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Sunday, April 02, 2006

More About Freedom House 

While I may disagree with Freedom House's assumption that democracy is always a good thing, they appear to be an interesting organization. Here's a bit of their history:

The Center for Religious Freedom is a self-sustaining division of Freedom House. Founded in 1941 by Eleanor Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie to oppose Nazism and Communism in Europe, Freedom House is America's oldest human rights group. Its Center for Religious Freedom defends against religious persecution of all groups throughout the world. It insists that U.S. foreign policy defend Christians and Jews, Muslim dissidents and minorities, and other religious minorities in countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Iran and Sudan. It is fighting the imposition of harsh Islamic law in the new Iraq and Afghanistan and opposes blasphemy laws in Muslim countries that suppress more tolerant and pro-American Muslim thought.

Since its inception in 1986, the Center, under the directorship of human rights lawyer Nina Shea, has reported on the religious persecution of individuals and groups abroad, and undertaken advocacy on their behalf in the media, Congress, State Department and White House. It also sponsors investigative field missions and presses official Washington for overall religious freedom in China, Sudan, Vietnam, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and elsewhere....

State-sponsored religious persecution –going far beyond even pervasive discrimination and bigotry –occurs today under three types of regimes: the remaining officially atheistic communist governments, such as China, North Korea, and Vietnam; repressive Islamist states, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan; and nationalist authoritarian states, such as Burma and Eritrea. These are the countries that have been officially designated by the U.S. State Department as “countries of particular concern” for their egregious, systematic, and continuing violations of religious freedom. In such countries only those who uphold government-approved orthodoxies -- religious or secular -- are tolerated. Others risk torture, imprisonment, and even death.

Here's parts of an article they published during the 2005 Christmas season:

Over Christmas 2000 in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country and one traditionally renowned for its religious toleration, terrorists bombed churches in 18 cities, killing scores and wounding hundreds. At Wednesday's forum, Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver observed that "violence against the Christian minority has steadily continued over the past decade." As an example, he cited the beheadings of three Christian teenage girls in Sulawesi in late October. International Christian Concern's Jeff King brought photos of the incident; the girls' heads were left at a church, each with a note that vowed, "We will murder 100 more Christian teenagers and their heads will be presented as presents."

Last Christmas in Iraq, St. John's Church near Mosul was attacked. Assyrian cultural expert Eden Naby described the scene: "The Mass begins. It is cold inside the stone church. Suddenly you hear automatic fire. The doors fly open. The Christian guards are shot, and in march armed Kurdish Peshmarga who shoot up the church, beat up the priest and drive the parishioners cowering home." In prior months, other churches in southern Iraq had been bombed by Islamic militants, some during worship services. Though the terror came from two different sources, in each case the purpose was the same — to intimidate and force out the ancient Chaldo Assyrian Christian community.

In Saudi Arabia, Christians, a large percentage of the foreign workers making up a quarter of the population, will not be able to find any churches whatsoever to worship in this Christmas — churches are forbidden. Dozens of those who pray together in private houses were arrested and jailed earlier this year. This fanatically intolerant kingdom even forbids Muslims, under threat of death, to wish a Christian "Happy Holidays," much less "Merry Christmas."

Well, the U.S. public schools won't kill you if you say "Merry Christmas."

Christians face similar repression in Iran. Episcopal priest, Rev. Keith Roderick, representing Christian Solidarity International, reported that as the Christmas season got underway around the world last month, Tehran's tyrannical President Ahmadinejad met with 30 provincial governors and reportedly declared, "I will stop Christianity in this country," avowing to shut down the country's growing house-church movement.

Egypt had been a place of refuge for the Holy Family fleeing Herod's wrath. Today, however, Christians are fleeing Egypt itself. As Fr. Roderick attested, Christians are treated as "second-class citizens" under state-sponsored discrimination and actively persecuted by Islamic militants apart from the government. He cited the week-long riot in October against St. George's Coptic Church in Alexandria by a 10,000-strong mob incensed by rumors of blasphemy.

Christians in Pakistan will be wise to keep their Christmas celebrations low-key this year. One of them, Yousaf Masih, a 60-year-old illiterate janitor from northwestern Pakistan, is among those under arrest for "blasphemy" because he allegedly burned a Koran. As Paul Marshall of the Center for Religious Freedom recounted, three weeks ago in Sangala Hill, after word of his case got out, mobs destroyed three churches, a convent, a Christian school, and Christian homes. Last week a militant mob rallied to demand Masih's public hanging and the eradication of the entire Christian community there.

And while China manufactures and exports Christmas lights and ornaments, it arrests and imprisons Christians who lead worship services, preach, or minister without state approval. Richard Land, director of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, gave as an example Catholic Bishop James Su Zhimin of Hebei, who on December 25 will be observing his 27th Christmas in confinement. Cai Zhuohua, a Protestant pastor in Beijing, was sentenced in early November to three years in the gulag, or laogai as it's called in China, for printing and distributing Bibles. His defense lawyer, the prominent civil rights attorney Gao Zhisheng, also a Christian, has been disbarred and now worries he may become his own next client.

Christmas has been banned in North Korea for half a century. Land reported on a new study conducted by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom — "Thank you, Father Kim Il Sung" — based on dozens of in-depth interviews with North Korean escapees. All of them said that there is absolutely no freedom of thought, conscience or belief in North Korea. All report, in fact, that such liberties are explicitly and actively prohibited. None had ever seen churches in North Korea. Most did not know of the three state-controlled churches in Pyongyang, the country's only churches....

One mark of hope for genuine religious freedom was offered by Marshall at the forum's conclusion. He noted that,this Christmas, many churches in Indonesia will be surrounded by the uniformed Muslim Banser group, a wing of Nahdlatul Ulama, the world's largest Muslim organization. The Bansers will not be there to attack the churches but to help protect them from extremists, to prevent any reprise of the Christmas 2000 bombings. Nahdlatul Ulama has done this for several years, in cooperation with the police and the Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist communities.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

And Christians in America think we're persecuted when the Walmart greeter says Happy Holidays. Bunch o' whiners.
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