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70 years since universal declaration, human rights ‘ignored and abused all over the world’

Today, 13 of the original 48 signatories to the declaration feature on Open Doors International’s 2018 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian (Photo: Open Doors International)

Ahead of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Monday, 10 December, rights group ADF International has called for “recommitment” to the founding principles, which it says are being “consistently ignored and abused … all over the world”.

Chief among those rights, ADF notes, is the “foundational principle of freedom of religion and belief, together with the related freedoms of opinion, expression, assembly, and association”, which ADF says are being violated in “every region”, with “millions enduring severe limitations on freedom, violence and death in the name of religion or conscience”, while others are “unable to freely to exercise their religious beliefs or rights of conscience, thus seriously jeopardising the human rights project”.

In its campaign, “I’m Human, Right?”, which has garnered over 50,000 signatures from over 170 countries ahead of the 10 December deadline, ADF highlights the cases of Andrew Brunson and Don Ossewaarde, as well as the Dalits of India.

“Millions are enduring severe limitations on freedom, violence, and death in the name of religion or conscience, and others are unable freely to exercise their religious beliefs or rights of conscience, thus seriously jeopardising the human rights project.”
In a video message attached to the campaign, ADF’s Executive Director Paul Coleman asks people to “stand up for Christians and other religious minorities facing persecution around the world” by joining the campaign and calling on “nations and the international community at large to return to the original intentions of the human rights project”.

Article 18 of the declaration states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Yet today, 13 of the original 48 signatories to the declaration feature on Open Doors International’s 2018 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian: Afghanistan (2nd on the list), Pakistan (5th), Iraq (8th), Iran (10th), India (11th), Syria (15th), Egypt (17th), Myanmar (24th), Ethiopia (29th) Turkey (31st), Mexico (39th), China (43rd) and Colombia (49th).

‘There is so much left to do’

At a 70th anniversary panel discussion at the UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday, 4 December, ADF President and CEO Michael Farris warned: “If we stay on our current course, we may soon arrive in a future where human rights are in danger of becoming discredited and the entire system of international human rights law may be jeopardised.

A panel discussion on ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Its Foundations, Achievements and Violations’, held at the UN headquarters in New York on 4 December (ADF)

A panel discussion on ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Its Foundations, Achievements and Violations’, held at the UN headquarters in New York on 4 December (ADF)
“There is so much left to do to protect these rights, to ensure that – to quote the preamble of the declaration – ‘all members of the human family’ enjoy them…

“We must not support actions that undermine the entire framework, but rather we must come together as an international community and work tirelessly for all our brothers and sisters who suffer violations of their human rights in order to secure freedom and justice for all.”

Fellow panellist Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law School professor and former ambassador to the Holy See, said the declaration had “successfully challenged the view that sovereignty provided an iron shield behind which states could mistreat their people without outside scrutiny”, which she said was “an achievement of historic proportions”.

“To be sure, great violations of human dignity still occur. Seventy years from now, people not yet born will form their opinions about our stewardship of the framers’ legacy.”
She said “the impressive multinational consensus achieved in 1948 seemed to bear out the framers’ conviction that some things are so terrible in practice that virtually no one will openly approve them, and that some things are so conducive to human flourishing that virtually no one will openly oppose them”.

But she added that the declaration had been “haunted from the beginning by a number of questions that have never been finally resolved. How can human rights be universal in such a politically diverse world? What is to be done when fundamental rights clash with one another?

“The framers understood that universality of human rights does not mean homogeneity in their implementation. The standards of the declaration were made flexible enough to respond to different needs but not so malleable that any right could be completely ignored or subordinated.

“To be sure, great violations of human dignity still occur. Seventy years from now, people not yet born will form their opinions about our stewardship of the framers’ legacy. They will pass judgement on whether we enhanced or squandered the inheritance handed down by Eleanor Roosevelt, Charles Malik, Peng-chun Chang, René Cassin, and all the men and women who strove to bring a standard of right from the ashes of terrible wrongs. How, I wonder, will we measure up?”

Source: World Watch Monitor

Bulgarian Christians protest against anti-church laws

Thousands of Bulgarian Christians rallied in favour of religious liberty last month, in protest against new laws restricting mission and worship.

Bulgarian Christians gathered in their nation’s capital to pray and protest proposed restrictions on religious freedom. (Photo credit: Baptist Standard/Teodor Oprenov)

Christians gathered in Sofia for three consecutive Sundays on 11, 18 and 25 November in opposition to amendments to the Law on Religious Communities.

If passed, the amendments would place restraints on evangelising, bans on worship outside officially recognised buildings, restrictions on training denominational ministers and a membership threshold of 300 people required for official recognition of groups. Financial donations are also being targeted, with the state demanding greater control over “international donations for religious purposes”.

Alarm has been raised by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom in support of the Baptist World Alliance. In a letter to the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Boyko Borissov, the Commission said: “No state, we believe, should be in a position to control the training and activities of ecclesiastical ministers, nor should a state favour one faith expression over another.”

The Bulgarian constitution itself guarantees freedom of religion stating “The practising of any religion shall be unrestricted.”


Source: Global Christian News

Bulgarian Christians continue protests

Over 100 Iranian Christians Arrested by Intelligence Officials

Iranian Authorities Attempt to Intimidate Christians into Silence Ahead of Christmas Celebrations

International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that during the month of November, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry launched an arrest wave of Christians which cumulated on December 1, 2018. It is estimated that 114 Christians were arrested last week and approximately 28 others were arrested in the three preceding weeks.

The wave of arrests was announced on December 1 by Iranian Mehr News Agency, which operates as the semi-official mouthpiece of the government. It is common for the Iranian regime to increase the number of arrests ahead of Christmas. However, the latest wave is truly “staggering” according to Article 18. “They had arrested so many of them and didn’t know what to do with them all.”

Early information indicates that because of a lack of space, most Christians spent only a few hours imprisoned and only the leaders were detained for a longer period of time. Sources, who remain anonymous for security reasons, say that several of those arrested were told that they would be charged with propaganda against the Islamic regime. These types of charges often fall under the purview of Iran’s Revolutionary Courts, which maintain close ties with Iran’s clergy and the Intelligence Ministry.

Dr. Mike Ansari from Heart4Iran, an Iranian Christian partnership platform, told ICC, “Most of the arrested individuals are coerced to divulge information about their house church activities and those of their friends, under threat of criminal prosecution or arrest of family members… Therefore, the case of every arrested Iranian believer is of utmost importance.”

“As Christianity grows rapidly in Iran, the Islamic government and the clergy in power are alarmed. Their only strategy to slow down this growth is through a campaign of fear, violence, and intimidation… We expect the persecution in Iran will increase as the Islamic government feels threatened by the spread of Christianity among Muslims in Iran,” explained Dr. Hormoz Shariat, president and founder of Iran Alive Ministries.

During this past year, ICC has tracked a total of 248 ongoing cases where the Iranian authorities violated the religious freedom of Christians. These individuals face continued harassment, interrogation, detainment, imprisonment, or some other type of legal action intended to repress the Church.

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Iranian authorities initiated this arrest wave to strike fear in the hearts of Christians just weeks ahead of Christmas celebrations. It is part of the regime’s strategy to further isolate the Church and keep it underground. The persecution that Iran’s Christians experience is incredibly intense, and historically it usually worsens ahead of Christmas. We must keep the Iranian Church in our prayers.”

Source: International Christian Concern (ICC) www.persecution.org.

Extremist with iron rod attacks church workers in Cairo, Egypt

Wielding an iron bar in one hand and holding a Quran in the other, a Muslim extremist shouting “Allahu Akbar … Death to the apostates,” broke into an eastern Cairo church in an early morning attack on Sunday 11 November.

The 22-year-old man assaulted staff preparing bread for a morning communion service. After injuring two people with his weapon, the attacker was overpowered by church members who restrained him until the police arrived.

Caption: Cairo’s churches have been the target of multiple attacks in recent years

According to media reports, the extremist remained remorseless even in police custody. “Give me your gun so I may kill them. If you don’t, you’d be an infidel like them,” he is said to have shouted at the officers. It has subsequently been claimed by relatives that he had problems with substance abuse.

In recent years, Egyptian churches have increasingly become a target for attacks. On Palm Sunday 2017, two suicide attacks on separate churches in Tanta and Alexandria claimed the lives of 50 people and injured a further 90.

Source: Barnabas Fund

‘I will do anything I can to keep her safe’: British Home Secretary responds to questions about Asia Bibi

By Eno Adeogun

British Home Secretary, Sajid Javid

The Home Office has continued to face pressure by MPs to offer asylum to Asia Bibi.

During questions on Monday in the House of Commons to the Home Secretary, Mike Kane Labour MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East asked if the Pakistani Christian mother-of-five cleared of blasphemy would be offered sanctuary in the UK.

Sajid Javid replied: “Our primary concern is for the safety and security of Asia Bibi and her family, and we welcome a swift resolution to the situation.

“A number of countries are in discussions about providing a safe destination once the legal process is complete, and it would not be right for me to comment further at this stage.”

His words echoed what the Prime Minister said last week when put under pressure in the Commons to “put the record straight” and explain why the UK hasn’t offered Asia Bibi and her family asylum.

Asia Bibi

The Catholic Church in England and Wales, and the Catholic Church in Scotland have both said they would contribute to secure Asia Bibi’s safety.

Mr Kane – who chairs the Catholic Legislators Network, was able to secure a meeting with the Home Secretary to discuss the offer.

“It is not appropriate for me to talk about a particular case, especially if there is a risk that it might put the individual or their family in some kind of further risk, but I assure him that my first concern is the safety of Asia and her family,” Mr Javid explained.

“We are working with a number of countries and I will do anything I can to keep her safe.”

Maulana Fazalur Rehman, leader of Pakistani religious party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam addresses a rally to condemn a Supreme Court decision that acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, who spent eight years on death row accused of blasphemy, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. The release of Bibi was apparently delayed  after talks failed between the government and radical Islamists who want her publicly hanged. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad)

Asia Bibi has been facing death threats since she was acquitted of blasphemy in Pakistan last month.

There’s growing concern for Christians in Pakistan that continue to face persecution.

Sawan Masih (above, left) was accused of insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad by his Muslim friend in 2013 – a crime which has a mandatory death penalty if found guilty in the country.


Carol Monaghan, SNP MP for Glasgow North West said to Mr Javid and his team of ministers: “I appreciate the comments that the Home Secretary has already made about Asia Bibi, but of course there are many, many Christians in Pakistan who live under constant threat of persecution.

“Will the he work with his Home Office colleagues to make sure that their cases for asylum are treated in a sympathetic manner?”

Mr Javid replied: “The hon. Lady is quite right to draw attention to that. We believe that there are currently some 40 individuals in Pakistan on death row because of blasphemy offences.

“That highlights perfectly her concerns. I am sure that the whole House shares those; we will always do what we can to help.”

Source: Premier