Attacks On Journalists – 2018 was the deadliest year ever for journalists – 99 were killed, 348 detained and 60 taken hostage by non-state groups.

Foreign Office Minister Promises To Maintain Pressure Until The Murderer of Maltese Journalist Daphne Caruana GaliziaIs And Slovak Journalist Ján Kuciak Are Found

In answer to Lord Alton, who raised the cases, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said

“Other countries were mentioned, including Malta, as was the murder of the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. I assure the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Collins, that we continue to raise her case regularly with the Maltese Government, including at ministerial level, and our high commissioner continues to raise this issue regularly
The noble Lord, Lord Alton, also mentioned Slovakia and Ján Kuciak. The UK has offered National Crime Agency assistance in this regard. The offer was appreciated but, regrettably, it was not taken up. We will seek other opportunities to press Slovakia to address corruption and promote media freedom.”

Lord Alton’s full speech follows

Attacks on Journalists

14 May 2019 Volume 797
Question for Short Debate

5.40 pm

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, we are all indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, for the way in which he has introduced today’s debate with his customary expertise and skill.

Central to any debate looking at press freedom and the harassment of journalists is Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.

These last three words “regardless of frontiers” remind us that this is a transnational obligation which all states are duty-bound to uphold.

This obligation is given even sharper definition in the internet age, as journalists face ever more danger—intimidation, imprisonment, violent attacks and even murder—in reprisal for their work.

Only yesterday, in the Times there was a report on the death of an Afghan journalist, Mena Mangal, who was shot dead in Kabul. Fifteen other reporters and media workers were killed in Afghanistan last year.
Mena Mangal

Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, is to be commended for marking World Press Freedom Day, launching a global campaign to protect journalists doing their job, and promoting the benefits of a free media and especially for hosting in July the world’s first ministerial summit on media freedom.

The urgent need for this initiative was underlined at the Legatum Institute’s Courage in Journalism award which I recently attended. It was given posthumously in recognition of amazing bravery.

Poignantly, the ceremony was being held a few days after Lyra McKee’s funeral in Northern Ireland.

One of the judges, the award-winning journalist, Christina Lamb, recalled the death of her colleague, Marie Colvin, killed in Homs. Reflecting on her own 32 years as a journalist, she said that the job much more dangerous. The judges highlighted 70 deaths during the past year. Christina Lamb said:
Marie Colvin
“From Afghanistan to Mexico, from Palestine to Somalia, and from Brazil to India, journalists on assignment were shot in the back, blown up by car bombs or died in suicide attacks”.

In 2018, according to the Foreign Office, 99 journalists were killed, 348 detained and 60 taken hostage by non-state groups. Although there are conflicting figures, all agree that 2018 was the deadliest year ever for journalists.

All of us here are only too well aware of the lethal dangers in countries such as North Korea and Pakistan. I declare an interest as co-chair of two relevant All-Party Parliamentary Groups.

However, this is an issue in Europe as well.

In October 2017, Daphne Caruana Galizia, Malta’s best-known investigative journalist, was killed when a car bomb exploded after she had reported on government corruption, nepotism, money laundering and organised crime.

The 2019 Legatum award was given in memory of a brave young man, Ján Kuciak from Slovakia. He was just 27 when he was murdered, along with his fiancée, following an investigation in which he linked the Italian mafia to the City of London and Slovakian senior government advisors. His reporting led to the fall of the Slovakian Government and rallied many in the nation to get behind press freedom.

Reporters Without Borders, reflecting on its index of 180 countries, says that the line separating physical from verbal violence is dissolving.

By way of example, its index states that, in the Philippines—ranked 133rd—President Rodrigo Duterte, “constantly insults reporters”, outrageously warning that they are “not exempted from assassination”.

Duterte
Even in democratic societies, the use of intemperate vituperative insults and dog whistles creates a climate of rancid hatred, and politicians especially need to think more carefully about their use of language.

When the Minister replies, I would like him to comment on these examples from Afghanistan, Malta, Slovakia and the Philippines, and the situations in Papua, Iran and China. Last week, here at Westminster, representatives of West Papua meeting the noble Lord, Lord Collins, me and others described,

“appalling restrictions on foreign journalists from visiting Papua and surveillance and controls on Indonesian journalists”.


On 3 February last year, three BBC workers were deported from West Papua after commenting on the humanitarian health crisis in Asmat, during which around 100 children died.

My noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries, who chaired the meeting last week, will no doubt say more about this in due course.

The BBC also faces restrictions in Iran—we heard about them from the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey—which has been systematically targeting BBC Persian journalists, based mainly in London.

What of China, let alone North Korea, which boasts of its complete information blockade? Reporters Without Borders says that under the leadership of Xi Jinping, China exported,

“its tightly controlled news and information model in Asia”,

enabling other countries near the bottom of its index, including Vietnam, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, to continue their suppression of criticism and dissent.

RWF says that its index has never previously had to classify so many countries as very bad.

That is reinforced by Freedom House, which says that only 13% of the world’s population lives in a country with a genuinely free press, while 45% of the population lives in a media environment that is not free and that global press freedom has declined to its lowest point in 13 years.

All of this illustrates why the Government’s initiative, like this debate, is to be welcomed, why we must be more energetic in upholding Article 19, and why we must safeguard a freedom that is a cornerstone of open, free and democratic societies.

5.46 pm

Asia Bibi is Free- See BBC Interview

Wonderful news that Asia Bibi has finally been reunited with her family. Pakistan’s Supreme Court and civil authorities deserve our praise for their courage in facing down those who have called for Asia to be killed. They also need our encouragement in working for a society in which minorities are equal citizens and no longer feel the need to flee.

Download link to BBC Interview

https://wetransfer.com/downloads/cf4752ea8d2a007a4995e4e2a3711a5a20190508112521/c61fb58786fe3d87fe1dab546a29b42620190508112521/2aa9d6

Why Sanctions On The Burmese Military Need To Be Strengthened; Why Those Responsible For Crimes Against Humanity – Against Rohingya and Kachin – Need To Be Bought To Justice; and Why, As Basic Freedoms Are Eroded In Burma, Hopes Of Progress Are Being Dashed

Why Sanctions On The Burmese Military Need To Be Strengthened; Why Those Responsible For Crimes Against Humanity – Against Rohingya and Kachin – Need To Be Bought To Justice; and Why, As Basic Freedoms Are Eroded In Burma, Hopes Of Progress Are Being Dashed

May 1st 2019 House of Lords

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, I am very happy to support the four SIs before your Lordships’ House, and welcome the way in which the Minister introduced them.

I am vice-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Democracy in Burma, a founder of the Jubilee Campaign and served as a patron of Karenaid.

When I took my seat in your Lordships’ House in 1997, the then Convenor of the Cross-Bench Peers, the former Speaker of the House of Commons, Lord Weatherill—one of my two sponsors— who had distinguished wartime service in Burma, encouraged me to take an interest in the plight of the Karen. He introduced me to our late and very much missed colleague, Viscount Slim, whose family had so many historic associations with Burma. Viscount Slim encouraged me to support Prospect Burma, the charity he established, and to take these issues seriously.

I travelled to Burma and entered the Karen State, illegally on two occasions, and visited the refugee camps where, to this day, there are more than 100,000 refugees from the Karen communities; some families have been there since the 1940s and 1950s.


However, it has to be said that the situation in the Karen State significantly improved during the period of transition when the National League for Democracy won the elections in Burma and started to have some say over the governance of the country.

But it has become very clear in the years that have followed that whatever hopes we had for progress and fundamental change in Burma—not least because of the role that Aung San Su Kyi, we felt, would be able to play— that they have been dashed.

I was able to go to Naypyidaw, the capital city of Burma, and met with Daw Suu.

2013 - Burma with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi 22003 - call for release of Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi

I specifically raised with her what I had seen the day before in a village where Buddhists and Muslims had lived together alongside one another in harmony and peaceful coexistence for generations. The previous night the madrassa in the village had been burnt to the ground.
2013 - Burma at Ayela 4

I was grateful to the Foreign Office official who accompanied me. We took evidence and gave it to Aung San Suu Kyi. I raised the issue of what was happening to the Rohingya, and latterly, ,the Kachin, and other groups among the many ethnicities in Burma who were clearly increasingly suffering. What has been happening to the Rohingya ever since does not need to be rehearsed at any length with your Lordships. Around 1 million Rohingya are in camps, adding to the 44,000 people around the world who, according to UNHCR figures, are displaced every single day. That is creating untold misery, whether for those who take to the sea or for those who try to cross the borders into Bangladesh and have now been displaced for what is approaching years, with very little progress made to establish their rights to citizenship or to deal with the fundamental issues that led to them fleeing in the first place.

Kachin and Shan Human Rights Defenders.jpg
The Minister says that sanctions are a key element of our policy as a way of putting pressure on the military authorities in Burma who have brought this sad situation to pass. I agree that they are a tool in the kit, but one has to ask whether, by themselves, they are actually achieving a great deal. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is to be applauded for being the most rigorous of departments in European Union countries in enforcing the arms embargo. We have one of the best records, and that should be said. But let us be clear about what these sanctions actually do. Apart from the arms embargo, they only amount to a ban on some 14 military and security personnel in Burma going on holiday to European Union member states. When we think of that as a response to crimes against humanity and what may even be approaching genocide—a point I shall come back to in a moment—it is, to coin a phrase used in a note I received only this morning from Burma Campaign UK, “pretty pathetic”.

It is certainly disproportionate, and I remind the Minister of his reply to a Question I tabled on 19 June last year. He rightly said:

“The Foreign Secretary has been clear that ethnic cleansing has taken place in Rakhine, and that the violence of August and September 2017 may even constitute genocide, though that would be a determination for an international court to make”.

On 26 June, I pressed the same issue with his noble friend Lady Fairhead, given that trade is central to the question of sanctions. On 12 June I had asked the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, whether the Government planned to issue official guidance to companies not to engage in any form of business with companies owned by the Burmese military. The reply from the noble Baroness simply did not accord with the sort of words used by both the Foreign Secretary and the noble Lord speaking for the Foreign Office. The noble Baroness said:

“DIT continues to support trade with Burma as an important part of driving mutual prosperity”.

Who is it that we are driving mutual prosperity with? We are talking about the Tatmadaw, the military junta. They are the people responsible for what has happened in Rakhine, for what is happening to the Kachin people, and for many of the depredations of which we are all too well aware. I asked whether the Government planned to make a public statement of support for a UN mandated global arms embargo against Myanmar. The reply from the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, who dealt with that aspect, was:

“The Government continues to assess that there is insufficient support at present for a UN Security Council Resolution instituting a global arms embargo for Burma”.

Perhaps I may press the noble Lord again today as to whether that remains Her Majesty’s Government’s position and whether sometimes, even if you know you are going to be defeated—I say this for those of us who have spent a great part of our lives being defeated—there are moments when it is right to take a stand and to put people on the spot. If we are saying, for instance, that representatives of the People’s Republic of China would veto such a resolution, let them do so and let us demonstrate the difference between their values and ours. Sometimes, I get frustrated that we use this line of argument about winning and losing. We have also used it in connection with places like North Korea, which has been described by the UN as a state without parallel when it comes to human rights violations, and in the case of Myanmar. We are saying that we will not take Resolutions forward because we think that others will oppose or veto them. Well, let them do so.

7.45 pm

Post Brexit, we no longer have to be mute in our response. The Government frequently say that we cannot speak out of line with our European Union neighbours—a point alluded to in a positive way by the noble Baroness, Lady Northover—and when we can speak together we should always do so. However, this is used as a double-edged weapon when questions are raised about why we do not ensure that our colleagues in Europe do more about European Union sanctions. The Government say that the discussions are confidential and that they require consensus before the sanctions are toughened up. When this is pressed further, you find out from, for instance, a statement from Burma Campaign UK that the policy is still based on the assessment made of conditions on the ground in 2012-13 and that there is a “three-way split” in the European Union. Some countries work together on a human rights-based approach; others want trade issues to be paramount. But the,

“European Commission/External Action Service has largely been following its own agenda, at times in direct contradiction of what EU member states have agreed”.

These positions do not therefore reflect the position of Her Majesty’s Government. All these divisions in approach play, in my view, into the hands of the military junta, the Tatmadaw, in Burma. The stated priorities of the European Union—peace, democracy, development and trade—are right, but by anyone’s reckoning, Burma is in default on all those things. Surely that alone should be grounds for a fundamental review of sanctions Policy.

There was never a genuine transition to democracy. The 2008 constitution in Burma is not democratic and the military has not allowed for the fundamental changes that were hoped for and worked for. Military committees regularly take decisions about the future of Burma, rather than civil society, and they carry out human rights violations with impunity. Media freedom and freedom of expression are declining while the number of political prisoners is growing. The peace process is stalled and conflict has increased. A policy based on the realities of today and not those of 2012, on what will happen post Brexit and what we will do about a United Nations-mandated global arms embargo on Burma, are the issues I put to the Minister.

I hope that when he responds, he will be able to say something about them.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have again contributed to a very practical and focused discussion…

If I may digress for a moment, it was a huge privilege recently to mark the 40 years in Parliament of the noble Lord, Lord Alton. He has been a strong promoter of human rights over many years. I pay tribute to him and put on record my thanks for being such an advocate for human rights over a number of years. The contribution he made today underlines the intense focus, detail and sensitivity he brings to this subject. I look forward to working with him and, indeed, all noble Lords on these important issues.

Surprise Celebration of 40 years in Parliament – 40 years since the Liverpool Edge Hill By Election: Freedom is not “free” it comes at a great price.

Surprise Celebration of 40 years in Parliament – 40 years since the Liverpool Edge Hill By ElectionFreedom is not “free” it comes at a great price.

Yesterday, I was genuinely moved, and taken completely unawares, by a surprise celebration of my 40 years in Parliament, held in Mr.Speaker’s House.

Not everyone can hear their obituaries in advance of their death!

Among those who joined family and friends were some of those whose cases and causes I have tried to champion over the years – from the former Soviet Union to China, North Korea and Pakistan.

DSCF1405

Dr.Philip Alton Introduces The Speakers.

In the 1980s I travelled to what was then Leningrad to secretly meet the family of an imprisoned Christian musician, Valeri Barinov. Happily, I was able to be on hand to meet him at Heathrow when he was subsequently released. Thirty years later he was among those at Speaker’s House yesterday. So was a young North Korean, tortured, imprisoned, and today working in the British Parliament.

I recalled that on the US memorial to those who fell in Korea are the words “Freedom is not Free”.

Our freedoms and our privileges come at a great price and we should never take them for granted.

All of us must go on doing small things for those without a voice – remembering that only13% of the world live in countries with a free press; that 250 million Christians are persecuted worldwide – along with Rohingya and Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists and many other minorities; that violence is too often the fate of the voiceless.

Those who organised yesterday’s event dug out some old coverage of my election to Parliament; including footage of the election count on March 29th, 1979 with its 36% swing; 64% of the vote; and 8000 majority.


That constituency of Edge Hill was an impoverished inner city neighbourhood where I cut my teeth: half the homes had no inside sanitation.
It was the neighbourhood where, 80 years before, my own political hero, William Gladstone came, out of retirement, to make his last speech – seeking to rouse the conscience of the nation about the Armenian massacres.
Gladstone often warned of the dangers of surrendering your beliefs in order to obtain self-advancement or power : “the love of power must be replaced by the power to love.”
Today’s politicians should be judged by their causes and by their willingness to speak truth to power.
On entering Parliament I was fortunate to serve alongside the last generation of MPs who had seen active service in World War Two. They had a profound belief in public service and duty – and felt truly privileged to be serving their country in Parliament.
Those “awkward squad” MPs are the greatest justification of our Parliamentary system: the bloody minded, difficult and persistent parliamentarian who is determined to put right some minor injustice. They are the bits of grit that enter the oyster to enable the pearl to emerge.
In Britain it’s a system that produced a William Wilberforce. In countries like Pakistan it produced men like Shahbaz Bhatti and Salman Tasser – both murdered for speaking out for suffering and persecuted minorities.

In the face of so much public cynicism in politics and politicians we must never forget how privileged we are to live in a parliamentary democracy. And we must never forget the price that others have paid: Freedom is not free.

And, perhaps, in the face of populism – that encourages xenophobia and hate mongering – we must be willing to be unpopulists – championing unpopular causes; being politically courageous rather than politically correct.

Some clips shown at the Anniversary party:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rA3eIaf6nBw&feature=youtu.be

I was especially touched to receive this message from Alexander Ogorodnikov, for whom I campaigned while he was incarcerated in soviet gulags:


Дорогой Давид!
Я выражаю мою глубокую признательность за твою неустанную борьбу за священное право человека верить в Бога и свидетельствовать о вере делами, состраданием к гонимым, и даже своей жизнью! Наша благодарная память хранит воспоминание о твоей молитве и деятельном участии в моем чудесном освобождении из мрачных недр Гулага, о твоей помощи в получении первого печатного станка для свободной христианской прессы, в организации продовольственной помощи как исполнения христианской заповеди «Я был голоден, и Вы накормили меня» МФ. 25:35.
Мы высоко оцениваем и твою бескомпромиссную кампанию против абортов и твое мужество защищать права человека перед лицом диктатора Северной Кореи!
Да будут благословлены годы твоей жизни, дорогой Давид! И да поможет Господь твоему достойному служению!
С искренним и братским уважением! Твой православный брат Александр

Dear David!

I Express my deep gratitude for your tireless struggle for the sacred right of man to believe in God and to testify of faith by deeds, compassion for the persecuted, and even by his life! Our grateful memory preserves the memory of your prayer and active participation in my miraculous liberation from the dark bowels of the Gulag, your help in obtaining the first printing press for a free Christian press, in organizing food aid as a fulfilment of the Christian commandment “I was hungry, and You fed me” MF. 25:35.

We appreciate your uncompromising campaign against abortion and your courage to defend human rights in the face of the dictator of North Korea!

May the years of your life be blessed, dear David! And may God help your worthy Ministry!

I embrace you – Your Orthodox brother Alexander

Amnesty haemorrhages support as it loses its way. It should stop spending its funds to promote abortion and get back to the vision of its founder, Peter Benenson, working for prisoners of conscience and human rights.

Amnesty haemorrhages support as it loses its way. It should stop spending its funds to promote abortion and get back to the vision of its founder, Peter Benenson, working for prisoners of conscience and human rights.

Peter benenson

It seems the public have given their verdict on Amnesty International’s move away from traditional research-led human rights investigations into politically-correct abortion campaigning. The supreme human right is the right to life. Amnesty was set up to protect lives not to take end them.

Perhaps they sense something is badly wrong with the 58-year old organisation, which is now adrift from its founder’s values.

Insiders have told the Guardian that Amnesty International is in the grip of “an existential crisis”, with up to 70 jobs on the line because of “a slump in donations and a multi-million pound increase in spending on fundraising” (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/27/amnesty-international-staff-braced-for-redundancies).The management admit to a hole in Amnesty’s budget of up to £17m by the end of next year.

Accompanying what the Guardian reports is the diminishing of the focus on prisoners of conscience are details of the extraordinary sums spent on ‘back-office’ administration, fundraising and stellar levels of management pay. In 2017, the top 23 highest earners at Amnesty International were paid a total of £2.6m– an average of £113,000 per year.

What a contrast with the holy chaos that typified Peter Benenson inspirational years as the Catholic founder of Amnesty. Looking back on his life, the Independent said “There was little in the way of organisation or administration – budgets were so small that they were often worked out on the back of a cigarette packet in a pub. Everything hinged on Benenson’s personality.”

This is what happens when organisations are cut off from their core values; they lose their way and they lose their support. Just look at the contrast between how Amnesty spends the money it receives with the priorities of others in the charitable field.

The latest full Annual Report for AI is from 2017 and is here:
https://www.amnesty.org/en/2017-global-financial-report/

It indicates that under 50% of their spending of 288m euros went on “human rights research, advocacy, campaigning, raising awareness and education.” And over half went on “raising funds”, “building our supporter base”, “governance” and other “functions”.

What a comparison with other major charities. (See:Fact check: how do charities spend your money?) St. John Ambulance for example, where for every £1 spent, 87.3p went on charitable activities, 10p is spent on fundraising and 2.7p is spent on generating income.

Why do I care that Amnesty has drifted so far from that great lawyer’s ideals?

Because the ideological entryism that has subverted its founding principles has now left the very people it was established to protect without a respected and authoritative voice.

Perhaps it’s time for another generation to create a Benenson Amnesty Trust for prisoners of conscience?
Peter Benenson with the Amnesy candle

The Danube Institute Conference on Invisible Victims and Religious Freedom, April 9th, 2019, The Reform Club, London. And what Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, had to say on Easter Sunday about the targeting of Christians

Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, wrote well on Easter Day about the persecution of Christians. His words were given sombre and stark perspective by the truly shocking carnage in Sri Lanka – but also by further unreported deaths in Nigeria.

In northern Nigeria 17 people were killed after a child dedication service in Nassarawa State and on Good Friday another dozen were killed in Benue. Last night, a further massacre occurred in Gombe state when Boy Scouts marching in an Easter Sunday parade, were attacked with 10 boys killed in Gombe during the Easter procession: https://thenationonlineng.net/breaking-10-boys-killed-in-gombe-during-easter-procession/

If you have any doubt about the scale of what is underway read this article by Mr.Hunt:

__

Foreign Secretary’s Easter Sunday op-ed on Christian persecution
In an op-ed published in the Mail on Sunday, Jeremy Hunt writes that the UK stands in solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world.
GOV.UK Published 21 April 2019 Foreign & Commonwealth Office and The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP

The Easter story begins with persecution but ends in salvation. A man is crucified for his faith, only to rise from the dead and re-join his followers, a miracle that we celebrate today.
But the sombre truth is that millions of Christians will today celebrate Easter while living under a similar shadow of persecution.
Many will be gathering in churches at risk of attack; countless more will have suffered threats or discrimination.
Some Christians will be worshipping at the scene of unspeakable atrocities. St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria, Egypt, for example, was the target of a terrorist attack on Palm Sunday in 2017 that killed 17 people.
In the southern Philippines, terrorists planted a bomb in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, claiming 20 lives during mass on January 27 this year.
The world was rightly shocked by the flames destroying Notre-Dame in Paris last week, a tragedy that touched our common humanity. In too many parts of the world, however, it is the congregations themselves who perish.
As the Prince of Wales wrote on Good Friday, there is something inexpressibly tragic about the innocent being murdered because of their faith.
There is a peculiar wickedness about hate-filled extremism that justifies murder because of the God someone chooses to worship. Of all the people who suffer persecution for their faith, it may surprise some to know that the greatest number are Christian.
In total, about 245 million Christians endure oppression worldwide, according to the campaign group Open Doors. And last year more than 4,000 Christians were killed because of their faith.
In 2015, Christians faced harassment from governments or social groups in 128 nations, according to the Pew Research Centre. By 2016, this had risen to 144. China imposes the ‘highest levels of government restrictions’.
Should religious persecution matter in an increasingly secular world? The truth is that, if a regime tries to control what you believe, it will generally seek to control every other aspect of your life.
Where Christians are persecuted, other human rights are often brutally abused.
Yet the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, passed by the United Nations General Assembly without a single negative vote in 1948, enshrines ‘freedom of thought, conscience and religion’. The declaration makes clear that everyone has a right to the ‘practice, worship and observance’ of their faith.
Britain has always championed freedom of religion or belief for everyone. In my first weeks as Foreign Secretary I prioritised the plight of the Rohingya Muslims, horrifically targeted by the army of Myanmar (formerly Burma.) But I am not convinced that our efforts on behalf of Christians have always measured up to the scale of the issue.
In the Middle East, for example, the survival of Christianity as a living religion now hangs in the balance. A century ago, about 20 per cent of people in the region were Christians; today the figure is below five per cent.
The bitter irony is that Christianity is retreating in the very region of its birth, where its earliest followers worshipped. Anxious not to offend minorities or appear ‘colonialist’ in troublespots around the world, British governments have occasionally taken refuge behind the principle that all religions must be protected.
But this must include Christianity, where those targeted are often extremely poor, female and living in or close to poverty.
We must not allow misguided political correctness to inhibit our response. So I have asked Rt Rev’d Philip Mounstephen, the Anglican Bishop of Truro, to conduct an independent review of the Foreign Office’s efforts to help persecuted Christians and report back to me later this year.
Questions need answering: do we counter oppression based on religion as forcefully as that based on politics or other characteristics? How can we use the considerable influence the UK has in much of the world to better stand up for religious minorities?
I hope he will recommend practical steps for how the Government might strengthen its response. When I moved house last year, I came across a book that I first read when I was about ten. It was called God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew van der Bijl, a Dutch missionary. At the height of the Cold War, when Christianity was struggling against communist oppression in Central Europe, Brother Andrew began to smuggle Bibles across the Iron Curtain. His book quotes Karl Marx’s famous boast about mobilising the letters of the alphabet to fight ideological battles: ‘Give me 26 lead soldiers and I will conquer the world.’ Brother Andrew noted how ‘this game could be played both ways’. So he set off for Marxist capitals, carrying suitcases packed with Bibles, helping Christians to preserve their faith in defiance of iron-fisted repression.
When I first read God’s Smuggler, it was barely possible to hope that the Iron Curtain would one day fall. So when the Berlin Wall dissolved before our eyes in 1989, it was a wonderful blow for freedom, allowing all the European countries that Brother Andrew had visited to win their liberty.
Yet perhaps this good news has made us complacent about problems elsewhere. Exactly 30 years later, 245 million Christians are still at risk. The evidence suggests that far from easing, the burden of worldwide persecution is actually becoming heavier.
So as we celebrate Easter today we must not be indifferent.
This year I marked Lent by writing 40 letters to 40 persecuted Christians or those campaigning on their behalf. My first letter was to Brother Andrew, now 90, assuring him that the UK stands in solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world: ‘Freedom of religion or belief is a human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It must be respected. People from all faiths or none should be free to practise as they wish.’
I will continue to make this case for the millions who suffer as a result of their beliefs and British diplomats will continue to be advocates for all those denied the right to practise their faith.
Many of the recipients of those letters, by dint of the danger they are in, should not be named publicly. But they include men and women, clergy and worshippers, who have been personally targeted by terror organisations, had their churches attacked or been imprisoned by draconian regimes.
Britain is on their side. We care about those who stand up for the right to believe and express one’s faith, and we care about the decent and humane values that inspire those rights.
I hope that one day letters of this kind will not be necessary. Until then, everyone of faith should remember persecuted Christians in our Easter prayers and in our actions.

__

Address by David Alton (Lord Alton of Liverpool):

The Danube Institute Conference on Invisible Victims and Religious Freedom, April 9th 2019, The Reform Club, London

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/04/11/can-government-pour-billions-countries-ignore-unspeakable-persecution/


In 1896, at the age of 87, William Ewart Gladstone made his last public speech.

At Liverpool’s Hengler’s Circus, before an audience of 6000, he described what he called the “monstrous crime” of the massacre of 2000 Armenians.

Gladstone2

The Hamburger Nachrichten,responded: “For us [Germans] the sound bones of a single Pomeranian [German] grenadier are worth more than the lives of 10,000 Armenians.”

Nineteen years later 1.5 million Armenians were murdered in a genocide still unrecognized as such by the UK, let alone by Turkey.

In 1933, the Jewish writer,Franz Werfel published, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, a novel about the Armenian genocide.


Werfel’s books were burnt by the Nazis, no doubt to give substance to Hitler’s famous remark:

“Who now remembers the Armenians?”

From the Armenian genocide to Hitler’s concentration camps and the depredations of Stalin’s gulags; from the pestilential nature of persecution, demonisation, scapegoating, and hateful prejudice, in 1948 the international community created a Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

It emerged from warped ideologies that elevated nation and race, insisting on 30 foundational freedoms. Article 18 proclaimed the right to believe, not to believe, to manifest belief, or to change belief:

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

Understanding how these prized rights have been won; understanding the interaction of religions with one another and with the contemporary secular world; understanding authentic religion, and the forces that threaten it, is more of a foreign affairs imperative than ever before, and, as I shall argue, the resources and determination we put into promoting Article 18 – often described as“an orphaned right” – should reflect that reality.

It is the reality of the surveillance, persecution and incarceration of Christians in North Korea, the demolition of churches in Sudan and China; the unfolding Jihad in Nigeria to outright persecution in Pakistan; and, from the historic attempts to annihilate Christian Armenians, to the contemporary genocide of Christians in Iraq and Syria.

The aim is to stamp out the Christian faith wherever it is found.

The 1948 Declaration’s stated objective was to realise:

“a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations…without distinction to race, sex, language or religion”.

Eleanor Roosevelt, the formidable chairman of the drafting committee, argued that freedom of religion was one of the four essential freedoms of mankind, asserting that freedom of religion was an

“international Magna Carta for all mankind.”

Eleanor Roosevelt
The Hebrew Scriptures are the foundation of such Declarations – and of our belief in universal justice and the rule of law. Today, both are under renewed threat.

Recall the violence last year in the US that led to the deaths of 11 worshippers in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Reflect that on March 15th nearly 50 Muslims were massacred as they gathered for Friday prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand; remember the 75 Christians murdered in Lahore as they celebrated Easter; mourn the deaths, day after day, in Northern Nigeria which follows the genocide of Christians and Yazidis and other minorities in Iraq and Syria: all tragedies to which hatred of difference can lead.

I have just read Stefan Zweig’s magnificent“The World of Yesterday – Memoirs of a European” published in 1942.


Read Zweig if you doubt how quickly a relatively civilised and humane society, and a seemingly permanent golden age, can be ruthlessly and swiftly destroyed.

His masterful autobiography charts the rise of visceral hatred; how scapegoating and xenophobia, cultivated by populist leaders, can rapidly morph into the hecatombs of the concentration camps.

And consider that, beyond the ugly spectre of Anti-Semitism, appearing in mainstream British politics, in 2019, for the first time since 1945, there are Nazis in the Reichstag; Austria has a coalition government which includes a party whose first leader was as an officer in the SS; Italy has a governing party which is home to fascist throwbacks; while some “yellow vests” in France mighty more appropriately wear black shirts after recently being involved in anti-Semitic abuse of the French philosopher, Alain Finkielkraut; while the far right is capturing seats from Sweden to Spain. And watch with anxiety the coming elections to the European Parliament.

Twenty first century Project Hate can also be seen in the Anti-Semitic memes which accompany digital Nazism – even the live streaming of mass murders courtesy of multi-media outlets.

Other shades of viral hatred – from anti-Semitism to homophobia and overt racism – readily and effortlessly morph from virtual reality into violence.

In his autobiography Zweig wrote that:

“Man was separated by man on the grounds of absurd theories of blood, race and origins” – and so it is again today.

Zweig said:

“The greatest curse brought down on us by technology is that it prevents us from escaping the present even for a brief time. Previous generations could retreat into solitude and seclusion when disaster struck; it was our fate to be aware of everything catastrophic happening anywhere in the world at the hour and the second when it happened.”

And that was the 1940s.

Now it is live streamed and in every living room and on every mobile device within seconds – including pre- arranged broadcast of mass shootings: St. Bartholomew’s Eve Massacres courtesy of Facebook and Google.


ISIS has used social media to express its genocidal intent and, in its recruitment, and propaganda newsletters and videos.
The crucifixion and death of one young man – crucified for wearing a cross – was boastfully posted on the internet.
From the same town, local girls were taken as sex slaves. ISIS returned their body parts to the front door of their parents’ homes with a videotape of them being raped.

The internet is a new tool in the hands of dictatorships and non-state ideologues, intensifying the persecution of minorities.

In China, the State uses digital technology to promote its atheistic opposition to religion but also to collect data against the observant religious adherent whom they see as a threat to their hegemony.

In Russia, subversion of the internet is used to manipulate opinion and to traduce opposition.

And there is a direct correlation between freedom of religion or belief and censorship: Articles 18 and 19 of the UDHR.

There are 44 countries worldwide that control and censor the internet – and the five worst offenders are Saudi Arabia, China, Vietnam, Yemen and Qatar – while North Korea completely bans the internet.

But the Devil doesn’t have to have all the good tunes and just as the Gutenberg revolution of the printed word opened the pages of the Bible the web can also be a place where Faith is shared, and human dignity and rights promoted.

For good or bad it reaches every corner of the Globe and makes ever more urgent the challenge for religious leaders to use it to promote respect for difference and to better understand how their Scriptures and teachings can be rapidly disseminated and distorted to sow division and hatred.

In 1942, in a presentiment of what lay ahead Zweig also remarked:

“We are none of us very proud of our political blindness at that time and we are horrified to see where it has brought us.”

He saw how, in the face of indifference and the desire for a quiet life, the thin veneer that separates civilised values from mob rule very quickly cracked; describing how university professors were forced to scrub streets with their bare hands; devout Jews humiliated in their synagogues; apartments broken into and jewels torn out of the ears of trembling women – calling it “Hitler’s most diabolical triumph.”
Judge Kirby has drawn parallels with Auschwitz, with Hitler and with Stalin and says that the country’s leadership and the system which it sustains - “policies established at the highest level of State” – must be held to account and brought to justice.

Today, persecuted faith-led communities should be natural allies of secularists in combatting neo-Nazis, but deeply intolerant “liberal” voices so despise religion that that they seek to eliminate it from political discourse and the public square. They both need to defend plurality and difference of religion and belief.

Dag Hammarskjold, a Christian, who served Secretary General of the United Nations from 1953-1961 said:
“God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason”

and who said of the UN

“It wasn’t created to take mankind into paradise, but rather, to save humanity from hell.”

With the loss of 100 million lives, hellish ideologies made the twentieth century the bloodiest century in human history. It produced the four great murderers of the 20th century—Mao, Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot— all united by their hatred of religious faith and liberal democracy.

Now, in the twenty-first century new forms of ideology – some claiming a religious legitimacy – have unleashed new forms of slaughter; and although the UDHR has acquired a normative character within general international law, there has never been universal approbation of Article 18 and the right of freedom of religion or belief remains a contested principle.

Article 18 is proclaimed as a key human right and yet is under attack in almost every corner of the world.

When first adopted by the UN General Assembly, the eight abstentions included the Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia – which argued that there was a conflict with Sharia Law – an issue given sharp focus in Brunei this week.

jinnah

Mohammed Ali Jinnah – Pakistan’s enlightened founding father who insisted that minorities should be given respect and protection in the new country.


In 1948, Jinnah’s Pakistan believed that there was compatibility between Article 18 and Islam – although, as I saw during a visit to Pakistan last November Jinnah’s legacy is often honoured only in its breach.

Note that Open Doors say 80% of the persecution of Christians is the work of people who claim to be religious and most certainly do not subscribe to the principle of “religious freedom for all.”
Open Doors

Repeating history, initial indifference to prejudice and discrimination – made worse by religious illiteracy – rapidly morphs into violence and persecution and then to crimes against humanity and even genocide.

84% of the world population has faith; a third are Christian. But, according to Pew Research Centre 74% of the world’s population live in the countries where there are violations of Article 18 at the hands of Islamists or Marxists.


2.4 billion people live in the Commonwealth —roughly one-third of the world’s population, spanning all six continents—95% of people in the Commonwealth profess a religious belief. Around 70% live with high or very high government restrictions on the right to freedom of religion and belief.

Worldwide, in every country where there are violations, an estimated 250 million Christians are persecuted with 24 of the 37 Anglican provinces in conflict or post-conflict areas.

Although Christians are persecuted in every country where there are violations of Article 18—from Syria and Iraq, to Sudan, Pakistan, China, Eritrea, Nigeria, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, and many other countries — Muslims, and others, suffer too, not least in the Sunni-Shia religious wars so reminiscent of 17th-century Europe.

In Burma, where Buddhists have turned on Muslims, I visited a mosque burnt down the night before, with Muslim villagers driven out of a place where, for generations, they had lived alongside their Buddhist neighbours.


In Rakhine State the Rohingyas have been subjected to appalling brutality along with the Christian Kachin. Now Burma proposes to restrict interfaith marriage and religious conversions.

Think too of the more than 1 million Muslim Uighurs who are detained in re-education camps in President Xi Jinping’s China– so reminiscent of Stalin’s gulags.

Article 18 is also about the right not to believe – such as Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian atheist and blogger sentenced to 1,000 public lashes for publicly expressing his atheism, described by the UN as “a form of cruel and inhuman punishment”; or Alexander Aan, imprisoned in Indonesia for two years after saying he did not believe in God.
raif badawi

And the situation is getting worse.

In 2018, in Parliament, I hosted the launch of the Aid to the Church in Need biannual report on Global Religious Freedom in 196 countries. In 38 it found evidence of significant religious freedom violations and in 18 -including Eritrea, North Korea and Saudi Arabia – it has worsened.

I also attended the launch of the Open Doors 2018 World Watch List. It reports that over 3,000 Christians were killed for their faith in the reporting period; identified the 50 countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian; and listed the countries where over 200 million Christians experience a “high” level of persecution or worse.

Of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s 30 priority countries, listed in its latest Human Rights and Democracy Report, 24 are ranked on the 2018 World Watch List.

In the face of all this ACN says there is “a curtain of indifference.”

kolbe-on-deadly-poison-of-indifference
It calls to mind the words of that great Pole, St. Maximilian Kolbe, murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz, who said: “The deadliest poison of our times is indifference.”

Lord sacks
Jonathan (Lord) Sacks, our former Chief Rabbi, insists that “Religious freedom is about our common humanity, and we must fight for it if we are not to lose it. This, I believe, is the issue of our time.” But in the face of “one of the crimes against humanity of our time” he is “appalled at the lack of protest it has evoked.”

This indifference is fed by ignorance.

Lyse Doucet
As the BBC’s courageous chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet, says:

“If you don’t understand religion—including the abuse of religion—it’s becoming ever harder to understand our world.”

In a valiant attempt to understand the relationship between foreign policy and religion the Foreign Secretary has established an Inquiry into persecution of Christians.

Welcome though this is, it will be incapable of radically altering the appalling treatment of Christians unless it has within its mandate DFID’s aid policies and the asylum policies of the Home Office – both currently excluded from the Inquiry’s mandate.

Let me give some examples and describe how indifference to discrimination can lead to persecution and outright genocide.

Discrimination can range from last week’s news that Tajik authorities have implemented a new law barring children from attending religious services and the burning of thousands of calendars with Bible verses to Brunei’s decison to enforce strict Sharia law; to the report today that Iraq’s Parliament has introduced a Bill excluding Christian women from a new Bill recognising the depredations and suffering they experienced at the hands at ISIS.


Religious Discrimination in Eritrea leads to 5,000 people every month a – total of 350,000 people, 10% of the population, fleeing Eritrea. This directly plays into the migration crisis.

In Iran, it led to the arrest and detention of 114 Iranians in a single week for suspected proselytism. It’s illegal to preach or to convert, and converts can spend a decade in prisons like Evin, known as the “black hole of evil”, where torture and abuse are commonplace.

The Iranian Constitution permits worship, but not for converts.

In November last, ITN News, reported on the handfuls of Iranians trying to make it to England in small boats, said that most they spoke to were Christian, some recently converted from Islam.

Ignorance can lead to absurd, unjust and discriminatory asylum decisions – like a recent Home Office refusal of an Iranian convert who was told by an official that Christianity was a religion of violence and if he was a true convert he should “trust God” and go back to Iran – and face the death penalty for apostasy.

Indifference and ignorance also turn a blind eye to aid policies which consolidate discrimination and worse.


Pakistan receives an average of £383,000 in British taxpayers’ money, each and every single day – £2.8 billion over 20 years. Yet freedom of religion and belief is systematically violated.

I have visited and written about the detention centres where thousands of fleeing Pakistani Christians have been incarcerated.


This exodus undermines the prospect of a diverse and respectful society and fails to harness the skills and commitment of ostracised people who are needed to drive down poverty, promote sustainability, and to create a good society.


Propping up a culture of impunity and degraded servility, leads to the murderers of the country’s Christian Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, never being brought to justice; and to an innocent woman, Asia Bibi, given the death sentence and wrongly jailed for nine years for so called “blasphemy.”

Despite the remarkably brave decision of the Supreme Court to affirm her innocence she has still been unable to leave the country, despite acquittal. This is a disgrace.

When I called for her to be offered asylum in the UK, Dr. Taj Hargey, a Muslim Imam based in Oxford, courageously wrote to The Telegraph, demanding that Asia Bibi be given asylum here and spoke of “the deafening silence” from British people of Pakistani origin and of“our collective shame in not preventing her cruel incarceration.”

And this same cruelty leads to children being forced to watch their Christian parents being burnt alive in a kiln.

If a country cannot bring to justice the killer of a Government Minister what chance do these children have of seeing their parents’ murderers brought to justice?

In Pakistan I heard testimonies of abduction, rape, the forced marriage of a nine-year-old, forced conversion, death sentences for so-called blasphemy.

In a left-over from the caste system, menial jobs are reserved for Christians as street sweepers or latrine cleaners.

I recently raised the case of a 13-year-old, excluded from a classroom because he had touched the water supply in that classroom? He was beaten, and his mother was told he had no place in that school because he was only fit for menial and degrading jobs.

Such prejudice is reinforced by school text books funded by Saudi Arabia, and compulsory Quranic teachings in Punjab which demean and stigmatise minorities.

In November I visited some of the “colonies” – ghettos- on the periphery of cities like Islamabad. Here, Pakistan’s Christians live in festering and foul conditions without running water or basic amenities.


Think of South Africa’s apartheid shanty towns – but without the attendant mass movement protests by the Left.

Dirt floors in shacks without running water or electricity. Little education or health provision. Squalid and primitive conditions which are completely off the DFID radar.

dfid
No UK funds are targeted specially at these persecuted minorities.

When you question Ministers, they respond by saying,

“We do not collect disaggregated population data on minority groups.”

Well, why not?

These are inevitably the most vulnerable of the vulnerable but, for DFID, ignorance is bliss.

When I asked about child labour from religious minorities in Pakistan I was told: “Child labour is widespread in Pakistan but there is a severe lack of data on the issue” – the data they don’t collect.

But, although they will now undertake a survey, “The information will not be broken down by religious status.”

Nor do they collect data on the girls from minorities who have been raped, forcefully converted and married against their will.

At least 1,000 women belonging to religious minorities, some of them minors, have been abducted, forcibly converted and often married to those very abductors.

From the very poorest sectors of society, they are easy targets for the perpetrators of sexual violence; while the law- enforcement agencies often show little or no interest in helping aggrieved parents to register a police case against the kidnappers.

Even if the case reaches the courts, the abducted are threatened and told that if they tell the court about their kidnappings, their parents and siblings will be killed, forcing them to admit in court that their conversion was voluntary.


In the past few weeks, there have been at least six such cases, which I have drawn to the Government’s attention.

These include a 13-year-old Christian girl, Sadaf Masih, who was kidnapped, forcibly converted and married on 6 February, in Punjab.

On 20 March, two teenaged Hindu girls, Reena, aged 15, and Raveena, aged 13, were similarly kidnapped, forcibly converted and married within a matter of hours, in Sindh.

The kidnappers were married already, with children, but that that did not prevent them from forcibly marrying those girls too. In the worst cases, after sexual and physical abuse, the kidnappers sell the girls into slavery and send them to brothels.

And then there is Pakistan’s corruption.

After government bureaucracy and poor infrastructure, the World Economic Forum identifies corruption as the third-greatest problem for companies doing business in Pakistan.

I recently raised the case of the £41 million Khyber Puktonkhua Education Sector programme, amidst allegations of ghost schools and phantom projects.

Corruption affects all Pakistanis, but it disproportionately affects vulnerable populations—the poor, women, and religious minorities. The Dalit Solidarity Network are right to recommend that DFID should prepare vulnerability mapping tools, inclusion monitoring tools and methods for inclusive response programming.

It is a disgrace that when Christian churches and NGOs seek funds, DFID says no because they say they are “religion blind.”

jinnah
Paradoxically, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s illustrious Founder said the country’s minorities must be given equal citizenship – and even insisted that the white in the nation’s flag should represent the country’s minorities.

In that same tradition, Salman Taseer, the Muslim Governor of Punjab, a friend of Shahbaz Bhatti, and also assassinated for speaking out on behalf of Asia Bibi, once said:

“My observation on minorities: A man or nation is judged by how they support those weaker than them not how they lean on those stronger.”

In honouring the memory of Jinnah, Bhatti, and Taseer, Britain’s DFID needs to ensure that some of the £383,000 we pour in to Pakistan every day reaches the persecuted minorities while the Home Office needs to reassess its country classification and admit that discrimination is not a word that does justice to the systematic persecution of Christians in Pakistan.

DFID should reflect on the work of Professor Brian J. Grim into the link between religious freedom and diversity with prosperity.

The poorest basket case countries are those who discriminate or persecute while the most prosperous, happy, and buoyant countries, are those who learn to respect difference and uphold religious freedom.
FORB and Prosperity

In 2014 Professor Grim examined economic growth in 173 countries and considered 24 different factors that could impact economic growth.

He found that,

“religious freedom contributes to better economic and business outcomes and that advances in religious freedom”, contribute to,“successful and sustainable enterprises that benefit societies and individuals.”

Where Article 18 is trampled on, the reverse is also true, as a cursory examination of the hobbled economies of countries such as Pakistan, North Korea and Eritrea immediately reveals.

Driving out talented committed minorities deprives a country of ingenuity and skills but also adds to the global migration crisis.


UNHCR says 44,400 people flee their homes every day; that 68.5 million people are displaced worldwide. Yet, like DFID, the Home Office refuse to examine the link between fleeing asylum seekers and religious persecution.

Across Departments, the Government repeatedly says it is“religion blind”but in practice it is religion averse and its policies result in further discrimination and persecution.

By way of example, in the first three months of 2018 out of 1112 Syrian refugees were given the right to enter the UK but not one was a Christian.

no entry
Rank discrimination quickly morphs into persecution.


Think of Meriam Ibrahim in Sudan – a young mother of two was charged, and sentenced to death for apostasy and to 100 lashes. Refusing to renounce her faith, and before being freed, she was forced to give birth shackled in a prison cell.
Icon of the 21 Coptic Christians beheaded in Libya in February 2015ny-copts-protest_04
And who can ever forget the execution by ISIS of Egyptian Copts in Libya – after refusing to renounce their faith – or the burning or bombing of more than 50 of Egypt’s churches in Egypt’s Kristallnacht?

In North Korea a United Nations Commission of Inquiry has concluded that around 200,000 people are incarcerated: that it is a “State without parallel”.

Along with assassinations, executions, and torture

“there is an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” and that“Severe punishments are inflicted on people caught practising Christianity.”

One escapee, Hae Woo, a Christian woman gave graphic evidence to a Hearing which I chaired in Parliament of her time inside a camp – where torture and beatings are routine, and where prisoners were so hungry they were reduced to eating rats, snakes, or even searching for grains in cow dung. She said that in such places

“the dignity of human life counted for nothing.”

Recall, too, that on 27 March 2016, Easter Sunday, at least 75 people were killed and over 340 injured in a suicide bombing that hit the main entrance of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, one of the largest parks in Lahore, Pakistan. The attack targeted Christians who were celebrating Easter.


We see Christians, like Asia Bibi, sentenced to death for blasphemy; Christians burned in brick ovens with their children forced to watch; girls abducted and enslaved – but the Home Office say it isn’t persecution.

We have seen Yazidis hunted down and trapped on Mount Sinjar, their women raped and turned into sex slaves; but the Government say it isn’t genocide.

From the Philippines to Syria and Iraq we have seen churches, synagogues, mosques and ancient cultural monuments and graves bombed or dynamited with attempts to erase memory, belief, tradition and a whole people’s story.

And now a new tragedy is unfolding in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country – where indifference to discrimination and a failure by the country’s Government to admit to the ideological nature of the wave of violence – is having devastating consequences.

The Foreign Office say it’s down to squabbles between herders and farmers.
leah sharibu
What do you call it when, one year ago, Boko Haram seized a 15-year-old, girl named Leah Sharibu?

They refused to release Leah because she rejected their demand that she renounce her faith and convert to Islam.

Supported with funds and weapons from outside Nigeria, in just one weekend Fulani militia killed more than 200 people, mostly women and children, in sustained attacks on 50 villages.

Localised squabbles or a ruthless ideology?

Last year, I led a parliamentary debate in which I described events over just three days: 140 people were killed in carnage in Benue State.

Later in that month during early morning Mass, militants in Makurdi killed two priests and 17 members of the congregation.

The local chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria recently revealed that since 2011 herdsmen have destroyed over 500 churches in Benue state alone.

During many of these well-planned attacks by Fulani militia they are often reported by survivors to have shouted “Allahu Akbar.”

A spokesman said:“It is purely a religious jihad in disguise”; another that it is a campaign of ethno-religious cleansing.

Armed with sophisticated weaponry, including AK47s and, in at least one case, a rocket launcher and rocket-propelled grenades, the Fulani militia have murdered more men, women and children in 2015, 2016 and 2017 than even Boko Haram, destroying, overrunning and seizing property and land, and displacing tens of thousands of people.
This is an organised and systematic campaign of targeted attacks.

The Foreign Office must ask from where do this group of nomadic herdsmen get such sophisticated weaponry.

Fulani
As in Darfur, where I saw the attacks by Janjaweed militias, right across the Sahel, there have often disputes between nomadic herders and farming communities over land, grazing and scarce resources and occasionally there have been retaliatory violence – but the stark asymmetry and escalation of attacks, by well-armed Fulani herders upon predominately Christian farming communities, is fueled by radical Islamist ideology.

The UK and other governments remain in denial about this.

In March, the Revd. Joseph Bature Fidelis, of the Diocese of Maiduguri, in north-east Nigeria said:

“Nigeria today has the highest levels of Islamist terrorist activity in the world…Our country is, so to speak, the future hope of Islamist fundamentalists.”

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, capital of Plateau State says Fulani gunmen exhibit a “new audacity” and the Archbishop of Abuja has warned of “territorial conquest’”and “ethnic cleansing” and said: “The very survival of our nation is at stake.”

Buhari
In a statement to President Buhari issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, they said:

“Since the President who appointed the Heads of the nation’s Security Agencies has refused to call them to order, even in the face of the chaos and barbarity into which our country has been plunged, we are left with no choice but to conclude that they are acting on a script that he approves of. If the President cannot keep our country safe, then he automatically loses the trust of the citizens. He should no longer continue to preside over the killing fields and mass graveyard that our country has become.”

That is an awesome statement from a Bishops’ Conference, while the respected former army chief of staff and Defence Minister, Lieutenant General Theophilus Y. Danjuma, says the armed forces have not been,“neutral; they collude” in the,“ethnic cleansing in … riverine states”, by Fulani militia. He insisted that villagers must defend themselves because,“depending on the armed forces”, will result in them dying, “one by one. The ethnic cleansing must stop … in all the states of Nigeria; otherwise Somalia will be a child’s play.”

The slaughter of another 130 Christians, within six recent weeks – from the mostly Christian Adara tribe, in the State of Kaduna – goes virtually unremarked and yet it has become the new centre of Islamist extremism.

The Revd. Williams Kaura Abba of the Archdiocese of Kaduna said:

“These latest attacks have reduced many village communities to rubble and raised the level of the humanitarian crisis here to one of extreme gravity,”

adding

“The latest wave of killings began on 10th February, when the Fulani herdsmen murdered 10 Christians, including a pregnant woman, in the village of Ungwar Barde, near Kajuru.”

He described an attack on a five-year-old, during which, failing to kill him with a gun and then a machete, the Fulani finally beat him with sticks in an attack that left him paralysed.

“Not even animals kill people like that…We cannot remain silent in the face of this human slaughter.”

Where is the international indignation; where are the flags at half-mast; where are the protests? In our silence we become complicit in these atrocities.


Will Nigeria go the way of Sudan – where attempts to impose a theocratic State led to a civil war, 2 million deaths, partition and, in Darfur, to genocide?

With increasing numbers of deaths, with 1.8 million displaced persons, 5,000 widows, 15,000 orphans, and more than 200 desecrated churches and chapels, it is unsurprising that the Nigerian House of Representatives last July described the herdsmen’s sustained attacks as“Genocide.”

And here is a challenge to teachers in Islamic countries where co-existence is at a premium.

One of the finest texts in the Koran is that “There is no compulsion in religion.”
Quran no compulsion in religion

If that is so, let Article 18 be upheld by good Muslim men and women, along with people of other faiths and none.

In the face of such atrocities as those unfolding in Nigeria religious and political leaders have no right to remain silent as another genocide – comparable to Rwanda, Darfur or Bosnia – plays out its macabre and lethal consequences.


The crime of genocide – the crime above all crimes was defined by the Polish Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin – who had lost 49 of his relatives in the Holocaust. Combined with his own family’s experience, he studied the Armenian Genocide, the massacre of Assyrian Christians at Simele, in Iraq, in 1933.

Raphael Lemkin argued that “international co-operation” was needed,“to liberate mankind from such an odious scourge.”

The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide states that the 149 signature countries have a moral and legal duty to, “undertake to prevent and to punish.”

But do they?

Think back to the obvious early warning signs of danger in northern Iraq.

Canaries were singing in the mine to warn of impending danger.


On 26 November 2008, I specifically drew attention to,

“the Chaldeans, the Syriacs, the Yazidis and other minorities, whose lives are endangered on the Nineveh plains”. — [Official Report, 26/11/08; col. 1439.];and subsequently, through questions and interventions in Parliament, on 65 occasions.

On 21 April 2016, following mass executions at Mount Sinjar in 2014, I drew attention to,

“accounts of crucifixions, beheadings, systematic rape and mass graves”. — [Official Report, 21/4/16; col. 765.]

and called for UK policies to reflect these realities in our asylum, aid and security policies. I said that too often “Genocide is the crime that day not speak its name.”

We must call it what it is.

This is about the annihilation of peoples and their stories and culture.
edmund burke
Edmund Burke once remarked that,

“Our past is the capital of life.”

Which is why ISIS and their fellow travellers, from Boko Haram to the Taliban, think nothing of defiling Shia mosques, destroying Christian churches, blowing up Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Buddhas and eradicating the Sufi monuments in Mali.

This slow burn genocide, which began with the Armenians, seeks to eliminate humanity’s collective memory, and to eliminate difference and diversity.

And this is not to exaggerate.


In 1914, Christians made up a quarter of the population of the Middle East. Now they are less than 5%.

Last Easter, speaking about this remnant, the Prince of Wales said:

prince charles
“I have met many who have had to flee for their faith and for their life – or have somehow endured the terrifying consequences of remaining in their country – and I have been so deeply moved, and humbled, by their truly remarkable courage and by their selfless capacity for forgiveness, despite all that they have suffered.”

But now consider what happens after the genocide when these embattled brave people try to return to their homes and communities.

In 2017, Ministers confirmed to me that funding would be available for 80 projects benefiting Yazidis and 171 benefiting Christian communities targeted by the ISIS genocide; £40 million had been earmarked for urgent humanitarian assistance and more than £25 million for UN stabilisation efforts.

On their return to the region, 746,000 Iraqis from these communities were meant to benefit from these Funding Facility for Stabilization projects managed by the United Nations Development Programme.

Over subsequent months, news circulated that the money was not reaching the affected communities.

One of the main reasons for this failure was corruption.

NGOs drew this to the attention of the Government and I attended a meeting with Ministers at which the details of a phantom project were described.

At the end of 2017, in response to a freedom of information request, the Department for International Development refused to provide information describing how these projects were benefiting those minorities and how they were being implemented.

DFID relied on several exceptions, saying that disclosure would or might prejudice relations between the United Kingdom, Iraq and international organisations or courts, and would or might prejudice the prevention or detection of crime. Such information could easily have been disclosed without identifying any details that could jeopardise the various interests cited.

This is public money and taxpayers are entitled to know how it is being spent and who is benefiting.

When comparable concerns about corruption in Iraq were raised with the US Administration, they responded with admirable urgency, transparency and openness, initiating internal inspector-general investigations into the destination of US funds sent to the UNDP which has itself initiated several internal investigations into allegations of corruption.

But not DFID.

So much for restitution but what about our duty to punish those responsible for the genocide in Iraq?

Over many years the Government’s response to the question of genocide determination has been the same: that it is simply for the international judicial systems—which are either inadequate, non-existent or compromised by Security Council vetoes—to make the determination and not for politicians, regardless of the evidence, to support such a determination.

As it stands, the Government do not have any formal mechanism that allows for the consideration and recognition of mass atrocities that meet the threshold of genocide, as defined in article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide—the Genocide Convention.

So how can they fulfil their duty to protect, prevent and punish?

The lack of a formal mechanism, whether grounded in law or policy, has been severely criticised in a House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee report published in December 2017.


With Fiona Bruce MP, I have laid the Genocide Determination Bill before Parliament. It seeks to address the lack of a formal mechanism to make the determination of genocide.

Having just commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Genocide Convention, it is high time the Government looked at new approaches to ensure that they are fully equipped to fulfil their obligations under the Convention and to bring those responsible to justice.

Instead of justice, too often we salve our consciences and boast of the money we send but it’s no substitute for real engagement.

Let me conclude.


I think back to a visit I made to a 1,900-year-old Syrian Orthodox community in Tur Abdin, which was literally under siege. On return, I was told by our UK representative that his role was to represent Britain’s commercial and security interests; that religious freedom was a domestic matter in which he did not want to become involved.

Happily, the British public do not share that indifference. A ComRes poll found that nearly half of all British citizens expect their politicians to understand religion and belief.

They understand that you cannot disinvent religion; you can’t order people to leave their faith at home; and properly harnessed they know that religion can be a force for great good in society.

However, it is blindingly obvious that liberal democracy simply does not understand this. At best, the upholding of Article 18 has Cinderella status.

Meanwhile, the classic contours of genocide continue to unfold –“never again all over again” from Nigeria to Burma.

On 42 occasions since 2000, in Parliament, I have raised the plight of Burma’s Christian minorities and on 58 occasions I have raised the plight of the Rohingya Muslims, but we do little or nothing to prevent, protect or punish.

Our best weapon in preventing genocide, persecution and discrimination must surely be the systematic and determined promotion of religious freedom.

Multiple dangers confront humanity today: resurgent nationalism egged on by dictators and autocrats; Islamist and neo-Nazi terrorism; refugees and mass migration; digital technology and cyberwarfare; varying forms of totalitarianism; ideologies hostile to free societies; the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; the abject failure to resolve conflicts, whether in Yemen, Sudan, Syria or Afghanistan; let alone the blights of natural disasters, famine, poverty and inequality.

But it is increasingly obvious that liberal democracy simply does not understand the power of the forces that oppose it or how best to counter them.

It is a moral outrage that whole swathes of humanity are being murdered, terrorised, victimised, intimidated, deprived of their belongings and driven from their homes, simply because of the way they worship God or practise their faith.

In this new dispensation, as secular liberalism has become increasingly intolerant of religion, old certainties have been displaced while ideology is used to pursue their beliefs in a manner that countenances no alternative view of life.

It is against this backdrop that we must insist on the importance of religious literacy as a competence; encourage Government departments to produce strategies, provide adequate resources, to make religious literacy training available for their staff; and recognise the crossover between freedom of religion and belief and a nation’s prosperity and stability.

And, from the comforts of our fragile liberal democracies, we can also learn a lot – and even be inspired – by the suffering of those denied this foundational freedom.


It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great Protestant theologian executed by the Nazis, said that

“not to speak is to speak, not to act is to act”

Far too often we are guilty of silence and inaction.

I hope that this conference stirs us to speak and to act in the name of religious freedom.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/04/11/can-government-pour-billions-countries-ignore-unspeakable-persecution/
How can the Government pour billions into countries that ignore the unspeakable persecution of Christians?
Islamist students throw footwear toward effigies representing Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who was recently released after spending eight years on death row for blasphemy
Surrounded by the crash and roar of Brexit’s tempest, it’s all too easy to forget that for many millions of people around the world to live with some slight constitutional upheaval would be a blissful relief. Across the Middle East, Africa and much of Asia, Christians are subject to incomprehensible persecution and brutality. But comprehension is vital, for this is an issue we in the West shall have to deal with before very long – or risk sitting by complacently while a global religious holocaust happens.
Earlier this week, a hundred journalists, academics, politicians, aid workers, priests and members of the public met in central London for a conference called Invisible Victims. Convened by think tanks The Danube Institute and The New Culture Forum, and Hungary Helps, the world’s only government humanitarian aid programme directly concerned with religious persecution, the point was not only to tell people about the atrocities occurring under our very noses but to issue a call to arms.
Lord Alton of Liverpool told the audience how Article 18 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, is being ignored in every corner of the world, while liberal voices remain strangely silent. Religious discrimination against Christians in Eritrea leads to 350,000 people a year fleeing the country, contributing directly to the migrant crisis.
One of the litany of unbearable stories heard throughout the day, which ought to shame Penny Mordaunt and the civil servants at the Department for International Development (DfID), was the story of the two Christian Pakistani children, forced to watch as their parents were burnt alive in a kiln.
Lord Alton told us of the multiple cases of kidnap, forced conversion and forced marriage of teenage girls in Pakistan he has raised with DfID. ‘Discrimination is not a word that does justice to the systematic persecution of Christians in Pakistan,’ he said, mentioning the £383,000 a day in British aid Pakistan receives. ‘Instead of justice, we too often salve our consciences and boast of the money we send.’
This is utterly shameful, yet far from unique. Of the top twenty beneficiaries of UK aid, nine – Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, Syrian, Nigeria, Iraq and Burma – are in Open Doors’ list of the twenty worst countries for religious persecution. They receive between them £2,036 million a year, 54 per cent of the total for the top twenty recipients.
It should be a stipulation of aid being granted that in future the governments of those countries where Christians are known to be persecuted demonstrate stringent measures to eradicate the problem. The UK should not be giving financial assistance of any sort to nations where religious persecution goes unpunished – still less to those where governing parties condone anti-Christian action.
As we heard repeatedly from Parliamentarians, the UK Government refuses to accept the Islamist nature of attacks on Christians in Nigeria. The Foreign Office refuses to accept that Fulani herdsmen armed with AK-47s attacking unarmed Christian farmers do so as jihadists, describing it as ‘tit-for-tat clashes’.
The media and governing classes of our country refuse to accept that persecution of Christians is endemic to large parts of the world as a direct result of militant Islamism, preferring to hide behind the condescending notion it is all just a little local difficulty and will stop once the natives have had a scrap.
In part this is due, as Damian Thompson of the Catholic Herald, said, to the ‘extraordinary indifference to the importance of religion as a subject [for coverage], even among practising Christians. It’s as though they’re embarrassed to write about the subject.’
It is also, and more perniciously, an aspect of misplaced post-colonial guilt, as though those Christians who are Christian because of the work done by Victorian missionaries deserve the persecution they suffer.
While this remains a fringe issue in public debate, governments and major media agencies will have no impetus to act.
Into what moral turpitude will we have fallen if we allow this persecution to continue unchecked, if we turn our faces against millions of people crying out for help we could give so easily? Though the victims are for the most part Christian – a major exception being the Uighur Muslims of China – this is not a problem to which Christians alone must respond. The onus is on every one of us who considers him or herself a moral being to stand up and say: enough.
David Oldroyd-Bolt is a writer, cultural commentator and communications consultant. He tweets as @david_oldbolt.

Three speeches in Parliament this week: War in the Yemen and the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia; Corruption and aid programmes to countries like Pakistan; and the lack of legal mechanisms to hold to account those who use rape as a weapon on war in countries like the Congo

Three speeches in Parliament this week: War in the Yemen and the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia; Corruption and aid programmes to countries like Pakistan; and the lack of legal mechanisms to hold to account those who use rape as a weapon on war in countries like the Congo.

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

 House of Lords debate on Yemen    April 1st 2019

 

 5.56 pm

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

 

My Lords, in the aftermath of António Guterres’s assertion that Yemen is,

 

“the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”,

 

the International Affairs Committee has provided the House with a succinct, brave and timely report. 

 

Yemen’s victims are disfigured by grinding poverty, caught in a cycle of declining GDP, the collapsing Yemeni rial, accelerating food and fuel prices and, as the United Nations Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs described in a recent report, it has,

 

“A higher percentage of people face death, hunger and disease than in any other country … 

 

Eighty percent of the entire population requires some form of humanitarian assistance and protection … 

 

Twenty million Yemenis need help securing food and a staggering 14 million people are in acute humanitarian need … 

 

Ten million people are one step away from famine and starvation … 

 

Seven million, four hundred thousand people, nearly a quarter of the entire population, are malnourished, many acutely so … 

 

Two million malnourished children under five and 1.1 million pregnant and lactating women require urgent treatment to survive … 

 

Conditions are worsening at a nearly unprecedented rate”.

 

In what is, increasingly, a breeding ground for the next wave of ISIS recruiting sergeants, it is reported that in western Yemen hidden landmines have taken the lives of 267 civilians, also claiming the lives of five charity workers who were demining the area. 

 

Aid agencies estimate a 63% increase in gender-based violence, 1.3 million suspected cases of cholera—the worst outbreak in modem history—with coalition airstrikes destroying water treatment facilities, crippling access to clean water. 

 

In a war crime warranting prosecution, five medical facilities run by Médecins Sans Frontières have been bombed since 2015. 

 

Despite the three-month-old truce in Hodeidah, according to UNICEF,

 

“At least one child dies every 10 minutes in Yemen from malnutrition and preventable diseases”.

 

In December, UNICEF reported:

 

“Over 6,700 children were verified killed or severely injured. Nearly 1.5 million children have been displaced, many of them living a life that is a mere shadow of what childhood should be. In Yemen today, 7 million children go to sleep hungry every night. Every single day, 400,000 children face life-threatening severe acute malnutrition and could die any minute. More than 2 million children are out of school; those who are in school often have to settle for poor quality education in overcrowded classrooms”.

 

As the conflict and the humanitarian crisis rage on, the estimated cost, as we have heard during this debate, has reached staggering sums of billions of dollars. 

 

In evidence to the committee, the then Minister Alistair Burt—an old friend of mine—described Iran’s and Saudi Arabia’s,

 

“huge existential fears for their states”,

 

but, as the report says, he also said that,

 

“Opponents of the Saudi-led coalition had used a ‘very easy narrative’ that had ‘misunderstood the nature of this conflict’”.

 

He insisted that the UK was,

 

“not a party to the military conflict as part of the coalition”,

 

but this is a very elastic definition. 

 

Last week, as we have heard, national newspapers reported:

 

“Members of the Special Boat Service … were shot while fighting in the Saadah area in the north of the country”.

 

How is that not taking part in the military conflict?

 

However, it is far worse than that. 

 

Over four years, the coalition has carried out over 19,000 air strikes—one every 106 minutes. 

 

In 2019, the UN panel of experts on Yemen said that precautionary measures to protect civilians are “largely inadequate and ineffective”. 

 

The UK has provided training in targeting weapons, along with liaison officers at Saudi headquarters, resupplied Saudi air capability and provided technical maintenance and spare parts. 

 

We have licensed £4.7 billion of arms exports to the Saudis, along with a further £860 million of arms to their coalition partners. 

 

As only second to the United States in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, we have stoked the fires of this conflict by selling arms to a country which has exported terror and ideology. 

 

We have acted as quartermaster to the conflict and then salve our consciences by boasting about how much aid we have given to the suffering people of Yemen.

 

Although Ministers have played a constructive role in promoting United Nations Security Council Resolution 2451 and encouraging the work of the admirable Martin Griffiths, special envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General, in brokering the Stockholm agreement, our own credibility in this process is damaged when, as the report says, in their licensing of arms sales to Saudi Arabia the Government are “narrowly on the wrong side” of international law,

 

“given the volume and type of arms being exported to the Saudi-led coalition”.

 

The report goes on to say that these sales,

 

“are highly likely to be the cause of significant civilian casualties in Yemen”.

 

When he comes to reply, I hope that the Minister will respond to the call of the 25 Yemeni and global NGOs which have called on Germany to extend its moratorium on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and tell us whether he is comfortable that we have not done the same. 

 

The UK’s response and that of France—countries which both produce arms that require parts and components of German origin—has been for the UK to actively lobby Germany to lift its moratorium. 

 

This demonstrates again how we are stepping over the line, and it risks weakening international standards for arms control. 

 

Indeed, it may violate our obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty including:

 

“Respecting and ensuring respect for international humanitarian law”,

 

and preventing human suffering. 

 

I might add that, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, the US Congress has voted to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen—although the White House has signalled that, if necessary, it will veto this

 

Knowing of the attacks on civilians and atrocities in Yemen while still providing the weapons to Saudi Arabia makes Her Majesty’s Government complicit in those atrocities. 

 

Your Lordships may recall that both Yemen and Saudi Arabia are accused of having committed war crimes; hence, Her Majesty’s Government could fall within the ambit of complicity. 

 

Contrary to Yemen and Saudi Arabia, Her Majesty’s Government are subject to the International Criminal Court, and Ministers should urgently seek the advice of the Government’s law officers on this matter.

 

 If they seriously want to see an end to the carnage and suffering in Yemen, the Government should immediately end their complicity in this disgraceful business and make it clear that this appalling campaign of killing is not to be conducted in our name.

 

 6.03 pm

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

 

Aid and Corruption-  House of Lords Debate 

 

 

 3.53 pm

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

 

My Lords, the World Bank identifies corruption as a major obstacle to ending extreme poverty by 2030 and its detrimental effect on the poorest 40% of people in developing countries. It is estimated that, every year, up to £2 trillion is lost globally to corruption.

 

My brief remarks will centre on the dangers of corruption in the post-conflict, post-ISIS Iraq referred to by the noble Lords, Lord McInnes and Lord Anderson, and on British aid to Pakistan—I should declare that I am co-chair of the Pakistani Minorities All-Party Group and visited Lahore and Islamabad last November.

 

On 11 October 2017, Ministers confirmed to me funding for 80 projects benefiting Yazidis and 171 benefiting Christian communities targeted by the ISIS genocide; £40 million had been earmarked for urgent humanitarian assistance and more than £25 million for UN stabilisation efforts. 

 

On their return to the region, 746,000 Iraqis from minority communities were meant to benefit from these Funding Facility for Stabilization projects managed by the United Nations Development Programme. 

 

Over subsequent months, news circulated that the money was not reaching the affected communities. 

 

One of the main reasons for this failure was corruption. NGOs drew this to the attention of the Government and I attended a meeting with Ministers at which the details of a phantom project were described.

 

At the end of 2017, in response to a freedom of information request, the Department for International Development refused to provide information describing how these projects were benefiting those minorities and how they were being implemented. 

 

DfID relied on several exceptions, saying that disclosure would or might prejudice relations between the United Kingdom, Iraq and international organisations or courts, and would or might prejudice the prevention or detection of crime. In reality, the information could easily have been disclosed without identifying any details that could jeopardise the various interests cited. 

 

As many NGOs assisting survivors in Iraq insist that the money does not reach the intended recipients, such a lack of transparency is extremely disturbing.

 

Retrospectively, DfID now uses independent monitoring, which should have been in place from inception, rather than coming into play months if not years after the projects began. 

 

Perhaps the Minister can tell us what the department’s current assessment is of the situation in Iraq. 

 

What issues concerning corruption have been detected, how have they been addressed, what steps have been taken to address the issues identified by several NGOs and raised in 2018 in a letter to the Government from Dr Russell Blacker on behalf of the National Caucus for the Persecuted Church acting on behalf of communities targeted by ISIS? 

 

This is public money and taxpayers are entitled to know the answers.

 

When comparable concerns about corruption in Iraq were raised with the US Administration, they responded with admirable urgency, transparency and openness, initiating internal inspector-general investigations into the final destination of US funds sent to the UNDP Funding Facility for Stabilization. The UNDP has itself initiated several internal investigations into allegations of corruption, and we should do the same.

 

A comparable challenge applies in Pakistan, which receives a staggering £383,000 of British taxpayers’ money every single day—£2.8 billion over 20 years. 

 

The World Economic Forum identifies corruption as the third-greatest problem for companies doing business in Pakistan, after government bureaucracy and poor infrastructure. It affects all Pakistanis but it disproportionately affects vulnerable populations—the poor, women, and religious minorities. In its report Equality in Aid, the International Dalit Solidarity Network recommended that DfID should prepare vulnerability mapping tools, inclusion monitoring tools and methods for inclusive response programming, issues I have probed with the Minister in Questions for Written Answer. 

 

Two weeks ago, I sent him news reports that one of the top three DfID spending programmes in 2018-19, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Education Sector Programme, which secured £41 million, also needs to be carefully scrutinised.

 

 I know that the noble Lord, Lord Bates, has asked officials to do that. 

 

It is alleged that in several districts, money allocated to establish new educational institutions and refurbish schools was misappropriated and that these are phantom projects—ghost schools. 

 

How does the Minister intend to establish the facts? Waiting for NGOs or newspapers to report such cases simply is not good enough.

 

I therefore hope that today’s debate will point us towards the far more rigorous and effective use of British resources. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McInnes, for giving us the opportunity to raise these issues.

 

 3.58 pm

 

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

Debate led by Baroness Hodgson of Abinger – To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the adequacy of international mechanisms to hold perpetrators of sexual violence to account; and what steps they are taking to ensure justice for survivors

 

 

 6.50 pm

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, the noble Lady, Baroness Hodgson, has consistently and tenaciously championed the cause of those who have been subjected to unspeakable violence. In her moving and powerful speech this evening, she rightly demanded more effective ways of holding perpetrators to account and ensuring justice. I think we should all express our gratitude to her for that.

 

I should declare that I am joint chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Groups on North Korea and Pakistani Minorities, vice-chair of the APPGs on Burma and the DRC and an officer of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Sudan and South Sudan. All of these are countries I have visited and are all disfigured by the use of rape as a weapon of war. I am also a trustee of Arise, a charity that works with women who have been trafficked or enslaved.

 

Last year, Denis Mukwege—who was referred to by the noble Baroness—with Nadia Murad, a Yazidi woman I have had the privilege to meet, jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize, given, as it says in the citation:

 

“for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict”,

 

 

In the DRC, where more than 5 million people are estimated to have died in the long-running conflicts—a greater number than in any other conflict since World War II—Dr Mukwege has treated thousands of women who were raped, performing up to 10 operations every day. 

 

Since Panzi Hospital, in Bukavu, was founded by Dr Mukwege in 1999, it has treated more than 82,000 patients with complex gynaecological damage and trauma. An estimated 60% of these injuries were caused by sexual violence. Dr Mukwege describes how his patients arrive at the hospital sometimes naked, usually in horrific conditions, victims of different armed groups.

 

Throughout this discussion of international mechanisms to hold perpetrators of sexual violence to account, we should keep Dr Mukwege and Nadia Murad—tortured and raped by Islamic State militants during their genocide—at the heart of our deliberations.

 

 It is crucial to begin with one important fact: that there are not many adequate mechanisms in place to end the current culture of impunity. 

 

Indeed, the only permanent international criminal tribunal, the International Criminal Court, despite being able to deal with cases of sexual violence, genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or crimes of aggression, often lacks the jurisdiction to be able to investigate the crimes and to prosecute the perpetrators. 

 

The ICC is a treaty-bound court and its competence is limited by ​that fact alone. This is graphically illustrated by the genocidal campaign unleashed by ISIS against religious and other minorities in Syria and Iraq—people like Nadia Murad.

 

As the House knows, in 2014, ISIS, driven by its hatred of difference, instigated mass murder, torture, abuse, rape, sexual violence, and forced displacement. 

 

To this day, more than 3,000 Yazidi women and girls are still missing after they were abducted from Sinjar in September 2014 and are suspected to be in Syria.

 

 For more than four years, these women and girls have been subjected to most atrocious abuse imaginable. In her testimony, Nadia says:

 

“One moment I was a farm girl, going to school in my village in northern Iraq and the next I was an ISIS sex slave, ‘owned’ by militants. My peaceful existence was shattered simply because my religious beliefs were deemed sub-human by a group of men who believed they were superior. ISIS murdered my family and took me captive, exposing me to horrors which would be impossible to imagine had I not endured every moment and felt each brutal blow”.

 

She says she chose to speak because:

 

“I believed the world needed to know the truth and I wanted justice. I wanted ISIS held accountable. If we cannot achieve this, with all the evidence and our justice systems, then we are giving a green light to these groups”.

 

Yet, despite the level and nature of these atrocities, the ICC cannot get involved. 

 

The ICC does not have territorial jurisdiction in Syria or Iraq, and, currently, there is no other international or regional criminal court that could deal with prosecutions. 

 

Another option would be for the Security Council to establish an ad hoc tribunal to prosecute the ISIS fighters, modelled on the precedent set by the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia or the international criminal tribunal for Rwanda. The Minister knows that I have been in touch with him and the Foreign Office on a number of occasions to put forward that proposal.

 

Under Security Council Resolution 2379, an investigative team is already mandated to collect, preserve and prepare for future prosecutions the evidence of the crimes perpetrated by ISIS in Iraq. As the next step, the Security Council could establish the international criminal tribunal for ISIS, modelled on the ICTY or the ICTR, with a tailored mandate.

 

In June 2018, work in this direction was initiated by Pieter Omtzigt, a Dutch MP, who convened a meeting between the Iraqi Government’s representatives and experts to explore the need to assist Iraq in prosecuting ISIS fighters and looking into the available options. 

 

The Iraqi representatives agreed that as the issue of ISIS is not only a problem of Iraq but of international concern and an international responsibility, Iraq would need assistance with the prosecutions. 

 

More than 850 people from the UK travelled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS and were directly involved there in every aspect of the genocide, including systematic rape and enslavement. The UK clearly needs to be involved in prosecuting the fighters. 

 

Stripping them of citizenship is not the way to bring about justice, a point I raised during Question Time recently. It merely makes it harder.

 

For months, I have I have been urging the Government to explore the initiation of international or regional prosecutions, especially as the investigative team has just begun the excavations of the first mass grave in ​Sinjar. 

 

The international option is crucial if there is to be justice.

 

 Survivors of rape and sexual violence are not involved in the proceedings of Iraqi domestic courts, giving little hope that justice will be served. 

 

How can we ensure justice if the very people affected by the atrocities are not even asked to testify, to tell the stories of what happened to them, and do not have the opportunity to see justice being done or to hear an apology?

 

Considering the territorial limitations of the ICC, it may be crucial to reconsider whether we need a new mechanism that would be better suited to address the growing impunity. If the Minister would be willing, I would be most grateful for a meeting to discuss this troubling situation and possible ways forward.

 

Let me also briefly mention Pakistan, which I visited in November, and where the Minister also was recently. 

 

At least 1,000 women belonging to religious minorities, some of them minors, have been abducted, forcibly converted and often married to those very abductors. 

 

They come from the very poorest sectors of society and are easy targets for the perpetrators of sexual violence. 

 

The law-enforcement agencies often show little or no interest in helping aggrieved parents to register a police case against the kidnappers. 

 

Even if the parents persist and somehow reach the courts and the abductors are forced to bring victims to the court, the abducted are threatened and told that if they tell the court about their kidnappings, their parents and siblings will be killed. Thus they have no option but to admit in the court that their conversion was voluntary.

 

In the past few weeks, there have been at least six such cases, which I have drawn to the Minister’s attention. These include a 13 year-old Christian girl, Sadaf Masih, who was kidnapped, forcibly converted and married on 6 February, in Punjab. 

 

On 20 March, two teenaged Hindu girls, Reena, aged 15, and Raveena, aged 13, were similarly kidnapped, forcibly converted and married within a matter of hours, in Sindh. 

 

The kidnappers were married already, with children, but that that did not prevent them from forcibly marrying those girls. In the worst-case scenarios, the kidnappers after sexual and physical abuse, sell them into slavery and they are sent to brothels.

 

We give Pakistan £383,000 in aid each and every day—£2.8 billion over 20 years. 

 

Surely we can use our aid programmes with leverage to ensure justice for the victims and to save many broken lives and families? 

 

The noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, is to be thanked for encouraging us to address this important issue this evening, and I reiterate my gratitude to her.

 

The World of Yesterday – Memoirs of a European – Stefan Zweig:  and its relevance to Project Hate 2019.

The World of Yesterday – Memoirs of a European – Stefan Zweig:  and its relevance to Project Hate 2019.

 

A friend recently gave me a copy of Stefan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday – Memoirs of a European, first published in 1942. The manuscript was completed by this acclaimed Jewish writer and posted to his publisher the day before he and his wife took their own lives.

 

The tragic end of Zweig’s life was a mirror image of the end of the civilised world in which he and so many of his compatriots had grown up and flourished in early twentieth century Vienna.

 

I was introduced to Zweig’s autobiography after I had told my friend about my interest in Franz Werfel, a Jewish Austrian novelist and playwriter who was a contemporary and acquaintance of Zweig. In 1933 Werfel had written The Forty Days of Musa Dagh – a brilliant novel based on the Armenian genocide of 1915.  Like Zweig his books were burnt and banned by Hitler’s National Socialists.     

 

What happened to Zweig and Werfel – to their work and to millions of other Jews and minorities – is especially relevant today in the context of Project Hate 2019 – which we see manifesting itself globally.

 

Zweig’s masterful autobiography charts the rise of visceral hatred; how scapegoating and xenophobia, cultivated by populist leaders, can rapidly morph into the hecatombs of the concentration camps. As the history of the twentieth century graphically demonstrates, the hatred of difference invariably begins with anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews, but it never ends there.

 

If you doubt how quickly a relatively civilised and humane society, and a seemingly permanent golden age, can be ruthlessly and swiftly destroyed, then read Zweig. 

 

And consider that beyond the ugly spectre of Anti-Semitism appearing in main stream British politics, in 2019, for the first time since 1945, there are Nazis in the Reichstag; Austria has a coalition government which includes a party whose first leader was as an officer in the SS; Italy has a governing party which is home to fascist throwbacks; while some “yellow vests” in France mighty more appropriately wear black shirts after recently being  involved in anti-Semitic abuse of the French philosopher, Alain Finkielkraut; while the far right is capturing  seats from Sweden to Spain. And watch with anxiety the coming elections to the European Parliament. 

 

Project Hate can also be seen in the Anti-Semitic memes which accompany digital Nazism – even the live streaming of mass murders courtesy of multi-media outlets. Other shades of viral hatred – from anti-Semitism to homophobia and overt racism – readily and effortlessly morph from virtual reality into violence. 

 

In his autobiography Zweig wrote that:

 

“Man was separated by man on the grounds of absurd theories of blood, race and origins” – and so it is again today.  For three years running vicious attacks against Jews in the U.K. have reached new highs.

 

Zweig said:

 

 

“The greatest curse brought down on us by technology is that it prevents us from escaping the present even for a brief time. Previous generations could retreat into solitude and seclusion when disaster struck; it was our fate to be aware of everything catastrophic happening anywhere in the world at the hour and the second when it happened.”

 

And that was 1945. Now it is live streamed and in every living room and on every mobile device within seconds – including pre- arranged broadcast of mass shootings: St. Bartholomew’s Eve Massacres courtesy of Facebook and Google.

 

 

The use of social media to spread violent ideologies had a tragic outcome on March 15th with the horrific deaths of nearly 50 Muslims gathered for Friday prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand.  But we also saw the same hatred of difference at work in the Synagogue in Pittsburgh where 11 Jewish worshippers were gunned down; and in Lahore where 75 Christians were murdered as they gathered to celebrate Easter; and deaths, day after day in Northern Nigeria, following the genocide of Christians and Yazidis and other minorities in Iraq and Syria.

 

 

And what can we learn from Zweig about our response to such phenomena and events?

 

In a presentiment of what lay ahead he wrote that “Europe in its state of derangement had passed its own death sentence”  and yet the elites kept turning a blind eye, hoping that the problem would simply go away – leading him to remark: “We are none of us very proud of our political blindness at that time and we are horrified to see where it has brought us.”

 

Zweig saw how, in the face of indifference and the desire for a quiet life, the thin veneer that separates civilised values from mob rule very quickly cracked. He describes how university professors were forced to scrub streets with their bare hands; devout Jews humiliated in their synagogues; apartments broken into and jewels torn out of the ears of trembling women.

 

He says, “one man had succeeded in deadening every idea of what is just and right by the constant attrition of excess “Hitler’s most diabolical triumph.”  In 1938 the conscience of the world kept quiet “or murmured just a little before forgetting and forgiving.”

 

On meeting groups of fleeing refugees, Zweig says” They (the Jews) were told don’t live here with us but no one told them where they were to live.”

 

He concludes his remarkable account of those tortured years be saying

 

“I knew like the patriarch Lot, in the Bible, that all behind me was dust and ashes, the past transformed into a pillar of bitter salt.”

 

The haunting question remains: can we do better in our own generation?

 

 

 

Gladys Aylward, the little woman, and China’s Inn of The Sixth Happiness – or more accurately, the Inn of the Eight Happinesses

David Alton

Gladys Aylward, the little woman, and China’s Inn of The Sixth Happiness – or, more accurately, the Inn of the Eight Happinesses

Gladys Aylward - the little woman Gladys Aylward – the little woman

Alan Burgess The Small Woman - Gladys Aylwardscan0006

The Inn of The Sixth Happiness - which gives a distorted account of Gladys Aylward's life The Inn of The Sixth Happiness – which gives a distorted account of Gladys Aylward’s life

The Inn of The Sixth Happiness - Gladys Aylward was no Ingrid Bergman The Inn of The Sixth Happiness – Gladys Aylward was no Ingrid Bergman

Gladys Aylward with her orphans Gladys Aylward with some of her converts  and Muleteers praying over Jeannie Lawson’s coffin.

Gladys Aylward with her orphans - fleeing from the Japanese army Gladys Aylward with her orphans – fleeing from the Japanese army

Gladys Aylward with her orphans - fleeing from the Japanese army Gladys Aylward with her orphans – fleeing from the Japanese army

Gladys Aylward Gladys Aylward

Gladys-Aylward 5

There is a lovely movie, staring Ingrid Bergman, called “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.” Made in 1958 it celebrates the remarkable life of a petite woman, born in 1902 in Edwardian England, called Gladys Aylward. It’s a charming film but on recently reading a biography of Miss Aylward I realised that the Hollywood make-over…

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Please support disabled children like Amy by giving them a voice – while I remain siLENT for 24 hours for Million Minutes

Please support disabled children like Amy by giving them a voice – while I remain siLENT for 24 hours for Million Minutes.  

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Tomorrow, Friday.  I am staying siLENT with Million Minutes this Lent to raise money for young people who don’t have a voice. I will not speak, use my phone or social media for 24 hours! Please sponsor me. 

 

Your sponsorship will help young people like Amy. Amy always wanted to show people who she was, but she wasn’t able to. Instead growing up as a young person with a disability, she was often judged and bullied. Now that is changing. Million Minutes is working with For Jimmy to give Amy her voice. Our help enables her to use her experience of being rejected and bullied to support other young people living with disabilities, and to reduce the stigma of the label ‘disabled’. Your sponsorship will support people like Amy to change their lives and their world. 

 

Further details, click here

https://wonderful.org/fundraiser/lorddavidaultonssilent-9aeb8046

 

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