Religious Freedom In The World Report Launched In Advance of Red Wednesday 2018.The West is failing those persecuted for their Faith. Use Red Wednesday – and the run up to the 70th Anniversary of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – to show solidarity with Asia Bibi and the millions who suffer for their religion or beliefs. http://religious-freedom-report.org/
Venice lit their city red and highlighted the plight of Asia Bibi – followed by many other cities around the world.
AT WESTMINSTER ABBEY THE PRINCE OF WALES MAKES AN APPEAL FOR THE PERSECUTED
By John Pontifex
HRH The Prince of Wales paid tribute to the courage and faith of persecuted Christians at a service in Westminster Abbey which brought together Church leaders from across the Middle East.
At the service, yesterday (Tuesday, 4th December), Prince Charles said: “We can only give thanks for the truly remarkable strength of the Faith with which so many Christians face persecution and which gives them the courage and the determination to endure, and to overcome.”
He also said: “Earlier this year, I had the great joy of meeting a Dominican Sister from Nineveh [northern Iraq], who, in 2014, as Daesh [ISIS] extremists advanced on the town of Qaraqosh, got behind the wheel of a minibus crammed full of her fellow Christians, and drove the long and dangerous road to safety.”
Later on, fellow Iraqi Dominican Sister Nazak Matty gave a testimony, describing how she had returned to Nineveh to help rebuild Christian communities.
In his address, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, highlighted the persecution of Middle East Christians, stating: “When the Church of Jesus Christ is attacked, it is an attack on Christ himself – when any part of the Church suffers, we also suffer and yet distance and ignorance take away the pain we should feel.”
Attending the service were bishops and other Church leaders who had flown in from Iraq, Syria, Israel/Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt and the Gulf.
The Middle East is a priority region for Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, which assisted with the preparation of the service.
ACN is giving emergency and pastoral help, providing food, medicine, shelter as well as repair of homes, churches and support for priests, Sisters and Christian education .
Reflection given by Maulana Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi, Director General and Chief Imam, Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society, at A service to celebrate the contribution of Christians in the Middle East (PDF, 144KB)
NOVEMBER’S RED WEDNESDAY
London witnessed talks in Parliament Square on Wednesday, followed by a red-lit candlelit procession to Westminster Cathedral
Landmarks in countries around the world including Brazil, Philippines, and Australia have been being bathed in red light this month to highlight the persecution of faith groups for their “peacefully-held beliefs”.
The idea of illuminating iconic buildings in red is sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) as a public symbol of protest against religious discrimination. .
Venice was already illuminated in red on 21 November, highlighting the case of Asia Bibi in particular. In Barcelona, the iconic Sagrada Familia church is being illuminated in red, as is the Sacré Coeur Basilica in Paris. In Ireland, Armagh, Galway, Waterford and Cobh, cathedrals are taking part, as well as Knock Basilica.
The Philippines is having more than 1300 churches and 30 schools turn red. Also turning red are the Christ Redeemer Statue in Brazil’s Rio de Janerio, and in Australia St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney and St Patrick’s Cathedral in Perth. In the United States, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington is taking part.
St. Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham will also turn red. ACN is also due to host an event in the Scottish Parliament. Members of many religious groups will wear red for the day and march of protest with banners: “Make a stand for faith and religious freedom”.
John Henry Newman and the Oratory School he founded Lit Red for 2018
The West is failing those persecuted for their Faith
“Most western governments have failed to provide urgently needed assistance to minority faith groups…” This was one of the key findings of the 2018 Religious Freedom in the World report, produced by Aid to the Church in Need, a charity which I am a Trustee of.
While it identifies systematic violations of religious liberty in various countries around the world – whether it be the lynching of Muslims in India or the rapidly growing number of attacks on Christians in Egypt – what I found the most damning aspect of the report was that it identified the ways in which we in the West are failing to help members of religious minorities who are suffering because of their beliefs. You can see this in the way we use (or don’t use) our aid programmes and the way we discriminate against religious minorities in our asylum policies.
Take the case of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman who was sentenced to death and incarcerated in a jail for nine years before being acquitted. Her crime was that, as a Christian, she had drunk from the same cup as her Muslim colleagues – and in the heated discussion that followed was falsely accused of blasphemy. When I met Chief Justice Saqib Nasir (who has been a welcome visitor to the UK this week) and who presided over Asia Bibi’s appeal case, during a visit to Islamabad last month, I was struck by his courage. He had put his life on the line to rectify this appalling injustice. He was only too aware that Minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Punjab Governor Salman Taseer were murdered for speaking out against the incarceration of Asia Bibi and the abuse of the blasphemy law.
But the UK has failed to show similar courage in dealing with this case. Asia Bibi’s husband made an impassioned appeal to several countries including the UK, begging for asylum for his wife and family. Asia Bibi is still in danger, make no mistake about that. A frenzy of hate was whipped up after she was acquitted with demands made for her execution.
Surely it is precisely people like Asia Bibi that should qualify for asylum. But fears about the security of British diplomatic staff in Pakistan have led the UK to hold back from offering a safe haven to her and her family. As was noted by one speaker at the parliamentary Foreign affairs Committee on Tuesday 13th November, government policy is being effectively dictated by a lynch mob who have been baying for Asia Bibi’s blood.
And meanwhile we pour millions of pounds into a country where it is not used to help the most persecuted and in need:
This failure of courage is systematic.
When Asia’s husband and daughter were in the UK last month as guests of Aid to the Church in Need they were treated abominably by the government. A meeting with a Government Minister was cancelled at scandalously short notice. After passing through security at the government building where he works, the family arrived at the reception desk only to be told that they should have been told that the meeting was not happening.
Checking their mobile phones they found that a voice message had been left while they were passing through security cancelling the appointment. Despite having taken time out of a very busy schedule, no one from the government was prepared to meet them. This speaks volumes about the government’s concern for those around the world being targeted because of their faith.
This also chimes with another of the report’s findings that “There is increasing evidence of a curtain of indifference behind which vulnerable faith communities suffer, their plight ignored by a religiously illiterate West.”
Religious illiteracy has also impeded the rebuilding of the Nineveh Plains. In August 2014, Daesh or ISIS began a brutal assault on the Yazidi community in the Sinjar region, killing over 10,000 Yazidis. Another 6,417 were kidnapped, and many of them were sold into sexual slavery. In ensuing weeks, hundreds of Christians in towns across the Nineveh Plain who did not flee faced beheadings, sexual enslavement and forcible conversion. The UN has recognised the attacks on Yazidis as genocide and there have been calls for them to similarly recognise the persecution which the Christians faced as genocide too.
But four years later, with hundreds of thousands of Yazidis, Christians and Mandaeans still displaced, the governments of the West dragged their feet when it came to helping them rebuild the towns and villages which Daesh had destroyed.
A policy of “religion-blind” aid has meant that the UK is unwilling to rebuild a Christian town, or a Yazidi village, unable to grasp that the Nineveh Plains were always a patchwork of settlements belonging to different religious groups – who lived in harmony with their near neighbours of another creed. Because they do not live in the sort of religiously diverse towns we’re used to in the West we have refused to help any of the religious groups rebuild. The approach of “religion-blind” aid has comprehensively failed members of all those minority religious groups who spent years living in tents and in other make-shift accommodation as refugees in their own country. While UK money has gone in to UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) infrastructure projects in Iraq, not a penny of UK money has gone to reconstruction, just as no aid was given to help them while they were displaced.
Every time I raise this issue the Government repeats the same mantra that they don’t “discriminate on grounds of religion “. But from Iraq to Pakistan religious minorities are actively discriminated against- sometimes even victims of genocide and violent persecution. And the consequence of British Government policy is that British Aid pours into the coffers of Governments that fail to protect minorities and actively discriminate against them. It’s a scandal and a disgrace.
Fortunately there is good news, and despite the challenges in northern Iraq Aid to the Church in Need has supported the rebuilding of Christian towns and villages. Today more than 40 percent of the displaced Christians have been able to return home.
All this backs up another of the 2018 Religious Freedom in the World report’s findings, that in the West “religious freedom is slipping down the human rights priority rankings”. The UK used to be as a world leader in championing human rights, but when we fail to offer asylum to an innocent woman fearing a frenzied mob, when we fail to offer help to victims of sexual and violence to rebuild their lives, it suggests the West has turned its back on those suffering because of their faith.
Next month it will be 7 years since Article 18 was proclaimed as part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s the Article that says every man and woman has the right to believe, to change their belief or not to believe. Yet all over the world it is honoured in the breach. Next Wednesday it will be Red Wednesday the day on which we can show solidarity with the suffering millions who enjoy none of the freedoms and privileges that we take so much for granted.
The Life Of Asia Bibi – An Innocent Woman – Hangs In The Balance As Pakistan Faces the Lynch Mob
Red Wednesday will be commemorated in the UK on Wednesday November 28th when churches, schools and public buildings will be lit red – to express solidarity with those persecuted for their faith. This year many will focus on the plight of Asia Bibi who has been exonerated by Pakistan’s highest court, having suffered nine years of incarceration – with the death penalty hanging over her. Now, she has been forbidden to leave Pakistan and the UK has declined to offer her asylum
Last night, Venice lit their city red and highlighted the plight of Asia Bibi
Sign the petition calling for this innocent woman to be allowed to leave Pakistan:
190 Parliamentarians issue an appeal to Imran Khan
November 22nd – At the launch of this year’s Report on Worldwide Religious Freedom David (Lord) Alton and Rehman Chishti MP renew their calls for Asia Bibi to be offered asylum in the UK http://religious-freedom-report.org/ The launch was chaired by Lord Alton and attended by Government Ministers, parliamentarians and supporters of the charity, Aid to the Church In Need.
BBC and Dutch reports of her release from prison:
Read House of Lords interventions on November 20th, click here:
After nine years in prison, Pakistan’s Supreme Court courageously found Asia Bibi to be innocent of Blasphemy charges that carried a death sentence.
Now, lynch mobs, defying the rule of law, have demanded her execution and have persuaded the Pakistan Government that she should be banned from leaving the country.
The Pakistan Government have also said that attempts can be made to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision.
This makes a mockery of the rule of law and, meanwhile, Asia Bibi – an innocent woman, a mother denied her freedom for nine years, continues to be held in custody.
Now her lawyer has had to flee the country – saying he fears for his life.
Dr.Taj Hargey, a Muslim Imam based in Oxford, was so right when he wrote in The Telegraph, yesterday that Asia Bibi should be granted asylum in the UK and spoke of “the deafening silence” from British people of Pakistani origin and of “our collective shame in not preventing her cruel incarceration.”