A Message From Suzanne Scholte and the North Korean Freedom Coalition

Dear Friends,

Because of the great people and great organizations listed below, I am pleased to report that we now have 11 countries and 17 cities that will participate in support of the International Protest to Save North Korean Refugees scheduled for 12:00 noon on September 22, 2011 at the Chinese Embassies and consulates around the world.  Thank you to members of the North Korea Freedom Coalition and to International Christian Concern for their outreach to members, friends, and colleagues to help recruit coordinators and thank you to South Korean Assemblyman Hwang Woo-Yea and the International Parliamentarians Coalition for North Korean Refugees for joining in support and solidarity.  And, of course, a special thanks to our coordinators: the individuals and organizations listed below:

AUSTRALIA: Sydney: Sarah Judd

BELGIUM: Brussels: Willy Fautre and Human Rights Without Frontiers

CANADA: Toronto: Kyung B. Lee and The Council for Human Rights in North Korea

ESTONIA: Tallinn: Maarja Merivoo-Parro

JAPAN:Tokyo: The Honorable Kushibuchi Mari, Secretary-General of the Democratic Party of Japan and the Congressional League regarding North Korean Refugees and Issue of Humanity & Kan Ando who will be organizing an event at the Chinese embassy in Tokyo.

MEXICO: Mexico City: Teresa Ost

POLAND:  Warsaw: Marcin Nowak and Together Action Foundation

also supporting: Agnieszka Gratkiewicz, Lech Walesa Institute

REPUBLIC OF KOREA:  Seoul: Kim Seung Min and Free North Korea Radio

Busan: Pastor Changho Lim and Jandaehyun Church

UKRAINE: Kiev: Kim and Zenya Walder

UNITED KINGDOM: London: Joo il KIM and the EU North Korean Resident Society

Ireland: Dublin: Michael O’Rourke

USA:  Washington, D.C. North Korean Freedom Coalition

Houston: Mr. Hairyong Suh, President of the Korean Americans for Liberty and Human Rights

New York: Michelle Kim and PSALT

Chicago: Linda Dye

Los Angeles: Sam Kim and the Korean American Church Coalition for North Korea Freedom

also helping: Colonel Kim Bong Keon of Korean War Veterans Association and Young Lee

What you can do to help:

1) If your city is not listed below but is listed at the Chinese Embassy Website it means we need YOU to be a coordinator in that city.  Coordinators are welcome to plan any type of action, including a protest, a prayer vigil, a rally, or simply deliver a petition or send a fax at 12:00 noon that day calling upon the Chinese to end their brutal policy of repatriating North Korean refugees.  We want to show the Chinese government that people all around the world are aware and concerned about their ongoing brutality against the North Korean refugees.  For example, some cities are simply delivering petitions while other city coordinators are planning protests and demonstrations.  These embassies must report back to Beijing what happens in their cities, and we must show the Chinese government that people around the world care and know about what is happening because of their policy.  We are simply asking them to honor their international treaty obligations and not subject these refugees to certain torture, certain imprisonment, and sometimes even execution as punishment for fleeing their homeland.

2) If you want to help in one of these cities, let us know and we will forward your request directly to that city’s coordinators.

3) If it is impossible for you to participate at one of these cities, you can still take action by faxing or emailing an appeal to the Chinese embassy or consulate closest to where you live at 12:00 noon on that day in solidarity with the international protest.  In addition, we are recruiting Sister Cities in Solidarity who will plan an event such as a film screening, concert, prayer vigil on that day specifically to focus attention on the North Korean refugee crisis in China.

Please join us in our efforts to save the lives of the North Korean refugees in China and email us if you can help.

Acta Non Verba,

Suzanne Scholte

Nepal Moves To Restrict Religious Freedom

We ask for your prayers. While Jubilee Campaign has been working hard to promote religious freedom in Nepal, the tools available to us work slowly. Unfortunately, the political landscape of a nation in transition changes very rapidly, and we may have run out of time.

On Monday, the Prime Minister of Nepal promised to negotiate an agreement on the constitution before August 13th. He vowed to step down if no agreement materialized. The Prime Minister appears to be gambling his career on the idea that he can make a deal happen in the next nine days.

Current drafts of the constitution contain language that bans any activities leading or contributing to conversions. Anti-minority sentiment in the police force and courts could easily use this language to criminalize all public expression of minority religions.

Nepal’s proposed criminal code goes further and bans conduct which insults or undermines a religion. The religious provisions in the proposed constitution and criminal code reinforce one another. Together they create a comprehensive legal framework that will virtually eliminate religious freedom of conscience and choice for all Nepali.

Friends of Jubilee Campaign in Nepal and India contacted us about this dangerous language. We reached out to contacts in the U.S. Government hoping to resolve this through quiet diplomatic channels. While not flashy, quiet diplomacy can be extremely effective with enough time. The Prime Minister’s announcement does not give us that time.

If Nepal adopts this constitution, religious liberty will retrogress to pre-1990 monarchy imposed restrictions on religious choice, and it will seriously harm the rights of religious minorities. The damage might take a generation or more to undo.

Yet Nepal desperately needs a constitution. The Maoist party, formerly the Maoist resistance, has camps of armed men capable of further destabilizing the country. On the other side of the spectrum the Hindu nationalists call for the return of the old Hindu Monarchy. The common people are beginning to lose faith that a new constitution will ever be passed threatening the legitimacy of the government. The resignation of the Prime Minister will only increase these polarizing trends.

Although the solution appears allusive, we must seek and pray for peace.  Failure to pass any constitution may send Nepal spiraling down the path back to civil war.

Pray That:

-God will touch the leaders of Nepal and give them the wisdom to see the negative consequences of this discriminatory and restrictive language

-Those in the US embassy who are advocating for religious freedom with the Nepalese Government would be heard

-The Lord would give His church wisdom and gentleness to respond to accusations that they force conversions and that they would continue to preach the Word peacefully and faithfully

Thank you for standing with us and with the church in Nepal.

Calling On Congress To Support the Protection of Religious Minorities

The actions and policy of the U.S. Government play a critical role in the fight for human rights and religious freedom. In particular, the U.S. Department of State gathers information and writes uniquely authoritative reports on human rights. What the State Department reports or fails to report has an enormous affect on human rights work all over the world.

As we discussed on the blog, the State Department  failed in a number of instances to accurately and clearly portray human rights abuses. As a human rights group, Jubilee Campaign finds this trend very concerning.

Fortunately, we are not alone. Allies of religious freedom in Congress wrote a bill entitled the “Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act of 2011.” This bill establishes a Special Envoy, specifically tasked to investigate the plight of religious minorities from Egypt through Iraq and Pakistan to Nepal. It passed the House 402 to 20 and waits for the Senate’s approval.

This bill is desperately necessary. One of the recent reporting failures of the State Department involves the Coptic Christian minority in Egypt. Hundreds of cases document the Egyptian practice of kidnapping Christian girls and forcing them into abusive marriages with Muslim men.

In Iraq the two-thirds of the Christian population was forced into exile, publicly murdered or quietly ‘disappeared.’ The freely elected government of Afghanistan put several Christians on trial for ‘apostasy.’ Iran stands on the brink of executing a Christian pastor for ‘insulting Islam’ by believing in another faith.

Muslim extremists use Pakistan’s blasphemy law to oppress Christians and Hindus. Hindu nationalists use India’s anti-conversion laws  to oppress Christians and Muslims. Nepal’s proposed criminal code combines blasphemy language with anti-conversion language, and extremists are already targeting religious minorities.

The State Department’s current mechanisms have proven unable to even recognize many of these trends much less combat them. This bill is a badly needed addition to the toolkit of the U.S. Government in dealing with the entrenched hatred of religious minorities.

Please contact your Senator and ask them to support S. 1245 Full Text Here.
Mail in the sample letter or use it as a script when you call. Feel free to personalize the letter.

This legislation does not draw the ire of either party. It is not controversial. Instead, it faces the indifference of those with a lot on their plate. Many people on Capitol Hill are sympathetic in theory, but in practice they simply do not see the vital importance of these issues.

Please reach out to your Senator and let them see. They are your representative. They will listen to you. We urge you to let your voice be heard.

Sample_Letter_to_Senators__________________________________________________________ 

Senator ____________

Over the past decade, terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East specifically targeted religious minorities. These attacks and the lack of protection provided by the governments involved, including the US, have shown a serious disregard for the rights of these minorities. Peaceful communities which have existed for hundreds of years are being wiped out. Existing mechanisms at the U.S. Department of State have proven unable to recognize and respond to these human rights violations.

To provide that necessary response, Senators Roy Blunt and Carl Levin introduced S. 1245 entitled the “Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act of 2011.” This bill has already passed the House 402 to 20 in a massive showing of bipartisan support.

As my Senator, I would like to ask to you to support this Bill.  There are few things as evil as punishing someone for their honest convictions. I ask that you do everything in your power to end religious persecution, especially of minorities.

Sincerely
Your Name

“We are Unable to Confirm…”

An Exercise in Burying our Heads in the Sand: The State Department and Oppressive Governments Everywhere

By Gregory Treat – Jubilee Campaign Staffer, Government Relations Coordinator, Special Projects, Manager of Jubilee Facebook Page and This Blog

Working for Jubilee Campaign gives me the honor and privilege of working on cases and improving human rights from all over the world. In the course of that effort, I work with some absolutely great people throughout the U.S. Government including the U. S. Department of State.

However, sometimes the sheer self-serving moral cowardice masquerading as pragmatism that infests our government agencies sickens me.  Specifically, over the past weeks I have been exposed to a consistent pattern in the State Department that offends me on both an intellectual and moral level.

Let us take two human rights issues: forced abortion and sterilization imposed on women and families in China and forced conversions and marriages afflicting Coptic Christian girls in Egypt.

On July 21, I attended a briefing on China’s forced abortion and sterilization practices. I want to send a big thank you to those of you who prayed for that briefing; it went very well. The briefing clearly presented documentation and eyewitness accounts that China performs forced abortions and sterilization as a part of their One-Child policy.

Unfortunately the China Profile of Asylum Claims and Country Conditions, released by the U.S. Department of State downplayed any claims of forced abortion or sterilization in China, labeling them ‘alleged’ or ‘unconfirmed.’ Characterizing the ongoing practice of forced abortion and sterilization in this manner hamstrings advocacy efforts to end this human rights abuse or help the victims.

This report influences the U.S. government to such an extent that under current U.S. policy the courts refuse to give asylum to some Chinese couples who have violated the one-child policy. After all, according to the China Profile released by the U.S. Department of State, the People’s Republic of China no longer practices forced abortion and sterilization. This will surprise Chinese human rights advocates such as Chen Guangcheng who served a four-year prison sentence and is still under house arrest for protesting this ongoing practice.

A second example of the use of the word ‘alleged’ to describe ongoing human rights abuses occurs in relation to Egypt’s Coptic Christians.  The Coptic Christian community in Egypt suffers widespread and virulent persecution at every turn. Perhaps the most grievous form of this persecution targets young Coptic girls. Coptic girls are lured away from the protection of their families, kidnapped, drugged, and raped. Broken by this brutality, the girls submit to ‘marriage’ and ‘conversion’ that no civilized society would recognize as voluntary. Human trafficking for sexual purposes communicates the reality.

Concerned NGOs and independent investigations have documented literally hundreds of such cases. Experts estimate that this practice claims thousands of Coptic women every year. Despite this readily available evidence, which NGOs often directly submit to the U.S. Department of State, the Country Report on Human Rights Practices, the International Religious Freedom Report and the Annual Report on Trafficking in Persons describe documented and reliable evidence as mere ‘allegations’ that are ‘disputed.’

Enormous amounts of evidence verify the existence of these human rights abuses. Hundreds of witnesses have told their stories in every venue. Congressional hearings, sworn testimony in court, news interviews, and Youtube videos all tell the same story. Yet the U.S. Department of State insists on evaluating these human rights violations in China and in Egypt in a manner that is intellectually absurd.

I attended a Helsinki Commission Hearing “Minorities at Risk: Coptic Christians in Egypt” on July 22, 2011. At that hearing, Michelle Clark, a recognized expert on human trafficking communicated the question very well. “Under normal human rights circumstances, such reporting eliminates the use of the word allegation. I’m just wondering why the word allegation persists now that we have been able to document such reports.”

I think that many of those who are informed about  human rights abuses are asking the same question. I know I am.

Exciting Update on Chen Guangcheng

Last Friday Congressman Chris Smith submitted an amendment to the State Department 2012 appropriation bill House Foreign Affairs Committee. The Committee unanimously approved the Amendment which is below.

Our friends over at Women’s Rights Without Frontiers produced their own press release on this encouraging development. We encourage you to go check it out.

AMENDMENT OFFERED BY MR. SMITH OF NEW JERSEY

SEC. ll. SENSE OF CONGRESS ON ADMINISTRATION ACTION NEEDED TO SECURE THE FREEDOM OF CHEN GUANGCHENG AND OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN CHINA.

(a) FINDINGS.—Congress finds the following:

(1) Blind, self-taught legal advocate Chen Guangcheng publicly exposed the fact that in 2005, 130,000 involuntary abortions and sterilizations were performed on women in Linyi County, Shandong Province in a single year.

(2) Mr. Chen was arrested on June 21, 2006, tried on November 27, 2006, and sentenced on December 1, 2006, to four years and three months in jail, on charges of ‘‘intentional destruction or damage to property’’ and ‘‘gathering people to disturb traffic order’’.

(3) The prosecution and trial of Mr. Chen has drawn repeated criticism for its lack of due process of law, including the detention of his defense lawyers on the eve of trial and the alleged extraction of witness statements under torture.

(4) Time Magazine named Mr. Chen one of “2006’s Top 100 People Who Shape Our World”, in the category of ‘‘Heroes and Pioneers’’.

(5) In August 2007, Chinese authorities stopped Mr. Chen’s wife, Yuan Weijing, at the airport, revoked her passport and forcibly returned her to her village as she attempted to travel to Manila to collect Mr. Chen’s Magsaysay Award, known as Asia’s Nobel Prize.

(6) Mr. Chen was released from prison on September 9, 2010, with a chronic, debilitating intestinal illness contracted in prison, for which he has been allowed no medical treatment.

(7) Mr. Chen is now under house arrest, where he has been repeatedly and severely beaten, and denied adequate medical treatment and nutrition despite fragile and deteriorating health.

(8) Mr. Chen’s wife, Yuan Weijing, and their children have been subjected to harassment, surveillance, and confinement throughout Mr. Chen’s imprisonment and house arrest.

(9) Mr. Chen and Ms. Yuan secretly recorded a video describing the harsh conditions of their house arrest, which included constant surveillance by 66 security police, severed telephone and internet connections, lack of adequate food, and continued intimidation by officials, who enter their home at any time, without notice.

(10) In February 2011, following the video’s release, Mr. Chen’s legal team tried to assist him, but several were placed under house arrest, and two of his lawyers, Jiang Tianyong and Teng Biao, were beaten and later disappeared.

(11) The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China issued the following warning on February 17, 2011, ‘‘Correspondents should be careful if they attempt to enter the village of activist Chen Guangcheng in Shandong Province. In recent days several correspondents have encountered groups of violent, plainclothes thugs. . . They have pushed reporters around, threatened them with bricks, damaged their cars, confiscated or destroyed their equipment and taken their press credentials’’.

(12) The 2010 Congressional-Executive Commission on China Report states that ‘‘Chinese authorities continued to implement population planning policies that interfere with and control the reproductive lives of women, employing various methods including fines, cancellation of state benefits and permits, forced sterilization, forced abortion, arbitrary detention, and other abuses’’.

 

(b) SENSE OF CONGRESS.—It is the sense of Congress that—

(1) the Government of the People’s Republic of China should cease its harassment of Chen Guangcheng and his family, including his wife, daughter, son, and mother, and arrange medical treatment for him and his wife, Yuan Weijing;

(2) the Government of the People’s Republic of China should release Chen Guangcheng and his family from house arrest, allow them freedom of movement, and allow access to him by international diplomats and journalists;

(3) the President and the Secretary of State should actively and repeatedly seek diplomatic visits to Chen Guangcheng and his family;

(4) the President, Secretary of State, and other Administration officials should raise the issue of harassed, arrested, disappeared, and disbarred human rights lawyers and defenders with the Government of the People’s Republic of China and link this issue to United States interests in the rule of law and human rights;

(5) the President, Secretary of State, and other United States Government officials should aggressively and repeatedly raise the issue of the coercive implementation of China’s birth limitation policy with President Hu Jintao; and

(6) Chen Guangcheng and his wife, Yuan Weijing, are to be commended for their courage and integrity and should be supported in their determination to expose and oppose coercive population control methods in China that violate the human rights of women.