Why We Should Give Asylum To Asia Bibi – and why, not to do so, flies in the face of everything Britain is supposed to stand for. Question in The House – November 20th 2018. Link to Petition.launch of Religious Freedom In the World Report November 22nd;Support Asia Bibi on Red Wednesday -November 28th. Reply From the Prime Minister.

http://www.dailyglobe.co.uk/comment/the-uk-must-help-persecuted-religious-minorities/

Red Wednesday. JPGRed Wednesday John Henry Newman.jpg

The Reading Oratory and Bl.John Henry Newman lit red.

London this week witnessed talks in Parliament Square , followed by a red-lit candlelit procession to Westminster Cathedral

 

Landmarks in countries around the world including Brazil, Philippines, and Australia were being bathed in red light this month to highlight the persecution of faith groups for their “peacefully-held beliefs”.

 

The idea of illuminating iconic buildings in red is sponsored by APPG stakeholders Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) as a public symbol of protest against religious discrimination. .

 

Venice was already illuminated in red on 21 November, highlighting the case of Asia Bibi in particular. In Barcelona, the iconic Sagrada Familia church is being illuminated in red, as is the Sacré Coeur Basilica in Paris. In Ireland, Armagh, Galway, Waterford and Cobh, cathedrals are taking part, as well as Knock Basilica.

 

The Philippines is having more than 1300 churches and 30 schools turn red. Also turning red are the Christ Redeemer Statue in Brazil’s Rio de Janerio, and in Australia St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney and St Patrick’s Cathedral in Perth. In the United States, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington is taking part.

 

St. Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham will also turn red. . ACN is also due to host an event in the Scottish Parliament. Members of many religious groups will wear red for the day and march of protest with banners: “Make a stand for faith and religious freedom”.

DavidAlton.net

Red Wednesday will be commemorated in the UK on Wednesday November 28th when churches, schools and public buildings will be lit red – to express solidarity with those persecuted for their faith.   This year many will focus on the plight of Asia Bibi who has been exonerated by Pakistan’s highest court, having suffered nine years of incarceration – with the death penalty hanging over her. Now, she has been forbidden to leave Pakistan and the UK has declined to offer her asylum

https://acnuk.org/our-campaigns/red-wednesday-2018/

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Red Wednesday 2017 The TimesLast night, Venice lit their city red  and highlighted the plight of Asia Bibi  

20181120_Venezia_in_Rosso_Daniel_Ibanez_2https://cruxnow.com/church-in-europe/2018/11/21/venice-illuminated-in-red-for-asia-bibi-persecuted-christians/

Universe Religious FreedomUniverse Religious Freedom report

Topical Oral Question: November 20th 2018

*Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what response they have made to requests to assist in the (1) safe passage and resettlement of, and (2) granting of asylum to Asia Bibi and…

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The Genocide Convention at 70: Lessons Learned And Yet To Be Learned.70th Anniversary Of The Genocide Convention Recalled in Mr.Speaker’s House, November 27th 2018. Government Answers To Questions Tabled on the Discovery of Mass Graves and the Failure to Bring Perpetrators to Justice, Read Ewelina Ochab on the Anniversaries of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention.

 

70th Anniversary Of The Genocide Convention Recalled in Mr.Speaker’s House, November 27th 2018.

The Genocide Convention at 70:

Lessons Learned And Yet To Be Learned

Click here: https://davidalton.net/2018/09/09/we-must-do-more-to-protect-vulnerable-populationsfrom-genocide-and-crimes-against-humanity-artilce-published-in-the-times-by-lord-alton-and-jan-figel-eu-special-envoy-on-freedom-of-religion-and/–

Genocide Meeting at Speaker's House

genocide meeting

With Fiona Bruce MP and Baroness Cox

 

Speakers included Ewelina Ochab, Geoffrey Robertson QC and Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, Ahmed Khudida Burjus, Deputy Executive Director of Yazda, Neville Lazarus, and Ben Rogers.

Speakers considered the legacy of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention), scrutinised the lessons learned over the last 70 years and considered lessons yet to be learned.  

Speaker focused on two cases of genocides from the recent years,  the Daesh genocide against religious minorities in Syria and Iraq, and the genocide against the Rohingya Muslims in Burma. The speakers  asked the crucial questions whether the UK Government’s response to these genocides was adequate and what now needs to change for the UK to be able to meet its duties to prevent and to punish.

 The event was hosted by Lord Alton of Liverpool and Fiona Bruce MP, Member of Parliament for Congleton and with the kind permission of Mr.Speaker. 

Times article September 2018 on campaign to bring perpetrators of genocide to justice. Click on:

Genocide Questions1

Click here to read the answers:

Genocide Questions2Genocide Questions3

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Affirm Human Dignity For Everyone Everywhere And Stand Up For Human Rights

Ewelina U. Ochab5:30 pm

The United Nations observes Human Rights Day on December 10, the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This year’s celebration of the day is even more special as it will be the 70th anniversary of this important document.

Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, displays a Spanish language version of the document which is the most translated document in the world. (Photo credit: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)Getty

The legacy of the UDHR can never be underestimated. It is a landmark document that “proclaimed the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being — regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”  It was the direct response to the heinous crimes perpetrated by the Nazis and a much-needed affirmation of human rights for everyone everywhere.

For the 70th anniversary, the UN is calling to #StandUp4HumanRights. The initiative calls upon everyone to take a pledge to respect everyone’s rights regardless of who they are, uphold their rights even when they disagree, and recognize that when anyone’s human rights are denied, everyone’s rights are undermined. Furthermore, an attack on the rights of one person rarely ends there. Other individuals and groups will be affected, sooner or later. An attack on the human rights of one person is an attack on the human rights of all.

The UDHR is as important now as it was back in 1948, even though the circumstances (in many places) have changed. The rights enshrined in the UDHR empower us all. Indeed, over the past 70 years, significant progress has been made to ensure that the UDHR is universally accepted and recognized as the primary document on human rights. The very fact that the UDHR, as a declaration, is not legally enforceable, should not hinder its implementation. The UDHR, as a part of the international customary law, is a set of basic principles that inform the implementation of all human rights for everyone everywhere. However, the issue of its implementation leaves much to be desired.

The key to ensuring that the UDHR does not lose its significance but continues to empower and allow human rights to flourish is to go back to basics and affirm human dignity for everyone everywhere.

The universality of the UDHR is often diminished by the fact that its protected rights are only guaranteed for some people and only in some parts of the world. Such an approach means that, in the first place, these rights are not universal. Affirming human dignity for everyone everywhere means that it would not be possible to deny anyone their rights. The focus on human dignity for everyone everywhere may be a better way to ensure its universality.

Indeed, at the time of drafting the document, the concept of human dignity played a crucial role in transcending differences and reaching consensus. Now more than ever we need to find ways to invoke this core concept to find solutions for the ever-present failures to guarantee and protect human rights for all.

In pursuit of this goal, in early December 2018, politicians, experts in the field of human rights and constitutional law (the working group on human dignity) met in Punta del Este, Uruguay, to develop a common language on human dignity. This common language will help to further the original intentions of the drafters of the UDHR in ensuring human rights protection for everyone everywhere. The event was convened under the auspices of the European Academy of Religion, in cooperation with the International Center for Law and Religion Studies.

The document drafted by the working group on human dignity highlights the importance and usefulness of the concept of human dignity for everyone everywhere, as a basis for human rights and as a spectrum to interpret and implement these rights. The declaration is to be used as a mechanism for reaffirming and re-energizing the worldwide commitment to human rights. Over the next year, the members of the working group will organize conferences all over the world to mark the 70th anniversary of the UDHR and explore how the concept of human dignity can contribute to the greater success of the UDHR in becoming a truly universal guarantee of human rights for everyone everywhere.

Ewelina U. Ochab is a legal researcher and human rights advocate, and author of the book “Never Again: Legal Responses to a Broken Promise in the Middle East.” Ochab…MORE

Ewelina U. Ochab is a human rights advocate and author of the book “Never Again: Legal Responses to a Broken Promise in the Middle East.” 

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Genocide Convention At 70 And Years Of Failures To Prevent and Punish the Crime

Ewelina U. Ochab4:54 pm

On December 9, 2018, the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention) is marking its 70th anniversary.  The Genocide Convention can be praised for being the first international treaty to define genocide, providing a historic commitment to prevent genocide and punish the perpetrators. However, the existence of the Genocide Convention itself and states ratifying it – mean little if its implementation does not follow. The effectiveness of the Genocide Convention depends on state parties giving effect to their obligations – translating their commitments into action. While the aspirational pledges to prevent and punish have underpinned international criminal developments, these do not necessarily translate into effective enforcement.

A display of skulls at the Kigali Memorial Centre for 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The centre on is on a site where 250,000 genocide victims were buried in mass graves. The centre opened in 2004 on the 10th Anniversary of the start of the genocide. (Photo credit: In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)Getty

The UK is a good (or rather bad) example of the paradox of a state voluntarily accepting the duties to prevent and punish the perpetrators of genocide but then having little political will to deliver on these promises.

In accordance with the Genocide Convention’s obligations, and in order to give effect to the Rome Statute, the UK introduced laws that criminalize genocide, no matter where it is committed and enable prosecution of individuals who are resident in the United Kingdom. While the UK should, in principle, no longer be a safe-haven for genocidaires, the provisions for prosecution have rarely been utilized because extraditions have been prioritized over prosecutions as a matter of policy. In fact, the UK Government confirmed, in response to Lord Alton’s written parliamentary question that “the Crown Prosecution Service has to date not charged any individual with the crime of genocide.”

As it stands, progress towards giving effect to the UK’s commitment to prevent genocide lags far behind. There are no early warning and risk assessment structures that are mandated to recognize mass atrocities like genocide, in order to respond to them adequately. In the UK, there is no clear process for officially recognizing mass atrocities as cases of genocide. In fact, the UK government’s long-standing policy is to leave this question to ‘“international judicial systems.” The UK government argues that “international judicial systems”, rather than politicians, should make a determination of genocide, but the government has no reasonable justification for this policy, apart from its long-standing nature. Genocide has been committed under the watch of successive governments in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur (Sudan) and Libya, not to mention the Daesh genocide in Syria and Iraq or the genocide of the Rohingya Muslims and other religious minorities in Burma – nevertheless, the UK government’s argument persists.

Because the UK does not have any formal mechanism to determine genocide, the UK is at a disadvantage when trying to fulfill its duty to punish genocide because it is highly unlikely that any punishment of genocide perpetrators would be undertaken until an “international judicial system” makes the recognition of the genocide. Yet very often there would be no “international judicial system” with the necessary mandate to consider the question of genocide. Similarly, this has an adverse effect on the UK’s duty to prevent genocide under the Genocide Convention. If a state does not have any mechanisms to recognize the elements of genocide in a conflict situation, the state will not be able to realize that genocide is at a verge of happening – and prevent it from materializing.

Not recognizing mass atrocities as genocide is a tactical step. Theoretically, if the state does not use the G-word, there is no pressure on the state to act upon. However, such an approach misses an important point. Even if the mass atrocities do not reach the threshold of genocide, the atrocities highly likely constitute crimes against humanity or war crimes. Hence, even if the G-word is not used, that does not mean that the state does not have any obligations to act.

Even though states argue that they take steps to address these situations, the steps are usually small and very often too late to ever make a difference in the lives of the targeted group. Ask the Yazidis or Christians in Iraq, ask the Rohingyas in Burma, as long as the remnants still exist. If we are serious about adding some value to the empty promise of never again, we need to recognize mass atrocities for what they are and act accordingly. The existence of the Genocide Convention is not enough in itself. Our generation and those to come after cannot just rely on the existence of the document if little is done to implement the underlying duties. Real actions must follow.

Ewelina U. Ochab is a legal researcher and human rights advocate, and author of the book “Never Again: Legal Responses to a Broken Promise in the Middle East.” Ochab…MORE

Ewelina U. Ochab is a human rights advocate and author of the book “Never Again: Legal Responses to a Broken Promise in the Middle East.” 

 

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Ewelina U. Ochab

Two Systems One Country.  Why Hong Kong’s Basic Freedoms Must Be Preserved. Speech by Lord Alton of Liverpool – at Hong Kong Watch Parliamentary Dinner at the House of Lords, November 27th 2018.

Two Systems One Country.  Why Hong Kong’s Basic Freedoms Must Be Preserved. Speech by Lord Alton of Liverpool – at Hong Kong Watch Parliamentary Dinner at the House of Lords- November 27th 2018

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

It is my privilege to welcome you to the House of Lords and to this dinner to celebrate the first anniversary of the launch of Hong Kong Watch. This organisation, launched in Speaker’s House on 11 December last year, has already, in the short time it has been in existence, displayed an energy, a productivity and a quality that has won it many friends, both among the people of Hong Kong and in both Houses of Parliament. People in Hong Kong have regularly told us how grateful they are that at long-last someone is speaking up for them.

Hong Kong’s basic freedoms, the rule of law and autonomy are – as you will all be very well aware – increasingly threatened and eroded. ‘One country, two systems’, the principle on which Hong Kong’s handover to China 21 years ago was based, is threatened.

In recent weeks we have seen the Asia Editor of the Financial Times expelled and subsequently denied entry to the city – a city that is one of the world’s major financial centres and prizes itself with the slogan “Asia’s world city”. We have seen a political party banned. In previous months we have seen young pro-democracy activists jailed and democratic legislators and candidates disqualified. Last week 9 of the leaders of the pro-democracy Umbrella movement found themselves on trial under absurd charges including ‘incitement to incite public nuisance.’

This repression is part of Xi Jinping’s overall intensely authoritarian approach. Mainland China is seeing the worst crackdown on human rights since – some say the Tiananmen massacre of 1989, others even say since the Cultural Revolution. Whereas his predecessors were generally prepared to allow Hong Kong to run its own affairs and for ‘one country, two systems’ to succeed, Xi Jinping’s mindset appears to prides control above all else – even the economic prosperity and institutions which Hong Kong’s reputation has been built on.

Hong Kong’s once free press, markets, law-courts and universities are being progressively drawn into the orbit of CCP control. Hong Kong is signed up to UN human rights standards, and the ICCPR is incorporated into the constitution – but this has not halted the crackdown.

I first became interested in Hong Kong when, as a young Member of Parliament in Liverpool, I came to know a Hong Kong Chinese family and was invited by them to Hong Kong where I learnt the story of their escape from famine and Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

Two years ago, I had the privilege of hosting in the House of Lords a very impressive, intelligent and courageous young man called Nathan Law, who had been elected as the youngest member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. As someone who was one the youngest member of the House of Commons – the ‘baby of the House’ – I felt a particular bond with Nathan. Us ‘babies of the House’ must stick together. I later met his companion, the remarkable and inspirational Joshua Wong.

When I heard that Nathan was disqualified from the legislature, by a court and not by the President of the legislature, simply for quoting Mahatma Gandhi after taking his oath, I was appalled. Then last year when I heard that Nathan, Joshua and their colleague Alex Chow were jailed, I knew something had gone badly wrong with Hong Kong, and that we in Britain have a responsibility to act. For those reasons I signed on to a letter along with about 25 other international figures from the political, diplomatic and legal realms, to appeal for their release. I raised their case in the House of Lords. And when Ben asked me if I would be one of Hong Kong Watch’s five Patrons, I was delighted to accept.

Britain has specific moral and legal responsibilities to Hong Kong, under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, as I am sure our Guest Speaker later tonight will also remind us. The work of Hong Kong Watch, an organization that conducts independent, critical, constructive and responsible research and advocacy to uphold, defend and strengthen Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy, as promised to Hong Kong under the Basic Law, the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the concept of ‘one country, two systems’, remains welcome, timely and much needed.

Before I conclude, it is my privilege to introduce some of the key members of Hong Kong Watch. I am delighted to serve as a Patron alongside Catherine West, Labour Member of Parliament for Hornsey and Wood Green, who has extensive experience of China and Hong Kong and devotes so much of her attention to questions of human rights throughout Asia; Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, the barrister who led the prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic, and with whom I have been pleased to work on a range of issues including crimes against humanity in North Korea and Burma and genocide around the world; the former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who served as Foreign Secretary for the two years leading up to the handover of Hong Kong; and Paddy Ashdown, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, who had intended to be with us tonight but very sadly is unable to do so.

The trustees of Hong Kong Watch are Dr Malte Kaeding; Aileen Calverley, Gray Sergeant and its Chairman, Benedict Rogers, whose own denial of entry to Hong Kong in October 2017 helped draw the attention of many in Parliament and the media to the erosion of Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy.

May I also give a special welcome to one other guest who, although she is not formally a Patron, is a tireless defender of human rights around the world, including the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong, the Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission and Member of Parliament for Congleton, Fiona Bruce.

You are all warmly welcome. Later on in the evening we look forward to hearing from Ben about the work of Hong Kong Watch in its first year, and from our eminent keynote speaker, the last Governor of Hong Kong, Lord Patten of Barnes. For now, please enjoy the dinner – perhaps with the following words from one of my political heroes, William Wilberforce, who said when he was introducing legislation to end the slave trade words that I think, thanks in part to Hong Kong Watch, we can apply today to Hong Kong: “We can no longer plead ignorance. We cannot turn aside.”

What lessons we can learn from the 80th anniversary of Kindertransport – and from the stories of Sir Nicholas Winton, Trevor Chadwick, Florence Nankivell, Doreen Warriner, Beatrice Wellington, and others involved in organising escape routes for children threatened by Nazism

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November 26th 2018 – Today’s Debate: The 80th anniversary of Kindertransport

 

 

 

6.30 pm

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

 

My Lords, there is no one better to have opened tonight’s debate than the noble Lord, Lord Dubs.

 

The 80th anniversary of Kindertransport prompts the question: what would Sir Nicholas Winton, Trevor Chadwick, Florence Nankivell, Doreen Warriner, Beatrice Wellington, and others involved in organising escape routes for children threatened by Nazism, make of our present-day response to refugees and their children and to new ideologies and new forms of violence?

 

While we are right to praise the singular individuals—heroes like Bonhoeffer, Kolbe, Schindler, Frank Foley and Raoul Wallenberg—who all refused to accommodate anti-Semitism and hatred of other minorities, we must not become too self-congratulatory or slip into a sentimental nostalgia. Overwhelmingly, people actively collaborated or remained silent. Kindertransport saved the lives of an estimated 10,000 children, each and every one of them precious. But never forget that the Nazis and their collaborators killed as many as 1.5 million children—including over a million Jewish children—who are commemorated at the Children’s Memorial at Yad Vashem, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, which I too have visited. They also murdered tens of thousands of Romany children, German children with physical and mental disabilities—a point alluded to by the noble Lord, Shinkwin—and children from Poland and occupied Soviet territory. Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, and most Kindertransport children would never see their parents again.

 

In 1938, after visiting the harsh, freezing conditions refugee camps in Sudetenland, and following Kristallnacht, Nicholas Winton decided to do something about it. Weeks later, he saw the first 200 Kindertransport children arrive at Harwich. They included many who would become notable and illustrious citizens, including four Nobel laureates, and Members of your Lordships’ House.

 

When the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, moved his amendment to receive some of today’s fleeing refugee children, I was honoured to be one of the other signatories. But to be clear, according to Safe Passage, only 220 of the 480 places to be provided under the scheme put forward by the noble Lord have been filled. Like the noble Lord, I would be grateful if, when the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, comes to reply, he would clarify whether that still remains the case. Meanwhile, Safe Passage also says that the Vulnerable Children Resettlement Scheme for unaccompanied children in conflict zones has given just 20 unaccompanied children resettlement, out of 3,000 places. As it also points out, UK-funded detention centres in Libya are places of torture and abuse of children. Perhaps when the Minister comes to reply he can respond to what Safe Passage says about that.

 

Elsewhere, children of Christians and Ahmadis fleeing from Pakistan are kept like caged animals in detention centres. In 2015, I visited one of those detention centres, and in 2016, I wrote a report about it. Recently, many of your Lordships have raised the continuing systematic persecution of minorities in Pakistan—the reason why people are fleeing in the first place. Children were forced to watch as a mob of 1,300 burned their parents alive in a kiln in Kot Rada Kishan in Pakistan.

 

Meanwhile, a mother of five, Asia Bibi, remains at risk of her life in Pakistan while we refuse to give her or her children asylum and repeatedly say that minorities in Pakistan do not face persecution, but simply discrimination. Only today I have received a letter from the Prime Minister, who says:

 

“You asked whether the UK would be willing to offer Asia Bibi and her family asylum in the UK. It is the long standing policy of the Government not to comment on individual immigration issues”.

 

This is not just an immigration case. This is a woman who was falsely held in prison for some nine years, and who has been acquitted by the Supreme Court. This is a woman on behalf of whom the former Governor of the Punjab, a Muslim, Salman Taseer, and his friend, a Christian Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, both spoke out—and were murdered for doing so. It is not a run-of-the-mill immigration case; it is something about which the Government should speak. I was deeply concerned to read in the Sunday newspapers—whether this is accurate others must decide, but I would welcome the Minister’s response—that both the Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary had been overruled by Downing Street in wanting to provide asylum for Asia Bibi. Just as our Government refuse to recognise that minorities in northern Iraq and Syria have been subjected to genocide, I fear that we have done precisely the same in this case concerning Pakistan. I hope that we will look seriously at our asylum policies so that we can make better judgments in the future.

 

The noble Baroness, Lady Henig, referred to the 1938 debate. Like her, I have read what Sir Samuel Hoare, the then Home Secretary, had to say in that debate on 21 November. The remarkable Philip Noel-Baker, in his opening speech, called for a co-ordinated plan and said that,

 

“a co-ordinated plan means a strong international administration to carry it through”.—[Official Report, Commons, 21/11/1938; col.1439]

 

In reply, the Home Secretary said:

 

“How can a question remain exclusively domestic when it involves scores of thousands of men, women and children, destitute and penniless, seeking admission into other countries? … however deep may be our sympathies, this problem is, and must remain, an international problem. No single country can hope to solve it”.—[Official Report, Commons, 21/11/1938; col.1464]

 

That remains the challenge today and I hope it is a challenge to which the Government will rise.

 

Reading the speeches of the day is deeply moving because this issues seem to have come back around. What Nicholas Winton said however, is perhaps what should inform us all:

 

“If something is not impossible, then there must be a way to do it”.

 

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool

 

The Minister makes a very important point about the lack of global leadership. Given that we all want these problems tackled at the root so that there are not refugees in the first place, ​will he go back to some of the other departments he mentioned to see whether there could be some sort of round-table discussion involving people such as the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and others who have participated, so that we could do more and be rather more effective than we have been thus far? Could he also undertake to write to me on the specific point I raised about the detention centres in Libya and the allegations made by Safe Passage that children in those centres have been tortured?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth

 

I certainly will. I thank the noble Lord for reminding me of that point. Perhaps he and I could have a word about that. If he could supply me with some information I will make sure it gets to the right Minister so that we can get an answer on it. His broader point about a round table is ​a good suggestion. I will see whether we can organise something on that basis to look at how we can co-ordinate things, not just in our country. I am conscious that when we had the Climate Change Conference in 2015 the world came together to agree something. If it is possible on climate change, given the very different interests around the world and the very different impact it would have on different countries, you would think that it would be possible for the world to come together on so many other areas. That is something that this round table could look at. I will certainly see what I can do, perhaps working through the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Dubs.

I thank noble Lords for a very moving debate that has looked at many issues, all of them very important. I undertake to come back to them on the issues raised.

 

Religious Freedom In The World Report Launched Ahead of Red Wednesday 2018. How the West is failing those persecuted for their Faith. The Prince of Wales and an Appeal To End Religious Persecution. Links to Remarks by the Patriarchs of the Eastern churches. The 70th Anniversary of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the plight of Asia Bibi and the millions who suffer for their religion or beliefs. http://religious-freedom-report.org/ 

Religious Freedom In The World Report Launched In Advance of Red Wednesday 2018.The West is failing those persecuted for their Faith. Use Red Wednesday – and the run up to the 70th Anniversary of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – to show solidarity with Asia Bibi and the millions who suffer for their religion or beliefs. http://religious-freedom-report.org/

 

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https://acnuk.org/our-campaigns/red-wednesday-2018/

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Red Wednesday 2017 The Timesred-white

 Venice lit their city red  and highlighted the plight of Asia Bibi  – followed by many other cities around the world.

20181120_Venezia_in_Rosso_Daniel_Ibanez_2

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AT WESTMINSTER ABBEY THE PRINCE OF WALES MAKES AN APPEAL FOR THE PERSECUTED 

By John Pontifex

Westminster Abbey

HRH The Prince of Wales paid tribute to the courage and faith of persecuted Christians at a service in Westminster Abbey which brought together Church leaders from across the Middle East.

At the service, yesterday (Tuesday, 4th December), Prince Charles said: “We can only give thanks for the truly remarkable strength of the Faith with which so many Christians face persecution and which gives them the courage and the determination to endure, and to overcome.”

He also said: “Earlier this year, I had the great joy of meeting a Dominican Sister from Nineveh [northern Iraq], who, in 2014, as Daesh [ISIS] extremists advanced on the town of Qaraqosh, got behind the wheel of a minibus crammed full of her fellow Christians, and drove the long and dangerous road to safety.”

Later on, fellow Iraqi Dominican Sister Nazak Matty gave a testimony, describing how she had returned to Nineveh to help rebuild Christian communities. 

In his address, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, highlighted the persecution of Middle East Christians, stating: “When the Church of Jesus Christ is attacked, it is an attack on Christ himself – when any part of the Church suffers, we also suffer and yet distance and ignorance take away the pain we should feel.”

Attending the service were bishops and other Church leaders who had flown in from Iraq, Syria, Israel/Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt and the Gulf.

The Middle East is a priority region for Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, which assisted with the preparation of the service.

ACN is giving emergency and pastoral help, providing food, medicine, shelter as well as repair of homes, churches and support for priests, Sisters and Christian education .

Order of Service for A service to celebrate the contribution of Christians in the Middle East (PDF, 316KB)

Address by HRH The Prince of Wales at a service to celebrate the contribution of Christians in the Middle East

The Address was given by the Right Honourable and Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England, and Metropolitan

Reflection given by His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem, at A service to celebrate the contribution of Christians in the Middle East (PDF, 26.1KB)

Testimony given by Sister Nazek Matty, Dominican Sisters of St Catherine of Sienna, Iraq, at A service to celebrate the contribution of Christians in the Middle East (PDF, 259KB

Reflection given by Maulana Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi, Director General and Chief Imam, Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society, at A service to celebrate the contribution of Christians in the Middle East (PDF, 144KB)

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NOVEMBER’S RED WEDNESDAY

London witnessed talks in Parliament Square on Wednesday, followed by a red-lit candlelit procession to Westminster Cathedral

 

Landmarks in countries around the world including Brazil, Philippines, and Australia have been being bathed in red light this month to highlight the persecution of faith groups for their “peacefully-held beliefs”.

 

The idea of illuminating iconic buildings in red is sponsored by  Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) as a public symbol of protest against religious discrimination. .

 

Venice was already illuminated in red on 21 November, highlighting the case of Asia Bibi in particular. In Barcelona, the iconic Sagrada Familia church is being illuminated in red, as is the Sacré Coeur Basilica in Paris. In Ireland, Armagh, Galway, Waterford and Cobh, cathedrals are taking part, as well as Knock Basilica.

 

The Philippines is having more than 1300 churches and 30 schools turn red. Also turning red are the Christ Redeemer Statue in Brazil’s Rio de Janerio, and in Australia St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney and St Patrick’s Cathedral in Perth. In the United States, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington is taking part.

 

St. Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham will also turn red. ACN is also due to host an event in the Scottish Parliament. Members of many religious groups will wear red for the day and march of protest with banners: “Make a stand for faith and religious freedom”.

John Henry Newman and the Oratory School he founded Lit Red for 2018

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

The West is failing those persecuted for their Faith

 

“Most western governments have failed to provide urgently needed assistance to minority faith groups…” This was one of the key findings of the 2018 Religious Freedom in the World report, produced by Aid to the Church in Need, a charity which I am a Trustee of.

While it identifies systematic violations of religious liberty in various countries around the world – whether it be the lynching of Muslims in India or the rapidly growing number of attacks on Christians in Egypt – what I found the most damning aspect of the report was that it identified the ways in which we in the West are failing to help members of religious minorities who are suffering because of their beliefs. You can see this in the way we use (or don’t use) our aid programmes and the way we discriminate against religious minorities in our asylum policies.

 

Take the case of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman who was sentenced to death and incarcerated in a jail for nine years before being acquitted. Her crime was that, as a Christian, she had drunk from the same cup as her Muslim colleagues – and in the heated discussion that followed was falsely accused of blasphemy. When I met Chief Justice Saqib Nasir (who has been a welcome visitor to the UK this week) and who presided over Asia Bibi’s appeal case, during a visit to Islamabad last month, I was struck by his courage. He had put his life on the line to rectify this appalling injustice. He was only too aware that Minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Punjab Governor Salman Taseer were murdered for speaking out against the incarceration of Asia Bibi and the abuse of the blasphemy law.

 

But the UK has failed to show similar courage in dealing with this case. Asia Bibi’s husband made an impassioned appeal to several countries including the UK, begging for asylum for his wife and family. Asia Bibi is still in danger, make no mistake about that. A frenzy of hate was whipped up after she was acquitted with demands made for her execution.

Surely it is precisely people like Asia Bibi that should qualify for asylum. But fears about the security of British diplomatic staff in Pakistan have led the UK to hold back from offering a safe haven to her and her family. As was noted by one speaker at the parliamentary Foreign affairs Committee on Tuesday 13th November, government policy is being effectively dictated by a lynch mob who have been baying for Asia Bibi’s blood.

And meanwhile we pour millions of pounds into a country where it is not used to help the most persecuted and in need: 

https://davidalton.net/2018/11/05/pakistan-receives-an-average-of-383000-in-british-taxpayers-money-each-and-every-single-day-2-8-billion-over-20-years-yet-as-asia-bibis-case-demonstrates-they-trample-on-the-rights-of/

This failure of courage is systematic.

When Asia’s husband and daughter were in the UK last month as guests of Aid to the Church in Need they were treated abominably by the government. A meeting with a Government  Minister was cancelled at scandalously short notice. After passing through security at the government building where he works, the family arrived at the reception desk only to be told that they should have been told that the meeting was not happening.

 

Checking their mobile phones they found that a voice message had been left while they were passing through security cancelling the appointment. Despite having taken time out of a very busy schedule, no one from the government was prepared to meet them. This speaks volumes about the government’s concern for those around the world being targeted because of their faith.

 

This also chimes with another of the report’s findings that “There is increasing evidence of a curtain of indifference behind which vulnerable faith communities suffer, their plight ignored by a religiously illiterate West.”

 

Religious illiteracy has also impeded the rebuilding of the Nineveh Plains. In August 2014, Daesh or ISIS began a brutal assault on the Yazidi community in the Sinjar region, killing over 10,000 Yazidis. Another 6,417 were kidnapped, and many of them were sold into sexual slavery. In ensuing weeks, hundreds of Christians in towns across the Nineveh Plain who did not flee faced beheadings, sexual enslavement and forcible conversion. The UN has recognised the attacks on Yazidis as genocide and there have been calls for them to similarly recognise the persecution which the Christians faced as genocide too.

 

But four years later, with hundreds of thousands of Yazidis, Christians and Mandaeans still displaced, the governments of the West dragged their feet when it came to helping them rebuild the towns and villages which Daesh had destroyed.

 

A policy of “religion-blind” aid has meant that the UK is unwilling to rebuild a Christian town, or a Yazidi village, unable to grasp that the Nineveh Plains were always a patchwork of settlements belonging to different religious groups – who lived in harmony with their near neighbours of another creed. Because they do not live in the sort of religiously diverse towns we’re used to in the West we have refused to help any of the religious groups rebuild. The approach of “religion-blind” aid has comprehensively failed members of all those minority religious groups who spent years living in tents and in other make-shift accommodation as refugees in their own country. While UK money has gone in to UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) infrastructure projects in Iraq, not a penny of UK money has gone to reconstruction, just as no aid was given to help them while they were displaced.

 

 

Every time I raise this issue the Government repeats the same mantra that they don’t “discriminate on grounds of religion “. But from Iraq to Pakistan religious minorities are actively discriminated against- sometimes even victims of genocide and violent persecution. And the consequence of British Government policy is that British Aid pours into the coffers of Governments that fail to protect minorities and actively discriminate against them. It’s a scandal and a disgrace.

 

Fortunately there is good news, and despite the challenges in northern Iraq Aid to the Church in Need has supported the rebuilding of Christian towns and villages. Today more than 40 percent of the displaced Christians have been able to return home.

 

All this backs up another of the 2018 Religious Freedom in the World report’s findings, that in the West “religious freedom is slipping down the human rights priority rankings”. The UK used to be as a world leader in championing human rights, but when we fail to offer asylum to an innocent woman fearing a frenzied mob, when we fail to offer help to victims of sexual and violence to rebuild their lives, it suggests the West has turned its back on those suffering because of their faith.

 

Next month it will be 7 years since Article 18 was proclaimed as part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s the Article that says every man and woman has the right to believe, to change their belief or not to believe. Yet all over the world it is honoured in the breach. Next  Wednesday it will be Red Wednesday the day on which we can show solidarity with the suffering millions who enjoy none of the freedoms and privileges that we take so much for granted.

The Life Of Asia Bibi – An Innocent Woman – Hangs In The Balance As Pakistan Faces the Lynch Mob

Image result for red wednesday 2018

Red Wednesday will be commemorated in the UK on Wednesday November 28th when churches, schools and public buildings will be lit red – to express solidarity with those persecuted for their faith.   This year many will focus on the plight of Asia Bibi who has been exonerated by Pakistan’s highest court, having suffered nine years of incarceration – with the death penalty hanging over her. Now, she has been forbidden to leave Pakistan and the UK has declined to offer her asylum

https://acnuk.org/our-campaigns/red-wednesday-2018/

 https://www.facebook.com/events/291856444532736/

Red Wednesday 2017 The Timesred-white

Last night, Venice lit their city red  and highlighted the plight of Asia Bibi  

20181120_Venezia_in_Rosso_Daniel_Ibanez_2

https://cruxnow.com/church-in-europe/2018/11/21/venice-illuminated-in-red-for-asia-bibi-persecuted-christians/

Sign the petition calling for this innocent woman to be allowed to leave Pakistan:

https://protect-eu.mimecast.com/s/dbymCL73oFX52mWiB2YSD?domain=citizengo.org

190 Parliamentarians issue an appeal to Imran Khan

https://adfinternational.org/news/saved-from-death-row-pakistans-supreme-court-free-asia-bibi/

November 22nd – At the launch of this year’s Report on Worldwide Religious Freedom David (Lord) Alton and Rehman Chishti MP renew their calls for Asia Bibi to be offered asylum in the UK  http://religious-freedom-report.org/ The launch was chaired by Lord Alton and attended by Government Ministers, parliamentarians and supporters of the charity, Aid to the Church In Need.

ACN Report Launch

See:

Universe Religious Freedom reportUniverse Religious Freedom

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/21/asia-bibi-family-being-hunted-house-to-house-in-pakistan

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/11/asia-bibi-blasphemy-laws-western-asylum/

BBC and Dutch reports of her release from prison: 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-46130189

https://www.rd.nl/advocaat-asia-bibi-vrij-maar-nog-veel-onduidelijkheid-1.1525916

Read House of Lords interventions on November 20th, click here:

https://davidalton.net/2018/11/05/pakistan-receives-an-average-of-383000-in-british-taxpayers-money-each-and-every-single-day-2-8-billion-over-20-years-yet-as-asia-bibis-case-demonstrates-they-trample-on-the-rights-of/

After nine years in prison, Pakistan’s Supreme Court courageously found Asia Bibi to be innocent of Blasphemy charges that carried a death sentence.

Asia Bibi

Now, lynch mobs, defying the rule of law, have demanded her execution and have persuaded the Pakistan Government that she should be banned from leaving the country.  

 

The Pakistan Government have also said that attempts can be made to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision.  

 

This makes a mockery of the rule of law and, meanwhile, Asia Bibi – an innocent woman, a mother denied her freedom for nine years,  continues to be held in custody. 

Now her lawyer has had to flee the country – saying he fears for his life.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1443317

Dr.Taj Hargey, a Muslim Imam based in Oxford, was so right when he wrote in The Telegraph, yesterday  that Asia Bibi should be granted asylum in the UK and spoke of “the deafening silence” from British people of Pakistani origin and of  “our collective shame in not preventing her cruel incarceration.”  

 

Inspiring Service – Pembroke College, the University of Oxford: Principles, Practice, People.

 

Inspiring Service – Pembroke College, the University of Oxford. November 23rd, 2018: Principles, Practice, People.

 

 

Only in Britain would the words “Community Service” be turned into a punishment to be dispensed by the courts.

 

The principle of serving others is a central tenet of citizenship; for Christians it is at the very heart of the Gospel; the service of others changes lives, changes society, and changes us – all for the better.It is the animating principle for public life par excellence.

 

It draws its force from the recognition that every human person (every soul) is worth more than the whole of the rest of the created order. Each unique, each a person, made in the image and likeness of God, each with inherent dignity and worth and each made to express themselves as moral beings that grow in love and charity through their own particular gifts.

 

 

I have assumed that when Andrew Teal set me this examination question –“Inspiring Service” – discuss – he would want me to reflect on almost 40 years spent in Parliament and eight years before that, serving an inner-city neighbourhood in Liverpool, where half the homes had no inside sanitation, and where I was elected, while in my final year as a student, as a City Councillor.

 

I will do just that.

 

Let me follow the example of the Romans who divided Gaul into three parts –  stating, firstly, what principles should inspire service through politics; secondly, how Faith should inspire us to serve; and thirdly, who has inspired me. Principles, Practice and People.

 

What principles should inspire service through politics?

 

Every day that I am at Westminster I walk through Westminster Hall – where Parliament first met in 1265, within whose walls Thomas More and Charles I were tried, and where, in  1965 Winston Churchill was laid in State.

 

As a young boy, along with millions of others, I walked past Churchill’s coffin. He has been lionised as the man who saved democracy. Yet Churchill had a realistic view of democracy and politics, once saying that:

 

“Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…”

 

This“least worst form of government,” in this “world of sin and woe” – impaired but always preferable to dictatorship or totalitarianism – cannot function without virtue and commonly held values and a belief in serving the nation rather than serving yourself and sectional interests.

 

In 1979, elected to the House of Commons, I was privileged to serve alongside the last Members who had seen active service in the Second World War and who had served alongside Churchill in the House. Overwhelmingly, regardless of their Party, they believed in public service and the principle of duty.

 

The alternative approach to political service can be found in Nicolo Machiavelli’s The Prince. He tells us that the ruler should not hesitate to deceive and be prepared to choose evil as the price of power.

 

Machiavelli despised many traditional Christian beliefs, turning on their head Christian words such as virtue, believing that real virtue emanated from the pursuit of ambition, glory and power.

 

Mercifully, he didn’t have access to Twitter.

 

This represented a fundamental break with Aquinas and medieval scholasticism and the Aristotelian belief in the pursuit of virtue. Aristotle had a high view of “the polis”, insisting that “we are not solitary pieces in a game of chequers” but all players in a common life; and that shame –“aidos” would attach to the citizen who refused to play their part.

 

Aristotle warned that“ he who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must either be a beast or a god.”

 

Aquinas echoed Aristotle in extolling the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, and courage.

 

This inspired belief in the value of virtuous service to others is captured in many societies and systems of belief.

 

My mother was a native Irish speaker. On the wall of the Council flat where I grew up we had some words in Irish which said “It is in the shelter of each other’s lives that the people live”.

 

We lived next door to a Jewish lady, Sadie Moonshine, who would have been familiar with Hillel’s admonition that “If I am not myself who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I?”

 

Nelson Mandela often reflected on the idea of “Ubuntu” – a person is a person because of other people and Archbishop Desmond Tutu explained that“A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, …and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”

 

Ubuntu is only possible in a person with this common good mentality, a mentality at odds with our cold, calculated utilitarian social mores.

 

 

Public policy can never be legitimate if it does not serve and promote the flourishing of each unique created person; and withstand the violation of a minority or even a single individual, because there can be no ‘common good’ that does not respect our equal worth and dignity first.

 

We don’t exist in isolation; we are not simply individuals – who, in a parody of the Gospel think it’s ok to“do unto others before they do you” – to simply demand bigger faster, better more, and the absolute right to choose, while being oblivious to the consequences for others.

The great nineteenth century idealist and exponent of ethical liberalism – and Oxford City Councillor – , Thomas Hill Green was right when he said that“If the idea of the community of good for all men has even now little influence the reason is that we identify too little with good character and too much with good things.” 

 

The concept that we should place ourselves at the service of others – at the service of the Common Good; at the service of the weakest, the poorest, the most vulnerable – gives form and expression to the desire of the virtuous citizen to generously and altruistically use their privileges and talents in the inspired service of others.

 

A snapshot of contemporary Britain shows what happens when we stop looking out for one another; where toxic loneliness replaces family and community cohesion and too many feel like losers even when thought to be winners in purely material terms; where without shared values and rules, stable relationships, a sense of duty and a willingness to serve others, we too easily shrink into merely atomised individuals, invariably unhappy, unfulfilled and often alone. 

 

Whether we like it or not we come from a community, with all its faults and failings, and each of us – with all our own faults and failings – have some gift to return to that community. That is how it should be.

 

 

Regrettably, too often, public service through politics has been replaced by a self-serving and self-regarding form of careerism: too often dominated by attempts to climb Disraeli’s greasy pole; too often characterised by an intolerance and toxicity – reflected even at universities like this with the no platforming of alternative views; too often governed by narrow ideologies;  increasingly disconnected from communities, creating a vacuum into which organisations with extreme and inflammatory views are able to enter with ease. 

 

Mahatma Gandhi warned of the danger of becoming disconnected: “To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves”and telling us that “You must be the change you want to see in the world”

 

If we want to change the world, we need to change our nation, if we want to change our nation we must change our communities, if we want to change our communities, we must change our families, and if we want to change our families we must change ourselves.  Change doesn’t come about by itself – it comes through active participation and voluntary service. Sometimes that will be through elected office.

 

The African Bishop who once said that politics is not a dirty business – just that some of the players have dirty hands – was right.

 

Politics is only as good as the people who engage in it.

 

And what follows when democracy is hollowed out?

 

2017 saw the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution, which paved the way for totalitarianism, social engineering, state terror and mass murder, leaving a legacy of prison camps and unmarked graves. 30 million people were executed, starved to death or perished in labour camps in what was the bloodiest century in human history with the loss of 100 million lives.

  

It began with the Armenian genocide and culminated in the Holocaust  and the depredations of the four mass murderers of the 20th century—Mao, Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot.

 

Our former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, reminds us:“Do not ask where was God at Auschwitz,  ask where was man” while the great Protestant theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer warned us that “not to speak is to speak; not to act is too act.” 

 

Does Faith inspire us to serve?

 

If all of this should guide us into political service what does the Christian Faith say to us?

 

Every person uniquely reflects the Divine Likeness, and for that reason alone we are required to uphold the dignity of each.

 

In rendering unto Caesar, we do not need to stop seeing everything through the lens of our Faith.

 

When Churchill, who was not known for religious ardour, was once described as “a pillar of the church,” he corrected the speaker by interjecting: “No, no, not a pillar, but a buttress, supporting it from the outside.” 

 

 

He insisted that “The flame of Christian ethics is still our highest guide. … Only by bringing it into perfect application can we hope to solve for ourselves the problems of this world and not of this world alone.”

 

Churchill understood that the “least worst form of government” was dependent on Judeo-Christian values.

 

If Churchill was our greatest twentieth century Prime Minister, Gladstone was the nineteenth century’s.

 

He said“As to its politics, this country has much less, I think, to fear than to hope; unless through a corruption of its religion – against which, as Conservative or Liberal, I can perhaps say I have striven all my life long.” –a sentiment with which William Wilberforce, Lord Shaftesbury, Keir Hardie and many other significant political figures would have concurred.

 

In an inspiring letter, the last he wrote, John Wesley told Wilberforce to use all his political skills to end slavery and to fight for human dignity, to be like the fourth century Christian bishop Athanasius:  an “Athanasius contra mundum”an “Athanasius against the world.”

 

In all our Faith traditions we need to encourage greater emphasis to an outpouring of service. And what a blessing this can be. After all, 84% of the world’s population are religious.

 

From the Catholic tradition, where do I look for inspiration?

 

John Henry Newman told his Oxford students to love their country and to serve the nation:“We are not born for ourselves, but for our kind, for our neighbours, for our country: it is but selfishness, indolence, a perverse fastidiousness, an unmanliness, and no virtue or praise, to bury our talent in a napkin.”  

 

Jacques Maritain, in Integral Humanism, asserted that“Christianity taught men that love is worth more than intelligence”, insisting that Christianity may not need democracy to survive but democracy needs Christianity if it is to thrive.

 

It is fragile and like the call to serve needs to be nurtured and renewed in every generation.

 

Democracy is not a spectator sport; Christians must offer servant leadership; and fearlessly champion human dignity. Chesterton remarked in 1930 that When people begin to ignore human dignity, it will not be long before they begin to ignore human rights.”

  The Church fathers say the same, declaring in 1965

in Dignitatis Humanae,that Religious freedom ought to have this further purpose and aim, namely that people may come to act with greater responsibility in fulfilling their duties in community life.”

 

In 1993 in Veritatis Splendor, that “ As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism”; in 2009 in  Caritas in Veritate, that “Many people …are concerned only with their rights… Hence it is important to call for a renewed reflection on how rights presuppose duties, if they are not to become mere license”; and Pope Francis, in 2016, in “The Name of God is Mercy”, rebukes those who“ neglect love”while using the metaphor of “the field hospital”– where “those who are the most wounded”can encounter Christian love in action.

 Inspiring and channelling adherents into public service is transformative of individuals and of society.

So much for the principles and practice. What about the people who inspire me?

Never forget the local councillors, the political activists, the backroom people who organise elections, the unseen and unsung heroes; those who spend hour after hour in advice centres and surgeries dealing with day to day crises and problems facing constituents – demonstrating that you genuinely cared about them.

I have a poster on my study wall that says “God so loved the world that he didn’t send a committee” but legions of decent people give their time freely  spending hour after hour in meetings and committees to make the system work and that is public service too.

E.M.Forster, in his book,Two Cheers for Democracy, which he wrote as“a liberal who has found liberalism crumbling beneath him” – insists that the idiosyncratic bloody minded back bench MP who gets some minor injustice put right is the justification of our imperfect system of democracy.

  Inspired political service can put right more than minor injustices – I have mentioned Wilberforce, who with Clarkson, the Quaker ladies and others campaigned for 40 years against the slave trade.

And think of heroes like Bonhoeffer or Maximilian Kolbe whose stand against Nazism cost them their lives.

But there are countless others, too, who should inspire us to use the gifts which we have been given.

As a teenager I was inspired by Robert Kennedy and Dr.Martin Luther King – both murdered for their beliefs. Kennedy insisted that “each of us can work to change a small portion of events.”

 

I was recently in Pakistan, raising the case of Asia Bibi –incarcerated for 9 years with a death sentence.

In 2011, after championing her case the Christian Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, and his Muslim friend, Salmaan Taseer, Governor of the Punjab, were both murdered: By entering into political service Bhatti knew his potential fate:“I know the meaning of the Cross. I am following the Cross and I am ready to die for a cause.” 

Esther famously said“If I perish, I perish”“how can I look on, while my people suffer what is in store for them?” 

 

Asia, like Bhatti and Taseer, came as it tells us in the wonderful Book of Esther,“for such a time as this.”

 

And there isn’t always justice or reconstruction.

Shahbaz Bhatti’s murderers have never been brought to justice in a country where last year a mob of 1,200 people forced two children to watch as their Christian parents were burned alive.

Think, too, of the 21 Coptic Christians who, in 2015, in the moment of their barbaric execution by ISIS were repeating the words“Lord, Jesus Christ” ; or of the two North Korean women who appeared before a Committee I chair and described egregious and brutal violations of human rights.

When you encounter people like this – facing murder, beheadings, rape, terror, intimidation –  you can feel overawed but inspired too.

These examples and these stories are pointless unless they inspire us to do something about it – to put our array of amazing gifts and privileges at the service of others.

In these three points – Principles, Practice and People – addressing the principles that should inspire service through politics; stating how Faith should inspire us to serve; and by mentioning some who have inspired me, I hope that I have done justice to Andrew Teal’s invitation to reflect on inspiring service.

 

 

Debate on Citizenship and Civic Engagement – why no platforming should be opposed and freedom of speech upheld in universities; why we need to learn to respect difference; why we need to put more resources into the teaching of English to immigrants; why we must emphasise duties and obligations alongside rights.

 

Debate on Citizenship and Civic Engagement – why no platforming should be opposed and freedom of speech upheld in universities; why we need to learn to respect difference; why we need to put more resources into the teaching of English to immigrants; why we must emphasise duties and obligations alongside rights.

Monday November 19th 2018

8.45 pm

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

 

My Lords, in welcoming the report I will begin by mentioning that for 20 years I held a chair in citizenship at Liverpool John Moores University and created its Foundation for Citizenship, along with the Roscoe lectures, which have attracted audiences of about 1,000 people and which are subsequently made available online.

 

Many of the more than 140 public lectures which I chaired addressed the issues which have been considered by the Select Committee in its well-judged report. The noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, who gave one of those important lectures, spoke earlier in our debate, and many things he said today are things that he flagged in that lecture.

 

In the aftermath of the London bombings, we held a miniseries of Roscoe lectures entitled “Learning to Live Together”. 

 

At Liverpool Cathedral, the trustee of the local mosque, the secretary of the Hindu cultural organisation, a local rabbi, the Bishop of Liverpool and the Archbishop of Liverpool stood together and simply said, “But not here”.

 

 In a city that describes itself as “the whole world in one city”, Liverpool can teach the rest of the country a thing or two about how people of many diverse backgrounds and traditions can learn to respectfully coexist. 

 

It is a central challenge for our country, and central to the question of values alluded to my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries and the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson.

 

Universities are uniquely positioned to provide a place where difference can be moderated, celebrated and understood. 

 

That some universities, including the University of Oxford, have allowed speakers to be no-platformed, is deplorable. 

 

Whether you agree with speakers such as Germaine Greer, Jenni Murray, Tim Stanley or Peter Hitchens is irrelevant. 

 

They should be heard respectfully. That is the essence of free speech: a fundamental principle of civic engagement and good citizenship.

 

Even worse is the upsurge of anti-Semitism on campuses and within political circles. 

 

Respecting minorities and respecting difference is a central part of who we are. It brings higher education into disrepute when alternative views are suppressed.

 

Next month will be the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

 

In 1948, that declaration emerged from the ashes of Auschwitz and proclaimed 30 defining articles, from the right to life to the right to free speech and to believe or not believe—and, in Article 21, the right to take part in the government of one’s country directly or through freely chosen representatives.

 

As the Government consider their response to the Green Paper and the civil society strategy, as well as putting flesh on the committee’s 79 recommendations, they should perhaps see the 70th anniversary as an opportunity to celebrate universal principles for citizenship that resonate with so many of the values which our country embraces and must constantly renew.

 

They might particularly consider Article 15 in the context of registration of children born in the United Kingdom to be registered as British citizens—an issue on which I and the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, have previously divided your Lordships’ House and which tonight was spoken about eloquently by my noble friend Lord Russell of Liverpool. 

 

Article 15 states categorically:

 

“Everyone has the right to a nationality”,

 

and that:

 

“No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality”.

 

In 1983, when the British Nationality Act came into force, the fee for children’s registration was £35, which means that the current fee is way in excess of inflation. 

 

Today the fee stands at £1,012, which is some £640 in excess of the administrative cost. When that Bill was being debated in 1981, I was in another place. 

 

As a Member of the House of Commons, I participated in proceedings on the British Nationality Act. The Act recognised that some children would be born here and grow up here without parents who were themselves British. The law states that they,

 

“shall be entitled to be registered as a British citizen”,

 

and the intention was that they would be able to so register by a straightforward and accessible process.

 

Ultimately, however, the current fee means that there is a bar to many children being able to register as British and to access their consequent rights. 

 

It is difficult to see how the imposition of a fee designed to generate income for the Home Office far in excess of the cost of registering a child could possibly have been within the contemplation of Parliament. 

 

Certainly, to my knowledge, no discussion of such a purpose formed part of Parliament’s deliberations in 1981. This is not surprising: Parliament did not provide for an express power to set a fee for nationality and immigration applications in excess of the administrative cost until 2007.

 

It was always Parliament’s intention to focus on and promote the concept and reality of citizenship. It was never the intention that the Home Office should be empowered to prevent the full integration of children into their community by raising fees to the extent that children are denied that legal entitlement. 

 

What does it say to young people, who we should want to be proud to be British, when we deny them the opportunity to come into citizenship in this way?

 

I return to another issue which I have raised previously, and which led me to seek a meeting with two government Ministers, Brandon Lewis MP and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford. 

 

It concerns an issue touched on earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves: the central importance of the English language, without which no one can engage in civic or even social life. 

 

Refugee Action continues to campaign for a restoration of ESOL funding to its 2009-10 levels. 

 

Will the Minister tell the House when this may happen? 

 

ESOL has been cut in real terms by 60% over that period and, as I discovered when I spent time with a group of Syrian refugees in Liverpool, it particularly hits women, some of whom have been waiting for three years to start English lessons.

 

The Government should act on Refugee Action’s five recommendations, ensure equal access for women and publish an ESOL strategy for England, 

 

As someone who, as a student longer ago than I care to admit—probably 50 years—volunteered over two summer vacations to teach English to children from overseas, I know that this is a two-way street. 

 

Those who volunteer and take part get as much as those who receive English language teaching. 

 

I know how those children, and their children, have grown up. One is a godchild of mine and I know the contribution they now make to our country. Language is crucial.

 

In 1999, in a book called Citizen Virtues, I quoted some words which my immigrant, Irish-speaking mother had pinned up on the wall of our kitchen:

 

“It is in the shelter of each other’s lives that the people live”.

 

A snapshot of contemporary Britain shows what happens when we stop sheltering and looking out for one another; where toxic loneliness replaces family and community cohesion; when too many feel like losers even when thought to be winners in purely material terms; where without shared values and rules, stable relationships, a sense of duty and a willingness to serve others, we too easily shrink into merely atomised individuals, invariably unhappy, unfulfilled and often alone.

 

Whether we like it or not, we come from a community, with all its faults and failings, and each of us—with all our own faults and failings—has some gift to return to that community. 

 

Aristotle said that we are not solitary pieces in a game of checkers. 

 

Each of us has a duty to play our part. 

 

Instead of the flaccid language of rights and entitlements, we must emphasise again the duties that we owe to one another. 

 

That is why I welcome the Select Committee’s report and hope that the Government will act on many of its excellent recommendations.

 

 8.54 pm

https://davidalton.net/2018/09/09/we-must-do-more-to-protect-vulnerable-populationsfrom-genocide-and-crimes-against-humanity-artilce-published-in-the-times-by-lord-alton-and-jan-figel-eu-special-envoy-on-freedom-of-religion-and/

 

Why We Should Give Asylum To Asia Bibi – and why, not to do so, flies in the face of everything Britain is supposed to stand for. Question in The House – November 20th 2018. Link to Petition.launch of Religious Freedom In the World Report November 22nd;Support Asia Bibi on Red Wednesday -November 28th. Reply From the Prime Minister.

Red Wednesday will be commemorated in the UK on Wednesday November 28th when churches, schools and public buildings will be lit red – to express solidarity with those persecuted for their faith.   This year many will focus on the plight of Asia Bibi who has been exonerated by Pakistan’s highest court, having suffered nine years of incarceration – with the death penalty hanging over her. Now, she has been forbidden to leave Pakistan and the UK has declined to offer her asylum

https://acnuk.org/our-campaigns/red-wednesday-2018/

 https://www.facebook.com/events/291856444532736/

Red Wednesday 2017 The Times

Last night, Venice lit their city red  and highlighted the plight of Asia Bibi  

20181120_Venezia_in_Rosso_Daniel_Ibanez_2

https://cruxnow.com/church-in-europe/2018/11/21/venice-illuminated-in-red-for-asia-bibi-persecuted-christians/

Universe Religious FreedomUniverse Religious Freedom report

Topical Oral Question: November 20th 2018

*Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what response they have made to requests to assist in the (1) safe passage and resettlement of, and (2) granting of asylum to Asia Bibi and her family.

 

Asia Bibi

20 November 2018

Question

3.00 pm

Asked by

Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what response they have made to requests to assist in the (1) safe passage and resettlement of, and (2) granting of asylum to Asia Bibi and her family.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)

My Lords, the release of Asia Bibi will be very welcome news to her family and to all those who have campaigned for her freedom. We welcome the ongoing assurances that the Government of Pakistan have given on keeping her and her family safe. As a matter of policy, and in accordance with our duty of confidentiality, the Government do not comment on individual cases. Departing from this policy may put individuals and their family members in danger.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Is it not passing strange that while other Governments, 200 parliamentarians and the leader writers of national newspapers have all spoken powerfully and clearly calling for asylum to be granted to Asia Bibi, we take Trappist vows of silence? Recalling that Shahbaz Bhatti, who was the Minister for Minorities, and Salmaan Taseer, who was the Muslim governor of Punjab, were murdered for insisting on the innocence of Asia Bibi, does the Minister share my huge admiration for Pakistan’s Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, both of whom I met recently in Islamabad, who courageously and with great integrity acquitted and exonerated Asia Bibi, who was wrongfully sentenced to death and incarcerated for nine years? Does not their refusal to be dictated to by lynch mobs while we fail to offer asylum because of what Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, says is a fear of reprisals, undermine our belief in justice, human rights, the rule of law and religious freedom, and endanger us falling foul of, and succumbing, to blackmail?

Baroness Williams of Trafford

I know the noble Lord will understand that I cannot comment on most of the points that he has made.

Noble Lords

Oh.

Baroness Williams of Trafford

I cannot, my Lords. Our primary concern is the safety and security of Asia Bibi and her family, and we want to see a swift resolution of the situation. A number of countries are in discussion about providing a safe destination once the legal process is complete. Therefore, it would not be right to comment further at this stage. The noble Lord also talked about religious freedom. I welcome the opportunity to say that we continue to urge all countries to guarantee the rights of all citizens, particularly the most vulnerable, in accordance with international standards.

Lord Anderson of Swansea (Lab)

Does not the hesitation of the Government in this sense, either because of a fear of community backlash or because of perceived dangers to our high commission staff, speak volumes about their human rights commitment? Surely as far as Pakistan is concerned, the deal reached with the extremists by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, tells us something about his human rights credentials and those of the Government of Pakistan.

Baroness Williams of Trafford

Noble Lords can draw their own conclusions in this situation, but our prime concern is the safety and security of Asia Bibi and her family and we want a swift resolution of the situation. As I said earlier, I do not want to comment further because I do not want any individual or their family members to be put in danger.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans

My Lords, the Minister is in a very difficult position because the Government feel unable to speak. However, it is not just Christians who are suffering from these blasphemy laws but other groups of Muslims and other religious minorities. What efforts are Her Majesty’s Government making to put pressure on the Pakistani Government to ensure that these blasphemy laws do not continue unjustly to affect these communities?

Baroness Williams of Trafford

My Lords, as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, we continue to urge all countries to guarantee the rights of all citizens in accordance with international standards. Our current position on minorities in Pakistan is set out in the Home Office country policy and the information note that we published, Pakistan: Christians and Christian Converts, which provides background, but it is important that each case involving asylum is considered on its individual facts and merits.

Lord Beith (LD)

My Lords, while there may be things that the Government can do or say behind the scenes, and we hope they are doing so, surely the Minister is not trying to cast doubt on the fact that if someone arrived directly from Pakistan into this country who had been through the experiences that Asia Bibi has been through and faced the threat that she now faces, they would have an irrefutable claim for asylum under international law.

Baroness Williams of Trafford

I am not trying to cast doubt on anything. Obviously I will not talk about individual cases. Anyone who arrives in this country and seeks asylum is dealt with on a case-by-case basis. I make the general point that this country has been generous over decades and indeed centuries to people coming here to seek our asylum and take refuge. I do not think the attitude of this country towards people who need our refuge should be in any doubt.

Baroness Warsi (Con)

My Lords—

Baroness Cox (CB)

My Lords—

Lord Taylor of Holbeach (Con)

My Lords, the Conservatives have not had a chance to ask a question on this subject so I think it is their turn.

Baroness Warsi

My Lords, I fully endorse the comments of the right reverend Prelate. I believe that it is not just time for those blasphemy laws not to be operated in a harsh way, it is time for those laws to be brought to an end. There have been press reports that Asia Bibi, if granted asylum in the United Kingdom, would potentially not be safe from some communities here. I wish to give my noble friend and this House full confidence. As someone who is deeply connected to British Muslim communities, I assure her that they are fully supportive of any asylum claim that Asia Bibi may have and that our country may afford her, and that she would be supported as she would be by all other communities in this country.

Baroness Williams of Trafford

I thank my noble friend for her point on the various differing media reports on what this country might or might not do. Clearly every asylum claim is treated on its own merits. As I say, and I am sure my noble friend will attest to this, we have a long and proud tradition of granting asylum in this country to those who need it.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/21/asia-bibi-family-being-hunted-house-to-house-in-pakistan

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

Why We Should Give Asylum To Asia Bibi

https://davidalton.net/2018/11/05/pakistan-receives-an-average-of-383000-in-british-taxpayers-money-each-and-every-single-day-2-8-billion-over-20-years-yet-as-asia-bibis-case-demonstrates-they-trample-on-the-rights-of/

After a visit, in 2015, to detention centres in Thailand, where I saw some of the thousands of escaping Pakistani Christians and Ahmadis, caged like animals, and subsequently filmed by Chris Rogers for a BBC documentary, I chaired an Inquiry under the auspices of the All Party Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief. 

 

In 2016, following evidence taking sessions and witness statements, we published a Report and submitted it to the Home Office, Foreign Office and Pakistan High Commission.

 

The Report’s central finding was that the Home Office is wrong to suggest that what is happening to the Christian minority is simply discrimination rather than persecution – and we highlighted the impact that this choice of word has on everything from asylum claims to humanitarian aid.

 

The flow of refugees has intensified after the assassinations, in 2011 of the Christian Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, and his Muslim friend, Salmaan Taseer, Governor of the Punjab, both murdered, after speaking out against the wrongful imprisonment, sentenced to death by hanging of an illiterate woman, a berry picker, and mother of five, Aasiya Noreen, commonly known as Asia Bibi.

 

In 2009 she had beenarrested after triggering a dispute with Muslim women when she, an “infidel,” took a sipof water from a communal cup while harvesting a hot field. This is a throw-back to the untouchability of the caste system. 

 

Asia Bibi was accused of blaspheming. And sentenced under section 295-C of the 1986 blasphemy law – a capital offence.

 

At the time theMuslim cleric Maulana Yousaf Qureshi announced a bounty of 500,000 Pakistani Rupees to anyone who would kill her.

 

The deaths of Minister Bhatti and Governor Taseer werethe curtain raiser for an orgy of bombings, killings, rapes, imprisonment and abductions. 

 

We should never forget the sacrifice of these two men who gave their lives for their people. In accepting political office Bhatti knew it could cost him his life.

 

 

Last month I visited Lahore and Islamabad, met many who knew both of those great men.

The Lahore Bar Council told me tat the unreformed Blasphemy Laws have frequently been used for revenge, for mendacious and vexatious purposes – with prosecutions having nothing to do with Blasphemy.

 

Those laws, following accusations, have led to more than 60 deaths and dozens of communal attacks.

 

I do not blaspheme and do not defend blasphemy – but laws that are based on a wholly disproportionate use of the death sentence; laws which are regularly appropriated for wrongful purposes; and laws that fail to recognise the place of the rightnot to believe or to hold a different belief does not make for a good or genuinely respectful society

 

In 1947, a year before the country signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Pakistan’s greatly admired founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah crafted a constitution which promised to uphold plurality and diversity and to protect all its citizens.  

 

Jinnah said: “You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the State…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”. 

 

 Pakistan was founded on principles of equality and justice.

 

What is now done to its own citizens, and done with impunity, makes a mockery of those high ideals.

 

The white in the nation’s flag is there to represent the country’s minorities but as those minorities suffer and Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies and frightened leaders fail to speak or to act justly its flag has been dragged low.

Failure to act jeopardises the country’s future and undermines the prospect of a diverse and respectful society.

 

In the face of a systematic campaign of visceral hatred Pakistan’s contemporary leaders have done little to uphold Jinnah’s vision – and, equally, there is little evidence that more than £2.8 billion of British aid, given over the past two decades, is doing anything to support beleaguered minorities, often the poorest of the poor, or to promote religious freedom or peaceful co-existence.

 

Since 2002 on 114 occasions I have raised questions or made interventions about Pakistan – the first, in 2002 when I asked the Government whether they agreed that “a good test of the democratic credentials of any government is the way they treat their minorities and uphold human rights?”

 

I highlighted that“over the past 12 months in Pakistan there have been 39 deaths, 100 injuries and nine attacks on churches, church buildings, hospitals and schools? Does she recognise that one of the continuing sources of persecution against that tiny minority in Pakistan has been the blasphemy laws?

 

Nine years later, in 2011, in the aftermath of Shahbaz Bhatti’s murder – for which no one has ever been brought to justice – Ministers were telling me:

 

“The issue of religious tolerance is part of a wider attack on Pakistan’s democratic tradition. It is essential Pakistan supports political freedom wherever it is threatened.

 

 

And that

 

  “We see Pakistan as a country to which we are bound by longstanding ties, but also a country where we must put forward our values in a strong and effective way”

 

If a country cannot bring to justice the killer of a Government Minister what chance do the country’s persecuted, beleaguered and fleeing minorities have? 

 

The following year, in 2012 I raised the killing ofShugufta Baber, a teacher at the Convent High School in Okara, her two sons and her sister Samina Bibi; the vulnerability of Christian women; and the failure to use UK aid to help beleaguered minorities.

 

Consider again that in the past twenty years we have given Pakistan £2.8 billion of aid – – the equivalent of £383,000 each and every single day. It is our biggest bilateral aid programme.

 

Yet precious little of this aid reaches the poorest of the poor in the country’s minorities – because the Government say they are“religion blind” and do not “discriminate”. 

 

Every time I raise this issue they repeat the same mantra that they don’t“discriminate on grounds of religion”.

 

Yet Pakistan’s religious minorities are actively discriminatedagainst– victims of violent persecution. 

 

They live in abject conditions in slum“colonies” which DFID says it doesn’t even send its officials to visit. Why? Because it doesn’t discriminate. 

 

How does this deliberate blind spot square with the fate of three Christian women from a village near Pattoki whose case I raised in 2013 when they were publicly beaten and humiliated?

 

Later that year I commended Baroness Warsi, then Minister for saying

 

that senior politicians in countries like Pakistan have a “duty” to denounce persecution and to set a standard for tolerance.”

 

In that same year 83 people were killed in a twin suicide bombing at the end of a service at All Saints Church in Peshawar.

 

Yet the Home Office say it’s not persecution and DFID says it won’t discriminate in favour of these minorities.

 

 

In 2014 I urged the Government to seek“a fair and just trial in the cases of Savan Masih, Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar, sentenced to death for blasphemy”

 

 

That same year I again raised the case of Asia Bibi, the failure to bring Minister Bhatti’s murderers to justice and the burning to death in Kot Radha Kishan of a Christian couple following allegations of blasphemy and in 2015 challenged an ideology that could lead “to the burning alive in a kiln of a Christian couple in Pakistan by a mob of 1,300 people while their young children were forced to watch.”

 

In 2016 I raised the murder of Khurram Zaki whocampaignedagainst sectarian violence and religious extremism.

 

In the same year at least 72 people were killedand more than 300 injured when a suicide bomb ripped through the parking space of a crowded park in Lahore where Christians were celebrating Easter Sunday. A Taliban faction claimed responsibility.

 

 

Later in 2016 I asked how we were reacting “following the statement of the Chairman of the Pakistan Senate’s Standing Committee on Religious Affairs that forced conversion of girls is taking place “across the country on a daily basis”, and (2) about reports of humiliation, torture and false imprisonment of girls from Christian backgrounds by police officers.”

 

And I asked aboutthe honour killing of women, the exclusion of minority communities from full citizenship, and hate material in school text books – an issue I subsequently pursued at meetings with Ministers from the Foreign Office and Department for International Development.

 

In 2017 I asked the Home Office about the admission to the UK of hate preachers – one of whom celebrated the murder of Salmaan Taseer – and asked about the role of the Commonwealth; the case of  Taimoor Raza who had been sentenced to death after postings on social media; and the lynching of Mashal Khan, a student of Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, for allegedly publishing blasphemous content online and expressing liberal and secular views

 

Earlier this year I asked about the evidence published by the Aurat Foundation of 1,000 forced conversions every year; about forced marriages in Sindh; the monitoring of madrassas known to promote hatred of minorities.

 

On April 18th, Lord Ahmad, the Government’s Envoy for Religious Freedom, wrote to me about the beating to death of a Christian, Sunil Saleem and said the Government didn’t“tend to raise specific cases”.

 

Well why not? 

 

I also asked the Home Office Minister, Baroness Williams, whether she believed “it is safe to deport families, including children, to Pakistan when there is evidence that they have received death threats due to their religious beliefs; when they last considered whether there is persecution of particular minorities in Pakistan; and what conclusions they reached.

 

She replied that

 

“Claims are considered against any relevant caselaw and the background of the latest available country information”…“Crucially, decision makers must still consider the individual facts and merits of a particular case to determine whether or not that person qualifies for asylum.

 

In an oral exchange on October 15th  I said that having“seen first-hand the abject, festering conditions in which many of the country’s religious minorities live, and having heard accounts of abduction, rape, the forced marriage of a nine year-old, forced conversion, death sentences for so-called blasphemy” – and I referred to the case of Asia Bibi and children being forced to watch as their parents were burned alive – I asked the Minister:“how can the Home Office, in all those circumstances, continue to say that what is happening in Pakistan to religious believers and humanists is merely discrimination, not persecution?”

 

In reply she said that “each application to our asylum system should be dealt with in terms of the persecution that people might face.

 

 

But, that is the whole problem – notwithstanding everything I have just described, her own Department refuse to accept that there is persecution – and that is why asylum claims from these persecuted minorities are rarely allowed. 

 

I therefore went on to ask specifically how many claims for asylum in the UK were successful in respect of religious minorities from Pakistan over the past five years.

 

The Minister said that 2,982 grants of asylum had been made but could not say how many came from religious minorities and that “the data required to answer the question is not recorded in a way that can be reported on accurately. …This data could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.”

 

This borders on the absurd. This question should be asked; the information recorded and available to Parliament.   

Cases such as Asia Bibi’s reveal a serious problem in the UK’s Asylum Policy when it comes to Christians fleeing genuine persecution. 

In hiding behind the pretext that it“doesn’t discriminate” it ends up doing exactly that and reneging on its promises and commitments to support and protect the most vulnerable. By way of example, in 2017, of the 7,060 Syrian refugees the United Nations High Commission for Refugees recommended to the UK a mere 25 were Christians (0.35 percent).  And, of these, the Home Office only accepted eleven – meaning Christians made up only 0.23 percent of Syrian refugees resettled in the UK last year. So how many Pakistani Christians are among the 2982 given asylum in the UK last year?

And what of our craven refusal to offer asylum to Asia Bibi?

 

Recalling that Shahbaz Bhatti and Salmaan Taseer were both murdered for insisting on the innocence of Asia Bibi, I can feel nothing but huge admiration for Pakistan’s Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, and Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, both of whom I met in Islamabad last month and who, courageously, and with great integrity, acquitted and exonerated Asia Bibi – wrongfully sentenced to death and incarcerated for nine years 

 

Their refusal to be dictated to by lynch mobs, by failing to offer asylum because of what Tom Tugendhat MP, the Chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee says is a fear of reprisals, makes a mockery of British values of justice, human rights, rule of law, and religious freedom. 

 

 

The bravery of Pakistan’s Chief Justice and Supreme Court Judges who exonerated and cleared the name of Asia Bibi is in marked contrast to those, in Pakistan and here, who have been cowed by lynch mobs and threats of violence – including, sadly, our own Government.

 

And what signal does this response send about our concern, or lack of it, for the plight of the other forty people said to be on death row in Pakistan for alleged Blasphemy?

 

 

While the Government of Pakistan has capitulated to the extremists in Tehreek-e-Labbaik and tried to set aside the verdict of the Supreme Court – our duty is to stand with the Judges and the rule of law.

 

Weren’t Tom Tugendhat MP, Rehman Chishti MP – former Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party and Government Trade Envoy to Pakistan – who has resigned over the issue –  and Lady Warsi –  all correct in condemning this capitulation to lynch mobs? 

 

Shouldn’t the Government have taken their cue from Dr. Taj Hargey, Imam of Oxford Islamic Congregation,that Asia Bibi should be granted asylum in the UK and who spoke of “the deafening silence” from British people of Pakistani origin and of “our collective shame in not preventing her cruel incarceration.”  

 

 

The Government needs to say how it responds to Dr. Hargey; to key figures from their own Party; and how it intends to respond to the 200 parliamentarians and the 130,000 petitioners who have asked the Government to think again.

 

The letter from parliamentarians states:“We urge in the strongest possible terms the Government of Pakistan to guarantee safe passage for Asia, her family, and any of those under threat due to their part in the decision to acquit her, to any country that accepts them.”

 

 

The Times, in an editorial says that the silence of the British Government is “shameful” while a Daily Mail editorial says“This country has a proud tradition of taking in those who suffer religious persecution. Shunning Mrs. Bibi would make a mockery of that tradition.”

 

 

On whose side do we stand – the side of an innocent woman and the rule of law or on the side of the lynch mob? 

 

On the side of those who whip up a frenzy of hate with demands made for executions and calls for the death of the courageous judges?

 

Or on the side of those who are unjustly persecuted?

 

Asia Bibi’s appeal for asylum is the litmus test.  Are we willing to stand up to those who persecute or not?

 

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

The Life Of Asia Bibi – An Innocent Woman – Hangs In The Balance As Pakistan Faces the Lynch Mob

Sign the petition calling for this innocent woman to be allowed to leave Pakistan:

https://protect-eu.mimecast.com/s/dbymCL73oFX52mWiB2YSD?domain=citizengo.org

190 Parliamentarians issue an appeal to Imran Khan

https://adfinternational.org/news/saved-from-death-row-pakistans-supreme-court-free-asia-bibi/

See:

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/11/asia-bibi-blasphemy-laws-western-asylum/

BBC and Dutch reports of her release from prison: 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-46130189

https://www.rd.nl/advocaat-asia-bibi-vrij-maar-nog-veel-onduidelijkheid-1.1525916

https://davidalton.net/2018/11/05/pakistan-receives-an-average-of-383000-in-british-taxpayers-money-each-and-every-single-day-2-8-billion-over-20-years-yet-as-asia-bibis-case-demonstrates-they-trample-on-the-rights-of/

After nine years in prison, Pakistan’s Supreme Court courageously found Asia Bibi to be innocent of Blasphemy charges that carried a death sentence.

Asia Bibi

Now, lynch mobs, defying the rule of law, have demanded her execution and have persuaded the Pakistan Government that she should be banned from leaving the country.  

 

The Pakistan Government have also said that attempts can be made to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision.  

 

This makes a mockery of the rule of law and, meanwhile, Asia Bibi – an innocent woman, a mother denied her freedom for nine years,  continues to be held in custody. 

Now her lawyer has had to flee the country – saying he fears for his life.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1443317

Dr.Taj Hargey, a Muslim Imam based in Oxford, was so right when he wrote in The Telegraph, yesterday  that Asia Bibi should be granted asylum in the UK and spoke of “the deafening silence” from British people of Pakistani origin and of  “our collective shame in not preventing her cruel incarceration.”  

Dr.Taj Hargey, Imam, Oxford Islamic Congregation, Letter to the Telegraph

On whose side do we stand – the side of an innocent woman and the rule of law or on the side of the lynch mob? 

Daily Mail editorial

Editorial.jpg

Daily Telegraph letter

Telegraph letter.jpg

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

Saved from death row – Parliamentarians worldwide support Asia Bibi

– More than 190 parliamentarians sign open letter to Pakistani Prime Minister
– Bibi’s life in danger every moment she remains in Pakistan

https://adfinternational.org/news/saved-from-death-row-pakistans-supreme-court-free-asia-bibi/ to see the full press release and the open letter quoted below signed by over 190 parliamentarians:

“We urge in the strongest possible terms the Government of Pakistan to guarantee safe passage for Asia, her family, and any of those under threat due to their part in the decision to acquit her, to any country that accepts them.”

Despite conflicting media reports, sources indicate that she has not yet been allowed to leave the country.

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

Commemorating The 1918 Armistice in Lancashire – with a moving play about Noel and Christopher Chavasse VC. North West Armistice 100 Festival of Remembrance at Preston Guild Hall including a reflection on the heroism of Lieutenant Maurice Dease VC OS. Longridge and Ribchester Remember… In Flanders fields the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row….

 

 

 

 Brothers in Arms

As part of the Armistice Commemorations Blackburn Cathedral staged a production of “Brothers in Arms” -a play about the life of two remarkable brothers, Noel and Christopher Chavasse – whose father was Bishop of Liverpool.

 

Captain  Noel Chavasse, of the 10th Battalion of the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, became the only soldier to receive the Victoria Cross twice during the war.

His twin brother Christopher was a Chaplain in the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department and was awarded the Military Cross.

The play tells the story of their courage, faith and sacrifice while under fire – and is both poignant and instructive.  

 

 

 

This report from BBC Lancashire was broadcast after an earlier performance of the play:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-lancashire-30129782/ww1-hero-chavasse-twins-remembered-in-lancashire

To learn more about the Chavasse brothers click on

https://davidalton.net/2014/11/14/noel-chvasse-and-the-liverpool-pals-week-of-remebrance-roscoe-lecture/

And Click here to hear (and see the slide presentation) made during the 123rd Roscoe Lecture, which I hosted and which was held at St.George’s Hall Liverpool- commemorating the role of Noel Chavasse VC and the Liverpool Pals during the Great War:

http://ljmu.ac.uk/roscoe/101110.htm

 

The Lecture was presented by Bill Sergeant and Tony Wainwright

 

Also see:

 

https://davidalton.net/2013/12/01/world-war-one-day-of-world-war-one-poetry-in-liverpool-remembering-the-first-world-war-and-16-5-million-deaths/

 

On Saturday November 9th at Preston Guild Hall a Festival of Remembrance was held to commemorate and celebrate the North West’s contribution to the Armed Forces.

In 1918, as now, more than 20% of all recruits to the three Services came from the North West of England. Kitchener’s New Army and the Pals Battalions recruited from towns across the region. They fought alongside soldiers from every part of today’s  Commonwealth – including a million Indian soldiers (  400,000 from what is now Pakistan).

During the Festival of Remembrance  students from the Combined Cadet Force at Lancashire’s Stonyhurst College poignant recalled the life of one of their former students, Lieutenant Maurice Dease of the Royal Fusiliers – the first posthumous recipient of a Victoria Cross – who died at Mons in 1914. 

 

Stonyhurst College and Armistice Commemoration Preston Guild Hall 2018 .pdf.png

In Flanders Fields, by John McRae

 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

 

2018 – the Lancashire town of Longridge remembers those who died in the Great War.

Longridge commemrates Armistice 1918

St.Peter and St.Paul Catholic Church Ribchester

 

 

St.Peter and St.Paul Ribchester Armistice 2018.jpeg

St.Peter and St.Paul Ribchester Armistice (2) 2018

Rememberance.jpg

 

 

Pakistan receives an average of £383,000 in British taxpayers’ money each and every single day – £2.8 billion over 20 years – raised with Ministers on the floor of the House. Yet, as Asia Bibi’s case demonstrates, they trample on the rights of minorities; trample on the ideals on which the State was founded;  and trample on the rule of law. The U.K. needs to consider sending its  daily subvention of £383,000 to a more worthy recipient. Read the latest parliamentary replies. Read the letter from 190 Parliamentarians to Imran Khan calling for Asia Bibi to be allowed to leave the country.

 

Pakistan receives an average of £383,000 in British taxpayers’ money each and every single day….and yet they trample on the rights of minorities, trample on the ideals on which the State was founded,  and trample on the rule of law.

  Saved from death row – Parliamentarians worldwide support Asia Bibi

– More than 190 parliamentarians sign open letter to Pakistani Prime Minister
– Bibi’s life in danger every moment she remains in Pakistan

https://adfinternational.org/news/saved-from-death-row-pakistans-supreme-court-free-asia-bibi/ to see the full press release and the open letter quoted below signed by over 190 parliamentarians:

“We urge in the strongest possible terms the Government of Pakistan to guarantee safe passage for Asia, her family, and any of those under threat due to their part in the decision to acquit her, to any country that accepts them.”

Despite conflicting media reports, sources indicate that she has not yet been allowed to leave the country.

November 14th 2018

My Lords, as the Minister looks at future markers for development, with the approaching 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, will he look particularly at Article 18 and what it has to say about the right to believe, not to believe or to change belief? Professor Brian Grin says that those countries which respect Article 18 become the most prosperous. How, therefore, do we justify spending £2.8 billion over the past 20 years in a country such as Pakistan which, as the case of Asia Bibi has shown, has no regard for minorities or the rule of law?

My Lords, that is the reason why that funding predominantly goes to the education of young girls in Pakistan which, we hope, will contribute to change in future. I hope that the noble Lord will welcome two major initiatives announced following the Prime Minister’s commitment to act in this area. The first was the appointment of my noble friend Lord Ahmad as the Prime Minister’s special envoy on freedom of religion or belief, and the second was a meeting at the Foreign Office last week, where we announced the successful bidders for a £12 million DfID fund to promote freedom of religion and belief. That shows how clear and committed the Government are from the very top.

 

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

Sign the petition calling for this innocent woman to be allowed to leave Pakistan:

https://protect-eu.mimecast.com/s/dbymCL73oFX52mWiB2YSD?domain=citizengo.org

See:

BBC and Dutch reports of her release from prison: 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-46130189

https://www.rd.nl/advocaat-asia-bibi-vrij-maar-nog-veel-onduidelijkheid-1.1525916

Question in the House of Lords on India and the  Caste System: Asia Bibi case raised along with aid to Pakistan

 

November 6th 2018

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, notwithstanding the 2013 Indian legislation, the caste system and untouchability predate partition. Scavenging and degrading labour have persisted right across the Indian subcontinent, including in Pakistan. Is the Minister aware that, only last week, a 13 year-old was excluded from a classroom because he had touched the water supply in that classroom? He was beaten and his mother was told he had no place in that school because he was only fit for menial and degrading jobs. Is not this issue of untouchability also to be seen in the case of Asia Bibi, who has spent nine years in prison having touched the communal water supply in her village? She has been exonerated by the courts in Pakistan, yet is still held in custody and not allowed to leave that country. We have spent £2.8 billion over the past 20 years on overseas aid to Pakistan—that is £383,000 every single working day. What difference is that money making to the treatment of minorities and the abolition of things such as caste?

Lord Bates

It is making a big difference. I am certainly aware of these cases, because the noble Lord has made me aware of them, and I am grateful to him for that. We are looking at them and following up. The reality is that both Pakistan and India are signatories to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That has some very specific language in Article 18, which talks about recognising that all people are equal and that discrimination is against the law. It is also against their constitutions. We need to work with the Governments of these countries to ensure that they uphold the very laws they have—and we will continue to do that.

 

Over the past 20 years the U.K. has given Pakistan an average of £383,000 per day – each and every single day – in overseas aid- a total of £2.8 billion (see below). 

 

Last week, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who was sentenced to death – and who has been incarcerated in a jail for 9 years – was acquitted by the Supreme Court. 

 

Immediately, a frenzy of hate was whipped up with demands made for her execution and calls were made for the death of the courageous judges.

 

The same killers had murdered the courageous Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, and Punjab’s Governor Salmaan Taseer, after they spoke out against Asia Bib’s unjust imprisonment.

 imagesimages

Now, Pakistan’s Government has promised the lynch mob that the Supreme Court can be overruled, and Asia Bibi prohibited from leaving the country.

 

It is a disgrace that a Commonwealth country, which is the biggest recipient of U.K. aid, should have such a disregard for justice and the rule of law – and trample on the rights of its minorities in this way. 

 

The U.K. needs to consider sending its  daily subvention of £383,000 to a more worthy recipient.

The Life Of Asia Bibi – An Innocent Woman – Hangs In The Balance As Pakistan Faces the Lynch Mob

After nine years in prison, Pakistan’s Supreme Court courageously found Asia Bibi to be innocent of Blasphemy charges that carried a death sentence.

Asia Bibi

Now, lynch mobs, defying the rule of law, have demanded her execution and have persuaded the Pakistan Government that she should be banned from leaving the country.  

 

The Pakistan Government have also said that attempts can be made to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision.  

 

This makes a mockery of the rule of law and, meanwhile, Asia Bibi – an innocent woman, a mother denied her freedom for nine years,  continues to be held in custody. 

Now her lawyer has had to flee the country – saying he fears for his life.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1443317

Dr.Taj Hargey, a Muslim Imam based in Oxford, was so right when he wrote in The Telegraph, yesterday  that Asia Bibi should be granted asylum in the UK and spoke of “the deafening silence” from British people of Pakistani origin and of  “our collective shame in not preventing her cruel incarceration.”  

Dr.Taj Hargey, Imam, Oxford Islamic Congregation, Letter to the Telegraph

Daily Mail editorial

Editorial.jpg

Daily Telegraph letter

Telegraph letter.jpg

Times editorial

Times editorial.jpg

On whose side do we stand – the side of an innocent woman and the rule of law or on the side of the lynch mob?   

 

See this report by BBC World:

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-46080067

Also see

https://davidalton.net/2016/03/28/carnage-in-lahore-pakistan-and-uk-governments-failure-to-challenge-persecution-or-the-culture-of-impunity-links-to-previous-posts-about-pakistans-christians-shahbaz-bhatti-asia-bibbi-and-the/

See:

https://www.spiked-online.com/2018/11/05/the-abandonment-of-asia-bibi/

Not a good use of our aid if it’s being used to repair the damage inflicted by the lynch mob

“The protests are thought to have caused damage in the region of £900million.”

See Ewelina Ochab at Forbes:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ewelinaochab/2018/11/05/despite-the-supreme-court-judgment-asia-bibi-remains-imprisoned-and-is-still-at-risk-of-death/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

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See

 https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/blasphemer-pleads-for-asylum-after-imran-khan-bars-her-exit-zv3gg56jj 

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See

 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/02/outrage-as-pakistani-government-vows-to-stop-asia-bibi-leaving

 

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

Question  in the House about Pakistan  – Monday October 15th 2018

Pictures I took in October 2018 one of Pakistan’s “colonies”- shantytowns where religious minorities live in squalor.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, having visited Pakistan earlier this month and seen first-hand the abject, festering conditions in which many of the country’s religious minorities live, and having heard accounts of abduction, rape, the forced marriage of a nine year-old, forced conversion, death sentences for so-called blasphemy—the Minister may have heard the interview on the “Today” programme on Saturday morning with a young woman whose mother has spent eight years on death row for so-called blasphemy with a death sentence hanging over her—and in one case, children being forced to watch as their parents were burned alive, I ask the Minister: how can the Home Office in all those circumstances continue to say that what is happening in Pakistan to religious believers and humanists is merely discrimination, not persecution?

 

Baroness Williams of Trafford

I do not think I or the House would disagree with the noble Lord in the examples that he cites, particularly those in Pakistan of certain religious groups being persecuted under blasphemy laws. Sadly, the laws in Pakistan are quite different from the laws here; unpalatable though we might find them, they are the laws there. Nevertheless, each application to our asylum system should be dealt with in terms of the persecution that people might face.

Subject: Questions tabled on Pakistan

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 16 October 2018

Home Office

HL10707

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the reply by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 15 October (HL Deb, cols 282–3), whether the Home Office will now reclassify the systematic attacks on religious minorities in Pakistan as persecution rather than discrimination.

 Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 16 October 2018

Home Office

HL10708

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many claims for asylum in the UK were successful in respect of religious minorities from Pakistan over the past five years.

 Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 16 October 2018

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

HL10709

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they are making to the government of Pakistan to ensure that Pakistan’s quota system for jobs is not used to place workers from religious minorities in menial occupations.

 Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 16 October 2018

Department for International Development

HL10710

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what training programmes in Pakistan they support to help illiterate and impoverished members of minority communities to qualify for jobs.

 

Tabled on 10 October and due for answer by 24 October.

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what percentage of the UK’s bilateral aid programme is directed towards the rebuilding of Pakistan’s colony shanty towns in which families from the country’s minorities live; what assessment they have made of the number of people, in total, living in those colonies and their access to running water, electricity or education; and when officials from the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office last visited those colonies to assess the conditions of people living there. HL10527

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that (1) Pakistani refugees have recently been rounded up by Thai police and taken to detention centres, and (2) Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan has issued an instruction to the Immigration Bureau to detain all foreigners without visas, stating that they will be deported within a month; and whether they have assessed the likelihood that Christian and Ahmadis may face persecution when returned to Pakistan. HL10528

See:

https://davidalton.net/2016/03/28/carnage-in-lahore-pakistan-and-uk-governments-failure-to-challenge-persecution-or-the-culture-of-impunity-links-to-previous-posts-about-pakistans-christians-shahbaz-bhatti-asia-bibbi-and-the/

March 2nd was the seventh anniversary of the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti – Pakistan’s brave Minister for Minorities.  See:

Seven Years Later, Pakistan Has Failed To Bring Shahbaz Bhatti’s Murderer To Justice

If a country cannot bring to justice the killer of a Government Minister what chance do the country’s persecuted, beleaguered and fleeing minorities have? 

Pakistan was founded on principles of equality and justice. What has been done to its own citizens, and done with impunity, makes a mockery of those high ideals.

The white in the nation’s flag is there to represent the country’s minorities but as those minorities suffer and Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies and frightened leaders fail to speak or to act justly its flag has been dragged low.

Failure to act jeopardises the country’s future and undermines the prospect of a diverse and respectful society.

That is why we should never forget the sacrifice of Shahbaz Bhatti who gave his life for his people – accepting political office even though he knew it could cost him his life.

Shahbaz Bhatti شہباز بھٹی 

 

Bhatti images

shahbaz-bhatti

  • Pakistan:  Jubilee Campaign report on the plight of Pakistani Christians:

jc-pcpf_report-pakistan-2016

jubile-campaign-logo-jpg

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

 

See these latest parliamentary replies: 

From: Written Parliamentary Questions and Answers <NO_REPLY.HL.QASYSTEM@parliament.uk>
Sent: Friday, October 26, 2018 2:38:02 PM
To: ALTON OF LIVERPOOL, Lord
Subject: Written answer to your QWA HL10631 received from Lord Bates, the Department for International Development

 

Lord Bates, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL10631):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much UK aid has been received by Pakistan in the past 12 months and in total over the past 20 years; whether any other country receives more bilateral aid than Pakistan; and what indicators are used to establish the effectiveness of this aid in reaching the country’s religious minorities. (HL10631)

Tabled on: 15 October 2018

Answer:
Lord Bates:

DFID Pakistan’s budget for 2017-18 is £325m. Cumulatively, DFID has spent £2.8bn on aid to Pakistan for years 1997 to 2016. Details of year end spend for each country can be found in the Statistics on International Development (SIDS) report.

Our development assistance targets the poor, regardless of race, religion, social background or nationality. We have in place robust indicators as part of mandatory monitoring arrangements to ensure UK aid reaches the intended beneficiaries and is not being used in ways that encourage or promote prejudice or discrimination against religious or other minorities. Details of indicators for individual programmes are available on the devtracker website.

Date and time of answer: 26 Oct 2018 at 14:37.

 

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL10846):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how British (1) foreign policy, and (2) aid programmes support persecuted minorities in Pakistan (HL10846)

Tabled on: 22 October 2018

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

Promoting human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, is a fundamental part of the British Government’s work, including in Pakistan.

We remain concerned by the treatment of minority communities, including religious minorities, in Pakistan.

We regularly raise our concerns about the protection of minority communities, including religious minorities, with the Pakistani Government at a senior level. The Prime Minister emphasised the importance of advancing the rights of minorities during her telephone call with Imran Khan in August following his election as Prime Minister of Pakistan. I raised our concerns about Freedom of Religion or Belief and the protection of minority religious communities with Pakistan’s Human Rights Minister, Dr Shireen Mazari, in September 2018.

Under the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy, the UK has supported projects in Pakistan to promote greater tolerance and religious freedom.

We ensure that our development assistance, delivered through the Department for International Development (DFID), targets the poorest people in Pakistan regardless of race, religion, social background, or nationality. DFID Pakistan does not disaggregate results or budgets by religion.

 

Lord Bates, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL11071):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports of the case of a Christian school boy in Pakistan who was excluded from class and beaten for being accused of tainting the school’s water by touching the tap; and whether they will establish whether UK aid is used to support schools such as this. (HL11071)

Tabled on: 29 October 2018

Answer:
Lord Bates:

The Government of Punjab has taken swift action and the head teacher of the school concerned has been suspended pending a full investigation. The Pakistan Human Rights Minister and civil society have publicly supported this timely action. UK aid is not directed to individual schools in Punjab. In partnership with provincial governments DFID has supported over nine million children in primary and over five million in secondary schools to gain an education in Pakistan.

Date and time of answer: 05 Nov 2018 at 14:31.

Lord Bates, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL11070):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of (1) the number of children believed to be illiterate in Pakistan, (2) the number of children not in formal education, and (3) the proportion of children from religious minorities in Pakistan who are illiterate or not in formal education compared with the population as a whole. (HL11070)

Tabled on: 29 October 2018

Answer:
Lord Bates:

The latest UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey reports an illiteracy rate for 15-24 year olds of 24% for Punjab. The DFID-supported 2016 citizen led Annual Status of Education Report for Pakistan estimates the proportion of children aged 6-16 out of school as 19%. This report is based on data collected from over 83,000 households. The 2017 DFID-supported census results will provide data on the educational status of all children and will be able to disaggregate by minority status. This is not yet publicly available.

Date and time of answer: 05 Nov 2018 at 14:30.

Lord Bates, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL10927):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bates on 22 October (HL10527), whether they take into account the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan when deciding on the prioritisation of UK overseas development aid; and whether they intend to instruct Department for International Development and Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials to visit minority communities in Pakistan and to report on the (1) number of people living in shanty towns and informal settlements, and (2) conditions in which they live. (HL10927)

Tabled on: 23 October 2018

Answer:
Lord Bates:

DFID Pakistan targets development assistance to improve the lives of poor women and men, regardless of race, religion, social background, or nationality. As part of DFID planning processes, we assess the situation of poor, marginalised and excluded groups to inform priorities. DFID Pakistan works to reduce inequality and exclusion of minorities by promoting tolerance and greater understanding of minorities. As part of routine programme monitoring, and where security allows, DFID staff visit programme sites, including shanty towns and informal settlements. We do not collect disaggregated population data on minority groups.

Date and time of answer: 05 Nov 2018 at 12:34.

Lord Bates, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL10981):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made, if any, of (1) the level of child labour in Pakistan; (2) the number of children of school age believed to work in brick kilns, workshops, factories or as domestic servants; and (3) the percentage of children from religious minorities falling into these categories. (HL10981)

Tabled on: 24 October 2018

Answer:
Lord Bates:

Child labour is widespread in Pakistan but there is a severe lack of data on the issue, including in which sectors children work. DFID Pakistan is committed to help tackle child labour and modern slavery. In partnership with UNICEF, we are funding a pioneering child labour survey which will be used to identify the children most at risk and support the government to strengthen protection. Survey results should be disseminated by the end of 2019. The information will not be broken down by religious status.

Date and time of answer: 05 Nov 2018 at 12:33.

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Asia Bibi’s family and supporters and their reactions:

Ashiq Masih (55 yrs), husband of Asia Bibi, said:

“Our family was elated by the recent decision to free my wife but news of the governments capitulation to the rioters who ant us all dead has broken our hearts.

“My daughters weep for their mother their hope that they would be reunited has been broken and they are trying to piece together their frail confidence that she will return to them.

“That fundamentalists can cause our government to shift direction, alarms me, but I trust our God will give freedom and peace to Asia – through the prayers of our many millions of supporters who are not violent.

“Jesus loves us and died for us, He will be feeling our pain and will show the world his divine nature by beating these impossible circumstances.”

Eisham Masih (18 yrs), said:

“We have been moving around from home to home staying away from any places where people who hate us could find us.

“Sometimes we have seen and heard the large riots and we have watched as little tv as possible – all it shows us, is how many people hate us and want us dead. We choose to remember the love shown to us in countries outside of Pakistan.

“I have cried for joy when I heard my mother would be set free, I now cry for the despair of our situation only God can save us all and when I pray I have felt his presence at my darkest moments. He will show the world that no worldly institutions can thwart his plans for us.

It is a great concern how international bodies and even some western governments can ignore the ruthless and capricious abuses of human rights in Pakistan, and why after so many years Asia Bibi’s infamously mishandled case was never condemned by the UN.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) begin their preparations for their scheduled meeting next week and accordingly this desire for aid money could be an extenuation of why PM Khan signed an agreement with the extremists (click here)

Islamabad will receive another visit from on the IMF team’s initiative in the coming weeks for discussions of a possible IMF-supported economic program. How timely was the capitulation to rioters on the day that the IMF arrived in Islamabad…

Some believe that the cave in was simply a ruse to end the rioting, which would fit in with the huge number of 250 arrests of rioters that has taken place since the ostensible capitulation (click here)

Wilson Chowdhry said:

“The farce of appeal after appeal, with judges stepping out at the last minute that has gone on for almost 10 years cannot be lost on the World. Why are these human right abuses and these clearly unacceptable blasphemy laws in Pakistan so often ignored?

“Prohibiting her departure from Pakistan means she will never have a moments peace, and makes her a more open target for extra-judicial killing by restricting her movement.

“We call on world leaders to take a stand for truth and justice and open their doors for asylum to Asia Bibi, her entire family, and also the family of Joseph Nadeem their long time guardian.”

With the acquittal of blasphemy victim Asia Bibi it may have been easy to forget that blasphemy laws continue to exist and be supported by the Pakistani government with the full weight of the death penalty.

Timely asylum is desperately needed not only for the family of Asia Bibi, but many others who could still suffer extra-judicial killing but still prosecution by the state for blasphemy allegations. Without the ability to leave the country it seems to be only a matter of time before they find her.

Asia Bibi’s husband has appealed to the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of the UK and Prime Minister of Canada to help his family and their guardian’s family in a video sent to the BPCA:

Joseph Nadeem, guardian to the family, said:

“We require ten guaranteed offers for asylum from any country in the west but no-one is offering us any asylum, every embassy we apply to is delaying the process.

“We have committed no crime yet all of us are being treated as pariah’s and every day that we remain in Pakistan we are a day closer to death. Asia will be released soon and she cannot remain in Pakistan it will incite people to hatred and it is imperative that a western nation offers us a safe way out of the country.

“We have lost our lives for the last ten years and have also been living in isolation. We seek refuge in Britain, the US, Canada or Australia countries in which the largest Pakistani Christian diasporas reside – we need the support and fellowship of our community.

“These four countries are preferred as I have a good command of English and Asia’s family have a little knowledge of the language already, this will help us adapt quicker to the demands of a new country of residence.

“We are not objects for display but real human beings and will have to one day become less dependant on others but of course we will accept the first offer of asylum that comes our way – we are desperate.”

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ACN News: Tuesday, 6th November 2018 – PAKISTAN

Asia Bibi’s husband and daughter, Ashiq Masih and Eisham Ashiq, during their October 2018 visit to the UK as guests of Aid to the Church in Need (© Aid to the Church in Need).

1106Pakistan_Asia Bibi_s husband and daughter, Ashiq Masih and Eisham As...

“Help us leave Pakistan” pleads Asia Bibi’s family

  • We no longer have even anything to eat…”

 

By John Newton and Marta Petrosillo

 

WITH Asia Bibi and her family fearing for their lives, her husband has called on the international community to help them leave the country.

Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Ashiq Masih described how the family is still living in secret following calls for his wife to be killed after she was acquitted of blasphemy last Wednesday (31st October).

He said: “Help us get out of Pakistan.

“We are extremely worried because our lives are in danger.

“We no longer have even anything to eat, because we cannot leave the house to buy food”

Violent protests organised by Islamist political movement Tehreek-e-Labbaik following Asia Bibi’s acquittal forced the family to remain in hiding.

In order to end the protests, Pakistan’s government agreed a deal which allowed Tehreek-e-Labbaik to begin proceedings to have Asia Bibi put on the “exit control list” to prevent her leaving the country.

The government also pledged not to object to any review of her appeal verdict.

Asia Bibi is still in prison, despite Supreme Court judges ordering her release when her sentence was overturned.

Mr Masih called for the media and the international community to continue to focus on his wife’s case: “As it is precisely this attention that has kept Asia alive to date.”

Referring to ACN events where the family has spoken about their situation, including the lighting up of the Colosseum this February, Mr Masih said: “I thank Aid to the Church in Need in particular for giving us the opportunity to speak to the world.”

Saif ul-Malook, Asia Bibi’s defence lawyer, left Pakistan due to security concerns and is now in the Netherlands. He intends to organise a press conference later this week

Following a call to the governments of the UK, US and Canada last weekend asking them to offer asylum to the family, Mr Masih also appealed to the Italian government to offer them sanctuary.

He said: “I appeal to the Italian Government to help my family and me get out of Pakistan”.

The family has also requested asylum in Spain and France. They are hoping that all of Asia Bibi’s children will be granted asylum.