Caucus for the Persecuted Church Newsletter – April 2020 – Don’t lose sight of worldwide persecution that rarely makes the headlines or newspaper reports. These are the human rights which the world chooses to forget. With thanks to Dr.Russell Blacker for compiling this catalogue of reports.


Caucus for the Persecuted Church Newsletter – April 2020 – Don’t lose sight of worldwide persecution that rarely makes the headlines or newspaper reports. These are the human rights which the world chooses to forget.With thanks to Dr.Russell Blacker for compiling this catalogue of reports.

Caucus for the persecuted church.jpg

Caucus for the Persecuted Church Newsletter – April 2020

 

April 2020 –

Caucus for the Persecuted Church Newsletter

 Page 2   = China: Burmese Cardinal speaks out for Asia and the World; China floods Europe with defective medical equipment.

Page 9   = China: Over 300 Protestant Churches Closed.

Page 12 = China: Uyghurs deported to other provinces as slave labourers to restart economy.

Page 15 = Elderly and gravely ill believers tortured in China’s Prisons. Page 17 = China: Activists and believers held in psychiatric clinics as punishment.

Page 19 = Coronavirus: CCP and the World Health Organization, Partners in Cover-up? US State Department warned of safety issues at Wuhan lab studying bat coronaviruses. 

Page 21 = Medical staff expose China’s disinformation on COVID-19.

Page 23 = Christian Human Rights lawyer, Martin Lee, is arrested.

Page 26 = Pakistan: Diplomatic conference-call on human rights abuses. Page 32 = United States Commission on International Religious Freedom report: concern over reports that religious minority groups from around the world have faced discrimination because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Page 33 = Middle East: The impact of COVID-19 on Assyrian Refugees and IDPs. Baghdad priests donate their salaries to the poor for Corona Virus Aid – plus appeals from ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ and ‘AMAR’.

Page 36 = Turkey: Missing Elderly Assyrian Woman Found Dead in Turkey. An expose of the polemic that lies behind much of this persecution. And “just when you though it couldn’t get any worse” – a report from 222 Ministries.

Page 40 = “Fanatics still dream of removing Assyrians from Iraq” which is why Christians are reluctant to return to Mosul – Cardinal Najeeb Michael Moussa of Mosul.

Page 41 = Sikhs in Afghanistan: a neglected, vanishing minority.

Page 44 = Africa: drought famine locusts and coronavirus: religious minorities often at the bottom of the heap when it comes to aid; a continent-wide multi-partner aid initiative by Barnabas Fund.

Page 44 = India: Christian Divya Shanthi programme of food distribution for migrant workers and homeless street people now unable to beg.

Page 47 = Link to all previous newsletters and a range of NGOs who support persecuted Christians.

 

 

CHINA

Burmese Cardinal Speaks Out for Asia and the World

 

– says China’s “lies and propaganda have put millions of lives around the world in danger”; that instead of profiting from the pandemic they need to fund relief and restitution; and he courageously highlights the systematic violation of human rights..

 

April 2, 2020 / David Alton

 

 

Writing in UCANews Burma’s Cardinal, Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, says: “There is one government that has primary responsibility for what it has done and what it has failed to do, and that is the CCP regime in Beijing.”

 

He argues: “Through its inhumane and irresponsible handling of the coronavirus, the CCP has proven what many previously thought: that it is a threat to the world. China as a country is a great and ancient civilization that has contributed so much to the world throughout history, but this regime is responsible, through its criminal negligence and repression, for the pandemic sweeping through our streets today.”

 

Cardinal Bo, who is also President of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences, concludes: “The Chinese regime led by the all-powerful Xi Jinping and the CCP — not its people — owes us all an apology and compensation for the destruction it has caused. As a minimum, it should write off the debts of other countries to cover the cost of Covid-19. For the sake of our common humanity, we must not be afraid to hold this regime to account.”

 

He also criticises China’s human rights record, noting that “in recent years, we have seen an intense crackdown on freedom of expression in China. Lawyers, bloggers, dissidents and civil society activists have been rounded up and have disappeared. In particular, the regime has launched a campaign against religion, resulting in the destruction of thousands of churches and crosses and the incarceration of at least one million Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps. An independent tribunal in London, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who prosecuted Slobodan Milosevic, accuses the CCP of forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience. And Hong Kong, once one of Asia’s most open cities, has seen its freedoms, human rights and the rule of law dramatically eroded.

 

Cardinal Bo emphasized that it is the CCP, not the Chinese people, who should be held responsible. “Let me be clear — it is the CCP that has been responsible, not the people of China, and no one should respond to this crisis with racial hatred toward the Chinese,” he writes.

 

Cardinal Bo was appointed Myanmar’s first ever Cardinal by Pope Francis in 2015, and elected President of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences in 2018. In 2017 Pope Francis made the first ever Papal visit to Myanmar, hosted by Cardinal Bo.

 

The full article by Cardinal Bo can be read here-

https://www.ucanews.com/news/the-chinese-regime-and-its-moral-culpability-for-covid-19/87609?fbclid=IwAR1lqTVMn9Kd60oPWW2AdwfyXxWcWvo8v7NJPRBo-YmE4RXsQj9kdWZ3wM8

 

Last January, no doubt underestimating the threat to France itself, President Emmanuel Macron made a gift of five million surgical masks to the People’s Republic of China. When it became clear, three weeks later, that France itself might urgently need the masks, Beijing came out with a barrage of excuses to avoid restitution. And when the French agreed to buy masks at three times the price, China signed the contract but sold a good part of the masks at five times the price to last-minute private buyers from the United States. Beijing has played the same trick on a number of other countries, notably Chile, which last week lodged formal protest.

 

Coronavirus: China Floods Europe With Defective Medical Equipment

by Soeren Kern – April 3, 2020

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/15840/china-defective-medical-equipment

 

Pictures: Workers sort out personal protective equipment received from China at a warehouse in Valencia, Spain, on March 25, 2020. (Photo by Juan Carlos Cardenas/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

As the coronavirus rages across Europe, a growing number of countries are reporting that millions of pieces of medical equipment donated by, or purchased from, China to defeat the pandemic are defective and unusable. The revelations are fuelling distrust of a public relations effort by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Communist Party to portray China as the world’s new humanitarian superpower.

On March 28, the Netherlands was forced to recall 1.3 million face masks produced in China because they did not meet the minimum safety standards for medical personnel. The so-called KN95 masks are a less expensive Chinese alternative to the American-standard N95 mask, which currently is in short supply around the world. The KN95 does not fit on the face as tightly as the N95, thus potentially exposing medical personnel to the coronavirus.

More than 500,000 of the KN95 masks had already been distributed to Dutch hospitals before the recall was enacted. “When the masks were delivered to our hospital, I immediately rejected them,” a hospital worker told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS. “If those masks do not seal properly, the virus particles can simply pass through. We cannot use them. They are unsafe for our people.”

In a written statement, the Dutch Ministry of Health explained: “A first shipment from a Chinese manufacturer was partly delivered last Saturday. These are masks with a KN95 quality certificate. During an inspection this shipment was found not to meet our quality standard. Part of this shipment had already been delivered to healthcare providers; the rest of the cargo was immediately withheld and not further distributed.

“A second test also showed that the masks did not meet our quality standard. It has now been decided that this entire shipment will not be used. New shipments will undergo additional tests.”

The Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad reported on March 17 that the Netherlands had only a few days’ supply of masks: “All hope is now for that one cargo plane from China on Wednesday.” The substandard quality of the masks delivered by China has left the Netherlands shattered. A spokesperson for a hospital in Dutch city of Eindhoven said that Chinese suppliers were selling “a lot of junk…at high prices.”

In Spain, meanwhile, the Ministry of Health on March 26 revealed that 640,000 coronavirus tests that it had purchased from a Chinese vendor were defective. The tests, manufactured by Shenzhen Bioeasy Biotechnology Company in Guangdong province, had an accurate detection rate of less than 30%.

On April 2, the Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported that it had been presented with leaked documents which showed that Bioeasy had lied to the Spanish government about the accuracy of the tests. Bioeasy had claimed, in writing, that its tests had an accurate detection rate of 92%.

Also on April 2, the Spanish government revealed that a further million coronavirus tests delivered to Spain on March 30 by another Chinese manufacturer were also defective. The tests apparently required between five and six days to detect whether a patient is infected with coronavirus and were therefore useless to diagnose the disease in a timely manner.

On March 25, the Spanish government announced that it had purchased medical supplies from China in the amount of €432 million ($470 million), and that Chinese vendors demanded that they be paid up front before the deliveries were made. Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa explained:

“We have bought and paid for 550 million masks, which will start arriving now and will continue to arrive for the next eight weeks. 11 million gloves will arrive in the next five weeks. As for rapid tests, we have acquired 5.5 million for the months of March and April. In addition, we will receive 950 respirators during the months of April to June. We are managing the purchase of more equipment.”

It is not at all clear how the Spanish government will be able to guarantee the quality of these new mass purchases, or how it would obtain compensation if the products from China were again substandard.

On March 28, the French government, which apparently has only a few weeks’ worth of supplies, announced that it had ordered more than one billion face masks from China. It is unclear whether the quality control problems experienced by other European countries would affect France’s purchasing plans.

Other countries — in Europe and beyond — have also criticized the quality of Chinese medical supplies:

  • Slovakia. On April 1, Prime Minister Igor Matovič said that more than a million coronavirus tests supplied by China for a cash payment of €15 million ($16 million) were inaccurate and unable to detect COVID-19. “We have a ton of tests and no use for them,” he said. “They should just be thrown straight into the Danube.” China accused Slovakian medical personnel of using the tests incorrectly.
  • Malaysia. On March 28, Malaysia received a consignment of medical equipment donated by China, consisting of test kits, medical face masks, surgical masks and other personal protective equipment. A senior official in the Ministry of Health, Noor Hisham Abdullah, said that the test kits would be evaluated for accuracy after previous test kits from China were found to be defective: “This is a different brand from the one we tested earlier. We will assess the new test kit which is FDA-approved. I was assured by the Chinese ambassador that this is more accurate than the other one we tested.” Abdullah previously stated that the accuracy of the Chinese tests was “not very good.”
  • Turkey. On March 27, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said that Turkey had tried some Chinese-made coronavirus tests but authorities “weren’t happy about them.” Professor Ateş Kara, a member of the Turkish Health Ministry’s coronavirus task force, added that the batch of testing kits were only 30 to 35% accurate: “We have tried them. They don’t work. Spain has made a huge mistake by using them.”
  • Czech Republic. On March 23, the Czech news site iRozhlas reported that 300,000 coronavirus test kits delivered by China had an error rate of 80%. The Czech Ministry of Interior had paid $2.1 million for the kits. On March 15, Czech media revealed that Chinese suppliers had swindled the Czech government after it paid upfront for the supply of five million face masks, which were supposed to have been delivered on March 16.

On March 30, China urged European countries not to “politicize” concerns about the quality of medical supplies from China. “Problems should be properly solved based on facts, not political interpretations,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

On April 1, the Chinese government reversed course and announced that it was increasing its oversight of exports of coronavirus test kits made in China. Chinese exporters of coronavirus tests must now obtain a certificate from the National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) in order to be cleared by China’s customs agency.

Meanwhile, the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei announced that it would stop donating masks to European countries as a result of allegedly derogatory comments by the EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell. On March 24, Borrell had written in a blog post that China was engaging in a “politics of generosity” as well as a “global battle of narratives.”

On March 26, a Huawei official told the Brussels-based news service Euractiv that due to Borrell’s comments, the company would be ending its donation program because it did not want to become involved in a geopolitical power play between the U.S. and China.

On March 28, Huawei paid for sponsored content in the publication Politico Europe. Huawei’s Chief Representative to the EU, Abraham Liu, wrote: “Let me be clear — we have never sought to gain any publicity or favor in any country by what we are doing. We made a conscious decision not to publicize things. Our help is not conditional and not a part of any business or geopolitical strategy as some have suggested. We are a private company. We are trying to help people to the best of our abilities. That’s all. There is no hidden agenda. We don’t want anything in return.”

On March 30, the BBC reported that Huawei was acting as if nothing had really changed since the coronavirus crisis began: “That may be naive on the company’s part. While nothing has really changed when it comes to the technical and security issues around Huawei’s equipment, the political climate for the company has certainly worsened.

“A story in the Mail on Sunday at the weekend had Downing Street warning China ‘faced a reckoning’ over its handling of the coronavirus.

“And that is likely to embolden those MPs who have been telling the government no Chinese company should be allowed a role in the UK’s vital infrastructure.”

On March 29, the British newspaper Daily Mail reported that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his allies in parliament had “turned” on China because of the coronavirus crisis: “Ministers and senior Downing Street officials said the Communist state now faces a ‘reckoning’ over its handling of the outbreak and risks becoming a ‘pariah state.’ They are furious over China’s campaign of misinformation, attempts to exploit the pandemic for economic gain and atrocious animal rights abuses blamed by experts for the outbreak.”

On January 28, Johnson had granted Huawei a role in Britain’s 5G mobile network, frustrating efforts by the United States to exclude the company from the West’s next-generation communications, which, it seems, can also be used for spying. The London-based Financial Times reported that U.S President Donald J. Trump vented “apoplectic fury” at Johnson in a tense phone call. Johnson is now facing pressure from his Cabinet as well as from Members of Parliament to reverse his decision.

After Chinese officials blamed the United States and Italy for starting the coronavirus pandemic, the Daily Mail quoted a British government source as saying: “There is a disgusting disinformation campaign going on and it is unacceptable. They [the Chinese government] know they have got this badly wrong and rather than owning it they are spreading lies.”

The newspaper continued: “Mr. Johnson has been warned by scientific advisers that China’s officially declared statistics on the number of cases of coronavirus could be ‘downplayed by a factor of 15 to 40 times.’ [Ed: See article below] And No. 10 believes China is seeking to build its economic power during the pandemic with ‘predatory offers of help’ to countries around the world.

“A major review of British foreign policy has been shelved due to the Covid-19 outbreak and will not report until the impact of the virus can be assessed. A government source close to the review said: ‘It is going to be back to the diplomatic drawing board after this. Rethink is an understatement.’

“Another source said: ‘There has to be a reckoning when this is over.’ Yet another added: ‘The anger goes right to the top.’

“A senior Cabinet Minister said: ‘We can’t stand by and allow the Chinese state’s desire for secrecy to ruin the world’s economy and then come back like nothing has happened. We’re allowing companies like Huawei not just into our economy, but to be a crucial part of our infrastructure.”

In an article published by The Mail on Sunday on March 29, former Tory Party leader Iain Duncan Smith wrote: “All issues can and will be discussed, except for one, it seems — our future relationship with China. The moment anyone mentions China, people shift uncomfortably in their seats and shake their heads. Yet I believe it is vital that we start to discuss how dependent we have become on this totalitarian state.For this is a country which ignores human rights in the pursuit of its ruthless internal and external strategic objectives. However, such facts seem to have been swept aside in our rush to do business with China.

“Remember how George Osborne [Chancellor of the Exchequer under Prime Minister David Cameron from 2010 to 2016] made our relationship with China a major plank of UK Government policy? So determined were Ministers to increase trade that they were prepared to do whatever was necessary. Indeed, I am told that privately this was referred to as Project Kow-Tow — a word defined by the Collins dictionary as ‘to be servile or obsequious.’ We were not alone. Countless national leaders over recent years have brushed aside China’s appalling human rights behavior in the blind pursuit of trade deals with Beijing….

“Thanks to Project Kow-Tow, the UK’s annual trade deficit with China is £22.1 billion ($27.4 billion). But we are not alone in being in hock to Beijing.

“For China has racked up a global trade surplus of £339 billion ($420 billion). Distressingly, the West has watched as many key areas of production have moved to China….

“The brutal truth is that China seems to flout the normal rules of behaviour in every area of life — from healthcare to trade and from currency manipulation to internal repression.

“For too long, nations have lamely kowtowed to China in the desperate hope of winning trade deals. But once we get clear of this terrible pandemic, it is imperative that we all rethink that relationship and put it on a much more balanced and honest basis.”

 

Over 300 Protestant Churches Closed in Two Provinces

04/06/2020Yang Guang’an

https://bitterwinter.org/over-300-protestant-churches-closed-in-two-provinces/

Jiangsu and Liaoning provinces continue reducing the number of places for believers to assemble, barring state-run and house churches alike.

Jiangsu Province: In the second half of 2019, at least 140 Protestant churches, both state-approved Three-Self and house churches, were shut down in Huai’an and Yancheng, two prefecture-level cities in the eastern province of Jiangsu. The 84 of the closed Three-Self churches were merged—one of the CCP’s go-to tools to reduce the number of places of worship and increase control over them.

A Three-Self church manager from Huai’an told Bitter Winter that the government of the city’s Huaiyin district took away religious activity venue registration certificates from many Three-Self churches on the excuse that they needed to be renewed. The new permits were never issued, and officials threatened to blacklist the congregations that continue assembling and implicate believers’ families.

Officials from the Yancheng government informed the congregations of the closed down Three-Self churches that they had been instructed by the central government to reduce the number of places of worship, regardless if they had been approved or not. Even having a valid certificate doesn’t matter. During the closure process, crosses and religious symbols, as well as all other belongings have been removed from churches.

One of the closed Three-Self churches.

 

After a Three-Self church in Yancheng was merged with another church, its 15 elderly members had to travel 15 kilometers to attend services. A month later, on July 30, that church was also sealed off.

“There is no place for people of faith in this large country,” a churchgoer from Huai’an in her 50s lamented. “If we don’t have a church, we will gather in the fields. No matter what, we can’t give up our faith.”

Crosses from at least 37 Three-Self churches in Lianyungang city’s Guanyun county were torn down last June.

 

Liaoning Province: According to received information, from last October to January, about 200 Protestant venues were eliminated in three cities of the northeastern province of Liaoning: 79 in Tieling, 57 in Shenyang, and over 60 in Dalian. Most of them belonged to the Three-Self Church.

Crosses and signboards were torn down from Three-Self Church venues.

 

A government official from the Qinghe district in Tieling told Bitter Winter that about 700 Three-Self Church venues with no valid religious activity certificates would be sealed off. He explained that in the past, the government allowed venues without these licenses to be administered by a Three-Self church that had a valid certificate. Assemblies in these venues were not considered illegal. However, since the new Regulations on Religious Affairs came into force in February 2018, places worship without certificates are deemed unlawful and must be closed down.

In November, 32 venues subordinate to two Three-Self churches in Tieling’s Qinghe and Yinzhou districts were shut down. All religious symbols were ordered to be removed from them. The government threatened to fine the congregations from 10,000 to 20,000 RMB (about $ 1,400 to $ 2,800) if they continued gatherings and demanded to hand over to the two churches all donations. The manager of one of the venues told Bitter Winter that by controlling the churches’ money, the government aims to contain the spread of Christianity.

The same month, the government notified a Three-Self church in the Hunnan district of Shenyang that if its over 40 subordinate meeting venues were found to hold gatherings without permission, the directors and hosts of these venues would be detained for 15 days and fined 50,000 RMB (about $ 7,000). All the sites were disbanded.

“The CCP seems to be in a crisis, so it fights with the church for a place in people’s hearts,” a preacher from Tieling commented on the government’s religious policies. “If all people believe in God, they won’t listen to the CCP. Therefore, it wants to suppress religious beliefs. Christian churches don’t belong to Xi Jinping. He’ll end up like the Pharaoh in the Bible who opposed God, and no one can change that.”

In mid-October, the Daweijia Christian Church and the Grace Gospel Church, Three-Self churches in Dalian city’s Jinpu New Area, were sealed off. A Three-Self church deacon told Bitter Winter that the Grace Gospel Church handed to the Religious Affairs Bureau several years ago all required paperwork to obtain the religious activity venue certificate, but has never been issued one. The CCP often uses this tactic to reduce the number of functioning places of worship.

“China is an atheist and dark country,” a preacher from a Three-Self church in Dalian said. “Don’t expect this government to protect its people.”

Coronavirus: Uyghurs Deported to Other Provinces as Slave Laborers to Restart Economy

04/01/2020 Ruth Ingram

https://bitterwinter.org/coronavirus-uyghurs-deported-as-slave-laborers-to-restart-economy/

Evidence piles up and videos document the massive transfer of Turkic workers sent to work in Chinese factories outside of Xinjiang.

Uyghur and other Turkic workers waiting to be transferred outside of Xinjiang. From Uyghur Bulletin, Twitter.

 

TikTok and DouYin videos pouring out of Xinjiang during the past two weeks have confirmed fears that Beijing is using Uyghur and other Turkic youth as slave laborers and cannon fodder to kickstart the Chinese economy.

Given that the nation is only just getting back on its feet after months of lockdown, and experts still have yet to give the all clear regarding the virus, the clips showing hundreds of corona-masked Uyghurs being amassed at transport hubs around the region with marching orders to work in factories in inner China, are giving Uyghur activists deep concern.

The clips using the popular DouYin Chinese video sharing social networking site have been gathered by Australian-based Uyghur exile Alip Erkin who posts them on his Twitter feed “Uyghur Bulletin.” Despite a flurry of negative videos coming from the epicenter of Uyghur persecution last summer, which were all but quashed by the network’s creator Bytedance early this year, recent posts have managed to circumvent the firewall to bring the latest news to the outside world.

According to Radio Free Asia’s Alim Seytoff, the recorded mass movement of young people out of the province coincided with China’s widespread coronavirus lockdown, when other Chinese were forbidden to leave their homes. “These videos came out at the time when coronavirus was spreading in China and around the world, when most Chinese companies were shutting down and no-one was working,” he said. “And we only see the mass transfer of Uyghur laborers to other parts of China at this time.”

Some of the videos were Chinese Government propaganda showing happy Uyghurs setting off to seek their fortunes, as part of its three-year “poverty alleviation drive” which aims to eradicate absolute impoverishment by 2020. One caption described 850 laborers from impoverished families in Hotan who were arriving by special train in Korla to work for six companies, including the Zhongtai textile group and the Litai Silk road company.

Seytoff pointed out that it was impossible to determine whether these gangs of young people were being forcibly or voluntarily relocated. Dissent in any event would be futile. “If they refuse, they fear that they will be put into camps,” he said, referring to the dreaded transformation through education camps and to the past three years of draconian measures to quell Uyghur culture, language and religion which has seen three million Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim incarcerated without trial, ostensibly for “re-education.”

He added that all Uyghurs shown in the videos who had been rounded up, were wearing masks. “Clearly, coronavirus is a risk for them,” he said, adding that reliable sources had confirmed that many of those press-ganged were in fact camp detainees, “who were forced into labor in factories in mainland China.”

A Uyghur slave labourer wondering what his next destination may be. From Uyghur Bulletin, Twitter.

 

Musa Abdulehed ER, an Istanbul based writer/researcher, commenting on the exodus, questioned Beijing’s motives. “We have to ask whether money is more important than life to the Chinese government?” He said, concluding that the CCP’s actions in sending swathes of Uyghurs into the virus heartland, spoke volumes. “It is obvious that boosting the economy is more important than the lives of these young people, particularly at this time when Han Chinese are not working in the factories because of the virus,” he said, also noting that widespread mask wearing showed that health concerns were still real. “This is a clear indicator that the CCP are playing with the lives of Uyghur young people.”

He was left to infer that Beijing was indifferent to life. “The Chinese government clearly doesn’t care whether they live or die,” he said. “Never mind if they die, but let them die working,” he said cynically. “We can never accept this and protest most strongly,” he said, adding that finally the world is beginning to wake up to the evils of the CCP regime. “We have been warning for years that China will bring disaster upon mankind. And here in the virus we see the results.”

His greatest fear was that the young people were being taken out of Xinjiang with the express purpose that they might succumb to the virus and die. “I would not put it past the Chinese government to have this in its mind,” he said, citing the atrocities that have taken place in Xinjiang, particularly over the past three years. He demanded that the world at last take notice of the disaster that was being meted out on the Uyghur people and their culture, and exert pressure on the CCP to release detainees, stop the slave labour, and close the camps. “They should be allowed to live freely and live as human beings,” he pleaded.

Elderly and Gravely Ill Believers Tortured in China’s Prisons

04/07/2020 – Deng Jie

Elderly and Gravely Ill Believers Tortured in China’s Prisons

Members of The Church of Almighty God are given lengthy prison sentences and are brutally pressured to give up their faith while in detention.

“I was forced to sit completely still for eight hours every day. As a result, my ankles hurt so much that I could not stand straight,” Sun Yuying (pseudonym), a member of The Church of Almighty God (CAG), told Bitter Winter as she started describing her three years of detention. “I had to bathe in cold water even in winter. When two ‘cell bosses’—the leaders of inmates—saw me shiver, they commented that I deserve this because I ‘have committed a crime.’”

Sun Yuying’s “crime” was membership in the CAG, the most persecuted religious movement in China, which in 1995 was included in the list of the xie jiao, one of the CCP’s primary tools of religious persecution. Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code states that being active in a xie jiao organization may result in a prison sentence of three to seven years.

“At least 38 inmates lived in one cell, so I had to step over sleeping or sitting cellmates when going to the toilet,” the woman described her living conditions in a detention house. “We were given half-cooked rice every day, almost no vegetables. Some cellmates had no bowel movement for ten days.”

A month into her detention, Sun Yuying started experiencing growing pain in her waist from sleeping on the damp floor and bathing with cold water. A doctor in the detention house insisted that she was “healthy” and refused to give her medication. She could barely sleep from the pain, and her condition was getting worse day by day. One early morning, 15 minutes after she started her sentry duty, she fainted.

More than a year later, she was transferred to a local women’s prison. During a physical examination, the prison doctor determined that Sun Yuying had a 3-cm displacement of one of her intervertebral discs and had developed a kidney stone. She was prescribed three pain-killer tablets every month.

For Sun Yuying, the spiritual torment was harder than the physical pain. It became unbearable when she was transferred to a special cellblock for members of the CAG and Falun Gong, where every means imaginable are used to force these people to give up their faith.

Every day, prison guards forced her to watch government-produced indoctrination materials against the CAG and demanded to write down her thoughts about them every ten days. They also constantly pressured her to write statements of confession, guarantee, and repentance, which would mean that she gave up her faith. Even when she was back in her cell, two cell bosses, instructed by the guards, took turns monitoring and indoctrinating her. To prevent her from praying, they followed her even when she went to the toilet.

Every time she refused to sign statements renouncing her faith, the cell bosses would beat and abuse her, deprive her of sleep as a punishment.

“I was so distressed just thinking about the things I was forced to write and the demands to give up my faith that I started thinking of suicide,” Sun Yuying remembered. She twice attempted to strangle herself with her pajama pants but was discovered by guards.

After her release, Sun Yuying spent time in a hospital to treat the intervertebral disc, a popliteal cyst on her left knee, and the kidney stone. She even underwent an operation, after which she had to spend some time in bed to recuperate. The CCP did not stop persecuting the seriously ill woman even then. They made constant follow-up visits to her, harassing and surveilling her.

Sun Yuying is one of the numerous elderly CAG members who are persecuted in China.

A 72-year-old woman from the northeastern province of Liaoning was beaten and kicked by the police for evangelizing in the winter of 2012, breaking one of her ribs. She was kept in detention for ten days, where police officers forced her to take cold water baths. In 2018, she was taken in by the police and interrogated, even though she could barely speak because of lung cancer. The woman died ten days after her release.

An 81-year-old CAG member from the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China was detained for eight months in 2015 for attending religious meetings. He fainted four times during his detention, but guards turned a blind eye. He was later sentenced to one year and six months in prison on the charge of “using a xie jiao organization to undermine law enforcement.”

For two years, government officials repeatedly visited the home of a 78-year-old CAG member in the eastern province of Jiangsu, they also often summoned him to their offices. To avoid further harassment, the man started moving from one relative or friend to another every month. In 2017, he was sentenced to three years in prison on the same charge, even though he suffered from cerebral and myocardial infarction, hypertension, and other illnesses.

A 75-year-old CAG member from the eastern province of Anhui was arrested for his belief twice in ten years. While in detention, he was frequently mistreated, beaten, and forced to heavy labor.

Activists, Believers Held in Psychiatric Clinics as Punishment

by Li Mingxuan – 04/18/2020

https://bitterwinter.org/activists-believers-held-in-psychiatric-clinics-as-punishment/

Instead of helping people, some mental health institutions in China are used to “reform” dissidents, even people petitioning the government or religious believers.

An 84-year-old petitioner had been held in Xintai City Psychiatric Hospital in Shandong Province.

Three generations of a family live together in extremely impoverished conditions in a village administered by Zibo city in the eastern province of Shandong. On top of that, the wife of the head of the household is disabled, so he has repeatedly applied to the local government for subsistence allowance but was refused each time. In 2018, the man decided to go to Beijing to petition the central government. Instead of solving his family’s problems, he was arrested by Public Security Bureau officers and taken to a psychiatric hospital.

The man recalled that in the hospital, he was tied to a bed when he refused to take the medication the doctors gave him. After a few such incidents, he gave up and decided to take the pills himself to avoid being tied up. He later learned that his town’s authorities had instructed the hospital to force him to take the drugs. When he was released after a month, his mental condition was visibly affected. Since then, he became a target of the government’s surveillance. In September 2019, the police came to his house again, threatening to give him a hefty sentence if he petitioned again.

Stories like this are not isolated cases in China: dissidents, believers, or petitioners are jailed in psychiatric hospitals for years. For law enforcement officers, it’s an easy way to earn extra cash from the people who want to deal with the “troublemakers” and also a possibility to demonstrate to their superiors that they work “effectively.”

A staff member in a psychiatric hospital in Shandong’s Dezhou city told Bitter Winter that police officers quite often bring people in handcuffs and shackles, their heads covered with black hoods, for “treatment.”

“The hospital treats them regardless if they are ill or not, as long as they are sent here,” the employee explained. “If they refuse to take drugs, we’ll force them. The government does not tolerate petitioners; they call them ‘mentally ill.’ When they are sent here, their mental condition is normal, but it deteriorates after the ‘treatment.’”

He remembered an elderly man who was brought to the hospital three times for petitioning in Beijing. His family had to pay all his medical expenses. The third time, he was only released after his family wrote a statement promising that the man would not petition again.

“Very few people held here are actually ill,” the employee said. “It may look like a hospital, but in reality, it is no different from a prison. The gate is secured with several big iron chains, so there is no way to escape. To keep patients weak, the hospital only gives them little food.”

Along with petitioners and dissidents, people of faith are also often kept in psychiatric hospitals—one of the means of how the government forces them to give up their beliefs.

According to a staff member in a psychiatric hospital in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, when members of The Church of Almighty God (CAG) are brought in, the hospital starts the “treatment” immediately, without any tests or examination. The doctors there claim that they apply “special treatment” for religious believers.

“To force me to take pills, two male doctors pressed me down on a desk, shocked my back, hands, and feet with an electric baton,” a CAG member recalled her painful experience in a psychiatric hospital in 2017. “My entire body was in pain and trembled. I could hardly breathe, and I couldn’t control my bladder. The torture only stopped when I agreed to take the drugs.”

During more than a month in the hospital, the woman received six shock treatments, fainting on two occasions. The doctors threatened that her son’s job would be affected if she continued practicing her faith. After her release, she immediately went into hiding, hoping to evade more arrests, even though she was still frail.

“As a result of electric shocks, my memory declined, and my hands and feet often felt numb. I started feeling a bit better only after six months,” the woman remembered.

A CAG member from Tianmen city in the central province of Hubei spent 157 days in a psychiatric hospital. “A doctor told me that because of my faith, I was a mental patient, and there was no need for further tests,” the woman remembered. Once, three nurses forced her to take the drugs intended for people with mental health conditions, even though they admitted that she had no related symptoms. Such were the hospital’s rules, the nurses told her. They threatened to tie her up if she refused to take the drugs.

“Forced commitment in psychiatric facilities remains a common form of retaliation and punishment by Chinese authorities against activists and government critics,” Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a coalition of Chinese and international NGOs, reported in its briefing in 2016. “The practice endures though it is apparently illegal, according to China’s first Mental Health Law, which was enacted three years ago, on May 1, 2013.”

Thousands of people continue to be sent by the government to psychiatric hospitals every year in China as a punishment. In one of the recent cases, Dong Yaoqiong, the “ink girl” who live-streamed a video of herself defacing a Xi Jinping poster, was held in a psychiatric hospital for over a year. She was released on November 19, 2019.

 

Coronavirus: CCP and the World Health Organization, Partners in Cover-up?

by Marco Respinti – 04/13/2020

https://bitterwinter.org/coronavirus-ccp-and-the-world-health-organization-partners-in-cover-up/

A new report by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation denounces Chinese control of the World Health Organization, and how it damaged all of us in the current crisis

The CCP governs through lies, and lies about the origins and spread of the coronavirus are the CCP’s means to turn the present pandemic into a propagandistic advantage. Many media outlets are blowing the whistle on this unprecedent fabrication of fake news. Bitter Winter is not the least of them.

A new Situation Brief by the China Studies Program of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VCMF) now connects all the dots. VCMF, based in Washington, D.C., is a public educational, research, and human rights foundation authorized by a unanimous Congressional Act, which was signed as Public Law 103-199 by President William J. Clinton on December 17, 1993. VCMF is devoted to commemorating the more than 100 million victims of Communism around the world. Its latest document, The Coronavirus Cover-Up: A Timeline, meticulously collects and contrasts the official news published by the CCP since December 2019, the official assertions by the World Health Organization (WHO) and what has really been going on since November 2019, when the first cases of COVID-19 were reported by medical doctors in China, who were promptly silenced by the authorities.

None of the information in the VCMF’s report is new or comes from confidential sources. Rather than a weakness, this is a strength of the report. The truth was already out there, and everybody can check the sources quoted in the 122 footnotes. In fact, the report argues, “the denial of information, outright fabrications, and disregard for human life—both within and outside of China’s borders—is so shocking and pervasive that the contracting of the virus by millions worldwide and the resultant death toll was not only foreseeable but entirely avoidable.” The world has been lied to, and in a very transparent way.

But the CCP has a partner in its lies. The VCMF’s report is in fact more than a summary of the ongoing CCP disinformation campaign. It “also demonstrates how the World Health Organization (WHO) has promoted and helped legitimize China’s false claims.”

While the CCP was silencing those who tried to warn the world, the WHO asked no serious questions, simply taking at face value the official version of a government known for its systematic contempt of human life, until it was simply too late. In this way, a UN agency that exists to respond to epidemics and pandemics granting people one of their most fundamental human right, i.e. health care, became the partner of the regime mostly responsible for the present carnage.

Three are the conclusions of VCMF. First, China “must be held accountable through demands for economic reparations and other sanctions pertaining to human rights”, something that many in the world are now considering. Secondly, China should “be suspended from full membership in the WHO.” And thirdly, the WHO itself should “be subject to immediate investigation and reform”.

At least 250,000 people worldwide have so far died of coronavirus which originates in Wuhan – China refuses to explain how it began and got out…..Read this:

US State Department cables warned of safety issues at Wuhan lab studying bat coronaviruses

https://www.washingtonpost.com/gdpr-consent/?next_url=https%3a%2f%2fwww.washingtonpost.com%2fopinions%2f2020%2f04%2f14%2fstate-department-cables-warned-safety-issues-wuhan-lab-studying-bat-coronaviruses%2f

 

Medical Staff Expose China’s Disinformation on COVID-19

by Ye Ling – 04/26/2020

https://bitterwinter.org/medical-staff-expose-chinas-disinformation-on-covid-19/

Health care workers on China’s coronavirus frontline talk about the CCP’s orders to fabricate data and how they were used for propaganda purposes.

On April 17, the government of Wuhan, the capital of the central province of Hubei and the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, raised its official death toll from COVID-19 by 1,290— a 50% increase in the previously reported official figure. The change was announced amid growing concerns from the international community that China has been underreporting deaths from the virus to give a false impression that the outbreak is under control.

The medical staff who talked to Bitter Winter confirmed that these concerns are valid.

Data fabricated to maintain “zero deaths”

A doctor from the eastern province of Zhejiang (we’ll call him Mr. Huang to protect his identity) told Bitter Winter that the epidemic was particularly severe in the prefecture-level city of Wenzhou, accounting for the majority of the coronavirus cases in the province. “In mid-February, the condition of many patients with mild symptoms started gradually deteriorating, and their condition became severe,” Mr. Huang said. “At the same time, the provincial government issued a diktat, forbidding us from reporting deaths from coronavirus.”

According to Mr. Huang, the hospital’s leaders started fabricating data to implement this political task. He remembered one case when a woman in her 80s in grave condition passed away in the hospital from COVID-19, but her medical records indicate different causes of death.

“To reduce the number of severe coronavirus patients, hospitals transferred them from wards for infected people to other sections, and their medical records have been altered, changing their diagnoses to severe pneumonia,” Mr. Huang continued. “This way, their cases were not added to the official coronavirus fatalities’ tally. Reducing the number of severe coronavirus patients meant reducing the number of subsequent deaths. As a result, the pressure from the central government on the leaders of hospitals and local authorities increased.”

He added that the Wenzhou government reported on March 16 that no coronavirus patients were in hospitals anymore, but in reality, some hospitals still had patients with severe conditions from COVID-19. To control the narrative, hospitals prohibited medical staff from talking to the media and sharing images from work with their friends and families or posting them on social media. They were also banned from talking to coronavirus patients’ relatives, who called to inquire about the condition of their loved ones.

“A bit over 1,200 coronavirus cases and one death were reported in Zhejiang Province in total, but this number has been fabricated by top officials and hospital leaders to achieve their political goals,” Mr. Huang believes. “Covering up real numbers helps to downplay the severity of the pandemic. Because the CCP concealed the real situation at the beginning of the epidemic, other countries failed to take proper prevention and control measures, causing the coronavirus to spread around the entire world.”

Medical staff not tested sufficiently

Mr. Huang revealed that after working with coronavirus patients for some time, local medical workers were isolated in a government-designated hotel for two weeks. After that, they were supposed to be tested if they had been infected with COVID-19. However, only the first group of medical workers were actually tested after the isolation: the tests have been canceled for later groups.

“This has been done to fabricate the data of infections among medical workers because hospitals and municipal and provincial governments would face greater pressure if any of them were infected,” Mr. Huang explained. “Without the tests, it was reported that the number of infected medical workers was zero. If any of them had been infected, they would have had to go home after the two weeks’ isolation. Even if they had symptoms, their cases were counted as the general population, not medical staff infections.”

Mr. Huang said that this policy had raised fear among medical workers. He remembered a nurse, who started exhibiting coronavirus symptoms and asked to be tested, but the hospital administration refused, saying that even if she was tested, her results would neither be included in the electronic medical record system nor would she be informed about them.

“To achieve their political goals, government and hospital leaders did not allow us to be tested even when the test reagents were sufficient. This is completely irresponsible,” Mr. Huang commented. “If we are infected but don’t show symptoms, and we are not immediately isolated, many more people could be infected, causing the virus to spread.”

Propaganda manipulations

As if fabricating data is not enough, the CCP uses the mouthpiece media to spread propaganda on its efforts defeating the epidemic with “revolutionary spirit” and forces medical staff to play along. Mr. Huang said that hospital leaders forced his colleagues working with coronavirus patients to write and share their stories so that “the Party’s image is maintained.” “The hospital posts many stories about the fight against the epidemic on its WeChat page; more than 100 have been shared already, but many of them are not true,” he said. “They do it to implement their political agenda.”

A nurse from Zhejiang told Bitter Winter that she was told by her superiors to write a story about how, with the support from her family, she firmly decided to join the medical staff fighting the virus. Her text was posted on the hospital’s public WeChat account. “I have no interest in reading what I have written because it’s all false. I was told to write that way,” she said. Another nurse wrote an article for a hospital newsletter but later discovered that it had been altered, heavily departing from her original text.

A medical worker from Beijing, who was sent to work in Wuhan, told Bitter Winter that doctors and nurses could not refuse to work with coronavirus patients when their safety was not ensured. If they do so, it will be very difficult for them to find another job in the future, he explained. The man also revealed that before he left for Wuhan, the director of the ward he worked in said that he didn’t need “to care about the lives of patients, he had to make sure that he is not infected himself.”

Lawyer Martin Lee’s arrest confirms that Beijing has crossed the line into tyranny

 

David Alton and Luke de PulfordApril 21, 2020

 

https://catholicherald.co.uk/martin-lees-arrest-confirms-that-beijing-has-crossed-the-line-into-tyranny/

 

On November 24 2019, after months of protests, three million Hong Kongers handed a historic victory to democratic candidates in council elections. As part of an international team of election observers, we were there to witness the 326-seat landslide, with only 62 seats taken by pro-Beijing candidates.

On November 24 2019, after months of protests, three million Hong Kongers handed a historic victory to democratic candidates in council elections. As part of an international team of election observers, we were there to witness the 326-seat landslide, with only 62 seats taken by pro-Beijing candidates.

This was always going to bring a response from the Central Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party. On April 18 that response came. Under the cover of a global pandemic, the CCP delivered its reply, rounding up and arresting 15 leaders of the pro-democracy movement. Among them was a Catholic barrister called Martin Lee.

Lee is a former member of the Legislative Council, Hong Kong’s parliament, and the founding chairman of the Democratic Party, the region’s biggest pro-democracy party. Born in 1938, his formative years were spent looking over the bamboo wall dividing Hong Kong from China.

The young Lee grew up hearing extraordinary stories of faith from the lips of Christians who had fled from Communist oppression to the oases of Macao and Hong Kong. Martin was a schoolboy when, in 1949, Ignatius Kung was created bishop of Shanghai, just days before the Communists seized power. In 1956, Kung was arrested, along with more than 300 Catholic priests, religious and lay people. They refused to capitulate and were taken to Shanghai greyhound stadium, where show trials and executions were a daily occurrence.

Told to renounce his faith: Kung spoke into the microphone: “Long live Christ the King, long live the Pope.” Many shouted back: “Long live Christ the King, long live Bishop Kung.” Kung spent 30 years in Communist jails for refusing to let them control the Catholic Church. His arrest and imprisonment did not break him, and his witness inspired courage in others.

During the Cultural Revolution, Mao hunted down and murdered millions of his countrymen, many on account of their faith. Churches were desecrated, looted, and turned into storerooms and factories. Priests and religious were incarcerated, tortured, some burnt alive, some sent to labour camps, with Christians publicly paraded through cities and towns and forced to wear cylindrical hats announcing their crime of belief.

Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” led to the deaths of at least 30 million Chinese people. His “re-education” programmes , the depredations of the Red Guards, and the infamies of the Cultural Revolution claimed an estimated 20 million lives. Mao rests in a colossal mausoleum in the centre of Tiananmen Square, where, in 1989, thousands seeking democracy would be mown down.

Lee was shaped and formed by these events. He has been a witness to the ideology that makes the Party a god, and knows how effortlessly it discards humanity to achieve its objectives.

Lee also has a close friendship with Cardinal Joseph Zen. Their relationship has echoes of the bond between Pope John Paul II and Lech Walesa – two other figures forged in scalding fire. Like Lee, Zen is persecuted by the CCP. We sampled something of this last year in Fatima, where we were with Lee and Zen. Chinese government officials pursued them to the tiny Portuguese village, attempted to shut down the meeting they were attending, and hired out a floor of one of the pilgrims’ hotels to spy on them.

It reminds us that, in every generation, the Church raises up prophetic witnesses who stand against tyranny. And in every generation, there will be an authoritarian regime to which the Church must answer.

Giving that answer is not always easy. Prophets tend to walk a narrow and lonely path. They may make us uncomfortable – and may not always be right. The institutional Church, on the other hand, is bound to consider the wider permutations of its political decisions, which so often requires weighing evils against each other.

In this sense there has always a tension between the institutional and the prophetic Church. The temptation to humour a dictator for fear of something worse has been a perennial feature of our ecclesial history. Ostpolitik can often seem so reasonable. But there is always a tipping point where “dialogue” and “engagement” becomes betrayal and dereliction of duty. If the tortured Falun Gong practitioners, imprisoned Christian pastors, or the one million Uyghur Muslims currently in camps in East Turkistan, were able to speak to us, they would tell is that the tipping point passed long ago in China. Lee would say the same.

But declaring that tipping point takes courage. Recall that in the 1930s Munster’s courageous Bishop von Galen, the “Lion of Munster”, condemned Nazism while others accommodated the Reich, insisting that reasoning with the beast was the wiser approach. Lee and Zen stand with von Galen. They stand alongside Poland’s Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko, murdered by Communists in 1984, who declared that “Truth which does not cost is a lie”; with St Maximilian Kolbe’s “No one in the world can change Truth”; with Blessed Titus Brandsma’s “He who wants to win the world for Christ must have the courage to come in conflict with it.” They stand alongside Ignatius Kung; with China’s tortured and murdered Christians; with the imprisoned underground priests and bishops, like Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo, who languished in jail for 20 years.

As so often, it’s the prophetic voice of the Church that is called to temporal suffering – and is so often proven right.

On being arrested, Lee – a lifelong proponent of peaceful resistance – reiterated his belief in democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. With candour and characteristic humility, with no self-pity, he said: “I feel relieved. After months of witnessing youths being arrested and prosecuted while I stayed out of it, I eventually felt guilty. I have been eventually prosecuted and I have no regrets, I am proud to walk the road of democracy.” His words bring to mind his patron St Thomas More – both were called to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn. In Utopia, More reminds us that the political leader is called “to feed his sheep, not himself” and also reminds us that even in Utopia “There is never any shortage of horrible creatures who prey upon human beings, snatch away their food, or devour whole populations.” These words could have been written for the Chinese Communist Party.

Martin Lee’s arrest marks a threshold. A prominent lawyer – a Queen’s Counsel and recipient of prestigious international awards – he was one of the drafters of Hong Kong’s constitutional settlement, Two Systems One Country. Apprehending him on trumped-up charges is a symbolic incarceration of the rule of law itself. In words prayed by so many of the Church’s resistance, Isaiah prophesied: “For Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet”. Neither must we.

 

 

PAKISTAN

 

Conference Call with UK Minister and UK High Commissioner about UK Nationals caught in the Coronavirus Pandemic; about the murder of a transgender 15-year-old Christian; about a plea to Imran Khan to free Shagufta Kauser and non violent prisoners in Pakistan prisons; and about the scapegoating of religious minorities.

 

April 9, 2020 / David Alton

(Lord Alton of Liverpool is CoChair of the British Parliament’s All Party Group on Pakistan Minorities and Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Pakistan).

 

https://davidalton.net/2020/04/09/pakistan-conference-call-with-uk-minister-and-uk-high-commissioner-about-uk-nationals-caught-in-the-the-coronavirus-pandemic-about-the-murder-of-a-transgender-15-year-old-christian-about-a-plea-to-i/

 

On April 9th there was a constructive conference call with Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Minister of State at the Foreign Office, and Dr.Christian Turner CMG, the UK High Commissioner in Islamabad,  about the current situation in Pakistan.

 

I have been in touch with the Minister twice in the past few days – about a murder in Faisalabad and about a letter to Imran Khan calling for the release of non-violent prisoners like Shagufta Kauser and raised this during the Call.

 

 

We also discussed a disturbing and tragic report of a Christian boy who has fallen victim to a brutal rape culture. A 15-year-old Christian transgender was kidnapped, raped and then murdered in Faisalabad.

 

Mr Khalil Tahir Sandhu is the Legal Counsel acting on behalf of the victim’s family and has reported that the culprits are running freely in the streets and that the Government of Pakistan  has failed to take timely action. 

The Minister promised to take up these cases with the Pakistan authorities to ensure that they bring the murderers  to justice and to raise the continued incarceration of prisoners – like Shagufta Kauser –  jailed for non- violent crimes.

 

I also expressed my concern about  attempts in Pakistan to blame religious minorities – such as the Shia – for the spread of Covid19 and urged the Foreign Office not to lose sight of the plight of minorities in the country who can so easily be scapegoated and, even in the best of times, are subject to persecution.

==================================

Concern over reports that religious minority groups from around the world have faced discrimination because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

USCIRF (08.04.2020) –

 

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today expressed its concern over reports that religious minority groups from around the world have faced discrimination because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Religious communities have been harassed and accused of bringing COVID-19 to their countries.
“COVID-19 does not discriminate based on religion or creed,” noted USCIRF Chair Tony Perkins. “Around the world, individuals of every faith and every denomination have been infected. It is time to stop scapegoating religious minorities – as we have witnessed by the Chinese Communist Party – and instead unite against this pandemic.”
In many countries, governments have failed to protect vulnerable religious communities. In particular, Muslims in India and  Cambodia as well as Shi’a Muslims in Pakistan have faced increased stigmatization in recent weeks because some of the earliest patients to test positive for COVID-19 in those countries came from these communities. In addition, local authorities in South Korea have filed lawsuit against the Shincheonji Church, alleging that it undermined public health measures, even though the Ministry of Health and Welfare stated publicly that the church has cooperated with the government’s efforts.
 
“Governments around the world are undoubtedly busy responding to the public health crisis, but they still have an obligation to respect and protect religious freedom, especially for minority communities during and following this crisis,” USCIRF Vice Chair Gayle Manchin added.
In its 2019 Annual Report, USCIRF noted an increase in discrimination against certain religious minority groups, and recently released a factsheet about the effect of COVID-19 on religious freedom. USCIRF has called on all governments to release religious prisoners of conscience during the pandemic because of the heightened risk of infection in prisons.

 

 

 

MIDDLE EAST

 

IRAQ

 

The Impact of COVID-19 on Assyrian Refugees and IDPs

Assyrian Policy Institute 04/09/2020

http://www.aina.org/news/20200409175836.htm

 

The spread of COVID-19 puts Assyrian and other refugees and internally-displaced peoples (IDPs) at particular risk. The majority of Christian Assyrians in Iraq and Syria have been forcibly displaced due to conflict, religious persecution, and targeted violence over the last two decades. More recently, several hundred thousand were displaced following the rise of the so-called Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria.

Assyrian IDPs in Iraq

Hundreds of Assyrian IDPs in Iraq still reside in camps, where it is impossible to comply with World Health Organization recommendations pertaining to social distancing, and where proper sanitation measures are not readily available and access to adequate health care is limited. These factors leave these communities especially vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19.

In Baghdad, Iraq, Virgin Mary Complex currently houses approximately 140 families of Assyrian background. The majority of these persons are inhabitants of the Nineveh Plain who were displaced in 2014, while a few are impoverished Assyrian families from Baghdad who have since been admitted to the camp.

Virgin Mary Complex was established in late 2014 by the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM), an Iraqi Assyrian political party, in response to the Islamic State’s takeover of Mosul and the Nineveh Plain. The camp is located on lands belonging to the ADM and continues to operate despite pressure from the federal government to close. Most camps housing Christian Assyrian IDPs, such as those operated by the Chaldean Catholic Church in Ankawa, were closed in 2017. In August 2019, the Iraqi Government consolidated and closed a number of IDP camps across the country, with a stated goal of all IDPs returning home by the end of 2020; though voluntary repatriation remains unlikely given current conditions. Virgin Mary Complex is the only active IDP camp in Iraq exclusively housing Christian Assyrian IDPs.

In the immediate aftermath of the Islamic State assault on the Nineveh Plain, 45 families were temporarily housed at ADM-affiliated facilities in Baghdad; however, as the number of Assyrian IDPs from Ninewa Governorate arriving in Baghdad increased, the camp was established and these families were relocated. Each family was provided with a caravan containing one room, a kitchen, and a bathroom, including a shower. The camp, which was established with the assistance of Baghdad’s Provincial Council and the Ministry of Migration and Displaced Persons, relies on the support of NGOs and private donors to meet the daily needs of inhabitants, including food, water, and medicine. Security is provided by guards employed by the ADM, and the camp is administered in partnership with the Christian Endowment Office.

Despite the liberation of Ninewa Governorate from Islamic State control in 2017, Assyrian return to Mosul has been negligible, and a number of factors continue to prevent repatriation to the Nineveh Plain where roughly 50% of the pre-Islamic State population has returned, primarily to al-Hamdaniya District. Though some of the families previously housed at Virgin Mary Complex have returned home to the Nineveh Plain, many have no plans to return in the foreseeable future. According to camp administrators, the most-commonly cited factors preventing return include concerns about security, lack of livelihood opportunities, and irreparable damage to home/property.

Iraqi Assyrian Member of Parliament Yonadam Kanna told the API, “We will continue to support the needs of displaced persons until we can guarantee the conditions that will sustain their return. We will not force anyone to return home. Security, jobs, and infrastructure are basic needs and many won’t return until these things are guaranteed.”

The Iraqi Government has imposed a curfew and other restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19. On Wednesday, March 25, 2020, Kanna led an initiative to sanitize Virgin Mary Complex in response to the COVID-19 outbreak and says camp administrators will continue to take measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

Assyrian Refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey

Assyrian refugees residing in countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey generally do not seek shelter in refugee camps due to religious discrimination and fear of targeted attacks. Instead, Assyrian refugees are compelled to rent private homes in urban neighborhoods. While they are generally able to practice social distancing in these conditions, various factors may negatively impact their ability to take all precautionary measures against COVID-19 and to receive adequate medical care if infected. Limited access to health care remains a major concern, as the policies and practices of governing authorities often prohibit refugees from accessing proper care. Moreover, medical experts have concluded that the fragile health care systems in these countries generally lack the capacity to respond to an epidemic. Beyond concerns about health care, the cost of living in these countries is very high, and many of these families rely on remittances from relatives and friends abroad in order to meet household needs. Some Assyrian refugees were employed without legal authorization and are now no longer working. These sources of financial support have now been affected, exposing large segments of the Assyrian refugee community to the possibility of economic vulnerability. Many of these communities also depend on the support of NGOs that are now paralyzed or short of funds due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though many Assyrian refugees have been resettled to countries such as Australia, Canada, and the United States in recent years, tens of thousands remain in displacement. The majority of Assyrian refugees spend years awaiting resettlement with little to do on a daily basis, and in doing so have already adapted to conditions of thwarted mobility. While the long wait for a humanitarian visa is anticipated, there is no guarantee of resettlement. Following the outbreak of COVID-19, countries around the world have taken necessary steps to contain the contagious virus, such as travel restrictions, quarantines, and the closing of borders.

On March 17, 2020, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that the UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are suspending resettlement departures. Some countries have also placed their own holds on planned refugee arrivals due to the global pandemic. According to the UNHCR:

As countries drastically reduce entry into their territories owing to the COVID-19 global health crisis, and restrictions around international air travel are introduced, travel arrangements for resettling refugees are currently subject to severe disruptions. Some States have also placed a hold on resettlement arrivals given their public health situation, which impacts on their capacity to receive newly resettled refugees. Refugee families are being directly impacted by these quickly evolving regulations in the course of their travel, with some experiencing extensive delays while others have been stranded or separated from family members.

Though the extreme measures undertaken by countries around the world are necessary to contain the spread of the virus, the suspension of refugee resettlement may exacerbate the existing vulnerabilities of refugee communities and negatively impact their mental health and well-being. For many Assyrian refugees, the uncertainty about the future is often overwhelming and crippling. An Assyrian refugee currently residing in Amman, Jordan told the API by phone, “We have already been waiting for six years for any news on our [resettlement] case. The whole world is on hold, but it’s especially hard for us to accept that now we are just stuck here without any idea of what the future holds for us.

An Assyrian refugee in Fuheis, Jordan stated, “I am very worried about our future. We feel now as though we are wasting our time and our money here, because all cases have been suspended, and we don’t know how long this will go on.”

Jordan has imposed one of the strictest countrywide lockdowns in the world to combat COVID-19. Round-the-clock curfews have been extended indefinitely, barring people from moving except in emergencies. People between the ages of 16 to 60 are permitted to leave their home on foot during designated hours for essential trips, such as purchasing groceries or essential needs. Those who violate the curfew are subject to arrest, up to a one-year prison sentence, and for refugees, possible deportation. While the lockdown aims to limit the spread of COVID-19, it has significantly limited access to vital humanitarian assistance for urban refugee communities such as Assyrians.

In Lebanon, authorities have imposed a partial-curfew and ordered the closure of all nonessential public and private institutions. The Assyrian Support Committee (ASC), a Beirut-based aid group affiliated with the Assyrian Church of the East, recently launched an initiative aimed at spreading awareness about COVID-19 and distributing essential needs. Jack Jendo, a board member of ASC, told the API, “The COVID-19 pandemic has intensively worsened an already devastating economic crisis and exposed the inadequacies of Lebanon’s social protection system. As a small minority, the Assyrians are one of the most vulnerable communities in Lebanon, due to the lack of financial and social resources. The only support available to our people here is the church, which was barely able to meet the urgent needs of impoverished families and refugee families from Iraq and Syria before the global pandemic.”

With the support of Catholic Relief Services, the ASC is in the process of delivering food baskets and hygiene kits to 511 Assyrian families located in Bauchrieh, Hadath, Zahle, and Ashrafieh. While the assistance targets approximately 70% of Assyrian families in the area, Jendo says the ASC recognizes the unique vulnerabilities of Assyrian refugees at this time. “Our main challenge now is to analyze and handle the cases of needy families in light of this crisis,” he says.

Jendo says there are currently no reported cases of COVID-19 among the local Assyrian community. He attributes the lack of spread to the ASC’s early response to the crisis, which included promoting awareness and canceling all public gatherings and events, including religious services. The ASC has also formed emergency response units composed of volunteers in areas with significant Assyrian populations, and has also created a hotline and online form where families can report symptoms and confirmed cases.

In Turkey, authorities have not imposed a nationwide lockdown, but have introduced gradual restrictions on movement, including road closures and a new curfew. Urban refugees in Turkey tend to live in crowded neighborhoods with poor water and sanitation conditions. Refugees in Turkey are entitled to health care provided by public health care facilities; however, barriers to health care persist, including, but not limited to, lack of information of services offered, legal status issues, language barriers, delayed registration processes, a high number of claimants, geographical barriers to accessing health facilities, transportation costs, prohibitive co-payments for treatment beyond primary care, and inequalities in the distribution of health care personnel and supplies. These factors complicate their ability and willingness to seek treatment for illnesses. The Turkish Health Ministry announced that all hospitals, including private facilities, are required to admit and treat all suspected patients of COVID-19, but there are concerns about how the order will play out in practice. There are also concerns about basic health information on COVID-19 and information on access to treatment not reaching refugee communities, which would require overcoming the language barrier.

 

A message from ‘Aid to the Church in Need’

 

Priests and religious Sisters caring for vulnerable communities around the world, who have lost their sources of income due to the coronavirus crisis, will receive emergency funding from Aid to the Church in Need.

 

ACN has promised $5 million in aid, relying on the kindness of benefactors.

Announcing the new initiative, Dr Thomas Heine-Geldern, Executive President of ACN (International), said: As a rising tide of human suffering related to COVID-19 makes itself felt around the world, the demand for social and spiritual care is soaring. It is our wish that this aid, made possible thanks to our benefactors, will help ease the burden on our courageous religious, who stand on the front lines, bringing God’s love and compassion to our suffering brothers and sisters. “Now more than ever, the light and hope of the Lord is needed.”

 

ACN will help priests and religious who have lost their means of support, so that they can continue their vital ministries, including caring for the sick and elderly. Please can you help keep our promises of love.

 

To donate to this work visit

 

https://acnuk.org/get-involved/donate/

 

Baghdad Priests Donate Salaries to the Poor for Corona Virus Aid

By Linda Bordoni – 26th April

https://www.vaticannews.va

Baghdad’s parish priests have decided to donate their salaries to help the poor and the people most affected by the new coronavirus pandemic.

Their contribution, that should result in about 25 million Iraqi dinars, will be added to 90,000 US dollars already allocated by the Chaldean patriarchate for the same reason.

The decision came at the end of a meeting on Friday evening between the priests, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, Archbishop of Baghdad and Patriarch of the Chaldean Church in Iraq, and auxiliary bishops Shemon Warduni and Basil Yaldo.

Fragile socio-economic reality

The Covid-19 pandemic hit Iraq in late February, when the country was in its most fragile and vulnerable state, with a caretaker government and a wave of mass protests that had started in October 2019.

The devastating economic consequences of a lockdown on the economy, combined with the sharp drop of oil prices and the security and political issues that have undermined Iraq for more than a decade, have set the stage for much suffering.

Discussing the current situation and precautionary measures dictated by the pandemic, the Chaldean Primate reiterated the need to respect social distancing in churches and uphold government health directives and lockdowns to counter the spread of the disease.

To this end, all group activities within the parishes remain suspended until further notice, including catechism and activities for youth.

Cardinal Sako also noted that the Chaldean Church plans to further use the Internet and social media to keep in touch with the faithful.

Church’s commitment and closeness to the poor

He confirmed the Church’s commitment and closeness to the poorest and neediest families, and in a plea to the Christian community, the patriarch stressed that “at this historical and fateful time, all Iraqis must put aside their personal struggles and interests” to promote “shared action and solidarity against the common enemy” that threatens lives, the economy and social and religious relations.

According to official statistics, Iraq has almost 1,800 reported cases of the new coronavirus with 83 deaths.

However medical sources and independent analysts claim the toll is much higher and some doctors have reportedly been targeted by police for reporting three times more cases.

 

AMAR COVID19 appeal

COVID-19 is spreading rapidly across the world.  Governments of even the wealthiest countries are struggling to cope with the scale of the Pandemic.
In Iraq – where we work – this is nothing short of disaster. Iraq’s health care system is in almost permanent crisis, constantly on the brink of collapse. Only days ago, its Health Minister, Jafar Allawi, was seen on television pleading to Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shia Muslims, for help. His government had failed to agree to Allawi’s plea for emergency funding to cope with the Corona crisis.

 

Iraq is a country already devastated by decades of war, internecine conflict, dictatorship, corruption and poverty, and now its beleaguered staff and broken infrastructure is being asked to deal with one of the most virulent viruses the world has ever known.

 

The hundreds of thousands of Yazidi IDPs living in the sprawling camps in the north are particularly at risk. AMAR field teams are doing all they can to limit the spread by dispensing much needed advice and support to those most in need.
For the last 27 years, AMAR has been at the forefront of efforts to support and enhance the Iraqi health care system. We have built, refurbished and run more than 75 health care centres, our medical professionals have carried out almost 11 million consultations, and our teams have been caring for and supporting hundreds of thousands of Yazidi IDPs since the ISIS invasion of 2014.

 

To continue to do this we need your support. Without our amazing donors we could not have achieved so much for more than a quarter of a century.
Today, with COVID-19 the very latest threat to the lives and livelihoods of the poor Iraqi people, we need your help more than ever.

 

We are delighted to add that the appeal is being backed by the Joss Stone Foundation (@JossStone) which aims to raise awareness and support for more than 200 charities globally.

 

Ed: To donate to the work of AMAR –  www.amarfoundation.org

DONATE BY CHEQUE

 

I enclose a cheque for £                                  payable to The AMAR Charitable Foundation

 

Send the cheque to: AMAR International Charitable Foundation 80 Petty France

London, SW1H 9EX

DONATE BY UK CREDIT OR DEBIT CARD

Search for us on Virgin money giving under AMAR International Charitable Foundation or go to our website

 

 

Fanatics Still Dream of Removing Assyrians From Iraq

 

By Fionn Shiner – Aid to the Church in Need – 2020-04-01

Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Najeeb Michaeel Moussa of Mosul, Iraq.More than three years on from the defeat of Daesh (ISIS), Islamists in Iraq are as determined as ever to rid their towns and cities of Christians — according to a senior bishop, who has warned of a surge in extremism.

Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Najeeb Michaeel Moussa of Mosul and Akra told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that the Islamist mindset means many Mosul Christians displaced by Daesh are too afraid to go back. He said: “The fanatical ideology continues to reign in many minds, and some people are still dreaming of driving all the Christians out of their historical dwelling places.”

He added: “The greatest fear, and one which prevents Christians from returning to their former homes in Mosul, is that of seeing the renewed growth of Islamic fundamentalism.” According to the archbishop, Christians and other religious minorities need “the disappearance of the Salafist mentality” that is heavily embedded in the Iraqi establishment.

He added: “Sadly, however, this sectarian mentality continues to impose the Shari’a [Islamic law] within the Iraqi legislation. The school textbooks and the sectarian preaching in the mosques are a source of social and political division. “The separation of politics and religion would be a blessing, and could certainly ease the Calvary that the Christians have been so painfully enduring ever since the seventh century.”

Archbishop Moussa said that Christians wanted to live in an Iraq where they are treated with respect and not persecuted for their religious beliefs.

He said: “The hope of the Christians is to be able to live in peace in their own country on the basis of equality of rights and duties, on exactly the same basis as the other Iraqis and not as second-class citizens or as dhimmis [the discriminatory status given to non-Muslims].

“They continue to demand their rights for the revision of certain unjust laws, for example, the forced conversion to Islam of young underage girls, if one of the parents should become a Muslim.”

The archbishop said Christians need equal opportunities at work and that some jobs are not open to them.

He said: “The Christians are also demanding the right to equality of the sexes with regard to matters of inheritance, marriage, freedom of religion and so forth…

But he added: “Personally, I am optimistic regarding the future of the Christians in Nineveh and in Iraq. Through education and culture, we can overcome obscurantism and violence.”

 

 

AFGHANISTAN

 

 

Sikhs in Afghanistan a neglected, vanishing minority

 

By Sunil Kukreja Asia Times (01.04.2020) – https://bit.ly/2XiVfa4 

 

The terrorist attack that killed 27 Sikhs in a centuries-old gurdwara (Sikh temple) last week highlighted yet again the continued and systematic decimation of Sikhs and other religious minorities in Afghanistan.

 

This most recent attack, for which Islamic State (ISIS) has claimed responsibility, represents yet another poignant chapter in a larger narrative of the persistent persecution of Sikhs in Afghanistan. Then the bomb attack on the mourners of those killed in the Sikh temple that followed was but another painful postscript to the brutal reality of the devastation that has been inflicted on Sikhs in that country.

 

Once a thriving religious minority, the Sikh population in Afghanistan has over the last couple of decades declined significantly, with current estimates putting the number remaining at between 3,000 and 8,000. Indeed, so desperate has the situation become that there is little doubt that Afghan Sikhs will become little more than another historical footnote to the international community – one that has been conveniently and persistently ignored by governments and international organizations that purport to champion the cause of religious freedom and minority rights.

 

While some international news outlets did report last week’s attacks, it’s quite telling that even with the understandable attention of the international community on the Covid-19 pandemic, the persistent persecution of Sikhs in countries like Afghanistan (and in neighboring Pakistan) in essence continues to be ignored by entities such as the United Nations.

 

To be sure, decades of war and devastation have taken a toll on the persistence of minorities such as Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan, but there is no question that systematic targeting, harassment, intimidation, and violence perpetrated against these minorities has been routinely tolerated, reflecting how a discernible set of practices have been tacitly or otherwise ignored over an extended period in many parts of the country.

 

While extreme violence of the kind undertaken by ISIS jihadists provides fodder for the narrative that it’s extremists who are the source of this persecution of minorities, it also conveniently enables this mainstream misinterpretation to persist unchallenged and unexamined.

 

Of course, there is the school of thought that the violent attacks by extremists on Sikhs (and Hindus) are a way to exert pressure indirectly on any Indian government entanglement in Afghanistan as well as retaliate against the mistreatment of Muslims in Kashmir or elsewhere in India. But this convenient interpretation doesn’t adequately and meaningfully account for the society-wide practices of discrimination, intimidation, mistreatment, and targeting of Sikhs that persists as an embedded aspect of daily life in Afghanistan.

 

According to one  US government report, for example, “only a few places of worship remained open for Sikhs and Hindus, who said they continued to emigrate because of discrimination and the lack of employment opportunities. Hindu and Sikh groups also reported interference in their efforts to cremate the remains of their dead in accordance with their customs from individuals who lived near cremation sites.” Other forms of systematic and even state-sanctioned discrimination include the illegal appropriation of property owned by Sikhs.

 

Frankly, it appears that the relative lack of international attention to situations like the systematic targeting of Sikhs and other religious minorities in Afghanistan and Pakistan reflects an apparent political indifference of the establishment international community. Despite repeated reports of attacks and systematic targeting of Sikhs, the UN, for example, continues to show – despite its predictable condemnation – what can only be described as a puzzling disregard for their plight.

 

On cue, the UN Secretary General’s Office issued the following statement on the recent attack in Kabul:

 

“The Secretary General condemns the attack today in Kabul on a Sikh-Hindu temple in which dozens of civilians were killed and injured. He expresses his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured.

 

“The Secretary General reiterates that attacks against civilians are unacceptable and those who carry out such crimes must be held accountable.

 

“The United Nations stands in solidarity with the people and the government of Afghanistan and will continue supporting efforts to bring peace to their country.”

 

The office of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief within the UN Human Rights Council, for example, is apparently charged with promoting, among other things, “the adoption of measures at the national, regional and international levels to ensure the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief.” However, any close scrutiny of its efforts in this regard reveal a shocking neglect particularly with respect to the plight of Sikhs in Afghanistan or  Pakistan.

 

Indeed, the unambiguous, vivid, and steady stream of independent media and other reports of the destruction of gurdwaras, or attacks on Sikhs in Afghanistan and Pakistan seem to disappear – curiously and, arguably, conveniently – into the proverbial pile of insignificance.

 

It seems reasonable to pose the rather obvious question: Under what circumstances exactly might the United Nations, for instance, find it suitable to make its presence and influence felt in such matters, if not in a devastating and oppressive scenario marked by persistent and unyielding persecution of Sikhs in Afghanistan or Pakistan?

 

Amid the years of indifference to the plight of the Sikhs in Afghanistan, it now is increasingly evident, if it wasn’t already before the latest attack, that to continue living in the country is no longer tenable. This latest attack on Afghan Sikhs has underscored their systematic displacement through a wider, long-standing institutional and societal context marked by hostility toward them.

 

When it comes to tackling the mistreatment of Sikhs in Afghanistan, it is clear the UN and the wider international community have failed spectacularly.

 

 

 

 

 

This was always going to bring a response from the Central Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party.

On April 18 that response came. Under the cover of a global pandemic, the CCP delivered its reply, rounding up and arresting 15 leaders of the pro-democracy movement. Among them was a Catholic barrister called Martin Lee.

Lee is a former member of the Legislative Council, Hong Kong’s parliament, and the founding chairman of the Democratic Party, the region’s biggest pro-democracy party. Born in 1938, his formative years were spent looking over the bamboo wall dividing Hong Kong from China.

The young Lee grew up hearing extraordinary stories of faith from the lips of Christians who had fled from Communist oppression to the oases of Macao and Hong Kong. Martin was a schoolboy when, in 1949, Ignatius Kung was created bishop of Shanghai, just days before the Communists seized power. In 1956, Kung was arrested, along with more than 300 Catholic priests, religious and lay people. They refused to capitulate and were taken to Shanghai greyhound stadium, where show trials and executions were a daily occurrence.

Told to renounce his faith: Kung spoke into the microphone: “Long live Christ the King, long live the Pope.” Many shouted back: “Long live Christ the King, long live Bishop Kung.” Kung spent 30 years in Communist jails for refusing to let them control the Catholic Church. His arrest and imprisonment did not break him, and his witness inspired courage in others.

During the Cultural Revolution, Mao hunted down and murdered millions of his countrymen, many on account of their faith. Churches were desecrated, looted, and turned into storerooms and factories. Priests and religious were incarcerated, tortured, some burnt alive, some sent to labour camps, with Christians publicly paraded through cities and towns and forced to wear cylindrical hats announcing their crime of belief.

Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” led to the deaths of at least 30 million Chinese people. His “re-education” programmes , the depredations of the Red Guards, and the infamies of the Cultural Revolution claimed an estimated 20 million lives. Mao rests in a colossal mausoleum in the centre of Tiananmen Square, where, in 1989, thousands seeking democracy would be mown down.

Lee was shaped and formed by these events. He has been a witness to the ideology that makes the Party a god, and knows how effortlessly it discards humanity to achieve its objectives.

Martin Lee, by Badiucao

Lee also has a close friendship with Cardinal Joseph Zen. Their relationship has echoes of the bond between Pope John Paul II and Lech Walesa – two other figures forged in scalding fire. Like Lee, Zen is persecuted by the CCP. We sampled something of this last year in Fatima, where we were with Lee and Zen. Chinese government officials pursued them to the tiny Portuguese village, attempted to shut down the meeting they were attending, and hired out a floor of one of the pilgrims’ hotels to spy on them.

It reminds us that, in every generation, the Church raises up prophetic witnesses who stand against tyranny. And in every generation, there will be an authoritarian regime to which the Church must answer.

Giving that answer is not always easy. Prophets tend to walk a narrow and lonely path. They may make us uncomfortable – and may not always be right. The institutional Church, on the other hand, is bound to consider the wider permutations of its political decisions, which so often requires weighing evils against each other.

In this sense there has always a tension between the institutional and the prophetic Church. The temptation to humour a dictator for fear of something worse has been a perennial feature of our ecclesial history. Ostpolitik can often seem so reasonable. But there is always a tipping point where “dialogue” and “engagement” becomes betrayal and dereliction of duty. If the tortured Falun Gong practitioners, imprisoned Christian pastors, or the one million Uyghur Muslims currently in camps in East Turkistan, were able to speak to us, they would tell is that the tipping point passed long ago in China. Lee would say the same.

But declaring that tipping point takes courage. Recall that in the 1930s Munster’s courageous Bishop von Galen, the “Lion of Munster”, condemned Nazism while others accommodated the Reich, insisting that reasoning with the beast was the wiser approach. Lee and Zen stand with von Galen. They stand alongside Poland’s Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko, murdered by Communists in 1984, who declared that “Truth which does not cost is a lie”; with St Maximilian Kolbe’s “No one in the world can change Truth”; with Blessed Titus Brandsma’s “He who wants to win the world for Christ must have the courage to come in conflict with it.” They stand alongside Ignatius Kung; with China’s tortured and murdered Christians; with the imprisoned underground priests and bishops, like Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo, who languished in jail for 20 years.

As so often, it’s the prophetic voice of the Church that is called to temporal suffering – and is so often proven right.

On being arrested, Lee – a lifelong proponent of peaceful resistance – reiterated his belief in democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. With candour and characteristic humility, with no self-pity, he said: “I feel relieved. After months of witnessing youths being arrested and prosecuted while I stayed out of it, I eventually felt guilty. I have been eventually prosecuted and I have no regrets, I am proud to walk the road of democracy.” His words bring to mind his patron St Thomas More – both were called to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn. In Utopia, More reminds us that the political leader is called “to feed his sheep, not himself” and also reminds us that even in Utopia “There is never any shortage of horrible creatures who prey upon human beings, snatch away their food, or devour whole populations.” These words could have been written for the Chinese Communist Party.

Martin Lee’s arrest marks a threshold. A prominent lawyer – a Queen’s Counsel and recipient of prestigious international awards – he was one of the drafters of Hong Kong’s constitutional settlement, Two Systems One Country. Apprehending him on trumped-up charges is a symbolic incarceration of the rule of law itself. In words prayed by so many of the Church’s resistance, Isaiah prophesied: “For Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet”. Neither must we.

 

AFRICA

 

First the locusts – then the Coronavirus – and now the lockdown: people cannot work, get food, or even access water to wash and protect themselves from the virus. Men women and children are starving – but Christians, many of whom are already discriminated against, are being bypassed by Govt aid…see video message from Barnabas Fund about the crisis and the enormous multi-partner project they have launched across Africa to meet these urgent needs =

 

https://barnabasfund.org/en/coronavirus/church-resources

 

 

INDIA

 

DIVYA SHANTHI FOOD DISTRIBUTION PROGRAMME. April 1 2020

 

https://divya-shanthi.org/home.html

 

 

The Prime Minister of India announced the lock down of the country from March 25. We recognized that the elderly homeless we work with will be in great trouble. We also recognize that daily wage earners will have no food for their families.

 

In India the lockdown severely affects outcasts, migrant workers, and those who live on the edge in our streets. Our shelter for the elderly is a real blessing at this time as the homeless have been driven away from the streets.

  1. We are currently able to provide 25 breakfasts, 250 lunches and 250 dinners to such people every day. We are continuing to provide a weekly provisions packet to 160 families. We are much encouraged that another 90 packets are being provided by friends we have encouraged to assist in areas that we cannot reach.

Those getting provision packets include 90 Transgenders. The transgender community was created after the Muslim conquests of India in 900 A.D. They earn their livelihood by begging and the flesh trade. We worked with this community in the past and they turned to us to help as they cannot go out to beg and were starving.

  1. This is the third week of the lockdown here. We have funds for the programme for another two weeks and hope that the situation will improve soon after. Today we have request from a group of migrant workers from North east India who have not had a meal for two days. They have Chinese looking features and are subjected to abuse and violence if they go out. They work mainly in our restaurants. The lady who co ordinates the association of groups from NE India in Bangalore got in touch to help those in our area.

 

A new group that has become visible are alcoholics from poor homes who cannot find any liquor and also the medicines they usually collect from Govt primary health centres. We are trying to meet their needs as much as we can. We have already used up all our stock of medication we use for our rehab programme and pharmacies tell us that they do not have stock also. We provide about 25 of these alcoholics with a daily meal.

 

  1. The National Government released a statement yesterday requesting NGO’s to engage in providing food relief for the migrant labour, daily wage earners, homeless people – who have also now become street-less. But there was a rider that said that if NGO’s used foreign grants for relief they must ensure that the names and identities of all who are provided relief are kept and the government informed. We cannot think of a more thoughtless bureaucratic act than this. Most homeless and migrant have no identity cards of any kind as they have no fixed address. We cannot even be sure the name they give us is their real name. As the form we need to use for reporting to the Government includes the religion of the beneficiary it is clear that the Govt wishes to monitor how many Hindus are served by Christian Organisations as they suspect we do this charity only to convert the Hindus!

 

It is never easy to care for the poor needy and destitute in India. Please pray for us. Our food distribution volunteers are all safe from illness, so far, but do pray for them. Blessings

Canon Dr Vinay Samuel / Divya Shanthi

Update – 22nd April –

  1. We have continued providing 525 meals daily to migrant workers who are sheltering in public places like Railway Stations and Public parks .We are also beginning to provide health care support to them as our nursing team is back at work for half a day.

 

  1. The Roman Catholic Charity from South Bangalore has supplied packets of rations for two weeks for 165 families. In addition, we are providing rations for another 135 families. The Ration Pack is 18 kg and should last a family of 5 for two weeks. It has Rice Lentils Oil Salt Sugar and Soap.

 

  1. The situation of people from North East of India is tragic. My earlier guesstimates about North East Indians in Banglore have proved to be right as confirmed in a report published in Indian newspapers today. There are over 200,000 people from North East India working in Bangalore. In our area of North East Bangalore there are 70,000 of them with more than 50,000 working as daily wage or low wage workers in the food and restaurant industry. From Monday we have provided Ration packets for them. We did the same for 16 families from Manipur state; all the families from the North East are Christian. Two North East businessmen – both committed Christians who run restaurants in the area – have taken on responsibility to identify needy families and ensure distribution of ration packets to families and individuals.

 

  1. The plight of independent pastors who live on the weekly giving of their small congregations is dire. We have identified 60 Pastors in Bangalore and aim to provide them with a monthly ration pack this week. We have already done that for 50 pastors in Chittoor, 140 miles away from Bangalore, made possible with a grant from Barnabas Fund.

 

  1. In total we are assisting about 3000 individuals in Bangalore. It is still very small compared to the overall need.

 

  1. We have now been asked to provide monthly ration packs (cost: £20 a pack) for 400 North East families nearly all of whom are Christian. Their leaders hope that if they survive the month of May they will be able to return to work in June and able to look after themselves. We hope that the lockdown on small eateries and restaurants will be lifted by mid-May; we do not see how the industry will survive otherwise.

 

  1. We have raised all the support for this relief work so far; we are encouraged that some of our young professional groups – especially Tibetans – have joined with us in relief distribution. They are also helping us to collect details of the beneficiaries so we can continue to see how best to assist them.

 

  1. The need to step up our Community Health Programme is very evident as the poor in the community are now much more aware of the need to monitor their health. Many already have chronic conditions. A report today from the Indian Institute of Science suggests that we are seeing more deaths than usual among poorer communities in Bangalore from conditions other than Covid 19.

 

  1. We have more women who have come to live in our Shelter for the Homeless Elderly.

 

Please continue to pray for us and thank you for your generous support. In Christ.

Vinay for Divya Shanthi

 

To donate to this work please contact https://divya-shanthi.org/home.html

 

 

 

All Previous Caucus Newsletters can be accessed via

www.dropbox.com/sh/74nx73n9x12nqml/AABiGh6LfF9iyYmNZN7TmmwNa?dl=0 

 

Aid agencies which specifically support Christians:

 

Adventist Development and Relief Agency: http://www.adra.org.uk/

Assyrian Church of the East Relief Organisation: http://theacero.org/

Aid to the Church in Need: https://acnuk.org

Barnabas Fund: https://barnabasfund.org/en

British Pakistani Christian Associationhttp://www.britishpakistanichristians.org/

Church in Chainshttp://www.churchinchains.ie/

CSI-Germany – http://www.csi-de.de

Disciple Nations Alliancehttp://www.disciplenations.org

Flame International: http://www.flameinternational.org/

Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East: http://frrme.org/

Hilfe für Mensch und Kirche (HMK) – Helping the Persecuted Church – http://www.hmk-aem.ch

Hope and Trust – www.hopeandtrust.org/

International Christian Consulate: http://www.internationalchristianconsulate.com/

International Christian Response (ICR) – http://www.christianresponse.org

Iraqi Christians in Need: http://www.icin.org.uk/

Iraqi Christian Relief Council: http://iraqichristianrelief.org/

Life Raft International: http://liferaftinternational.org/

Nasarean.org – http://www.nasarean.org/

Release Eritreahttp://release-eritrea.com/

Release International: http://www.releaseinternational.org

SAT-7: http://www.sat7uk.org/

Solidarity with the Persecuted Church:https://solidaritypersecutedchurch.org

Steadfast Globalwww.steadfastglobal.org

Voice of the Martyrs (Canada) – https://www.vomcanada.com

222 Ministries International: http://www.222ministries.org/

 

Non-Christian-specific Aid Agencies

 

Amar Foundation (Yazidis) – http://www.amarfoundation.org/

Catholic Agency For Overseas Development (CAFOD) – http://cafod.org.uk/

Caritas International – http://www.caritas.org/

Christian Aid – http://www.christianaid.org.uk/index.aspx

Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC)http://www.dec.org.uk/

Embrace – http://www.embraceme.org/

Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART) – www.hart-uk.org

Mercy Corps – mercycorps.org

Open Doors – http://www.opendoorsuk.org/

Save the Childrenhttp://www.savethechildren.org.uk

Shai Fund – http://theshaifund.org/

Tearfund – http://www.tearfund.org/

UNHCRhttp://www.unhcr.org.uk/

Unicef – http://www.unicef.org.uk

World Vision – http://www.worldvision.org.uk

 

Christian and other Advocacy groups

 

21st Century Wilberforce Initiative – http://www.21wilberforce.org/

Alliance Defending Freedom International – https://adfinternational.org

Anglican Alliancehttp://www.anglicanalliance.org/

Awareness Foundationhttp://www.awareness-foundation.co.uk/

Bitter Winter – https://bitterwinter.org/

British Pakistani Christian Associationhttp://www.britishpakistanichristians.org/

Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) – http://www.claasfamily.com

Christian Arab and Middle Eastern Churches Togetherhttp://camect.org/online/

Christian Solidarity Worldwide – http://www.csw.org.uk/home.htm

Christian Solidarity International – http://csi-usa.org/index.html

Christian Freedom International – http://www.christianfreedom.org/

Church in Chainshttp://www.churchinchains.ie/

Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) – http://www.cnewa.org/

Dova International Charities http://dova-international-charities.org/home/

Faith Freedomhttp://www.ncfpeace.org/drupal/index.php

In Defence of Christians – http://indefenseofchristians.org/

International Christian Concern – http://www.persecution.org

International Justice Mission – https://ijm.org/

Iraqi Christian Relief Councilhttp://iraqichristianrelief.org/

Legal Evangelical Association Development – http://www.leadfamily.blogspot.co.uk/p/ministries.html

Medair: http://relief.medair.org/en/our-mission/

Methodist Relief and Development Fund – http://www.allwecan.org.uk/

Middle East Media – www.mem.org

Nasarean.org – http://www.nasarean.org/history

Save the Persecuted Christians https://savethepersecutedchristians.org/s

Stand with Iraqi Christianshttp://www.standwithiraqichristians.org/

Steadfast Global – http://www.steadfastglobal.org/

Syrian network for Human Rights: http://sn4hr.org/

The Voice of the Martyrs – http://www.persecution.com/

Wazala.orghttp://www.wazala.org/

World Evangelical Alliance, Int. Institute for Religious Freedom: www.iirf.eu/index.php?id=262

World Watch Monitorhttps://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/