International Scandal As Escaping Christians Continue To Suffer -Ijaz Paras Masih died in Detention Centre. Read report on”The United Nations: Missing In Action.” Also – Celebration in Parliament of the 126th Birthday of Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar and the campaign to Make Caste History.

International Scandal As Escaping Christians Continue To Suffer

 

Thailand’s Government and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Bangkok have been accused of “negligence” after a Pakistani Christian asylum seeker died in a detention centre last month.

 

https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2017/06/unhcr-accused-negligence-pakistani-christian-dies-thai-detention-centre/

 

I contacted UNHCR about the death of Mr. Ijaz Paras Masih, the Pakistani Christian asylum seeker who died while in the Immigration Detention. They simply said that “UNHCR’s position globally, as enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention, is that no refugee or asylum seeker should be prosecuted or detained merely on grounds of illegal entry or overstay of a visa, save in the most exceptional situations.  While Thailand is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, we continue to advocate for alternatives to detention for person of concern to UNHCR based upon existing Thai law. We also look forward at least to enhanced access to bail as stated by the Royal Thai Government in its 15 November 2016 responses (paragraph 130) to the Human Rights Committee’s List of Issues in Relation to the Second Period Report of Thailand under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

 

I have asked them what progress they are making with enhanced access and how many more Christians escaping persecution in Pakistan are still held in these atrocious conditions. I have personally been inside this detention centre and you can read my report at: https://davidalton.net/2015/09/04/international-scandal-of-95-detainees-held-in-one-cell-including-children/

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The United Nations:  Missing In Action:  June 2017

https://www.gisreportsonline.com/opinion-the-united-nations-missing-in-action,politics,2232.html

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The United Nations – missing in action

Dag Hammarskjold was one of the great secretaries-general of the United Nations.

The Swedish economist turned diplomat began work at the UN in 1950, serving as the organization’s second secretary-general from 1953 until 1961. That year, while trying to negotiate a ceasefire in the Congo, he was killed in a plane crash in Zambia. Questions remain about the circumstances in which this courageous man died.

 

Today, different questions are being asked about the future of the Organization he once led.

 

Why, as the world confronts so many challenges, is the UN so often missing in action?  What can be done to reform the organization so that Hammarskjold’s successors might reconnect with its mission?

 

A different world

The UN was created in 1945 following the collapse of the League of Nations (1920-46). The world had come through the Great Depression, the Second World War and the Holocaust. In a flurry of hopefulness at the end of these horrors, the international community promulgated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention. It also created a raft of international organizations – all with the avowed intention that international cooperation would prevent such catastrophes occurring ever again.

 

This was also the era of the Truman Doctrine and the United States government’s astoundingly generous $13 billion Marshall Plan (worth $189 billion today) – although the rationale behind the plan was more than simple altruism.

 

Truman told Congress that “the seeds of totalitarian regimes are nurtured by misery and want. They spread and grow in the evil soil of poverty and strife. They reach their full growth when the hope of a people for a better life has died. We must keep that hope alive.”

 

Truman’s world would be one of free institutions, representative government, free elections, guarantees of individual liberty, freedom of speech and religion, and freedom from political oppression.”

 

In 1947, U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall had insisted that “it is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health to the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace.”

 

In parallel, this repudiation of isolationism and xenophobia gave birth to the Bretton Woods principles, which provided an international architecture governing investment, free trade and the flow of money.

 

This euphoria of internationalism was echoed, in 1951, by the creation of a common market, the European Coal and Steel Community, which would ultimately morph into the European Union.

 

In 1950, Robert Schuman, the French foreign minister, said the community’s purpose – especially in controlling coal and steel, the main ingredients of war – was to “make war not only unthinkable but materially impossible.”

 

Taken together, this remarkable period of enlightened statesmanship enabled the regeneration and economic renewal of Europe’s fractured cities and regions.

 

Truman saw it as the best hope of defeating new forms of National Socialism, creating prosperity on the Western side of Stalin’s Iron Curtain, and offering ways forward for the emerging new postcolonial nations in Africa and Asia.

 

This, then, was the hopeful climate in which Dag Hammarskjold assumed leadership of the United Nations in 1953.

 

Road from hell

Profoundly aware of the League of Nations’ ultimate failure, Hammarskjold had a realistic view of what the UN might achieve, declaring that the organization “was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell.”

 

In his Inferno, the 14th-century poet Dante Alighieri depicted hell as nine concentric circles of suffering located within the Earth. This accurately represents the post-Hiroshima 20th-century world in which Hammarskjold’s UN found itself.

 

Every century and every generation is confronted by those same concentric circles – torments of mankind’s own making. In saving us from hell, Hammarskjold believed that the UN had to take the international community beyond the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia and the conduct of international relations through the nation state.

The UN was to be an instrument that encouraged dialogue and cooperation in resolving conflict.

 

Today, in a world facing powerful political, technological, environmental and social challenges, the United Nations seems to talk endlessly and at best gets to apply bandages to the world’s wounds.

 

The hellish intractability of many crises facing the contemporary world is underlined by a cursory look at the issues high on Hammarskjold’s agenda in 1953. These included attempts to smooth relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors; a 1955 visit to China to negotiate the release of U.S. pilots captured in the Korean War; and the creation of an Emergency Force geared to resolving violent crises in countries like the Congo.

 

Interestingly, and following his belief that if you didn’t understand religion you couldn’t understand the world, Hammarskojold overcame opposition in allowing the Holy See to participate at the UN. He had a profound understanding of the enduring significance of religion in a world where, even today, 84 percent say they have a religious affiliation.

 

Overwhelmed by demons

More than 60 years on, Hammarskjold would surely question the UN’s effectiveness in addressing the dangers facing humanity today: resurgent nationalism; varying forms of totalitarianism; ideologies hostile to free societies; the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; the abject failure to resolve conflicts, whether in Sudan, Syria or Afghanistan; and the blights of famine, poverty and inequality.

 

Does the UN remain the linchpin of a rules-based international order? Has it moved us beyond Westphalia, by encouraging cooperative resolution of conflicts?

 

Why does it struggle so badly to relate its work to religion (with more than 1 billion Catholics and 1 billion Muslims in the world) and fail to understand the role of the great faiths in human development and the fight against terror?

 

The UN’s effectiveness must be measured against the challenges posed by Islamist terrorism; refugees and mass migration; globalization; nuclear proliferation; digital technology and cyber warfare; and a crisis of confidence in the political elites and institutions that are supposed to meet these threats.

 

While the demons of hell have been upping their game, it appears that the UN’s angels have been at least temporarily overwhelmed.

 

Yet, Hammarskjold’s fundamental proposition still holds true: not one of these challenges can be resolved on a national basis, without international cooperation.

 

Reform or die

Part of the UN’s problem has been an inability to come to terms with a world in which 45 percent of the population is aged 25 or under.

 

Hammarskjold lived in a pre-internet age and would be amazed to see how cyberspace shapes, for good and ill, our transnational relationships – be they personal, political, social or economic.

 

For example, recall the role of social media in the Arab Spring, in connecting pro-democracy campaigners in countries like Burma, in cyber warfare, fake news, in hate speech, in coded messages inciting Islamist terror, or in the hands of a tweeting president. The UN’s own narrative seems missing in this dangerous new world.

 

And beyond cyber space, transnationalism has been reinforced by the unprecedented ease of travel. Globalization allows assets and taxable income to be transferred across the world by legal or illegal means, the same way people can be transported by a low-cost airline or a human smuggler.

 

This is the world that Hammarskjold’s successor, Antonio Guterres, must come to grips with after taking office on January 1. Mr. Guterres set out with three top priorities: peacekeeping, sustainable development, and reform of the UN’s internal management.

 

The new secretary-general is right about the urgent need for restructuring and renewal – without which the UN may suffer the fate of the League of Nations. If he fails, the Security Council’s five permanent members – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. – will bear a great deal of the responsibility.

 

The omens do not look particularly favorable.

 

Losing America

As Guterres assumed office, a new occupant arrived at the White House.

 

Throughout his election campaign, Donald Trump had only negative things to say about the UN, describing it as a “club” for people to “have a good time.”

 

By signaling support for the use of torture, a disinclination to finance the UN’s peacekeeping budgets, lack of support for the International Criminal Court, and an unwillingness to help to fund obligations to refugees, President Trump has set the U.S. on the path of disconnection.

 

Simultaneously, however, Mr. Trump has understood popular disillusionment with the political classes and their chosen priorities. He correctly identified the misuse of international funds to promote coercive population control and abortion programs.

 

In the past, UN agencies indirectly aided and abetted China’s grotesque one child policy. In Africa, politicians complain that UN agencies blackmail recipients of aid by threatening to cancel other programs. That is neither a moral nor a practical choice – and President Trump is right about that.

 

By behaving like arrogant neocolonialists, unaccountable elites gradually lose public and political support. That can cost an institution dearly, as the European Union, Britain’s Left and American Democrats have discovered.

 

Affront to values

The reason so many Americans – especially Republicans – are skeptical (and even worse) about the UN is that it appears incapable of resolving big issues while taking up minor causes that affront deeply held American values.

 

For instance, the overwhelming majority of Americans believe that Jews are entitled to live in safety in their homeland – and that it is a miracle of God’s providence that the land of Israel was restored. They therefore find it unconscionable that the UN endlessly criticizes the only pluralist, liberal society in the Middle East – even if it is a deeply flawed one.

 

Last December, the UN General Assembly ended its annual legislative session by adopting 20 resolutions against Israel and only six resolutions on the rest of the world combined – three on Syria, and one each on Iran, North Korea and Crimea.

 

In April 2016, the UNESCO Executive Board in Paris adopted a resolution that ignored Jewish ties to its holy site of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall area in Jerusalem’s Old City. It referred to the Temple Mount area solely as Al-Aksa Mosque/Al-Haram Al Sharif, except for two references to the Western Wall Plaza that were put in parenthesis. This just makes UNESCO look anti-Semitic.

 

Not only are these decisions unjust, they make the UN irrelevant in the eyes of Americans – whether they are Democrats (a party with a historically strong Jewish constituency) or evangelical Republicans. Ignore religious sensibilities and you become a waste of time for decision-makers in Washington.

 

The UN should never forget that it relies on assessed and voluntary contributions from member states. It should never forget why it was set up – principally to maintain international peace, to promote security, to champion human rights, to encourage sustainable development, to safeguard the world’s environment and heritage, and to provide relief where natural disasters, famine or violent conflict occur.

 

If it wants to retain support, it should stick to its day job, not try to peddle an ideology.

 

Root and branch

As part of a fundamental reform, the UN needs to examine how secretaries-general are elected. The point is to find contemporary Hammarskjolds – men or women of talent – rather than rotating through the usual suspects.

 

There is a great deal to be said for a seven-year, nonrenewable term of office.

 

The current arrangement of reelection after five years, perhaps by design, makes the incumbent more susceptible to pressure from those with the power to propel or block his or her candidacy (and so far, it has always been “his”).  Secretaries-general should also have better things to do than canvassing for votes.

 

Leadership positions at the UN should be based on qualifications and the ability to do the job. The 17 members of the Geneva Group (the UN’s major funders) should be driving forward this urgently needed reform. Many posts will come vacant during Mr. Guterres’ first term, presenting an opportunity to do things differently.

 

The UN seeks to halt our slide into hell through its main organs –the deliberative General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, the Secretariat, the International Court of Justice – and through its agencies, which include the

World Bank Group, UNESCO, the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme and the Human Rights Council.

 

These agencies have a very mixed record.

 

In Nairobi, for instance, I challenged an indifferent UN official about funds that had been embezzled from phantom projects for much-needed water catchment dams and reservoirs in northern Kenya.

 

In the Congo and South Sudan, I protested about the role of so-called UN peacekeepers whose actions had ranged from incompetent to illegal.

 

Policing the peacekeepers

Mr. Guterres would do well to examine the recommendations of the Westminster Committee on Sexual Violence in Conflict, which called for an international jurisdiction to root out and hold to account peacekeepers accused of sexual violence against the people they were supposed to protect. Such misconduct brings peacekeeping into terrible disrepute.

 

At present, responsibility for deal with these matters rests with the countries contributing the troops. Some – among them Uruguay, Pakistan and South Africa – have court-martialed soldiers charged with offences on peacekeeping missions, but these actions have only scratched the surface.

 

Nor does any of this come cheap.

 

The UN spends more than $8 billion a year to deploy 86,000 troops. With civilian employees, the total personnel on peacekeeping missions is around 120,000.

 

President Trump’s proposal to cut $1 billion in funding from UN peacekeeping work would jeopardize these operations. It is not unreasonable, however, to demand value for money and better outcomes.

 

In assessing the future role of its blue helmets, the UN should also place greater emphasis on training them to prevent conflict in the first place.

 

When Dag Hammarskjöld was found dead in his plane, in his briefcase they found a copy of Thomas a Kempis’s Imitation of Christ.  He would have been familiar with Jesus’s admonition: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

 

The UN should be putting more resources and time into making peace and preventing conflict rather than keeping peace and boots on the ground. This also points to the need for the secretary-general to open channels to non-state actors such as the free Kurdish cantons of northern Syria.

 

Failure to do this will bring new horrors. Consider the world’s newest country, South Sudan, where the abject failure to prevent conflict has produced a catastrophic famine, entirely man-made and wholly avoidable.

 

Confronting inertia

Here we must say something about the Security Council. More than any other arm of the UN, its success or failure will determine whether we slide into the abyss.

 

At the end of the Cold War, it was rather naively assumed that Security Council would overcome the incapacitating effect of the veto (often by Russia), which had frequently stymied coherent and coordinated action.

 

Instead, communism gave way to the Vladimir Putin era, and the tensions and divisions within the Security Council have continued.

 

Most recently, in February and April 2017, Russia used its veto to block UN sanctions over the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons. An effective response was left to President Trump, who ordered a Tomahawk missile strike against the Syrian airbase from which the chemical attack was launched.

 

In dealing with an evident war crime, the UN was again found missing in action. Its statisticians, however, have been very active – busily counting the dead.

 

They estimate that some 400,000 Syrians have been killed and more than 5 million have fled the country since the war began in 2011. Another 6.3 million people are internally displaced.

 

The UN has failed to end the war, failed to protect civilians, and failed to bring the perpetrators to justice. What does the agony of Aleppo say about the impotence of the UN and the collective shame which this war has brought on the international community?

 

It is not only the colossal loss of life and the vast displacements of people that shame us, but also the UN’s failure to set in motion Nuremburg-style trials for those responsible for crimes against humanity and genocide.

 

Scourge of genocide

This scandalous failure to provide justice – or even to establish mechanisms for trying those responsible for mass executions, sexual slavery, rape and other forms of gender-based violence, torture, mutilation and the enlistment and forced recruitment of children – shames the UN and its members. That is, all of us.

 

Genocide – as the UN itself has declared – is never a word to be used lightly. It is not determined by the number of people killed, but by specific genocidal intent.

 

In 1948, in the wake of some of the worst atrocities in history, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

 

The culmination of years of campaigning by the Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin, it laid upon the signatories a moral and legal duty to “undertake to prevent and to punish” genocide – the crime above all crimes.

 

Once it is recognized that genocide is being committed, serious legal obligations follow, but in our own times states have been reluctant to accept their responsibility to prevent a recurrence of this “odious scourge.”

 

Notwithstanding resolutions by the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the British House of Commons and the U.S. Congress identifying atrocities against Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities in Syria and Iraq as genocide, the UN has conspicuously failed to act.

 

The Security Council’s failure to refer evidence to the International Criminal Court (ICC) – or for any other court to act ­­– has become a scandalous circular argument. Some 124 states are signatories to the ICC’s Rome Statute, but the Court’s authority is fatally undermined when great nations do not demonstrate their belief in the rule of law. Already we see some states withdrawing from the ICC.

 

Who’s to blame?

The West says that Russia will use its veto to prevent any referral on atrocities in Syria.

 

The same diplomats say that China will use its veto if an attempt is made to bring North Korea before the ICC.

 

This comes after a UN report in 2014 found that North Korea’s violations of human rights and crimes against humanity make it “a state without parallel.”

 

The Commission of Inquiry called for the ICC to bring to trial those responsible for “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”

 

On reading the report, it is difficult to identify any of the 30 articles comprising the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that are not violated every day in North Korea.

 

Yet, three years after the report’s publication (and as the world watches nervously while Pyongyang contemplates a sixth nuclear test), the regime wallows in impunity – making a mockery of the UN’s proclaimed doctrine of a “duty to protect.”

 

Veto versus duty

Not to act is to act. It sends a very dangerous message that state and non-state actors can behave as they wish, since international institutions are incapable of holding perpetrators to account.

 

Changing the veto powers of the Security Council’s permanent members is no simple business. Such a step would be resisted by those who wield the veto, and it would require amendment of the UN Charter. But Mr. Guterres needs to consider the question, and perhaps referral of crimes to the ICC could be exempted from the veto.

 

It is true that the permanent members are unlikely to take measures to curb their own influence. Gaining a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly will not be easy, either ­– but this is not an issue Mr. Guterres can dodge if he wants to fundamentally reform the UN.

 

Imperfect and indispensable

Dag Hammarskjold was not naïve about the UN’s capacity. As he once said: “We should … recognize the United Nations for what it is – an admittedly imperfect but indispensable instrument of nations working for a peaceful evolution towards a more just and secure world.”

 

He also had some hopeful words that Mr. Guterres might want to pin above his desk: “Setbacks in trying to realize the ideal do not prove that the ideal is at fault.”

 

The UN may be missing in action, but it is not in our interest to confirm reports of its death.

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Remarks by David Alton, Lord Alton of Liverpool, at a meeting on April 26th 29017, in the British House of Lords, to celebrate the 126th Anniversary of the birth of Dr.Babasaheb Ambbedkar

 Also, listen to this BBC radio programme about Dr.Ambedkar.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b090wtq1

 

Dalit voice Dr.Ambedkar2

Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar who was born into a family of untouchables in 1891

 

On a visit to West Bengal I was once given a small terracotta pot, which I keep on a shelf in my study.

Such pots must be broken once a Dalit – an untouchable – has drunk out of them so as not to pollute or contaminate other castes.

This is the 21st century. It is not the pots which need to be broken, not the people, but the system which ensnares them.

Two hundred years ago, on 22 June 1813, six years after he had successfully led the parliamentary campaign to end the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, William Wilberforce made a major speech in the House of Commons about India.

He said that the caste system,

“must surely appear to every heart of true British temper to be a system at war with truth and nature; a detestable expedient for keeping the lower orders of the community bowed down in an abject state of hopelessness and irremediable vassalage. It is justly, Sir, the glory of this country, that no member of our free community is naturally precluded from rising into the highest classes in society”.

 

Two centuries later the caste system which Wilberforce said should be abolished – and which the British during the colonial period signally failed to end and used to entrench its rule – still disfigures the lives of vast swathes of humanity.

Lest you think that these are historic questions let me make absolutely clear that hardly a day passes without some new horror being perpetrated against the Dalits.

Take Dalits and Tribals together, both of whom fall outside the caste system and experience discrimination: they comprise a quarter of India’s population and one twenty fourth of the world’s population.

It is estimated that every day three Dalit women are raped; Dalit women are often forced to sit at the back of their school classrooms, or even outside; on average every hour two Dalit houses are burnt down; every 18 minutes a crime is committed against a Dalit; each day two Dalits are murdered; 11 Dalits are beaten; many are impoverished; some half of Dalit children are under-nourished; 12% die before their fifth birthday; 56 per cent of Dalit children under the age of four are malnourished; their infant mortality rate is close to 10 %; vast numbers are uneducated or illiterate; and 45% cannot read or write; in one recent year alone, 25,455 crimes were committed against Dalits, although many more went unreported, let alone investigated or prosecuted; 70 per cent are denied the right to worship in local temples; 60 million Dalits are used as forced labourers, often reduced to carrying out menial and degrading forms of work;

Segregated and oppressed, the Dalits are frequently the victims of violent crime. In one case, 23 Dalit agricultural workers, including women and children, were murdered by the private army of high-caste landlords. What was their crime? It was listening to a local political party, whose views threatened the landlords’ hold on local Dalits as cheap labour. The list of atrocities and violence is exponential.

If you are a Dalit in India you are 27 times more likely to be trafficked or exploited in another form of modern slavery than anyone else.

 

Caste should be recognised as a root cause of this misery and a root cause of trafficking, of modern day slavery and poverty and unless we raise the profile of the oppressed Dalits nothing will change.

dalits cast out caste

Cast out Caste – Make Caste History

Dalits are trafficked and exploited. Who will raise their voice on their behalf?

Voice of Dalit International were good enough to send me a copy of Dhananjay Keer’s admirable biography of Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar who was born into a family of untouchables in 1891 and the anniversary of  whose 126 th birthday we celebrate today.

Dalit voice Dr.Ambedkar

Dr.Ambdekar’s own struggle may now be history; caste is not. In our generation it is surely time to make caste history.

Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar who was born into a family of untouchables in 1891

When Dr. Ambedkar died on December 7th, 1956, Prime Minster Nehru adjourned the Lok Sabha for the remainder of the day having told parliamentarians that Ambedkar had been controversial but had revolted against something which everybody should revolt against – all the oppressing features of Hindu society.

Nehru with Ambdekar

Nehru with Ambdekar

 

Dr. Ambedkar, the architect of Indian Constitution once remarked that “Untouchability is far worse than slavery, for the latter may be abolished by statute. It will take more than a law to remove the stigma from the people of India. Nothing less than the aroused opinion of the world can do it”

Untouchability is far worse than slavery, for the latter may be abolished by statute. It will take more than a law to remove the stigma from the people of India. Nothing less than the aroused opinion of the world can do it”

Ambedkar’s life was a life of relentless struggle for human rights. Born on a dunghill and condemned to a childhood of social leprosy, ejected from hotels, barber shops, temples and offices; facing starvation while studying to secure his education; elected to high political office and leadership without dynastic patronage; and to achieve fame as a lawyer and law maker, constitutionalist, educator, professor, economist and writer, illustrates what the human spirit can overcome.

In 1927, the young Ambedkar famously led a march to the Chavdar reservoir, a place prohibited to Dalits. On arriving at the reservoir, he bent down, cupped his hands, scooped up some water, and drank—an act completely forbidden by the caste system. The Brahmins, or upper castes, responded by furiously pouring 108 pots of curd, milk, cow dung, and cow urine into the reservoir – a ritual act which they claimed would “purify” the water polluted and defiled by untouchables.

 

Ambedkar could so easily have taken the path of violent revolution, spurred on by bitter hatred or a need for revenge – but although others regarded his shadow as a sacrilege and his touch as a pollutant, he demonstrated why it is the caste system which deserves to be put beyond human touch not the men, women and children condemned by it.

Ambedkar made untouchability a burning topic and gave it global significance. For the first time in 2500 years the insufferable plight of India’s untouchables became a central political question. Among untouchables themselves he awakened a sense of human dignity and self respect. He repudiated the helplessness of fate, the impotent, demoralised incapacity that insisted that everything is pre-ordained and irretrievable.

Ambedkar made untouchability a burning topic and gave it global significance. For the first time in 2500 years the insufferable plight of India’s untouchables became a central political question.

He began a war against a social order that allowed caste to condemn millions to a life of irreversible servitude and social ostracism. This was an existence he had shared. “You have no idea of my sufferings” he once said. Having personally experienced life below the starvation line, the effects of destitution and squalor, the humiliation of ejection, segregation, and rank discrimination, “having passed through crushing miseries and endless trouble” 

 

Ambedkar determined to challenge these evils by entering political life: becoming renowned as a scholar-politician, sadly, a combination so little in evidence today.

 

Ambedkar understood that the great nation of India would never achieve its potential if it remained disfigured and divided by caste. Without freedom to marry, who they would; to live with, who they would; to dine with, who they would; to embrace or touch, who they would; or to work with, who they would, the nation could – and can – never be fully united or able to fulfil its extraordinary potential.

“the roots of democracy” are to be found “in social relationships and in the associate life of the people who form the society.” He said that “if you give education…the caste system will be blown up. This will improve the prospect of democracy in India and put democracy in safer hands.”

He believed that “the roots of democracy” are to be found “in social relationships and in the associate life of the people who form the society.” He said that “if you give education…the caste system will be blown up. This will improve the prospect of democracy in India and put democracy in safer hands.”

Education is still the best hope for social transformation. Once people are empowered by education – as Ambedkar was himself – they can begin to address issues of poverty, lack of dignity, discrimination and other dehumanising attitudes.

Once people are empowered by education – as Ambedkar was himself – they can begin to address issues of poverty, lack of dignity, discrimination and other dehumanising attitudes

 

While still a young man of twenty, Ambedkar perceptively wrote: “Let your mission be to educate and preach the idea of education to those at least who are near to and in close contact with you.” He said that social progress would be greatly accelerated if female and male education were pursued side by side. He later insisted that “We will attain self elevation only if we learn self-help, regain our self-respect, and gain self knowledge.”

dalit advice to educate, organise and agitate, Dr.Ambedkar

While still a young man of twenty, Ambedkar perceptively wrote: “Let your mission be to educate and preach the idea of education to those at least who are near to and in close contact with you.” He said that social progress would be greatly accelerated if female and male education were pursued side by side. He later insisted that “We will attain self elevation only if we learn self-help, regain our self-respect, and gain self knowledge.” He said dalits should “educate, agitate and organise.”

He said the challenge was to “educate, agitate and organise.”

 

Ambedkar rightly perceived the negative effects which caste has on economic development – and in his booklet “Annihilation of Caste” he argued that caste deadens, paralyses and cripples the people, undermining productive activity by frequently denying opportunities to those with natural aptitude and through the entrenchment of servitude. Caste amounts to the vivisection of society.

annihilation of caste

The Annihilation of Caste b y Dr.Ambedkar

In India you can’t make poverty history unless you make caste history. 

 

Through Dr.Ambedkar’s colossal labours caste began to decay but even now it has not died.

 

Although untouchability was barred by the constitution, the system was not dismantled. Most of the worst forms of exploitation are proscribed by statute, but all too often the laws are simply not implemented and the police further entrench, rather than protect against, caste prejudice.

Tens of millions of India’s citizens are subject to many forms of highly exploitative forms of labour and modern-day slavery. This often plays into the problem of debt bondage and bonded labour, which affects tens of millions. It perpetuates a cycle of despair and hopelessness, as generations are bonded to the family debt, unable to be educated and unable to escape. Tragically, the debt is often the result of a loan taken out for something as simple and essential as a medical bill.

 

At times, Britain and India have had a turbulent relationship; but what is often called “the idea of India” is one that continues to captivate and enthral anyone who has been fortunate enough to travel there and in 1949, India and Britain were founding members of the Commonwealth, which exists to promote democracy, human rights, good governance, and the rule of law, individual liberty, egalitarianism, free trade, multiculturalism and world peace.

 

India is the world’s largest democracy—home to one-sixth of the world’s population. It can be proud of its many fine achievements. Like all our democracies, it is a work in progress, and there are many bright spots. India produced one of the first female Heads of Government; a Dalit, Dr.Ambedkar, wrote the constitution; a female Dalit became a powerful politician; a Muslim has been head of state four times; and a Jew and a Sikh are two of India’s greatest war heroes. So an astounding amount has been achieved.

 

However, India cannot be proud of the more general fate of the Dalits, the caste system, or the extremism which feeds off ostracism and alienation and which threatens modern India.

Although Dr. Ambedkar was able to have India’s Constitution and the laws framed to end untouchability, for millions and millions of people, many of those provisions have not been worth the paper on which they are written.

Ambdekar’s own struggle may now be history; caste is not. In our generation it is surely time to make caste history.

Dalit rally Dr.Ambedkar

Ambedkar made untouchability a burning topic and gave it global significance. For the first time in 2500 years the insufferable plight of India’s untouchables became a central political question.

Dalit voice Dr.Ambedkar

Dr.Ambdekar’s own struggle may now be history; caste is not. In our generation it is surely time to make caste history.

Defence of Western Values and Civilization in 2017

westerncivilisation2western-civilisation

Western civilization has entered a dangerous period of disarray. It is weakened internally by overindulgence and self-doubt, and besieged by forces hostile to its bedrock values of liberty and tolerance. The West can reverse the decline, though, by resolutely returning to its Christian roots

Preview

If Western Christian civilization collapses, a brutal and pitiless world will take its place Western humanism has religious and transcendent sources without which it is incomprehensible to itself. This civilization’s very survival now hangs on its ability to rediscover Christian truth and the values which it represents – and enable that truth to renew its eviscerated politics and tarnished institutions

Published by Geopolitical Intelligence Services https://www.gisreportsonline.com/

Defence of Western Values and Civilization in 2017  – David Alton   

Every generation faces new challenges – and as Europe gazes at the horrors of Aleppo and Mosul, or considers the challenges posed by resurgent nationalism – we are surely right to think of Flanders, Dresden, and Stalingrad.   

aleppo

dresdenstalingrad

Just one century ago, in humanity’s deadliest conflict, largely played out on Europe’s soil, 17 million lost their lives and another 20 million were wounded.     

flanders

In 1919 the Irish Poet, W.B.Yeats, wrote his poem The Second Coming.    

w-b-yeats

He describes a brutal, disintegrating, and chaotic world in which the falcon, the hunting hawk, loses touch with its keeper.       In place of Christianity, the agnostic Yeats asks “what rough beast, its hour come round at last/ Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?”  

With Western values and Western civilisation caught in a pincer movement between radical Islam and hollowed-out secular liberal institutions, have we, too, lost touch with the keeper?  Are rough beasts slouching towards us, dressed in the garb of new nationalisms?   

In 1919, Yeats foresaw a pitiless much harsher world which will replace Christian civilisation. A world in which “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;     Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.  The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned”    

Looking back at 2016 we see a world of rough beasts, where things are falling apart, and where the centre has failed to hold. From the rhetoric of Donald J.Trump to the rise of new nationalism – expressed by the likes of Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage, Geert Wilders and Beppe Grillo – the evidence is all around us.

And, like Yeats’ rough beasts, this xenophobia has found its point of entry because the centre failed to understand the depth of disaffection felt by millions of people and has failed to renew itself.

The battle is afoot but it is not yet lost and in 2017 the task of safeguarding civilised values will pass from liberal elites to Angela Merkel and François Fillon – and to their English cousin, once removed, Teresa May. All three are shaped by Christian faith and all three (despite and because of Mrs.Merkel’s handling of mass migration) understand the dangerous levels of alienation.

teresa may.jpg

On becoming British Prime Minister, Mrs.May, a Vicar’s daughter, said she had a “mission to make Britain a country that works for everyone”.

adenauer

In eschewing class warfare, Marxist economics, and Statist elitism, they are heirs of Konrad Adenauer, Alcide De Gasperi and Robert Schuman, all Christian Democrats winnowed by the horrific events that had calamitously befallen Europe for a second time.

maritain

In turn, those post-war leaders had been shaped by the ideals of Jacques Maritain, the French Catholic philosopher. Maritain’s lodestar is captured in the title of one of his greatest works: “The Person and the Common Good” (1947). Maritain reflected that “Western humanism has religious and transcendent sources without which it is incomprehensible to itself…Not only does the democratic state of mind stem from the inspiration of the Gospel, but it cannot exist without it.”

Maritain knew that a radical self-centredness, that elevated the individual or the State, rather than the person made in God’s likeness, would corrupt Europe. He held that we do not need a truth to serve us, we need a truth that we can serve. In these cavalier “post truth” days, the ninth commandment is honoured daily in its breach.

Think of the untruths routinely trotted out in the British referendum campaign or the US election: little wonder that people have lost confidence in the political classes. Discourse has been reduced to personal attacks; argument over ideas to banal sloganeering; complex questions, ranging from migration, refugees, and freedom of movement to xenophobic nationalism and the scapegoating of difference.

Disinformation, propaganda and false news fill the echo chambers of the anti-social media. Worse still, everything has to be said sound bites or in 140 characters – or it isn’t worth saying. This is re-enforced by a media which distorts, dishonours and revels in people’s failings. When we hack down all the trees, from where are the birds supposed to sing in the future? Disillusionment and the breakdown of trust in the political classes has led to voters – from Brexit to Clinton/Trump – making it clear that they do not trust “expert” opinion. 

brexit

In the UK, the serial banking failures, such as HBOS and HSBC, the failure of managers to take responsibility for shocking lapses, the phone hacking scandal, the collapse of trust in MPs and many others, all points to why the centre is not holding. Instead of ethical leadership we are confronted by poor governance, lack of accountability, regulation found wanting, insufficient boundaries and the connivance of those in authority, who should have known better. Little wonder folk feel betrayed.

edmund_burke2_c

Edmund Burke laid great emphasis on the transmission of values from one generation to the next, talking of a “partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born”.

How many feel part of such a partnership? How many know the story of how Western civilisation was formed? Do we know the price that was paid for what we enjoy? Do we cherish and hold in trust what we have been given? Do we pass on our values and beliefs with a mother’s breast milk? A year after Maritain wrote “The Person and the Common Good” Eleanor Roosevelt helped bring to birth the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In the aftermath of the Holocaust this was a landmark annunciation of what western civilisation believed it stood for. But from what well was this water drawn? Its radical attempt at universal application was rooted in the Pauline injunction that “There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one”.

Meanwhile, as angry, intolerant atheists seek to purge all public reference to religious faith, Maritain’s belief that our civilisation has “religious and transcendent sources without which it is incomprehensible to itself” is just as hotly contested.

durkheim

In the nineteenth century, Émile Durkheim questioned how a society can remain cohesive when traditional social and religious ties can no longer be assumed. Whether, in these years of disillusionment and crisis of civilisation, we can rediscover and defend Christian truth and the values which it represents – and enable that truth to renew our eviscerated politics and tarnished institutions (from banks to legislatures) – is surely the question for our time: especially in a world caught between these twin dangers of radical Islam and hostile atheism. Many atheists work to tear Christianity from the fabric of our societies. But they should be careful about what they wish for – and of what will be lost.   

As The Guardian newspaper correctly observed in May of this year: “The idea that people have some rights just because they are human, and entirely irrespective of merit, certainly isn’t derived from observation of the world. It arose out of Christianity, no matter how much Christians have in practice resisted it. Although human rights have become embedded in our institutions at the same time as religious observance has been in decline, they could become vulnerable in an entirely post-Christian environment where the collective memory slips from the old moorings inherited from Christian ethics.”

Along with the development of human rights the Christian faith has also radically shaped politics, governance, and social activism.  For much of the last seventy years Christian Democracy – whether called by that name or not – has informed the best of our politics.

christian-democracy

It defied Nazism and Communism and with its emphasis on social justice, subsidiarity and solidarity, has offered an alternative to unfettered market economics and hedonism. Today it represents the best hope of defeating resurgent nationalism and safeguarding western civilisation. Indeed, for most of the last two millennia Christianity has underpinned the whole edifice of Western culture and, notwithstanding some of the things done in the name of religion, Christianity has been a stabilizing and unifying force, demanding better of us, and safeguarding tradition. Combined with Hellenistic ideals and Roman law, Judaeo-Christian beliefs have shaped our western civilisation.

diarmaid-macculloch

The Oxford historian, Diarmaid MacCulloch, rightly says that religion is “a force that shaped the English soul” – a sentiment that has applicability throughout Europe.

justin-welby

In November, speaking in Paris, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt.Revd.Justin Welby, said: “Values emerge from histories of interaction and are rooted in stories of virtue, above all in Europe the stories of the Judaeo Christian tradition”. 

It is not too great a claim to say that this tradition and the efforts of the Church, both as an intermediary and as an institution, have provided the glue for many of our democracies. At its best the Christian faith gave birth to some of our most important centres of learning, to the upholding of God-given Commandments, to a belief in the dignity of man, to social solidarity, to the cultivation of the virtues, and to the promotion of the common good. In the UK, in the nineteenth century, significant Christian men and women, such as William Wilberforce, in galvanising the opposition to slavery, Lord Shaftesbury, in demanding an end to the exploitation of children in factories, Elizabeth Fry in promoting prison reform, and Cardinal Henry Manning and William Booth, by reaching out to the masses, used their values to shape their deeds and to improve the common lot.

elizabeth-frycardinal-manning

In the twentieth century, Christianity produced the courageous defiance of men like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Claus Graf von Stauffenberg, and Maximillian Kolbe. It gave us the Christian Democratic leaders who reconstructed Western Europe and, later, the dissenting Christians of Eastern Europe – such as John Paul II and Lech Walesa – whose actions ushered in radical change.

john paul IIdietrich-bonhoeffer

 

By contrast, in the twenty-first century, we are far more likely to say that Christians should remain silent about their faith – or risk ridicule or dismissal from their workplace. And to what does this lead? Instead of upholding the sanctity of every life we are, for instance, far more likely to dismiss a midwife (as happened in Scotland) for refusing to abort a baby; or tell a mother with a Down’s Syndrome child that she should abort it, rather than provide love and practical support; far more like to say to a Dutch alcoholic that he should be euthanized rather than help him conquer his addiction.

Paradoxically, the liberal elites who promote eugenics and are so hostile to religious beliefs, drive people – many of whom live in the “rust belt” urban communities of Europe and who refuse to accept this paradigm – into the hands of the very forces they claim to avowedly oppose. And in these circumstances, as Yeats foresaw, “the centre will not hold.”

 lenin.jpgnietzche

As these neo-pagan values take a grip, and attempts are made to deliberately de-Christianise Europe, we step into the unknown. Perhaps not entirely the unknown. Marx, after all, denounced the opiate of religion while Lenin said that to even postulate the existence of God was “an unspeakable abomination and a detestable plague”. Nietzsche pronounced God’s funeral rites: “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? ….Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

Those Marxist-Leninist societies shaped on God’s funeral pyre are hardly a hopeful indicator of life without Christianity or God. Nor are the attempt to make men into gods rather than by cultivating a relationship between God and humanity or by building a bridge between faith and reason.

The obligate, symbiotic nature of the relationship between society and Christianity is well illustrated by Einstein’s famous maxim about science and religion: “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”  Today we are more likely to echo Christopher Hitchens:  “One must state it plainly. Religion comes from the period of human prehistory…To ‘choose’ dogma and faith over doubt and experience is to throw out the ripening vintage and to reach greedily for the Kool-Aid…. God did not create man in his own image. Evidently, it was quite the other way about.”

christopher_hitchens_2008-04-24_001

Yet, many people instinctively see the burial of God as a loss – both to us as individuals and to society as a whole. They comprehend the truth of the remark in Dostoyevsky’s great novel The Brothers Karamazov that “If God does not exist, everything is permitted.” Whilst, to make a point, that may be over-stating the case, it has a certain resonance today – especially in the virtual world of the internet – where you can incite hatred and promote everything from suicide sites to bomb making.

With our failure to mind the gaps in society this is spawning a crisis of confidence and a crisis of values. The hollowing out of our institutions and our loss of identity is leading to a crisis of civilisation. All around us we can hear the distress calls but too often we stay silent rather than jeopardise our economic or political interests. And into this crisis of Western Values now steps radical Islam and Jihadism. Inspired by Judaeo-Christian ideals, the thirty articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is emblematic of what the West stands for. Smell the coffee, its values are not the values of the Islamists or Jihadists.

In 1948 Saudi Arabia declined to sign the Declaration stating that it was incompatible with Sharia law –detecting both its Judaeo-Christian inspiration and its acceptability to a secular world. Countries like Pakistan (influenced by its far sighted leader, Muhammad Ali Jinnah) and Iran did sign.

jinnah

M.A.Jinnah – Pakistan’s Founder, who called for a State which respected and protected its minorities and gave them equal rights.

But by 1982 Iran’s representative to the United Nations, Said Rajaie-Khorassani, said the Declaration was “a secular understanding of the Judaeo-Christian tradition” which Muslims could not implement without being in conflict with Sharia. 

So, despite the conflict between Sunnis and Shias, Saudi Arabia and Iran, here is something that unites them. And what kind of world does this create? Last year Iran’s brutal theocratic regime executed 1,000 people. Iran’s values can be characterised by executions, stonings, torture, restrictions, arrest, conviction, imprisonment, harassment, interrogation, solitary confinement, floggings, and by the denial of political, social and religious freedoms. Hundreds of human rights defenders and political prisoners continue to be detained in Iran.

golrokh-ebrahimi-iraee

Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, a young female Iranian author and human rights activist is languishing in jail having been given a six year prison sentence for writing an unpublished novel about stoning. A Christian Pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani, and three others, have been arrested on charges of action against national security. Three of them face charges related to consumption of alcohol for drinking wine during a communion service.

They were each sentenced to 80 lashes—a barbaric and inhumane punishment. Iranian theocracy and Saudi Wahhabism both threaten western civilisation and values today. Their ideologies underpin every Islamist group, with devastating consequences for millions of people worldwide.  In Saudi, Wahhabism determines the value placed on a woman’s evidence in a Sharia court; refuses to accept a person’s right to change their religious beliefs (or to be atheists); uses barbaric punishments; publically flogs and beheads citizens.  Honour killings, enslavement, arranged marriages, and such like, that follow in its wake, are all incompatible with western values.

wahhabism

These practices also run counter to the beliefs of many Muslims and Islamic supremacism is not, of course, the only way of interpreting Islam – and is rejected by millions of Muslims. Yet it does lead to jihadist violence. Yet, instead of understanding the catastrophic consequences of Saudi’s spending of almost $100 billion on exporting global Wahhabism, we go on feeding the crocodiles.

The idea that ISIS, Boko Haram, and the rest, are nothing to do with Wahhabi Islam is a blatant lie. Yet we are wilfully ignoring this axis and are told that great progress is being made because Saudi Arabia might one day let women drive a car and may remove some of its hate mongering from school text books.

Even more dangerously, we continue to naively suggest that Saudi is our key counterterrorism ally. Recall that fifteen of the nineteen jihadists involved in the slaughter of 9/11 were Saudis. Here is a Janus face that feigns moderation when talking to the west but promotes fundamentalism; that says it opposes terror while exporting its ideology.

Saudi warns the West that we will be far worse off if Jihadists take control of their wealth and oil but then does precious little to challenge or reform the precepts that give rise to this threat.   What is driving this foolishness? Here’s one clue.

yemen

Britain alone, in the period since the conflict in the Yemen began, has sold £3.3 billion of arms to Saudi. This is a world in which everything has a price and where values count for nothing. 2017 will continue to throw these contested views into sharp relief.

Western civilisation is clearly under threat from those who, by force, wish to promote Islamist supremacism. That in turn threatens our values of mutual respect, coexistence, democracy, diversity, equality, human rights, and the rule of secular law. To defeat this threat we urgently need to remember who we are and what made us who we are. And, in the presence of Yeats’ rough beasts, and a centre that has not held, we might pause and reflect for a moment on how things will turn out unless, in our generation, we learn to defend our Western values and our civilisation.

Professor David Alton is an Independent Crossbench Peer

Successful Conclusion of Campaign To Provide BBC World Service Transmissions to The Korean Peninsula. Also reports on human rights violations in North Korea

Lord Alton of Liverpool, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea:

 

As Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, I welcome today’s announcement by the BBC of a Korean-language World Service. The announcement follows many years of work by the APPG and others, and we congratulate the BBC and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on making the correct decision for the people of North Korea.

This is a practical and overdue step in breaking the information blockade that engulfs North Korea – and fulfils our duties under Article 19 of the Universal declaration of Human Rights – to ensure unimpeded free access to information and news.

Whether in the dark days of Nazi occupied Europe or in remote parts of the world today, the BBC World Service has always provides access to truthful reporting and given people hope in times of oppression and despair. Mikael Gorbachev once said that even he relied on the BBC to learn what was really going on in the world while Aung San Suu Kyi said that the BBC World Service kept hope alive during her years of house arrest in Burma.

In July 2014, I initiated a wide-ranging House of Lords debate on the BBC World Service. In that speech, my colleague, Lord Eames, stated:

‘I visited North Korea…From a most unlikely source, there was a remark that will live with me for a very long time. Obviously, I cannot disclose the complete circumstances, but the words speak for themselves. “Where”, he said to me, “is the BBC?”. If you knew the person who said that, the circumstances and the position that he held, it would set the balance right of many of the impressions that we have of what is going on in North Korea. Those words speak louder than statistics, transmission problems and the facilities needed, and I convey them to the House with great feeling’.

North Korea is a country where access to foreign media is prohibited and accessing such media is punishable by barbaric sentences. Today, the BBC and the United Kingdom Government have taken a stand against the censorship and repression practiced by the North Korean Government. Free speech, objective news, and voices from the outside world will now travel from London to the darkest corners of North Korea.
Over the past decade, the APPG has listened to many calls from exiled North Koreans to send information to their compatriots north of the 38th parallel. This call has now been heard. A mistake which has often been made is to believe that to engage with North Koreans, one must deal with the North Korean Government. Our approach at the APPG has differed. We have instead listened to the knowledge and stories of the 30,000 North Koreans who have escaped their homeland. Some of these exiles have bravely addressed our group in Parliament and their stories have undoubtedly inspired today’s BBC service and will go on to challenge a sixty year old status-quo on the Korean peninsula.

The work of the APPG has long-established the increasing desire of North Koreans to know what is happening in the world outside. Escapees say that significant numbers risk imprisonment and even execution to consume foreign media. But try as they may, the North Korean Government has been unable to put the information genie back in the bottle.

In 2014, a United Nations Commission of Inquiry, chaired by Justice Michael Kirby, detailed ‘an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought’ as well as ‘the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, information and association’ in North Korea. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights insists that citizens have a right to access news and information.

For the people of North Korea, I am pleased that breaking their information blockade and upholding their given rights is to become a central pillar of UK foreign policy and BBC practice. From the Soviet Union to Burma, the BBC has shown that broadcasting can inspire and broaden the horizons of the repressed.

Facing the challenge of North Korea is an urgent diplomatic and political problem, but it is also a moral obligation. A BBC World Service in the Korean-language should come as a sledgehammer to the North Korean Government’s information blockade and inspire those who will one day lead a new North Korea into the light.

Link: https://appgnk.org/2016/11/16/lord-alton-bbc-world-service-and-north-korea/

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November 2016:

  • NORTH KOREA: Over 75 percent of Christians persecuted in North Korea don’t survive their punishments
  • By Czarina Ong
  • Reports obtained from the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, a South Korean non-profit organisation, showed that over 65,000 people have already been persecuted for their faith in North Korea. From that number, close to 99 percent of the 11,370 defectors confirmed that there is absolutely no religious freedom under Kim Jong-un’s leadership.Meanwhile, the group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) released a report called “Total Denial: Violations of Freedom of Religion or Belief in North Korea” in September revealing that members of religious minorities suspected of state crimes are “being hung on a cross over a fire, crushed under a steamroller, herded off bridges, and trampled underfoot.”“A policy of guilt by association applies, meaning that the relatives of Christians are also detained regardless of whether they share the Christian belief. Even North Koreans who have escaped to China, and who are or become Christians, are often repatriated and subsequently imprisoned in a political prison camp,” the CSW report stated.As a result, North Koreans don’t enjoy the freedom of expressing their religious beliefs. If they try to do so, they are subjected to discrimination, detention, and all sorts of inhumane treatment.
  • The report added that Kim Jong-un sees religious belief as a major threat to his leadership. Thus, he requires people to acknowledge him as their nation’s “supreme leader.”
  • As if the torture isn’t bad enough, the North Korean government even goes a step further by punishing the relatives of these Christians and members of other religious groups.
  • What’s worse, over 75 percent of Christians persecuted from their faith do not survive their punishments, The Christian Post reported. This is why only 1.2 percent of the defectors engaged in secret religious activities while they were still in North Korea.
  • Christian Today (12.11.2016) – http://bit.ly/2fBKxDq – Christians don’t fare very well in North Korea. Human rights groups are giving grim reports on the treatment of religious minorities in the East Asian country, saying that over 75 percent of those who are subjected to torture, imprisonment and all sorts of punishment do not live to tell their tales.
  • Posted In Freedom of Religion and Belief
  • ———————————————————————-

Chilling testimony of the evils of North Korea’s regime

Also see the web site of the All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea:

http://appgnk.org/

New report launched at Westminster on the lack of religious freedom in North Korea:

Read the full report and executive summary at:

https://freedomdeclared.org/news/appgs-report-persecution-north-korea-published/

Human rights 4

On 10 December – international human rights day – the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief (APPG) published the findings of its Parliamentary Inquiry into persecution in North Korea. The report, Religion and Belief in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, includes witness accounts of the horrific human rights abuses suffered by religious and belief minorities in the country, which often go unheard because of the secrecy of the regime.
It concludes: “The DPRK systematically oppresses freedom of religion or belief, and Christians in particular are targeted by the regime and subjected to chronic human rights abuses, amounting to crimes against humanity.”

The report makes a number of recommendations to the British Government, including that it continue pursuing the referral of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea to the International Criminal Court to account for its treatment of its citizens.

It also recommends that the UK invest in long-term strategic engagement with North Korea. Some of the practical suggestions include: educational exchanges, investing in the 30,000 North Korean people who have managed to escape, breaking the information blockade, critical engagement on human rights and the re-instigation of the ‘Six Party Talks’. Further, it urges the BBC World Service to establish a radio broadcast to the Korean Peninsula, in both English and Korean languages, giving citizens a window out of their closed world.

The report was launched at a meeting chaired by Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, Vice Chair of the APPG on North Korea. Those present heard of routine, horrific suffering at the hands of the DPRK state, with the Rev. Stuart Windsor, of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, sharing that “Between 1997 and 2007 an estimated one million North Koreans died or were killed in prison while the West has been silent”. The meeting also heard of the ingrained suspicion of religion from Kim, Joo-il, who told how “In North Korea, anti-religious education starts at six-seven years – people are taught to antagonise religion”. While Zoe Smith, of Open Doors UK & Ireland, highlighted a strong message of the APPG’s report, that the current situation in the DPRK “needs the ‘world citizen’ to step up to the table and say ‘enough’s enough’. Change is needed.”

Baroness Berridge, chairman of the APPG, commented: “For the past sixty-plus years, the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea has committed egregious human rights violations – the details of which would turn the stomach of even the most hardened person.

This includes banishing those who follow a religion to remote places, incarcerating them, subjecting them to torture in labour camps, and murdering Christians for merely possessing a Bible…For many years North Korea has been viewed as an impossible case, but now the international community is finally beginning to afford the country the attention its people so desperately need.”

Lord Alton, chairman of the APPG on North Korea and Vice-chair of the APPG on International Freedom of Religion or Belief, highlighted that “Christmas spent in a North Korean gulag will be just another day of grotesque suffering”, concluding that “We who enjoy political and religious freedom; free to practice our faith; free to celebrate Christmas with our loved ones, must speak out and take practical actions to help bring the long winter of oppression to an end. This Report should be essential Christmas reading for Governments, MPs, and policy makers”.

December 11th – Evidence Given at Westminster on the Plight of Disabled People in north Korea: Testimony of a Disabled North Korean Escapee

Ji-Seong-Ho-a-former-North-Korean-defector

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/11288881/British-Government-duped-into-funding-North-Korean-athletes-at-London-2012-Paralympics.html


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/11286517/North-Korea-leaves-disabled-to-die.html

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/north-korea-castrates-dwarfs-makes-4790278

Also visit the web site of the All Party Parliamentary group on North Korea: http://appgnk.org/

The unprecedented publication of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) report calling for the prosecution of North Korea’s leaders for crimes against humanity.

The unprecedented publication of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) report calling for the prosecution of North Korea’s leaders for crimes against humanity.

400,000 are estimated to have died in North Korea's camps over the past 30 years.

400,000 are estimated to have died in North Korea’s camps over the past 30 years.

A United Nations Commission of Inquiry has called for the leaders of North Korea to be
prosecuted at The Hague for crimes against humanity. Lord Alton of Liverpool has
chaired a parliamentary committee on North Korea for 10 years. The COI report
underlines and corroborates the witness statements about unspeakable cruelty that Lord
Alton’s committee has heard. This report may be the catalyst for global action to force
change in North Korea.
His reaction follows details of two forthcoming meetings at Westminster, where you can learn more:
——————————————————————————————————
Tuesday 4th March 4-5pm Committee Room 15 (note change from CR 18)
APPG North Korea and Open Doors

Fiona Bruce MP is a Vice Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea

Fiona Bruce MP is a Vice Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea

A briefing on Christians in North Korea, chaired by Fiona Bruce MP, with speakers including a survivor of a North Korean prison camp and a field expert on North Korea. It is very timely to draw attention to North Korea following the publication of the UN’s first ever report on human rights abuses in North Korea.

Please RSVP to

advocacy@opendoorsuk.org or for further enquires please call 01993 777300

Then on Tuesday 11 March at 5.30pm in Committee Room 4A.

Following the publication this week of the report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on North Korea, the All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea will hold a discussion focused on the way forward, chaired by Lord Alton of Liverpool.

The speakers will include:∙

Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, former chief prosecutor in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic;∙

Sir Geoffrey Nice QC will be among the speakers

Sir Geoffrey Nice QC will be among the speakers

Brad Adams, Asia Director of Human Rights Watch;∙

Benedict Rogers, East Asia Team Leader, Christian Solidarity Worldwide and a co-founder of the International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK)

There will also be a screening of a new film on North Korea produced by Human Rights Watch.

Please come, and invite others. Both meetings are open to the public

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North Korea and the United Nations Commission of Inquiry

Two recent events, inextricably linked, are harbingers of significant change in North Korea, and they pose significant questions to the international community about how best to respond.

First, in December last, came the execution of Chang Song-thaek, the uncle of the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

Chang’s death was both a sign of Kim Jong-un’s ruthlessness but also a sign of weakness and fear.

Chang’s death was both a sign of Kim Jong-un’s ruthlessness but also a sign of weakness and fear.

Chang’s death was both a sign of Kim Jong-un’s ruthlessness but also a sign of weakness and fear.

Kim Jong Un

Kim Jong Un

Chang Song-thaek had to be killed because he had questioned an ideology which has paralysed economic development, incarcerated hundreds of thousands of its citizens, and which has conferred pariah status on the country. His execution became the most high profile of a succession of killings, symptomatic of a system which routinely murders and imprisons its own people, and which subjugates them through indoctrination and propaganda.

One million men under arms. Military expenditure could be used for development and for feeding a malnourished people.

One million men under arms. Military expenditure could be used for development and for feeding a malnourished people.

Now, two months later comes the unprecedented publication of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) report calling for the prosecution of North Korea’s leaders for crimes against humanity.

After a year collecting evidence from North Korean escapees, the COI compared the country’s egregious violations of human rights with those of the totalitarian regimes of the 1930s and has called for their referral to the International Criminal Court. Despite their angry protestations, the leadership should be fearfully reflecting that, as at Nuremberg and at the Hague, a day of reckoning may one day come.

The ICC - Despite angry protestations, the leadership should be fearfully reflecting that, as at Nuremberg and at the Hague, a day of reckoning may one day come.

The ICC – Despite angry protestations, the leadership should be fearfully reflecting that, as at Nuremberg and at the Hague, a day of reckoning may one day come.

Unlike their former allies in Burma – who have also faced allegations of crimes against humanity but have begun to alter course – the North Korean regime has eschewed the path of reform, staking their future on the world’s indifference. It is a huge miscalculation.

Mr. Justice Kirby, the highly respected Australian Judge, who chaired the Commission, and his fellow Commissioners, say in their 400-page report that North Korea’s crimes against humanity are sui generis: “the gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world”

Judge Michael Kirby

Judge Michael Kirby

They detail what they describe as “unspeakable atrocities” and spell out their scope in graphic detail:

“These crimes against humanity entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”

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.

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.

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.

Chang Song-thaek high profile execution is certainly redolent of the period to which Michael Kirby alludes.

Chang was seen as a potential alternative. He had been the power behind the throne and was close to China and admiring of its reform programme. China’s anger at his killing sits alongside their barely concealed contempt for an “ally” which routinely aborts North Korean babies, fathered by Chinese men, who are regarded as a contamination of Korean blood line.

Chang’s execution – some unsubstantiated reports in China allege that he was thrown to the dogs ; the purges; the reign of terror; the falsifying of history; the show trials; the network of gulags which incarcerate between 200,000 and 300,000 people; the estimated 400,000 people who have died in the prison camps in the last 30 years; and the attempt to obliterate religious belief and all political dissent; all bear all the hallmarks of a regime which has carefully studied, admires and imitates the visceral brutality of Joseph Stalin.

North Korea's Gulags

North Korea’s Gulags

Not for nothing, on a visit to North Korea, was I shown the bullet proof railway carriage which Stalin gave as a gift to Kim Il Sung.

But the regime has more recent heroes and I was also shown the gifts of Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu. My guide seemed blissfully unaware of the fate of the Ceaușescus, asking me “are they unwell?” when I asked her if she knew what had happened to them.

My guide seemed blissfully unaware of the fate of the Ceaușescus, asking me “are they unwell?” when I asked her if she knew what had happened to them.

My guide seemed blissfully unaware of the fate of the Ceaușescus, asking me “are they unwell?” when I asked her if she knew what had happened to them.

Unlike the North Korean public – sadly denied access to BBC World Service broadcasts, as they do not broadcast to the Korean Peninsula – the whole world knows what happened to the Ceaușescus. Thanks to the COI, the free world can no longer claim that it had no idea of what happens inside North Korea or the scale of the depredations in North Korea.

One of the relatively new factors which has made possible the COI’s report are the first-hand witness statement s to which the Commission has had access.

  One of the relatively new factors which has made possible the COI’s report are the first-hand witness statement s to which the Commission has had access.

One of the relatively new factors which has made possible the COI’s report are the first-hand witness statement s to which the Commission has had access.

Just as North Korea can no longer completely keep out information and contact from beyond its borders, so the presence of around 30,000 North Koreans living in democratic countries has been a game-changer. The first-hand evidence of escapees has opened the eyes of the world and aroused the anger of many who were previously disinterested.

The first-hand evidence of escapees has opened the eyes of the world and aroused the anger of many who were  previously disinterested.

The first-hand evidence of escapees has opened the eyes of the world and aroused the anger of many who were previously disinterested.

It is now ten years since I urged the British Parliament to highlight human rights violations in North Korea with the same emphasis we place on security issues. Perhaps the COI report will finally make this happen.

As the world discovered during the Helsinki Process, after the West and the Soviet Bloc had reached a military stalemate, human rights engagement (at a number of different levels) tipped the scales and brought fundamental change.

The Helsinki Final Act of 1975 linked foreign policy to basic human rights principles. A firm stand on human rights, linked to a strong non-appeasement military policy, is the catalyst for change. That is why I have argued for Helsinki with a Korean face, and why I strongly welcome the COI’s report.

We should enter negotiations which guarantee human rights, such as free exchange of people and religious liberties ... By linking the present crisis with the human rights violations, a crisis can be turned into an opportunity. To do nothing about North Korea would be the most dangerous option of all.”

We should enter negotiations which guarantee human rights, such as free exchange of people and religious liberties … By linking the present crisis with the human rights violations, a crisis can be turned into an opportunity. To do nothing about North Korea would be the most dangerous option of all.”

Ten years ago I told the House of Lords that:

“By championing the cause of those who are suffering in North Korea, the international community will create the conditions for the establishment of democracy ….Learning the lessons of [the] Helsinki [process], we must do nothing to licence the regime in Pyongyang to commit further atrocities against its own people. We should enter negotiations which guarantee human rights, such as free exchange of people and religious liberties … By linking the present crisis with the human rights violations, a crisis can be turned into an opportunity. To do nothing about North Korea would be the most dangerous option of all.”

During the intervening decade I have chaired the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea and have often felt frustrated that we have pursued that dangerous option of doing nothing at all. As Judge Kirby discovered once confronted by the personal accounts of those who have suffered at the regime’s hands doing nothing cannot be an option.

North Korean Poet, Mr.Jang, has broadcast on BBC World Service - which cannot be heard on the Korean peninsula.

North Korean Poet, Mr.Jang, has broadcast on BBC World Service – which cannot be heard on the Korean peninsula.

Part Two of the COI report relies heavily on personal stories. It cites evidence given by individual victims and witnesses, including the harrowing treatment meted out to political prisoners, some of whom said they would catch snakes and mice to feed malnourished babies. Others told of watching family members being murdered in prison camps, and of defenceless inmates being used for martial arts practice.

This is of a piece with the accounts which my Committee has been given.

It is more than ten years since I met Yoo Sang-joon. Yoo’s story was particularly harrowing and disturbing. He told me how he had seen his wife, and all bar one of his children shot dead. He subsequently escaped across the border to China with his one remaining son. The boy died en route.

The bravery of Yoo Sang-joon

The bravery of Yoo Sang-joon

Yoo Sang-joon himself became an Asian Raoul Wallenberg – the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jewish lives during the Holocaust. Yoo Sang-joon bravely re-entered North Korea and has helped many people flee across the border. This led to his arrest in China in 2007, but, on compassionate grounds, China relented, allowing him to be repatriated to Seoul knowing that in the North he would be executed.

My Committee heard the story of Lee Keumsoon. Her death camp supervisors stripped off Lee’s clothes to establish whether she was pregnant. Like others who have become pregnant in China she was forcibly aborted.

The dignity, integrity and bearing of the women and men who have suffered so much is striking.

  Shin Dong Hyok told my Parliamentary Committee that as a child, he witnessed fellow child prisoners being killed through accidents and beatings. He saw his mother and brother executed in Camp 14.

Shin Dong Hyok told my Parliamentary Committee that as a child, he witnessed fellow child prisoners being killed through accidents and beatings. He saw his mother and brother executed in Camp 14.

None more so that Shin Dong-Hyok, whose story is movingly told by Blaine Harden in “Escape from Camp 14”, extracts of which were serialised in 2012 by BBC Radio Four. I have now met Shin several times. It would be impossible not to be deeply affected by both his story and by his demeanour. Despite everything that has been done to him and his family he still loves his country and wants the best for North Korea and its people.

Shin is nearly thirty and spent the first 23 years of his life in North Korea’s Political prison Camp 14, where he was born. Camp 14 is one of five sprawling prison camps in the mountains of North Korea, about fifty five miles north of Pyongyang. No one born in Camp 14 or any other political prison camp – “the absolute control zone” – had previously escaped from North Korea. These are places where the hard labour, the malnutrition, or freezing conditions, minus 20 Celsius in winter, will often get you before the firing squad.

Shin told my Parliamentary Committee that as a child, he witnessed fellow child prisoners being killed through accidents and beatings. He told me that children and parents were required to watch and report on one another. He was forced to work from the age of 10 or 11.

His parents were sent to the camp in 1965 as political prisoners. Thirty years later, after family members tried to escape from the camp, Shin was interrogated in an underground torture chamber.

Following this failed escape attempt, he was forced, on April 6th 1996, to watch as his mother and brother were publicly executed – common in the camps.

Guards bound the hands and feet of the 13-year-old boy and roasted him over a fire. The burns still scar Shin’s back, the memories have indelibly scarred his mind; and he remains haunted by the double life he was forced to lead and the lies he had to tell to survive.

In 2005, having been tortured, mistreated and discriminated against as the son and brother of a declared traitor – and suffering from constant hunger – Shin and a compatriot tried to escape.
His friend died on the barbed wire – not realising that it carried a high electric current – but, although he was badly burnt, Shin literally climbed over the corpse of his friend and for 25 days he secretly travelled towards the Yalu River and over the border into China.

In Shanghai he found a way over the wall of the South Korean Consulate and, after 6 months there, he was allowed to travel to Seoul. Physically and emotionally Shin was deeply scarred.
NKShin
Shin Dong Hyok: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/un-witness-describes-horrors-of-north-korea/
and also scroll down to watch “Becoming Human: Shin’s New Life” halfway down.

Shin was joined at our Parliamentary Hearing by Ahn Myeong-Cheol, aged 37, who worked as a prison guard at four political prison camps – also within the “absolute control zone” between 1987 and 1994.

He described how his father killed himself when he realised that he had been heard criticising the regime; his mother and brothers were sent to prison camps; Ahn was re-educated and became a prison guard in the “absolute control zones.

Vividly and harrowingly he described how he witnessed guard dogs imported from Russia tear three children to pieces and how the camp warden congratulated the guard who had trained the dogs; he said that even when prisoners died they are punished- their corpses and remains simply left to disintegrate and rot away on the open ground.

Particularly harrowing was the evidence given by two diminutive North Korean women who, speaking through an interpreter, recounted their experiences. From time to time their stories were interrupted as the women wept.

One escapee told parliamentarians: “I couldn’t bear to die with my children in my arms. As long as I was alive I couldn’t just watch them die.”

One escapee told parliamentarians: “I couldn’t bear to die with my children in my arms. As long as I was alive I couldn’t just watch them die.”

Jeon Young-Ok is 40. When she was a little girl her mother took the family across the Tumen River to try and flee to China. They were caught and her father and brother imprisoned. Her mother died of a heart disease and left her three children alone. Years later, now married with three children of her own, Jeon managed to make furtive forays from North Korea into China to secure money and food for her children. Twice she was apprehended and jailed.

Movingly she told the parliamentary hearing: “I couldn’t bear to die with my children in my arms. As long as I was alive I couldn’t just watch them die.” This was an allusion to the starvation of the 1990s when anything from 1 to 2 million North Koreans starved to death.

In China Mrs.Jeon remained at risk “nowhere was safe.” If she was caught the Chinese would send her back. And this is exactly what happened to her. Caught in 1997 and again in 2001 – she was sent to Northern Pyeong-an Detention Camp.

“I was put in a camp where I saw and experienced unimaginable things. We were made to pull the beards from the faces of elderly people. Prison guards treated them like animals. The women were forced to strip. A group of us were thrown just one blanket and we were forced to pull it from one another as we tried to hide our shame. I felt like an animal, no better than a pig. I didn’t want to live.”

“I felt like an animal, no better than a pig. I didn’t want to live.”

Jeon Young-Ok added: “They tortured the Christians the most. They were denied food and sleep. They were forced to stick out their tongues and iron was pushed into it.”

“They tortured the Christians the most. They were denied food and sleep. They were forced to stick out their tongues and iron was pushed into it.

“They tortured the Christians the most. They were denied food and sleep. They were forced to stick out their tongues and iron was pushed into it.”

Despite all this, she harbours no hatred for her country and shows extraordinary fortitude and equanimity: “The past is not important but these terrible things are still happening in North Korea. These camps should be abolished forever.”

In 2011 Mrs Kim Hye Sook gave evidence to my committee and described a normal working day in “Camp 18″. She recounted the manual labour undertaken by prisoners and scarcity of food provisions and the regular public executions and cannibalism which she saw over her 27 years imprisonment during which she saw the death of her son in the camp.

Here are the stories of religious persecution, the lack of freedom of movement, the lack of labour rights, the non-implementation of legal codes, the lack of a fair trial, the lack of judicial oversight of detention facilities and the severe mistreatment of repatriated persons- mainly repatriated from China.

Park Ji says she was sold to a Chinese farmer. Any woman who becomes pregnant and is carrying a child with a Chinese father will be forcibly aborted so as not to

Park Ji says she was sold to a Chinese farmer. Any woman who becomes pregnant and is carrying a child with a Chinese father will be forcibly aborted so as not to “pollute the blood line.”

Throughout the hearings which I have chaired I have been struck by the consistent picture which has emerged of appalling violence against women in detention facilities and the chilling accounts of life in prisons and labour camps. The individual stories bring home the enormity of the suffering that lies behind individual statistics. The COI report brings many of these dark stories into the light.

Professor Muntarbhorn described North Korea’s human rights record as “abysmal” due to “the repressive nature of the power base: at once cloistered, controlled and callous.” The exploitation of ordinary people, he said, “has become the pernicious prerogative of the ruling elite”.

Professor Muntarbhorn described North Korea’s human rights record as “abysmal” due to “the repressive nature of the power base: at once cloistered, controlled and callous.” The exploitation of ordinary people, he said, “has become the pernicious prerogative of the ruling elite”.

My Committee also took evidence from Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, the previous United Nations Special Rapporteur on North Korea. Like his successor, Indonesia’s former Attorney General Marzuki Darusman and, like the COI, they were refused all access to North Korea. It is often said that the North Korean regime has managed to exist behind a wall of secrecy; that it treats the international community with contempt by refusing to allow outside observers into the country

Professor Muntarbhorn described North Korea’s human rights record as “abysmal” due to “the repressive nature of the power base: at once cloistered, controlled and callous.” The exploitation of ordinary people, he said, “has become the pernicious prerogative of the ruling elite”.

All eight of Muntarbhorn’s reports to the UN detailed an extraordinarily grave situation, in which he says the abuses are “both systematic and pervasive” and “egregious and endemic”, and he has concluded that “it is incumbent upon the national authorities and the international community to address the impunity factor which has enabled such violations to exist and/or persist for a long time.”

The COI  comments in its conclusions that “the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea…has for decades pursued policies involving crimes that shock the conscience of humanity. This raises questions about the inadequacy of the response of the international community” and it trenchantly tells the international community that it “must accept its responsibility to protect the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from crimes against humanity, because the Government of the DPRK has manifestly failed to do so.”

The COI comments in its conclusions that “the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea…has for decades pursued policies involving crimes that shock the conscience of humanity. This raises questions about the inadequacy of the response of the international community” and it trenchantly tells the international community that it “must accept its responsibility to protect the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from crimes against humanity, because the Government of the DPRK has manifestly failed to do so.”

Little wonder the COI comments in its conclusions that “the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea…has for decades pursued policies involving crimes that shock the conscience of humanity. This raises questions about the inadequacy of the response of the international community” and it trenchantly tells the international community that it “must accept its responsibility to protect the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from crimes against humanity, because the Government of the DPRK has manifestly failed to do so.”

If we are to accept the responsibility which the COI places upon us, the Korean Diaspora (which includes 3-4 million Korean Americans) must take a more prominent role. Just as the Jewish community galvanised international opinion about life in the Soviet Gulags, the Korean Diaspora needs to catch our collective imagination and create a worldwide movement for change.

Alexander Solzhynytsyn.Solzhenitsyn remarked that “someone that you have deprived of everything is no longer in your power. He is once again entirely free”

Alexander Solzhynytsyn.Solzhenitsyn remarked that “someone that you have deprived of everything is no longer in your power. He is once again entirely free”

In thinking about the harrowing accounts in the COI report it is hard not to be reminded of life in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago – the archipelago of labour camps and prison camps spread across the USSR – which were known only to those who were unfortunate enough to enter them.

Solzhenitsyn remarked that “someone that you have deprived of everything is no longer in your power. He is once again entirely free” and that is undoubtedly the case with those who have bravely risked so much in telling their stories to the UN Commission of Inquiry.

As it comes to consider the COI report, the question for the United Nations Security Council – and perhaps especially for China – is whether it will continue to be the silent witness to evil deeds. Before deliberating it should re-read the 1948 Universal declaration of Human Rights. It would find that in North Korea is in breach of virtually every one of its articles.

Whether, by referring the findings to the International Criminal Court, sequestrating assets, setting up reparation funds, using economic leverage, and doing all it can to break the information blockade into the country, it deserves to be held in universal contempt if it now fails to show the necessary resolve to act on the findings of its own Commission of Inquiry .

NK Human Rights are Not Optional

The United Nations deserves to be held in universal contempt if it now fails to show the necessary resolve to act on the findings of its own Commission of Inquiry .

The United Nations deserves to be held in universal contempt if it now fails to show the necessary resolve to act on the findings of its own Commission of Inquiry .

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Also see:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sA0ObXx60Ng&feature=youtu.be

http://amnesty.org/en/news/north-korea-un-security-council-must-act-crimes-against-humanity-2014-02-17

http://www.hrw.org/node/123287

For Immediate Release
***To view video feature and download raw footage:
http://multimedia.hrw.org/distribute/gixryujock

North Korea: UN Should Act on Atrocities Report
New Video Shows Horrors of North Korea Through Eyewitness Testimony

(Geneva, February 17, 2014) – A new United Nations report has found that crimes against humanity are occurring in North Korea and calls for an international tribunal to investigate and hold perpetrators to account, Human Rights Watch said today.

The report, by a UN Commission of Inquiry appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2013, recommends that the UN Security Council refer the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights carry out investigations. The three person commission, which was chaired by Australian jurist Michael Kirby, will formally present its findings to the Human Rights Council on or around March 17, 2014. The council will then consider a resolution to act on the commission’s recommendations.

“This shocking report should open the eyes of the UN Security Council to the atrocities that plague the people of North Korea and threaten stability in the region,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director at Human Rights Watch. “By focusing only on the nuclear threat in North Korea, the Security Council is overlooking the crimes of North Korean leaders who have overseen a brutal system of gulags, public executions, disappearances, and mass starvation.”

The commission’s report finds that crimes against humanity were committed in North Korea over a multi-decade period “pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the State,” and included “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, forcible transfer of persons, enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.” The report notes in particular “a systematic and widespread attack against all populations that are considered to pose a threat to the political system and leadership.”

New video features eyewitness accounts of atrocities

To coincide with the release of the commission’s report, Human Rights Watch today released a video, “North Korea: Tales from Camp Survivors,” with interviews of North Koreans who survived years of abuse while incarcerated in political prison camps (kwanliso), including systematic use of beatings, food deprivation and starvation, and public executions, to control those held there. The film includes interviews with former camp guards detailing camp administration and atrocities. Regarding these types of camps, the commission found: “The unspeakable atrocities that are being committed against inmates of the kwanliso political prison camps resemble the horrors of camps that totalitarian states established during the 20th century.”

The commission’s report also finds that crimes against humanity were committed “against starving populations” in the context of mass famines in the 1990s, through “decisions and policies taken for the purposes of sustaining the present political system, in full awareness that such decisions would exacerbate starvation and related deaths amongst much of the population.” In addition, the report finds that a widespread campaign of abductions of South Korean and Japanese citizens by North Korean agents, primarily during the 1970s and early 1980s, constitutes crimes against humanity.

“The devastating findings of this inquiry should not be ignored,” Roth said. “Since the crimes were perpetrated by state actors, only an international tribunal can properly carry out criminal investigations aimed at holding perpetrators accountable.”

Human Rights Watch urged the Human Rights Council to endorse the commission’s recommendations by adopting a strong resolution on North Korea during its March session, and task the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon with transmitting the report directly to the UN Security Council and General Assembly for action.

The report concludes that information it collected constitutes “reasonable grounds. . .to merit a criminal investigation by a competent national or international organ of justice,” which could include the ICC, or an ad hoc tribunal created by the UN Security Council or by the consent of UN member states.

Besides referring North Korea to the ICC, the report notes that the UN Security Council has the power to set up a special tribunal for North Korea. This would be an appropriate step since many of the crimes documented by the commission occurred before 2002, when the ICC statute came into force, Human Rights Watch said. Tribunals created with UN Security Council resolutions have been set up for crimes committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Independent of the Security Council, the report notes that the UN General Assembly could pass a resolution aimed at establishing an ad hoc tribunal operated by a set of willing countries. Such a tribunal, set up by UN member states without Security Council authorization, would lack compulsory power under the UN Charter but could carry out many of the same functions as a Security Council-authorized tribunal.

Human Rights Watch urged Security Council members to immediately invite the Commission of Inquiry to brief them on their findings, and called on other countries to support efforts to achieve accountability for crimes committed in North Korea.

“The UN was set up in the aftermath of the Second World War precisely to address this kind of massive abuse,” Roth said. “The atrocities described in this report are a profound challenge to the founding ideals of the UN and should shock the organization into bold action. The suffering and loss endured by victims demand swift and definitive action aimed at bringing those responsible to justice.”

For Selected accounts from the UN report, please see below.

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on North Korea, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/nkorea

For more information, please contact:

In Geneva, Juliette de Rivero (English, French, Spanish): +41-79-640-1649 (mobile); or derivej@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @juliederivero

In London, Brad Adams (English): +44-7908-728-333 (mobile); or adamsb@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @BradAdamsHRW

In Boston, Phil Robertson (English, Thai): +1-617-698-1230 or robertp@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @Reaproy

In Washington, DC, John Sifton (English): +1-646-479-2499 (mobile); or siftonj@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @johnsifton

In Tokyo, Kanae Doi (English, Japanese): +81-3-5575-3774; or +81-90-2301-4372 (mobile); or doik@hrw.org

In Brussels, Lotte Leicht (French, German, Danish, English): +32-0273-714-82; or +32-475-681-708 (mobile); or leichtl@hrw.org

Selected accounts from the UN Commission of Inquiry Report

A former guard in a prison for political prisoners told the commission: “Inmates in the [political prison camps] are not treated like human beings. They are never meant to be released […] their record is permanently erased. They are supposed to die in the camp from hard labour. And we were trained to think that those inmates are enemies. So we didn’t perceive them as human beings.”

One prisoner told the commission that he was forced to dispose of over 300 bodies during his 10 years in a camp at Yodok, and described how camp authorities once bulldozed a hill that had been used to bury dead prisoners, to turn it into a corn field: “As the machines tore up the soil, scraps of human flesh reemerged from the final resting place; arms and legs and feet, some still some still stockinged, rolled in waves before the bulldozer. I was terrified. One of friends vomited. …. The guards then hollowed out a ditch and ordered a few detainees to toss in all the corpses and body parts that were visible on the surface.”

The commission found that political prison camp prisoners, which included children and even babies born to prisoners, were only be able to survive “by hunting and gathering insects, rodents and wild plants or finding ways to divert food meant for the guards and farm animals.” One prisoner, describing the effects of the deprivation of food, said: “[The] babies [had] bloated stomachs. [We] cooked snakes and mice to feed these babies and if there was a day that we were able to have a mouse, this was a special diet for us. We had to eat everything alive, every type of meat that we could find; anything that flew, that crawled on the ground. Any grass that grew in the field, we had to eat. That’s the reality of the prison camp.”

A witness, describing what the commission found to be deliberate famine in the 1990s, stated: “We would eat tree bark, and we would get the roots of the cabbage under the ground, but that was just not enough. As time passed, our grandmother and other weak people were just not able to move at all.”

Another said: “So many people died that we didn’t have enough coffins so we borrowed [traditional burial boards] to give them burials. We didn’t have any wood to even give tombstones. That’s how many people died.”

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Calls in Parliament for BBC World Service Transmissions to the Korea Peninsula

Calls in Parliament for the BBC World Service to transmit to the Korean Pensinsula

Calls in Parliament for the BBC World Service to transmit to the Korean Pensinsula


BBC World Service
Questions
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, before handing over to the BBC control of decisions involving future BBC World Service transmissions, they undertook any research into the benefit of broadcasting to all 75 million people on the Korean peninsula and the Korean-speaking Chinese province of Jilin; what is their response to internal research by the BBC that “The more business leaders know and consume the BBC, the more likely they are to trade with the UK”; and whether they will ask the BBC to evaluate the additional trade the United Kingdom would gain from a new service.[HL6002]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): There has been and will be no change to the decision making process on BBC World Service language services as a result of the 1 April 2014 transfer to Licence Fee funding. As I said in my 12 March answer (Official Report, 12 March 2014, column 1753), the BBC World Service is editorially, managerially and operationally independent. It is therefore for the World Service, not for the Government, to look into possible benefits of broadcasting to any particular region or in any particular language, and to make proposals on that basis.
When, on 1 April, the World Service moves to Licence Fee funding, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Rt. Hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), will continue to approve the opening and closing of the World

25 Mar 2014 : Column WA93

Service’s language services, as he does at present, based on recommendations put to him by the World Service.
The BBC World Service reviewed options for establishment of a Korean language service in late 2013, concluding, as a result of questions of likely audience reach, cost and technical feasibility, that establishment of a Korean language service was not appropriate at this stage.

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the reply by the Deputy Prime Minister on 12 March (HC Deb, cols 315–6) concerning proposals to initiate BBC World Service transmissions to the Korean peninsula, and his remark that “I understand that at the end of last year it (the BBC) decided, following a review, that it could not continue to offer an effective and affordable Korean language service”, what Korean language service had previously been offered to the Korean people; for how long it had made such transmissions; what it cost; and what savings were made following the review. [HL6003]
Baroness Warsi:I would like to clarify the answer given by the Deputy Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Hallam (Mr Clegg) (HC Deb, cols 315–6) concerning proposals to initiate BBC World Service transmissions to the Korean peninsula and his remarks on a review of that. The Review carried out in 2013 was into the viability of a BBC World Service Korean language service. There has not previously been a Korean language service offered by the BBC World Service, so the question of savings from its discontinuation has never arisen.

BBC World Service
Question
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the reply by the Deputy Prime Minister on 12 March (HC Deb, cols 315–6) concerning proposals to initiate BBC World Service transmissions to the Korean peninsula, whether the approval of “new services” remains the prerogative of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.[HL6004]
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): As stated in my response to an oral question on 12 March, Official report, column 1753, the Secretary for State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), will continue to approve the opening and closing of the World Service language services, as he does at present, based on recommendations put to him by the World Service.

BBC World Service
Question
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will reconsider their decision not to ask the BBC to transmit the World Service to the Korean Peninsula if the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea recommends that they meet their obligations under Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights in respect of the broadcast of news and commentary about human rights and democracy to people trapped by an information blockade. [HL4977]
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): The British Broadcasting Corporation World Service (BBC WS) is editorially, managerially and operationally independent of Government, so decisions on which new language services they wish to introduce are for them to consider and, if appropriate, to put to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague). As the noble Lord is aware the BBC WS recently reviewed the options for the introduction of a Korean language service and concluded, for a number of reasons, that they could not offer a meaningful, impactful and cost effective service.
The United Nations Commission of Inquiry into human rights abuses in North Korea is due to report to the Human Rights Council in March 2014. It would be inappropriate for us to comment on the content of the report before it has been published and until we have had the opportunity to consider its findings and recommendations in full.
BBC World Service
Question
3.06 pm
12 Mar 2014 : Column 1754
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, did the Minister see the comments in yesterday’s edition of the Independent by Justice Michael Kirby, who chaired the recent commission of inquiry established by the United Nations to investigate human rights abuses in North Korea? He said that the extension of BBC World Service transmissions to North Korea—
“a country that has been largely cut off from the rest of the world”—
would make a considerable difference in fighting against those abuses of human rights. Given our Article 19 obligations and the BBC’s historic role in promoting democratic values above the heads of dictators, is this not a moment for the Government to urge the BBC World Service to play its part?
Baroness Warsi: The noble Lord has asked me this question on a number of occasions; indeed I have answered it here from the Dispatch Box and also written to him. As he and other noble Lords may be aware, in 2013 the World Service reviewed the possible options for a Korean language service and concluded after a fact-finding mission that questions of likely audience reach, cost and technical feasibility meant that such a service was not appropriate at this stage. I am aware of the UN commissioner’s report. The noble Lord will be aware that that contained two quite specific approaches to how engagement could happen: the first was through the broadcasting route and the second through encouraging people-to-people contact. We are one of the few countries that has extensive people-to-people contract because of our embassy in North Korea. The UN report also recognised that that is one of the ways in which we can engage in dialogue.

Q9. [902972] Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): On Monday, South Korean newspapers said that North Korea was due to execute 33 people for having had contact with a Christian missionary. Given that a quarter of a million people are in North Korean prison camps, will the Deputy Prime Minister urge the BBC World Service to use its existing transmitters to broadcast into North Korea, especially as more and more North Koreans now have access to radios?
The Deputy Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman raises a very important issue. As he knows, our embassy in Pyongyang continues to engage critically with the
12 Mar 2014 : Column 316
North Korean regime and tries to ensure that there are as many opportunities for dialogue as possible, including information coming into the country. The BBC World Service is of course operationally, editorially and managerially independent. I understand that at the end of last year it decided, following a review, that it could not continue to offer an effective and affordable Korean language service. That is of course a matter for the BBC World Service itself.

Subject: Independent today: BBC World Service – Mr. Justice Kirby intervenes

To view the Video launched at the APPG on North Korea on March 11th 2014 – what BBC World Service Korea might look like – logon as follows:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywDAUhb7POA&feature=youtu.be

Also see:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/bbc-can-make-a-difference-in-north-korea–by-broadcasting-world-service-programmes-in-korean-9182594.html

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, did the Minister see the comments in yesterday’s edition of the Independent by Justice Michael Kirby, who chaired the recent commission of inquiry established by the United Nations to investigate human rights abuses in North Korea? He said that the extension of BBC World Service transmissions to North Korea— “a country that has been largely cut off from the rest of the world”— would make a considerable difference in fighting against those abuses of human rights. Given our Article 19 obligations and the BBC’s historic role in promoting democratic values above the heads of dictators, is this not a moment for the Government to urge the BBC World Service to play its part?

Baroness Warsi: The noble Lord has asked me this question on a number of occasions; indeed I have answered it here from the Dispatch Box and also written to him. As he and other noble Lords may be aware, in 2013 the World Service reviewed the possible options for a Korean language service and concluded after a fact-finding mission that questions of likely audience reach, cost and technical feasibility meant that such a service was not appropriate at this stage. I am aware of the UN commissioner’s report. The noble Lord will be aware that that contained two quite specific approaches to how engagement could happen: the first was through the broadcasting route and the second through encouraging people-to-people contact. We are one of the few countries that has extensive people-to-people contract because of our embassy in North Korea. The UN report also recognised that that is one of the ways in which we can engage in dialogue.

Q9. [902972] Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): On Monday, South Korean newspapers said that North Korea was due to execute 33 people for having had contact with a Christian missionary. Given that a quarter of a million people are in North Korean prison camps, will the Deputy Prime Minister urge the BBC World Service to use its existing transmitters to broadcast into North Korea, especially as more and more North Koreans now have access to radios? The Deputy Prime Minister:

The hon. Gentleman raises a very important issue. As he knows, our embassy in Pyongyang continues to engage critically with the 12 Mar 2014 : Column 316 North Korean regime and tries to ensure that there are as many opportunities for dialogue as possible, including information coming into the country. The BBC World Service is of course operationally, editorially and managerially independent. I understand that at the end of last year it decided, following a review, that it could not continue to offer an effective and affordable Korean language service. That is of course a matter for the BBC World Service itself.

Subject: Independent today: BBC World Service – Mr. Justice Kirby intervenes To view the Video launched at the APPG on North Korea on March 11th 2014 – what BBC World Service Korea might look like – logon as follows:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywDAUhb7POA&feature=youtu.be Also see: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/bbc-can-make-a-difference-in-north-korea–by-broadcasting-world-service-programmes-in-korean-9182594.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/opinion/ian-burrell-news-the-north-koreans-can-trust-9179941.html

One of the world’s experts on North Korea has called on the BBC to “be part of the solution” in fighting human rights abuses under Kim Jong-un’s repressive regime by initiating Korean-language broadcasts by the BBC World Service. Michael Kirby, the eminent retired Australian judge who chaired a recent Commission of Inquiry (COI) on North Korea for the United Nations Human Rights Council, told
The Independent that the BBC could make a difference to the lives of people in “a country that has been largely cut off from the rest of the world”.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Mr Kirby said the BBC was in a position to make a difference in North Korea. “Because the BBC World Service is still such a globally respected voice, the revelations in the recent UN COI report demonstrate the special needs, and particular utility, of providing the BBC to the Korean peninsula,” he said.

The COI’s report last month identified “unspeakable atrocities” in North Korea and found there was “an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” in the state. The findings, which Mr Kirby said demanded “attention from the international community”, made headlines around the world. He told The Independent: “The strict controls on sources of information in North Korea, revealed in the COI report, surely add to the arguments for an increased outreach by the civilised world to the people of North Korea.

With its hard won reputation for truthful reporting, fair coverage and proper priorities, the BBC has a special potential to be part of the solution.” There is a growing voice in Westminster for a BBC Korea service, broadcasting from South Korea, and on Tuesday at a meeting in the House of Commons a “pilot” BBC Korean show will be played to demonstrate how such a service might sound. Funding of the World Service has passed from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to the BBC.

Previous BBC studies have identified problems in providing a Korean service, especially in relation to the difficulties of the North Korean population tuning in and defying the ban on listening to foreign broadcasts. Foreign Secretary William Hague said recently that it was “not currently possible for the World Service to offer a meaningful, effective and cost-effective service”. But last week Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire gave renewed hope to campaigners for a Korean service when he said: “We have approached the BBC and are waiting for its detailed response.”

The Independent has seen a confidential report on the viability of a BBC Korean service written by the investigative journalist John Sweeney, who infiltrated the country last year by posing as an academic and filming a documentary for Panorama. “The humanitarian need for a BBC Korea Service broadcasting to the whole peninsular is clear,” he concluded. Mr Kirby said his appreciation of the impact of the BBC’s reporting stemmed from his own experience of listening to the “Radio Newsreel” as a schoolboy in Sydney in the 1950s. “It rescued me from a purely national or local perspective of news that was of concern to me.

It helped to make me a citizen of the world,” he said. Although he acknowledged that he had “no knowledge of the competing priorities of the BBC and the cost factors involved”, Mr Kirby said the BBC had the potential to reduce human rights violations in North Korea. “The path to greater human rights respect lies through greater awareness of the world, and of their own country, on the part of the population of North Korea.”

Lord Alton of Liverpool, one of those campaigning for a BBC Korea Service, said: “It seems unbelievable that the BBC World Service, which has been a game changer from the former Soviet bloc to Burma, does not play its part in breaking this information blockade. I hope they will hear Michael Kirby’s message and respond positively.”

The BBC said: “We agree that there is a severe lack of media freedom in North Korea and an acute need for more choice and variety of media content. However, the available research suggests that there are strict controls in the North on what people are allowed to listen to or watch, difficulty in obtaining radios and a complete lack of internet access – which we confirmed when a senior delegation visited South Korea earlier this year expressly to investigate the possibilities Given these significant barriers and having given this careful consideration, we do not believe it would be cost effective and viable to broadcast existing or new content to North Korea at the present time but we will keep our position under review and look seriously at any new opportunities that emerge.”

Extend the BBC World Service to North and South Korea – Change.org http://www.change.org/…/lord-patten-of-barnes-extend-the-bbc-world-service-…‎ o Cached

We, the undersigned students and residents of Oxford, are deeply concerned by the refusal of the BBC to extend its World Service to the Korean Peninsula, and …

Led by the senior Conservative MP, Gary Streeter, 15 MPs from all political parties have tabled a House of Commons Motion calling for the extension of BBC World Service Broadcasts to the Korean Peninsula.

Mr.Streeter is Vice Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea. You can ask your MP to add their name.

BBC WORLD BROADCASTS TO THE KOREAN PENINSULA • Session: 2012-13 • Date tabled: 07.02.2013 • Primary sponsor: Streeter, Gary • Sponsors: o Bottomley, Peter o George, Andrew o Meale, Alan o Russell, Bob o Shannon, Jim That this House endorses the recent calls made to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and to the BBC World Service that World Service transmissions should be extended to the Korean Peninsula; welcomes the recent remarks of the hon. Member for East Devon and Peter Horrocks of BBC World Service, made at meetings in Parliament, which rightly recognised the role which the BBC can play in promoting human rights, democracy, culture and language; and believes that an extension of transmissions to the Korean Peninsula would be an appropriate way to celebrate both the 80th anniversary of the BBC World Service and to recognise Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which upholds the right of all citizens to freely listen to broadcasts and to exchange ideas.”>http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/opinion/ian-burrell-news-the-north-koreans-can-trust-9179941.html

One of the world’s experts on North Korea has called on the BBC to “be part of the solution” in fighting human rights abuses under Kim Jong-un’s repressive regime by initiating Korean-language broadcasts by the BBC World Service.

Michael Kirby, the eminent retired Australian judge who chaired a recent Commission of Inquiry (COI) on North Korea for the United Nations Human Rights Council, told The Independent that the BBC could make a difference to the lives of people in “a country that has been largely cut off from the rest of the world”.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Mr Kirby said the BBC was in a position to make a difference in North Korea.
“Because the BBC World Service is still such a globally respected voice, the revelations in the recent UN COI report demonstrate the special needs, and particular utility, of providing the BBC to the Korean peninsula,” he said.

The COI’s report last month identified “unspeakable atrocities” in North Korea and found there was “an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” in the state. The findings, which Mr Kirby said demanded “attention from the international community”, made headlines around the world.

He told The Independent: “The strict controls on sources of information in North Korea, revealed in the COI report, surely add to the arguments for an increased outreach by the civilised world to the people of North Korea. With its hard won reputation for truthful reporting, fair coverage and proper priorities, the BBC has a special potential to be part of the solution.”
There is a growing voice in Westminster for a BBC Korea service, broadcasting from South Korea, and on Tuesday at a meeting in the House of Commons a “pilot” BBC Korean show will be played to demonstrate how such a service might sound.
Funding of the World Service has passed from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to the BBC. Previous BBC studies have identified problems in providing a Korean service, especially in relation to the difficulties of the North Korean population tuning in and defying the ban on listening to foreign broadcasts.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said recently that it was “not currently possible for the World Service to offer a meaningful, effective and cost-effective service”. But last week Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire gave renewed hope to campaigners for a Korean service when he said: “We have approached the BBC and are waiting for its detailed response.”

The Independent has seen a confidential report on the viability of a BBC Korean service written by the investigative journalist John Sweeney, who infiltrated the country last year by posing as an academic and filming a documentary for Panorama. “The humanitarian need for a BBC Korea Service broadcasting to the whole peninsular is clear,” he concluded.

Mr Kirby said his appreciation of the impact of the BBC’s reporting stemmed from his own experience of listening to the “Radio Newsreel” as a schoolboy in Sydney in the 1950s. “It rescued me from a purely national or local perspective of news that was of concern to me. It helped to make me a citizen of the world,” he said.

Although he acknowledged that he had “no knowledge of the competing priorities of the BBC and the cost factors involved”, Mr Kirby said the BBC had the potential to reduce human rights violations in North Korea. “The path to greater human rights respect lies through greater awareness of the world, and of their own country, on the part of the population of North Korea.”
Lord Alton of Liverpool, one of those campaigning for a BBC Korea Service, said: “It seems unbelievable that the BBC World Service, which has been a game changer from the former Soviet bloc to Burma, does not play its part in breaking this information blockade. I hope they will hear Michael Kirby’s message and respond positively.”

The BBC said: “We agree that there is a severe lack of media freedom in North Korea and an acute need for more choice and variety of media content. However, the available research suggests that there are strict controls in the North on what people are allowed to listen to or watch, difficulty in obtaining radios and a complete lack of internet access – which we confirmed when a senior delegation visited South Korea earlier this year expressly to investigate the possibilities Given these significant barriers and having given this careful consideration, we do not believe it would be cost effective and viable to broadcast existing or new content to North Korea at the present time but we will keep our position under review and look seriously at any new opportunities that emerge.”
1. Extend the BBC World Service to North and South Korea – Change.org
http://www.change.org/…/lord-patten-of-barnes-extend-the-bbc-world-service-…‎
o Cached
We, the undersigned students and residents of Oxford, are deeply concerned by the refusal of the BBC to extend its World Service to the Korean Peninsula, and …

Led by the senior Conservative MP, Gary Streeter, 15 MPs from all political parties have tabled a House of Commons Motion calling for the extension of BBC World Service Broadcasts to the Korean Peninsula. Mr.Streeter is Vice Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea. You can ask your MP to add their name.
BBC WORLD BROADCASTS TO THE KOREAN PENINSULA
• Session: 2012-13
• Date tabled: 07.02.2013
• Primary sponsor: Streeter, Gary
• Sponsors:
o Bottomley, Peter
o George, Andrew
o Meale, Alan
o Russell, Bob
o Shannon, Jim
That this House endorses the recent calls made to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and to the BBC World Service that World Service transmissions should be extended to the Korean Peninsula; welcomes the recent remarks of the hon. Member for East Devon and Peter Horrocks of BBC World Service, made at meetings in Parliament, which rightly recognised the role which the BBC can play in promoting human rights, democracy, culture and language; and believes that an extension of transmissions to the Korean Peninsula would be an appropriate way to celebrate both the 80th anniversary of the BBC World Service and to recognise Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which upholds the right of all citizens to freely listen to broadcasts and to exchange ideas.

BBC WS 4
——————————————————————————————————-

Human Rights in North Korea
Refugee Testimonies and other online videos

The following selection of online talks, videos and documentaries provide informative first-hand accounts of human rights violations in North Korea. WTthese videos are worth watching for moving and informative background. There are others available on youtube.com as well, but the following is a selection.

Secret State of North Korea – PBS (53.41 minutes)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnBUDYQxhaw and http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/secret-state-of-north-korea/
An up-to-date, very informative, secretly filmed documentary on life in North Korea.

Breaking the Silence – Journeyman Pictures (12.17 minutes)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlEvL0ld8D8
Background to the UN Commission of Inquiry into human rights in North Korea

Hyeonseo Lee – Ted talk (12mins)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdxPCeWw75k
Growing up she thought her country was the best in the world, although she often wondered about the outside world. She escaped North Korea during the famine in the 1990’s. Her story focuses on her escape and resettlement, and the struggle to later get her family out of North Korea.

Joseph Kim – Ted talk (14 mins)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLeeTVmVrtA
“Hunger is humiliation. Hunger is hopelessness…” He became an orphan after his father died and his mother disappeared. He went to China to look for his sister and crossed the border during the day because he was scared of the dark. Joseph Kim talks of his escape and resettlement in America, and how a chicken wing changed his life.

Seong Ho Ji – (9mins)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zrebN7mV8o
Seong Ho Ji and his brother fled North Korea in 2006 and travelled 6,000 miles across Asia before reaching South Korea. His only remaining possession from North Korea is a pair of crutches – he only has one leg.

Shin Dong-hyuk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ms4NIB6xroc (Google tech talk – 1.06 hours)
http://www.libertyinnorthkorea.org/media/ (shorter version, Ted talk – 12 mins).
http://www.youtube.com/movie?v=9FZMwoY7DyM (Journeyman Pictures – 19.29 minutes)

Shin Dong-hyuk was born in a special prison zone and ‘had no real feelings as a kid’. He saw his mother as the cause of his suffering. These accounts tell of his life growing up in the prison. He later escaped North Korea and described how even the North Korea outside the prison seemed amazing.

Yoon Hee and Anon – CNN Digital Originals (4.5 mins)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72KHZguk-WE

Yoon Hee lived on the streets from 8 years old. For her, food is life. She was abandoned by her parents because they couldn’t look after her. Her story as a defector portrays how life outside North Korea isn’t easy to adjust to and not necessarily safe.
Anon described the struggles in adjusting to a new life in South Korea and the disadvantages faced by students who are North Korean refugees, but how, through special programmes, the ‘country is supporting him, like a parent.

Han-sol Kim (nephew of Kim Jong-Un) – interview with Elizabeth Rehn, in two parts
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_uSuCkKa3k (Part 1 – 15 minutes)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSfVOf4OACs (Part 2 – 14.32 minutes)

A fascinating interview with the nephew of Kim Jong-Un, who has bravely spoken out while studying in Europe.

LINK – Liberty in North Korea:
http://www.libertyinnorthkorea.org/media/ (Various)

Danny’s Story (30mins)
He describes living under oppression and in fear, in a country where he is denied freedom of speech, religion and access to information (among other things). He tells of his escape and recalls the moment when his eyes were opened to outside world for first time and to the lies that he had been told. He dreams of being able to go back to North Korea and capture his homeland in pictures.

North Korean Refugee Crisis (3mins)
Successfully fleeing North Korea is just the beginning. This short video outlines the fears and troubles of being a North Korean refugee in China.

The People’s History (4mins)
A brief history behind the current political situation in North Korea.

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil”- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil”- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

—————————————————————————————————–
Michael Kirby gave a brilliant speech in Geneva, and various countries, including the UK and the EU, explicitly backed an ICC referral as well as the wider COI recommendations – see http://webtv.un.org/watch/id-commission-of-inquiry-on-dprk-31st-meeting-25th-regular-session-of-human-rights-council/3350537718001/

Matthew Jones spoke, representing both Jubilee Campaign and CSW – http://webtv.un.org/watch/id-commission-of-inquiry-on-dprk-31st-meeting-25th-regular-session-of-human-rights-council/3350537718001/

Fiona Bruce has tabled the following EDM in the Commons – see http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/1184

—————————————————————————————————-
New Movie on religious persecution in North Korea…. from Amnesty International UK and the INKAHRD(International North Korean’s Association for Human Rights and Democracy)

To those who are working hard to improve the human rights situation in North Korea
Have you had a chance to read the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry(COI), chaired by the Honourable Michael Kirby, highlighting North Korea’s human rights abuses?

We believe the most important lesson from the 400-page UN COI report is that North Korea must change. And we must remember, as Sir Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”.

In this effort, Amnesty International UK and the INKAHRD(International North Korean’s Association for Human Rights and Democracy) are screening a film that reveals the reality of underground church in North Korea. I look forward to welcoming you at this film screening event and seeking ways to further protect and promote human rights in North Korea.
Film title – The Apostle: he was anointed by God(2014)
Location – Amnesty International UK Human Rights Action Centre(17-25 New Inn Yard London EC2A 3EA)

초대장

지금도 북한인권운동에 헌신하는 여러분, 혹시 M Kirby 위원장의 UN COI 보고서를 읽어 보셨습니까?
400페이지가 넘는 그 보고서는 북한에 변화를 주어야 한다는 말로 요약될 수 있지 않을까 합니다. 처칠경은 이렇게 말했습니다. ‘무엇인가 개선을 한다는 것은 변화를 한다는 말이며 완벽해 진다는 것은 그 변화가 자주 일어나야 한다는 말이다’라고
그래서 저희 국제탈북민연대와 AI는 이러한 노력의 일환으로 북한지하기독교 실상을 다룬 북한인권영화 시사회를 아래와 같이 개최할 예정이오니 여러분들의 많은 관심과 참여로 북한인권운동의 새로운 도약을 모색해 보았으면 합니다.
– 영화 제목 ; 신이보낸 사람
– 일시ㆍ장소 ; 2014.3.20(목) 19;00, AI內 Human Rights Action Center
Amnesty International•국제탈북민연대(INKAHRD)

——————————————————————————-
Susie Younger Never Ending Flower 2

Susie Younger’s book “Never Ending Flower” was published in 1967. She was a young Scot who read Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Oxford. While she was a student she became a Christian and, in 1960, went to Korea, learnt the language, and decided to work among the poor for the rest of her life. Her book was published in 1967 by Collins and Harvill. It’s an inspiring account – not unlike the stories of Gladys Aylward and Jackie Pullinger, who also found their way to the Orient. See: https://davidalton.net/2013/05/11/gladys-aylward-the-little-woman-and-chinas-inn-of-the-sixth-happiness/

Having arrived in Korea with a young Austrian companion, Maria Heissenberger, they set up a house for young street children, bootblacks whose employers exploited them at took most of their earnings from them. It was a tiny house and they lived with those they cared for, sleeping on the floors and living of a simple diet of rice, barley and vegetables.

The project was an early recipient of help from OXFAM and CAFOD and it led to a second house being created in Taegu where Susie set up a home for country girls. They had come to the city looking for work and had been ensnared into prostitution. Susie Younger records some profoundly moving stories of girls who rediscover themselves and who find security, love, employment and, often, marriage.

In the later part of the book Susie Younger describes the creation of a 200 acre co-operative farm at Muhak. It was the brain child of a Korean priest, Fr.Lee, and part of its purpose was to create produce and resources to support Susie’s work. This was when she also met Fr.Stephen Kim – who would, in due course become the Bishop of Masan and eventually the Cardinal Archbishop of Seoul. It was he who stood against the military junta and protected the student protestors who had gathered in his Seoul cathedral. It is fascinating to discover him here, in a book written twenty year earlier, giving so much encouragement to a young Scot from Oxford University.

The book takes its title from the national flower of Korea, the Syrian hibiscus – the Biblical Rose of Sharon. Susie Younger says that because it blossoms from spring until late autumn this tenacious plant is known in Korea as “the never ending flower.”

Although, at the height of summer, the sun scorches and destroys its blossoms, the following day it is resplendent with new flowers. In the case of Korea – whether struggling in the 1960s from the after effects of the Korean War and military dictatorship or, in the North, from decades of totalitarianism – the resilience and the ability, in adversity, to renew and restore damaged beauty seems very apt.

The book concludes with an appendix in which Susie Younger sets out her personal testimony and her hope to stay among the people she felt called to serve for the rest of her life. The book was published in 1967 and it would be intriguing to know how the story continued.

The story of the Coming of Christianity to Korea and the story of the thousands who died for their faith – and new CSW Report on North Korea published on “Save North Koreans Day”.

At a ceremony in Rome where he received the St.Thomas More Advocacy Award, for his work on promoting freedom of religion and belief, David Alton particularly referred to the plight of North Korea’s persecuted Christians. Here you can read the story of the coming of Christianity to Korea and the story of the thousands who died for their faith. Scroll down to read the full text of Monsignor Richard Rutt’s pamphlet “The Korean Martyrs”

2016 saint thomas more award 2Korean martyrs

Also See:

New CSW report, Total Denial: Violations of freedom of religion or belief in North Korea issued on  Save North Koreans Day, and CSW delivered a letter to China’s President Xi Jinping, via the Chinese Embassy in London, urging China to stop its policy of forcible repatriation of North Korean refugees.

Ben Roigers has written this op-ed article in The Huffington Post – http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ben/north-korea-human-rights_b_12142096.html

and this piece  – https://forbinfull.org/2016/09/23/north-korea-and-human-rights-a-state-of-denial/

To access the full report, see – http://www.csw.org.uk/2016/09/22/report/3263/article.htm

And the CSW press release – http://www.csw.org.uk/2016/09/23/press/3265/article.htm

Also see –

https://davidalton.net/2014/07/24/british-parliament-debates-the-united-nations-commission-of-inquiry-report-into-crimes-against-humanity-in-north-korea/

https://www.facebook.com/LordAltonofLiverpool?ref=hl

Reuters report on Christianity in North Korea

In North Korea, a church renovated, missionaries jailed

By James Pearson

SEOUL (Reuters) – Tucked between trees and paddy fields in a quiet suburb in the west of Pyongyang, Chilgol Church is one of four state-operated churches in the capital of a country that espouses freedom of religion but effectively bans it.

In recent months, the Protestant church has been renovated – its rusted iron roof replaced with new tiles, and its faded brown brick walls repainted yellow, according to a North Korean propaganda video. At the same time, North Korea has sentenced two foreign missionaries to hard labour and along the border with China, both countries have cracked down on religious groups.

As Pope Francis visits South Korea this week in his first trip to Asia, religion in North Korea is under the spotlight.

People who regularly travel to the North Korean capital describe its churches as showpieces for foreign residents and tourists. Many foreigners are invited to sit in front-row pews, they say, but are prohibited from mingling with a congregation hand-picked by the state.

North Korea’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion provided it does not undermine the state, but outside of a small handful of state-controlled places of worship, no open religious activity is allowed.

“To be a Christian in North Korea is extremely dangerous, and many Christians who are discovered end up in the prison camps or, in some cases, executed,” said Benedict Rogers of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, which campaigns for religious freedom.

“The regime demands absolute loyalty and devotion and sees religion as undermining this,” he said.

North Korea turned down an invitation from the South Korean Catholic church for members of its state-run Korean Catholic Association to attend a papal mass next week in Seoul, citing the start of joint U.S.-South Korean military drills, due to begin on the same day.

A United Nations report earlier this year cited estimates that between 200,000 and 400,000 of North Korea’s 24 million people are Christians. The number is impossible to verify because most Christians cannot worship openly.

An overwhelming 99.7 percent of defectors from North Korea said in a survey late last year that there was no religious freedom in the country. Only 4.2 percent said they had seen a Bible when they lived there, said the survey of over eight thousand defectors by the South Korea-based Database Centre for North Korean Human Rights.

In May, the isolated country detained U.S. tourist Jeffrey Fowle for leaving a Bible in the toilet of a site visited by his tour group, and U.S. missionary Kenneth Bae is serving a 15 year hard labour sentence on charges of attempting to bring down the government.

Another missionary, South Korean Kim Jeong-wook, was sentenced to life with hard labour in June after a North Korean court found him guilty of espionage and setting up an underground church.

GRANDSON OF A PREACHER MAN

Religion was once considered part of the North’s unification policy, with the strategy of trying to align with religious leaders in the South who were battling the country’s military rulers at the time. But the success of South Korean religious groups in helping to oust its own military dictatorship may have caused Pyongyang to treat its official relationship with religion more carefully.

“Part of North Korea’s fear of Christianity stems from the successful challenge which Christians like Kim Dae-jung and Cardinal Stephen Kim made in ending the military dictatorship in South Korea,” said Lord David Alton, chairman of the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea.

As head of the Korean Catholic Church, Cardinal Kim helped mobilise South Koreans against South Korea’s military dictatorship in the 1980s, alongside former President and democracy activist Kim Dae-jung, a fellow Roman Catholic.

“With the imminent arrival of Pope Francis in Seoul, they (Pyongyang) will also be reflecting on the role which John Paul II played in ending Eastern European communism,” Alton said.

However, North Korea’s founding president Kim Il Sung was the grandson of a Protestant priest and his mother, Kang Ban Sok, was a devout Christian whose first name came from an early Korean translation of the biblical name Peter.

The Chilgol Church was built in her honour, but sits 300 metres (yards) from a propaganda museum and statues dedicated to her as the revolutionary mother of the man who became father to the state.

As at any church, a softly-spoken vicar may shake hands and chat with visitors as they leave, but officials carefully scrutinise the church after services and count Bibles to make sure none have gone missing, regular visitors say.

In the 1980s, the North, under pressure to change with the deepening of economic problems and main ally China’s growing openness, began looking to foreign religious groups as a means to forge links with the outside world.

The government gave official status to religious groups and allowed the publication of the Bible, and in 1988 the main churches for the Catholic and Protestant faiths, Jangchung and Pongsu, were built in Pyongyang. The Chilgol Church and a Russian Orthodox church were set up later.

But there is no genuine religious freedom in North Korea, the U.S. State Department said in a report late last month. State media dismissed the report as an attempt by the United States to “tarnish its image”.

But fealty to the Kim family that has ruled North Korea for over half a century is paramount.

“They have attempted to replace religion with a cultish dynastic ideology,” said Alton. “But by outlawing religious freedom they have denied their society an engine for social and economic change.”

(Additional reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Tony Munroe and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

As Pope Francis visits Korea the North Koreans send a missionary to a forced labour camp and according to a United Nations Report thousands of Christians suffer crimes against humanity.

Putting a new roof on Chilgo church in Pyongyang is a maldroit attempt by the North Korean regime to suggest that it respects Christian beliefs and religious freedom. Replacing a decaying rusted roof should be set alongside the sentencing of two missionaries to hard labour and the imprisonment of thousands of North Korean Christians in forced labour camps. A United Nations report says Pyongyang’s treatment of Christians constitutes crimes against humanity while a celebrated international law firm believes it amounts to genocide.

Chilgol is where Kim Jong Un’s great grandmother was an Elder and where she worshipped. It’s not Chilgol’s roof he should be replacing but policies which persecute Christians who have the same beliefs as his great grandmother.

As Pope Francis arrives in South Korea Kim Jong Un should announce an amnesty for imprisoned believers and commit his country to upholding Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights which guarantees religious freedom. If he did so he would win universal approbation instead of condemnation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBgySamj4KY

http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/land-of-vibrant-faith/

New Pilgrimage

Korean Bishops Embark on Pilgrimage dedicated to Martyrs

Year of Faith Event Commemorates Those Who Gave Their Lives for the Gospel

Followed by The Coming of Christianity To Korea – also see “Building Bridges” (Lion, 2013)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Building-Bridges-There-North-Korea/dp/0745955983/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1379593788&sr=1-1&keywords=building+bridges+david+alton

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Building-Bridges-ebook/dp/B00CYBNG0O/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1379593788&sr=1-1

SEOUL, September 17, 2013 (Zenit.org) – Last Tuesday, Korean Bishops embarked, for the first time, a pilgrimage on foot to the Martyrs’ Shrine in Seoul, South Korea. The Year of Faith event marked the Month of Martyrs celebrated in September to commemorate those who gave their life for the Gospel.

St.Andrew Kim, the first Korean Catholic priest, martyred at the age of 25, and St.Paul Chongst_andrew_kim

The Feast of the Korean Martyrs is celebrated on September 20th and commemorates 103 Christians killed during persecutions in the country that went on from 1839-1867. According to Fides News Agency, the Korean Bishops embarking on the pilgrimage were accompanied by over 300 priests, religious, and lay people who reflected on the spirit of martyrdom.

The pilgrimage began with the opening prayer in the chapel at the Songsin Theological Campus, The Catholic University of Korea, in which some pieces of the remains of Saint Andrew Kim Dae-gon (1821-1846) are preserved, the first Korean priest and martyr, canonized by John Paul II in 1984.

The Bishops made a pilgrimage to martyrs’ shrines, following this itinerary: site of the Left Podo-Cheong – police headquarter, execution site of Korean martyrs; the Myeongdong Cathedral, in whose crypt there are the relics of 9 martyrs; Seosomun Martyrs’ Shrine, built on the site where 44 out of the 103 Korean martyrs, many Servants of God and other Catholic martyrs in the earlier Church in Korea sacrificed their lives; Danggogae Martyrs’ Shrine where 10 Korean Catholics were martyred on this hill; Saenamteo Martyrs’ Shrine, where 11 priests were killed; Jeoldusan Martyrs’ Shrine, place of martyrdom during the Byeong-in persecution in 1866. In the underground sepulchre of the church there are the relics of 28 Martyrs, a museum and a large outdoor statue of Saint AndrewKim Dae-geon.

(2) Text of JPII Homily at Canonisation

Mass for the canonization of Korean martyrs, Homily of John Paul II, 6 May 1984

APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO KOREA, PAPUA NEW GUINEA,

SOLOMON ISLANDS AND THAILAND

(MAY 2-11, 1984)

MASS FOR THE CANONIZATION OF KOREAN MARTYRS

HOMILY OF POPE JOHN PAUL II

Youido Place – Seoul

Sunday, 6 May 1984

“Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory”? (Luc. 24, 26)

1. These words, taken from today’s Gospel, were spoken by Jesus as he was going from Jerusalem to Emmaus in the company of two of his disciples. They did not recognize him, and as to an unknown person they described to him all that had happened in Jerusalem in these last days. They spoke of the Passion and death of Jesus on the Cross. They spoke of their own shattered hopes: “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luc. 24, 21). These hopes were buriedwith the death of Jesus.

The two disciples were downhearted. Even though they had heard that the women and the Apostles, on the third day after his death, had failed to find the body of Jesus in the tomb, nevertheless they were completely unaware that he had been seen alive. The disciples did not know that at that precise moment they were actually looking at him, that they were walking in his company, that they were speaking with him. Indeed, their eyes were kept from recognizing him (Ibid. 24, 16).

2. Then Jesus began to explain to them, from Sacred Scripture, that it was precisely through suffering that the Messiah had to reach the glory of the Resurrection. The words alone however did not have the full effect. Even though their hearts were burning within them while they listened to this unknown person, nevertheless he still remained for them an unknown person. It was only during the evening meal, when he took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them that “their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (Ibid. 24, 31), but he then disappeared from their sight. Having recognized the Risen Lord, they became witnesses for all time of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Through them, through all the Apostles, through the men and women who were witnesses of the life and death of Jesus Christ, of his Gospel and Resurrection, the truth about him spread first to Jerusalem, next to all Judea, and then to other countries and peoples. It entered into the history of humanity.

3. The truth about Jesus Christ also reached Korean soil. It came by means of books brought from China. And in a most marvellous way, divine grace soon moved your scholarly ancestors first to an intellectual quest for the truth of God’s word and then to a living faith in the Risen Savior.

Yearning for an ever greater share in the Christian faith, your ancestors sent one of their own in 1784 to Peking, where he was baptized. From this good seed was born the first Christian community in Korea, a community unique in the history of the Church by reason of the fact that it was founded entirely by lay people. This fledgling Church, so young and yet so strong in faith, withstood wave after wave of fierce persecution. Thus, in less than a century, it could already boast of some ten thousand martyrs. The years 1791, 1801, 1827, 1839, 1846 and 1866 are forever signed with the holy blood of your Martyrs and engraved in your hearts.

Even though the Christians in the first half century had only two priests from China to assist them, and these only for a time, they deepened their unity in Christ through prayer and fraternal love; they disregarded social classes and encouraged religious vocations. And they sought ever closer union with their Bishop in Peking and the Pope in faraway Rome.

After years of pleading for more priests to be sent, your Christian ancestors welcomed the first French missionaries in 1836. Some of these, too, are numbered among the Martyrs who gave their lives for the sake of the Gospel, and who are being canonized today in this historic celebration.

The splendid flowering of the Church in Korea today is indeed the fruit of the heroic witness of the Martyrs. Even today, their undying spirit sustains the Christians in the Church of silence in the North of this tragically divided land.

4. Today then it is given to me, as the Bishop of Rome and Successor of Saint Peter in that Apostolic See, to participate in the Jubilee of the Church on Korean soil. I have already spent several days in your midst as a pilgrim, fulfilling as Bishop and Pope my service to the sons and daughters of the beloved Korean nation. Today’s Liturgy constitutes the culminating point of this pastoral service.

For behold: through this Liturgy of Canonization the Blessed Korean Martyrs are inscribed in the list of the Saints of the Catholic Church. These are true sons and daughters of your nation, and they are joined by a number of missionaries from other lands. They are your ancestors, according to the flesh, language and culture. At the same time they are your fathers and mothers in the faith, a faith to which they bore witness by the shedding of their blood.

From the thirteen-year-old Peter Yu to the seventy-two-year-old Mark Chong, men and women, clergy and laity, rich and poor, ordinary people and nobles, many of them descendants of earlier unsung martyrs – they all gladly died for the sake of Christ.

Listen to the last words of Teresa Kwon, one of the early Martyrs: “Since the Lord of Heaven is the Father of all mankind and the Lord of all creation, how can you ask me to betray him? Even in this world anyone who betrays his own father or mother will not be forgiven. All the more may I never betray him who is the Father of us all”.

A generation later, Peter Yu’s father Augustine firmly declares: “Once having known God, I cannot possibly betray him”. Peter Cho goes even further and says: “Even supposing that one’s own father committed a crime, still one cannot disown him as no longer being one’s father. How then can I say that I do not know the heavenly Lord Father who is so good?”.

And what did the seventeen-year-old Agatha Yi say when she and her younger brother were falsely told that their parents had betrayed the faith? “Whether my parents betrayed or not is their affair. As for us, we cannot betray the Lord of heaven whom we have always served”. Hearing this, six other adult Christians freely delivered themselves to the magistrate to be martyred. Agatha, her parents and those other six are all being canonized today. In addition, there are countless other unknown, humble martyrs who no less faithfully and bravely served the Lord.

5. The Korean Martyrs ave borne witness to the crucified and risen Christ.Through the sacrifice of their own lives they have become like Christ in a very special way. The words of Saint Paul the Apostle could truly have been spoken by them: We are “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies . . . We are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh”.

The death of the martyrs is similar to the death of Christ on the Cross, because like his, theirs has become the beginning of new life. This new life was manifested not only in themselves – in those who underwent death for Christ – but it was alsoextended to others. It became the leaven of the Church as the living community of disciples and witnesses to Jesus Christ. “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians”: this phrase from the first centuries of Christianity is confirmed before our eyes.

Today the Church on Korean soil desires in a solemn way to give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity for the gift of the Redemption. It is of this gift that Saint Peter writes: “You were ransomed . . . not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ”. To this lofty price, to this price of the Redemption, your Church desires, on the basis of the witness of the Korean Martyrs, to add an enduring witness of faith, hope and charity.

Through this witness may Jesus Christ be ever more widely known in your land: the crucified and risen Christ. Christ, the Way and the Truth and the Life. Christ, true God: the Son of the living God. Christ, true man: the Son of the Virgin Mary.

Once at Emmaus two disciples recognized Christ “in the breaking of the bread”. On Korean soil may ever new disciples recognize him in the Eucharist. Receive his body and blood under the appearances of bread and wine, and may he the Redeemer of the world receive you into the union of his Body, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

May this solemn day become a pledge of life and of holiness for future generations. Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and is living in his Church today. “Yes it is true. The Lord has risen”. Amen. Alleluia!

With thanks to – Libreria Editrice Vaticana (1984)

(3) Background info. on some of the martyrs

Saint Paul Chong Hasang

St. Paul Chong Hasang(1795-1839) was one of the lay leaders who have participated in the establishment of the early Korean Catholic Church. He was also the second son of Chung, Yak Jong, a martyr who was killed during the Shin-Yu Persecution (1801). During this persecution, the Korea’s only priest, Chu, Moon Mo and many prominent leaders of the early Korean Catholic Church were martyred. After these incidents, it seemed impossible to reconstruct the devastated Korean Catholic community. It was St. Paul Chong Hasang who gathered the scattered Korean Catholic members and ignited their hearts with the raging flames of faith. Furthermore, he reorganized the structures and activities of the Korean Catholic church and initiated a movement for the Beijing Bishop to send priests to Korea.

To accomplish this mission, from 1816, he has crossed the China borders nine times, overcoming many dangers and fiercely cold weathers, totaling 2000 Km of round trips. He entered the China territory as a lowly servant to the Korean diplomatic members who have made their annual tributary missions to China to exchange gifts with the Chinese Emperor. By using these opportunities in Beijing, St. Paul Chong requested many times that the Beijing Bishop send priests to Korea. As many of his attempts failed, he directly pleaded the case to Pope Gregory X. Finally, on September 9th, 1831, the Pope proclaimed the legitimacy of the Korean Catholic Diocese to the World.

The followings are St. Paul Chong Hasang’s main achievements:

First, he was the leader of the early Korean Catholic Church during the persecution period, during which he provided the essential momentum to establish the Korean Catholic Diocese with progressive and worldly vision.

Second, he contributed greatly to the development of the Korean Catholic Church by dedicating his life to accommodating and assisting the priests who were sent to Korea after the establishment of the Korean Catholic Archdiocese.

Third, he was one of the seminary students of Bishop Imbert to become a priest. However, during the Gi Hye Persecution in 1839, the bishop and St. Paul Chong Hasang were martyred, unfortunately he was unable to actualize his dream of becoming a priest.

Fourth, he wrote a document declaring the position of the Korean Catholic Church that the Catholic faith is good for the nation but not a threat, the Sang-Je-Sang-Su. In this document, he firmly pleaded to the persecutors to stop persecuting Catholic members. The document, Sang-Je-Sang-Su, is a short writing of only two thousands words but, it is a well written Catholic doctrine explaining why the Korean government should not persecute Catholics.

Fifth, his martyrdom became the testimony of his faith toward Christ and through his eternal glory, he became the pinnacle of the Korean Catholic faith.

St. Paul Chong Hasang was martyred at the age of forty-five on September 22, 1839 during the Gi Hye Persecution. Two months later, his mother, Yu Cecilia, passed away during the imprisonment and the following month, his younger sister, Jung Hye was also martyred. The three martyrs were beatified on June 6th, 1925 and were canonized, declared as saints, on May 6, 1984 by Pope John Paul II.

Korean martyrs

The lives of a few more of these martyrs, from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea.

Saint Kim Ob-I Magdalene (1774-1839)

Saint Kim A-gi Agatha (1787-1839)

Saint Han A-gi Barbara (1792-1839)

Kim Ob-I Magdalene and Han A-gi Barbara were arrested together in September 1836. It is not certain whether Kim A-gi Agatha was captured with them or at her own home. In any event, the three of them were taken into custody on the same day.

In prison they found themselves in the company of several other Catholics. They were Nam Myong-hyok Damian, accused of hiding the bishop’s vestments, Kwon Tug-in Peter, accused of making and selling crucifixes and holy pictures, Pak A-gi Anna, who remained in prison despite the apostasy of her husband and children and Yi Ho-yong, Peter’s sister Yi Agatha.

The first to be questioned was Pak A-gi Anna. In spite of the torture she remained unbowed.

“So what if my husband and son have apostatized! I choose to keep my faith and die for it,” she lightly answered the police. Next was Han A-gi Barbara. No less brave than Pak A-gi Anna, her body was a bloody mess when they had finished with her. While Han A-gi Barbara was undergoing torture, Kim Ob-I Magnalene have witnessed her faith by explaining Catholic doctrine to the police commissioner. Next Kim Agatha was called.

“It is true you believe in the Catholic Church?”

“I don’t know anything but Jesus and Mary.”

“If you could save your life by rejecting Jesus and Mary, wouldn’t you reject them?”

“I would rather die than reject them.”

And in spite of the tortures Agatha could not be persuaded to change her mind. Seeing this the police commissioner had them moved to prison. When the other Catholic prisoners saw Kim A-gi Agatha arriving they cheerfully greeted her.

“Here comes Agatha who doesn’t know anything but Jesus and Mary,” they said, congratulating her on her bravery.

Because of her inability to learn the doctrine and prayers Kim A-gi Agatha had not yet been baptized. She was the first to be baptized in prison during the persecution.

Baptism gave her new strength and with it she went on to overcome terrible torture and punishment.

After all the investigations and trials, death sentences were handed down on Nam Myong-hyok Damian, Kwon Tug-in Peter and Pak A-gi Anna on May 11, 1839. The next day Yi Kwang-hon Augustine and Pak H.I.-sun Lucy were also sentenced to death.

It took three more days of discussion before Kim Ob-I Magdalene, Han A-gi Barbara and Kim A-gi Agatha were given the sentence for believing in Catholicism and refusing to give up that belief.

Finally May 24, 1839, arrived. The events of that day are described by Cho Shin-ch’ol Charles as follows “On the appointed day ox carts, with crosses taller than the average person erected on them, were brought to the jail. When all was ready guards brought the condemned prisoners out and tied them to the crosses by the arms and hair. A foot rest was put under their feet and the signal given to depart.

When they arrived at the steep hill on which the Small West Gate is situated the guards suddenly pulled away the foot rests and the drivers urged the oxen to run headlong down. The rad is rough, with many stones. The carts lurched, causing extreme agony to the prisoners who were hung on the crosses by their arms and hair. The execution ground is a the foot of the hill. The guards took the prisoners from the crosses and tore off their clothes. The executioners tied their hair to the wooden beam and proceeded to cut off their heads.”

The nine martyrs received their crown at three o’clock in the afternoon, the same time as Jesus breathed his last on the cross several tens of centuries. In accordance with the law the bodies were left at the execution site for three days.

Korean martyrs 2

In the court record of the time it is written:

“On April 12, Yi Kwang-hon Augustine, Kwon Tug-in Peter and others, in all none criminals, were executed for following the false religion.”

Bishop Imbert wrote as follow:

“With difficulty we reclaimed the bodies at dawn on April 27. We buried the bodies of the martyrs at a place I had prepared earlier. I would have liked to have dressed the bodies in fine clothes and anointed them with expensive perfume, in the European manner. However, we are poor and to dress the bodies in this way would have been a burden on the Catholics, so we just wrapped them in straw matting. Now we have many protectors in heaven. When the day of religious freedom comes to Korea, as I know it will, these bodies will be a precious heritage.”

Saint Kim Ob-I Magdalene, Saint Kim A-gi Agatha and Saint Han A-gi Barbara were beatified on July 5, 1925 and together they were canonized on May 6, 1984 at Yoido, Seoul, by Pope John Paul II.

Saint You Chin-gil Augustine (1791-1839)

St. Yu Chin-gil Augustine came from a family of government officials. Among the Korean martyrs, he was one of three who held government posts and the father of the 13-year-old martyr, St. Yu Tae-ch’ol Peter, the youngest of the 103 Korean Martyr Saints.

He was known as a man of deep contemplation. Curious about the origin and meaning of natural phenomena, especially philosophical and religious truths on the origin of man he spent much of the night examining the texts of Neo-Confucianism looking for answers. However, the more he studied the classics the more dissatisfied he became with the Tae-geuk-eum-yang (traditional Korean explanation of reality). His search led him on to investigate the teachings of Taoism and Buddhism. What is the origin of the universe? Is it the Li (basic principle) that Neo-Confucianists talked about or is it the Kong (emptiness) of Buddhism or the Mu (nothingness) of Taoism?

In his youth he heard of the Catholics who had been arrested and killed. He began to wonder if the books they had studied could be of any help to him. One day he came upon an old chest hidden away in a corner of the house. Inside it was lined with sheets of paper on which words like “spirit of life”, “spirit of understanding””and “soul” were written. Such terms had not appeared in any of the books he had read. On tearing off the sheets and putting them together he found the parts of the book called the Cheon-ju-sil-ui (True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven).

The first Catholic writings had been brought into Korea by envoys or interpreters who had gone on official business to Beijing. Since Yu Chin-gil’s family members had visited China as interpreters they were among those who brought back such books. However, during the persecution of 1801, when people were ordered to destroy all books on Western Learning, Yu’s family used the book to repair a tattered storage chest.

Yu Chin-gil went over the torn pages a number of times. They touched on the questions that had bothered him. But the few torn pages were not enough to satisfy him. So in the hope of finding a complete copy he began to inquire as to where he could meet Catholics. One day he met Yi Kyong-on Paul who was the younger brother of Yi Kyong-do Charles and Yi Soon-I Lutgardis who had been martyred in 1801. They had a long conversation and found that they were of the same mind. Yu borrowed True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven and other books on Western Learning. He discovered the one who created and supervised the world. It was not the basic principle that Neo-Confucianists talked about nor was it the Kong of Buddhism or the Mu of Taosim. It is the Lord who resides in Heaven. Humans have not only bodies but also souls, so when people die their bodies are disintegrated but their souls are immortal and subject to the final judgement of God.

He got down on his knees and marvelled.

“The true nature of humans is not to grow and get fat but to burnish their soul till it becomes bright and beautiful. This indeed is the correct truth.” He felt as if the eyes of his soul opened and he began to see the sun shining through dark clouds.

He went back to Yi Paul from whom he learnt Our Father and Hail Mary as well as the Ten Commandments. Soon he was ready to enter the Church. Through a meeting of Western and Eastern thought, Yu Chin-gil solved the question that had troubled him most. He was introduced to Chung Ha-sang Paul and other Catholics.

At that time, following the persecution of 1801 when Father Chu Mun-mo, Chinese priest sent from Beijing, was martyred, there was not a priest in Korea. The Catholics who had survived were struggling to re-establish the Church and to have another priest sent in from China. Even though he had not yet received baptism, on the instructions of Chung Ha-sang Paul, he recited morning prayer and evening prayer each day and faithfully followed the Ten Commandments.

In October of 1824 the winter diplomatic delegation was preparing to go to China. Yu Chin-gil did not want to miss this opportunity, so he made every efforts to be included as an interpreter and to have the noble-born Chung Ha-sang Paul to accompany him disguised as a servant.

Korean martyrs3

The delegation safely arrived in Beijing. Avoiding their companions, the two Catholics slipped off to meet the Bishop of Beijing. In Chinese, Yu asked him for baptism. The Bishop was delighted to receive visitors from so far away but felt he should question Yu Chin-gil to find out how much he knew about the teachings of the Church. Yu Chin-gil replied with the answers exactly as they were in the catechism. Why are humans born into the world? To know and honor God and to save their souls…” The Bishop was amazed that such zealous and well-instructed believer could come out of a Church that was being persecuted and had no clergy. “This is indeed a miracle of God,”” he exclaimed.

Yu Chin-gil was baptized during a special Mass. When the priest recited, “Receive and eat this. It is my body which will be offered up for you,”” he felt as if the blood of Jesus was flowing through his own veins.

He returned to his lodgings but was unable to sleep. He felt as though his heart was shining brightly in the dark room. He was moved by a deep religious experience. He knelt down and prayed.

“God, I thank you for the wonderful way in which You have led me to baptism. Send priests to our land so that the people there who live in darkness might have the joy of receiving the Eucharist. May this foolish servant, no matter what suffering or persecution is to come, give witness to You by offering my life in Lord’s work of opening the eyes of our nation. Give me the deep faith, strength and courage that I need. Amen.”

The Korean envoys learned from the priests in Beijing about practical sciences and Western inventions. In their discussions with the Western priests they became familiar with many aspects of Western learning. They were particularly surprised to learn that China was not the center of the world nor the most enlightened nation in the world. They were surprised to hear that humans were not created as nobles or commoners, but the division was a social system by which the nobles oppressed the commoners. Humans were all equal before God and all brothers and sisters in Christ, the Son of God. With words like equality, universal love and freedom ringing in his ears, Yu Chin-gil Augustine felt as if the teachings of the Chinese sages had come crashing down around him. It was as if he had heard the roar of thunder and seen Jesus rise from Golgotha. It was a sign of faith and a discovery of God. Even before he had set out for Beijing he had a faith that did not fear death, but after meeting the Western priests his understanding had deepened and his eyes had grown brighter.

Korean Martyrs 10 St__Nam_Chong-sam_John_B__(Kim_Tai,_90x72,_1984)

Korean Catholics, because of their faith, were to lead a profound change in the consciousness of the Korean people. In a nation which did not know such a God, they were to sow seeds which would alter lives. This was due to their own love of truth and the providence of God. Yu Chin-gil, Augustine and Chong Ha-sang Paul asked the priests to see the bishop who welcomed them and asked about the need of the Church in Korea. Yu Chin-gil Augustine told him of the difficulties they had to overcome in order to meet the bishop. Their Church was in a pitiful state. For almost 20 years it was without a priest. Yu Chin-gil Augustine was fortunate in being able to come to China and receive baptism, but there were many catechumens in Korea who were unable to receive baptism and many Catholics who could not receive Confirmation, Confession, the Eucharist or the other sacraments. The bishop was moved by what they said. He replied regretfully that, because of the persecutions in China, priests could not go into that country freely either and so he had no one to send to Korea. However, if they wrote directly to the Pope explaining the situation the bishop would do all he could to support their request. Yu Chin-gil Augustine and Chong Ha-sang Paul took courage from the bishop’s promise to help them. They returned to their lodging and composed the following letter requesting priests. Knowing that if this letter was discovered by the Korean authorities it would lead to another persecution, they signed it with the name “Ambrose”.

Holy Father, With troubled heart we greet Your Holiness and seek your help. Since Fr. Zhou Mun-mo was martyred, the spread of the Gospel has been blocked by persecutions. About one thousand believers remain in hiding and can do little by way of witness or evangelization.

No matter how much truth the teaching of the Korean Church contains, if the Church continues in its present form that truth will be wasted. Because our brains are dull the teaching of the Church do not bear fruit and the grace of God is being blocked. Those dying from old age or sickness cannot receive the Last Rites and go to their graves in sorrow. Those they leave behind endure in grief and are tired of life. Sorrow and pain are gradually eating into our hearts. Therefore, despite the dangers involved, we have on a number of occasions asked the Bishop of Beijing to help us. The bishop sympathizes with us in our concern and would like to send priests to give new life to souls that have fallen into sin, but he has no one available.

Having explained the situation in Korea in this way, they suggested that there might be missionaries in Macao who could come to their assistance. They went on to state the way that the priests should come, if they came by boat, how many sailors they would need, what dangers to avoid, the best places to land and how to handle any officials they might encounter.

When they had finished the letter to the Pope they gave it to the bishop. The bishop, in turn, sent it to the representative of the Congregation for Evangelization in Macao, Fr. Umpierres, who translated it into Latin and sent it on to the Pope on December 3, 1826. On their return to Korea, Yu Chin-gil Augustine and Chong Ha-sang Paul gave a full report to Nam Myong-hyok and the other leaders. News of the letter they had sent to the Pope gave new hope and courage to the fragile Church. When Yu Chin-gil Augustine returned home good news awaited him. He now had a son whom he named Tae-ch’ol Peter.

Due to appeals by You Chin-gil Augustine and his companions, Pope Gregory XVI, on September 9, 1831, established Korea as a Vicariate Apostolate separate from Beijing and appointed Bartholomew Bruguiere of the Paris Foreign Mission Society as its first bishop. This initiative was due to the letter of 1826 which so moved the Pope.

Bishop Bruguiere, who had been working in Bangkok, Thailand, received news of his appointment as first bishop of Korea sometime after July 25, 1832. Unfortunately, in his efforts to enter Korea, Bishop Bruguiere fell ill in Yodong while traveling towards Korea and died on October 20, 1835. This news soon reached Korea. You Chin-gil Augustine and his companions were much saddened, but determined to keep up their efforts to help other priests to enter the country. Meantime, You Chin-gil Augustine acted like a priest and converted many prominent people and scholars. However he couldn’t convert his own wife and daughters although his son followed him in faith. His 13-year old first son, You Tae-ch’ol Peter, became the youngest of the 103 Martyr Saints of Korea.

You Chin-gil Augustine was arrested at home in July of 1839. Many of his relatives begged him to renounce his religion, but he refused to do so. They reminded him of what would happen to his family, position and property, but You Chin-gil Augustine told them that it was more important to save souls than to take care of bodies, although he was sorry to cause trouble for them. The police chief interrogated. “As a government official, how can you adhere to a religion prohibited by the government? Reveal where the Catholics and the books are hidden.”You Chin-gil Augustine did not reveal anything, and so he was severely tortured on five occasions, and his flesh was torn apart.

The police chief asked You Chin-gil Augustine about Bishop Imbert and two other missionaries. Augustine told him that they came to Korea to teach Korean people about God and to help them save their souls. He said that the missionaries didn’t seek their own glory, wealth and pleasure. The police chief questioned who brought them to Korea. You Chin-gil Augustine said that he did. The police chief then brought in Bishop Imbert and questioned them together. The bishop told You Chin-gil Augustine that the government already knew that Fathers Maubant and Chastan were in Korea.

However, You Chin-gil Augustine refused to reveal the names of the Church leaders in Korea. His legs were twisted and tied with ropes, and were bleeding profusely.

Police interrogation continued. “This is not the sort of crime a stupid and low class person like you could do on your own. Who among the Catholics masterminded this? Since you have abandoned the beautiful customs and ritual of your country and accepted the treacherous ways of the foreigner, even if you were put to death ten thousand times, would the punishment not be too light? This is a solemn interrogation. So answer carefully without any deceit.” They stressed that since Catholic teaching was false, treacherous and anti-social, those who brought foreign priests into the country had committed treason.

However, You Chin-gil Augustine answered them calmly. “I have already told the investigating officers all that I did. Ten years ago I joined Chong Ha-sang Paul and his group in studying about the Catholic Church. When I reflected on what I learned, I realized that there are various sacraments and procedures in the Church which can be performed only by a priest. Since God is the supreme Lord of heaven and earth, we have to believe in Him and praise Him. The only crime I committed is to deceive the king since this teaching is prohibited in our country. I have already spent three months in jail. Among the Catholics I know, some have suffered the death penalty, some are held in prison and the rest have been scattered like the wind. Since I was born and have lived in the capital how could I know anything about the people in the country? If I have committed any great crime, I’m alone the responsible.” The police chief asked again. “How did you come to brake the law of the country and fall into these traitorous acts?” He replied. “how can you compare suffering the death penalty with going to hell after death? Which is the worse?” You Gin-gil Augustine said and did not want to argue with them further. So, he said. “I have nothing to say further. My only sin was to deceive the king.”

After this, You Chin-gil Augustine was tortured on two further occasions. His flesh was torn apart and his bones terribly crushed. But his faith did not waver and received the death sentence.

On September 22, 1839, You Chin-gil Augustine and Chong Ha-sang Paul were taken outside the Small West Gate in Seoul. On the way to the place of execution You Chin-gil Augustine showed no sign of fear. It was as if he had no interest in the things of the world and was lost in contemplation. With serene faces he was beheaded. You Chin-gil Augustine was beatified on July 5th, 1925 and canonized on May 6th, 1984 at Yoido, Seoul, by Pope John Paul II.

Korean martyrs5

Saint Kim Song-im Martha (1787-1839)

In the “Diary of the Persecution of 1839”, Saint Kim Song-im Martha is referred to as Pup’yong House, a title referring to the fact that she was married to someone from Pup’yong.

Kim Song-im was a 50-year old pagan widow. Her husband was of a very uncompromising temperament and they did not thave a peaceful relationship. This was before Kim Song-im became a Catholic. The situation became so bad taht she had no choice but to separate from her husband. She left quietly and went to live in Hanyang. There she met and lived with a blind man who made a living by telling fortunes. At this stage she was over fifty but she still had not learned about the Catholic faith.

One day she heard about the God and His Only Son, Jesus, from a Catholic who was living in the same house. With this encounter she began to believe in God and her faith grown eventually.

Life with her blind husband had been difficult but when he suddenly died Kim Song-im Martha’s future looked bleak. Some Catholic came to her aid. Martha began working in the houses of the Catholic firneds to repay their help. It was during this period that her faith grew deeper and she repented of her past sins, her inability to put up with her first husband and her subsenquent living by superstition.

At times Martha felt deep sorrow but in her total dependence on the Lord she came through her depression The concern and Christian example of the other Catholics made her realize and confirm how great is the love of God.

One day Martha was with Yi Magdalena, Yi Theresa and Kim Lucy talking about the persecution, the courageous martyrs and the happiness of Heaven. They were so deeply moved by the love of God that all decided to give themselves up to the government authorities to profess their faith.

They wanted to do mortification and sacrifice following the cross of Jesus Christ. The Hisotry of the Catholic Church in Korea says: “Voluntary surrrender is not in accordance with the ordinary rules. However, it might have been evoked by divine grace, or God might have given His tacit approval to them, because the women were steadfast in their faith and wanting to be witness of God by being martyrs. There are other laudable examples in church history, such as St. Plollina, St. Aurelia and others.”

By the end of March or in the beginning of April of 1839 these courageous women went to the police station and told the police to put them in prison because they were Catholics. To the unbelieving policemen they showed their rosaries. The police tied them up and put them in prison. Therefore, it can be easily understood that these pious women courageously endured all tortures and pains for the love of God.

The police chief interrogated the women.

“Do you believe that the Catholic religious in the true religion?”

“Of course, we do. Otherwise we woudln’t be here.”

“Deny God.”

“We can never deny God. Even if we have to dies.”

” Are you not afraid of turtures?”

“You are wasting time in persuading us to deny God. We surendered ourselves for the sake of God. How can we deny Him” We will die if required by the law of the country, but we can never deny God.”

They were repeatedly and severly tortured. The courageous women were sent to the higher court, where they were interrogated atain.

“Do you still believe that the Catholic religion is the tru religons?”

“Yes, we do. We worship God, and we are determined to die for Him.”

The police chief tortured the women more severly than others to punish them for surrendering themselves. But they didn’t succumb to him. They were finally sentenced to death.

According to the government Sungjongwon Diary, these four pious women and four otehr Catholics were beheaded outside the Small West Gate on July 20th, 1839. Martha was 53 years old, when she was killed for her faith.

She was beatified on July 25th, 1925 and canonized on May 6th, 1984 at Yoido, Seoul, by Pope John Paul II.

Won Kwi-im Maria (1819-1839)

Won Kwi-im Maria was boarn in 1819 in Yongmori, Kyuanggun. She lost her mother when she was a child, and followed her father, who wandered around begging for food. When she was nine years old, one of her relatives, Won Lucy, who was a very devout Catholic, took her and taught her prayers and the catechism. She also taught Maria embroidery for her lifelihood. Maria was very intelligent, genial and pious. Her aunt was proud of Maria’s devotion and faithfulness. Maria was baptized at the age of 15. Soon after that she received an offer of marriage. But she refused to be married because she wanted to offer herself to God. The next year she put her hair up in a style which indicated that she was a married woman.

Maria was accused of being a Catholic by a neighbor and was arrested. She looked a little discouraged when she first was put in prison. But she thought that everything was according to God’s Will, and regained her usual peacefulness. Mary was interrogated by the police chief.

“Are you a Catholic?”

“Yes, I am, as you say.”

“Deny God, and you will be saved.”

“I want to worship God and save my soul. If I have to die, I would rather die for God to save my soul.”

Maria’s legs were twisted and she was beaten with a cudgel. Many of her bones were dislocated, but her faith was not shaken.

According to the government document Sungjongwon Diary, Maria and seven other Catholics were beheaded outside the Small West Gate on July 20th, 1839. Maria was 22 years old, when she was crowned with martyrdom.

She was beatified on July 25th, 1925 and canonized on May 6th, 1984 at Yoido, Seoul, by Pope John Paul II.

KoreanMartyrs4

Saint Kim Barbara (1805-1839)

Saint Kim Barbara was one of those who died of disease while in prison. According to Hyon Sok-mum Charles in the “Diary of the Persecution of 1839”, over sixty people died of torture and disease in prison.

In fact, while the pain of torture was terrible, every day prison life was even worse and unbearable. There were many who bravely witnessed through all forms of torture, but finally gave in because of the hunger and thirst. Given no more than two fistfuls of rice a day the prisoners were often reduced to eating the dirty straw they lay on. Also, with a large number of people crammed into the small cells, it was inevitable that disease would break out and spread very quickly. Bishop Daveluy, who would himself later die as a martyr, wrote of the prison situation: Our Catholics were packed in so tightly that they could not even spread out their legs to sleep. Compared to the suffering of imprisonment the pain of torture was nothing. On top of everything else the stench from their rotting wounds was unbearable and in the heat typhoid would break out killing several in a few days.

People like Kim Barbara suffered the extremes of prison life. Those in prison worried most whether they would live long enough to claim the glory of martyrdom from the executioner’s sword.

Kim Barbara was born to very poor family in Kyonggi Province. Her family was Catholic, but not very devout. At the age of thirteen Kim Barbara was sent as a servant to the wealthy Catholic family of Hwang Maria. It was there she spiritually met God and her devotion for Jesus grew. She was forthright and diligent, inscribing in her heart the teachings of the Lord. Very much aware of the Lord’s grace in her life, she was determined to remain a virgin.

One day her father came to tell her that a match had been made for her with a young Catholic man.

“It is very good match and we have already agreed to it so you must now prepare for marriage,” he told her.

“It is my wish to preserve my chastity for the Lord.”

“If husband and wife are both believers there are no obstacles for a faithful life and this match will be advantageous for you, so do not be so obstinate,” her father responded and she had no choice but to agree to the marriage.

However, it turned out that her husband was a pagan and all her efforts to convert him were of no use. She had several children of whom she only managed to baptize a daughter. Differences in faith created many difficulties between the couple and these problems were never resolved. After her husband’s death she was able to devote herself to prayers and good works.

With the arrival of foreign priests in the country she was able to lead a more fervent and happy spiritual life. Barbara was arrested in March, 1839, and subjected to torture, but she refused to apostatize or reveal the name of other Catholics. During the three months of her prison life she suffered from torture, hunger, thirst and disease. On May 27th, 1839, Kim Barbara died of typhoid fever lying on the dirty mat of her cell at age of thirty-five. She was beatified on July 5th, 1925 and canonized on May 6th, 1984 at Yoido, Seoul, by Pope John Paul II.

Korean martyrs6

Saint Kim Rosa (1784-1839)

In June 1839, Cho Pyong-ku who had a pathological hatred for Catholics took control of the Korean government. On July 5th, a decree came down to completely eradicate the Church. The first to be martyred after this decree were eight Catholics who were already in prison. Of these Kim Rosa was the first to have been arrested.

Kim Rosa was born in a non-Catholic family in 1784, Hanyang. She was married, but she and her husband subsequently separated. After the separation Kim Rosa went to live with a Catholic relative and this was her first contact with the Church. Although it was late in her life she happily applied herself to learning the doctrine. She was intelligent and could communicate well so she was able to make others understand the value of her belief. She taught her mother and older brother the truths of the faith helping them to repent of their past. Thus the family was able to live in harmony, practicing the teaching of the Church.

Kim Rosa lived according to her faith, examined her conscience frequently, repented her sins and prayed constantly. She had high respect for priests and did all she could to help them. She was a model to other Catholics.

On January 16th, 1838, in the middle of the night, the police surrounded her house but she did not show any concern. Happy that at last her time had come, she went to prison calling on the names of Jesus and Mary. She never betrayed her faith, but testified to all in the prison. Even the guards were impressed by her attitude. However, she could not avoid the fury of the government. When she first appeared before the judge he displayed all the instruments of torture before her and said,

“Criminal Kim Rosa, before we use these instruments to break your leg and lacerate your flesh, give up your God and report the names of other Catholics.”

“Judge! I cannot give up my God. He is the Creator and Father to all of us. He loves virtue and punishes sin, so how could I abandon Him? Harming others is also a sin. A long time ago I decided to shed my blood for these truths. Do as you please.”

“Listen to me, criminal. Your religion’s doctrine has been forbidden by our king, yet you still insist on belnging to that Church?”

“My body is now in the hands of the king but before that it belonged to God. We are all God’s sons and daughters. How is it that Your Excellency does not know this simple fact?”

The judge was furious and had her tortured before sentencing her to death. The sentence was carried out on July 20th, 1839. She was fifty-six years old. Kim Rosa was beatified on July 5th, 1925 and canonized on May 6th, 1984 at Yoido, Seoul, by Pope John Paul II.

Korean martyrs 8 Sts__Chong_Chong-hye_Elisabeth,_Yu_So-sa_Caecilia,_Chong_Ha-sang_Paulus_(Chung_Chang-sup,_98x75,_1985)

The Coming of Christianity To Korea

In 1984, Pope John Paul II visited the flat sands of the Han River and there forty seven Korean women, fort seven Korean men, seven French priests and three French Bishops, all martyred for their Christian faith, were canonized as saints. It was the first time that such a ceremony had been performed away from Rome. Those chosen were a representative group from among thousands who lost their lives refusing to renounce their religious beliefs.

John Paul described the Korean church as “a community unique in the history of the church.” Although her story is one of great suffering and endurance that is not what makes the coming of Christianity to Korea unique: it is unique because of the manner of its coming. It was a church formed without foreign missionaries and by lay people.

The first news of Christianity came to Korea in the seventeenth century. It entered via the caravan which travelled each winter to China – where, to Peking, goods, gifts and slaves would be taken in tribute to its powerful neighbour. Returning travelers brought news of agriculture, astronomy and mathematics – part of the early “scientific diplomacy” practiced by the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits.

The Cambridge scholar, historian and Fellow of Jesus College, Mary Laven, in her superb “Mission to China” charts the late sixteenth, early seventeenth century encounter of the remarkable Italian Jesuit, Matteo Ricci, with China. These were the ideas with which Korean travelers would connect.

Laven forensically analyses the challenges which faced Ricci and his compatriot, Michele Ruggieri, and details the more than two thousand conversions and the widespread dissemination of the Christian narrative which followed Ricci’s arrival in the Orient.

On reaching China the Europeans initially shaved their heads and dressed as monks but soon realised that by identifying with Buddhist and Taoist idolatry they were failing to reach the literati – the educated Confucian elite. So, Ricci chose instead to dress and behave as a Confucian scholar – engaging China’s culture and leadership through science, books and reason – fides et ratio.

“The Chinese have a wonderful intelligence, natural and acute” he wrote…”From which, if we could teach our sciences, not only would they have great success among these eminent men, but it would also be a means of introducing them easily to our holy law and they would never forget such a benefit.”

Unlike his more aggressive Portuguese and Spanish counterparts, whose presence in Macao became a source of conflict with the Chinese authorities, Ricci’s admiring embrace of Chinese culture, language and customs, gradually made him persona grata in many circles.

Ricci’s publication of his world map, the Mappamondo, along with translations of Western classical scholarship; his knowledge of astronomy and mathematics; his decision to import hitherto unknown musical instruments, such as the harpsichord, along with Venetian prisms and mechanical clocks, gained him acceptance and, despite occasional attempts to close the missions, the ultimate forbearance of the Emperor.

His legacy included astronomical instruments and installations brought by Jesuits to Beijing, which remained untouched even during China’s disastrous Cultural Revolution and may be seen to this day, beautifully preserved at Beijing’s Ancient Observatory. An even more enduring memory has been Ricci’s admirable willingness to find ways through difficult situations and his innate respect for Oriental culture and civilisation.

His reasoned approach also bore spiritual fruit – with the Jesuit’s work blessed by healings and miracles. In his diary, Ricci wrote: “From morning to night, I am kept busy discussing the doctrines of our faith. Many desire to forsake their idols and become Christians”.

Ricci brought the hugely admired Plantin Bible to China – eight gilded folio volumes with printed parallel texts in Aramaic, Syriac, Hebrew, Greek and Latin. His True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven was printed and distributed widely, drawing heavily on Aquinas but also appropriating Confucian ideas to bolster the Christian cause. He brilliantly re-positioned the important Chinese custom of ancestor worship by tracing everything back to “the first ancestor” – the Creator, the Lord of Heaven.

Among Ricci’s seventeenth century writings were his Catechism and a treatise “On Friendship” building on Confucius’ belief, expressed in the Analects, that “To have friends coming from distant places – is that not delightful?” Simultaneously Ricci introduced his readers to Cicero’s assertion that “the reasons for friendship are reciprocal need and mutual help.” Amicitia perfecta – perfect friendship – was, for Ricci, the highest of ideals. The Chinese came to value him as a true friend.

On his death, on May 11th 1610, he was uniquely accorded a burial site in Beijing by the Emperor – which, according to Laven was “an extraordinary coup, which testified to the success of nearly thirty years of careful networking and diplomacy.”

In 1644, thirty years after Ricci’s death, the Crown Prince of Korea returned to Seoul from Peking with five baptised Chinese eunuchs and three baptised Court ladies.

There are also accounts from the same period in Korean records mentioning England, France, and Catholicism. Books on Christianity became prized by certain young Koreans and some of Christianity’s radical teaching about the innate value of every person began to be discussed in a country where poverty was rife, worsened by the punishing strain of Manchu tutelage. The population topped five million but more Koreans died of famine and epidemics in 1671 than during all of Japan’s repeated raids and invasions. In the decades following people stole clothes from graves, babies were abandoned, and the starving were eating the dead. Floods added more misery.

It was in this climate that a young Korean intellectual, Yi Pyok, read about Christianity from Chinese books circulating among a group of friends. In 1777 he brought them together to make further study. They met in a Buddhist monastery happily known as The Hermitage of Heavenly Truth.

They concluded that the Confucian ideals of personal goodness, mutual forbearance, reverence for ancestors, meekness, dignity, and respect for the aged – the Confucian “way” – which permeates Korean culture- and, to this day, make Koreans such wonderful people – sat very comfortably with the Catholic tradition of the Christian faith.

Curious Korean youths were eager to plumb the depths of this religion, impressed by a doctrine where all were loved equally by God; and where they were struck by the Jesuit demands for justice for the poor and an end to slavery.

On a subsequent winter embassy to Peking one of Yi Pyok’s young associates, Yi Sunghun, travelled to China with his father and sought out the Christian community. He was baptized by a Jesuit and took the name Peter, returning to Korea in 1785.

Korea’s first priest, Father Zhou Wenmo from China, entered the country during the same period and ministered until 1794. There would not be another priest for 35 years. Yet without missionaries or priests, belief in Christ spread rapidly, first among the nobles and educated, then protected by these aristocrats, among thousands of poor.

Within a year of Yi Sunghun pilgrimage to Peking, in 1786 a secret church had been established in Pyongyang. The authorities raided the house church and discovered a prayer group. The owner of the house, Thomas Kim, was so badly injured during interrogation that he died of the injuries.

That same year, 1786, belief in Christ had been banned. Notwithstanding its Asian antecedents Christianity was perceived by most powerful Koreans as “western learning” and as such treacherous, dangerous. It omitted ancestor worship and was therefore considered “opposed to human morality”.

State hostility was harsh, even toward the royals and members of the nobility who had converted. In 1790 there were 4,000 believers in Korea, and while there were executions every year, by 1800 the number of believers had risen to 10,000. In 1801 more than 300 Christians were executed.

One fearful Christian penned a letter to Jesuits in China appealing for military protection. The letter was intercepted and brought to Korea’s dowager Queen. Immediately she decreed that to hold the evil learning was high treason. Capital persecution now became policy.

Some Christians died in prison. Many others recanted their faith. One who had renounced his beliefs and then returned to the faith and given himself up, was sentenced to “25 blows of the big paddle”. The beating left him insensible and a few hours later dead. Yi Sunghun (who had been baptised as Peter Yi), would, like his name sake, also, under pressure, repudiated his faith but then re-embraced it and in 1801 was martyred along with three hundred others, including two royal princesses.

Many of the ordeals faced by prisoners are described in Martyrs of Korea by the late Msgr. Richard Rutt ( a noted Korean scholar and one time Anglican Bishop of Korea, Canon Rutt became a priest of the Plymouth Diocese and was given the title Monsignor by Pope Benedict XVI) : “a cord was passed under the thighs, crossed over the front then held taut by men on either side who applied a sawing motion that cut through the flesh like a cheese-cutter, right to the bone”. Prisoners were given boiled millet twice a day. Those who could not buy or acquire more food were reduced to eating the foul straw and lice. Many who had not recanted under torture, cracked because of prison.

Intermittently, itinerant priests arrived in the country – most were executed. For 35 years the fledgling church was without a single priest. Only one sacrament could be given – and thousands came forward to be baptised.

In 1834, a French priest, Fr Pierre Maubant, who had been working in Sichuan in Western China, volunteered to go to Korea to minister to the country’s Christians.

Border guards along the Yalu River would not allow Europeans to enter so Fr Pierre waited until the river froze. In January 1836 he crossed into Korea, taking two weeks to walk to Seoul where he was greeted by a Chinese priest called Fr Pacifico. From there he arranged for three young men to be smuggled out to Macao to study as seminarians. He was joined by another Frenchman, Fr Jacques Chastan, and in 1838, a third, Laurent Imbert, who became the first bishop of the Korean diocese.

To conceal their features the three men wore capacious Korean mourning costumes and very wide-brimmed hats. They carried out their duties at night, three priests for thousands of believers. Within weeks 2,000 had been baptised bringing the total number of Korean Christians to 9,000. Two years later, with two other priests, he was decapitated. Hundreds of Korean Christian suffered the same brutal fate, including many members of the same family: fathers along with their sons and daughters, wives and mothers.

Typical was Peter Yu, aged 13, who was tortured on 14 occasions. In his defiance he even picked up shreds of his own flesh and threw them before his interrogators. He was strangled in the prison in October 1839. 150 years later he would be among those canonized by John Paul II.

Perhaps most famous among the Korean martyrs is St.Andrew Kim, born on August 21st 1821. His parents had become Christians. His father, Blessed Ignatius Kim, was martyred in 1839. Andrew was baptized at the age of fifteen.

He was one of the three seminarians who had been secreted out of Korea by Fr Pierre Maubant five year earlier in 1836. The British consul in Shanghai had arranged shelter for him and having, in 1844, become the first Korean to be ordained as a priest and having experiencing all sorts of adventures attempting to return to his homeland, later that year he crossed the Yalu River. By the autumn of 1846 Father Andrew Kim was on trial. He impressed the judges with his eloquence and good manners, and they might have considered a lenient sentence. But during the trial two French warships, commanded by Admiral Cecile, appeared off the Korean coast. The admiral sent insulting letters to the King, demanding an accounting for the deaths of the three French clergy, and saying he would return the following year. This soured the mood against those who colluded with foreigners. Fr Kim’s fate was sealed

Andrew Kim, aged just 25, was arrested, stripped naked, and decapitated. On 16th September 1846, he was taken to the Han sands and beheaded, proclaiming as he died:

“This is my last hour of life, listen to me attentively: if I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and for my God. It is for Him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know Him.”

It required eight strokes of the sword to kill Andrew Kim. Customarily his head would have been displayed on a pole for three days but the authorities were afraid of the public reaction. They buried Kim immediately.

Forty days later his relics were recovered and in 1984 he was among those canonized by John Paul II – one of at least 8,000 Korean martyrs from the time the first house church was planted in Pyongyang.

Pyongyang, -which is located on a majestic S-curve of the Taedong River– would become known as “the Jerusalem of the East” because of the scale of Christian conversion which followed the Great Revival of 1907 – would itself be the scene of another hugely significant martyrdom.

It occurred in 1866 – twenty years after the execution of Andrew Kim and during a year of increased persecution. What happened links Korea’s Christian story to a small chapel in South Wales and also to one of North Korea’s most hopeful contemporary stories, the creation of a university of science and technology, of which the author is a trustee. The tale is recounted by Stella Price, with whom I was in North Korea in 2011, in her “Chosen for Chosun”. It is the story of a remarkable Welshman.

Robert Jermain Thomas was born in Rhayadar South Wales in 1839. He enlisted with the London Missionary Society and in 1863 he went to Peking where his wife, Caroline, died of fever.

In 1865 Thomas met two Korean traders who told him that there were about 50,000 Catholics in Korea, and they recounted the story of how Koreans had spread the Christian message and baptised many others. .

Funded by the Scottish Bible Society Robert Thomas decided to take bibles to the beleaguered Catholic community. He obtained work as an interpreter on the American schooner the General Sherman and as the boat traveled around Korea Thomas handed out Bibles. Near Pyongyang the boat became involved in an altercation with the Korean army and Thomas leapt overboard with his Bibles and, while calling on the name of Jesus, he handed them to the angry crowd which had gathered at the river side.

It is said that he handed out more than 500 Bibles before being captured and executed, giving his lat one to his executioner. The authorities ordered the people to destroy the Bibles they had received. However, some removed the pages and used them as wallpaper in their homes. It was from these people that a Presbyterian congregation would be formed. One of its leaders was Thomas’ executioner, who, having picked up Thomas’s own bible, and impressed by the Welshman’s courage and ardor, read the Scriptures and later asked for baptism. The executioner’s son would, in turn, become an Elder of the Presbyterian church – the Thomas Memorial Church.

After Thomas’ execution Pyongyang was subsequently visited for two weeks in 1890 by the American Presbyterian, Samuel A.Moffett. He returned the next year with James Scarth Gale and in 1893 returned to establish a mission station – which, despite attempts on his life, opened in 1895. By 1935 the 120 acre Presbyterian campus consisted of secondary academies for boys and girls; a college; industrial shops; a facility for the provision o vocational training for abandoned wives and widows; a seminary; a Bible school; a foreign school; the Union Christian Hospital and the West Gate Presbyterian Church.

Thomas’ church was destroyed by the Japanese during their occupation of Korea. It is, however, the site where Pyongyang University of Science and Technology ( PUST) now stands. Its founder and President, Dr. James Kim, believes it is “the hand of God bringing two histories together.”

After the ferocious wave of persecutions in 1866 a trade treaty was concluded with the United States. This Treaty of Amity and Trade, concluded in 1882, included a clause requiring toleration and protection for Christian missionaries. Proselytising was still forbidden but missionaries were permitted to embark on educational and medical initiatives. This is turn led, in 1884, to the arrival of Horace Allen, the first American missionary in Korea, to be followed by Horace Underwood in 1885. These Presbyterians were followed by Methodists, including Henry Appenzeller.

The Korean King, Gojong, allowed Allen to establish previously unknown Western medical facilities – initially known as The House of Extended Grace and later as the House of Universal Helpfulness – and to train Koreans in Western medicine. Gojong granted Appenzeller permission to open a school- Pai Chai Hak Dang – and Underwood created an orphanage – later becoming Gyeongsin High School. Mary Scranton, meanwhile, with the support of Queen Min, created Korea’s first school for girls at Ewha Hak Dang. From these seeds, some of the great Korean schools and universities would germinate and grow.

Christianity was also having a fundamental impact on the mores of Korean society. Despite the clash over ancestor worship (which often arose from a mistaken belief that Koreans deified their ancestors rather than venerating their memory) there was much which Koreans had embraced in Christian teaching and which revolutionised feudal attitudes towards women and children. From the outset, in the eighteenth century, the Catholic Church allowed widow to remarry ( normally not permitted in East Asia); it prohibited concubinage and polygamy; it forbade cruelty to or desertion of wives; and . Catholic parents were taught that each of their children – girls and boys – was a precious gift from God – not merely the first-born son. Along with the other denominations which arrived in Korea it insisted that girls should be educated as well as boys. The Church also placed a prohibition on the traditional arranged child marriages.

Beyond all this activity a new danger was, however, looming – one which would shape contemporary Korea and the role of the Christian community: the invasion of the peninsula and its occupation by Japan. The Japanese would rule Korea from 1905 until 1945 and the refusal of many Christians to worship the Japanese emperor would lead to more martyrdom – and ruptures within the Christian community as those who collaborated were ostracised. This, in turn, would lead to the identification of Christianity with Korean nationalism and independence and increase its standing, reputation and reach within the Republic of Korea during the post war years.

Open discontent with Japanese rule erupted on March 1st, 1919, with a Proclamation of Independence and the emergence of the March First Movement which saw many street demonstrations led by Christians and followers of the Cheondogyo native Korea religion challenging Japanese rule. The predominantly Catholic Ulmindan (Righteous People’s Army, a movement for independence) was formed and a Methodist, Syngman Rhee – a future South Korean President – formed a Korean Government-in-exile. Hatred of the Japanese was consolidated as seven million people were either exiled or deported and Japan sought to culturally assimilate Korea’s people – even banning the Korean language. As the world came to terms with the enormity of Japanese ambitions, and became embattled in the Second World War, in Korea worship at Shinto shrines became mandatory, and any attempt to preserve Korean identity or culture was asphyxiated.

A similar asphyxiation – this time of religion itself – would follow the withdrawal of the defeated Japanese from the peninsula accompanied by the severance of Korea, divided by the Korean War, at the 38th parallel.

In 1945, at the end of Japanese occupation there was still a thriving Christian presence in Pyongyang although different factions had emerged – some had chosen to collaborate with the Japanese, others were persecuted. That year Presbyterian Ministers Yoon Ha-yong and Han Kyong-jik, formed the Christian Social Democratic Party, the first political party in North Korea. Communists raided a planning meeting at a church in Yong-am-po, resulting in the death of twenty three people. Meanwhile, in Pyongyang, Kim Hwa-sik, a Christian leader was arrested with forty others, as they met to create a Christian Liberal Party.

The Communists then enrolled a Protestant Minister, Kang Yang-uk, Kim IL Sung’s maternal uncle, one of the Christian Ministers who had told believers to worship at Shinto shrines during Japanese rule. In 1946 they helped him establish his pro-Communist Christian League. By 1949 those who refused to collaborate and to join the League were being rounded up and thrown in jail. Simultaneously, church property (along with 15,000 Buddhist temples) was being confiscated and schools and other church-run projects sequestrated. Divisions and denominational rivalries – and the mistaken belief that they could simply remain quiet and survive – had blinded many Korean Christians to the enormity of the threat which Communism posed. Typical of the consequence was the massacre which occurred in a cave at Wonsan, where the mass murder of 530 religious and political dissenters, many of them children, occurred. A journalist who visited the site in October 1950, as the North Korea army retreated, described the carnage, a mass grave of twisted bodies, many of them women and children, all shot in the back of the neck.

Another foretaste of what awaited Christians in the new Communist State was the fate of some of the Christian clergy captured during the hostilities.

In 1955 one of the most vivid accounts of these depredations appears in a harrowing account by an Australian Columban missionary priest, Fr.Philip Crosbie.

“March Till They Die” is the story of his imprisonment between 1950 and 1953.

Unlike seven of his Columban colleagues who died in prison, Philip Crosbie survived to tell his story.

Those who paid with their lives included the Chicago born Msgr. Pat Brennan and Fr.Tony Collier, who worked with Fr.Crosbie at the mission station of Chunchon.

During his epic ordeal Fr.Crosbie and others imprisoned with him, were marched from place to place, given starvation rations, and frequently left exposed to the elements.

One of his companions was Msgr. Thomas Quinlan who originated from Thurles in Tipperary – one of a pioneering group of Columban missionaries who went to Korea from Ireland – and Fr.Frank Canavan from Galway. Another was a Maryknoll priest, Bishop Patrick Byrne.

Others on the forced march included a captured group of Carmelite nuns along with French nuns from the Community of St.Paul of Chartres, and their provincial superior, 76-year-old Mother Beatrix.

They were later joined by other prisoners: members of the British and French Legations in Seoul; the Anglican Bishop, Cecil Cooper, and the Reverend Charles Hunt; members of the Methodist mission; Herbert Lord, head of the Salvation Army in Korea; and a clutch of South Korean politicians. Later they were joined by a group of American Prisoners of War.

The title of Fr.Crosbie’s book is drawn from the remarks of a North Korean major.

When Commissioner Lord protested that many of the group was elderly or infirm “…but they will die if they have to march” the Korean major responded “Then let them march until they die.”

Following his capture in July 1950 Fr.Crosbie saw many deaths and terrible suffering. Among the fatalities was Mother Beatrix – who had given more than fifty years of her life caring for the sick, the poor and orphans in Korea.

When she could walk no further and lay by the roadside one of the guards shot her dead.

On November 18th, Mother Mechtilde – a Belgian Carmelite succumbed and was followed, on November 25th, by that of Bishop Byrne.

Fr.Crosbie records his burial “The only sign of his rank was a light cassock of black silk, with red buttons and piping. The buttons under their covering of red cloth were of metal. Some day they may help to identify the remains.”

Charles Hunt and Fr.Canavan died a few days later.

The remaining prisoners were marched ever onwards – and their peregrinations took them to the River Yalu (close to where the American journalists would be arrested in 2009), to the Chinese border, and back again to Pyongyang. Some, including Msgr Quinlan, Bishop Cooper and Herbert Lord, survived and were eventually freed.

Msgr. Quinlan would return to South Korea in 1954 as Regent to the Apostolic Delegation.

In 1953, on May 25th, Fr.Crosbie was handed over to an official of the Soviet Union, taken to Moscow and was freed. Staff at the Australian Embassy welcomed him: “And so”, he wrote, “I came to freedom.”

Movingly, describing his return to “laws that respect an individual’s freedom while providing for the good of the State; …a land where the Muses are not completely chained to the chariots of politicians; where books and newspapers are freely published, and I can freely read them. …All this I prize; but I have gained a still greater and more precious freedom. It is the freedom to believe in God and openly profess my faith.” Philip Crosbie prized his regained freedom but he also observed that the cruelty and atrocities had not only flowed in one direction and he had seen enough to know that the South Koreans had blood on their hands, too.

He concluded his account with a prayer for those who did not live to see freedom; and a prayer for those who had captured and abused them: “May there be none of us who will not find Him at the end!”

Kim IL Sung’s antagonism towards Christianity stemmed from his embrace of Marxism and his belief that Korean Christians and his American opponents in the Korean War amounted to one and the same thing. Although his mother, Kang Pan-sok, was a Presbyterian deaconess, in his writings Kim IL Sung frequently criticized religion. North Korean literature and movies caricature religion as a negative force and as unscientific while the Juche philosophy of self reliance has been presented as an alternative.

In Article 14 of his 1948 Constitution, Kim IL Sung did, however, decree that “citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea shall have the freedom of religious belief and of conducting religious services.” By 1972 this had been modified to permit “freedom to oppose religion” (Article 54) of the 1972 constitution, which amounted to open season – and open hostility – on religious adherents.

Further modification came in 1992 with Article 68 granting freedom of religious belief and the right to construct buildings for religious use and religious ceremonies. It, too, was tempered by a prohibition on any person using religion “to drag in foreign powers or to destroy the state or social order.” Social order, of course, refers to every aspect of the tightly controlled apparatus of the state.

So, regardless of the theoretical constitutional provisions, what is known about the fate of the Jerusalem of the East and of North Korea’s Christian believers?

Comprising around 47,000 square miles and around 23 million people North Korea has an unknown number of religious believers – although the Government claim there are around 10,000 Protestants, 4,000 Catholics, 10,000 Buddhists and 40,000 Chendogyo practitioners.

Religious Intelligence UK suggests different numbers: 64.3% professing atheism; 16% followers of Korean Shamanism; 13.5% Chendoists; 4.5%. Buddhists; and 1.7% (406,000) Christian.

In Pyongyang there are four Christian churches which are heavily controlled by the State: two Protestant churches —the Chilgol (dedicated to the memory of Kim IL Sung’s mother, Kang Pan-sok) and Bongsu churches— the Changchung Roman Catholic Church, opened in 1988, and a new Russian Orthodox Church, opened in 2006. No Catholic priest has been permitted to serve in North Korea for more than sixty years, and North Korea has refused to normalise its relations with the Holy See – which would send an immediate signal to the world’s one billion Catholics that North Korea wants friendly relations with Catholic people.

Since 1988 there has been some attempt to use the churches to open dialogue beyond North Korea’s borders and agencies such as the Catholic relief organisation, Caritas, have been permitted to bring food and medicine into the country. However, the officials who run the Korean Christian Federation are Party officials whose job is to control not to enable. But, in a hopeful move, it is reported that five North Koreans have been selected by Cardinal Nicholas Chung Jin-Suk to study at Seoul’s Incheon University. It would be a highly significant step forward if they are permitted to return to the North once ordained.

Such pastoral provision was “an unfulfilled dream” of the widely admired and revered late Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-Hwan – the great champion of Korean freedom and democracy. It is an aspiration which, during each of our visits, Lady Cox and I have repeatedly raised with the officials who control religious belief. In another conciliatory move the North Koreans have also extended an official invitation to Dr.Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, to visit the country.

Another development has seen the visit of some South Korean Protestant pastors to the North and they have been permitted to hold regulated services in their churches and to carry out extensive refurbishment and to build a small seminary. The students pursue a five-year course and are then admitted to the Korean Christian Fellowship as pastors upon graduation.

The author has visited all four churches and has spoken to the congregation at the Changchung Catholic church and met with members of the congregations at the other churches. At Changchung I met Jang Jae On, the Communist Party official who regulates religious belief.

Much about these “Potemkin” – or show churches – is aimed at creating an illusion of religious freedom but, not-withstanding the illusion, the author has had conversations with a handful of North Koreans who have favourably mentioned their family’s religious antecedents and understood the value and importance of religious belief.

Wholly unverifiable reports suggest that there may be several hundred permitted family worship centres and many more underground unregulated house churches.

In Anju, a town about 80 kilometers north of Pyongyang, visited by the author, the mayor said that Catholics meet in the rubble of their church, destroyed during the Korean War, and have continued to do so every Sunday without pastors.

However, it is those Christians who refuse to be controlled by the State whose fate is the most disturbing.

Becoming an illicit Christian is a serious crime. Some who have escaped say that they had never seen a church or a Bible before leaving the country. Many are in camps or prison – where they are kept in horrific conditions, fed on starvation rations. Deprived of sleep they are crammed into overcrowded cells. They are unable to even lie down straight.

In 2011 there were further reports of the execution of Christians in North Korea. At least 20 other Christians were arrested and sent to Camp No. 15 in Yodok.34 . In several meetings, I raised this case with North Korean officials, but was told that these reports were “lies” and that the execution of Christians was “impossible”

The United Nations estimate that 400,000 people have died in the camps in the past 30 years. Ironically, many of the barbaric practices which characterise the camps were pioneered by the Japanese during their occupation of the Korean Peninsular. After the Korean War, the Communist regime in the North and the military dictatorship in the South used many of the same methods to stamp out dissent.

Since being elected Chairman of the British Parliamentary All Party Group on North Korea seven years ago I have chaired several open hearings at Westminster where we have taken evidence and heard first hand accounts from North Koreans who have escaped from prison camps – and these have included Christians.

Yoo Sang-joon was a North Korean Christian defector who came to Westminster eight years ago. Having seen his wife and children die during the famine he has become an Asian Raoul Wallenberg, bravely re-entering North Korea and helping people flee across the border. This led to his arrest by the Chinese, who as a result of international representations showed clemency and repatriated him to South Korea rather than the North as they had originally intended.

On one occasion we were addressed by two diminutive North Korean women who, speaking through an interpreter, recounted their experiences in North Korean prison camps. From time to time their stories were interrupted as the women wept.

Jeon Young-Ok is 40. When she was a little girl her mother took the family across the Tumen River to try and flee to China. They were caught and her father and brother imprisoned. Her mother died of a heart disease and left her three children alone. Years later, now married with three children of her own, Jeon managed to make furtive forays from North Korea into China to secure money and food for her children. Twice she was apprehended and jailed.

Movingly she told the parliamentary hearing: “I couldn’t bear to die with my children in my arms. As long as I was alive I couldn’t just watch them die.” Many of her compatriots were among the 2 million who starved to death during the 1990s famine.

In China Mrs.Jeon remained at risk “nowhere was safe.” If she was caught the Chinese would send her back. And this is exactly what happened to her. Caught in 1997 and again in 2001 – she was sent to Northern Pyeong -an Detention Camp.

“I was put in a camp where I saw and experienced unimaginable things. We were made to pull the beards from the faces of elderly people. Prison guards treated them like animals. The women were forced to strip. A group of us were thrown just one blanket and we were forced to pull it from one another as we tried to hide our shame. I felt like an animal, no better than a pig. I didn’t want to live.”

Jeon Young-Ok added: “They tortured the Christians the most. They were denied food and sleep. They were forced to stick out their tongues and iron was pushed into it.”

Despite all this, she harbours no hatred for her country and shows extraordinary fortitude and equanimity: “The past is not important but these terrible things are still happening in North Korea. These camps should be abolished forever.”

Those camps were created at the conclusion of the Korean War when many Christians fled from the Communist North and from what they knew would be the beginning of another period of phenomenal persecution.

Chastened and strengthened by the suffering which had preceded the emergency of the South’s Republic of Korea came a determination that they would not settle for a military dictatorship or for a degraded form of totalitarianism. Christianity has, therefore, been the leitmotif against which South Korea’s social and political policies have been formed. In particular, during the 1970s a theology called Minjung evolved. Minjung is formed from Chinese character min which means people while the character jung means the mass. When combined the phrase translates as the common people.

Minjung theology interprets the Bible, history and the political challenges of the

moment in relationship to their working out and impact on the common people not

on the rulers, the politically powerful or economic elites. Jesus’ appearance in

history is a defining moment for the common people – and betokens the need for

justice, mercy and compassion for the common people. During the 1970s

dictatorship of General Park the theology manifested itself in the emergence of

several Christian initiatives such as the Catholic Farmers Movement and the

Protestant Urban Industrial Mission, which campaigned for better remuneration

and working conditions for agricultural and industrial workers; a period of

widespread social unrest. It was also a key influence on two men who served prison

sentences for their democratic beliefs and who would be future Presidents o the

Republic of Korea, following the restoration of democracy in 1988, Kim Young

Sam, a Presbyterian, and Kim Dae Jung, a Catholic.

The story of Christianity on the Korean peninsula seems to be the perfect proof of Tertullian’s ancient assertion that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church”. The shedding of so many lives did not deter Koreans from embracing Christianity. As St.Augustine Yu, who was martyred along with his wife, son and brother, said: “Once having known God, I cannot possibly betray him.”

As the Christian faith was passed from father to son, from mother to daughter, some families would produce four generations of martyrs. One of those who would die for his faith was John Kim Bo Hyeon. His life ended in prison while preaching his faith to his fellow inmates. His grandson, Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, born in 1922, and doubtless inspired by the heroic witness of his grandfather, would become Korea’s first Catholic Cardinal, outspoken defender of human rights, and fearless opponent of military dictatorship. His Cathedral church in Seoul, Myeongdong Cathedral, where some of the relics of the early martyrs are preserved and honoured, would become the scene of the twentieth century showdown between democracy protestors and the military dictatorship of South Korea

Perhaps his family history was also the necessary preparation for his service as Apostolic Administrator of the Pyongyang Diocese of North Korea – which he was never allowed to visit and where the church would be violently suppressed by the Communists in the aftermath of the Korean War.

But on a happier note, I allowed myself a wry smile that as I arrived for my third visit to North Korea with my colleague (Baroness) Caroline Cox in 2010, aboard an Air China plane, the piped music which accompanied our landing was Isaac Watts’ Christmas hymn, “Joy to the world! The Lord has come! Let earth receive her King.” Along with the sight of diplomats from the once Marxist Russia arriving to worship at Pyongyang’s Russian Orthodox church, I couldn’t help reflecting on twists in ideological and social history. Although Marx was wrong in suggesting that religion is “the opium of the people” perhaps the rest of that much cited quotation does has great application and resonance in the story of Korea where: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of the soulless condition.”

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Korean martyrs

The following text was compiled by the late Monsignor Richard Rutt, one time Anglican Bishop of Korea and later Catholic priest of the Plymouth Diocese. Published by the Catholic Truth society it is no longer in print.

MARTYRS OF KOREA

by

Msgr.Richard Rutt

All booklets are published thanks to the

generous support of the members of the

Catholic Truth Society

CATHOLIC TRUTH SOCIETY

PUBLISHERS TO THE HOLY SEE

Contents

Land of Morning Calm ……………………………………………………4

A Chinese culture …………………………………………………………5

Confucianism ………………………………………………………………6

Buddhists and shamans …………………………………………………7

Science and democracy …………………………………………………8

A Church founded without missionaries ………………………….9

The First Martyrs ………………………………………………………….12

A woman in charge …………………………………………………….13

Arrest and torture ……………………………………………………….15

Execution …………………………………………………………………..17

1801, The Year of the White Cock ……………………………….19

Thirty-five years waiting for a priest ……………………………..20

French missionaries ………………………………………………………23

A pastoral bishop ………………………………………………………..26

1839, The Year of the Yellow Pig ………………………………..27

Three men and four women, 24 May 1839 …………………….28

One man and seven women, 20 July 1839 ……………………..29

The maker of straw shoes …………………………………………….30

Father of a priest …………………………………………………………31

The good shepherd gives up his life for the sheep …………..32

Strong women ……………………………………………………………35

Three male martyrs and three more women ……………………37

Boy martyr ………………………………………………………………..38

2

3

Paul’s mother …………………………………………………………….39

Winter martyrs …………………………………………………………..39

Strangulations …………………………………………………………….40

Five men and five women ……………………………………………41

Rebellions and poor harvests ……………………………………….45

Saint Andrew Kim …………………………………………………………47

Eight friends ………………………………………………………………52

A twenty-year lull ………………………………………………………54

1866, The Year of the Red Horse…………………………………..56

8,000 martyrs ………………………………………………………………..59

Princess Mary …………………………………………………………….60

The martyrs’ heritage ………………………………………………….61

Flowering of the Church in Korea ………………………………….63

Korean Martyrs inscribed in the list of Saints …………………63

103 Martyrs of Korea Canonised 6 May 1984 …………………67

The Korean names in this story are pronounced with consonants as in

English, vowels as in Italian. The sound for ö varies from that of o in

‘word’ to that of o in ‘song’; and the sound for ü resembles that of oo in

‘book’. The surname Ch’oe sounds like chwè.

Canon Richard Rutt worked as missionary in Korea for 20 years. He is

now attached to St Mary Immaculate, Falmouth, Cornwall. (Honorary

D.Litt. of the Confucian University, Seoul. Joint author with Keith Pratt

of Korea: a Historical and Cultural Dictionary, London 1999.)

4

LAND OF MORNING CALM

Korea in the late 18th century was a land of peace and

prosperity. There were poor people in plenty, but the

harvests were generally good, there was no trouble

from abroad, and the King maintained a benevolent rule

that kept the court free of the bloody strife to which it

was so liable.

The country was beautiful. Even in the broadest of

rice-growing plains, the horizon was lined with blue

peaks: distant mountains covered with luxuriant forest

trees, among which Siberian tigers roamed. In spring

apricot and peach blossom canopied the villages, while

the hills were veiled with bright purple azaleas. High

summer brought bright green foliage, autumn a rich medley

of gold, scarlet and purple. In winter the bald rocks

and dark pines were draped in frost and snow. Bamboo

delighted poets at all times of the year.

The common people’s houses, both in the cities and in

the villages that nestled on the sunny slopes of the hills,

were built of cob and stone with mushroom-shaped roofs

of barley thatch. The houses of the gentry were more elaborate,

built of wood with grey tiled roofs turning up at the

eaves in Chinese style, with windows of white paper

stretched on delicate wooden lattices; but without upper

storeys. Similar graceful roofs covered Confucian temples

near the towns, and Buddhist temples hidden in the deep

mountain valleys. Nearly every beauty spot had its kiosk

or pavilion, where in spring and autumn local men would

hold picnics at which they all composed Chinese poems.

A Chinese culture

Every educated man could turn out verses in Chinese

rhyme and metre. Education was indeed restricted to mastering

the classical Chinese language – pronounced in a

Korean fashion – in order to read Chinese literature and

Chinese history. All serious books and papers were written

in Chinese, and Korean personal names were modelled

on Chinese names: surname first, given name afterward,

two or three syllables in all. As in China, there

were very few surnames, and married women retained

their maiden names.

The king was theoretically a vassal of the Chinese

Emperor and sent tribute to Beijing every year. Apart from

this annual embassy and a few tightly controlled annual

markets at border towns, the country had no relations with

foreigners. Like China and Japan, Korea was a closed land,

allowing neither foreigners in nor its own people out.

Yet the Koreans were a distinctive non-Chinese race

with their own language, distantly related to Manchu and

other north-east Asian languages. In the 15th century a

gifted king had created an alphabet that all but the most

underprivileged knew, but only women and labourers

LAND OF MORNING CALM 5

MARTYRS OF KOREA

used very much. Chinese was the only writing for men –

save that they too enjoyed the popular novels and songs

that could be written only in Korean.

Confucianism

With Chinese writing came Confucianism, which provided

Korea’s whole philosophy, morals, manners and politics.

Confucius himself was a Chinese sage who flourished at

the beginning of the 5th century BC and taught a ‘way’

based on personal goodness, mutual forbearance, reverence

for ancestors and respect for seniors. Confucian temples

were simply halls for honouring ancestors and great sages.

There were no priests or monks: the head of the family or

community officiated at ancestral sacrifices, and there was

no other form of worship, though there were meetings for

instruction of the young and for discussion of principles.

There was a concept of Heaven, which meant both the sky

and a vaguely defined universal deity. Some scholars, both

oriental and Western, have thought that this Heaven was

another name for God, but the records of the 19th-century

martyrs’ trials show that this was not the opinion of most

Koreans at that time.

The state was carefully constructed on a Confucian pattern.

The king’s power was absolute, and since there was

no parliament, there could be no political parties. There

was, however, an unwieldy bureaucracy that provided the

only career possible for a gentleman. Financial corruption

6

and factional strife were endemic. One group would accuse

another of treason or of Confucian heresy, and when the

accusation was upheld, the losers were banished to remote

corners of the country or barbarously executed. One of the

reasons for 18th-century prosperity was the success of a

strong king in putting an end to most of these bloodbaths.

Buddhists and shamans

The heart of Confucian morality was the family. It was

a moral duty to marry and have children – celibacy was

very wrong in Confucian eyes. Family ancestral sacrifices

were the core of Confucian religious practice, and

were seen as vital for the unity of the nation. The ceremonies

were stately and solemn, strictly non-emotional.

They were important for bonding men in both local and

national society; but women were excluded. Even had

they not been excluded, they found little comfort in the

stark rituals. Buddhism, on the other hand, had many

prayers, rosaries and ceremonies with incense and

lights, which were all more appealing to women. In the

Middle Ages it had been the state religion, but the

power and politicking of monks had been so abused

that since the 16th century no Buddhist temples or

monasteries had been allowed in urban areas. The relatively

small numbers of monks and nuns withdrew to

the mountains, where women of all social classes

flocked for picnic and pilgrimage.

LAND OF MORNING CALM 7

MARTYRS OF KOREA

There was also a third religious strand: shamanism.

Every village would have at least one shaman, usually a

woman, a medium who would call up spirits in nightlong

ceremonies in clients’ homes. The noise of her gongs,

songs and dances went on from dusk to dawn. This was a

primitive faith with no formalised doctrine, but with a

strong hold on the people.

As for Christianity, well-read men had sometimes

heard of it. Since the Churches of the Reformation had

not yet begun missions in East Asia, for Koreans

‘Christian’ meant ‘Catholic’. They knew there were some

Christians in China; but Christianity had been virtually

extinguished in Japan, and was kept out of Korea because

of respect for Confucius.

Science and democracy

Korea’s unified society, apparently so contented and stable,

had in-built flaws, of which none was more keenly felt than

the rigid class structure. The educated gentry enjoyed everything

that was good in life. They had the privileges of an

aristocracy and used their position to extort all they could

from the labourers and the poor, who survived at subsistence

level. Outdoor folk plays gave vent to their sense of injustice,

and the gentry themselves wrote satirical poems about

it, but the social system seemed indestructible. Illegitimate

sons were most likely to nurse discontent, because the social

class of a gentleman’s son was determined by the rank of his

8

LAND OF MORNING CALM 9

mother. While the sons of a rich man’s wife would be gentlemen,

their half-brothers, born to his concubines, would be

slaves. There were many such illegitimate men, highly conscious

of injustices of all kinds, and from time to time they

raised rebellions. Thoughtful people realised that the class

system needed to be changed.

Intellectual change was coming too. At the beginning

of the 17th century, western scientific ideas had begun to

interest the Chinese, not least because of the mathematical

and astronomical skills of the French Jesuit mission in

Beijing. Western ideas began to enter Korea when

Chinese books, some of them Christian, were brought

back in the baggage of men who had been with the annual

embassy to Beijing at the winter solstice. Not all Koreans

were impressed; but many became interested in the new

mathematics, better agricultural methods, novel building

techniques and developments in machinery. In a society

that had always treasured the ancient above all, some of

the younger scholars started valuing what was new. There

was no organised movement, but 20th-century historians

named the new wave ‘practical learning’.

A Church founded without missionaries

One of these young intellectuals was 30-year-old Yi Pyök.

He was intrigued by what he read in books from China

that were circulating among his friends. He discovered

that the God of the Christians loved all men equally. This

MARTYRS OF KOREA

very reasonable doctrine might lead to changes in social

justice. Perhaps he overestimated the stress placed on this

point by the Catholic Church of that period, but it led him

to further study of the Christian religion, and in 1777 he

gathered a few friends of his own age for group study.

Such quasi-retreat seminars were typical of the time. They

met in a small Buddhist monastery south of the River Han

near Seoul, auspiciously named Ch’önjin-sa ‘Hermitage of

Heavenly Truth’. Politically they were all connected with

an old faction that was now in the political wilderness and

had no influence at court. Among them were two brothers,

Chöng Yakchong and Chöng Yagyong. Yagyong was

eventually to be recognised under his pen name, Tasan, as

the greatest thinker of the day.

They needed more books from China. One of the

group, 28-year-old Yi Sünghun, a relative of Yi Pyök and

brother-in-law of the Chöng brothers, had so far spent a

quiet life studying at home; but in 1784 his father was

sent as envoy on the annual winter embassy to China.

Sünghun was thus able to gain a place in the great caravan

that made its way over the northern mountains and

across the Manchurian plain to Beijing. Members of the

embassy always had plenty of time for sightseeing in the

capital, and Sünghun contrived to visit the French missionaries.

The Catholic mission was now in the hands of

the Lazarists (the Company of the Mission, also called

Vincentians) under the Portuguese Bishop Alexandre de

10

Gouvea. Sünghun contacted an ex-Jesuit, Fr Jean

Grammont, who had stayed in the city after the Jesuit

Order was suppressed by the Pope a year earlier. He gave

the young Korean some books, crucifixes and other

objects, and baptised him with the name of Peter before

he returned to Korea at the beginning of 1785.

Yi Pyök and his friends were fascinated by what they

now read. Within twelve months they set up a secret church

in Seoul at the house of Kim Pömu, one of the royal interpreters

of contemporary Chinese, who was a member of the

Hermitage group. (The site of his house is now part of the

Catholic cathedral compound in Seoul.) Peter Yi (Sünghun)

began baptising them, beginning with Francis Xavier

Kwön, a man of about 50. Yi Pyök became Peter, Kim

Pömu Thomas, and Chöng Yakchong Augustine. Since

Korea knew nothing of a seven-day week, they kept the 7th,

14th, 21st and 28th of each Chinese lunar month as Sunday.

By 1787 they realised a Church needed clergy.

Choosing Francis Xavier Kwön as bishop, they also chose

a few as priests and began to celebrate mass, confession

and confirmation. A few months later they began to have

doubts and suspended these ministries until they could

consult Bishop de Gouvea through a friend on the annual

Beijing embassy. The bishop’s reply came in 1790. They

had to dismantle their makeshift and invalid priesthood.

They must also renounce all Confucian rites. The bishop

promised to send them a real priest as soon as he could.

LAND OF MORNING CALM 11

THE FIRST MARTYRS

Persecution began when they were discovered at prayer

in Thomas Kim’s house. This socially aberrant behaviour

led to them all being questioned. The names of the gentlemen

were not published, but, as an interpreter, Thomas

was not a gentleman. He belonged to the so-called ‘middle’

or professional class that included doctors, architects,

artists, astronomers and others. He was questioned under

torture, found guilty of impiety to the state and banished

to Tanyang in the central mountains. On the way there he

died in the city of Wönju from the injuries he had

received during his interrogation. Today he is regarded as

the first martyr of the new Church.

A young man named Yun, whose home was in the far

south-west of the country and who was in Seoul successfully

working his way through the state examination

process, had joined the group at Thomas Kim’s house in

1784. He was baptised as Paul. In 1789 he joined the

embassy to Beijing and while he was there received the

sacrament of confirmation from Bishop de Gouvea. On

returning home he destroyed the ancestral tablets in the

family’s Confucian shrine, and when his mother died in

1791 he had her buried without Confucian rites. He and

an elder cousin named James Kwön were arrested for this

impiety that threatened the whole structure of the nation.

12

They were taken to the provincial capital at Chönju and

beheaded. At least eight other men were martyred in the

south-western regions before 1799. To become a

Christian was dangerous.

Defections were to be expected. Yi Pyök, Chöng

Yagyong, Francis Xavier Kwön and even the first baptised,

Peter Yi, were among those who withdrew, persuaded by

their families. Many Korean Catholics today are convinced

that some of them returned later, but we can be sure of

Peter Yi only. He was destined for martyrdom.

A woman in charge

Bishop de Gouvea did not forget his promise. He

despatched a priest in 1791, a Fr Wu; but Fr Wu was

unable to enter Korea and returned to Beijing, where he

died two years later. Then in winter 1794 Fr Zhou Wenmo,

baptised James, managed to reach Seoul. He celebrated

mass for the first time at Easter 1795. Alexander Hwang, a

brilliant young son-in-law of the Chöng family, served as

his interpreter and Korean tutor. As a Chinese in Korean

dress, Zhou would attract no attention, but when he spoke

his accent would betray him as a foreigner and the fact that

he was a priest would have led to his arrest. For the next

seven years he worked secretly among the 4,000 or so

Christians in the capital and surrounding countryside, making

his base in the house, or rather in the woodshed, of a

woman called Columba Kang. He made her a catechist.

THE FIRST MARTYRS 13

MARTYRS OF KOREA

The Korean word for catechist literally means ‘leader of

the congregation’ and catechists had a broad pastoral role

in teaching, organising, guiding and encouraging the

faithful. Columba became the most powerful member of

the Church, because she controlled access to Fr Zhou, and

she alone always knew where he was.

She had become a Christian in her home region in the

Naep’o district south of Seoul, near the west coast, one of

the first districts to be evangelised and one that produced

more martyrs than any other. Her husband divorced her

because of her Christian faith and she moved to Seoul

with her mother-in-law, daughter and stepson, all

Christians. She had independent means and partly

financed Fr Zhou’s journey from China. As catechist, she

recruited and trained women workers and generally oversaw

the Christian women. She converted two royal

princesses: Princess Song, a sister-in-law of the King, and

Princess Song’s daughter-in-law, Princess Sin. Astute and

capable, Columba kept Fr Zhou’s presence secret until

1801, when he was arrested. She and four of her helpers

were arrested too and fiercely tortured.

Fr Zhou was executed by the elaborate and sickening

ritual of ‘decapitation and display’. The two princesses

were convicted of having dealings with a foreign male,

adopting evil teachings and leaving the palace precincts.

They too were executed. Columba was beheaded at the

West Gate prison on 3 July. She has not yet been beatified,

14

because the documentation is incomplete, but the Korean

Church is now forwarding her cause, together with the

causes of 16 other martyrs. Even though more Korean

women than men have been canonised, the canonisation

of Columba Kang would bring more attention to the powerful

role of women in the story of Korea’s martyrs. In

periods of persecution women are always vital to the

strength of the Church: they train their sons and daughters

to be ready for martyrdom. Columba did more. She was

for seven crucial years the chief organiser of the Church.

Arrest and torture

The martyrs were treated as ordinary malefactors. They

were arrested by the police, who bound them with red

cord and took them to the Police Prison, often called in

English the Thieves’ Prison. This appalling place was an

unpaved yard – usually mud or dust – surrounded by sheds

with fronts of stout wooden bars, built against the walls.

Men and women were separated, but otherwise all prisoners

were packed in together, with no protection against

freezing cold in winter or scorching heat in summer.

Prisoners were allowed into the central open space during

daylight hours. At night they were forced into the sheds,

where they usually had no room to stretch or to lie down.

Once the doors were closed they were not opened until

dawn for any purpose at all. There was no sanitation.

Disease was rife. Prisoners were given a pitifully small

THE FIRST MARTYRS 15

MARTYRS OF KOREA

ration of boiled millet twice a day, though some were

able to buy or bribe extra food. Others ate foul straw and

lice. It was said that some Christians who bore tortures

with fortitude collapsed and apostatised under the strain

of prison conditions. Others often claimed that imprisonment

was harder to bear than torture.

After interrogators had compiled the evidence against

the prisoners under the police procedure, which might

take many days, those who were not released were sent to

the Criminal Court Prison. This was similar to the Police

Prison, though sometimes less crowded.

Interrogations were normally accompanied by torture.

Merciless beating was administered with a variety of paddles,

besoms, scourges, rods and wands, each inflicting its

own peculiar kind of pain. Savage beating caused bloodshed

and there are accounts of martyrs whose flesh fell off

in shreds, even of bones being exposed. Wooden blocks

and ropes were employed to bend leg and arm bones, even

to break them and dislocate joints. Pointed bamboo rods

might be stuck into the victim’s flesh. In another torture a

cord was passed under the victim’s thighs, crossed over

the front and then held taut by a man on either side who

applied a sawing motion that cut through the flesh like a

wire cheese-cutter, right through to the bone. Such tortures

would be repeated over many days, even weeks. Few

martyrs, if any, escaped being tortured again when they

were brought to the execution ground.

16

THE FIRST MARTYRS 17

Execution

Some executions were carried out by strangling. This was

usually done in the Police Prison. The prisoner was placed

between two posts. The rope was passed round his neck, the

ends crossed at the front. Each end was then wound round

one of the posts and drawn tight by an executioner. Most of

the martyrs were, however, beheaded at an execution ground

outside the Little West Gate of the city. The condemned person

was tied by hands and hair to a large cross erected on a

bull-cart, and deliberately driven by a rocky and steep road,

calculated to make the journey as painful as possible. At the

site there was a block at which the victim was made to

kneel. The head was cut off with a huge sword. Several

blows were needed to finish the work. (During the decapitation

of St John Pak the executioner actually withdrew after

striking a few blows in order to whet his blade. Then he

returned and finished severing the head.)

When the authorities wanted to make the public more

widely aware of an execution, it was not performed at

one of the relatively small execution grounds, but at a

place where a far larger number of spectators could be

assembled. At Seoul that usually meant the broad sands

of the Han River, near the big flat island of Yöüido and

the army training camp, a mile or so further west than

the regular execution ground.

The procedure was called ‘displaying the head before

the military camp’. It was a military function, with one of

MARTYRS OF KOREA

the commandants of the capital garrison in attendance at

the head of a hundred or so soldiers. A tall stake was

erected on the sands for each of the condemned. The man

was brought to the place, bound in a rough wooden chair,

carried by two soldiers with an escort. On arrival he was

stripped to his floppy white trousers, and his topknot

unravelled (Buddhist monks alone did not wear topknots).

An arrow was thrust downwards though the top

and lobe of each of his ears. His face was dashed with

water and lime, his hands tied in front of his chest. Two

poles were put under the rope binding his wrists and one

pole pushed under each armpit. Two men, one in front

and one behind, took the ends of these poles, lifted the

victim and carried him three times round the arena, to the

execration and insults of the crowd. A soldier attached a

banner to the top of the stake, inscribed with the crime in

Chinese, while another read out the sentence. The man

was then ordered to kneel back to the stake. His hair was

gathered in a bunch and tied to the stake to stretch his

neck so that his head was ready for severing. A small

troop of soldiers then performed a slow dance round the

stake, chanting and brandishing heavy sabres, with which

they struck his neck. Several blows were needed to sever

it. As the head rolled off, another soldier picked it up and

presented it on a tray to the presiding commandant. The

head was then displayed on a stake, as a warning to the

public, and left there for three days. It was forbidden that

18

anyone should touch the corpses. This ritual execution was

used for all foreign missionaries and for other Christians to

whom the authorities wanted to draw attention.

1801, The Year of the White Cock

Three hundred Christians were executed that year in an

outburst of violence that has gone down in history as the

‘Persecution of the White Cock Year’, because the

Koreans numbered their years according to the twelve

Chinese ‘zodiacal’ animals. Although there had been

martyrdoms nearly every year since 1791, there was no

policy of seeking out Christians until the Year of the

White Cock, 1801, when a change of policy followed the

accession to the throne in 1800 of a ten-year-old boy.

When a child became king, the senior Queen

Dowager acted as regent until he was of an age to rule

for himself. Since there were no other royal families in

Asia for the kings to marry into, they had to marry

women of their own country, which inevitably gave

political power to the families from which the queens

came. In 1800 the Queen Dowager was from a family in

the conservative tradition, which disapproved of

Christians because they were favoured by those who

followed the ‘practical learning’ vogue. Christianity was

already being called ‘Western teaching’. She ordered

that Catholics should be sought out, and executed if they

would not apostatise.

THE FIRST MARTYRS 19

MARTYRS OF KOREA

Things were made worse by the incident of the ‘silk

letter’. During the year Fr Zhou’s 25-year-old tutor,

Alexander Hwang, wrote a letter on a roll of silk to the

Bishop of Beijing, asking for the Pope to send military

assistance to the Korean Christians. The letter (now in

the Vatican) was intercepted, Hwang was executed,

and there was further reason for the government to

attack Christians.

Peter Yi – the man who had first brought Christian

books to the scholars at the Hermitage of Heavenly Truth

27 years before, but apostatised – returned to the faith and

was among those martyred in the Year of the White

Cock. So was Augustine Chöng.

Thirty-five years waiting for a priest

For its first ten years (1784-1794) the Korean Church had

no sacrament but baptism. Now again it had no priest.

This time it would have to wait for thirty-five years. Soon

the young king married a woman from the Andong Kim

family, which was sympathetic to the liberalising intellectuals.

Persecution eased, but the frontiers remained tightly

closed. There were probably 7,000 or 8,000 Christians

throughout the country, mostly in Seoul and the southwestern

provinces, drawn almost entirely from the gentry

and professional classes.

A natural leader appeared among them: Peter Yi’s

cousin, Paul Chöng Hasang, son of the martyred

20

Augustine Chöng. Paul’s brother also was martyred in

1801. His mother and sisters, though reduced to poverty,

brought him up as a devoted Christian and provided him

with an excellent home education. At the age of 20 he got a

post as a servant on the annual embassy to Beijing. He was

able to do this again on nine subsequent occasions, and

thus to maintain contact with Bishop de Gouvea. In spite of

his youth, he was appointed catechist and effectively

became the lay pastor of all the Christians in the country.

He persisted in efforts to get another priest from China,

and very nearly succeeded with a Fr Shen in 1826, but that

plan came to nothing. Korea still had to wait for a priest.

In 1823 Paul was introduced to a man four years his

senior named Yu, a remarkable scholar and famous bookcollector.

One day Yu had noticed that the paper used to

line a drawer in his furniture had scraps of philosophy

printed on it. Intrigued, he succeeded in stripping all the

fragments from the cabinetwork and found he had part of

a treatise on the true meaning of God, written by Mateo

Ricci, the greatest of the China Jesuits. In his attempts to

find someone who would explain more about Ricci’s

ideas, Yu met Paul Chöng. They became firm friends. Yu

held a senior post in the royal interpreters’ bureau and

frequently went on the annual mission to Beijing. Paul

found a place as a servant on the embassy in 1824 and

they both went to see Bishop de Gouvea. While they were

there, Yu was baptised, taking the name of Augustine.

THE FIRST MARTYRS 21

MARTYRS OF KOREA

Soon his authority in the Korean Church was less only

than that of Paul Chöng.

On one of these Beijing journeys Paul and Augustine

got to know a servant in his twenties named Cho, an

able man with an unusual spiritual history. For a while

he had been a Buddhist monk. Paul and Augustine

recognised his qualities and encouraged him to become

a Christian. He was baptised and confirmed in Beijing,

with the name of Charles. On return to Korea he became

a trusted helper, willing to undertake difficult and dangerous

tasks.

The instruction of new Christians continued with zeal.

Every year saw more manuals and prayerbooks arriving

from China, including stories of saints. Saints’ names

were always given at baptism, in Chinese form and with a

seeming preference for the names of martyrs – Lucy,

Agnes, Sebastian, Protase and the like. Korean Christians

knew they might need the help and example of earlier

Christian martyrs.

In 1825 Paul and Augustine, with some others, sent an

earnest letter for help to Pope Leo XII. It was received

two years later, but nothing came of it until Pope Gregory

XVI, as part of his revival of world missions (he established

some 70 new dioceses and vicariates), created the

Korean Vicariate Apostolic in 1831. This was the first

step towards creating a Korean diocese.

22

23

FRENCH MISSIONARIES

The new vicariate was entrusted to the Paris Foreign

Missions Society, which had been working in east and

south-east Asia for two centuries. Barthélemy Bruguière,

a priest who had been two years in Bangkok, was

appointed Vicar Apostolic and ordained bishop. He set

out for Korea overland from Thailand in 1831. A young

priest called Jacques Chastan, recently arrived at Penang

in Malaya, was detailed to join him. Then Fr Pierre

Maubant, who was working in Sichuan (western China),

volunteered to join the Bishop as he passed through

Sichuan on his way to Korea.

Before any of them could get there, however, a

Chinese priest named Pacifico Yu, who was studying in

the Chinese College at Naples, volunteered to work in the

new vicariate. Paul Chöng, Augustine Yu and another of

the gentry class, Sebastian Nam, helped him to enter the

country in 1833. Sebastian lived with Fr Pacifico in Seoul

and took care of him.

Meanwhile Bishop Bruguière and Fr Maubant travelled

the length of China by separate routes. They met in

Manchuria and stayed in a tiny Christian village they

thought was a suitable place from which to attempt crossing

the Korean border. While waiting there the bishop fell

ill and died on 20 October 1835, broken by the exertions

MARTYRS OF KOREA

of the journey. He was 43 years old. Fr Maubant, a strong

man in his twenties, went on alone. No European could

get through the frontier guardposts. The only way he

could enter Korea was to wait till the depth of winter and

struggle over the River Yalu when it was frozen. Helped

and guided by Paul Chöng, Fr Maubant crossed the ice at

night in January 1836.

He had to disguise himself as a mourner, because

mourners wore huge umbrella-like straw hats that hid

their faces and his brown beard would show he was not a

Korean. Travelling on foot in severe winter weather, usually

at night and in constant risk of discovery, he took 15

days to reach Seoul, where he was greeted by Fr Pacifico,

Sebastian Nam and others. Immediately he was swamped

with pastoral work, travelling among the scattered flock

in the two central provinces, often accompanied by

Charles Cho, he who had once been a Buddhist monk but

now became the Frenchman’s guide and interpreter.

People who had not been able to make their confessions

for thirty-five years could do so at last. Some made their

confessions in written Chinese, others had to use interpreters.

On Holy Saturday they celebrated the Vigil of

Easter in the cramped space of an ordinary Korean house

– a clandestine liturgy lasting five hours.

Fr Maubant’s most important achievement was the

selection of three teenage boys to become seminarians:

Francis-Xavier Kim, Andrew Kim and Thomas Ch’oe.

24

Accompanied by Fr Pacifico (who never returned), they

were smuggled out of Korea in 1836 and sent to the Paris

Society’s seminary at Macao. Paul Chöng, Augustine Yu

and Sebastian Nam saw them out of the country.

The other French priest, Jacques Chastan, had reached

the northern frontier in 1833. He was the same age as

Maubant. He had come by sea routes from Penang to

Macao, thence to Fujian, and finally by a fishermen’s boat

to Manchuria. Though he came within sight of the mountains

of Korea, he could find no way to cross the frontier.

He therefore withdrew and worked for about two years in

Shandong until he could get a message to Fr Maubant,

who was by then in Seoul. Fr Maubant arranged for

couriers to meet and help him; but they then had to wait

until the Yalu froze. Fr Chastan crossed the ice on the last

day of the year 1836, arriving in Seoul in January 1837.

During the summer both priests managed to give a few

weeks to language study, though they never dared stay

long in one place. They had to acclimatise themselves to

rough food, especially the standard meal of turnip pickled

in brine, served with rice and thin soup. Dried persimmon

fruit served them as iron rations, for they were constantly

travelling on foot, sleeping by day, saying mass and

doing pastoral work at night. Fr Maubant fell ill. Fr

Chastan rushed to see him in Seoul and gave him the last

rites. Miraculously, he recovered, and after three months

rest returned to the punishing work that had brought him

FRENCH MISSIONARIES 25

MARTYRS OF KOREA

low. They had some 6,000 Christians to look after.

During 1837 they heard over 2,000 confessions and baptised

1,237 new Christians.

A pastoral bishop

Communications with Europe were very slow. At length

Laurent Imbert, a priest of the Paris Missions who had

been working in Sichuan, western China, since 1820, and

knew Pierre Maubant, was appointed bishop for Korea,

and ordained in May 1837. By November he had arrived

at Mukden (now Shenyang) in Manchuria. In mid-

December, he crossed the frozen Yalu and on New Year’s

Day 1838 he met Fr Maubant in Seoul. Fr Chastan was

away in the south, and did not meet the bishop until May.

Between the bishop’s arrival and November 1837,

2,000 were baptised. By the end of the year there were

9,000 Korean Christians. Imbert soon recognised that

Paul Chöng would make a good priest. He even went so

far as to start teaching him some Latin and a little theology.

In spite of the enormous difficulties, there were

gleams of hope.

The bishop’s life scarcely differed from that of his

priests. He rose at 2.30 a.m. At 3.30 he began baptising,

confessing, confirming, celebrating mass and caring for the

Christians, who rarely dared to be seen coming and going

in daylight. He suffered from hunger, because he often

could not eat until his pastoral work was finished for the

26

day. He went to sleep at 9 in the evening. ‘A life so hard’,

he wrote, ‘we hardly fear the sword-blow that must end it’.

1839, The Year of the Yellow Pig

The premonition was apt. A new king had come to the

throne in 1834, one whose in-laws were opposed to what

they called ‘western learning’ – meaning Christianity.

Christians had to be more careful, and by the time the

bishop arrived, persecution was intensifying. Peter Yi, a

catechist, had been imprisoned for four years but not executed.

He died on 25 November 1838 in the Criminal

Court Prison. His sister Agatha had been arrested in

February 1836 and was still held in prison. Pressure on

Christians increased during spring and summer 1839, the

Year of the Yellow Pig. A stern new decree against

Christianity was published in April.

We have records of some 140 martyrs during the

whole year, in Seoul and several southern provincial

cities, but this can be only part of the whole story.

Dispossessed Christians were taking refuge in the further

parts of the country. Already some of them were becoming

potters, because makers of earthenware traditionally

travelled from place to place in search of suitable clay,

setting up earth kilns in waste places and moving on

when they had exhausted local clay deposits. Itinerant

potters were to remain a feature of the Korean Catholic

Church for two hundred years.

FRENCH MISSIONARIES 27

MARTYRS OF KOREA

In mid-May Protase Chöng, a man of 41, was arrested

and questioned by a kindly magistrate who persuaded

him to deny his faith. Protase went home, but could not

rest. A few days later he presented himself to the police,

demanding to be re-arrested. They refused to take him

seriously. He redoubled his demand. Finally they beat

him severely and threw him into prison, where, a few

hours later, he died during the night.

Three men and six women, 24 May 1839

On 24 May Agatha Yi was beheaded with eight others,

including the catechist Augustine Yi, on an execution

ground outside the Little West Gate of Seoul. The police

had found a silver mitre (whose workmanship astounded

them), a chasuble and a Latin prayerbook in the catechist’s

house. This discovery strengthened the government’s

determination to find the illegal foreign entrants.

Most of that day’s martyrs were of the gentry class.

Lucy Pak had rich relations in the royal palace. Damian

Nam, however, declared that he would be happy to enter

heaven with no other rank than ‘Damian Nam of the

Scapular Confraternity’. Anna Pak was devoted to the Five

Wounds of Christ. Agatha Kim was such a simple soul that

she could only repeat the names of Jesus and Mary. She

was baptised in prison. The others were Magdalene Kim,

Barbara Han and Peter Kwön, whose beatific smile was

said to have survived on his severed head.

28

A day or two later there were three deaths in the Police

Prison. One of these was 14-year-old Barbara Yi. The

others were Barbara Kim and Joseph Chang the herbalist.

One man and seven women, 20 July 1839

Executions continued throughout the summer. The

next canonised names are those of a man and seven

women beheaded on 20 July. The man was John Yi,

brother of Augustine Yi, martyred in May. John had

been baptised in Peking when he was there as a member

of the annual embassy.

The eldest woman was Rosa Kim, a convert widow in

her mid-fifties, who calmly murmured the names of

Jesus and Mary as she was arrested. Anna Kim was a

few years younger. Maria Wön was only 20. She had

been orphaned at 9 and was brought up as, Christian. She

was determined to stay a virgin. For that reason she

dressed her hair like a married woman’s and earned a

living by needlework. When neighbours delated her to

the police, she tried to run away but failed – she had

some difficulty in coming to terms with her situation.

Magdalene Yi had never seen Seoul before she left her

pagan father’s house in the countryside to find a

Christian family to live with in Seoul. She followed her

father to Seoul without his knowledge, and by leaving

bloodstained shreds of her clothing in the woods on the

way, successfully persuaded her family that a tiger had

FRENCH MISSIONARIES 29

MARTYRS OF KOREA

killed her. Her father soon learned the truth, but forgave

her. Lucy Kim had a fine head of hair, which she sold in

prison in order to buy thin soup for other starving prisoners.

She had joined with Theresa Yi, Martha Kim and

Lucy Kim in a pact to surrender themselves to the

authorities and seek martyrdom. The judges gave them

extra tortures to punish their presumption.

Agnes Kim also died that day. She was the younger

sister of Columba Kim, a remarkable woman who was to

die a fortnight later.

The maker of straw shoes

On 3 September another man and five women were

beheaded outside the Little West Gate. The man was

John Pak, a maker of straw shoes who had often said he

needed to die a martyr in order to atone for his sins,

striking his shin with the mallet of his trade as he said it.

He had sent his wife away to stay with relations the night

before he was arrested.

The eldest of the women was Maria Pak, whose sister

Lucy had died on 24 May. Barbara Kwön and MariaYi,

wife of Damian Nam, had each made her house a masscentre

for Bishop Imbert. Barbara Yi had insisted on marrying

a Christian, and had put off a pagan suitor by staying

abed for three years pretending to be unable to walk.

She had then married a Christian, but he had died after

only two years. Her sister Magdalene and her aunt

30

Theresa had been beheaded on 20 July, her young niece,

also called Barbara Yi, had died in prison at the end of

May; and she left her mother Magdalene Hö in jail, waiting

for martyrdom.

Father of a priest

A week later, on 12 September, Francis Ch’oe, aged only

34, father of the lad Thomas who had been sent to the

seminary in Macao with two other boys in 1836, died in

prison. Francis had been baptised when young. He had a

fiery temperament, which he succeeded in controlling, so

that the impression he left on others was one of generosity

and gentleness. When he realised persecution was growing,

he hid his pious medals and other devotional objects,

but did nothing to hide his Christian books. He said the

images must be protected against sacrilege, but the books

were his manuals of strategy in the coming battle.

When police came to his home in the country to fetch

him, he entertained them overnight – and gave new

clothes to one of them whose clothes were threadbare.

Then he persuaded a group of nearly forty Christians to

go to prison with him, saying it would be better to die by

the sword in Seoul than to starve in the country – for there

was a famine that year. Only three of the forty stayed to

the end. When asked to renounce his Christian faith,

Francis replied that if asked to live without eating, he

would try, though it would be very difficult; but it was

FRENCH MISSIONARIES 31

MARTYRS OF KOREA

impossible for him to pretend not to believe in God. At one

point he was asked to put on the bishop’s vestments. He

refused, and they were put on another prisoner. Francis

straightway prostrated himself before the man. When

asked whom he was reverencing, he replied, ‘The crucifix’.

The questioner raised his hand to strike Francis; then

thought better of it.

The officers goaded a repulsive thief to insult and

pester him, even to opening and hurting the sores from

his beatings. Francis bore everything with such resignation

that the thief exclaimed, ‘He really is a Christian.

You other Christians! Do as he does!’

On 11 September he was beaten with 50 blows – having

been beaten every second day since the beginning of

August. The next day he died in prison, disappointed that

God had not allowed him to shed his blood, but accepting

the Divine Will.

The good shepherd gives up his life for the sheep

So many of his flock were being imprisoned, tortured and

executed that Bishop Imbert wondered whether he and

the two priests should try to leave the country, in order to

save the laity. The three Frenchmen met near Suwön, but,

deciding that any plan to leave Korea would be impracticable,

they separated on 3 July and went into hiding.

On 10 August a new Christian named Andrew Chöng

came to the bishop in the middle of the night, saying a

32

messenger had come from Seoul, where the government

had changed its mind and would now treat him with due

honour. Imbert realised at once that his hiding place had

been betrayed. He wrote straightway to his two priests,

then went to meet the ‘messenger’ in a nearby village.

The messenger turned out to be an apostate called Kim

Yösang. The bishop went with him to Seoul. There he

was soon bound with the red cord of arrest, and taken for

questioning with the usual tortures. He had persuaded the

police to allow Andrew Chöng return to his own home.

Anxious now to find the two priests, the police

deceived two more Christians, one of whom went along

with the ruse so far as to meet the bishop, from whom he

was able to take a note for Fr Maubant and Fr Chastan,

written in Latin. The note said: ‘In extreme circumstances

the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep, so if you

have not already left, come with the officer Son Kyejong,

but do not let any of the Christians follow you. Imbert,

Bishop of Capsa.’ (Capsa was his titular see, because

Korea was not yet a diocese.)

The letter soon reached Fr Maubant, who sent it on to

Fr Chastan and at the same time wrote to Son, telling

him that Fr Chastan was away, but they would both

arrive in about ten days. Jacques Chastan received the

message on 1 September. He at once sat down and wrote

a farewell letter to his family in France, giving thanks to

God for calling him to be a martyr. When the two met,

FRENCH MISSIONARIES 33

MARTYRS OF KOREA

near the town of Hongju, they both wrote further letters

on 6 September, to the Maubant family, to the Roman

Propaganda and to the Paris Foreign Missions Society.

They reported to Cardinal Fransoni of the Propaganda

that the mission had about 10,000 Christians. They also

reported 1,200 baptisms, 2,500 confirmations, 4,500 confessions,

4,000 communions, 150 marriages, 60 anointings

of the dying, and 600 catechumens under instruction.

For three men this was a huge accomplishment,

especially when the necessary travelling and the language

difficulties are taken into account. They both then

wrote letters to their Christians, exhorting them particularly

to ensure that Christians married Christians.

From Hongju they were taken on ponies to Seoul. On

12 September they were in Seoul with their bishop, all

three being interrogated by the Criminal Court. They were

beaten on the 15th and 16th and again on the 19th. They

were finally sentenced late on the 21st, and executed on

the sands by the Han that evening. The whole ritual of

military decapitation with display of the heads was gone

through. When Fr Chastan received the first sword blow it

fell on his shoulder and he started up, but immediately fell

back on his knees. Otherwise they remained still till they

died. Not until three weeks later were Christians able to

disinter the three bodies surreptitiously and take them

away. Many decades later they were enshrined in the crypt

of Seoul cathedral.

34

Late in the afternoon of the next day Paul Chöng and

his fellow-worker Augustine Yu were beheaded outside

the Little West Gate.

So the leadership of the infant Church was destroyed

in two days. Bishop Imbert, realising that this would happen,

had committed the Church to the care Charles Hyön,

a gifted catechist of the professional class.

Strong women

Four days after Paul and Augustine were killed, nine

other Christians were martyred outside the Little West

Gate on 26 September. The six women among them had

been under arrest for many weeks – Magdalene Pak for

six months. She and Agatha Chön had connections with

the palace, where she had lived and worked. Perpetua

Hong had been in prison for over four months, Columba

Kim since June and Julietta Kim since July. Magdalene

Hö was the mother of Barbara Yi and Magdalene Yi, who

had been beheaded on 20 July and 2 September.

The life of women, especially those of the gentry class,

was severely circumscribed. They rarely travelled, indeed

rarely left the house and were not allowed in the streets in

daylight. Most of them could not read Chinese characters.

They were conventionally regarded as unintelligent. The

truth was very different. In spite of their manner of life,

women were often of strong character, perceptive, and

influential in the lives of the men.

FRENCH MISSIONARIES 35

MARTYRS OF KOREA

Their steadfastness is illustrated by their response to torture.

It was allied to a meekness and dignity that were in

themselves virtues for Confucians too. Most of these

women had been looking forward to martyrdom, some for

many years. Perpetua Hong had long said she wanted ‘to

wear the red dress (of martyrdom)’. When they came to

interrogation they surprised the questioners by the cogency

of their arguments for believing in God and Christ.

Columba Kim made a great impression by her poise

and lack of fear. She had been imprisoned with her sister

Agnes, who had been beheaded three weeks earlier. They

were aged 26 and 23. Their questioners were so exasperated

by their constancy that the women had been stripped

of all their clothing and put into a men’s section of the

Police Prison, with a suggestion that the ruffians already

there were welcome to treat the women as they liked.

After two days they were given back their clothes and

returned, untouched, to the women’s prison. When they

were next under torture Columba complained about this

incident with calm dignity. She said she would not complain

about treatment that was legal, but she and her sister

had been treated illegally. The court was appalled and

sent a report to higher authority. Some of the prison staff

were punished with severe bastinado.

Columba could be satirical too, as she was in describing

the nonsense involved in believing that the souls of the dead

would come and enjoy the meal prepared for them in the

36

Confucian ancestral sacrifice ritual. She won admiration for

her intelligence and courage, but these virtues could not

spare her; nor would she have wished that they might.

Also in September another Lucy Kim, 70 years old and

generally known as ‘the hunchback’, died in prison.

Three male martyrs and three more women

On 26 September three more men were executed with

the six women: Charles Cho, Sebastian Nam and

Ignatius Kim. They represented the second level of

leadership in the Church

Charles Cho and Sebastian Nam had been among those

who went on the embassies to Beijing. Charles, who went

every year, had helped to arrange for the foreign priests to

enter Korea and had acted as guide for Maubant in his

pastoral journeys. On his return from China at the beginning

of 1839, he had received a vision of Christ with St

Peter and St Paul, which he had interpreted as a promise

of martyrdom. When he was taken from the cross on the

cart that took him to the execution ground, Charles Cho

noticed some of his relations, not Christians, present there

in great distress. He gave them an affectionate smile.

Sebastian Nam had been Fr Pacifico’s helper and was

an experienced leader in the Church. He also was taken

through the treachery of a Christian.

Ignatius Kim, whose own father had been martyred in

1814, was father of the boy Andrew Kim who had gone

FRENCH MISSIONARIES 37

MARTYRS OF KOREA

to Macao in 1836 to study for the priesthood. Ignatius

broke under torture, but was still condemned to punishment

for having let his son go abroad. When he was

returned to prison, the others encouraged him to reassert

his faith. This he did three times, under increased torture;

and so died a martyr.

On the last night of the month two more women died

in prison, both of them sick with disease contracted from

the conditions under which they were detained: 57-yearold

Catherine Yi and her 33-year-old daughter Magdalene

Cho. Catherine had been reduced to poverty by her persistence

in the faith and earned a meagre living as a seamstress.

She realised her ambition of dying a virgin.

Boy martyr

Augustine Yu’s family, of whom only two had accepted

their father’s faith, was outlawed and banished from the

capital. Before then, however, his younger son Peter, aged

13, had become the youngest of the martyrs who would be

canonised 150 years later. This remarkable boy had begun

to hope for martyrdom long before. After his father was

arrested he had gone to the police early in August and

urged them to arrest him. They did so and proceeded to

question him with torture on 14 occasions. At least once he

picked up shreds of his flesh from the ground and threw

them defiantly before the judges. To many of the onlookers

it seemed that he was happy throughout the five horrific

38

weeks, hoping to be beheaded. In the event he was strangled

in the prison on 31 October.

Paul’s mother

Paul Chöng’s mother, Cecilia Yu, was 79 years old. The

police arrested her on 19 July and subjected her, old as

she was, to 230 strokes of the wand in her first 5 interrogations.

She wanted to join her beloved Paul in martyrdom,

but because of her age the authorities would not

behead her. She resigned herself to dying in prison, and

lingered on until she fell asleep on 23 November, quietly

murmuring the names of Jesus and Mary. Her daughter

Elisabeth was still alive in prison for her faith.

Winter martyrs

On the day Cecilia died, 23 November 1839, the State

council issued an even stronger edict against Christianity.

On 29 December, seven more martyrs were killed.

Benedicta Hyön was sister to Charles Hyön, the catechist

who had become leader of the new generation. Their

father had died for the faith in 1801. Magdalene Yi was

an impoverished lady of the gentry class who had

watched her mother die in prison. Peter Ch’oe, father-inlaw

of Charles Cho, was a man of the professional class

who after a dissolute youth had become a Christian and

tamed his wild ways. Magdalene Han was married to a

distinguished scholar who had been baptised in articulo

FRENCH MISSIONARIES 39

MARTYRS OF KOREA

mortis. Cecilia Yu’s daughter and Paul Chöng’s sister,

Elisabeth Chöng, had always lived in poverty and was

accustomed to earn her pittance by needlework and weaving.

She was the fourth member of her family to be executed.

Bishop Imbert declared she should have been made

a catechist. As she left the prison on her way to execution,

she exhorted those she left behind to pray always for

the poor and for the suffering. Barbara Cho was the wife

of Sebastian Nam, who had died among those killed on

26 September. She was also cousin of Paul Chöng and

had kept house for Fr Pacifico. Barbara Ko had been a

toddler when her father had been martyred in 1801. She

left her husband Augustine Pak in prison, awaiting his

inevitable death before long.

Strangulations

January 1840 saw four martyrs strangled in the Police Prison.

On the 9th the two victims were women. Theresa Kim

was an aunt of the boy Andrew Kim who had gone to

Macao to study for the priesthood four years earlier. Her

husband Joseph Son had died in prison for the faith in

1824 in the country town of Haemi. She had provided a

home for Fr Pacifico till he went with the three boys to

China. Later she joined Bishop Imbert’s household. She

was strangled after nearly six months’ imprisonment.

Agatha Yi, who died the same day aged only 17, had

been imprisoned in April, with her father Augustine

40

(beheaded in April) and her mother Barbara Kwön

(beheaded in September).

Later the same month, the same brutal death put an

end to the sufferings of two more men. The first was

35-year-old Andrew Chöng, the naive convert who had

fallen into the trap set by the apostate Kim Yösang to

capture Bishop Imbert. Andrew had been duped again

into betraying some new converts; but he woke to the

truth when Kim tried to persuade him to betray Fr

Maubant and Fr Chastan. In his distress at that time

Andrew spoke of giving himself up to martyrdom. The

priests dissuaded him; but he was soon caught and subjected

to rigorous tortures. Five months later he was

strangled on 23 January 1840.

His companion in martyrdom, Stephen Min, was killed

a week later. He was nearly 60, a childless widower,

reduced to staying in other peoples’ houses, earning a living

by hand-copying books. His sufferings climaxed in

40 strokes of the paddle, at every one of which he cried

‘A rascal fit only to die!’ Yet in those last weeks of misery

this rather solemn soul managed to persuade two

apostates to repent: Dominic Yi and Cosmas Yö – both of

whom were executed before Stephen himself.

Five men and five women

Ten martyrs died on 31 January and 1 February 1840 –

five men and five women.

FRENCH MISSIONARIES 41

MARTYRS OF KOREA

Paul Hö was a soldier of the city garrison. At first he

broke down under the torture, but soon he recovered his

courage and was subjected to depraved tests by the

guards, who made him eat and drink filth to prove his

fidelity to Christ. He died while being tortured by beating

with the heavy paddle.

The other nine were beheaded at Tang-Kogae, another

place of execution outside the western walls of the city.

The five women were all at least acquaintances, if not

friends. Maria Yi was sister of Magdalene Yi, beheaded

with six others on 29 December. Magdalene Son was the

wife of Peter Ch’oe, who had also been martyred on that

December day. Barbara Ch’oe was their daughter, whose

husband Charles Cho had been martyred in September.

Magdalene was another seamstress, and both she and her

daughter each arrived in prison with a tiny daughter. Both

children were sent away into the care of others.

The fourth woman, Agatha Kwön, was a stranger case.

She died at the age of 21 and was the daughter of

Magalene Han, who had been beheaded outside the Little

West Gate at the end of December. Magdalene’s husband

had been converted on his deathbed. They had arranged

for Agatha to be married at the age of 12. Marriage at this

age was more common than not, and the bride and groom

were not expected to cohabit until some years later. This

bridegroom’s family, however, was too poor even to take

Agatha to live in their house and she was confided to his

42

relations. When Fr Pacifico arrived in Korea she entered

service in his household. He became very fond of her,

and approved her wish to break off her marriage and live

as a virgin. Their relationship became too close and gave

cause for scandal. Fr Maubant talked to her and she

became overwhelmed with penitence, claiming that only

martyrdom would expiate her sins. Kim Yösang, who had

betrayed Bishop Imbert, sank further into depravity by

trying to persuade her to go off with him, but she was

steadfast. She entered the prison with some happiness.

The guards were sorry for Agatha and set her free, but

she soon returned voluntarily to the prison. Her martyrdom

was a singular triumph at the close of a life of frailty

and great trials.

The fifth woman was Agatha Yi. She had been married

to a eunuch. Bishop Imbert advised that she should leave

him, but her mother was too poor to support her. She

moved in with Agatha Kwön and was arrested with her.

Of the four men, two were brothers aged 39 and 42:

Peter and Paul Hong from Sösan district in the central

province, grandsons and nephews of two martyrs of 1801.

Both were catechists and had helped shelter Fr Maubant

and Fr Chastan in spring and summer 1839. The dastardly

Kim Yösang fingered them as he did the bishop and the

two priests.

Augustine Pak was 48, a member of the professional

class, cultured and kind, but very poor. His wife Barbara

FRENCH MISSIONARIES 43

MARTYRS OF KOREA

Ko, whose own father had been martyred in 1801, had

been beheaded in November. Augustine had been one of

the group that arranged for the three Frenchmen to enter

the country and Bishop Imbert had made him a catechist.

It is recorded that he was insulted and tortured even by

other prisoners. The torturers left him unable to use either

arms or legs.

The last of the group was John Yi, 31 years old. He was

of the gentry class, a widower without children. He had

accompanied Fr Maubant on pastoral journeys. During

1839 he had been at pains to offer relief to imprisoned

Christians; and he had led the group that secretly removed

the bodies of the three French martyrs from the Han River

sands at the end of September. Six days before he died he

wrote a lengthy letter of advice to his fellow-Christians, trying

to strengthen their faith. He advised them particularly to

practise the Stations of the Cross frequently and to have

recourse to the prayers of the Ever-virgin Mary.

Barbara Ch’oe and Paul Hong could not be executed

with the others, because no one could be beheaded on the

same day as a close relation. Paul had a brother, and

Barbara her mother, among the condemned. Seven of the

group were therefore beheaded on 31 January, but these

two and John Yi on 1 February.

The list of those canonised for the persecution of the

Year of the Yellow Pig ends with Antony Kim strangled

on 29 April 1841, after 15 months in prison.

44

FRENCH MISSIONARIES 45

Rebellions and poor harvests

For the next six years there were few martyrdoms. The

royal in-laws were Kims again, favourable to modern

learning, and the police stopped searching out Christians.

The Church however could not lower its guard. Most

Christians were hiding in the countryside, and all had

been impoverished. Few remained who belonged to the

gentry. Not only had they lost all their priests; they had

lost their Korean leaders too. Three men remained who

could give some leadership, but they were less gifted than

Paul Chöng and his companions: Fr Chastan’s servant,

Charles Hyön; Fr Maubant’s servant, Peter Chöng; and

Thomas Yi, a grandson of the very first Korean to be baptised

in Beijing, Peter Yi, martyred in 1801.

The state of the whole country was now far from being

as prosperous as it had been when Peter Yi collected

Christian books in Beijing for the scholars of the

Hermitage of Heavenly Truth. Government by the royal

in-laws had been corrupt; the kings had lacked charisma;

there had been too many poor harvests; and a succession

of uprisings, led by illegitimate sons and other malcontents,

showed the general malaise of the nation.

The Paris Foreign Missions Society and the Office of

Propaganda in Rome appointed John Joseph Ferréol as

Vicar Apostolic for Korea. He arrived in Manchuria by

sea and reached Shenyang (then called Mukden) in 1840.

He was unable to get further for four years. Had Paul

MARTYRS OF KOREA

Chöng still been alive, things might have been different.

Christians were still able from time to time to get on the

embassies from Seoul to Beijing, but the network had been

broken. Ferréol withdrew beyond the Mongolian border

and stayed with the little Christian community that had

sheltered Bishop Bruguière five years earlier. Not until

1842 was contact established with Charles Hyön. The way

would soon be open. The route would again be over the

frozen Yalu River, in the coldest, darkest part of the year.

46

47

SAINT ANDREW KIM

By this time the three boys who had been sent to the Paris

Missions seminary in Macao should have finished their

studies there. Francis-Xavier, alas, had died. The other

two had fared well, and it was judged expedient to think

of their return. They were to be put as interpreters on two

French naval vessels that were planning to visit Korean

waters, with the intention of complaining about the execution

of the three French nationals in 1839. The vessels

were under the command of Admiral Cécille – a name

that was destined to bring more sorrow than help.

Andrew Kim was to accompany two French priests, one

for Manchuria and one for Korea. The plan had to be

changed. Andrew and the two priests eventually went to

Manchuria in a Chinese junk, arriving there at the end of

October 1842. Andrew and the priest for Korea, Fr

Maistre, began planning to enter Korea disguised as beggars,

but the Vicar Apostolic of Manchuria quashed the

plan as unworkable.

Andrew then planned to go alone. At the end of the

year he got himself to a place on the road to Beijing where

he was likely to meet the winter embassy as it passed

through from Seoul. There were frustrating delays, but he

finally succeeded and met a Christian Korean named

Francis Kim, from whom he learned how the persecution

MARTYRS OF KOREA

had raged, and that there was now a lull. On 24 January

1843 Korean Christians in the embassy said Fr Ferréol

should not attempt to cross the border. Andrew had hairraising

adventures, suffering much from cold and hunger;

but he had to return to his superior. Again they waited for

many months. There was some consolation when, on the

last day of 1843, the Vicar Apostolic of Manchuria

ordained Fr Ferréol as third Vicar Apostolic of Korea. On

17 October 1844 Andrew was ordained to the diaconate.

A fortnight later the bishop, accompanied by Andrew,

reached the Korean border again. They met Francis Kim

as the embassy went through. Francis was insistent that

no foreign missionary should attempt the crossing, but

Andrew went on alone and succeeded in crossing the

frozen river. He left a vivid account in Latin of his journey,

through gullies and alleys, through snow-bound

mountains and over frozen streams, constantly aware that

he might be discovered and questioned. If he were

caught, it would be impossible to hide for long the fact

that that he had illegally left and re-entered the country.

At P’yöngyang he met Charles Hyön and Thomas Yi,

and his journey under their guidance to Seoul was a little

easier. Andrew had brought some money with him

(explaining how he came by it would have been hard if he

had been arrested on the way) and he soon bought a

house in Seoul. He could now move about fairly easily,

and Bishop Ferréol instructed him to investigate sea routes

48

in and out of Korea. He bought a wretched little boat and

gathered an ad hoc crew of inexperienced sailors. In this

craft he and Charles Hyön set sail across the Yellow Sea,

intending to reach Shanghai. A tremendous storm arose.

They cut their masts and entrusted their souls to God.

Although many ships were lost in the Yellow Sea during

that storm, this damaged craft stayed afloat long enough

for them to be rescued by a Cantonese ship that took them

in tow… Even so they encountered pirates. When they discharged

their firearms, the pirates fled.

Eventually they were towed into the anchorage at

Wusung, the port of Shanghai, which was then in the

first stages of becoming an international trading centre,

full of sailing vessels from European nations. The

strange Korean boat and the costume of the Koreans

caused a sensation. Andrew recognised a British ship.

Knowing about the British from his years in Macao,

Hong Kong’s neighbour , he cal led out : ‘ I am a

Korean. I ask your protection!’ The British sailors

responded, and guided him to the Chinese authorities,

who suggested he return to Korea by land. Andrew

was having nothing to do with that idea, which would

have defeated his purpose. With the help of the British

officers he made his way into Shanghai and saw the

British consul, who had been forewarned by Bishop

Ferréol, and found a place for him to stay with a

Christian family.

SAINT ANDREW KIM 49

MARTYRS OF KOREA

A few weeks later Bishop Ferréol himself arrived in

Shanghai, accompanied by Fr Antoine Daveluy, who

was also destined for Korea. On 17 August 1845, the

Vicar Apostolic of Jiangnan – the local bishop – ordained

Andrew priest.

The bishop, Fr Daveluy and Fr Kim prepared to sail

for Korea. They arrived at Kanggyöng on the west coast

on 12 October. A particular joy for Andrew was being

able to see his mother, Ursula, again. As we have seen,

his father Ignatius had been beheaded in 1839. Soon the

two bishops and Andrew were established in Seoul,

where they were now fairly safe so long as they did nothing

to attract attention. The bishop asked Andrew to continue

working at the idea of entering and leaving Korea

by sea. In the spring Andrew went to the west coast of

Hwanghae province, to a group of islands which was

well known as a haunt of Chinese fishermen at that season.

He was apprehended there by the Korean authorities

in July. They took him to their provincial capital at

Haeju before they put the red cord of arrest on him and

took him to Seoul.

His trial took a long time. He made a good impression

on his judges, who admired his manners and his education.

The records hint that they had some hope of dealing

leniently with him, but Admiral Cécille now arrived off

the coast, and sent peremptory messages to the Korean

government about the execution of the three Frenchmen

50

in 1839. Cécille’s behaviour left no hope of pardon for

Andrew, against whom the most serious charge was his

treasonous contacts with Europeans. He was condemned

to death. The execution place was prepared on

the sands of the Han, where Bishop Imbert and his two

priests had been slain seven years earlier. Here Andrew

was brought on 16 September 1846, stripped and prepared

for decapitation. He made a brief speech, declaring

he had contacted foreigners for God’s sake only,

and that he was dying for God. Then he charged all

those present to enter eternal life with him. When all

was ready he asked the soldiers if he was correctly

placed for beheading. One them adjusted the tilt of his

head. The young priest did not move again. His head

fell at the eighth stroke.

Fearing what might happen to the body, the authorities

had it dressed in a purple coat, wrapped in reed mats

and buried at once, together with the head, there on the

execution ground. Christians retrieved the relics forty

days later.

St Andrew is the best-loved of the Korean martyrs. Not

only was he the first Korean priest, only 25 years old and

not yet a year in the priesthood, he was an impressive and

loveable young man. Bishop Ferréol said he loved him like

a son. His judges acknowledged his fine character, and

pitied him for the hard life that had been his lot. It is right

that his name should stand at the head of the canonised.

SAINT ANDREW KIM 51

52 MARTYRS OF KOREA

Eight friends

Three days later Charles Hyön, the catechist to whom

Bishop Imbert had committed the Church, was beheaded

with the gruesome ceremonies of military display on the

sands of the Han. His father, sister, wife and son had

already been martyred. He would have surrendered himself

to martyrdom in 1838, had not the Bishop and the

two French priests dissuaded him. Since then he had led

the Church bravely. He had punctiliously collected

accounts of all the martyrs, amassing the basis of documentation

that would later be used for the canonisation

process. He had been in prison since 16 July, when he

was arrested with four women who happened to be in his

house at the time of the police visit.

The four women were beheaded outside the Little

West Gate the day after Charles was executed on the

sands. Susanna U was a widow of the gentry class. She

was arrested and might have been executed in 1828, but

was released because she was then pregnant. She was

however tortured, despite the unborn child. She had a

friend with her now, Teresa Kim, a widow who worked

as a household servant in Fr Andrew’s household. With

them were another widow, Agatha Yi, who had run away

from home so that she could live as a Christian, and had

been baptised by Fr Pacifico; and Catherine Chöng.

Catherine had been violently beaten by her master when

she would not take part in pagan sacrifices. She ran away

from home and joined the women in Fr Andrew’s house.

She still bore the marks of her beating.

Three men were killed with them. Joseph Im had

been the only non-Christian in his own household, not

well educated, but earning his living as a merchant.

One of his sons had gone with Fr Andrew to contact the

Chinese fishermen off the west coast in June. On learning

that they had been apprehended, Joseph, who had

joined the police in the hope of helping Christians,

went to Haeju to claim his son. Unsurprisingly, he was

himself arrested and taken to Seoul. He was tortured

with particular cruelty, being told at one time that if he

made the slightest sound it would be interpreted as

apostasy. Fr Andrew’s charm worked on him. He suddenly

declared his faith and became the second of the

martyrs to be baptised in prison. (The first was Agatha

Kim in 1838.)

Peter Nam, a member of the capital garrison, was

arrested in July. Although a Christian by 1839, he had

escaped capture, and shortly afterwards fell into sinful

ways. After a while he reformed himself and undertook

severe penances, such as living in an unheated room

throughout the winter. He said only martyrdom could

obliterate his guilt. In prison he carefully surrendered his

military tally as part of his welcome for martyrdom. He

asked his pagan brothers not to visit him in prison, lest

they should break his determination to die.

SAINT ANDREW KIM 53

MARTYRS OF KOREA

The last of the group was Laurence Han, member of

the gentry with a rather solemn mien, but an acknowledged

gift of contemplative prayer. Like many of the

martyrs, he thought Christian belief involved charity of

something like Franciscan prodigality. He often gave

away his clothes. Bishop Imbert had appointed him catechist.

Arrested at the end of August, he was tortured with

particular ingenuity, having his feet cut and crushed with

pottery shards. In spite of this, he refused to be taken to

Seoul on a pony, even though it was impossible for him

to wear shoes. As a result he walked barefoot on his

wounded feet for more than 50 kilometres.

All seven were beaten to death in prison. Some of

them lasted a long time under the blows. When this happened

it was customary for the executioners to ease their

own labours by strangling the victim. This happened to

Peter Nam. It was said that a strange light appeared over

his body during the night of his death. The prison guards

were so moved by this that they did not throw his body

out in the usual way, but gave it careful burial.

A twenty-year lull

After autumn 1846 there was a sudden lull in the execution

of Christians. This must have been because of a

change of heart in the palace. The queen’s family was

now politically less inclined to hate Christians. Then in

1849 the king died suddenly at the age of 22, leaving no

54

son to succeed him. The queen who had come to the fore

after the Year of the White Cock was now the senior

dowager. She made one of the most surprising appointments

of the dynasty. She called in from the island of

Kanghwa an uneducated 18-year-old farmer, an outrigger

of the royal clan, whose princely ancestors had been

exiled there 150 years earlier. Since he was utterly unprepared

for the throne, the dowager’s family again took

over the reins of government. Things became easier for

Christians. The new king was grandson of the princess

Song who had been martyred in 1801, and may have had

some latent sympathy for Christianity.

Bishop Ferréol worked secretly in Seoul for eight

years. In 1853 he fell ill and died, worn out by heavy

work and harsh conditions. The man appointed to succeed

him was Siméon Berneux. Berneux had arrived in

the Orient in 1840, when for a few weeks in Macao he

was given care of the two Korean students, the future

martyr Andrew Kim and Thomas Ch’oe. Still in his

twenties he was sent to work in Vietnam, where he

spent two years in prison for his faith. His superiors

transferred him against his will to Manchuria, where he

was to become bishop as Pro-Vicar-Apostolic in 1854,

but hardly had he been ordained, when he was appointed

to Korea. It took nearly two years for him to reach

Seoul. He arrived by a junk from the Yellow Sea in

January 1856.

SAINT ANDREW KIM 55

MARTYRS OF KOREA

He had his own house, but a gentleman and his family

also lived in it, leaving the bishop just one room, in which

he slept, ate his two daily meals and said mass. He could

never go out into the courtyard during the day because

women hawkers and beggars might come in at any time

and his red beard would have given him away as a foreigner.

He dared not open a window, even in summer, and

could never raise his voice above a whisper. Twice a year

he visited his flock, who were mostly very poor and had

tiny houses, inside which it was impossible for him to

stand upright, even for mass. He would arrive at a house

before daybreak and recite the breviary while the catechist

listed those coming for the sacraments. He would have

breakfast, hear confessions and give instruction all day

long. He lay down at night dead tired. Gentlewomen

would come during the night, disguised as poor women,

make their confessions, hear mass at 3 in the morning and

get back home before daylight, for they had to keep their

faith secret from heir husbands. Baptisms, confirmations

and occasionally unction followed the mass. Then he hurried

to the next congregation in another house, arriving

there before dawn. This pattern was repeated daily for two

months every spring and autumn.

1866, The Year of the Red Horse

In 1857 Fr Daveluy was ordained coadjutor bishop. The

church that had begun as a group of gentry was now largely

56

a Church of the poor, but some gentlemen and their families

still belonged. One of these was John Nam, who was a

tutor to the royal household. When the ploughboy king

died leaving no son in 1863, the senior queen dowager of

the day made another bizarre decision. She appointed as

king an 11-year-old boy, whose father was still alive.

There were two precedents for this, however, and the protocol

was for the king’s father to be known as the ‘Great

Prince of the Palace’. He naturally functioned as regent, a

man who was famous for his beautiful ink drawings of

orchids, but proved to be an unpredictable schemer.

Koreans were just becoming aware of the interest

being taken in them by the western powers. European

ships were appearing in Korean waters. Russia was particularly

worrying. Surprisingly, there were three

Christian women in the palace: the Great Prince’s wife,

his eldest daughter, and the boy king’s nanny. These three

discussed the situation with John Nam, who eventually

suggested to the Great Prince that he might use Bishop

Berneux as a contact with the French and British governments

for an alliance against Russia. It seems that the

Prince asked to meet Berneux, but there were mistakes in

protocol when letters were drafted. There was a delay of

ten months, perhaps partly because the missionaries were

hard to contact. The Great Prince was angry and called

the matter off. He also had political debts to the senior

Queen Dowager’s family, which was anti-Christian. He

SAINT ANDREW KIM 57

MARTYRS OF KOREA

asked to meet the two bishops. They were in Seoul by the

end of January 1866, the Year of the Red Horse; but they

already knew that the Prince’s intention now was to arrest

them. Bishop Berneux was arrested on 23 February. The

gory processes that led to execution were gone through

again on the Han River sands on 6 March. The bishop

was 52. With him were executed three French priests, all

in their twenties: Juste de Bretennieres, Pierre Dorie and

Louis Beaulieu. John Nam was executed outside the

Little West Gate the same day. Three days later John

Chön, a flour merchant, and Peter Ch’oe, both of whom

had edited and published Christian books, were beheaded

in the same place.

Another two days later, two Korean laymen were martyred

on the Han River sands with full military ceremonial

and display of their heads. Mark Chöng the catechist was

71. He had been converted after seeing some of the martyrs

of 1839 meet their deaths. Bishop Ferréol made him

chief catechist of Seoul. Alexius U was only 21. He was

something of a prodigy, passing the national examinations

in his middle teens. He had been an ardent missionary in

Hwanghae-do, the Yellow Sea Province just north of

Seoul, and by the age of 18 had brought 100 converts to

Seoul. Arrested in 1865, he had apostatised under torture,

but had returned to the Church and was arrested in the

house of John Chön.

58

59

8,000 MARTYRS

Bishop Daveluy and two more French priests, Luc Huin

and Pierre Aumaitre, whom he had asked to surrender in

the same way that Laurent Imbert had asked Frs Maubant

and Chastan, were to have been executed in the same

place. The palace soothsayers objected that too much

blood was being shed in Seoul and this would have a bad

effect on the king’s wedding, which was to happen that

spring. Bishop Daveluy and the priests had been arrested

with him in the district 150 miles south of Seoul where Fr

Andrew Kim and so many earlier martyrs had been bred,

were taken back there for execution. Decapitation with

display of the heads was performed at Poryöng on Good

Friday, 30 March 1866. Thus Bishop Daveluy, who

became the 5th Vicar Apostolic for Korea when Bishop

Berneux died, held that office for only 22 days. With him

also were martyred Luke Hwang, a catechist who had

helped him with translation work, and another catechist,

Joseph Chang.

Ten other names appear among the canonised for the

Year of the Red Horse. Catechist Peter Yu was beaten to

death in P’yöngyang on 17 February. On the day of

Bishop Daveluy’s death a farmer named Thomas Son was

strangled at Kongju. Seven men were beheaded in Chönju,

the south-western provincial capital, on 13 December:

MARTYRS OF KOREA

Bartholomew Chöng, of the gentry class; farmers Peter

Cho and 20-year-old Peter Chöng; catechists Peter Son

and 20-year-old Peter Han; and Peter Yi. Peter Cho’s 18-

year-old son, Joseph Cho, was beaten to death the day

before. Another catechist, John Yi, was beheaded in the

south-eastern city of Taegu on 21 January 1867.

These names from the 1860s are woefully unrepresentative.

The choice of those canonised in 1984 depended on

the collection of evidence of the standard required for the

canonical process. Not only are there no women among

them, though large numbers of housewives and mothers

were killed, but these saints of the Year of the Red Horse

form only a tiny selection from what are thought to be

have been about 8,000 martyrs who died between 1866

and 1886. Few Churches can muster such a roll.

Persecution continued for several years. Families that

suffered in 1801 and 1839 continued to suffer until the

early 1870s. Among them were a son, grandson and two

great grandsons of Peter Yi who took Chinese books to the

Hermitage group in 1775 – four generations of martyrs in

one family. Long after persecutions ceased, priests continued

to live and work in secret. Only in 1886, when the first

Franco-Korean treaty was signed, did the law relax.

Princess Mary

When Gustave Mutel became Vicar Apostolic in 1891,

the Great Prince of the Palace was still alive. It was no

60

longer a crime to be a Christian, and the new bishop was

approached by the Great Prince’s wife, asking for baptism.

This proved impractical because as head of the

palace household she was in charge of preparing food for

the ancestral sacrifices. The situation changed when in

1896 she retired from the headship because of her age

(she was 78). The bishop visited her after dark on 11

October and baptised her as Mary in the house of one of

her palace ladies. On 6 September 1897 he visited her

again for her confession and first Holy Communion. It

was also her last communion, for she died four months

later on 8 January 1898. Her husband, who had started

and organised the greatest of the persecutions, died on 22

February. Some time before he had sent a small gift to

Bishop Mutel, together with an ambiguous message saying

he regretted what he had done to the Christians and

that he had been deceived.

The martyrs’ heritage

In the days of the martyrs there were no separate Korean

words for ‘Catholicism’ and ‘Christianity’. The Chinese

name for Christianity, devised by the great Mateo Ricci

in the 16th century, served for both. It meant, literally,

‘the God Doctrine’. Belief in one almighty and loving

Creator God was indeed the crucial subject on which the

martyrs were most frequently questioned and for which

they were derided during their trials. They died for their

8,000 MARTYRS 61

MARTYRS OF KOREA

belief in God and salvation by the blood of Christ. The

Christian virtues they most prized were humility, love,

and care for the poor.

When the Churches of the Reformation began their

missionary work in Korea after 1882, all of them save the

Anglicans introduced a different word for God and chose

to call their teaching not ‘God Doctrine’ but ‘Jesus

Doctrine’. Thus Korean Protestants came to think of the

Catholic martyrs as having died for a different religion.

Some wise Protestant missionaries, however, expressed

great reverence for the martyrs, and today Korean

Christians all increasingly see themselves as their heirs.

In the 1960s the Catholic Church in Korea agreed to use

the word for God preferred by Protestants.

In 1984 Pope John Paul II visited Korea to celebrate

the second centenary of the baptism of Peter Yi in Beijing

and the birth of the Korean Church. On 6 May at the Han

River sands where St Laurent Imbert, St Andrew Kim

and many others had suffered and died, he canonised 103

martyrs: 3 French bishops, 7 French priests, 46 Korean

men and 47 Korean women. It was the first canonisation

ever performed outside Rome.

The calendar of saints used by the Catholic Church

now contains a commemoration on 20 September of

‘Saint Andrew Kim Taegön, Saint Paul Chöng Hasang,

and their Companions, Martyrs’. They are remembered

at altars all over the world.

62

FLOWERING OF THE CHURCH IN KOREA

THE FRUIT OF THE HEROISM OF THE MARTYRS

Pope John Paul II visited South Korea in 1984. On leaving

Seoul Cathedral on Sunday morning, 6th May, the Holy

Father went to Youido Square where he celebrated Mass

and canonized 103 Korean Martyrs in the presence of an

estimated more than half a million people.

Korean Martyrs inscribed in the list of Saints

“Today it is given to me, the Bishop of Rome and

Successor of Saint Peter – In that Apostolic See, to participate

in the jubilee of the Church on Korean soil. I have

already spent several days in your midst as a pilgrim, fulfilling

as Bishop and Pope my service to the sons and

daughters of the beloved Korean nation. Today’s Liturgy

institutes the culminating point of this pastoral service.

For behold: through this liturgy of Canonization the

Blessed Korean Martyrs are inscribed in the list of the

Saints of the Catholic Church. These are true sons and

daughters of your nation and they are joined by a number

of missionaries from other lands. They are your

ancestors, according to the flesh, language, and culture.

At the same time they are your fathers – and mothers in

the faith, a faith to which they bore witness by the shedding

of their blood. From the thirteen-year-old Peter Yu

63

MARTYRS OF KOREA

to the seventy-two-year-old Mark Chong, men and

women, clergy and laity, rich and poor, ordinary people

and nobles, many of them descendants of earlier unsung

martyrs they all gladly died for the sake of Christ.

Listen to the last words of Teresa Kwon, one of the

early, martyrs: “Since the Lord of Heaven is the Father of

all mankind and the Lord of all creation, how can you ask

me to betray him? Even in this world anyone who betrays

his own father or mother will not be forgiven. All the

more may I never betray him who is the Father of us all.”

A generation later, Peter Yu’s father Augustine firmly

declares: “Once having known God. I cannot possibly

betray him.” Peter Cho goes even further and says: “Even

supposing that one’s own father committed a crime, still

one cannot disown him as no longer being one’s father.

How then can I say that I do not know the heavenly Lord

Father who is so good?

And what did the seventeen-year-old Agatha Yi say

when she and her younger brother were falsely told that

their parents had betrayed the faith? Whether my parents

betrayed or not is their affair. As for us, we cannot betray

the Lord of heaven whom we have always served.”

Hearing this, six other adult Christians freely delivered

themselves to the magistrates to be martyred. Agatha, her

parents and those other six are all being canonized today.

In addition, there are countless other unknown. humble

martyrs who no less faithfully and bravely served the Lord.

64

65

Like unto Christ

The Korean Martyrs have borne witness to the crucified

and risen Christ. Through the sacrifice of their own lives

they have become like Christ in a very special way. The

words of Saint Paul the Apostle could truly have been

spoken by them: We are “always carrying in the body the

death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be

manifested in our bodies. We are always being given up

to death for Jesus’ sake; so that the life of Jesus may be

manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Cor 4:10-11).

The death of the martyrs is similar to the death of

Christ on the Cross, because like his, theirs has become

the beginning of new life. This new life was manifested

not only in themselves – in those who underwent death

for Christ- but it was also extended to others. It became

the leaven of the Church as the living community of disciples

and witnesses to Jesus Christ. “The blood of martyrs

is the seed of Christians”: this phrase from the first

centuries of Christianity is confirmed before our eyes.

Today the Church on Korean soil desires in a solemn

way to give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity for the gift of

the Redemption. It is of this gift that Saint Peter writes:

“You were ransomed… not with perishable things such as

silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ” (I Pt

1:18-19). To this lofty price, to this price of the

Redemption, your Church desires, on the basis of the witness

of the Korean Martyrs, to add an enduring witness of

faith, hope and charity.

FLOWERING OF THE CHURCH IN KOREA

66 MARTYRS OF KOREA

Through this witness may Jesus Christ be ever more

widely known in your land: the crucified and risen Christ,

Christ, the Way and the Truth and the Life, Christ, true

God: the Son of the living God. Christ, true man: the Son

of the Virgin Mary.”

(Extracts from the Homily of John Paul II at the canonization of the

Korean Martyrs, 6th May 1984)

67

103 MARTYRS OF KOREA

CANONISED 6 MAY 1984

No. Name (Age) Notes (Numbers refer to list)

Decapitation with display, Han River sands, Seoul 16 September 1846

1. Kim Taegön/Andrew (25) First Korean priest. Son of 41,

nephew of 57. Gentry class.

Beheaded outside Little West Gate, Seoul 22 September 1839

2. Chöng Hasang/ Paul (44) Catechist. Son of 49, brother of 54.

Gentry class.

Died in the Criminal Court Prison, Seoul 25 November 1838

3. Yi Hoyöng/ Peter (35) Catechist. Brother of 7. Gentry class.

Beaten to death, Police Prison, Seoul 20/21 May 1839

4. Chöng Kukpo/ Protase (40) Apostatised, then gave himself up.

Gentry class.

Beheaded outside Little West Gate, Seoul 24 May 1839

5. Kim Agi/ Agatha (52) Widow. ‘Agi’ means ‘daughter’ and

is not a name.

6. Pak Agi/ Anna (56)

7. Yi/ Agatha (55) Widow. Sister of 3.

8. Kim Öbi/ Magdalene(65) Widow.

9. Yi Kwanghön/ Augustine (52)Catechist. Husband of 26,

father of 58, brother of 21. Gentry.

10. Han Agi/ Barbara (47) Widow.

11. Pak Hüisun/ Lucy (38) Virgin. Sister of 25. Palace servant.

12. Nam Myönghyök/ Damian (37)Catechist. Husband of 29.

13. Kwön Tügin/ Peter (34) Maker of devotional articles.

Died in the Police Prison, Seoul 26-29 May 1839.

14. Chang Söngjip/ Joseph(53) A herbalist.

68 MARTYRS OF KOREA

15. Kim/ Barbara (34) Widow.

16. Yi/ Barbara (14) Granddaughter of 36, niece of 22

and 28. Gentry class.

Beheaded outside Little West Gate, Seoul 20 July 1839.

17. Kim/ Rose (55)

18. Kim Söngim/ Martha (49) Gave herself up.

19. Yi Maeim/ Theresa (51) Sister-in law of 36, aunt of 22 and 28.

Gentry class.

20. Kim Changgüm/ Anna (50) Widow.

21. Yi Kwangnyöl/John (44) Brother of 9, brother-in law of 26,

uncle of 58. Gentry class.

22. Yi Yönghüi/Magdalene (30) Virgin. Daughter of 36, sister of 28,

niece of 19, aunt of 16.

23. Kim/ Lucy (21) Virgin. Gave herself up.

24. Wön Kwiim/ Maria (21) Virgin. Seamstress.

Beheaded outside Little West Gate, Seoul 3 September 1839

25. Pak K’ünagi/ Maria (53) Sister of 11. ‘K’ünagi’ (‘eldest

daughter’) is not a name.

26. Kwön Hüi/ Barbara(45) Wife of 9, mother of 58,

sister-in-law of 21.

27. Pak Hujae/ John (40) Straw shoe maker.

28. Yi Chönghüi/ Barbara (40) Widow. Daughter of 36,

sister of 22, niece of 19, aunt of 16.

29. Yi Yönhüi/ Maria (35) Wife of 12.

30. Kim Hyoju/ Agnes (23) Virgin. Sister of 44.

Died in the Criminal Court Prison, Seoul 12 September 1839

31. Ch’oe Kyönghwan/ Francis (34)Catechist. His son Yangöp (Thomas)

was 2nd Korean priest.

Decapitation with display, Han River sands, Seoul 21 September 1839

32. Laurent Imbert (43) 2nd Vicar Apostolic (French bishop).

MARTYRS OF KOREA 69

33. Pierre Maubant (35) French priest.

34. Jacques Chastan (35) French priest.

Beheaded outside Little West Gate, Seoul 22 September 1839

35. Yu Chin’gil/ Augustine (48) Father of 48. Professional class.

Beheaded outside Little West Gate, Seoul 26 September 1839

36. Hö Kyeim/ Magdalene (66) Mother of 22 and 28.

37. Nam Igwan/ Sebastian (59) Catechist. Husband of 51.

38. Kim/ Julietta (55) Virgin. Palace servant.

39. Chön Kyönghyöp/ Agatha (52)Virgin. Palace servant.

40. Cho Sinch’öl/ Charles (46) Husband of 70, son-in-law of 50 and 64.

41. Kim Chejun/ Ignatius (43) Catechist. Father of 1.

42. Pak Pongson/ Magdalene (43)Widow.

43. Hong Kümju/ Perpetua (35) Widow.

44. Kim Hyoim/ Columba (25) Virgin. Sister of 30.

Died in prison, Seoul September 1839.

45. Kim/ Lucy (70) Nicknamed ‘Hunchback’.

Died in prison, Seoul September-October 1839.

46. Yi/ Catherine (56) Widow. Mother of 47.

47. Cho/ Magdalene (32) Virgin. Daughter of 46.

Strangled in the Police Prison, Seoul 31 October 1839.

48. Yu Taech’öl/ Peter (12) Son of 35. Professional class.

Youngest in the canonised list.

Died in prison, Seoul 23 November 1839

49. Yu/ Cecilia (78) Mother of 2 and 54. Gentry class.

Beheaded outside Little West Gate, Seoul 29 December 1839

50. Ch’oe Ch’anghüp/ Peter (52) Husband of 64, father of 70,

father-in-law of 40. Professional.

51. Cho Chüngi/ Barbara (57) Wife of 37. Gentry class.

52. Han Yöngi/ Magdalene (55) Widow. Mother of 67.

53. Hyön Kyöngnyön/ Benedicta (45)Catechist. Sister of 72.

Seamstress. Professional class.

MARTYRS OF KOREA

54. Chöng Chönghye/ Elisabeth (42)Virgin. Daughter of 49,

sister of 2. Gentry class.

55. Ko Suni/ Barbara (41) Wife of 62.

56. Yi Yöngdök/ Magdalene (27) Virgin. Sister of 66. Gentry class.

Strangled in the Police Prison, Seoul 9 January 1840

57. Kim/ Theresa (44) Aunt of 1.

58. Yi/ Agatha (17) Virgin. Daughter of 9 and 26,

niece of 21.

Strangled in the Police Prison, Seoul 30 January 1840

59. Min Kükka/ Stephen (53) Catechist. Gentry class.

Strangled in the Police Prison, Seoul 23 January 1840

60. Chöng Hwagyöng/ Andrew (33)Catechist.

Beaten to death, Seoul 31 January – 1 February 1840

61. Hö Im/ Paul (45) Soldier.

Beheaded, Tang-kogae, Seoul 31 January 1840

62. Pak Chongwön/ Augustine (48)Catechist. Husband of 55.

Professional class.

63. Hong Pyöngju/ Pete (42) Catechist. Brother of 68. Gentry class.

64. Son Sobyök/ Magdalene (39) Wife of 50, mother of 70.

65. Yi Kyöngi/ Agatha (27) Virgin.

66. Yi Indök/ Maria (22) Virgin. Sister of 56.

67. Kwön Chini/ Agatha (21) Daughter of 52. Apostatised

and recanted.

Beheaded, Tang-kogae, Seoul 1 February 1840

68. Hong Yöngju/ Paul (39) Catechist. Brother of 63.

69. Yi Munu/ John (31) Catechist. Gentry class.

Companion of Fr Maubant.

70. Ch’oe Yöngi/ Barbara (22) Daughter of 50 and 64, wife of 40.

Strangled in prison, Seoul 29 April 1841

71. Kim Söngu/ Antony (46) Catechist.

70

MARTYRS OF KOREA 71

Decapitation with display, Han River sands, Seoul 19 September 1846

72. Hyön Söngmun/ Charles (49) Catechist. Professional class.

Strangled or beaten to death in the Police Prison, Seoul 20 September 1846

73. Nam Kyöngmun/ Peter (50) Soldier. Professional class.

74. Han Ihyöng/ Laurence (47) Catechist. Gentry class.

75. U Surim/ Susanna (43) Widow. Gentry class.

76. Im Ch’ibaek/ Joseph (42) Policeman.

77. Kim Imi/ Theresa (35) Virgin.

78. Yi Kannan/ Agatha (32) Widow.

79. Chöng Ch’öryöm/ Catherine (29)

Beaten to death, P’yöngyang 17 February 1866

80. Yu Chöngnyul/ Peter (29) Farmer.

Decapitation with display, Han River sands, Seoul 6 March 1866

81. Siméon Berneux (52) 4th Vicar Apostolic (French bishop)

82. Juste de Bretenières (28) French priest.

83. Pierre Dorie (27) French priest.

84. Louis Beaulieu (26) French priest.

Beheaded outside Little West Gate, Seoul 6 March 1866

85. Nam Chongsam/ John (49) Royal secretary of the 3rd grade.

Beheaded outside Little West Gate, Seoul 9 March 1866

86. Chön Changun/ John (55) Flour merchant.

Published Catholic books.

87. Ch’oe Hyöng/ Peter (52) Published Catholic books.

Decapitation with display, Han River sands, Seoul 11 March 1866

88. Chöng Üibae/ Mark (71) Catechist.

89. U Seyöng/ Alexius (21) Apostatised in P’yöngyang,

then gave himself up in Seoul.

Decapitation with display, Kalmae-mot, Poryöng 30 March 1866

90. Antoine Daveluy (49) 5th Vicar Apostolic (French bishop).

91. Luc Huin (30) French priest.

72 MARTYRS OF KOREA

92. Pierre Aumaitre (29) French priest.

93. Chang Chugi/ Joseph (63) Catechist.

94. Hwang Söktu/ Luke (53) Catechist. Helped Bishop

Daveluy in translation work.

Strangled, Kongju 30 March 1866

95. Son Chasön/ Thomas (22) Farmer.

Beheaded, Chönju 13 December 1866

96. Chöng Munho/ Bartholomew (65)Gentry class.

97. Cho Hwasö/ Peter (51) Father of 102. Farmer.

98. Son Sönji/ Peter (46) Catechist.

99. Yi Myöngsö/ Peter (45)

100. Han Wönsö/ Peter (Joseph) (20)Catechist. Farmer.

101. Chöng Wönji/ Peter (20) Farmer.

Beaten to death, Chönju 12 December 1886

102. Cho Yunho/ Joseph (18) Son of 97. Farmer.

Beheaded, Taegu 21 January 1867

103. Yi Yunil/ John (43) Catechist.

The first Korean item presented to the British Museum Library is

Additional Manuscript 14054. It is a copy of the Chinese Lord’s Prayer

transcribed in Korean script by Paul Yun who was martyred in 1795.

His cause for canonisation is being promoted by the diocese of Suwön.

Copyright © 2012 Incorporated Catholic Truth Society, 40-46

Harleyford Road, London SE11 5AY. Permission limited to reproduce

this text in Korea on a non-for profit basis. For permissions beyond this,

contact the copyright holders in writing.

Korean Martyrs

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

The story of a Welsh Christian martyr who took bibles to Korea and was executed in Pyongyang – Robert Jermain Thomas

robertjermainthomas

robert-jermyn-thomas-mmorial-church-pyongyang-1932_edited

The story appears at: 

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38404012   – December 26th  2016

This  link is to a BBC Radio Wales documentary about Robert Jermain Thomas. It went out last week,– or you can listen anytime you want for 30 days on the iPlayer.

Here it is: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0850d2s

and the story of more than 8,000 Catholic martyrs who first brought Christianity to Korea:

https://davidalton.net/2016/08/30/september-20th-korea-comemorates-the-thousands-who-died-for-their-faith-and-the-story-of-the-coming-of-christianity-to-korea/

Korean martyrs

One Child China – “One Child: the story of China’s Most Radical Experiment” China’s One Child Policy; a law that has claimed 8 million British lives: Amnesty International and its founder, Peter Benenson

ONE CHILD CHINA

January 3rd 2016 –  Sunday Times colour supplement: Extracts from Mei Fong’s book “One Child: the story of China’s Most Radical Experiment” (2016)

One Child China – Part Aldous Huxley, part King Herod. Later, Longer, Fewer became, in the vocabulary of loss, “bare branches” and the children “little emperors.”

 

China may be the first big country to grow old before it gets rich.

 

China’s population will be too male, too old and too few for continued prosperity.

 

There are now 13 million undocumented “non existent” children – second children born without the Communist State’s permission.

 

 

In little less than a decade there will be more Chinese bachelors than Saudi Arabians on the planet. By 2050 one in three people in China will be retired. If they formed their own country it would be the third largest in the world – behind only India and China itself.

 

Shidu is a term for parents who have lost their only child. Each year 76,000 join the 1 million shidu parents. With no progeny, shidu parents have problems getting into nursing homes or buying burial plots. When they do get into a hospice they often die alone.

 

A coercive Two Child China  (see below) may prove to be little better than a One Child China policy because citizens have been driven to value materialism more than the family and child rearing in China has become a nightmare.

 

Melamine-tainted milk powder, lead in toys, lung searing pollution and a four fold increase in infertility are all conspiring against bringing children into the world. 

Mei Fong “One Child: the story of China’s Most Radical Experiment” (2016).

Also see…

https://davidalton.net/2013/04/07/chinas-one-child-policy-official-figures-reveal-that-336-million-women-have-been-aborted-37-million-more-men-than-women-as-campaign-of-gendercide-unbalances-the-population/

 

 

David Alton reflects on China’s decision to scrap the one child policy only to announce a two child policy…

During the UK visit of China’s President, Xi Jinping, in Parliament I raised the cases of 280 human rights lawyers who, since July 9th, have disappeared or been detained in China– many of them arrested after contesting the illegal destruction of churches or persecution of Christians. And, I asked, yet again – as I have done since 1980 – about China’s coercive one child policy and referred to Chen Guangchen, the barefoot, blind human rights lawyer. In 2006 Chen was imprisoned for four years after exposing and leading protests against the coercive one-child policy. It’s a  policy which has marked China as the world’s only country where it has been illegal to have a brother or a sister.

In 2013, Chen came to Westminster as my guest and received a human rights award and, last month, while President Xi was in London Chen was here, too – taking part in peaceful demonstrations.

This extraordinary, and deeply patriotic man, who has no sight, has seen so clearly what his country’s leaders have been blind to: not only was their policy an outrageous violation of human rights but it has had a disastrous demographic effect. The cruel enforcement of the policy has had one other consequence: in opening the eyes of millions to the nature of the system it will prove to be its undoing.

The extent of the disaster began to seep out from behind the closed doors when, in 2013, an internal Communist Party document exposed the scale of this pernicious policy:  over  40 years some 330m abortions,  196m sterilisations and 403m intrauterine devices inserted into women, often without their consent, had led to a massive imbalance between young men and women. This relentless targeting of girls babies became known as gendercide – indirectly funded by British taxpayers under successive British Governments. Challenge it and you were denounced.

During the 1990s, at one memorable meeting with a Minister in charge of International Development, the air was literally blue with undeleted expletives and four letter words, as I was accused of undermining development policies which I was told relied on population control. During the meeting I had raised the case of Gao Xiao Duan, a former Chinese family planning official, who in 1998, described to a U.S. Congressional Committee the horror of  forced abortions of women, how babies had been murdered during delivery and new-borns drowned in paddy fields by officials.

After this intemperate Ministerial harangue, and during a subsequent visit to Beijing – I met with Communist Party officials. The contrast with our own officials and Minister could not have been greater. Of course, the difference was that many of these officials had suffered too. Hardly anyone in China has been unaffected.

In private some of those Chinese officials quietly encouraged me to go on opposing the one-child policy. I told them that one day Chen Guangchen would be seen as a national hero. Chen’s brave stand had opened minds and given courage to those whom Chesterton, in another context, once described as “the secret people”.

As Chinese micro-bloggers took up Chen’s case and publically questioned the policy, the bloggers began to ask deeper questions, too. They were joined by brave lawyers, increasingly asking why a totalitarian political system be allowed to crush the spirit of a truly great people. The one child policy was seen as being the perfect image of a one party system.

In the absence of a free press, the bloggers – one of whom told me he had five million followers – have opened minds.  By shining a light on horrifying stories, like that of a women who was coercively aborted, and whose seven month unborn baby was then left by her side on her bed, as a warning not to become pregnant again, millions, they have fundamentally questioned the nature of a one party Communist state.

Now, belatedly the Party has recognised that a policy which was justified on economic grounds – and aided and abetted by the West – has turned out to be an economic disaster. In a child-poor country there simply won’t be the children to support those who have retired.  The Chinese have a saying that the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The same applies to babies and the people those babies grow up to be.

The policy has also distorted the population balance.  There are now 40 million more Chinese men than women, while, globally, the sex-selection abortion of little girls had led to between 100 million and 200 million females now missing in the world – with catastrophic social consequences.

After his return to Beijing from London, President Xi’s Government said it will now relax the ‘One Couple, One Child’ policy. On the face of it this may seem welcome but note that the word is “relax” not “end.”  China will now impose a ‘Two Child’ policy.

Chinese women will still need to obtain a birth permit for the first and second child, and only within marriage. Those violating these strictures may still be dragged from their homes, strapped to tables, and their babies forcibly aborted. Even with a two-child policy, women will still be subject to forced abortion if they get pregnant without a birth permit.

A two-child policy will not end the human rights abuses caused by the one child policy: forced abortion, involuntary sterilization or the sex-selective abortion of baby girls. Be clear, State-coercion and State-control remain at the heart of the policy.

It’s a policy which doesn’t need to be relaxed or modified. It needs to be done away with.

For the future, the key question for China is not the number of children which a family may have but the principle of State interference in the intimate life of a family and the coercion which the State uses to enforce limits.

In London President Xi talked of “the Chinese dream” but while the Communist Party exercises ruthless control over its citizens, imprisons lawyers, crushes free speech, closes or demolishes churches, arrests bishops, or forcibly aborts women, the dream will continue to be the stuff of nightmares.

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/issues/november-6th-2015/chinas-one-child-catastrophe/

The following press release was issued this week by two major charitable organisations that work for women and their unborn children, Right To Life and LIFE – marking the 48th anniversary of the passing of the 1967 Abortion Act.

1987 The photographer, Lenart Neilson, gave permission for this picture of the unborn baby at 18 weeks to be used for the Alton Bill campaign. 1 million were printed-1

Right to Life and LIFE have launched the Amnesty Travesty campaign to highlight the toll that abortion has had on Great Britain and they urge Amnesty International to withdraw their campaign to remove the protection of the right to life of the unborn child from the Irish Constitution. Amnesty’s wonderful founder, Peter Benenson, would have been truly shocked to see the life saving work undertaken by Amnesty diverted into the taking of innocent life. Amnesty should

  • Speak-up for the over-8 million who have died in the UK from abortion.
  • Respect and affirm the choice of the people of Northern Ireland to safeguard babies in the womb from abortion.
  • Withdraw their campaign to remove the right to life of the unborn child from Ireland’s constitution.

See:

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/issues/october-16th-2015-2/where-amnesty-went-wrong/

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2015/10/21/amnestys-pro-abortion-campaign-is-disingenuous

Full details on the campaign are available from the website www.shamnesty.org

PRESS RELEASE – 23/10/2015

On the 48th anniversary of the Abortion Act 1967

LIFE and Right To Life call for Ireland and Northern Ireland to resist abortion

The national charities LIFE and Right To Life are marking the 48th anniversary of the Abortion Act by calling attention to the 8 million lives lost since 1967, and urging lawmakers in Ireland and Northern Ireland not to compromise their laws and society by bowing to the pressure of the abortion industry and its lobbyists.

We sound a warning of the consequences of such a compromise, following the launch of an expensive campaign by Amnesty International that uses celebrities to attempt to convince Ireland and Northern Ireland to abolish their legal and constitutional protections for unborn children.

Millions of unborn lives have been lost and thousands of women have been psychologically harmed in Great Britain because of the 1967 Act. It paved the way for the emergence of a multi-million pound industry costing the taxpayer over £100 million a year. Since its inception, abortion providers have consistently misinterpreted, abused and broken the law with impunity. The safeguards built into the law have been rendered ineffective, with the CPS refusing to prosecute doctors in some cases.

Those who voted for the Abortion Act could never have envisaged a day when abortions would be performed at the rate of one every three minutes, when nine out of ten babies with Down’s Syndrome would be aborted, when babies would be terminated because they were the ‘wrong’ gender, and when the bodies of aborted babies would be burnt to heat hospitals. This is certainly not a situation that we should want Ireland or indeed any other country to move towards.

Amnesty International, which was born out of the conviction that the human rights of the oppressed and vulnerable should be vocally supported by those who believed in the dignity of all human beings, now perversely campaigns for a human right to end human lives. Specifically the most vulnerable of all: unborn children. Where nations have chosen to resist abortion, Amnesty is spending significant sums of charity funds to pressure them to ensure the platform exists for the termination of babies in the womb. It is ironic that an organisation which in 1977 received the Nobel Peace Prize for its lifesaving work would today be championing ending the very lives that most need the humane advocacy it is meant to provide.

All people of good will, who wish to call Amnesty back to the humane founding principles of their organisation under the late Peter Benenson, can visit the new website of our Amnesty Travesty campaign – www.shamnesty.org – and sign the open letter calling on them to stop pressuring countries into accepting the inhumanity of abortion.

As friends from across the Irish sea, we call on the people and lawmakers of Ireland and Northern Ireland to avoid the tragedy that Great Britain’s abortion laws have engendered, and stand firm against the pressure by Amnesty and similar organisations to compromise their legal safeguards for the most vulnerable of their fellow citizens. In doing so they will protect women, prevent the horrific loss of life experienced in the United Kingdom since 1967, and affirm the dignity and right to life of all members of the human family.

END

For further media comment please call the LIFE Media Hotline on 07867 744502 and Right To Life on 01732 460911.

Karen and other Ethnic Leaders Set to Sign a Comprehensive Ceasefire: Further parliamentary reply about Burma’s forthcoming elections

Karen and other Ethnic Leaders Set to Sign a Comprehensive Ceasefire

In 1949 one of the world’s longest running wars began when fighting broke out between the Burmese military regime and the people of the Karen State. Over the decades which have followed there has been phenomenal suffering inflicted on the Karen – 110,000 of whom live in refugee camps along the Burma-Thai border. This week Karen leaders and leaders from other ethnic minorities are set to sign a historic comprehensive peace agreement – although many say they are “hoping for the best but preparing for the worst; preparing for peace but remaining ready for war.”

The Karen village at Pk' Law Gaw

The Karen village at Pk’ Law Gaw

  In 1998 I first visited the Karen State, travelling illegally with members of the Karen National Union (KNU). Among those I met was the highly decorated, and now deceased General Bo Mya. He was a holder of the Burma Star. In a subsequent debate in Parliament I quoted Lady Mountbatten of Burma, who told me that in her father’s view the Karen “were our loyalist allies and had become our forgotten allies.”

Karen refugee camp on the Burma border

Karen refugee camp on the Burma border

Naw La Poe - widow of General Bo Mya

Naw La Poe – widow of General Bo Mya

  I particularly remembered my meeting with General Bo Mya today when I called on his widow, Naw La Poe, and met some of his children and grandchildren. If they have a future based on peace and justice it will be because of the bravery and endurance of men and women like their grandparents.

Pk' Law Gaw School - Supported by UK Charity The Epiphany Trust

Pk’ Law Gaw School – Supported by UK Charity The Epiphany Trust

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Travelling today into the Karen State to visit Pk Law Gaw, a Karen village school, supported by the English charity, Epiphany Trust, I was struck by the huge challenges still facing the Karen people – but also by the hopefulness among the children who want to become teachers, doctors, nurses, engineers, farmers and a host of other things and whose expectations may now be realised.   

At Um Pieum Karen Refugee Camp with James Alton

At Um Pieum Karen Refugee Camp with James Alton

At Um Pieum Camp with Htee Muu - an officer of the KNU

At Um Pieum Camp with Htee Muu – an officer of the KNU

As I looked at the Karen refugee camp of Un Pieum, which is home to around 16,000 people – and at the village which is home to the children at Pk Law Gaw – it was clear to me that there is a unique moment available for change. Yet, Yangon would be making a fatal error if it assumed that the Karen have forgotten the price which they have paid.

Saw Ba U Gyi - First President of the Karen National Union

Saw Ba U Gyi – First President of the Karen National Union

  In the village school there is a picture of General Bo Mya, alongside a picture of the first president of the KNU, Saw Ba U Gyi – who was murdered in an ambush in 1950. Having studied in Rangoon he went to England to study law and was called to the English Bar in 1927.

Saw Ba U Gyi's Four Principles

Saw Ba U Gyi’s Four Principles

His four principles sit alongside his picture: 1, Surrender is out of the question; 2, the Karen land must be recognised by the whole world; 3, we will retain our arms; and 4, we shall decide our own political destiny.  In 2015 it is possible for those objectives to be achieved inside a devolved federal Burma – which many of us hope will one day be led by Aung San Su Kyi – but which can only be achieved if ethnic rights and human rights are honoured.   

  During a meeting last night with Saw Aung Win Shwe, the head of the Foreign Affairs Central Committee of the Karen Central Union, he said that while significant progress had been made imaginative policies were needed if the peace process is to be durable. These might include the creation of a National Guard in the Karen (and other) States into which demobilised combatants could be assimilated. And when will we see the provision of a Karen University so that its students no longer have to give up education at 14 or 16 or, as in a few precious cases, use the internet from their refugee camps to undertake distance learning courses?

  The Karen may need to enter a formal Reservation in the peace agreement insisting that the peace is conditional on making progress on such matters and protecting their right to resume hostilities if Yangon fails to honour its promises. Whilst handing over their weapons may be out of the question, putting them beyond use, guaranteed by a third party, as in the case of Northern Ireland, may not be. But Yangon must act with sincerity if it wishes to create the elusive national harmony which is says that it craves.  To achieve this, and the fair implementation of the peace agreement, will there be an international commission to oversee the process and to report on violations?

IMAG0288IMG00287-20150907-1220 (1)

  

There are also many other issues to resolve – including the restitution of land, resettlement of refugees, the clearance of anti-personnel landmines and other ordnance, and development priorities to be resolved. The devil will be in the detail.

  In meetings with NGOs such as the Karen Human Rights Group and Partners it became clear to me that there is apprehension that the process will be driven by the old formula of “divide and rule” or by vested interest but one of their number also said “everyone is listening with hope.” The Burmese military should take note.

IMAG0193

David Alton is honorary President of the charity Karen Aid (http://www.karenaid.org.uk/ ) and a Patron of the Epiphany Trust, which supports Karen village schools (  http://www.epiphany.org.uk/projects/burma/ ).

David Alton is President of Karen Aid and a Patron of the Epiphany Trust

David Alton is President of Karen Aid and a Patron of the Epiphany Trust

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/myanmars-karen-remember-world-war-ii-hero/2015/08/15/d7bd4572-432e-11e5-9f53-d1e3ddfd0cda_story.html

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/08/14/asia-pacific/karen-honor-japanese-executed-british-officer-longlegs-bravery-wartime-burma/

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Question in Parliament: 15 Sep 2015 : Column 1742

 Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, during a visit last week to the Karen refugee camps and the Karen State, I was reminded by many Karen people of the statement by Lord Mountbatten of Burma that the Karen were our bravest and most loyal allies during the Second World War. Some 110,000 of them are in the refugee camps to this day, from a war that began in 1949. Will the Minister tell us whether we are now close to signing a permanent ceasefire and whether Her Majesty’s Government are able to help with the permanent decommissioning of weapons throughout the Karen State, the restitution of land and the resolution of the other remaining outstanding issues? Will she call for those in the camps to be given the chance to vote in the forthcoming elections?

Foreign Office Minister of State: Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, we have made it clear that the franchise should be an inclusive process. However, to try to answer one other question key to the points made by the noble Lord, in welcoming the continuing peace process we are under no illusion how difficult it is. We have committed £3 million in flexible funding to support that peace process. That is to address intercommunal violence through the Peace Support Fund. It is only through such practical work that we can lead by example. 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2310):

Question:
Lord Alton of Liverpool To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 15 September (HL Deb, col 1741), what assistance they have given to the Karen and other ethnic minorities in Burma in overcoming obstacles to a comprehensive national ceasefire, particularly in regard to (1) the placing of weapons beyond use, (2) the restitution of land, and (3) the extension of the franchise to Burmese refugees living in refugee camps on the border between Burma and Thailand. (HL2310)

Tabled on: 17 September 2015

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We welcome the continuing talks between the Burmese government and ethnic armed groups to agree a National Ceasefire Agreement. Throughout the negotiations the UK has funded specialists to provide expert advice in support of the peacemaking dialogue in Burma to both sides of the conflict. This includes support to the National Ceasefire Coordination Team, the ethnic groups’ negotiation team of which Karen groups are a part. We are also a member of the Peace Donor Support Group which is directly supporting work to move from ceasefire agreements to political dialogue with all of Burma’s ethnic groups.

The signing of a ceasefire would only be the start of a wider peace process. The next stage, as envisaged by the draft National Ceasefire Agreement, is a National Political Dialogue. It is at this stage that issues such as decommissioning of weapons, land restitution and resettlement of internally displaced people will be discussed. To date we have not been asked to assist with any of these issues, and we would only do so with the consent of both sides. However, as I highlighted in the debate to which the noble Lord refers, the UK has earmarked £3million in flexible funding to support such activities in support of the continuing peace process through the multi-donor Peace Support Fund, with the potential to increase this to £5million.

We have raised with the Burmese authorities the issue of extending voting to internally displaced people. Most recently our Ambassador lobbied the head of the Union Election Commission on the inclusion of internally displaced people in Burma on the voter lists.

Date and time of answer: 24 Sep 2015 at 16:44.

October Hearing on Eritrea to be followed by November Hearings in Parliament on Pakistani Christians and other minorities – Call for Evidence – Latest Replies From The British Government on Pakistani Escapees; New article “Why does the world stand idle as Pakistan persecutes Christians?”

ERITREA: Briefing in Parliament organised by Christian Solidarity Worldwide, to be chaired by Lord Alton of Liverpool, on Tuesday October 20th at 2.00pm in Committee Room 2A of the House of Lords.  Opening Comments by lord Alton

 

Eritrean Christian refugees have been abducted by ISIS and face execution

Eritrean Christian refugees have been abducted by ISIS and face execution

The Current Situation

The human rights situation in Eritrea is one of the most deplorable in the world, yet one of the least reported.  In a debate in the House in July on freedom of religion and belief I referred to the horrific beheading of Eritrean Christians by ISIS in Libya.  Earlier in the same month I initiated a debate on the refugee crisis and said that “half a million more people are reported to be in Libya waiting to join the exodus. Some 46% of those making these perilous crossings originate from Eritrea or Syria, where we continue to witness the worst humanitarian catastrophe of our time.” I said that “Despotic governments and terrorist organisations have been the major immediate catalysts for conflict and mass migration, but aerial bombardment without a presence on the ground, a post-conflict development strategy, or a new attempt at creating peace will simply generate more refugees “

I highlighted the finding s of the United Nations commission of inquiry into human rights in Eritrea— and cited it as a classic example of the need to tackle the sources of migration. The United Nations found that, “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed in Eritrea under the authority of the Government”

 

The report also says: that it is wrong to describe the drivers fuelling mass migration as purely economic, and that:

“Eritreans are fleeing severe human rights violations in their country and are in need of international protection”.

Every month around 5,000 people leave Eritrea—more than 350,000 so far—around 10% of the entire population. The UN says that, during their journeys:

“Thousands of Eritreans are killed at sea while attempting to reach European shores. The practice of kidnapping migrating individuals, who are released on ransom after enduring horrible torture or killed, targets Eritreans in particular”.

Those Eritrean refugees who have been forced to return have then been arrested, detained and subjected to ill treatment and torture. So refugees from Eritrea, represent what we need to do both there and in other Countries generating mass movements of people —tackle the problem at source. Then we would turn the tables on mass migration, ending the tsunami of people. Not all people fleeing their countries are refugees; some are economic migrants. We will not properly address this crisis without some bigger-picture policies aimed at them, which must include the aim of helping Africa become peaceful and prosperous, and therefore more attractive as a permanent home. This is where our development policies interplay with mass migration.

But let me return to the Resolution passed in June 2014 by the United Nations Human Rights Council  which created the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea (CoIE). Only a handful of countries, with some of the worst human rights situations in the world, have been the focus of such an inquiry, one of the most serious steps the UN can take to hold a country to account.

When presenting the findings of this report to the HRC in June 2015, the Chair of the CoIE, Mike Smith, began by pointing out that since gaining de facto independence in 1991 “ultimate power in Eritrea has remained largely in the hands of one man and one party.”  He added that “those in control often rule arbitrarily and act with impunity.  A promising Eritrean Constitution adopted in 1997 has never been implemented. The Eritrean people have no say in governance and little control over many aspects of their own lives. A massive domestic surveillance network penetrates all levels of society, turning even family members against each other. Much of the population is subject to forced conscription and labour, sometimes in slave-like conditions. Tens of thousands have been imprisoned, often without charge and for indeterminate periods. Eritreans have never voted in a free and fair election.” As a result of this pervasive culture of impunity  “hundreds of thousands have lost hope and are risking their lives to escape one of the world’s most oppressive regimes” in increasing numbers– and this unprecedented exodus from a country facing neither war nor famine has forced the international community to take note of the human rights crisis underway in this secretive nation.

The CoIE report identifies the Eritrean Armed Forces, the National Security Office, the Eritrean Police Forces; the Ministry of Information, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Defence, the ruling party, the Office of the President; and the President himself as the main perpetrators of human rights violations.   Most importantly, it states that some of these violations, and particularly extrajudicial executions, torture (including sexual torture), indefinite national service and forced labour, may constitute crimes against humanity.  The report was adopted by consensus, and in July 2015, the HRC renewed the mandate of the CoIE, directing it to specifically investigate whether or not crimes against humanity have occurred or are underway in Eritrea.

In a parliamentary reply in June the Government confirmed to me  that they were aware of the UN Commission’s findings that “widespread human rights violations are being committed in Eritrea and that these may constitute crimes against humanity. We have made clear to the Government of Eritrea that they must honour their international obligations and that improved respect for human rights is required to stem the flow of irregular migration.”

 

 

Asylum and Non-Refoulement

Risks faced by those who flee Eritrea include a government shoot-to-kill border policy; being held pending payment of a ransom by Bedouin people traffickers; being kidnapped from refugee camps in Sudan; dying in the Mediterranean or while crossing deserts, or execution by Daesh (Islamic State) in Libya. In addition, Eritrean women, girls and young boys face sexual violence.  In spite of this, in 2012, the number of Eritreans registered as having fled to Europe was 6,400. In 2013, this increased to 14,580 and in 2014, leapt to 44,600. Around 10% of the Eritrean population is estimated to have fled the country, with Eritrean refugees constituting the second largest people group seeking refuge in Europe.  UK Home office statistics state that in the first quarter of 2015 (Jan-Mar) a record number of Eritreans had applied for asylum – 3552.

However, in March the UK Government updated its advice to staff processing asylum applications from Eritrea. The new advice was based on a now discredited report from the Danish Government, which contrast starkly with the findings of the UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea and the CoIE, and which has been publicly repudiated by some of its writers, who claim the final report is unsubstantiated and distorted and who have since resigned from the Danish Immigration Service.  The guidance also relies on assurances from the Eritrean government, including that those who left Eritrea without securing the mandatory exit visa will face no negative consequences as long as they sign a letter of apology and pay the 2% diaspora tax, yet in March this year in response to a written parliamentary question Foreign Office Minister Mr Lidington stated the UK government had urged the Eritrean diaspora “to report to the police the use of coercion or other illicit means to collect the tax.” Home Office guidance also stated that the country’s indefinite military service had been reduced to between 18 months and 4 years, however, there is no clear evidence of this having occurred and news of this change is yet to be communicated it’s would-be beneficiaries, namely, the  Eritrean people.

Following the new guidance the UK acceptance rate for asylum applications from Eritrea dropped from 73% between Jan-Mar 2015, to 34% between April and June.  Many whose applications were refused are currently destitute; avenues of finance, employment and housing are closed off to them because they lack legal status.

The UK government is not alone in this.  European Union (EU) officials recently outlined plans to deport Eritreans asylum seekers and are allocating development funding for the country as a means of stemming the refugee tide.  However, Eritreans are not economic migrants; they are fleeing persecution and continue to have a well-founded fear of persecution if returned.

 

 

 

 

Recommendations for the UK Government

 

The UK Government should:

  • Recognise that Eritrean refugees are not economic migrants, but are in reality fleeing a comprehensively repressive system and a “pervasive culture of impunity”;
  • Update advice issued to Home Office staff managing asylum applications from Eritreans to reflect human rights concerns articulated in the CoIE report, which is based on detailed witness testimonies and outlines violations that “may amount to crimes against humanity;”
  • Ensure the principle of non-refoulement is respected in all asylum applications to the United Kingdom
  • Encourage the EU to re-evaluate its current policy on Eritrea in line with the findings of the CoIE, particularly with regard to non-refoulement;
  • Work with EU partners to support the CoIE in implementing its mandate, in relaying its findings to the HRC, and in any further actions that may arise as a result of its future findings.

 

The tragedy of Eritrea – like that of Syria – must be tackled at source but, in the meantime, we must respond with humanity and a sense of justice and compassion for those caught up in this appalling situation. 

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CALL FOR EVIDENCE ON THE TREATMENT OF PAKISTAN’S CHRISTIANS AND OTHER MINORITIES  – NOVEMBER HEARINGS AT WESTMINSTER

All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief

Parliamentary Inquiry Call for Evidence

 ‘The Plight of Minority Religious or Belief Groups in Pakistan and as Refugees: Addressing Current UK & UNHCR Policy’

Pakistan represents one of the worst situations for minority religious or belief groups around the world and is rife with persecution on the grounds of religion or belief by both state and non-state actors. With the current policies and laws that Pakistani officials are advancing at both international and domestic levels, including the notorious blasphemy laws, the right of Pakistan’s citizens to freedom of religion or belief is looking unlikely to be upheld and protected in the near future. In addition to these concerns, the UK Home Office and UNHCR relying it seems on the recent UK Supreme Court Upper Tier case (AK and SK (Christians: risk) Pakistan CG [2014] UKUT 569 (IAC)), appears to have a policy that Pakistani religious minorities treatment is not severe enough to grant these individuals refugee status.

While freedom of religion or belief is a protected right under international law and is a clear basis for asylum in the 1951 Refugee Convention, as well as the UK’s current vulnerable persons relocation scheme, the key question remains in UK and international institutions whether all Pakistani minority religious or belief communities’ treatment in Pakistan or abroad ‘amounts to a real risk of persecution’.

In order to be able to look at the current UK and UNHCR policy regarding minority Pakistani religious or belief groups and its validity, the current conditions for such groups living in Pakistan and as refugees will need to be understood. The APPG on International Freedom of Religion or Belief is currently calling for submissions from charities, experts, lawyers, academics, faith-communities and individuals with personal experiences on their concerns, and suggestions on:

  • What circumstances minority religious or belief groups living in Pakistan currently face; both vis-à-vis State and non-State actors
  • What circumstances minority religious or belief groups having left Pakistan as asylum seekers currently face
  • What the current UK and UNHCR policy regarding each minority Pakistani religious or belief community is, whether changes to current policy are required, how these policies and Upper Tier Tribunal Decisions are related, and how any changes should be done

We particularly welcome testimonies from individuals who have recently sought asylum in UK on the grounds of persecution for their faith or belief.

Each submission should be no longer than 3 pages, and clearly indicate the organisation and/or author of the statement. The submissions will contribute to a new report written by the APPG on the subject. The APPG can withhold the identities of authors of statements in the report, if a request for anonymity is clearly made in the submission.

Written submissions may result in individuals or organisations being invited to give oral testimonies at a formal hearing in the Houses of Parliament before selected parliamentarians on 10 November (9:00 – 10:30) and 11 November (10:00 – 12:00) in Portcullis House, Room R. The APPG holds the right to use or not to use submissions in its reporting.

Submissions should be sent to katharinee.thane@parliament.uk . The deadline for submissions is 5.00pm, 3 November 2015.  

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Evidence Taking Sessions With Pakistani Christians – Held in Bangkok,  September 2015

see also:

https://davidalton.net/2015/09/04/international-scandal-of-95-detainees-held-in-one-cell-including-children/

And see:

http://www.whitehouseconsulting.co.uk/blog/2015/10/01/why-does-the-world-stand-idle-as-pakistan-persecutes-christians/

Universe October 2015 Pakistan

http://www.premierchristianradio.com/News/World/Pakistani-Christians-not-all-at-risk-says-UK-government

Evidence Taking Sessions were kindly facilitated by Thai friends introduced to us by Jubilee Campaign. We took evidence from refugees and human rights advocates and also had meetings with UNHCR officials and diplomats.

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Throughout  our meetings with human rights advocates and escapees we heard a number of disturbing accounts of shocking and systematic persecution in Pakistan.  

The collective death sentence which has been passed on Pakistan’s Christian community was underlined by the murder of Pakistan’s brave Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, and by the murder of  the courageous  Governor of the Punjab, Salman Taseer, who was killed after voicing his opposition to the use of Blasphemy Laws  which have become a pretext for systematic and punitive persecution of Christians.

shahbaz bhatti posters

A country which is unable to protect such leading public figures is unlikely to be able to protect ordinary citizens. Sadly, Pakistan has become a breeding ground for barbarism and violence and from which many Christian families have tried to escape.

The accounts which we heard during our evidence sessions paint a picture of well founded fear and from which asylum represents the only prospect of safety and survival.

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One witness recounted how his friend, Basil – a pastor’s son – was targeted by Islamists attempting to convert him. He reminded them that there should be no compulsion in requiring religious adherence. Their response was to attack his home in an arson attack. The fire burnt out his home and Basil, his wife and daughter, aged 18 months, were burnt alive.

Following their deaths the assailants turned their attention to his friend.

He was attacked and beaten. He reported this to the police – who then informed the assailants of the complaint. The assailants telephoned him and said that they would kill him. He, his wife, and little girl, fled the country and, after arriving in Bangkok, in 2014, applied for asylum. They have been told by UNHCR that they will be interviewed in 2018.  It could then be a further two years before they are resettled.

This is an intolerable delay – and, meanwhile, he and his wife and child live in fear of being arrested and incarcerated in the detention facilities where they would be separated into segregated cells, sharing a space of 18 feet by 36 feet with up to 100 other prisoners.

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Witnesses told us that escapees have devised a rota to enable half the inmates in these cells to sleep at night and the other half sleep by day: “This leaves enough space to stretch out straight, but not to turn over. We just lie side by side, including our children.”

Force fed poultry in battery farms are treated better and  in more humane conditions than these – an analogy which was drawn by one witness.

A French Catholic priest with whom we spoke, and who has worked in the region for four decades, told us of one applicant who arrived in 2007 and who has still been given no final interview date.

The clergyman said that when he began working with detainees, over twenty years ago, UNHCR had two full time officials dealing with cases and “now there is only one and he calls into the Centre just twice a week and he has no time to deal with anyone in any depth.”

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UNHCR officials admitted that there are “significant challenges” but also insisted that on most days someone from UNHCR is at the Detention Centre. Escapees countered by saying that this was “rarely an official, usually an interpreter unable to take any decisions.”  UNHCR urgently needs to reassess its staffing levels and the appalling length of time which is being taken to deal with applications.

Another witness underlined the endemic nature of persecution: “It was not just directed at me. It is directed at every Christian.” Having run a pharmacy business for fifteen years, he said that Pakistan police had demanded bribes from him every month saying that if he “did not pay he would be accused of inciting hatred of Islam.”  He has been living in Bangkok with his wife and five children in one room for two years – with his children unable to access any education – and living in constant fear of arrest.  UNHCR have given him no details of when his case will be resolved. We were given an updated chronological account of documented cases which corroborate the assertion of escapees that they have a well founded fear of persecution – often persecution leading to death (as instanced in the bombings in Youhanabad and Lahore which claimed a further 16 lives).The document may be viewed at:

http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/christianattacks.htm

A different  witness described how his legs had been broken by his brothers after he became a Christian in Pakistan. After he refused to recant they hired two men to kill him. Because his sister gave him shelter they incinerated  her home and she died in the fire. His wife abandoned him and he fled to Bangkok with his 12-year-old, traumatised, son.  

Even in Thailand he has received four threatening phone calls from members of his family in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, he has been arrested on several occasions and although he made desperate phone calls to UNHCR – worried about his son being left alone – he claims that no-one responded or came to see him. He says that his emails to UNHCR remain unanswered.  His case re-enforces the failure of both UNHCR and the Royal Thai Government to honour obligations and duties concerning the protection and treatment of children – both those living with parents whose claims are pending often in massively overcrowded conditions and deprived of education) and especially those incarcerated in the Detention Centre (where UNHCR officials told us that conditions are worse than those in Thai prisons).

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A different witness also voiced  criticism of UNHCR procedures, saying “there is a complete communications gap” and witnesses repeatedly expressed concern about translators and translation arrangements made by UNHCR.

We were encouraged, however, that UNHCR told us that they are reviewing the way in which translation is done.

Never-the-less, witnesses said they would feel more confident in the asylum process “if translators were Indian Urdu speakers, rather than Pakistanis, who sometimes distort answers, who are hostile to fleeing Christians” and who in one case even told one escapee “you should convert to Islam and go back.” Witnesses suggested that, at a minimum, UNHCR should record interviews and make available the recording to the escapee.

Several witnesses said that the waiting period listed for UNHCR interviews for applicants of other nationalities were considerably less than the waiting time for applicants of Pakistani Christian origin. They also claimed that the rejection rates they experience are very much higher than those of other groups.

In the interests of transparency and accountability we would urge UNHCR to publish data detailing the average waiting times and rejection rates for applicants from each of the 48 countries of origin with which they are dealing in Bangkok.   

We also agree with the human rights organisation, Fortify Rights, who told us that the absence of legal representation for escapees prejudices the situation of refugees. We were dismayed by the conditions in which we were expected to speak to those held in the Detention Centre – shouting across caged barriers three or four feet apart – but legal representatives are denied any access.

UNHCR should do more to insist on the protection of escaping refugees; more to provide access to legal representation; more to develop documentation with the Royal Thai Government which will prevent asylum seekers being arrested or detained in the first instance;  more to provide bail for those who are detained.  They told us that legal representation which had been provided via the Jesuit Refugee Service had been terminated – we presume by the Thai authorities – and nothing has been put in its place.

More could also be done to provide better healthcare and medical support.  One elderly lady we spoke to in the Detention centre suffers from diabetes and other medical conditions. She was arrested in August – has been given an interview date by UNHCR in 2017, has no lawyer and cannot pay the 50,000 Thai Bahts required for bail.

In addition to prioritising the most vulnerable, UNHCR also need to develop better relationships with the refugees and be seen to be the champions of their interests.   We were concerned that UNHCR did not seem to accept the systematic and lethal nature of the persecution of Christians in Pakistan and have not collected accounts of torture and killings or documented family separation within the Detention Centre or  prioritised the suffering of children and minors.

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One witness, a tetraplegic  man confined to a wheelchair and whose disability has considerably worsened since he arrived in 2014, said that UNHCR had not been responsive to his particular appeals for help. He told us that his illegal status leaves him in “limbo” and is denied medical support and assistance.

He argued that “UNHCR should work on short term relief as well as the long term issues”:

Whenever we approach UNHCR for help – when the police arrive or when we need food or shelter – they simply say they cannot do anything.”  He was given a perfunctory ten minute interview after he arrived in 2014 has been told his asylum claim will be considered after an interview now scheduled for 2018 and has been told he will then receive an answer by 2019 and may be resettled in 2020. His wife told us that no account seems to have been taken of his chronic health needs and she fears that if his muscle wasting disease is not properly treated and medical help made available, he may not survive the next five years.

The same witness reflected on the dangers facing Christians in Pakistan. He  provided documented evidence and examples of the rape of Christian girls, many of whom are the victims of forced marriages. He said that when he was challenged by a Pakistani official about why he wanted to leave the country he replied “If you make our lives miserable we are left with no other option. We love our country.” He said that return was impossible as they would be jailed and on release would face lives of violent persecution.

78 killed at Pakistan's Anglican Church of All Saints Peshawar in a Taliban attack

78 killed at Pakistan’s Anglican Church of All Saints Peshawar in a Taliban attack

Along with several other witnesses he said that Pakistani border officials had demanded bribes of $250 dollars per person from Christians leaving the country for destinations such as Malaysia, Thailand, or Sri Lanka – “knowing that it was not our intention to return.” Such sums of money are not available to many poorer Christian citizens.

We note that  Indian newspapers recently reported that the Government of India suggested that Christians, Hindus, and Sikhs being persecuted for their religious faith might be given the right to settle in India.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Minorities-from-Pakistan-Afghanistan-seeking-refuge-in-India-can-now-apply-manually/articleshow/45132365.cms

Although this is a very sad reflection  on the failure of the Government of Pakistan to provide protection against the persecution of its religious minorities, and the complete absence of religious toleration and respect for minorities,  an Indian refuge may offer Pakistan’s persecuted citizens some future prospect of safety and security and we hope that UNHCR are exploring this option with the Governments of both countries.

The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, being signed here, is the key legal document in defining who is a refugee, their rights and the legal obligations of states: high ideals but rhetoric must match reality and words must be matched by deeds.

The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, being signed here, is the key legal document in defining who is a refugee, their rights and the legal obligations of states: high ideals but rhetoric must match reality and words must be matched by deeds.

UNHCR says:

[its] mandate is to provide, on a non-political and humanitarian basis, international protection to refugees and to seek permanent solutions for them.

We have great respect for the work undertaken by UNHCR in many parts of the world and were genuinely disappointed to hear so much criticism. However, we were also surprised that officials compared the situation in Pakistan to that of victims of gun crime in the United States and emphasised cases of fraud rather than accepting the prima facie case of well founded fear of persecution in Pakistan.  We accept, as they put it, that they are not “Hotel California” or “ a golden ticket”  but do not believe that conditions in Carolina are comparable, as they suggested, with those in Pakistan.

We were grateful that they offered to meet with the representatives with whom we met and hope that this will lead to an improvement in understanding and procedures.

Also see:

https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/msp/pages/162/attachments/original/1396724215/MSP_Report_-_Forced_Marriages_and_Conversions_of_Christian_Women_in_Pakistan.pdf?1396724215

http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/eoir/legacy/2014/03/04/PAK104258.E.pdf

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  Parliamentary Replies from the British government on the Plight Of Pakistani Escapees

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2256):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their current assessment of the number of Pakistani Christians who have fled to Thailand, Malaysia and Sri Lanka through fear of persecution. (HL2256)

Tabled on: 16 September 2015

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We gather information on this issue from external sources and have not conducted our own assessment of the numbers involved.

We continue to urge the Government of Pakistan to fulfil the human rights obligations set out in the Constitution of Pakistan and international law, including those relating to religious minorities.

Date and time of answer: 29 Sep 2015 at 17:41.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2257):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the conditions in the detention centres where Pakistani Christians are detained in Bangkok, and whether the inmates include babies, children, lactating women and the infirm; what international obligations exist in regard to the detention of children in such circumstances; whether they have made representations to the UNHCR and the government of Thailand about those conditions; and if so, what response they have received. (HL2257)

Tabled on: 16 September 2015

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We have not conducted a specific assessment of the detention centres where Pakistani Christians are detained. However, consular officials visit prisons and Immigration Detention Centres in Bangkok regularly to carry out their consular duties with respect to British citizens. Their assessment is that conditions are generally poor and they are aware that women and children are also detained.

A number of international obligations exist in regard to the detention of children including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention Against Torture and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We have raised our concerns with the Thai Minister for Justice and senior officials. The Thai authorities have shown themselves willing to cooperate on work to improve prison conditions and we are ready to share our experience and expertise. We maintain a regular dialogue with many senior prison officials to address specific concerns.

We meet the UN High Commissioner for Refugees regularly to discuss how we can assist their work, including around conditions of detention.

Date and time of answer: 29 Sep 2015 at 17:41.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2258):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of how the conditions in detention centres where Pakistani Christians are detained in Bangkok compare with the conditions in prisons in Thailand. (HL2258)

Tabled on: 16 September 2015

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We have not conducted a specific assessment of the detention centres where Pakistani Christians are detained. However, consular officials visit prisons and Immigration Detention Centres in Bangkok regularly to carry out their consular duties with respect to British citizens. Their assessment is that conditions in prisons and detention centres are generally poor.

Date and time of answer: 29 Sep 2015 at 17:36.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2259):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assistance they have been able to provide for refugees fleeing persecution in Pakistan in resolving their applications for asylum; and what is their estimate of the average time likely to elapse between an applicant lodging a claim for asylum in Bangkok and being resettled. (HL2259)

Tabled on: 16 September 2015

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We work closely with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Thailand on a wide range of refugee issues. We do not intervene in specific cases but aim to support the rights of those fleeing persecution as a whole. From our conversations with UNHCR we understand that the time taken to assess asylum applications in Thailand varies and can be anything from a few months to a couple of years, depending on the individual circumstances of each case. We understand the majority of applicants from Pakistan who seek refugee status are successful and they are then eligible for resettlement. The time taken for resettlement varies as it is dependent on each specific situation.

Date and time of answer: 29 Sep 2015 at 17:36.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2260):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to work with the British Council to examine ways of assisting the children of Pakistani refugees to receive schooling and educational opportunities while their asylum cases are being considered. (HL2260)

Tabled on: 16 September 2015

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The main problem refugees face in accessing appropriate opportunities for education in Thailand is the lack of proper documentation explaining their status. Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention on refugees, therefore any documents provided by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are not necessarily accepted. We are working with UNHCR to support their requests to the Thai government to develop a form of documentation for refugees. This would allow refugees to access appropriate schooling and other opportunities. We work closely with the British Council in Thailand and have discussed this issue with them.

Date and time of answer: 29 Sep 2015 at 17:35.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2261):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the risks of those Pakistani refugees who are living without legal status while their asylum claims are being assessed in Bangkok falling victim to trafficking and exploitation. (HL2261)

Tabled on: 16 September 2015

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention on refugees and as such those people claiming asylum through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Thailand have no formal legal status. Once any form of legal immigration status expires they are then deemed to be illegally in the country. Many are detained in Immigration Detention Centres awaiting deportation, or resettlement by the UNHCR should they qualify. Others live a vulnerable life as urban refugees open to trafficking and exploitation.

We continue to work closely with the UNHCR in Thailand on a wide range of refugee issues. We are in contact with UNHCR to support their requests to the Thai government to develop a form of documentation for refugees, including those of Pakistani Christian origin, to assist their legal status in Thailand.

Date and time of answer: 29 Sep 2015 at 12:59.

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Lord Bates, the Home Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2312):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the findings of the report commissioned by the British Pakistan Christian Association, entitled Education, Human Rights Violations in Pakistan and the Scandal Involving UNHRC and Asylum Seekers in Thailand; and whether, in the light of this report, they plan to review the risk of the persecution of Christians in Pakistan and update their guidance document Pakistan: Christians and Christian Converts. (HL2312)

Tabled on: 17 September 2015

Answer:
Lord Bates:

The Home Office will be considering the report commissioned by the British Pakistani Christian Association alongside a range of other material to make a full assessment of the situation of Christians in Pakistan, and will revise its country information and guidance if necessary.

The Home Office considers that the treatment of asylum seekers in Thailand is primarily a matter for the Thai authorities.

Date and time of answer: 05 Oct 2015 at 17:26.

International Scandal of 95 Detainees Held in one Cell – Including Children

International Scandal of 95 Detainees Held in one Cell – Including Children

Earlier today, Friday September 4th, during a visit to Bangkok’s Detention Centre for Refugees, the British Independent Peer, David Alton (Lord Alton of Liverpool), met Pakistani Christians who are being held there. One detainee told him that he and his six year old son are sharing a cell with 95 other men and children and is permitted to see his wife and other children, who are held elsewhere in the Detention centre, once a week for one hour.

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Arriving at the Detention Centre where as many as 95 men and boys share one cell

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Inhuman conditions for people whose only crime is their Faith – an International scandal.

The man, who is a Christian pastor, had fled Pakistan after threats to him and his family. There are around 4,000 Pakistani Christian men, women and children now living as illegals or being held in detention centres in the Thai capital.

Their plight is documented in the Jubilee Campaign report “Don’t Turn Them Back”:

http://jubileecampaign.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Jubilee-Campaign_Thailand-Report-04-20151.pdf

In meetings with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) the Peer presented officials with a petition organised by Pakistani Christian leaders in Bangkok along with a dossier.

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Receiving the dossier and petition from Pakistani Christian Leaders in Bangkok

This documented appalling, scandalous overcrowding; the lamentable failure to process asylum applications – some will not be considered and resolved 2018; the dismal lack of UNHCR resources and personnel; the lack of legal representation for detainees; the failure to protect women and children; inadequate and flawed translation provision; the denial of education for children and young people; meagre health care, leading to deteriorating conditions and deaths of refugees while detained; and the dismissal of evidence from Pakistan highlighting an escalation in violence against the tiny Christian minority and the well founded fear of lethal persecution.

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Meeting with UNHCR officials

UNHCR officials conceded that there is “extreme overcrowding” in the detention centres and that “conditions in Thai prisons are actually better than in the detention centres.”

The Peer later met with senior British officials who have been monitoring the situation and held evidence taking sessions with a number of Pakistani Christians who are forced to live illegally because of the failure to process their applications.  

a-pakistani-christian-girl-stands-with-a-cross-on-her-forehead-while

He said that “the exodus from Pakistan is driven by visceral hatred and a fanatical disregard for the rights of minorities. In a country where the brave Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, can be murdered in broad daylight, where churches are bombed, where an illiterate woman can be sentenced to death of alleged blasphemy charges, where a husband and wife can be burnt alive in front of their young children, and where there is a culture of impunity which rarely leads to those responsible being brought to justice, it is little wonder that many Christians are fleeing for their lives. It doubly compounds their suffering when the international community fails to step up to the plate in defence of those who have to endure such pitiless suffering and hardship.”    

  Pakistan Christians

 

 

 

Full transcript: House of July 16 Lords Debate on Article 18: Stop Killing Christians – including speeches by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the former Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, and other senior Peers from many faith and humanist backgrounds

Freedom of Religion and Belief

Motion to Take Note

Watch the debate at:

http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/53d07cde-20ee-4f53-80d3-f4c075deb3d0?in=16:20:35

https://freedomdeclared.org/

 

4.20 pm

Moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To move that this House takes note of worldwide violations of Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the case for greater priority to be given by the United Kingdom and the international community to upholding freedom of religion and belief.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, I begin by thanking all noble Lords who take part in today’s debate. We have a speakers list of great distinction, underlining the importance of this subject. It is also a debate that will see the valedictory speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester, who has given such distinguished service to your Lordships’ House. The backdrop to all our speeches is Article 18, one of the 30 articles of the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights. It insists:

“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”.

The declaration’s stated objective was to realise,

“a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”.

However, with the passage of time, the declaration has acquired a normative character within general international law. Eleanor Roosevelt, the formidable

16 July 2015 : Column 767

chairman of the drafting committee, argued that freedom of religion was one of the four essential freedoms of mankind. In her words:

“Religious freedom cannot just mean Protestant freedom; it must be freedom of all religious people”,

and she rejoiced in having friends from all faiths and all races.

Article 18 emerged from the infamies of the 20th century—from the Armenian genocide to the defining depredations of Stalin’s gulags and Hitler’s concentration camps; from the pestilential nature of persecution, demonisation, scapegoating and hateful prejudice; and, notwithstanding violence associated with religion, it emerged from ideology, nation and race. It was the bloodiest century in human history with the loss of 100 million lives.

The four great murderers of the 20th century—Mao, Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot—were united by their hatred of religious faith. Seventy years later, all over the world, from North Korea to Syria, Article 18 is honoured daily in its breach, evident in new concentration camps, abductions, rape, imprisonment, persecution, public flogging, mass murder, beheadings and the mass displacement of millions of people. Not surprisingly, the All-Party Group on International Freedom of Religion or Belief, in the title of its influential report, described Article 18 as “an orphaned right”. A Pew Research Center study begun a decade ago found that of the 185 nations studied, religious repression was recorded in 151 of them.

Today’s debate, then, is a moment to encourage Governments to reclaim their patrimony of Article 18; to argue that it be given greater political and diplomatic priority; to insist on the importance of religious literacy as a competence; to discuss the crossover between freedom of religion and belief and a nation’s prosperity and stability; and to reflect on the suffering of those denied this foundational freedom.

Although Christians are persecuted in every country where there are violations of Article 18—from Syria and Iraq, to Sudan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Egypt, Iran, North Korea and many other countries—Muslims, and others, suffer too, especially in the religious wars raging between Sunnis and Shias, so reminiscent of 17th-century Europe. But it does not end there. In a village in Burma, I saw first-hand a mosque that had been set on fire the night before. Muslim villagers had been driven from a village where for generations they had lived alongside their Buddhist neighbours. Now Burma proposes to restrict interfaith marriage and religious conversions. It is, however, a region in which Christian Solidarity Worldwide and the Foreign and Commonwealth are doing some excellent work with lawyers and other civil society actors, promoting Article 18.

Think, too, of those who have no religious belief, such as Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian atheist and blogger sentenced to 1,000 public lashes for publicly expressing his atheism. That has been condemned by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as,

“a form of cruel and inhuman punishment”.

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Alexander Aan was imprisoned in Indonesia for two years after saying he did not believe in God. Noble Lords should recall that Article 18 is also about the right not to believe.

Later, we will hear from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, who recently said that the “most common feature” of Anglicanism worldwide is that of being persecuted. Twenty-four of the 37 Anglican provinces are in conflict or post-conflict areas. Referring to the 150 Kenyan Christians who were killed on Maundy Thursday, the most reverend Primate said:

“There have been so many martyrs in the last year … They are witnesses, unwilling, unjustly, wickedly, and they are martyrs in both senses of the word”.

We will also hear from my noble friend Lord Sacks, who offered his prayer on Hanukkah last year for,

“people of all faiths working together for the freedom of all faiths”.

My noble friend’s brilliant critique, Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence, is required reading for anyone trying to comprehend what motivates people to kill Christian students in Kenya, Shia Muslims praying in a mosque in Kuwait, Pakistani Anglicans celebrating the Eucharist in Peshawar or British tourists simply holidaying in Tunisia and for anyone trying to understand the dramatic rise in Christian persecution, the vilification of Islam in some parts of the world and, in Europe, the troubling reawakening of anti-Semitism.

My noble friend’s insights into the shared stories of the Abrahamic faiths—not least the displacement stories of Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Leah and Rachel, and Joseph and his brothers—and how they can be used to promote mutual respect, coexistence, reconciliation and the healing of history underline the urgent need for scholars from those faiths to combat the evil being committed in God’s name and to give emphasis to the ancient texts in a way which upholds the dignity of difference—the title of another of my noble friend’s books. If Jews, Muslims and Christians are no longer to see one another as an existential threat, we urgently need a persuasive new narrative, which is capable of forestalling the unceasing incitements to hatred which pour forth from the internet and which capture unformed minds.

It is not just scholars but the media and policymakers who need greater religious literacy and different priorities. How right the BBC’s courageous chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet, is when she says:

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

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. At best, the upholding of Article 18 seems to have Cinderella status. During the Queen’s Speech debate, I cited a reply to Tim Farron MP—for whom this has been quite a notable day—in which Ministers said that the Foreign Office,

“has one full time Desk Officer wholly dedicated to Freedom of Religion or Belief”.

The Answer also stated that,

“the Head and the Deputy Head of HRDD spend approximately 5% and 20% respectively of their time on FoRB issues”.

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To rectify this, will we prioritise Article 18 in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office business plan and across government departments? Has the FCO considered convening an international conference on Article 18—something I have raised with her? Is it an issue we will raise at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta in November?

In May, the Labour Party gave a welcome manifesto commitment to appoint a Canadian-style special envoy to promote Article 18. The Foreign Office resists this, insisting that all our diplomats promote freedom of religion and belief. But that has not been my experience. On returning to Istanbul from a visit to a 1,900 year-old Syrian Orthodox community in Tur Abdin, which was literally under siege, I was told by our UK representative that his role was to represent Britain’s commercial and security interests and that religious freedom was a domestic matter in which he did not want to become involved. Self-evidently, there is a direct connection with our security interests, not least with millions of displaced refugees and migrants now fleeing religious persecution.

Paradoxically, if he had studied the empirical research on the crossover between freedom of religion and belief, and a nation’s stability and prosperity, he might have come to a very different conclusion. Where Article 18 is trampled on, the reverse is also true, as a cursory examination of the hobbled economies of countries such as North Korea and Eritrea immediately reveals. This is not a marginal concern, as the outstanding briefing material for our debate from many human rights organisations makes clear.

Last month, the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, and I chaired the launch of a report by Human Rights Without Frontiers. Among its catalogue of egregious and serious violations, it says that North Korea, China and Iran had the highest number of people imprisoned, in their thousands, for their religion or belief. It highlights Pakistan, where in 2011 two politicians who questioned the blasphemy laws were shot dead; where Asia Bibi remains imprisoned with four other Christians and nine non-Christians, facing the death sentence for alleged blasphemy; and where Shias and Ahmadis have faced ferocious deadly attacks.

When did we last raise these cases and other abuses of Article 18 with Pakistan, or the use of blasphemy laws in Sudan, where two pastors are currently on trial, facing charges that carry the death sentence? Have we urged Sudan to drop the charges against 10 young female Christian students who face up to 40 lashes because of the clothes they were wearing? What of the Chinese Christian lawyers arrested this week as part of a major crackdown? Will Article 18 be on the agenda for discussion with China’s President when he visits the United Kingdom?

I am a trustee of the charity Aid to the Church in Need, and the noble Baroness the Minister kindly launched its report, Religious Freedom in the World 2014, which found that religious freedom had deteriorated in almost half the countries of the world, with sectarian violence at a six-year high, nowhere more so than in the Middle East, where last week Pope Francis said that Christians are subject to genocide. In a recorded

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message for that launch, His Royal Highness the Princes of Wales condemned “horrendous and heart-breaking” persecution, and spoke of his anguish at the plight of Christianity in the Middle East, in the region of its birth, describing events in Syria and Iraq as an “indescribable tragedy”.

In 1914, Christians made up a quarter of that region’s population. Now they are less than 5%. Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil, during a meeting that I chaired here in the House, underlined their traumatic, degrading and inhuman treatment, pleading with the international community to provide protection. Two weeks ago the same plea was made by a remarkable Yazidi woman who gave evidence at a meeting organised by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson. The Yazidi, a former Iraqi Member of Parliament, told us:

“The Yazidi people are going through mass murder. The objective is their annihilation. 3000 Yazidi girls are still in D’aesh hands, suffering rape and abuse. 500 young children have been captured, being trained as killing machines, to fight their own people. This is a genocide and the international community should say so”.

This view has been reinforced this week by reports on “Newsnight” and “Dispatches”. How will we answer that woman? Do we intend to use our voice in the Security Council on behalf of the Yazidis and Assyrian Christians? Do we intend to have the perpetrators brought to justice in the ICC? Are we collating and documenting every instance, from genocide and rape to the abduction of bishops and priests, to the burning of churches and mosques, to the beheading of Eritrean Christians and Egyptian Copts by ISIS in Libya? What are we doing to create safe havens where these minorities might be protected?

In 1933, Franz Werfel published a novel, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, based on a true story about the Armenian genocide. His books were burnt by the Nazis, no doubt to try to erase humanity’s memory, Hitler having famously asked, “Who now remembers the Armenians?”. The Armenian deportations and genocide claimed the lives of an estimated 1.5 million Armenian Christians. Werfel tells the story of several thousand Christians who took refuge on the mountain of Musa Dagh. The intervention of the French navy led to their dramatic rescue.

A hundred years later, the Yazidis besieged on Mount Sinjar were saved, but their lives are still in the balance. Last week the Belgians made it to Aleppo and brought 200 Yazdis and Christians to safety. For fragile communities facing a perilous future, such as these, could we not do the same? Are we re-examining our asylum rules to reflect the lethal threats faced by families and individuals fleeing their native homelands?

In the longer term, should not the international community have a more consistent approach to Article 18? We denounce some countries while appeasing others who directly enable jihad through financial support or the sale of arms. Western powers are seen as hypocrites when our business interests determine how offended we are by gross human rights abuses. Take Saudi Arabia as one example.

The challenge is vigorously to promote Article 18 through our interventions and our aid programmes, unceasingly countering a fundamentalism that promotes hatred of difference and persecutes those who hold

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different beliefs. For the future, the three Abrahamic religions and Governments need to recapture the idealism of Eleanor Roosevelt, who described the 1948 declaration as,

“the international Magna Carta for all mankind”.

She said that Article 18 freedoms were to be one of the four essential freedoms of mankind. Who can doubt that this essential freedom needs to be given far greater emphasis and priority in these troubled times? I beg to move.

4.35 pm

Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on obtaining this debate, on the eloquent way in which he introduced it and on the tremendous illustrations that he gave of how bad the situation is throughout the world. I do not have the qualifications to follow him, and certainly do not have the qualifications to be in front of many leaders in this debate, but here I am, and I shall try to make the best of it. I also wish to express my deep gratitude to Edward Scott of our Library for the excellent brief he prepared for this debate, which shows the position in great and excruciating detail. I am sure that anyone who has read it will feel tremendous sympathy and a loathing for what is happening to so many of our fellow humans throughout the world for the simple reason that they have adopted a faith or belief, including a non-faith—no belief at all, which is also protected—in the execution of their ordinary lives and have been tremendously badly dealt with on that account.

I declare my interest as a professing Christian for most of my life, and a practising Christian so far as I can. I am sorry to say that I have not reached the extent of perfection in that area which I would have liked. I am glad that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester is speaking in this debate, although I am very sorry that it will be a valedictory speech. He has given most distinguished service in this House and also in his diocese in an area where there is a great deal of difference and, I hope, also the dignity of difference in ethnic and other communities. I wish him well in his retirement.

Speaking from the government Dispatch Box when she was a Minister in the Home Office, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland of Asthal, expressed the view that her religion defined her personality. This shows that the restriction of a person’s faith or belief is as serious as any other restriction of personal freedom. The brief to which I have referred and the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, show that mistreatment for faith and belief throughout the world extends to much more than restriction of bodily movement. It goes to serious injury and death in the most terrible circumstances.

Yesterday we had outside the House a demonstration relating to prisoners of conscience. This is a most important aspect of the human personality—the internal monitor which tells us that what we are doing is wrong, even when no human eye can see us, and whether or not what we are doing is in according with the tenets of the faith, belief or non-belief we seek to follow.

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In preserving standards in society, listening to conscience is an extremely effective activity. More so even than an effective enforcement system, it can preserve society’s standards. It was valued in our nation during two world wars. Persons with a conscientious objection to military service were exempted from the universal obligation to enlist. It was also shown in relation to the Abortion Act.

Charities based on faith have done tremendous service in many nations throughout the world. It surely is the most terrible damage to a nation’s people that they are debarred from having these services simply on the ground of the faith of the organisation that is providing them. In our own country, we had the problem of the Catholic adoption agencies that were providing an excellent service but which were debarred from continuing to do so because they were not able to offer as full a service as some would have required.

I am sure that leading by example is one important way to contribute in trying to help with this tremendous problem. I am sure there are many other ways, which will be illustrated by the distinguished speakers to follow.

4.41 pm

Lord McFall of Alcluith (Lab): My Lords, it is a privilege to participate in this debate and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on securing it, as well as on the work that he and the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, have done over many months and years on this issue.

As we know, Article 18 is under threat in over a quarter of the nations in the world. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, has given eloquent testimony to what is happening. I want, however, to focus on the domestic—on us. To change the world, first we have to change ourselves. When the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury took office, he said that one of his three principles was the concept of good disagreement. That is a very important concept for us.

As I remember from my childhood in Scotland, the society had been scarred by what the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, has referred to as sibling rivalry—bigoted, religious, sibling rivalry. In 1923, the Church and Nation Committee of the Church of Scotland asked for Irish immigrants to be repatriated. More specifically, it was Catholic Irish immigrants, like my forebears. So if good people had not got together and ensured that that crusade failed, I, for one, would probably not be here today. It was good people walking together. There is still a legacy in Scotland; we have to recognise that sectarianism has not departed. Our own experiences should teach us a lot.

As the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, said in his book, which makes compelling reading, we need faith to strengthen, not to dampen, our shared humanity. He made it very clear, as we all know, that it will be soft power that wins this battle—if we can call it a battle. It will not be hard power. War is won by weapons, but dialogue wins the peace.

I am delighted to see not only the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, but also the noble Lord, Lord Singh, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester who

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have contributed greatly to the dialogue. It is a dialogue with strangers. The biblio-patriarch Abraham has been referred to. Abraham’s test of worthiness, as we know, is the question, “Did you show kindness to strangers?”. Abraham ruled no empire, he commanded no army, he conquered no territory, but today he is revered by 2.5 billion Christians, 1.6 billion Muslims, and 13 million Jews. The Abrahamic faiths and others need to walk much closer together.

That is very hard to envisage today, but we can look back at our short history to see that there have been successes. With Vatican II in the 1960s, Pope John XXIII, in his encyclical Nostra Aetate, transformed the relationship between Catholics and Jews, and 2,000 years of pain and sorrow were diluted as a result of that engagement. That prompts the question: can the world be changed? If the Christian and Jewish relationship can be changed, can the Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Sikh and non-faith relationships be changed as well? Pope Francis’s latest encyclical, Laudato Si’, is an encouraging example because he embraces all humankind. He makes a call in the very first paragraph of the encyclical for care for our common earthly home. He says:

“Nothing in this world is indifferent to us”.

For a very short time in the Labour Government I had the privilege of being Minister for Northern Ireland. I saw examples in the peace process in Northern Ireland, but I shall illustrate just two examples today. The first is Gordon Wilson, whose daughter was killed in the Enniskillen Remembrance Day bomb. He had to hold her hand while she was dying and she said that she loved him. Immediately after that, he came out and said:

“I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge … I will pray for these men tonight and every night”.

The other example that I remember was Father Alec Reid, the late Redemptorist priest from Clonard monastery in Belfast, who was a silent architect of the peace process because he allowed Gerry Adams, John Hume and others to come together to ensure that there was a dialogue and an understanding there. The photograph of Father Reid giving the last rites to soldier David Howes, when he and another colleague ran into a republican funeral, is one that will stay with us.

That is an example of the good of two individuals confronting the evils of terrorism. In a 20th-century world dominated by violence and mayhem in the name of religion, our task, perhaps akin to the task of the miracle of the loaves and fishes in the Bible, is to multiply that number, not 1 millionfold or 10 millionfold but 100 millionfold. Eighteenth-century author Jonathan Swift’s statement is maybe as relevant today, and something for us to remember:

“We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another”.

As we go on our journey together, it is worth remembering that.

The Earl of Courtown (Con): My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the debate for a few moments, but I ask noble Lords to remember that it is time-limited to five minutes per speaker. Once the clock reaches five, your Lordships are out of time.

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Lord Thomas of Swynnerton (CB): My Lords, it may be appropriate—

Lord Avebury: My Lords—

Lord Thomas of Swynnerton: It is the turn of the Cross Benches.

The Earl of Courtown: Order. There is a speakers list for this debate.

4.48 pm

Lord Avebury (LD): My Lords, I join in the congratulations that have been expressed to my noble friend Lord Alton for the powerful way in which he introduced this debate, and indeed for the consistent and wonderful way in which he always defends the rights of people’s religious freedom. On no occasion have I heard him speak more powerfully on the subject than he did today.

My old friend Dennis Wrigley, founder of the Maranatha community, asks if we care that entire Christian communities have been wiped out in the Middle East and what we are prepared to do about it. Those are questions that I hope the Minister will be able to answer.

However, the challenge is in fact much greater than that. Daesh makes no secret of its intention to expand its so-called caliphate from its base in Syria and Iraq so that it covers the rest of the Middle East and north Africa. Ultimately it aims to spread its interpretation of seventh-century Islamic governance and beliefs across the whole world, eliminating all other faiths by conversion or assassination, as it has already demonstrated by the massacres of Yazidis, Christians and Shia and the enslavement of the martyrs’ widows in the territory that it occupies.

William Young of the RAND Corporation observed:

“Al-Baghdadi’s messages have resonated with Sunnis in the region, North Africa, Europe and the United States primarily because he appears successful”.

I agree with his conclusion:

“The faster the Muslim world can be shown that ISIS is not invincible and does not have a divine mandate to rule the Islamic world, the quicker young Muslims and others will stop listening to its messaging”.

The coalition needs to ratchet up military operations against the Daesh and we should explore the willingness of our partners in the 60-state coalition to provide troops for a multinational ground force in Syria. We are providing 75 military instructors and headquarters staff as part of the US-led programme to support the “moderate Syrian opposition”. Can the Minister please identity the groups included in that phrase. They do not include, apparently, the heroic YPG which successfully repelled the Daesh assault on Kobane at the end of last year. Operations on that frontier would have the merit of not undermining the Assad Government’s capacity to hold the Daesh at bay.

The so-called caliphate sends out a powerful signal to extremist Sunni Muslims elsewhere that they can help towards the realisation of the universal Islamic state by destabilising existing kufr Governments through acts of indiscriminate terrorism such as the attack on British tourists in Tunisia. However, the main thrust of Daesh operations this year outside its own territory

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has been attacks against the soft target of Shia mosques in neighbouring Arab countries. In March there were simultaneous attacks on two mosques in Sanaa, capital of Yemen, killing 137 people and injuring 357. In May there were two attacks on Shia mosques in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, killing 29 and injuring more than 85; and on 2 June, a Shia mosque in Kuwait was attacked, killing at least 27 and injuring 227 others.

However, it goes wider than that. In Pakistan, terrorist groups swearing allegiance to the Daesh have been responsible for three major atrocities so far this year: the suicide bombing of an imambargah at Shikarpur in January, which killed 80 and injured 100; a suicide attack on a Shia mosque in Peshawar, capital of troubled Balochistan, in February, killing a least 22 and injuring 80 at Friday prayers; and a gun attack by killers on motorcycles on a bus carrying Ismailis in Karachi in May, killing at least 26 and injuring 13. Eliminating the Daesh, its metastases and its wicked ideology taught in Saudi-funded madrassahs throughout the world must be the main goal of all who believe in freedom of religion.

4.53 pm

The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak in the debate and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for securing it and for all the work he has undertaken in this area over many years. I associate myself very closely with what he said in his very eloquent opening speech and also with the speeches of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, and the noble Lord, Lord McFall. I also pay tribute to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester. He will be much missed by this House and I will miss him enormously for the wise advice he has given me on numerous occasions.

We have already heard many examples of the horrific situations around the world where people are persecuted for their religion or for their absence of religion. I witnessed such persecution in its rawest form many times during my visits in 2013 and 2014 to the 37 other provinces of the Anglican communion. Almost half of these provinces are living under persecution; they fear for their lives every day.

I will make two points in the short time available in this debate The first is that the relationship between law and religion is invariably a delicate one. The passionately lived religious life or passionately lived humanist life of many people around the world and in this country cannot be compartmentalised within our legal and political systems. It is not good enough to say that religion is free within the law. As was eloquently pointed out by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, religion defines us—it is the fundamental element of who and what we are. Thus, religious freedom and the freedom not to have a religion stands beneath the law, supporting it and creating the circumstances in which you can have effective law, as has been the case in this country since the sealing of Magna Carta 800 years ago, negotiated by my predecessor Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton. In its first clause, it says that,

“the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired”—

sorry, I had better declare an interest there.

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Religion gave birth to the rule of law, particularly through Judaism. The question is therefore: how do we translate this undiminished right and unimpaired liberty into the contemporary situation, where, too often, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Alton, culture, law and religion seem to have incommensurable values? The foundational freedom of religious freedom in the state prevents the state claiming the ultimate loyalty in every area, a loyalty to which it has no right—never has done and never will do—if we believe in the ultimate dignity of the human being.

My second point is that religious freedom is threatened on a global scale, as we have heard, but also in a very complex way. Attacks on religious freedom are often linked to economic circumstances, to sociology, to history and to many other factors. Practically, if we are to defend religious liberty, we have to draw in these other factors. For example, if we want to defend religious freedom around the world—and again I say, the freedom to have no religion—do not sell guns to people who oppress religious freedom; do not launder their money; restrict trade with them; confine the way in which we deal with them; and, above, all, speak frankly and openly, naming them for what they are.

Where a state claims the ultimate right to oppress religious freedom, it stops the last and the strongest barrier against tyranny. From the beginning of time—from the beginning of the Christian era, when the apostles said that they would obey God rather than the Sanhedrin, through the Reformation to the martyrs of communism, to Bonhoeffer and to Archbishop Tutu—up to our own day around the world, we have needed religious freedom as a global defence of freedom.

4.58 pm

Baroness Berridge (Con): My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on his uncanny knack of being successful in the ballot for debates.

I join the most reverend Primate in celebrating Magna Carta, which opens with,

“the English Church shall be free”,

meaning from state intervention, which at that time of course meant the king. Freedom of religion or belief, as set out in Article 18, is another deeply constitutional statement. As the UN special rapporteur illustrated in his comment to me, “There is lots of religion in Vietnam but not a lot of it is free”. The declaration is founded on individuals enjoying human rights when the state knows how to behave, knows its own limits and understands its role as protector of its citizens’ human rights from violation by third parties. In old communist states such as Vietnam, religion is controlled by the state, but another common backdrop to many Article 18 violations is an inappropriate connection between a religious institution or a faith or a stream of one faith, and the state. Often, that institution or faith has such preference that pluralism is suffocated, and, in the extreme, a religion becomes identified with nationality. Is Myanmar’s identity becoming synonymous with being Buddhist? The Rohinga Muslims are denied citizenship and an outcry by Buddhist extremists led the Government to capitulate and confiscate their only identity document.

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I am intrigued that Her Majesty’s Government can exhibit the FCO priority of freedom of religion and belief in our newly opened visa office in Rangoon. I expect my noble friend will have to write to me on this, but how is the United Kingdom able to offer UK visas, regardless of religion, when Rohinga Muslims have no documentation? Is it only wealthy Buddhist tourists or business men—not Muslims or Christians—who can come to the UK? The Rohingans were disenfranchised in this year’s election. It is also proposed that half a million refugees from the Central African Republic, 90% of whom are Muslim, be denied their voting rights. What representations have Her Majesty’s Government made to the CAR’s interim Government? Will this not increase the risk of refugees who are languishing in Chad being recruited to IS, which is already recruiting from neighbouring Sudan?

The trajectory on this issue has spiralled. However, I highlight Vietnam, Myanmar and CAR because they are in, I believe, the doable category. In 2006 Vietnam was removed, with American pressure, from the list of countries of particular concern, but has now fallen back. The UN special rapporteur visited in 2014 and found serious Article 18 violations and,

“credible information that some individuals whom I wanted to meet with had been either under heavy surveillance, warned, intimidated, harassed or prevented from travelling by the police”.

The Human Rights Watch report, Persecuting Evil Way Religion, details state persecution of central highland Christians, many of whom have fled to Cambodia. Cambodia refuses to allow them to claim asylum and returns them, rather like China does to those who escape North Korea. Will the Minister please make representations to Cambodia to allow the UN to process refugees there, if it is unwilling to comply with its international obligations?

It might also be worth mentioning how discerning the UK customer can be and how sensitive brands like Marks & Spencer can be when they source from many manufacturers in Vietnam and Cambodia.

The digital revolution could create further Article 18 violations. According to a report in the Economist, by 2020 80% of adults will have a smartphone that is able to receive different religious messages that state or religious leaders will scarcely be able to control. Will many more people start switching faith, challenging existing political and religious power structures?

We should also keep a close eye on what is happening under the new Government of India. We do not want to add into this space a rise of Hindu militancy which is semi-connected to identity, and to see the persecution of a large number of Muslims and Christians.

Who knows what the future holds? Many Governments, parliamentarians, religious leaders and royalty have, however, grasped the Article 18 issue, and the Pope’s celebrity status at the UN General Assembly in September is incredibly timely. The missing players—consumers and businesses—need to enter the stage, and it looks as if Brazil, at the Olympics, will be introducing the Global Business & Interfaith Understanding Awards, which they hope to become part of the Games. However, if by 2020 violations have flat-lined, that will indeed be an achievement.

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5.03 pm

Lord Singh of Wimbledon (CB): My Lords, I too pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for securing this important debate, and for his sterling work in putting concern for human rights high on the agenda of this House.

Article 18 of the 1948 UN declaration is unambiguous in its guarantee of freedom of religion and belief. Yet we live in a world where those rights are all too frequently ignored. We have been recently remembering the horror of Srebrenica, where, 20 years ago, 8,000 Muslim men and boys were rounded up by Serb forces and ruthlessly murdered simply because they were Muslims. Last year Sikhs commemorated the 30th anniversary of the brutal murder of thousands of Sikhs in India, simply for being Sikhs. The Middle East has become a cauldron of religious intolerance and unbelievable barbarity. The number of Christians has dwindled alarmingly. We hear daily of thousands fleeing religious persecution in leaky, overcrowded boats, with little food or water.

Where have we gone wrong? In commerce or industry, if a clearly desirable idea or initiative fails again and again, it goes back to the drawing board. Today we need to ask ourselves: why is there widespread abuse of the right to freedom of belief? This important right, like all others embedded in the UN declaration, needs the total commitment of countries with political clout to make it a reality. Unfortunately, even permanent members of the Security Council frequently put trade and political alliances with countries with appalling human rights records above a commitment to human rights. There are many examples, but time permits me to mention only a couple relating to our own country.

During the visit of a Chinese trade delegation in June last year, a government Minister said that we should not allow human rights abuses to “get in the way” of trade. His statement, undermining the UN declaration, went virtually unchallenged. At about the same time, we had a Statement in your Lordships’ House that the Government were pressing for a UN-led inquiry into human rights abuse in Sri Lanka. Fine, but when I asked whether the Government would also support a similar inquiry into the mass killing of Sikhs in India—yes, I know it is a much bigger trading partner—I received a brusque reply that that was a matter for the Indian Government.

I have asked on five occasions the question why the UK Government regard the systematic killing of Sikhs in India as being of no concern to the United Kingdom, only to get the same dismissive non-response. I ask it again today, and hope that noble Lords and Britain’s 500,000 Sikhs will get the courtesy of a proper, considered reply. The great human rights activist, Andrei Sakharov, said that we must be even-handed in looking at human rights abuse. If our country—one of the most enlightened in the world—puts trade above human rights, it is easy to understand why other countries turn a blind eye to rights such as freedom of belief. It is a right so central in Sikhism that our ninth guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, gave his life defending the right of Hindus—a different religion from his own—against forced conversion by the then Mughal rulers.

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We can list human rights abuse for ever and a day without making a jot of difference if we and other great powers continue to put trade and power bloc politics above human rights. We start each day in this House with Prayers to remind us to act in accord with Christ’s teachings. He, like Guru Nanak, reminded us never to put material gain before concern for our fellow beings. We need to act on such far-sighted advice.

I look forward to hearing my friend, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester, and wish him well in his retirement.

5.08 pm

The Lord Bishop of Leicester (Valedictory Speech): My Lords, I want to add my thanks to that of so many others to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for bringing this matter before us, not least as it provides me with an opportunity to make a final speech to your Lordships’ House on a matter of such overwhelming importance.

My retirement, I am delighted to say, will in some small way enhance religious freedom in this House by providing a seat for the first female Lord Spiritual in history to occupy this Bench in the autumn. It is especially good to be following the noble Lord, Lord Singh, whose contributions here testify to the commitment of this House to religious freedom in so many ways.

The spread of global religious revival in the 21st century is described by Mickelthwait and Wooldridge in their book God is Back. They argue that it is fuelled by market competition and a customer-driven approach to salvation. In the five years since its publication, they could not have imagined how those principles would mutate into the present appalling world crisis, so vividly described by so many speakers. The challenge to religious freedoms derives in part from treating faith as a consumer preference rather than the most profound definition of what it is to be human.

In my 16 years as Bishop of Leicester, we have learned much about the principles and practice of religious freedom and the way it shapes the deepest contours of the human psyche. As well as having local applications, that also has international implications. The first principle is that it is not enough simply to defend religious freedom; it has to be positively exercised in ways that encourage others to embrace it. It involves drawing on the spiritual resources of faith to unlock the best in others, to speak on behalf of the voiceless and to create community. When a young Nigerian Christian was murdered in Highfields in Leicester two years ago, there was an immediate retaliatory attack on an entirely innocent Muslim family, killed by a fire bomb on the same day. The tensions were palpable, but were eventually calmed by systematic, careful conversations and the public ritualising of grief and reconciliation on both sides.

Secondly, the principle that religious freedom is an inalienable right means that we interpret an attack on one faith as an attack on all peoples of faith. Treasuring the dignity of every human being includes treasuring the rights of others to their beliefs, especially when we disagree. That is why the Muslim leadership turned out in strength the other day at Leicester Cathedral to respect the victims of the Sousse massacre two weeks ago.

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Thirdly, freedom is not a passive state. It results from the dynamic process of actively learning how others live and what they believe, and of sustained and co-operative support for each other in shared enterprises. Here, too, local practice can inform international strategy. We need to learn the best habits of face-to-face conversations with those we disagree with, especially over the big challenges of the day—climate change, poverty, conversions, gender equality and so on.

It has been an immense privilege to play a small part in the life of this House over the last 12 years and to Convene the Bishops’ Bench for six of them. It has confirmed me in the belief that the presence of the Bishops here serves rather than impedes religious freedom in countless ways. It has been rewarded with friendships, kindnesses, courtesies and opportunities far beyond my expectations or desserts. I am deeply grateful for that and even more grateful for the responsibility to think and speak carefully about how a vision of the kingdom of Jesus Christ can still shape and inform public policy today. Your Lordships’ House deserves the attention, interest and prayers of all people. It will certainly have mine in the years ahead.

5.12 pm

Lord Carey of Clifton (CB): As the noble Lord, Lord Glasman, is not able to be in the House today, it falls to me to thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester for his remarkable contribution over many years to this House and to wish him every success in what he goes on to do.

I join other Peers in thanking my noble friend Lord Alton for introducing this debate. As with other important human issues, he is so often the conscience of this House, and we are in his debt once more.

The freedom to think, change one’s mind, change religion, become an atheist, become a believer, and belong to tolerant and open societies is among the blessings of being a human person. Thus enshrined as Article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this great moral principle emerged from the last world war, in which millions of people were murdered because they were different. Now, 67 years later, this great article of freedom is under attack in many parts of the world.

Others have described very graphically the situation facing Christian believers and others in many different parts of the world. The recent report, Global Persecution, produced by the Maranatha community, and the report launched in November by the charity Aid to the Church in Need, Religious Freedom in the World, which my noble friend Lord Alton mentioned, describe the way minorities in the Middle East, especially Christians, are being targeted. Speaking about this in November, as my noble friend also mentioned, the Prince of Wales described Christians as being “grotesquely and barbarously assaulted” in the Middle East. Many of us are very grateful to the Prince of Wales for the stance that he has taken on religious freedom over the years. His courageous and forthright statements have won the admiration of many and he has set an example that I fervently wish our senior politicians had the boldness to emulate. But it is not just Christians that Article 18 seeks to protect. It sets forth the humanist

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vision of thought: freedom for the Yazidis in Iraq, for Shia Muslims in Sunni territories and for Sunnis in Shia lands, and the freedom to embrace atheism or agnosticism, should one wish to do so.

The fact that we have to face honestly is that so much of the trouble is in countries dominated by Islam; let us get to the heart of this. Yet, in the past, Islam has flourished as a beacon of civilisation and tolerance. Indeed, one of the finest texts in the Koran states:

“There is no compulsion in religion”.

The verse is often used in interfaith contexts to show the broadmindedness of Islam. But we have to recognise that the plain meaning of that text is questioned by many Muslim scholars today. In my view—dare I say it as a non-Muslim?—this verse contains all that is necessary for Muslims to start the journey towards free, tolerant and pluralist societies. However, the rhetoric is fine but the reality is very different. It grieves me to say that there are not many Muslim-majority countries in which the freedom set out in Article 18 exists. Of course, there are Muslim countries where other faiths are tolerated but, even in those more tolerant nations, Christians cannot share their faith openly and advertise it; and Muslims cannot, with any ease, choose another faith, should they so desire.

Intolerance seems to be spreading. There has recently been a spate of church and mosque burnings in Israel, which is very disappointing as Israel has every justification for claiming to be the only democratic nation in the Middle East. Among the buildings burnt was the famous Tabgha church, which commemorates the multiplication of loaves and fishes in the gospel story.

During my time as Archbishop of Canterbury, I challenged Muslim leaders worldwide to embrace the principle of reciprocity; it remains a dream and an ideal. Here in the United Kingdom there is no barrier to belief and no restriction on believers, as long as we all behave within the breadth of British law. The ideal of reciprocity demands that people of all nations should work together to ensure that freedom to change and grow is granted to all of us, men and women alike.

5.17 pm

Baroness Howells of St Davids (Lab): My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, who often places a demand on this House to examine what, for believers, is God’s big idea. This debate asks us to examine an idea that was introduced by the creator, as Christians believe. The author Myles Munroe suggests that the idea is beyond the philosophical reserves of human history. The big idea appears to have germinated all religions to which humans adhere. Today we examine the big idea and ask: have we achieved it—a culture of equality, peace, unity and respect for human dignity? No, we have not.

Faith has always played a major role in the lives of individuals and institutions. It is the basis on which we build our lives and our perspective of the world. Faith is the belief that, even in the darkest of times, there is still hope to hold on to. But as our world has become

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more intolerant and more hateful, the candlelight that guides believers from all denominations is being forcibly snuffed out at an alarming rate.

The deprioritisation by the international community of upholding the right to freedom of religion set out in Article 18 has had a detrimental effect on all human rights of the persecuted. Not only are they forced to worship in secret but, if caught, they can be murdered, tortured, imprisoned, beaten and even expelled from public life, including from the right to vote. According to a report by Open Doors, 100 million Christians face persecution worldwide. That is 100 million people from just one faith, having all their rights stripped away. If we show solidarity and do more to protect the rights of marginalised religious groups across the globe, I am sure we shall see an increase in respect for human rights as a whole. Can man ever be truly free if he is not allowed to have his own thoughts? If a believer can stare down the barrel of a gun and state, “My belief shall not be shaken”, we must be brave enough to stand up and say to those oppressive governments, “It is time to protect your civilians, who committed no crime but to have faith”.

However, we must lead by example as faith has long been the bones behind the laws of our country. But now the laws of our country are breaking those bones. How can we champion human rights and freedom if we do not implement Article 18 to its full extent? There has been a worrying trend emerging in British politics, a trend that is moving to oppress the freedoms of religious minorities. We say we are a Christian nation, yet there is nothing Christian in the actions of the Government in recent weeks. Article 18 can be invoked when a Government or organisation enacts a policy that unfairly impacts on minority religious groups. The two-child tax credit limit will have a distinct impact on the rights of many Catholics who, as a choice of their conscience, do not use contraception. Giving them a choice between poverty or breaking their religious code is a distinct attack on freedom of belief and conscience.

Further limitations on religious freedom have come from the heart of Westminster in a package that is supposed to suppress terrorism and protect our western values. I hope this House agrees with me that you cannot protect democracy and freedom by taking away democracy and freedom, yet that appears to be the aim of the Prevent strategy and the passing of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015.

5.23 pm

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill (LD): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, not only for initiating the debate but preying on my conscience and encouraging me to contribute. Sadly, history shows us that religious wars and conflicts are not new. However, in modern times there has been more of an acceptance that those of different faiths and none have to get on together and at least tolerate one’s fellow man, if not necessarily love him.

We have heard and will hear from other noble Lords of repression and lack of freedoms in the current unstable world situation. As a Jew, I feel strongly about the Holocaust, which touched my own

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family, who lost a grandmother and an aunt in Poland in the 1940s. So, I was very moved to hear reports of a rescue operation last week to seek, in a modest way, to take action against the barbaric treatment of Christian sects in the IS heartland of Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilisation. This appears to be an operation by the Barnabas Fund, an international relief agency for the persecuted church with the financial co-operation of certain Jewish organisations and philanthropists, to transfer Christian families to safe havens. I understand that this in an ongoing project to evacuate Christians from those lands where they have dwelt for 2,000 years. What these Christian communities are experiencing is not new to the Jewish communities throughout the Middle East and North Africa, whose persecution led to an exodus of some 850,000 Jews from Arab lands.

The clash of faiths causes these confrontations. It may seem a paradox but the country in the Middle East that is most welcoming to Christians, as the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Carey, mentioned in passing, is Israel. Christianity is one of the recognized religions in Israel and is practised by more than 161,000 Israeli citizens—about 2.1% of the population. In Israel, there are approximately 300 Christians who have chosen to convert from Islam. Very sadly, such apostasy is not allowed in much of the rest of the Middle East. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, gave a graphic description of many of the injustices that take place and which I cover with the word “apostasy”. I will not repeat them as he did it so well.

Adversity, however, does reveal heroes. A few days ago, one of the heroes of the Holocaust died at the age of 106. I refer of course to Sir Nicolas Winton, who organised eight trains to take 669 children to London from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. The British people made room for these refugees and I can only hope that in Britain and the rest of Europe we will rise to the challenge in the present times. We are so fortunate in the United Kingdom but the tolerance we have requires vigilance to ensure that it stays that way. When we see the intolerance of people’s religion and beliefs in many parts of the world, which has been referred to by other noble Lords, we must praise the courage and resilience of those affected; many would have given way to despair.

In the modern world, many now describe themselves as secular. But a very large number of people, as has been mentioned by other noble Lords, follow one of the three Abrahamic faiths: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Although all three of these faiths share a common history and traditions, they too often emphasise their differences rather than their common beliefs. Christianity has, I believe, 2 billion adherents, Islam 1.3 billion, and Judaism, which comes slightly further behind, a mere 14 million. But there are splits within all these religions, be they Catholic-Orthodox, Catholic-Protestant, Shia- Sunni, or Orthodox-Reform. Whatever the differences, as the Motion before us says, we should as a nation uphold freedom of religion and belief and not enforce or impose our beliefs on others by the sword. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester, whom I must compliment on his superb speech, talked about defending religious freedom. That is what this is about. But it is also about allowing one to give up

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one’s faith, to change one’s faith, or to have no faith; it is a defence of freedom, of which religion is a part. I will end with the words of Nelson Mandela:

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison”.

5.28 pm

Baroness O’Loan (CB): My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for enabling this important debate. Freedom of religion or belief is not only a fundamental human right in itself: as Pope John Paul II said, it is a,

“litmus test for the respect of all other human rights”.

Wherever Article 18 is compromised, other violations almost inevitably follow.

I endorse the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, in relation to the UK’s modelling of support for freedom of religion and conscience and particularly, as a Catholic, his words in relation to the Catholic adoption agencies. Freedom of religion and conscience is very important in this country still. We have Christian medical practitioners who face massive challenges of conscience simply in doing their jobs. They may even have to leave their jobs in order to comply with their conscience. We need as a country to think again about how we enable and reflect support for freedom of religion and conscience.

As we have heard today, millions in the world are deprived of this most basic freedom and face torture, imprisonment, harassment and even death because of their beliefs. But we can make a difference. Despite the current controversy about the outworking of the European Convention on Human Rights, the UK has a proud history of protecting human rights across the world. We have worked closely with the churches—often the last remaining network of communication in conflicted societies.

In recent years the UK has led the world in historic initiatives to tackle some of the most challenging issues, including modern slavery and sexual violence in warfare. With the same level of commitment, cross-party support and co-operation with our partners in the international community, there is an opportunity to make the principles of Article 18 a reality for so many more people. The UN has stated that,

“no manifestation of religion or belief may amount to propaganda for war or advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”.

It is extremely encouraging that the Government have made a manifesto commitment to stand up for freedom of religion and I look forward to hearing more detail from the Minister about how this will be put into practice. In particular, will promoting freedom of religion or belief be included as a specific priority in the FCO business plan? Will extra resources be provided to assist our diplomatic missions, particularly those covering the most difficult parts of the world, in achieving this?

Some of the most appalling abuses are taking place in Iraq and Syria, where ISIL continues to slaughter and enslave adherents of minority religions. I will touch briefly upon Iraq’s Kurdish region, where almost 2 million people have found sanctuary so far. It is a

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testament to the Kurdish Regional Government that although their population has already grown by a staggering 28% as a result of the refugee influx, they continue to keep their doors open and provide security for people fleeing Mosul or the Nineveh Plains. Many of these refugees are Christians or Yazidis who have seen their family members killed, their businesses seized and their places of worship destroyed. Alongside the local authorities, Christian communities are providing shelter, food, et cetera, to the refugees. The Catholic Church in Irbil alone is accommodating more than 125,000 people, including many Yazidi families. Will the Minister outline what support we are providing to help the Kurdish Regional Government and churches in the region?

Reference has already been made to the thousands of Rohingya Muslims who are making treacherous and often fatal journeys across the Andaman Sea, trying to escape escalating persecution at the hands of Burma’s authorities. Hate speech and xenophobic attacks are allowed to continue unchallenged. The Rohingya have been denied citizenship, cajoled into camps and prevented from accessing humanitarian assistance. The Burmese Government have also passed a package of laws targeting religious minorities which may prevent people converting, marrying or even starting a family. These laws have been condemned by Burma’s first Catholic cardinal, Charles Bo. In a response to me in this Chamber recently, the Minister agreed with that condemnation. Will she update us on the UK’s response to the Burmese package of laws? I would also be grateful for an outline of any recent discussions with other states about the rescue and accommodation of Rohingya refugees.

In Iran, under the principle of the absolute rule of the clergy—velayat-e faqih—during this Ramadan at least 900 people were arrested and many were flogged for not fasting. There is no freedom not to be religious. Many of the sentences against the youth were carried out in public. I would be most grateful if the Minister could confirm the representations that have been made in respect of this. I am encouraged by the Government’s commitment and welcome the opportunity to discuss how the UK will play its part.

5.33 pm

Lord Sheikh (Con): My Lords, I speak today as a Muslim. I also speak as somebody who cherishes the role that all faiths and communities play. I undertake a lot of work with other religious groups. I am a patron of several Muslim and non-Muslim organisations that promote religious harmony.

Our respective religions teach us valuable lessons in morality, help us interpret the world around us and give us guidance when we are in need. For many people, their religion is very precious to them. I agree wholeheartedly with the Motion: a greater priority should be given by the United Kingdom and the international community to upholding freedom of religion and belief.

It is right that everybody in the world should be entitled to this freedom. However, it is being violated by some misguided people. This debate is very topical because of events taking place across the Middle East

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and north Africa. My glorious religion of Islam is being hijacked by a tiny minority who have misrepresented it and wholly, totally wrongly portrayed the true message of Islam. I emphasise that Islam is indeed a religion of peace.

What is happening in these countries is strongly against the principles of Islam. What Daesh is doing and saying in Syria, Iraq and other places is totally wrong and un-Islamic. I remind them that it is written in the Holy Koran that there should be no compulsion in religion and that no one should be forced to become a Muslim. The Holy Koran celebrates different beliefs as a means of connecting with people. It is written in the Holy Koran:

“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another”.

My religion teaches us to know and be friendly to people of other faiths. Islam is one of the Abrahamic religions and, according to Islam, the People of the Book are the Jews and Christians. The books of Allah are the Holy Koran, the Torah, the Gospel of Jesus and the Psalms of David. There has been a case in London where a Somali Muslim mosque was damaged and the Jewish community allowed them to pray in the synagogue. We appreciate this very much.

Two of the most successful emperors of India were Akbar the Great, who was a Muslim, and Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who was a Sikh. They both allowed all religious groups to live in harmony in their empires. I hold great personal admiration for Maharaja Ranjit Singh. I have written a book about him that will be published shortly. There are more similarities than differences between people, and we should highlight the similarities in order to establish closer links between communities. It should also be noted that allowing freedom of religion often brings stability and prosperity to a country. As a businessman, I have found it to be beneficial for economic and social development, as well as for the religious communities themselves.

We must use this debate to commend and celebrate what is happening in the United Kingdom. Although the Church of England is the official church, people of all religions are allowed to practise their respective faiths. We are a tolerant and respectful people. This country should be viewed as a model for others to follow. We cannot overstate the importance attached to upholding Article 18, yet so many abuses and violations of it continue to take place. We must lead the world in ensuring that people feel free to practise their religion, both in private and in public. May God help us to achieve this.

5.38 pm

Lord Sacks (CB): My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for enabling us again to address this vital issue of religious freedom, and I salute the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, for chairing the APPG on International Religious Freedom or Belief. I salute the courage of both of them in confronting perhaps the single greatest humanitarian issue of our time. I add my thanks to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester for his warm, wise and inspiring contributions to public life, and wish him blessings in the years ahead.

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Three things have happened to change the religious landscape of the world. First, the secular nationalist regimes that appeared in many parts of the world in the 20th century have given rise to powerful religious counter-revolutions. Secondly, these counter-revolutions are led by religion in its most extreme, adversarial and anti-Western form. Thirdly, the revolution in information technology has allowed these groups to form, organise and communicate to actual and potential followers throughout the world with astonishing speed. The internet is to radical political religions what printing was to Martin Luther. It allows them to circumvent and outflank all existing structures of power. The result has been the politicisation of religion and the religionising of politics, which, throughout history, has been a deadly combination. In the long run, it will threaten us all, because in a global age no country or culture is an island.

We must do, minimally, three things. First, given that religious freedom is enshrined as Article 18 in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there should be, under the auspices of the United Nations, a global gathering of religious leaders and thinkers to formulate an agreed set of principles that are sustainable theologically within their respective faiths and on which member nations can be called to account. Otherwise, Article 18 will continue to be a utopian ideal.

Secondly, we must do the theological work. That is fundamental. After the wars of religion of the 16th and 17th centuries, a group of thinkers, among them John Milton, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Benedict Spinoza, sat down, reread the Bible and formulated some of the most important ideas ever formulated about state and society: the social contract, the moral limits of power, the liberty of conscience, the doctrine of toleration and the very concept of human rights. These were religious ideals based on the Bible, which is what John F Kennedy meant when he said in his inaugural address that,

“the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe—the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God”.

We have not yet done the theological work for a global society in the information age, and not all religions in the world are yet fully part of that conversation. But if we neglect the theology, all else will fail.

Thirdly, we must stand together—the people of all faiths and of none—for we are all at risk. Christians are being persecuted throughout the Middle East and elsewhere. Jews are facing a new and resurgent anti-Semitism. Muslims who stand on the wrong side of the Sunni-Shia divide are being killed in great numbers. Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Baha’i and others face persecution in some parts of the world. There must be some set of principles that we can appeal to, and be held accountable to, if our common humanity is to survive our religious differences. 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.

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5.43 pm

Lord Harrison (Lab): My Lords, I speak in today’s debate as a loyal member of God’s Opposition. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, for highlighting both the freedom of religion and the freedom of belief in the titles of this Article 18 debate and of the all-party group over which the noble Baroness so impressively presides. I also thank Christian Solidarity Worldwide, not only for providing me with excellent material concerning the persecution of atheists and secularists in Egypt and Indonesia but for its pastoral prison visit to Alex Aan, jailed in Jakarta as an atheist.

We atheists must show solidarity with our religious colleagues over religious persecution, especially at a time when atheists and secularists are increasingly joining the growing list of people persecuted worldwide for the beliefs they uphold, whether religious or otherwise. The horror of machete-wielding Islamists slaying humanist bloggers in Bangladesh recently was admirably highlighted by the brave Bonya Ahmed in her recent address to the British Humanist Association at the annual Voltaire lecture.

In the United Kingdom, many will be heartened by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent observation that religious freedom demands space to be challenged and defended, without responding destructively. This echoed Rowan Williams’s reservation in 2013 that sometimes UK and US Christians exaggerate mild discomfort over social issues such as pro-gay legislation while failing to emphasise systematic brutality and often murderous hostility practised by religious fanatics abroad.

I asked the Minister why humanists and atheists in Britain are still thoughtlessly excluded from contributing to Radio 4’s “Thought for the Day”. Why does the DCMS stolidly exclude the Defence Humanists, formerly the UK Armed Forces Humanist Association, from the annual Cenotaph commemoration? Do dead non-believers, fallen in war defending our cherished values, not deserve a silent vigil in the public square? And why are we conducting this debate in the House of Lords, which still reserves a privileged place for the state religion?

I encourage colleagues not to take the opportunity of the occasional ad hominem criticism of distinguished atheists such as Richard Dawkins. I ask the Minister to reply to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, about the FCO and whether we are promoting business and trade, which I thoroughly encourage. However, we should use some of our resources to ensure that we promote Article 18 in all its aspects. Can she also update us on what is happening with the blasphemy laws in Malta, and in Iceland, although it is not part of the European Union?

Finally, will Her Majesty’s Government ensure that the hopes and aspirations of non-believers like me are not suppressed by careless oversight when we take our rightful place in the public square?

5.48 pm

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass (Ind UU): My Lords, I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lord Alton for his tenacity in pursuing this issue. No one whom I have known during my 32 years in Parliament has

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been so consistent in his adherence to and struggle for the proper implementation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I intend to use the very short time available to me to consider whether we in the United Kingdom lead by example in respect of our own practice of Article 18 or whether we are a society where leadership is generally content to pay mere lip service. Often it appears to me that we are regularly subjected to the excitement of individualistic excesses that elevate individual selfishness above and beyond the traditional and tried practices and discipline with which I grew up.

Of course society evolves, but why does that mean that some, like the Reverend Richard Page JP, a faithful, public-spirited magistrate in Kent for 15 years and a long-respected member of the Family Court, should be officially and publicly pilloried because, as a practising Christian, he expressed to colleagues, in private, how he was able to reconcile his public duties with his Christian faith? Is there any justice in the fact that the Lord Chancellor in the previous coalition Government should seek to justify having suspended Richard Page by having imposed remedial training in a manner that is little different from the brain-washing and conditioning so beloved of totalitarian states?

Do not tell me that the environment is different. It is not about the difference between chairs and chains; it is about the impact on society. Richard Page’s persecution by Lord Chancellor Grayling began on 2 July 2014 and continues into the second year. In the interim, he is denied even the right to express his opinion to the press. So what was Richard Page’s offence that has nullified the last days of an exemplary working life? He had stated that his lawful and considered judgment that it is better for children to be adopted by both a father and a mother derived from his faith. When a same-sex male couple from Belfast sought precedence over a normal foster couple, he made a decision. Well done Richard Page—and I say that as a father and grandfather.

Where will this case lead? Back in 2010, ex-Lord Chancellor Grayling had been on the other side of the fence when he had supported the rights of owners of bed and breakfast establishments to refuse accommodation to gay couples. Perhaps I should quote the ex-Lord Chancellor at that time, but I shall not. I shall simply ask: what could possibly have induced him to change? Is the future of children less relevant than who may soil the bed linen? Where does this presumptuous and intellectually questionable logic take us in respect of the sixth and eighth commandments? Sorry, I must not mention such things as the sixth and eighth commandments. It is a good job I cannot be suspended—although some may seek to explore the possibility.

I was, of course, alluding to how we must implement our laws on theft and murder. If some intellectual snob decides to undermine them, I take it that the rest of us may be denied any right to mention our Christian or social heritage. I just do not have time to elaborate on other current matters of conscience, such as where Christian bakers are now, apparently, bound by law to promote and advocate matters that offend

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their Christian faith. Is that what equality is? Of course, I am protected here—unlike those street preachers in our society who the police are so easily persuaded have given offence.

I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure us about the implementation and continuation of Article 18 within our society.

5.53 pm

Lord Scott of Foscote (CB): My Lords, I am very grateful, as are noble Lords who have expressed their feelings to me, to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for arranging this debate. I have heard nothing in the course of it with which I have found any possible point of disagreement. I do not want to repeat everything everybody else has said far more lucidly and fluently than I can. I just want to add a few family details that give me a perspective that may be a little different.

Both of my grandfathers were Church of England clergyman. I was brought up as an Anglican and I was sent, as was my sister, to an Anglican school. This was in South Africa. We both came over to England, where all my relations were Anglicans. Accordingly, when in Chicago in 1959 I met, fell in love with and married a Panamanian Latin American Catholic, I wondered what her reception by the rest of the family would be. It was absolutely perfect. They loved her and had the same feelings towards her as I had become accustomed to them having towards me.

The reason I mention this is that that was in a way a mixed marriage, because Anglicans marrying Catholics was not that usual in South Africa. I do not know if it was usual in England, as I was not in England then. The two of us were blessed with four children—two boys and two girls—each of whom was christened and brought up as a Catholic. When I married my wife, I had to sign a chit to say that I agreed to all my children being brought up as Catholics. I was perfectly happy with that. The four children we had are themselves all married and had children, so I have 12 grandchildren.

Two of my children converted and became Muslims. Of my 12 grandchildren, seven of them are Muslims—I was going to say “little Muslims”, but they are not so little, because the oldest is 21 or 22. Of the 12 grandchildren, seven are Muslims, three are Catholic and two are not really anything. Their relationship with one another is as close—as familial—as it could possibly be. They all know that there are differences between them and that they are of different religions, and it does not matter a jot. I can see no conceivable reason why it should. The ones who have no religion at all are always quite curious about what the others believe. The ones who have a religion, have two different religions—Christianity and Islam—which are both monotheistic religions. I do not know whether this is how they would put it, but as far as I am concerned, if there is a God, which I certainly hope there is, they are all worshipping the same God, albeit in slightly different ways.

I simply cannot believe that the divine being—assuming there is one—really minds a jot in what manner the worship takes place, provided that it is sincere and truly meant. Accordingly, having Muslims and Christians

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in one family has been no problem at all. They stay with one another; they stay with their aunts and uncles of different religions; the Muslims come and stay with their Christian aunts and uncles and vice versa.

I have been saddened by listening to the remarks made by a number of your Lordships. I am sure that they all relate accurately the horrors and sadnesses that have happened, but nothing of my own experience of a family with mixed Muslims and Christians bears any resemblance to that. Nor do I see any reason why it should with anyone else. As I have said, the fact that there are different religions should not matter, and I believe does not matter. That is the only addition I wanted to make to what has already been said, with which I fully agree.

5.58 pm

Lord Anderson of Swansea (Lab): My Lords, since the noble Lord, Lord Alton, initiated a more general debate a year ago, the situation has surely become worse in terms of compliance with the universal declaration. I am appalled by the hypocrisy of so many countries ready to sign up to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and yet ready to deny their citizens those same rights. Of course, one worrying development since the 1948 universal declaration is the development of non-state actors such as Boko Haram, ISIS or failed states such as the Central African Republic where the Government do not exist or are incapable of preventing violations. But the 1948 principles are universal and attempts to circumvent them by devices such as blasphemy laws should fail. There are no exemptions. We should support all persecuted minorities. I note that of the 49 countries of a Muslim culture, 17 tolerate no other religion. What should we do—what can we do—about these violations?

I shall avoid a Cook’s tour of all the defaulting countries, but I shall draw attention to some key themes. First, we are fortunate to have so much material available from official, semi-official and unofficial sources. We in this country are blessed to have so many non-governmental organisations in the field, many of them based here, such as CSW, Open Doors, Maranatha, Barnabas and Aid to the Church in Need. As a general point, although our focus today is on Article 18, those countries that respect religious minorities are also those with the best human rights records across the board.

Secondly, there are many temptations for Governments and diplomats in the field. The professional deformation of diplomats is the wish to be loved and not to offend, so often, human rights are marginalised or given a lower status in the hierarchy. Governments may claim that they use a big stick but they do so only in private, although I accept that in certain cases, such as China, private representations may be the most effective means to help individuals. The other temptation is to be strong on the weak but weak on the strong. For example, of the nine countries designated by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, three, including Saudi Arabia, are,

“for reasons of important national interest”,

given an indefinite waiver, which clearly undermines the impact of that.

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Thirdly, we in the UK are fortunate because of our membership of so many international organisations. The question surely is: what use do we make of that membership? What value do we add in terms of violations of religious and human rights? What initiatives, for example, have we made in the UN, where we are now a member of the UN Human Rights Council? In the EU, do we believe that the External Action Service is adequately staffed? Are there human rights experts in the Cabinet of the high representative? Do we support conditionality in aid and development policies? The Commonwealth, as we know, has made grand declarations such as the Harare declaration and the Commonwealth Charter, yet 10 Commonwealth countries appear in the Open Doors watch list, including Malaysia, where recently life has become much harder for Christians.

Broadly, we in the UK give a relatively good example of human rights at home. However, mention has already been made of the disastrous policy in respect of the Catholic adoption agencies and the suffering of young people as a result. By passing to other agencies, this could quite easily have been avoided.

The FCO’s human rights report has improved over the years. Consultation with NGOs has become more formalised but we need to look carefully at models in other countries and see whether we can improve our position, because we have not reached perfection. I do not have time to look at all the examples, such as the example of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom or what the State Department does in its annual report on international religious freedom to encourage improvements and to give help to immigration officials.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con): Could the noble Lord conclude his remarks?

Lord Anderson of Swansea: We should not be afraid to learn from others. I commend the work of the Minister, but we must rely not on individuals but on improving our institutions as well.

6.04 pm

Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood (CB): My Lords, it is unsurprising that the bulk of today’s debate should have focused on the many ghastly violations of Article 18 that, alas, continue to disfigure so many parts of the world. However, with some small encouragement from the noble Lord, Lord Alton, whose introduction to this debate was, as ever, compelling, I intend instead to focus on a much narrower question that sometimes arises: when the right to manifest—not to hold, but to manifest—one’s religion or belief must surrender to the rights and interests of others. It is a question that has exercised the courts of this country and elsewhere on a number of occasions.

Article 18 of the universal declaration appears on the face of it to confer two unqualified rights: the right to freedom of religion or belief, and the right to manifest that religion or belief. But that is not quite so. It is widely recognised not to be so in international law, including, most relevantly for our purposes, in Article 9 of the European Convention, which, of course, is the equivalent provision and is now incorporated under domestic law here. Article 9.1 of the convention is in effectively identical terms to Article 18 of the

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universal declaration, but Article 9.2 makes it plain that the manifestation of one’s religion or belief is a qualified, not an absolute, right. It provides for limitations to the right,

“in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.

It is generally the protection of the rights and freedoms of others and, above all, the increasing recognition of the rights of others, in particular gays and lesbians, not to be discriminated against that has led to much of the litigation under this provision.

Take the Supreme Court case of Bull and Bull—touched on recently, if perhaps a little tendentiously, by the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis—which held that Christian hotelkeepers, however strongly held their belief that homosexual practices are sinful, could not on that ground alone refuse to let a double-bed room to a homosexual couple. The court pointed out that Strasbourg requires very weighty reasons to justify discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Another case mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, was the Northern Irish one, just two months back, which held that a bakery had unlawfully discriminated against a gay supporter of same-sex marriage for whom they had initially agreed, but later refused, to bake a cake iced with a logo including the slogan, “Support gay marriage”.

There was also Strasbourg’s decision two years ago, in a group of United Kingdom cases concerning religion in the workplace, to dismiss three of the four applications, including those of Lillian Ladele, a civil registrar for Islington, who was disciplined for violating the borough’s “dignity for all” policy by refusing to register partnerships because of her belief that homosexuality is sinful; and Gary McFarlane, a sex therapist dismissed by Relate, a counselling charity, for refusing, on the same grounds, to provide sex therapy for same-sex couples. Similarly, under Article 9.2, in 2005, in the Williamson case, the appeal committee in this House rejected the claimants’ asserted right as teachers and parents at a school established specifically to provide Christian education based on biblical observance to use corporal punishment despite contrary legislation. Indeed, the next year in the Denbigh High School case we rejected a Muslim schoolgirl’s claim to have been wrongly excluded from the school unless she wore the school uniform instead of the jilbab she insisted on wearing. Many of your Lordships will recall too the recent Crown Court ruling that a woman must remove her Muslim veil, charged as she was with victim intimidation, so that the jury could properly observe her facial expression.

These are just some of the many cases which show that, absolute though one’s right to freedom of religion and belief is, in deciding whether to exercise it there are other important interests and considerations in play. Believe whatever you wish, but in your behaviour think of others too. Surely that is a sound precept.

6.09 pm

Lord Alderdice (LD): My Lords, we have all been done a great service by the noble Lord, Lord Alton of

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Liverpool, in obtaining this debate and giving us the opportunity not just to speak but to listen and think about these matters.

I, too, start by declaring interests. One is the research work that I do at Oxford University and the other is that of being, like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, a practising Christian—practising for many years but seemingly no nearer to expertise, but that is the way of these things.

I want not to go back over the many things that have been said by other noble Lords but to refer to some of my own experience in these matters. Very understandably, noble Lords have outlined the horrible evidences of religious intolerance and radical political belief which have led to horrible violence and which continue, seemingly ever worsening, all around the world. It is understandable that we focus on that because it raises our emotions of fear, anguish, hurt and sometimes even hate, but of course what we are speaking about there is the right to life, not just the right to a belief or a religious faith. In a way, we are both very privileged and a little disadvantaged by working in this place, where there is an enormous amount of tolerance. People are prepared to listen to each other and to accept great differences of belief of different kinds.

In passing, I say that we are foolish if we think that there is religious belief and unbelief. The truth is that people who do not have religious beliefs have beliefs of their own. Perhaps there has tended to be the notion that we can resolve a lot of these matters if we simply put religious beliefs into a private box and have a society where some other kind of belief—whatever it is—runs the show or has a prevailing effect. However, the truth is that religious faith, like any other kind of belief, impacts entirely on your way of being in the world and on your community and its way of being in the world. Thinking that somehow or other it is possible to say, “Well, that doesn’t really matter”, says something about your kind of belief; it does not say anything about whether you are a believer of some description. You cannot not believe: you have a set of views, and it is very important for us to understand that.

I come to this with my own background in a particular part of the United Kingdom. Sometimes people would like to forget that it is part of the United Kingdom because of some of the symptoms of behaviour there, particularly in relation to matters such as this, but I am afraid that it is. Maybe it reminds the rest of the United Kingdom of its history and background. Many of the things that are still troublesome in Northern Ireland were troublesome in the rest of the United Kingdom not so very long ago. Noble Lords would not expect me, from these Benches, to speak out particularly strongly in favour of the presence of an established church, although I have to say that in these last decades the Church of England has had a markedly positive effect, both in this Chamber and elsewhere. I particularly want to acknowledge the contribution of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester over many years. When I was Convenor of these Benches, I very much appreciated his work as Convenor of those Benches. I also want to mention the work of the most reverend Primate, who has taken a very strong line on these issues.

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I got to know the noble Lord, Lord Alton, in his role as Liberal spokesman on Northern Ireland. Back then, we had to face up to the fact that people had sets of beliefs which led to very intolerant behaviour and attitudes to each other. If I had gone to university in this part of the United Kingdom in the latter part of the 19th century, before the Liberal changes to universities legislation, I, as a dissenter, would not have been able to take a degree at Oxford or Cambridge.

Therefore, on the question of how we deal with these matters, we have progressed in certain ways but I fear that we have not progressed as much as we would like to believe we have, because there is a certain liberal intolerance towards people with various kinds of religious belief. That is clear—it has been mentioned—and it is absolutely true. I have seen it among a number of colleagues in various places. The view is, “It really would be much better if people just piped down about those kinds of things because they can be put in a private box”. However, they cannot. It may be inconvenient and difficult but the fact is that these are matters that drive people and are of profound importance to them. We have to struggle with these questions. As we try to struggle with them, what kinds of things can we take into account?

We must understand that, when it comes to tolerance in these matters, we face a very difficult challenge. The challenge is to differentiate between matters that we usually consider all together. The question of fundamentalism transcends all kinds of beliefs, religious and otherwise. I would find it much easier to reach agreement with people of different religious views, and people whose views are not religious, who had a liberal perspective on these matters. I would find myself much more different from Christians, or others of any description, who took a fundamentalist approach to these things—including those who are fundamentalist atheists. This notion of the way in which we hold our beliefs is extremely important. The noble Lord, Lord Sacks, picked up an extremely important part of this, which is that secular authoritarianism has led, as a reaction, to religious fundamentalism. We must acknowledge and understand that, and that has not been easy to deal with. An example is Turkey, where it was easy to support a secular regime and then be astonished at the reaction.

Secondly, we must differentiate between fundamentalism and radicalisation and the use of violence and terror. These are not the same thing. The vast majority of fundamentalists may well be intolerant of the religious beliefs of others—fundamentalism and conservatism are very different things—but that does not necessarily mean that they support violence. Indeed, many of those who support violence, including people in Daesh, do not come to it from a religious perspective at all. When His Holiness the Pope came to Ireland and said on bended knee to Catholic nationalist republicans, “Stop the violence”, they took no notice of him. They did not pay attention because the actual driver was something quite different. In a long conversation with a leading figure in al-Qaeda many years ago, I was talking about religious tolerance and he said, “Wait a minute. My issue is not about religion. It is about political identity and political problems”.

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So, as we try to explore these questions, we must hold back our emotions—because they are very strong—and think more deeply about these issues across the religious differences and across the differences between those who have religious faith and those whose set of beliefs is different. Therefore, to me, the most important question to the Minister is this: can the Foreign Office, DCLG and other departments of government give more attention and resource to thinking and research on these matters? That would deepen our understanding, so that when we respond—in all the difficult circumstances inside and outside our country—we may to do so with a depth of understanding that helps us to add to and make a difference to wider thinking about these matters, rather than simply reacting from our very understandable feelings.

6.18 pm

Lord Bach (Lab): My Lords, the ability of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, to secure debates in this House has long been one of the wonders of the world. It may well have something to do with the important and fascinating subjects he selects for his debates. The debate on Article 18 has almost become an annual event, and so it should be. However, I wonder whether, without the noble Lord’s energy and commitment, it would have been. Congratulations are due to him, and to all the other very distinguished Peers who have spoken so well and movingly.

In some ways I find myself in a position where I do not have much that is original to add. We have heard marvellous speeches that have made the important points that must be made, and made again, until the world takes notice. In this debate we have heard horrific examples of appalling intolerance and discrimination from all over our planet and affecting all religions. On behalf of the Opposition I will try to say something useful and pose some questions for the Minister, who is, if I may say so, exactly the right Minister to be answering this debate.

Before I do, I hope that the House will indulge me for a moment or two—perhaps rather longer than would normally be the case—if I say something about the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester, or Bishop Tim as he is universally known in Leicester and Leicestershire. I am proud to call myself a friend as well as a colleague. I live in the diocese he has led for the last 16 years, and I only wish that more noble Lords present today had been present at the service held last Saturday at Leicester Cathedral to celebrate his tenure. There was hardly a dry eye in the house. The respect and affection in which he is held by all—rich and poor, black and white, old and young—was shown not just by the packed cathedral, with people following the service from outside, but by the extraordinary feeling that a unique and very special person who had influenced Leicester so much, with all its diversity, was actually leaving.

The right reverend Prelate will be hugely missed in the city and in the county, just as he will be in this House. Above all, he seems to me as good an example as I have ever known of the priest in the public space—a phrase I do not like. In other words, he speaks to his community about issues that actually affect their daily lives. His passion for social justice, I

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know, has been heightened by his experience in Leicester. Frankly, I do not think that this House or our country can afford to lose him. On a slightly lighter note, how can one not admire a bishop who chooses for his desert island discs a song by the boy band, One Direction, and whose chosen luxury item was an infinite supply of golf balls?

Let us get back to this debate, not least the contribution of the right reverend Prelate himself. It has centred on the increasing violations of Article 18, as it affects Christianity and, equally importantly, all other religions and beliefs. The Human Rights and Democracy Report 2014,produced by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, is a deeply depressing document but it forces us to face up to the reality that in our world today there are shocking examples, both collective and individual, of how religion is used—or perhaps, more properly, abused—to discriminate and act against others.

One of the worst consequences of any general election is that Parliament loses outstanding men and women who either retire or are unsuccessful in the election itself. These people, who come from all parties, of course, are often experts in particular policy areas, and their knowledge and experience is very much missed. One such, I would argue, is the former shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander who enjoyed a deserved reputation as an expert in the field that we are debating today. Some noble Lords will remember his article in the Telegraph at Christmas 2014, when he said:

“Faith leaders beyond the Christian community have been forceful in their campaigns on anti-Christian persecution, including former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks who described it as ‘one of the crimes against humanity of our time’ and stated he was ‘appalled at the lack of protest it has evoked’. Just like anti-Semitism or Islamaphobia, anti-Christian persecution must be named for the evil that it is, and challenged systematically by people of faith and of no faith. Government should be doing much more to try and harness the concern, expertise and understanding of faith leaders from across the UK and beyond”.

He went on to say:

“A multi-faith advisory council on religious freedom should be established within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office”

In the same article, Mr Alexander suggested that the role of the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, as Minister of Faith in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which was then removed to the Department for Communities and Local Government, should be returned to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He hoped that Her Majesty’s Government would follow the lead of the United States and Canada in appointing an international ambassador for tackling religious persecution—in other words, a global envoy for religious freedom reporting directly to the Foreign Secretary of the day. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, mentioned, that was in my party’s manifesto in the election in May. Have the Government any plans to appoint such an ambassador or envoy and, if not, what reason can there be for not doing so? I also want to ask about the Minister of Faith role and the setting up of a multi-faith advisory committee.

No one doubts Her Majesty’s Government’s good faith in this debate, least of all that of the Minister, who represents her department so well, both in this

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House and outside it. No one is suggesting that there are any easy answers to the problem of the increased violation of Article 18. However, I suggest to the House that the steps Mr Alexander put forward might well be useful in showing the world that Britain is even more determined to fight religious intolerance wherever and whenever we see it. For far too long Article 18 has been justifiably called an orphaned right. It is well past time that this description no longer applied and that Article 18, at long last, becomes more of a reality.

6.26 pm

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): My Lords, freedom of religion or belief and the right to hold no belief is a key human right. It is under attack in almost every corner of the globe. We see Muslims sentenced to death for blasphemy; Christians burned in brick ovens or forced to give birth in chains; Yazidis trapped on mountains, their women abused as sex slaves; innocents attacked in their churches, synagogues and mosques, the very places they should feel most safe; and sledgehammers taken to religious and cultural artefacts in an attempt to obliterate centuries of faith and civilisation. The ongoing assault on freedom of religion or belief is absolutely unacceptable, and noble Lords have made that clear in their views today.

I would like to add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for securing this very important debate, and to everyone who has made such valuable contributions today. If I may, I particularly add my support to the noble Lord, Lord Bach, in his tribute to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester—it was well said by the noble Lord.

The debate has made very clear the scope and scale of the challenge. I would like to touch on some of the major challenges to freedom of religion or belief, explain why this Government have indeed made it a priority and inform the House of the work that we are doing to protect and promote freedom of religion or belief, and the right to hold no belief, around the world.

The noble Lord, Lord Harrison, referred to the blasphemy laws in Malta. We oppose blasphemy laws wherever they still exist.

This Government understand the scope and scale of the challenge—we, too, are horrified. The brutal terrorist group known as ISIL, or Daesh, is making the headlines every day with images of Christians executed on beaches or civilians being thrown off buildings for refusing to abandon their beliefs. I know that it is not just a matter of the cases that make the headlines. It is the steady and systematic bias against people on the basis of their faith, denying them a fair trial, proper investigation of complaints to the police and even adequate education for their children, all of which is potentially more far-reaching. Where there is a culture of impunity, which we condemn, people are taught to believe that followers of other religions are fair game, and then mob violence can so easily follow—and does. Where children are taught to hate those with different beliefs, this provides fertile soil for extremism to take root.

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Freedom of religion or belief is not just an optional extra, or nice to have; it is the key human right. It allows each citizen to follow their conscience in the way they see fit. As this Government made clear in our manifesto:

“We will stand up for the freedom of people of all religions—and non-religious people—to practise their beliefs in peace and safety”.

We are committed to defending the full right exactly as set out in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—that is,

“the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”.

Quite apart from any legal or moral obligation, we promote religious freedom as essential to our social, cultural and economic development. That is why this Government have made freedom of religion and belief a priority, not just in the FCO but across government. It is enshrined in international law, it makes social sense and it is morally right.

So what are we doing? We have been working on this issue through a comprehensive multilateral, bilateral and projects-based approach. The UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 of March 2011 calls on all UN member states to take action against intolerance on the basis of religion or belief, and to promote the free and equal participation in society of all—both the religious and the non-religious. It has given us that important starting point. I vividly remember a meeting in Morocco earlier this year, in the immediate aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, during which ambassadors from all points of the religious compass spoke to me of this resolution as something to hold onto in a time of crisis. We will continue to use our influence and diplomatic networks as effectively as possible. We are playing an active part in a new international contact group on FoRB, convened by Canada. Last month, I met the US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, David Saperstein, and we discussed areas where the international community might work more closely together. We will continue to encourage the EU to ensure that its guidelines on FoRB are put into practice in individual countries.

The noble Lord, Lord Bach, asked whether we would reconsider having a global ambassador. We have our global ambassadors. They have their reach in every country on the globe and know how important it is that they promote freedom of religion and belief. It is not contradictory to say that we can trade with certain countries, provided that they do not contravene international humanitarian law. Our trade with them does not undermine our right to stand up for not only freedom of religion and belief but other human rights; we make that clear.

We are just as active on bilateral channels. Every Minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office acts as an ambassador for this fundamental right. Each one of us, as a Minister, raises and promotes these issues in the countries or organisations for which we have responsibility. My noble friend Lady Berridge and others referred to Burma. We have raised our concern about the situation of the Rohingya community in all our recent ministerial contacts with the Burmese Government. Most recently, my honourable friend Mr Swire called the Burmese ambassador to the FCO on 18 May to express our concern about the Rohingya

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situation and the related migrant crisis in the Bay of Bengal. We urged Burma to act swiftly to deal with the humanitarian implications, but also to address the underlying causes.

We also seek to protect religious freedom through our project work. We support projects to tackle discriminatory legislation and attitudes, and we are working with human rights and faith-based organisations across the world to promote dialogue, build capacity, foster links and strengthen understanding. I had hoped to give a few examples but I will have to leave that for another occasion or I will not be able to allow the noble Lord, Lord Alton, a moment or two to respond; I know that we are pressing up against the deadline.

We are already addressing the question of how to make sure that freedom of religion and belief is addressed throughout the world. We use our full range of diplomatic response. However, I recognise—and I agree with noble Lords—that there remains so much more to do. I want to see us step up our engagement with individual Governments. Countries around the world need to know that Britain will stand up for this fundamental right. We must not be shy about coming forward.

In reply to the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and others, I can say that we are deeply concerned at the imposition of the death penalty for blasphemy in the case of Asia Bibi and we hope that the verdict will be overturned on appeal.

The Prime Minister has raised our concern about the blasphemy law with Nawaz Sharif, and the UK supports the EU-led action to continue to raise this case with the Pakistan authorities.

Turning to the case of the Sudanese pastors, which was raised by the noble Lord, our ambassador has raised it at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Khartoum and with representatives of the ruling National Congress Party. As recently as 9 July, the UK special representative to Sudan and South Sudan raised our concerns about these specific cases with the Sudanese ambassador. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, also referred to charges against Christian students. We will continue to call on the Government of Sudan to bring all their legislation in line with their constitutional and international human rights commitments. Noble Lords can be assured that these matters are part of the everyday work of our ambassadors around the world where FoRB is under threat.

I also want us as a Government to focus even more strongly on making freedom of religion or belief part of the answer to extremism. Where freedom of religion is protected, extremist ideologies are much less likely to take root. I want us to continue our focus on supporting the right of persecuted Christians, as well as those of all religions and none, to be able to stay in the Middle East, the region of their birth. We are already playing a leading role on this issue. At a UN Security Council debate on religious minorities in March, Tobias Ellwood, Minister for the Middle East, called for bold leadership from Governments and communities in the region to work for tolerance and reconciliation.

Over the coming months, we will continue to deepen our already strong engagement with academics, think tanks, NGOs, faith representatives and parliamentarians

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on how we may best develop our policies to support religious minorities in the Middle East. I was delighted to meet members of the APPG on International Religious Freedom or Belief recently, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with them as we further develop our policies.

We work with regional allies, helping them to ensure that the right legal frameworks are in place and supporting training initiatives to ensure that state and religious bodies understand the rights held by people from minorities. We are also considering further programmes to address the climate of impunity and legal discrimination, through training for security and police forces and sharing of UK best practice on reporting and prosecution of crimes. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, about how important it is that we are able to provide support and training to the Iraqi Government to ensure people are protected, particularly in the north, to which he referred.

In parallel, I strongly believe that equipping our diplomats with a greater understanding of the key role faith plays in global politics helps us collectively to make better policy judgments and to understand when and where we can work with the grain of religious beliefs to further our human rights and other objectives. Therefore, we are increasing religious literacy training among FCO staff and across the whole of Whitehall. We are running regular training courses on religion and foreign policy, with a lively series of lunchtime seminars, and our new diplomatic academy contains an online foundation level module on religious literacy. FoRB is embedded in the work of all parts of the FCO both at home and abroad.

Just last month, I was pleased to host the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar in conversation about religion and foreign policy. It was a marvellous experience to see the place crowded with more than 200 diplomats and people from across all departments in Whitehall, with people around the world listening to that very important conversation. The noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, urged the Government that there should be cross-departmental thoughtfulness about investment in these matters. I agree with him, and we are addressing that.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, raised particular questions about China. I will be brief and say that we are saddened by reports that Tenzin Delek Rinpoche has died in detention in China. We have raised his case with the Chinese authorities on a number of occasions, including during the UK-China human rights dialogue in April this year. We support and encourage the EU statement of 15 July which said that the EU expected the Chinese authorities to investigate and make public the circumstances surrounding Tenzin’s death.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, also asked about the Chinese Christian lawyers who were arrested this week as part of a major crackdown. He asked what will happen with the Chinese state visit later this year and whether Article 18 will be on the agenda for discussions with China’s President when he visits the UK. The full programme for the visit is not yet fully fleshed out—and one would not expect it to be at this stage. However, we pay very close attention to the human rights situation in China. We are deeply concerned by reports of the

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number of human rights lawyers and activists who have been detained since 9 July and we fully support the EU statement of 15 July, which states that the detentions raise serious questions about China’s commitment to strengthening the rule of law, and called for the release of those detained for seeking to protect rights provided by the Chinese constitution.

We have regular discussions with the Chinese authorities, including on human rights and rule-of-law issues. They will hear what I have said in public today—my colleagues have also said it in private—and I am sure they will be aware that these matters will be raised, not only by politicians but by the public, when the Chinese state visit takes place. I am sure that discussions about that visit will be wide ranging and naturally the Chinese Government will have an input. But as a country we believe firmly in making clear our commitment to human rights and we have an expectation that the Chinese Government will listen to that. They will take their own view naturally, as they always do.

The noble Lord, Lord Singh, raised the question of the mistreatment of Sikhs in India. Our High Commission in India regularly discusses minority issues, including Sikh prisoners, with the Indian Government and state authorities. We will continue to monitor the situation and maintain our dialogue with Indian officials.

Around the House there has been, over many years, a determination that we should keep a regular dialogue on matters of human rights. The discussion on freedom of religion or belief has perhaps received a better and more considered approach in this Chamber than almost any other, around not only Westminster but the devolved communities. It is important that we are able to maintain that discussion.

Perhaps there was just one Peer who raised the question of why we still have, in this House, the presence of those who have a right, because of their place in the Church of England, to be here. I strongly support their position because I find that their presence is always challenging—refreshing, but most decidedly challenging. But it is important that we welcome on the Cross Benches representatives of other faiths. I think that that enriches the debate here.

This morning, we were able to read an article by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the Times. He made me reflect on the fact that Governments need to find ways to ensure that the transformational power of religious belief is able to play out in our societies. We must have countries where everyone is free to follow their own belief, to change their religion, or to choose to follow no religion at all. In those societies we find that life is fairer and more prosperous. His Grace made the point:

“Curtailing religious freedom in the name of other freedoms runs the risk of discarding one of the most important and creative forces in human beings”.

What he says, I could never improve upon.

6.44 pm

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, characteristically, the Minister has given the House a considered, detailed, thoughtful and extremely helpful reply to this extremely well-informed debate—characteristic itself of the place that the House of Lords is. That point was made earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice. We have

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heard from people of all faiths and denominations and none, and all the speeches shed light on the nature of Article 18. The Minister just said that it is part of the answer to extremism and I entirely agree. I particularly welcome what she said about the importance of religious literacy and what she is doing to encourage people to understand better the forces that are driving on these malign forces in so many parts of the world today.

The noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, with whom I work on the All-Party Group on International Religious Freedom or Belief, where she does such a wonderful job, talked about my “uncanny knack” of coming up in the ballot—a point also referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Bach. Perhaps I should try my hand at the National Lottery. More seriously, it makes the point that the House should have an annual debate on human rights in Government time and I hope that the Minister will think about providing  that so that it will not be left to the vagaries of the ballot, helpful though it is that we have been able to have this debate today.

Many noble Lords have given me undeserved generosity in the remarks they have made, none more so than the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. As we walk in here each day, most of us probably pass the western wall of Westminster Abbey, where, among other things, we can see the statute of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was murdered in El Salvador. Only a week ago the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, was honoured in Mr Speaker’s House for all the work he did on behalf of Oscar Romero. Combined with that, the work he has done for human rights over the past 50 or 60 years really is unparalleled. At the age of 17, when I was interviewed by a local newspaper, I was asked if I wanted to go into politics. I said, “Not really, but if ever I did I hope I would be like Eric Lubbock”—as he then was. If people are looking for a role model, they could do no better than look at the noble Lord, Lord Avebury.

Fifty years later there are other role models for the rising generation . I was very struck by the remarks of Malala Yousafzai, whom the Taliban tried to murder in Pakistan because she rightly insisted on a girl’s right to an education :

One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world”

Malala’s challenge and the fate of the abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria or those denied an education in Pakistan go to the heart of Article 18. It is at the heart of what we have been debating today and it is a theme to which we must persistently return.

It was the most reverend Primate who in his concluding remarks invoked Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Christian theologian who was executed by the Nazis. Bonhoeffer said:

We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds … we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretence … intolerable conflicts have worn us down and even made us cynical … What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians”.

We should not become worn down either, whatever price has to be paid. We have enormous privileges, opportunities, liberties and freedoms in this place and we must use them to speak out on behalf of those to whom so much reference has been made today. The theme of conscience has come up again and again, whether in the domestic or international context. That, too, goes to the heart of Article 18. It is about the balance of rights that were referred to in the debate.

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The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester, in his valedictory address, enjoined and encouraged us to persist in what he called our defence of freedom of religion and belief. It is a message that we should all take to heart. We should never cease to use our privileges to speak up in the way that he has done for so long and so persistently. One noble Lord said that he could not understand the presence of the Bishops as an established part of your Lordships’ House. Others have been declaring interests; my Anglican wife is the daughter of a priest of 60 years’ standing in the Anglican Church, as his father was for 50 years. There are eight ordained Anglican clergy on my wife’s side of the family. I sometimes feel that it is a little like a family business. It seems to me—I know that my wife will want me to say this—that we are really blessed by the presence of the Bishops in this House, no one more so than the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester. At the conclusion of this debate, we all wish him the very best in his retirement.

Motion agreed.

Also see Justin Welby in The Times:

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/article4499162.ece

 

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On Thursday July 16th  2015 David Alton will lead a House of Lords debate on Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights – the right to believe, not to believe, or to change your belief.

He says: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was born out of the infamies of the twentieth century – from the Armenian genocide to the depredations of Stalin, Hitler and the Holocaust.

In response to the persecution of millions of people, targeted because of their religion or beliefs, Article 18 insisted on the freedom of all men and women to cherish and uphold their faith or beliefs – or to change them.

Seventy years later, from North Korea to Syria – and all over the world – Article 18 is honoured daily in its breach – evident in contemporary concentration camps, abductions, rape, imprisonment, displacement, persecution, public flogging, mass murder, and beheadings.

The House of Lords debate will be an opportunity to build on the All-Party Report “Article 18 – an orphaned right”; to highlight countries where Article 18 is under attack today; to discuss the clear links between freedom of religion and belief, a nation’s prosperity, stability, and the other rights enjoyed or denied its citizens; and to insist on greater political and diplomatic priority being given to upholding Article 18.

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Among those who will speak are the Crossbench Peer, the former Chief Rabbi, Lord (Jonathan) Sacks, whose most recent book focuses on religious liberty and Baroness (Elizabeth) Berridge, the Conservative Peer who chairs the All Party Group on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

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 “Religious persecution of Christians around the globe”: the future prognosis: David Alton (Lord Alton of Liverpool).

 https://davidalton.net/2015/06/12/raif-badawi-facing-yet-more-public-beating-and-the-right-to-believe-or-not-to-believe-further-questsions-in-parliament/

http://www.express.co.uk/news/sunday/588894/Christians-fleeing-Islamic-State-must-be-given-priority-for-asylum-in-Europe

http://www.geopolitical-info.com/en/article/1435726790089290800 – Geopolitical Report on Religious Persecution

Franz Werfel’s disturbing and prophetic novel, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh (Die vierzig Tage des Musa Dagh), written in 1933 , tells the story of genocide against Armenian Christians and foreshadows the rise of Hitler – whose Nazi thugs were burning Werfel’s books, in his native Austria and in Germany.

Franz Werfel

Franz werfel

Franz werfel

In this centenary of those events it is worth reminding ourselves of how the Ottomans attempted to eradicate the Armenian Christians and perpetrated further acts of genocide against their other Christian minorities, including Greeks and Assyrians – incubating that most dangerous pestilence: the hatred of whole peoples.

Hitler and Armenian genocide

Not only should we recall those terrible events in order to give the lie to Hitler’s question “who now remembers the Armenians?” – insisting that we will never forget – but also because that deadly phenomenon of deportations, concentration camps, rape and killings did not end in 1915 with the Ottomans. Hitler thought he could get away with it because people hadn’t really protested against the genocide, and there wouldn’t be any consequences for him. He assumed (correctly) that people would murmur but not take any real action and therefore he could continue his reign of terror against the Jews and others.

There is an old Armenian saying, echoed in Musa Dagh, that “to be an Armenian is an impossibility”. It is a saying which, in the 1930s, would be understood by Jews, and which today is the experience of persecuted Christians – from North Korea to Pakistan, from China to Sudan: the world over. Prince Charles has described threats to Christians in the Middle East as “an indescribable tragedy”.

christians in the middle east 1

In the last census of the Ottoman era, conducted in 1914, Christians made up a quarter of the Middle East’s population. Now they are less than 5%. Christians in the Middle East represent less than 1% of the world’s Christians. If the current demographic trends continue, the Middle East’s population of 12 million Christians will be halved by 2020.  As things stand, the current prognosis for Middle Eastern Christians could be fatal.  

Systematic persecution is not a new phenomenon – consider the fate of St.Stephen or the persecutions of Nero or Diocletian – or even the Armenians – whose ancient kingdom became, in the fourth century, the first nation to officially embrace Christianity and who, according to Eusebius and Tertullian, were subjected to persecution by the Romans. The Empire had outlawed the new growing Christian faith and condemned all Christians to death.

Those events were recalled, this month, in the Glyndebourne premiere of Gaaetano Donizetti’s opera, Polyeucte, based on Pierre Corneille’s play about the martyrdom of Saint Polyeuctus and set in the third century in Melitiene, the capital of ancient Armenia. 

Sixteen hundred year later the campaigns against the Armenian Christians and, in German South West Africa (Namibia) of racial extermination of the Herero and Nama people, would become the victims the first genocides of the twentieth century.

Franz Werfel 2

Werfel’s brilliant Musa Dagh homes in on a small community of 5,000 Armenians living in Hatay Province, with links to communities in, Zeitun, Alexandretta, Aleppo, and Mosul – where perpetrators of genocidal, systematic, crimes against humanity once again persecute with impunity.

Although, according to Gyula Orban, an official of Aid to the Church In Need, the Catholic relief agency founded by Norbertine priest Fr Werenfried Von Straaten, approximately 10 percent of the 2 billion Christians in the world suffer persecution, where other than Syria and Iraq might a review of the plight of the world’s persecuted Christians begin?

This month, Aleppo’s Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart described how his archbishopric in Aleppo – already hit more than 20 times by mortar shells – had once again come under fire and how Christians had lost lives, homes and livelihoods – and are being traumatised by the conflict.

He says: “ISIS, which has already killed thousands in the region, is terrifying the faithful in Aleppo. After attacks on Maloula, Mosul, Idleb and Palmyra, what is the West waiting for before it intervenes? What are the great nations waiting for before they put a halt to these monstrosities. Let me cry with my people, violated and murdered. Allow me to stand by numerous families in Aleppo who are in mourning. Because of this ugly and barbarous war, they have lost so many loved ones, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters and cherished children.”

The region’s Chaldean Bishop, Antoine Audo, says that Aleppo’s 250,000 Christians have dwindled to below 100,000. Thousands have been killed, churches and ancient monasteries  blown up, whole communities forced to flee, bishops and priests  – such as Father Jacob Murad, Bishops Hanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazici – abducted, some executed. Torture, beheadings and even ‘crucifixion’ – the hanging of corpses of those they have executed on crosses – has become commonplace. Syrian Christians living in IS controlled areas are forced to convert or pay the punitive jizya tax.

christians in the middle east2

In the seventh century Christians, in what is now Syria, had to pay half an ounce of gold to pay for the privilege of living under the protection of the Caliphate. If they didn’t pay they had two options: they could convert of “face the sword”. In February 2014, 20 or so Christian families still living in the northern Syrian town of Raqqa were given the same choice. The cost of protection is now the equivalent of $650 in Syrian pounds, a large amount for people struggling to make ends meet in a war zone.

Syria and Iraq, those hatcheries of Jihadism, have seen vast tracts of their territories become lawless and ungovernable with fault lines opening between Islamic extremists and moderates, between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and between Sunnis and Shias – with funds and arms flowing in from the Gulf and Tehran.

Caught in the cross fire have been the law abiding minority communities – mainly Christians – who have lived in places like Aleppo and the Nineveh Plains for 2,000 years and continue to worship and speak in the Aramaic language of Jesus.

christians in the middle east Assyrians

In recent weeks joint Assyrian and Kurdish forces recaptured a number of Christian villages in north eastern Syria from ISIS – although many of the original occupants remain unaccounted for and many of their homes have been left booby-trapped.

And will the international community do any more to protect them in the future than it has in the past?  The failure to respond to Chaldean and Assyrian requests for a protected area for Christians near Nineveh is a scandal.   

No wonder so many contemplate dangerous attempts to flee – including treacherous journeys across the Mediterranean. 

refugees2

The brutality of ISIS – or Daesh -, devoid of mercy, manifests itself in deadly beheadings accompanied by the year zero blitzkrieg of antiquities and ancient artefacts, in the depraved destruction of Christian churches, and the defilement of Shia mosques. The fall of Palmyra follows the bulldozing of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, the blowing up of Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Buddhas and the Sufi monuments in Mali.

The Maronite Bishop Elias Sleman of Laodicea says Christians have been specifically targeted: "Christians are increasingly targeted in horrible and unspeakable massacres”.

The Maronite Bishop Elias Sleman of Laodicea says Christians have been specifically targeted: “Christians are increasingly targeted in horrible and unspeakable massacres”.

The Irish philosopher and British politician, Edmund Burke said that “our past is the capital of life” and what we are witnessing at the hands of ISIS is an attempt to eradicate the collective memory of humanity, destroying all that is “different” – while cynically smuggling and selling on the antiquities which they do not destroy to fund their campaign of mass murder – with Turkey turning a blind eye.

ISIS presents this as a clash of civilisations but the manner in which they debase all that is civilised simply pits civilisation against barbarism. ISIS is not just at war with civilisation, it is also at war with other Muslims and those of other faith traditions.

ISIS describes itself as the Islamic State – but this is a misnomer: it is certainly not a State and many Muslim scholars challenge the Islamic basis on which it forces Christians to convert or die invoking the Qur’ānic injunction that there should be no compulsion in religion (lā ikrāha fī ‘l-dīn :Q.2:256).

It is said that al-Qaeda has cut its links to one of its most deadly affiliates, ISIS—the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham

It is said that al-Qaeda has cut its links to one of its most deadly affiliates, ISIS—the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham

The same visceral hatred of Christians has been nurtured by other radical groups – from the Taliban to al-Shabaab and Boko Haram.

Last month, jihadist ideology led to the deaths of 147 students and staff in Kenya’s Garissa University College, with Christian students specifically singled out by al-Shabaab-affiliated Islamist militants.

Pakistan Christians

Earlier this year, in Pakistan – following the 2013 killing of 85 Anglicans who were praying in their church at Peshawar –the same hatred  led to the burning alive in a kiln of a Christian couple by a mob of 1,300 people while their young children were forced to watch. This week, in the British Parliament, MPs raised the tragic case of Nauman Masih, a 15 year old Christian boy, who on 9 April 2015, in Lahore, was beaten, tortured and burnt alive after he was identified as a Christian.

MPs called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

Given the failure to bring to hold to account those who, in 2011, murdered the country’s only Christian Cabinet Minister, Clement Shahbaz Bhatti, don’t hold your breath.

shahbaz bhatti posters

At the time of Pakistan’s foundation its first President, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, said: “Minorities, to whichever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their religion, faith or belief will be secure. There will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship. They will have their protection with regard to their religion, faith, their life and their culture. They will be, in all respects, the citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caste and creed.”

In 2015, in a population of over 172 million people, only about 1.5% (3 million) is Christians – half Catholic, half Protestant, – minorities are neither safeguarded or protected. 

Boko Haram protest

Think, too, of Nigeria and the depredations of Boko Haram – graphically illustrated by the abduction of young girls and the murder, in cold blood, of twenty nine students of the Federal Government College in Buni Yadi, Yobe State, while they slept in their student hostels.

Churches have been bombed,  pastors executed, Christians targeted and, despite the Government’s insistence that it is tackling Boko Haram, Reuters reports recent attacks, in the past few days, which have led to more than 80 people being killed.  Boko Haram openly say their interim goal is “to eradicate Christians from certain parts of the country.”

Boko Haram say they want to destroy all westerrn ideas, including democracy, and replace Ngieria's federal constitution with Sharia law.

Boko Haram say they want to destroy all westerrn ideas, including democracy, and replace Ngieria’s federal constitution with Sharia law.

The north-south conflict in Nigeria is reminiscent of Sudan – when, during the civil war, 2 million, mainly Christian people, were killed. Khartoum continues to target whole communities – having dropped more than 2500 bombs on its civilian, predominantly Christian, populations of Blue Nile and South Kordofan. In addition it has committed crimes against humanity in Darfur, which I have visited, and where they are being ethnically cleansed by co-religionists.

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This unremitting violence has led to massive displacements and generated vast numbers of refugees. Eritrea, Sudan’s near neighbour, is the North Korea of Africa – and last month’s UN Commission report suggests crimes against humanity may have been committed there. According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Eritrea, is responsible for around 18% of the 200,000 people who reached Europe in 2014.  Having reached Libya some Eritreans Christians have then been cruelly beheaded by ISIS – in yet another display of their barbarism.

christians in the middle east2 eritreans christians in the middle east  eritreans

Protestors recently gathered in London, outside the Eritrean Embassy, to mark the thirteenth anniversary of the imposition of severe restrictions on churches in Eritrea, the deposing and house arrest of the Eritrean patriarch, Abune Antonnios and imprisonment of other Christians.

Eritrea is one of the world’s most repressive regimes and the largest refugee-producing countries. Freedom of religion and belief – guaranteed by Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights – means nothing in Eritrea.

There is a direct correlation between the denial of Article 18 Freedoms – to believe, not to believe, or to change your belief – and the denial of other freedoms, the generation of violence, displacements, and the desperation which leads to the exodus of refugees.

article 18 an orphaned rightArticle 18

By contrast, in those countries where Article 18 is honoured and upheld there is a direct correlation with internal harmony, development, prosperity and progress (something which China should study more closely).

Freedom of belief is at the heart of the struggle for the future of whole societies and countries.
Take Egypt – which was recently horrified by the beheading of 21 Egyptian Copts who were working in Libya.

In 2013 I suggested that we should compare the charred husk of the Fasanenstrasse Synagogue in Berlin, in 1938, with pictures of the blackened walls of Degla’s ruined Church of the Virgin Mary, and why August 2013 represent Egypt’s Kritallnacht.  

Fasanenstrasse Synagogue, Berlin, after Kristallnacht in 1938

It was one of many churches which was attacked – along with Christian homes and businesses. Under  President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi the situation has improved but Dr.Mohamed Abul-Ghar, head of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, warned that the forced displacement of Coptic families by customary meetings is contrary to the Constitution, the principles of citizenship, humanity and justice – remarks which came against a backdrop of the displacement of a number of Coptic families in Beni Suef because a member of these families was accused of allegedly publishing cartoons of the Prophet of Islam on his Facebook account. The man is illiterate.

Abul-Ghar wrote in Al-Masry Al-Youm “Have you seen or heard about an Egyptian Muslim forced to leave his home by a customary meeting whatever his mistake is? So there is clear injustice and if there is a suspicion against a Copt, why is not he treated like a Muslim and referred to the public prosecutor?” 

The Egyptian writer and novelist Fatima Naaot in a message to the President, says that the displacement of Christian families from their villages and the burning of their homes in the presence of security forces is a scandal that undermines the sovereignty of the Egyptian state and indicates the absence of the rule of law and the fall of the prestige of the Government and the President. 

Last month the Egyptian TV presenter, Islam al-Beheiry, was sentenced to five years in prison with labour for “contempt of religion.”
 
  At the beginning of this year President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi gave a speech at Cairo’s Al-Azhar in which he called for a “religious revolution” to re-examine those aspects of Islamic thinking that “make an enemy of the whole world.” Yet, despite his timely and important call for religious renewal, ‘contempt of religion’ and blasphemy charges are occurring more frequently. These can be an impediment to healthy and constructive religious debate and can encourage vindictive acts.

Assyrians hold banners as they march in solidarity with the Assyrians abducted by Islamic State fighters in Syria earlier this week, in Beirut

It against this background – from Syria and Iraq, to Sudan, Pakistan, Egypt, Iran, and many other countries in which Christians and others are persecuted for their beliefs – that June 2015 has witnessed the staging of a UN human rights conference on combatting intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief.

I couldn’t work out whether it was a black sense of humour or a rather astute move to have asked Saudi Arabia to host this event in Jeddah.

Given that Saudi is one of the worst violators of religious freedom, and that Saudi Wahhabism has fuelled so many of these conflicts, it did seem comparable to inviting Herod into the kindergarten.  

raif-badawiRaif_Badawi_cropped

Given the West’s oil dependent, arms providing, symbiotic relationship with Saudi it is hard to imagine much being said at that Conference about the Saudi human rights activist, Raif Badawi, languishing in prison for the crime of religious dissent and under threat of further public flogging and potential execution – let alone its outright persecution of Christians. Saudi Arabia ranks sixth on the 2014 World Watch List of most repressive countries for Christians, a list compiled by the charity, Open Doors.

When a country like Saudi Arabia passes legislation defining atheists as terrorists, beheads or tortures its citizens, and refuses to protect the right of minorities to follow their beliefs, or to have no belief, is it any wonder that such actions are mimicked by ISIS? Saudi Arabia beheads people in the public square – 100 executions already this year –  a practice routinely practised by ISIS.

The aim of the Jeddah Conference was to discuss how to effectively implement UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 on combating religious intolerance, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against people due to their religion or beliefs.  

Unlike ISIS, Saudi Arabia really is an Islamic State and it would be the first place to start in heralding an acceptance of pluralism of belief and the upholding of diversity and difference. 

christians in the middle east11

In his opening speech to the Conference, OIC Secretary-General Iyad Ameen Madani said that the international human rights community attached great importance to combating religious intolerance. Madani correctly observed that religious hatred needs to be addressed at all levels, including the need to ascertain the limits of freedom of expression to determine where it ends and transforms into incitement to hatred.

Beyond conferences and speeches, remains the challenge to world leaders to champion and uphold the rule of law and the protection of minorities. That is the antidote to Jihadist ideology, not assassination squads or endless bombardments.

The casualties of genocide and crimes against humanity in Sudan

The casualties of genocide and crimes against humanity in Sudan

The challenge is to bring to justice war lords and regime leaders responsible for persecution and atrocities; to increase the effectiveness of the International Criminal Court (not providing impunity to indicted leaders such as Sudan’s Omar al Bashir, as South Africa recently did); to systematically collect evidence; to  document these atrocities and to demand that the Security Council instigate prosecutions.

Dag Hammarskjold7

We also need to create more safe havens to protect beleaguered groups of Christians, and others, and every Foreign Minister needs to promote Article 18 obligations. Dag Hammarskjold, one of the great Secretary Generals of the UN, once said that “The UN wasn’t founded to take mankind to paradise but rather to save humanity from hell.”  It’s hard to see that, in vast tracts of the world, the international community is achieving even that limited objective.

The UN, our Western legislators, policy makers and media need to become literate about religion. How right is the BBC’s courageous Chief Correspondent, Lyse Doucet, when she says: “If you don’t understand religion – including the abuse of religion – it’s becoming ever harder to understand our world.”

At the heart of all these challenges is the central question of how we learn to live together, tolerantly respecting and rejoicing in the dignity of difference; emphasising our common humanity; promoting the ability of members of all religious faiths to manifest their religion; and allow all people to contribute openly and on an equal footing to society.

 malala

Malala Yousafzai, whom the Taliban tried to murder in Pakistan because she insisted on a girl’s right to an education, rightly insists that “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world”.  Are we going to stand with Malala against those who try to deny women education, who use education to promote hatred of difference, who teach that non adherents are destined for the fires of hell and murder in God’s name?

Our aid programmes and humanitarian interventions must surely reflect our own values and be used to protect minorities, to provide security, and to open the possibility of decent lives for those currently trying to flee their native home lands. We can apply “soft power” – or smart power – in the way we provide aid but also, where necessary, by shutting it off, or threatening to shut it off – and in the ways we broadcast, educate and share our own values.

Meanwhile, the immediate and over-arching concern must be the plight of Middle Eastern Christians, a shrinking and threatened minority throughout the region, subjected to the most traumatic, degrading and inhuman treatment. It’s as simple as that.

christians in the middle east6

The international community needs to be more consistent in its moral outrage. It denounces some countries for their suppression of minorities while appeasing others who directly enable jihad through financial support or the sale of arms. No wonder Western powers are seen as hypocrites when our business interests determine how offended we are by gross human rights abuses.

These people are being crushed in the mill, dying out, and need help. That is the future unless we act.

christians in the middle east14

This is not about Christians versus Muslims. Religious persecution is taking place all over the world and whoever is responsible should be in our sights. A Pew research Centre Study begun a decade a ago has found that of the 185 nations studied religious repression was recorded in 151 of them.

Coiexist

It is irresponsible and indifferent for the international community to show disproportionate concern for fringe issues and politically correct concerns while ignoring and failing to understand the forces behind this flood of chaos.

Turning an indifferent blind eye merely emboldens the perpetrators to further spread their hatred.

The dramatic rise in the persecution of Christians has been accompanied by a vilification of Islam and, in Europe especially, the reawakening of Anti-Semitism. 

For the future, the three Abrahamic religions need to ask deep questions of themselves about what they can to remedy these distempers – and become transformative agents in conflict management, reconciliation and healing.

Egypt's Copts are under daily attack

Egypt’s Copts are under daily attack

Where secular governments are manifestly failing – and are too often tone deaf when it comes to religion, simply failing to understand the power of the forces which are at work – can the great faiths, with their innate claim to our deepest impulses, motivate their adherents to be peace makers, peace builders, protectors of minorities, and practitioners of pluralism, tolerance, mutual respect, and the upholding of the rule of law?  

Can we devote comparable energy into countering religious extremism as the energy which has been used to spread religious extremism? 

Could we not form a generation of religious leaders and educators to promote faith that is based on altruism, tolerance and love – the common good – not faith that designates all others as enemies of yourself and your God?

It was Churchill who said “what is the use of living if it is not strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?” – and that we should never give up.

 never-give-up-winston-churchill

Our muddled and tortured world needs to make the cause of those who suffer for their religion or belief the great cause of our times.

Christians, Jews and Muslims privileged to live in free societies need to challenge our key cold indifference, speak up and defend humanity.

I began by citing Franz Werfel’s The Forty Days of Musa Dagh.

Armenian genocide 2Armenian GenocideArmenian genocide 5Armenian genocide 6

It  has a complex ending. Part of the novel’s denouement – based on fact – sees the rescue of many of the besieged Armenian Christians by the French navy.  The French respond to distress signals and the sight of the Red Cross emblem.  The question for us is will we, in our day, see the distress signals of today’s besieged Christian communities and respond in like manner or merely feign indifference?

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Mediterranean Refugees – a human catastrophe – Question in Parliament

Politics Live: http://polho.me/1AKRXwv

https://twitter.com/CentralLobby/status/605681702036508672

refugees

Migration: Trafficking

Question

3.18 pm

Asked by

Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they and their international partners have made in deterring the trafficking of migrants and creating safe havens in North Africa and the Middle East.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con):

My Lords, since the extraordinary European Council in April, EU member states have agreed to establish a military CSDP operation to disrupt trafficking and smuggling networks. That is a considerable achievement, but we also need to address the root causes of that migration, so we are taking forward initiatives in source and transit countries. The regional development and protection programme in the Middle East is one model that we may be able to develop further.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB):

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that reply. Does not the news that HMS “Bulwark” rescued 741 migrants on Saturday; that more than 4,200 migrants, including young children, were rescued on Friday; that more dead bodies were added to the 1,800 corpses recovered this year; and that new people-smuggling routes are being opened to Greece, underline the scale of this human catastrophe? Against that backdrop, do the Government support the creation of safe havens? Do they support last week’s calls from the European Union for relocation and resettlement plans, and how do we justify the pitiful 187 places provided in the United Kingdom against Germany’s 30,000 places and Lebanon’s 1.2 million? Are we any nearer to ending the causes of this exodus from hellholes such as Libya and Syria, to which the noble Baroness referred a moment ago?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

My Lords, there were several crucial questions there, and I know that we will have the opportunity to develop them further in short debates. There has to be no doubt that this is a human catastrophe, caused by those who are making billions out of illegal trafficking and smuggling individuals. It is important that the policies that we adopt deal, first, with the humanitarian approach, which is what “HMS Bulwark” is involved in—and, secondly, breaks that link between travelling on the boat to get here and the certainty of getting settled. If we can do that, we can break the smugglers’ grip on these people, for whose lives they care nothing. That is the link that we must break. So it is important to provide some humanitarian way in which to give hope to those who are travelling that they can go back, or have safety where they are in north Africa, but let them understand that there will not be settlement here. As I said on Thursday, if we offer settlement to 1,000 people, what do you say to the 1,001st person? Do you say, “No, our door is closed.”?

Lord Boateng (Lab):

My Lords, these traffickers and their wicked agents operate with almost complete immunity within sub-Saharan Africa. The EU and AU have a strategic partnership. What steps are being taken within the security, intelligence and law enforcement pillar of that partnership to tackle this problem at source and gain the co-operation of African Governments in a law enforcement measure to protect the people of Africa from this wicked trade? Yes, the terrible scenes that we see on the front pages of our newspapers and in our media are a reproach; they are a reproach to Europe but they are a reproach to African Governments, too.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

I agree entirely with the facts and sentiments of the noble Lord. He refers to the Khartoum process, the EU-African Union process, which seeks to provide stability and disrupt these appalling traffickers and smugglers and their networks. We certainly give all our support to that, both in front of and behind the scenes. With regard to the work that we are doing beyond “HMS Bulwark”, joint intelligence activity seeks to find out from those making these hazardous journeys more information that can help us to provide a focused answer to how we disrupt those networks. But disrupting the networks can happen only after we have got agreement with Libya and the United Nations Security Council resolution. It is a priority that we do that.

The Lord Bishop of Norwich:

My Lords, what will become of the refugees and migrants who are trapped in Libya? Since neighbouring countries have closed their borders and current plans are to sink the boats that are smuggling people from Libya, are these refugees and migrants simply consigned to certain abuse and death? Can we do nothing at all to help them?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

My Lords, it is clear that we must focus our work on being able to provide some form of humanitarian effort. As I said in my original Answer, we are seeing whether we can use the example of the systems that we have in place in Syria to be able to provide that kind of haven—not a haven from which people then move across the Mediterranean, on that hazardous journey, with an uncertain future, but one where perhaps they can have some education and training towards employment, so that they can have a future, which is what all of us deserve.

Lord Marlesford (Con):

My Lords—

Lord Avebury (LD):

My Lords—

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con):

Order! I think that we are still getting used to taking turns now that we are in a new Parliament and we are sitting in different places. May I suggest that my noble friend Lord Marlesford has an opportunity to ask a question on this occasion?

Lord Marlesford:

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is more efficient and practical to assess the claims of would-be migrants, whether on the grounds of asylum, refugee status, economic migration or merely, understandably, that of wanting a better life, before they arrive in Europe? Assessing claims and then removing those who have no valid claim is almost impossible once they have arrived in Europe, which therefore means that those who have the greatest claim do not get permission to stay. Would it not therefore be better that those who are rightly rescued from peril on the sea are returned to the mainland from which they came?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

My Lords, it is a matter of fact that asylum claims may only be processed and granted once people have reached the United Kingdom. That is how our legislation lies. There is a danger that if one has processing areas—I hate the word “processing”, but noble Lords know what I mean—for asylum across the north African shore, say, those areas would act as a magnet in persuading people to go there. The most important thing is to disrupt the smuggling and trafficking networks to get at this business model which has no moral authority.

My question on the plight of refugees fleeing the hell holes of North Africa and the Middle East was set against the news that over the previous weekend HMS Bulwark rescued 741 fleeing migrants on one day alone; that a day earlier ships from Italy, Ireland, Germany, the UK and Belgium rescued more than 4,200 people, including very young children; that more dead bodies were added to the 1800 corpses recovered already this year – and that new people smuggling routes are being opened to Greece. All of which underlines the scale of this human catastrophe.

Since January more than 35,000 migrants have reached Europe – and who can forget the harrowing images of those who didn’t make it – like the hundreds who died in April when their fishing boat capsized?

As the European Union wrestles with this crisis I cannot be alone in wanting to hear the British Government say it will do more than simply opt out of the relocation plan and that it may opt out of the resettlement plan too.

I was disappointed by the Government’s insistence that either by creating protected havens in the region, where safe and legal routes to asylum destinations may be determined, or by accepting more escaping families, we will create magnets to encourage more people to flee from war, persecution or grinding poverty.

Ministers say “we must tackle the root causes” – and we agree – but in the meantime people are on the high seas or trying to get out of hell holes like Syria and Libya.   

Are we really comfortable in slamming our doors – not on economic migrants but the casualties of violent conflict?

How do we justify the pitiful 187 places for resettlement provided in the UK against Germany’s 30,000 or Lebanon’s 1.2 million, Turkey’s 1.8 million and Jordan’s 600,000?

We have a clear duty to relieve some of the pressure on these countries and remove a substantial source of what has become a highly lucrative market sustaining sophisticated, organised people smuggling networks.

By far the largest group by nationality attempting the Mediterranean crossing are Syrian nationals.

The EU border agency  has reported that in 2014, Syrians and Eritreans made up 46% of all those making the crossing.

And what of those who have made it to Libya?

As the Bishop of Norwich asked during our House of Lords exchanges, what will become of refugees and migrants trapped in Libya, which is a country in a state of chaos and where refugees and migrants are particularly exposed to appalling abuses, if current plans to sink boats to end people smuggling out of Libya are followed through?

Amnesty International has already reported on the targeting of refugees and migrants in Libya, where abuses have included kidnapping, torture, rape and executions as well as widespread violence directed at foreigners; and the closing of borders. Are we going to simply leave them there to accept this fate?

In April, along with twelve other Peers – drawn from across the political divide – I signed a letter to The Daily Telegraph in which we compared our response to this human catastrophe with our reaction to  the plight of the Vietnamese boat people, when the international community rightly recognised that it had a moral and legal duty to act.

We argued interviewing migrants in North Africa could reduce dangerous sailings; that an internationally policed safe-haven in North Africa, where asylum applications could be assessed and repatriation organised where appropriate, was an urgent priority. It remains so. 

We said that the exodus of desperate men, women and children had been driven by wars and conflicts like those in Syria and Libya and by the destitution, grinding poverty and violence engulfing countries such as Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Nigeria – a point which Lord Boatang emphasised in his intervention on my question. Yes” he said, “the terrible scenes that we see on the front pages of our newspapers and in our media are a reproach; they are a reproach to Europe but they are a reproach to African Governments, too.”

Clearly, long-term steps must be taken to make peace and prosperity in the Middle East and in Africa.

None of this, however, reduces the need for immediate lifesaving – and the urgent need for the international community to thrash out a coherent strategy.

refugees2

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Recent Parliamentary Questions and Written Ministerial Statements (from a House of Lords Library note):
 Middle East and North Africa: Refugees
Asked by: Lord Alton of Liverpool | Party: Crossbench
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many migrants from the Middle East or North Africa are thought to have died in the past 12 months; how many are being held within the European Union; what progress is being made in deterring human traffickers from exploiting and endangering such migrants; and what are their short- and long-term policies regarding such migrants.
Answering member: Baroness Anelay of St Johns | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 3,500 people died attempting to cross the Mediterranean in 2014. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that by the end of April, over 1,700 migrants had died crossing the Mediterranean this year. The numbers of illegal migrants detected entering the EU sea border in 2014 was 220,000, of which about 170,000 crossed the Central Mediterranean.
At the Extraordinary European Council in April, EU Member States agreed to establish a military Common Security and Defence Policy operation to disrupt trafficking and smuggling networks. We are working with EU partners to address long-term flows through initiatives in source and transit countries to address the underlying causes. We are increasing our work in and with transit countries to ensure migrants are protected, smuggling networks are closed down, that border management is improved, and to ensure that there is increased awareness of the risks of attempting a perilous journey to reach Europe.
09 Jun 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Lords | HL47
Date tabled: 27 May 2015 | Date for answer: 10 Jun 2015 | Date answered: 09 Jun 2015
Statistics: yes | Subject: Death; Human trafficking; Refugees; Middle East; EU immigration; North Africa
 Africa: Refugees
Asked by: Lord Boateng | Party: Labour Party
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps the European Union has taken to ensure that its strategic partners in Africa (1) warn their citizens of the dangers of making trans-Saharan and Mediterranean voyages for the purposes of irregular migration, (2) deter those seeking to embark on such a journey, and (3) strengthen law enforcement against human trafficking in such migrants’ countries of origin; and what position they have taken in discussions with other European Union member states regarding such steps.
Answering member: Baroness Anelay of St Johns | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
We believe it is essential to have a comprehensive approach to deal with irregular migration. This should involve work in source and transit countries to ensure migrants are protected, smuggling networks are closed down, that border management is improved, and to ensure that there is increased awareness of the risks of attempting a perilous journey to reach Europe. We are working with EU partners to ensure these elements are included in the EU’s response to tackling the problems in the Mediterranean. For example, we are members of the Core Group of the Khartoum Process, an EU- African Union initiative to tackle trafficking and smuggling of migrants between the Horn of Africa and Europe.
09 Jun 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Lords | HL213
Date tabled: 02 Jun 2015 | Date for answer: 16 Jun 2015 | Date answered: 09 Jun 2015
Subject: Africa; Human trafficking; EU action; Refugees
 Israeli Settlements
Asked by: Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) (Lab) | Party: Labour Party
As more and more people try to make the perilous boat journey across the Mediterranean, the dedicated men and women of HMS Bulwark are having to rescue an ever-increasing number of desperate people in very difficult circumstances. Given that about half a million people are now gathering
in Libya, does the Foreign Secretary think that there is currently sufficient capacity in the EU maritime force to cope with this crisis?
Oral questions – Supplementary
Answering member: Mr Philip Hammond | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
First, let me join the right hon. Gentleman in recognising the heroic work that the crew of HMS Bulwark, in particular, are doing. They have just landed another 1,200 migrants, bringing to well over 2,000 the total number of people plucked from the sea by that one single vessel. I think the best criterion by which to judge the answer to his question is the number of deaths, and, although we cannot be certain, we believe that since the naval force has been deployed in the Mediterranean the number of migrants’ lives being lost at sea has declined to close to zero. I think that means that the scale of the operation is, for the moment, adequate.
09 Jun 2015 | Oral answers to questions | House of Commons | House of Commons chamber | 596 c1039
Date answered: 09 Jun 2015
Subject: Demolition; Housing; West Bank
 Topical Questions
Asked by: Mark Spencer (Sherwood) (Con) | Party: Conservative Party
What military assistance is being provided by the Department in the Mediterranean and north Africa to help with humanitarian disasters?
Oral questions – 1st Supplementary
Answering member: Michael Fallon | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Defence
HMS Bulwark and three Merlin helicopters are conducting search and rescue in the Mediterranean. To date, they have rescued 2,909 migrants from the sea. I hope the whole House will pay tribute to the professionalism and bravery of those involved in this extraordinarily large rescue mission. As well as rescuing those at sea, we now need to address this problem further back by tackling the trafficking gangs who are making money out of this misery and discouraging people from leaving their countries to make this long and very dangerous journey.
08 Jun 2015 | Oral answers to questions | House of Commons | House of Commons chamber | 596 c904
Date answered: 08 Jun 2015
 HMS Bulwark
Asked by: Shannon, Jim | Party: Democratic Unionist Party
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what the cost to his Department is of HMS Bulwark rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean.
Answering member: Penny Mordaunt | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Ministry of Defence
The Ministry of Defence is contributing to an international search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean to rescue migrants, of which HMS Bulwark is providing an essential part. The additional costs of using military assets in support of this international assistance effort are to be borne by the UK Aid budget, as it is eligible as Official Development Assistance, and as such there will be no additional costs attributable to Defence for the use of HMS Bulwark.
04 Jun 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 681
Date tabled: 01 Jun 2015 | Date for answer: 04 Jun 2015 | Date answered: 04 Jun 2015
Subject: Refugees; Mediterranean Sea; HMS Bulwark
 Illegal Migration
Asked by: Mr Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op) | Party: Labour Party · Cooperative Party
May I begin by welcoming the Secretary of State back to her post and welcoming the right hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps) to his new post? We look forward to working constructively with the Secretary of State in this very important year for development.
We welcome the reintroduction of search and rescue in the Mediterranean—it was a shameful decision to withdraw it, and the Prime Minister was right to make a U-turn—but we know that the most vulnerable Syrian migrants will not make it to a boat, or get here on a plane; they will die in a camp. Given that the whole world community has come together to relocate those most vulnerable people through the UN, why does the Secretary of State insist on running her own scheme?
Answered by: Justine Greening | Party: Conservative Party | Department: International Development
We are working collaboratively with the UNHCR. In fact, we have helped just under 200 people through that scheme. The hon. Gentleman should be aware that, through the asylum system, we have received 4,000 asylum applications from Syrians. Critically, what this all shows is that we need to support people where they are. Some 99% of the refugees from the Syrian crisis are still in the countries that border Syria, and the UK has put £800 million into helping them build their lives there and educating their children.
03 Jun 2015 | Oral questions – Supplementary | Answered | House of Commons | House of Commons chamber | 596 c574
Date answered: 03 Jun 2015
Subject: Refugees; Mediterranean Sea
 Illegal Migration
Asked by: Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP) | Party: Scottish National Party
Can we see illegal migrants to Europe first and foremost as human beings and give them all the dignity, care and respect we can, especially by ensuring the availability of rescue facilities as they cross the Mediterranean?
Answered by: Justine Greening | Party: Conservative Party | Department: International Development
The hon. Gentleman is right to say that we need to see the people behind many of the statistics that we read in the paper. That is one reason why we sent HMS Bulwark and Merlin helicopters—so that this country can play our role in providing
search and rescue services to help those people. They are literally putting their lives on the line to get a better life, and we should never forget the stories of the people behind those terrible numbers.
03 Jun 2015 | Oral questions – Supplementary | Answered | House of Commons | House of Commons chamber | 596 c574
Date answered: 03 Jun 2015
Subject: Refugees; Mediterranean Sea
 Foreign Affairs Council, Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) and General Affairs Council: 18 – 19 May
My Right Honourable Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Philip Hammond) attended the Foreign Affairs Council, and My Right Honourable Friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon) attended the Foreign Affairs Council (Defence), and they both attended a joint session with Foreign and Defence Ministers. I attended the General Affairs Council (GAC). The Foreign Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) were chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and the General Affairs Council was chaired by the Latvian Presidency.
Foreign Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council (Defence)
A provisional report of the meeting and Conclusions adopted can be found at:
http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/fac/2015/05/18/
Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) & European Defence Agency (EDA)
The EDA Ministerial Steering Board discussion focussed on preparations for the June European Council. The Defence Secretary welcomed the work that the EDA has done in delivering the major programmes agreed to at the December 2013 European Council and encouraged the Agency to remain focused on delivering progress on these programmes at the June Council. Ministers also endorsed the Small Medium Enterprise (SME) action plan.
Defence Ministers discussed CSDP Missions and Operations in the Foreign Affairs Council (Defence), where greater political will by Member States in force generation and increased EU-NATO co-operation were highlighted as being key to success. The Defence Secretary reaffirmed the UK’s support for the counter piracy operation EUNAVFOR ATALANTA and highlighted that a combination of Naval forces and development of best management practice by industry and private contractors remained important in order to suppress the pirates’ business model. The Defence Secretary also emphasised the UK’s continued commitment to the maintenance of the Executive Mandate for EUFOR ALTHEA. This mandate was an essential international safeguard against a return to violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Joint Meeting of Foreign Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council (Defence)
Over lunch, EU defence and foreign ministers exchanged views on the security in the EU’s broader neighbourhood with NATO Security General Jens Stoltenberg. Ministers then discussed the preparations for the European Council in June 2015, which cover the Common Security and Defence Policy, and debated ongoing work reviewing changes in the EU’s strategic environment, including the preparation of a report by the High Representative to the European Council on 25/26 June. The Foreign Secretary noted that the June European Council should be a stocktake of the work begun in December 2013 and highlighted the importance of the EU’s cooperation with NATO.
The Council then took stock of the follow-up to the European Council of 23 April, which focused on migration issues. It approved a crisis management concept for a possible EU military operation and established an EU naval operation to disrupt the business model of human smugglers in the Southern Central Mediterranean. The Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary spoke in support of the establishment of the operation, but, noted that prior to its launch, clarity would be required on the handling of migrants rescued, smugglers apprehended, and the necessary legal base for the operation would need to be established. All four phases (surveillance/intelligence; seizure of vessels on the high seas; seizure and potentially destruction in Libyan waters/ashore; and withdrawal) needed to be enactable. A number of Ministers set out their position on resettlement and relocation, including the Foreign Secretary who made clear the UK would not accept compulsory resettlement.
Foreign Affairs Council
– Middle East Peace Process (MEPP)
Ministers exchanged views on the situation in the Middle East and on prospects for the peace process, following the formation of a new Israeli government and ahead of a visit of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to the region. Ms. Mogherini would be accompanied by Fernando Gentilini, the newly appointed EU Special Representative for the MEPP. The Foreign Secretary recognised the widespread frustration on the MEPP and argued that the EU should keep in step with the US and that there would likely be no progress until the Iran nuclear talks ended.
– Other Items
Ministers agreed a number of other measures:
o The Council adopted Conclusions on Burundi;
o The Council adopted Conclusions on the Common Security and Defence Policy;
o The Council adopted the EU position for the twelfth meeting of the EU-Uzbekistan Cooperation in Brussels on 18 May; and
o The Council adopted the draft agenda for the EU-Gulf Cooperation Council Joint Council and ministerial meeting, to be held on 24 May 2015 in Doha.
General Affairs Council
A provisional report of the Council meeting can be found at:
http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/gac/2015/05/19/
The General Affairs Council (GAC) on 19 May focused on: follow-up to the April Emergency European Council; preparation of the June European Council; and the Four Presidents’ Report on economic governance in the euro area.
Follow-up to the April Emergency European Council on migration
The Latvian Presidency and European Commission updated the GAC on developments since the 23 April Emergency European Council discussed migration pressures in the Mediterranean.
I reiterated the points made by the Foreign Secretary at the Foreign Affairs Council and informed Members States about UK activities to help prevent further loss of life in the Mediterranean. I emphasised the importance of addressing the causes of illegal immigration and tackling the organised criminals behind it, and the need for the EU to focus on the longer term picture.
Preparation of the June European Council
The GAC began preparations for the 23 and 24 June European Council, which the Prime Minister will attend. The June European Council will focus on security and economic issues including: defence and the European Security Strategy; relations with Russia and Ukraine; follow-up of the February European Council on terrorism and April European Council on migration; the digital single market; the 2015 European Semester; TTIP; and economic governance in the euro area.
Four Presidents’ Report on economic governance in the euro area
The European Commission updated the GAC on preparations of the Four Presidents’ Report on the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) to be presented to the June European Council.
01 Jun 2015 | Written statements | House of Commons | HCWS6
Member: Mr David Lidington
Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Topic: EU external relations; EU Council of Ministers; EU defence policy | Subject: Human trafficking; EU common foreign and security policy; EU action; Economic and monetary union; Piracy; Israel; Palestinians; Middle East; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Peace negotiations; EU immigration; EU defence policy; EU Foreign Affairs Council; European Defence Agency; EU General Affairs Council; Mediterranean Sea
 Mediterranean Sea
Asked by: Lord Hylton | Party: Crossbench
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to discuss with UNICEF the content of its recent statement on the risks to children who attempt to cross the Mediterranean in order to reach Europe.
Answering member: Lord Bates | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Home Office
The Government is determined to do all it can with international partners, including UN agencies, to reduce the flow of illegal migrants attempting these perilous crossings and to combat the organised criminals who are making huge profits by exploiting vulnerable people. The presence of children on these voyages is a matter of particular concern. We are taking action at a national and international level to find sustainable solutions, for example through regional protection initiatives and the new Khartoum Process, a joint EU and African Union initiative supporting dialogue and concrete cooperation to tackle people smuggling and human trafficking in the Horn of Africa, including measures to address the abuse and exploitation of children and other vulnerable migrants. The Government also welcomes joint EU efforts to provide concrete support to Italy to assist that country in meeting its responsibilities towards those arriving on its shores, and the EU’s intention to enhance efforts to address the root causes of the situation under its forthcoming European Agenda on Migration.
24 Mar 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Lords | HL5804
Date tabled: 17 Mar 2015 | Date for answer: 31 Mar 2015 | Date answered: 24 Mar 2015
Subject: Children; Refugees; EU immigration; UNICEF; Mediterranean Sea
 Mediterranean Sea
Asked by: Lord Hylton | Party: Crossbench
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many vessels, aircraft and drones are available for Operation Triton; and what assessment they have made of their adequacy to cope with current flows of migrants.
Answering member: Lord Bates | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Home Office
Frontex has recently reported that the technical resources provided by the Member States to Operation Triton include: 2 Fixed Wing Aircraft, 1 Helicopter, 2 Open Shore Patrol Vessels, 6 Coastal Patrol Vessels and 1 Coast Patrol Boat. We understand that this provision of technical resource fully meets the request made to Frontex for assistance by Italy, the host state of this Operation.
To date, Operation Triton has intercepted thousands of migrants in the Central Mediterranean, both directly and through cooperation with Italy’s national search and rescue efforts, bringing those intercepted safely to the EU. While the UK is not able to join Frontex, we continue to support Operation Triton through the deployment of UK experts. To date we have met all Frontex requests, and made clear our willingness to consider any further requests for support of this kind. The recent deaths in the Mediterranean are a further tragic reminder of the great risks migrants take when they attempt the perilous journey to reach Europe across the Mediterranean. Like our counterparts across the European Union, the UK wishes to find the best way to prevent tragedies of this kind. Unfortunately, in the open sea, no amount of vessels and surveillance can ensure a safe passage.
24 Mar 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Lords | HL5803
Date tabled: 17 Mar 2015 | Date for answer: 31 Mar 2015 | Date answered: 24 Mar 2015
Statistics: yes | Subject: Aircraft; Refugees; EU immigration; Frontex; Unmanned air vehicles; Patrol craft; Mediterranean Sea
 Mediterranean Sea
Asked by: Farron, Tim | Party: Liberal Democrats
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what her estimate is of the number of deaths amongst refugees in the Mediterranean in the first two months of (a) 2015, (b) 2014 and (c) 2013.
Answering member: James Brokenshire | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Home Office
The Government has not made an estimate as to the number of people who have drowned attempting the crossing in these periods. All deaths of this nature are a matter of extreme regret and the Government is determined to do all it can with international partners to reduce the flow of illegal migrants taking such risks and to combat the organised criminals who are making huge profits by exploiting vulnerable people. The Government is taking action at a national and international level to find sustainable solutions, for example through regional protection initiatives and the new Khartoum Process, a joint EU and African Union initiative supporting dialogue and concrete cooperation to tackle people smuggling and human trafficking in the Horn of Africa.
17 Mar 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 227065
Date tabled: 10 Mar 2015 | Date for answer: 16 Mar 2015 | Date of holding answer: 16 Mar 2015 | Date answered: 17 Mar 2015
Transferred: yes | Holding answer: yes
Statistics: yes | Subject: Asylum; Death; Illegal immigrants; Mediterranean Sea
 Mediterranean Sea
Asked by: Lord Alton of Liverpool | Party: Crossbench
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many migrants they estimate to have died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea during the past year; from which countries they have been travelling; and what measures are being taken to discuss their situation with the United Kingdom’s international partners.
Answering member: Lord Bates | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Home Office
The majority of migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean in the past year are reported to have travelled from countries in Africa and from the Middle East. The Government has not made an estimate as to the number of people who have drowned attempting the crossing in that period, as such estimates are extremely difficult to make with any degree of certainty.
All deaths of this nature are a matter of extreme regret and the Government is determined to do all it can with international partners to reduce the flow of illegal migrants taking such risks and to combat the organised criminals who are making huge profits by exploiting vulnerable people. The Government is taking action at a national and international level to find sustainable solutions, for example through regional protection initiatives and the new Khartoum Process, a joint EU and African Union initiative supporting dialogue and concrete cooperation to tackle people smuggling and human trafficking in the Horn of Africa. The situation is also discussed regularly by Ministers at the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council, as well as in other multilateral and bilateral meetings.
16 Mar 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Lords | HL5508
Date tabled: 09 Mar 2015 | Date for answer: 23 Mar 2015 | Date answered: 16 Mar 2015
Statistics: yes | Subject: Refugees; EU immigration; Drownings; Mediterranean Sea
 Mediterranean Sea
Asked by: Farron, Tim | Party: Liberal Democrats
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what estimate her Department has made of the number of migrants who have drowned in the Mediterranean since the end of Operation Mare Nostrum and the start of Operation Triton.
Answering member: James Brokenshire | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Home Office
Operation Triton began on 1 November 2014 following unanimous calls from all 28 EU Member States that Italy’s Operation Mare Nostrum should be phased out. There have been no estimates made by the Government or by Frontex (the EU External Border Agency) with regard to the number of people who have drowned in the Mediterranean since the end of Operation Mare Nostrum and the start of Operation Triton as such estimates would be extremely difficult to make with any degree of certainty. All deaths of this nature are, of course, utterly tragic and the Government is determined to do all it can with international partners to reduce the flow of illegal migrants taking such risks and to combat the organised criminals who are making huge profits by exploiting vulnerable people.
10 Mar 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 226037
Date tabled: 03 Mar 2015 | Date for answer: 06 Mar 2015 | Date of holding answer: 06 Mar 2015 | Date answered: 10 Mar 2015
Transferred: yes | Holding answer: yes
Statistics: yes | Subject: Illegal immigrants; Drownings; Mediterranean Sea
 Mediterranean Sea
Asked by: Lord Hylton | Party: Crossbench
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the statement by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees that a robust search and rescue operation is necessary in order to save lives in the central Mediterranean.
Answering member: Lord Bates | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Home Office
The number of deaths in the Mediterranean, and on the land routes from the Horn of Africa to the Southern Mediterranean, are a tragic reminder of the great risks migrants take when they attempt the perilous journey to reach Europe.
The Government believes that the best approach lies in the continuation of Frontex (EU external border agency) Operation Triton alongside Italy’s ongoing coordination of normal search and rescue activities. Frontex has been clear that its maritime operations will assist with individual search and rescue efforts in their operational areas if called upon to do so by national search and rescue coordinators.
At the same time, the UK is continuing work with other EU countries to tackle the causes of illegal immigration and the organised trafficking gangs behind it, as well as increasing support and protection for those who need it in North and East Africa. It is action of this kind which offers the best hope of an effective response to the numbers of attempted crossings and the tragic loss of lives.
02 Mar 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Lords | HL5156
Date tabled: 23 Feb 2015 | Date for answer: 09 Mar 2015 | Date answered: 02 Mar 2015
Subject: Refugees; Rescue services; Drownings; Mediterranean Sea
 Engagements
Asked by: Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab) | Party: Labour Party
Last year, more than 3,000 desperate migrants drowned in the Mediterranean. Several hundred have already died this year trying to reach a place of safety. Many people, in absolute desperation, turn to traffickers to try to escape the crisis in Libya and in many other places. They are victims of war and oppression. The European Union is closing down Mare Nostrum, which has saved a very large number of lives, and is instead instituting something that will only protect Europe’s borders, not search for and rescue people. Will the Prime Minister go back and ensure that Europe adopts a humanitarian approach of saving these desperate people and supporting these desperate migrants who are trying to survive—that is all, survive—in Libya?
Answered by: The Prime Minister | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Prime Minister
The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point, but I am afraid that the statistics do not necessarily back up the case he is making. Mare Nostrum was a genuine attempt by the Italians to deal with this problem, but I think I am right in saying that more people died during the operation of that policy than when it was brought to an end. There are some answers. We need to make sure we press ahead with the Modern Slavery Bill, an historic piece of legislation taken through by this Government, that is doing a huge amount to deal with the problem of people trafficking. Yes, we need to do more to stabilise countries such as Libya and others on the Mediterranean, from which many of the problems derive. That serves to underline the important work done by our development budget.
25 Feb 2015 | Oral questions – Supplementary | Answered | House of Commons | House of Commons chamber | 593 c317
Date answered: 25 Feb 2015
Subject: EU action; Refugees; Rescue services; Libya; Drownings; Mediterranean Sea
 Mediterranean Sea
Asked by: Lord Hylton | Party: Crossbench
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the ability of Operation Triton to save the lives of those at risk in the Mediterranean; and what proposals they will make to assist Spain, Italy and Greece in dealing with the flow of migrants and refugees.
Answering member: Lord Bates | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Home Office
The EU’s external border agency, Frontex, has stated that since the launch of Operation Triton in November 2014 they helped to save 6,000 migrants on their way to Italy. The UK has responded positively to requests from Frontex to deploy two debriefers and a nationality expert to support Operation Triton, with further support committed for 2015. We have made clear that we are willing to consider any further requests from Frontex for UK support. The recent deaths are a tragic reminder of the great risks to migrants attempting to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean in unseaworthy and ill-equipped vessels. During Italy’s Mare Nostrum operation in 2014 many thousands of migrants were intercepted and brought to Italy, but over 3,000 died at sea. While EU Ministers have previously agreed that the principal responsibility for migrants and refugees rests with the Member State whose territory they arrive in, the Government continues to provide concrete support to those Member States under particular pressure both through the EU agencies and directly. We are also investing in joint EU efforts to mitigate pressures on these Member States through work in key countries of origin and transit, including efforts to tackle the root causes of these dangerous journeys and the organised criminal gangs behind them, and to increase support for protection for refugees in North and East Africa and in the Middle East.
In particular we are we are playing a leading role in the new ‘Khartoum Process’ launched at a Ministerial Conference in Rome on 28 November, aimed at combating people smuggling and human trafficking in the Horn of Africa. We are also supporting the EU’s Middle East Regional Development and Protection Programme, which is seeking sustainable regional solutions for those fleeing the Syrian crisis, as well as providing over £700 Million in UK humanitarian aid.
24 Feb 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Lords | HL5024
Date tabled: 12 Feb 2015 | Date for answer: 26 Feb 2015 | Date answered: 24 Feb 2015
Subject: Greece; Refugees; Rescue services; Italy; Spain; Mediterranean Sea
 Asylum: Syria
Asked by: Lord Alton of Liverpool | Party: Crossbench
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the reasons why Syrian refugees are crossing the Mediterranean Sea in order to seek asylum in European Union member states.
Answering member: Lord Bates | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Home Office
The majority of refugees displaced from Syria, an estimated 3.8 million people, remain in countries neighbouring Syria. That is why the Government has committed £700 million to the emergency response in the region, the second largest bilateral contribution after the USA, helping hundreds of thousands of people in need. We have not undertaken a formal assessment of the motivation for Syrian migrants to try to reach the European Union, or the routes they choose to get here. However, given the scale of the crisis in Syria and the hardship and human suffering it has caused, it is to be expected that some Syrians will seek to leave the region by whatever routes are available.
With millions of people in need in Syria and the region, the Government believes that humanitarian aid and actively seeking to end the conflict are the most effective ways for the UK to help the majority of those displaced, rather than larger scale resettlement. We have made our position on this clear in relevant discussions with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), for example at the UNHCR Global Resettlement Pledging Conference in Geneva on 9 December 2014. We also liaise regularly with the UNHCR at a working level about the relocation of particularly vulnerable displaced Syrians to the UK under the UK’s Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme.
09 Feb 2015 | Written questions | Answered | House of Lords | HL4592
Date tabled: 02 Feb 2015 | Date for answer: 16 Feb 2015 | Date answered: 09 Feb 2015
Subject: Asylum; Refugees; Syria; EU immigration; Mediterranean Sea