation bill supporting Chen and his wife. (See ChinaAid’s report)

Please support the cause for which Chen and his wife have paid such a high price and sign this petition to stop forced abortion in China.

ChinaAid Contacts
Bob Fu, President;  Mark Shan, Spokesperson
Tel: 1+ (888) 889-7757    Cell:  (267) 205-5210
Email: Bob@ChinaAid.org Mark@ChinaAid.org
Website: www.ChinaAid.org www.MonitorChina.org

Help Save Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani

We want to thank those of you who responded to our earlier, brief email regarding the death sentence received by Pastor Yousef. We wanted to take the time to send out a more extensive email detailing the history of Pastor Yousef’s case, along with our Press Release and materials for use in your churches. While this atrocious miscarriage of justice has drawn condemnation from Speaker John Boehner, the State Department, the White House and dozens of members of Congress, Pastor Yousef remains in prison with a death sentence hanging over his head. That is why we are sending you materials to help you spread the word. We want you to talk about this with your friends and pray for Pastor Yousef in your churches. The Iranian government may be trying to wait for the furor in the western media to die down so that they can execute Pastor Yousef quietly. We must continue crying out until he is released.

The History: Service to God

Pastor Yousef grew up in a Muslim household but like many in Iran, the bloody rule of the Ayatollahs pushed him away from religion. He served no God and lived a life of darkness until the light of Christ reached him at 19 years old. Having found satisfaction in the Gospel, Yousef immediately began to share it with those around him, and he became the pastor of a church in his hometown in northern Iran. God blessed him with a wife and children and despite the danger of a government crackdown, Pastor Yousef continued to share the Gospel and his church grew to around four hundred members.

The Crime: Apostasy

The local authorities hated and feared the growing Christian community in their midst. They were just waiting for an opportunity to strike. Opportunity came in the form of a new law, requiring the religious indoctrination of all Iranian children into Islam the specific version of Islam favored by the elite Islamic clergy that rules the country. Pastor Yousef protested the indoctrination of his children and was promptly arrested in his hometown of Rasht on October 13, 2009. However, soon after his arrest, the charges were changed from unlawful protesting to apostasy. Apostasy, defined as leaving Islam, cannot be found in Iran’s penal code and the investigation necessary to prove apostasy openly violates Article 23 of the Iranian Constitution, which forbids the investigation or punishment of anyone solely on the basis of their religious belief. The local authorities did not let these technicalities stop them and soon the sentence came down.

The Sentence: Death

After the initial death sentence Yousef was imprisoned awaiting his appeal at the Supreme Court. Iranian authorities used every means at their disposal to try to force Pastor Yousef to deny his faith. In addition to the ever-present threat of death, they held him incommunicado, tortured him, imprisoned his wife and threatened his children. Even his lawyer, Mohammad Dadkah, a valiant Muslim advocate for human rights, was suspended from practicing law and sentenced to 9 years in prison for supporting the cause of freedom in Iran. After years in prison, the Iranian Supreme Court remanded his case back to the local court that initially sentenced Pastor Yousef to death. Despite multiple violations of international law and Iran’s own Constitution, the Iranian court held a series of hearings calling on him to recant his Christian convictions. When he refused they once again sentenced Pastor Yousef to death on September 25, 2011.

The Response: Outrage

By the time the second death sentence was handed down the case had drawn considerable international attention. First prominent pastors, journalists, and musicians tweeted about #Nadarkhani. Then news agencies such as the Washington Times and Fox News pushed the issue into the mainstream. A wave of private and public diplomatic efforts reached to Tehran telling them that this lone Christian pastor was not alone, and that executing him would draw the ire of the entire free world. Faced with a decision above their pay-grade, the courts passed the buck all the way to the top. Now only the Supreme Leader of Iran, the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei can spare Yousef’s life.

Our Request: Keep Up the Pressure.

We want to emphasize, the government of Iran wants Pastor Yousef dead. The massive grassroots response and high-level advocacy carried out to date has only given Yousef a stay of execution. If our attention flags, that stay could prove only too temporary.

Click Here to download the poster which you can put up at your churches or other public bulletin boards.
Click Here to download a background pamphlet explaining the history of the case.
Feel free to print out our Press Release on Pastor Yousef, which is below.

Most of all, please continue praying for Pastor Yousef and for the all of the Christian suffering in Iran.

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Press Release

Jubilee Campaign Calls For the Immediate Release of Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani

The Government of Iran recently condemned Christian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani to death for ‘leaving Islam’, in blatant violation of their obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Jubilee Campaign calls on the United States and the international community to forcefully address this public violation of Iran’s obligations under international covenant and press for the immediate and unconditional release of Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani.

Today Jubilee Campaign, an advocate for international religious freedom, adds their voice to the chorus of cries from the human rights community calling for the release of Iranian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani. While the government of Iran habitually harasses and persecutes Christians and other religious minorities, last month they shocked the world by publicly condemning a man to death for apostasy, the crime of leaving Islam. Though reports of torture and extrajudicial killings of religious minorities abound, Iran has not formally executed anyone for apostasy since Pastor Hossein Soosmand in 1990.

Jubilee Campaign calls attention to the fact that the charge of apostasy, which cannot be found anywhere in Iran’s penal code, attacks the human right to leave one’s religion for another religion or no religion at all. This right is enshrined in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which Iran ratified without reservation. Jubilee Campaign calls on the United States to address this blatant and public violation of Iran’s international obligations. In addition to the manner in which the charges violate Iran’s international obligations, the formal investigation or punishment of a person on the basis of their religious beliefs violates Article 23 of Iran’s own Constitution.

Leaving aside the illegal charges and the unconstitutional investigation, Pastor Yousef claims that he does not meet the definition of genuine apostasy because he was never a Muslim. Until he became a Christian at 19 years old he did not believe in any God at all. Pastor Yousef’s story is not uncommon in Iran. The association of Islam with the Ayatollah’s reign of blood and terror has created a great deal of disillusionment with religion, particularly among younger generations of Iranians. Unfortunately for this growing segment of Iranian society, the death sentence against Pastor Youcef redefines apostasy as leaving the religion of one’s ancestors, a precedent with grave implications for any Iranian with a Muslim background.

“Clearly,” says Ann Buwalda, Executive Director of Jubilee Campaign, “the international community must hold the Iranian government accountable and prevent this unjust execution. Media and governments around the world must speak out and break the silence that condemns this innocent men to death.”

Moving Forward with Jubilee Campaign’s Peace and Reconciliation Project

Changing Capacity to Better Serve the People of Uganda

Last month we announced the Peace and Reconciliation Project and gave you some background on our partners at Peace & Reconciliation Ministries in Africa. Now we want to cast our vision for the future of this great work. For the past five years PRMA focused on saturating the area around their Peace Center in Lira, Uganda, training 250 local traditional leaders, 400 pastors, 600 political and civic leaders and 240 military officers in biblical conflict resolution.

While we will continue to train new leaders as they are elected or appointed, the ministry focus in Lira needs to shift. Land disputes are the most prevalent cause of serious conflict in northern Uganda and mediators trained in Biblical conflict resolution often require specialized technical assistance to create property lines and register discrete properties with the government.

To meet this need, PRMA must develop two new capacities. First we need modern GPS surveying equipment and training for their people to use it. Based on these surveys PRMA can print out beautifully detailed maps so that people can actually see their property. Dickson Ogwang, the founder of PRMA, emphasized the important and immediate effect such surveys would have.

The surveys and the maps they create would better equip local leaders to create effective solutions. The beauty of the reconciliation process is that those involved do need to wait for the government to approve their solution, they can implement it on their own based on the personal integrity of those involved. In addition to resolving current disputes, a better understanding of what someone does and does not own will help prevent future disputes from arising.

This is not to say that formal government recognition is not important. PRMA’s other capacity shift involves developing trained legal staff to assist in the acquisition of a formal title. As we discussed in the last email Uganda’s formal real estate system was thrown into chaos by years of dictatorship and war, creating an enormous backlog for properties to be registered and titled.

Upon returning from a trip to Uganda, Sam Casey described thousands of applications for land titles sitting on tables in local courthouses, waiting for adjudication in horrendously understaffed and unequipped courts. Fortunately, the Ugandan Constitution recognizes agreements created by mediation, such as the reconciliation practices. When conflict arises PRMA’s primary responsibility will still involve offering expert reconciliation services at the Peace Center to create workable agreements, which will be honored by both sides. However, by adding the capacity of trained legal staff to facilitate the processing of these agreements, PRMA can not only aid the people of Uganda in gaining formal title to their land, it can also help remove backlog from the courts.

In order to accomplish this we need your help. In addition to money for the GPS and survey training, PRMA needs to send two of its staff to the Law Development Center at Uganda Christian University. This nine month program will cost approximately $2000 per staff member.  We also need $21,000 to finish and fully furnish our offices in Lira. God has provided easy access to electricity with a transformer now standing at the compound of the Peace Center and the premise fully wired. Once the office is finished this surveying/titling ministry will have computers and internet access. In short, everything we need to run a modern, efficient office.

Jubilee Campaign is very excited about this new project. Our friends at PRMA work to create peace in practical real-world ways. Once again, thank you for all your help and support. Look forward to future updates where we will describe PRMA’s efforts in Gulu, Uganda working on saturating that area with peace and reconciliation.

Introducing Jubilee Campaign’s Peace and Reconciliation Project

Working to bring Justice and Hope to the war torn region of northern Uganda

Jubilee Campaign is pleased to announce the Peace & Reconciliation Project. Through this project we will come alongside the valiant Christians at Peace & Reconciliation Ministries in Africa. For the past fifteen years PRMA worked in Lira, Uganda combating the depredations left by years of totalitarian rule followed by civil war.

In order to understand the work of PRMA a little background on Uganda is in order. During the 1970s the brutal dictator Idi Amin converted the country to a socialist system, declaring that all land was “public land.” This action threw the formal real estate system of Uganda into chaos. Property, whether private, commercial or tribal became a matter of verbal agreements and physical possession.

With the fall of Idi Amin came civil war of the most vicious possible kind. In particular, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), infamous for its use of child soldiers, ravaged the north. Violence became a way of life for an entire generation of northern Ugandans, and millions were forced to flee their homes. The war raged for a quarter of a century.

As the government of Uganda gradually forced the LRA back, the people of northern Uganda returned to their homes. However, after twenty-five years of war, claims of ownership could not be verified and property lines only existed in memory. Children who grew up in camps for refugees or Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) might never even have seen their family’s land.

Land disputes turned bloody as the overloaded courts could not effectively process claims. Without formal titles to the land they farmed, families could be driven off their land by corrupt officials or roaming bandits. In one of the poorest regions in the world, land security directly translated into food security. Driven by desperate need and raised in environment saturated with violence, people did not know any other way to respond.

So Dickson Ogwang founded PRMA to teach them Christ’s way. Using curriculum based on Biblical principles, PRMA reached out to religious and tribal leaders, teaching them how to resolve disputes and create security using a system of communal land ownership very similar to that used by the tribes of Israel. In 2005 PRMA partnered with our very own Sam Casey, the managing director and general counsel of our Law of Life Project.

As you can see in the picture, Sam and Dickson are strong friends and a powerful team in ministry. Together, they raised over $125,000 and trained over 250 tribal leaders around Lira to resolve disputes and create workable solutions.

This ministry of peace and reconciliation images the Gospel in a wonderful way. With the support of our Board, we believe the project to be fully consistent with the principles of Jubilee Campaign. Stay posted for future updates where we will discuss the future of our Peace and Reconciliation Project and what you can do to help.