Pakistan’s Supreme Court Upholds Their Decision To Free Asia Bibi. Questions asked in Parliament about renewed threats to her life and the role of UK aid in promoting a less discriminatory society. BBC Report.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court Upholds Their Decision To Free Asia Bibi

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/Asia_Bibi

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-47040847

Asia Bibi

 

This is a very welcome and courageous judgement from the Supreme Court.  Inevitably, it will test the Pakistan Government’s resolve in dealing with the intimidation and threats posed by Tehrik-e-Labbaik, who have threatened mass public protests. But mob rule must never be allowed to overpower the rule of law – and in ensuring due process Pakistan’s highest legal authorities deserve our greatest possible respect.

 

I feel huge admiration for the Supreme Court justices who, by taking this decision, have been willing to put the rule of law above every other consideration.

 

We cannot forget that Asia Bibi’s case is one of many, and that, by some estimates, more than 70 people are currently on death-row for alleged blasphemy crimes.

 

Pakistan’s remarkable founder,  Muhammed Ali Jinnah,  passionately believed  that minorities should have a place of dignity and respect in Pakistan. It’s a principle even woven into the country’s flag.  How countries treat their minorities is a crucial litmus test and Pakistan simply needs to look at its own foundation principles to see that they are failing the Jinnah-test, as minorities face discrimination and persecution.

 

Asia Bibi has endured hell. Imprisoned on a trumped up charge, she has spent nine years in prison, facing execution. Her two daughters have had a short childhood – one largely without their mother. Yes, this is a significant day, but we must not forget that this long overdue outcome has been paid for in blood. Two great Pakistanis – Shahbaz Bhatti and Salman Taseer – Christian and Muslim –  were murdered for their advocacy on this case.

 

Asia Bibi has spent nine years in prison, facing execution. She now needs to be reunited with her family and given time and space to rebuild her life.

 

Also see:

 

https://davidalton.net/2018/11/28/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-o/

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

Oral Question January 30th 2019

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

 

My Lords, the World Bank estimates that some 800 million people are racked by starvation, despair or living below any rational definition of human decency. The Minister is right to remind us that, as long ago as 1970, in Resolution 2626, the United Nations urged us to find this 0.7% figure. Does he agree that people expect their money to be spent well? I draw his attention to a Question that I asked him on the Order Paper today concerning discrimination and persecution in countries such as Pakistan, which is the biggest recipient of British aid—£383,000 each and every single day. Will he ensure that where British money is being spent, it will tackle ​the plight of minorities, particularly by preventing people from religious minorities from being subjected to discrimination, persecution and even genocide?

 

 

Lord Bates

 

I am delighted to give that reassurance. This Government have been at the fore on this issue. The Prime Minister has made announcements on it and has appointed her first Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief, my noble friend Lord Ahmad. We are proud of that, and we have to uphold, keep to and maintain those standards.

 

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

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked:

Question Tabled Monday 28th January 2019

What assessment they have made of the case of Pervais Masih, accused of blasphemy in Pakistan, the treatment of his family and the death of his daughter; and whether they have discussed this case with the government of Pakistan.

Whether they have discussed the case of Qaisar and Amoon Ayub with (1) the government of Thailand, and (2) the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; if so, when any such discussions took place; and if not, why not.

 

Question Tabled Tuesday 29th January 2019

What discussions they have had with the government of Pakistan about employment discrimination, with particular regard to advertisements published by that government which reserve low level jobs, such as street sweeping, for religious minorities; whether UK aid supports employment opportunities in the public sector closed to religious minorities; and whether they support programmes which help illiterate members of religious minorities in that country to improve their employment prospects.

Written Questions On the Order Paper January 31st 2019

 

What assessment they have made, if any, of the comments of Hafiz Entisha Ahmed published in the Guardian on 30 January that Asia Bibi “deserves to be murdered”; and, following the decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to uphold her acquittal following nine years’ incarceration on death row, why she has not immediately been offered asylum in the UK.

 

Question

 

why their review into the persecution of Christians does not include within its scope the effect of DfID and Home Office policies on aid and asylum.

 

 

Question

 

when the full terms of reference for their review into the persecution of Christians will be published.

 

Question

 

when it is expected that their review into the persecution of Christians will publish its findings and recommendations.

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

Carnage and Murder in the Philippines As innocent People Pay The Price of Extremism. Parliament Debates the Human Rights Violations of the Duterte Government. Calls to Protect Filipino Workers From Exploitation and Trafficking. Extremists Urged To End the Violence In Joint Declaration in UAE

 

Carnage and Murder in the Philippines As innocent People Pay The Price of Extremism

Two bombs exploded  (27th January) during Sunday Mass in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, southern Philippines, killing 20 people and wounding dozens more, according to local police.

Deash (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack, but in a radio interview, Colonel Gerry Besana of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said that CCTV footage suggested a break-away faction of Islamist extremist group Abu Sayyaf could be responsible.

Abu Sayyaf has pledged allegiance to Daesh.

Since 2000, there have been at least 10 attacks on or near the cathedral, many of which Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for.

https://catholicherald.co.uk/news/2019/01/27/bombs-kill-mass-goers-at-cathedral-in-the-philippines/

Also see

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-46942372

It makes the point that:

“The violence has left Mindanao one of the poorest regions in the Philippines.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/11/philippines-scores-of-islamic-state-fighters-on-mindanao-island

The Guardian  makes the point that:

“Foreign fighters are in the Philippines because they consider the country, particularly Mindanao, as a safe haven, alternative home base and a new land of jihad”

And:

“Many seek the relative sanctuary of the southern Philippines,” he said. “There they can regroup, train and plot attacks. With Isis’s declaration of an east Asia wilayah, the southern Philippines becomes more important because there is enough ungoverned or very poorly governed space.”

The Guardian continues:

“There is also continuing support for Isis-affiliated groups among local Muslims, many who are still displaced from the Marawi conflict or disaffected by widespread corruption and broken government promises of peace and autonomy in Mindanao.”

The  threat is already forcing regional powers to collaborate:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-23/se-asian-countries-pledge-to-stop-islamic-state-penetration/8644792

The NYT says:

“More than 500 Indonesians have joined the Islamic State in Syria”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/03/world/asia/isis-fighters-philippines-indonesia.html

Also see:

https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/isis-reaches-indonesia-the-terrorist-groups-prospects-in-southeast-asia/

 

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

Last Thursday, Lord Hylton initiated a debate in the House of Lords about human rights violations in the Philippines. It  was an opportunity to highlight appalling human rights violations by the Duterte Government and the exploitation and trafficking of Filipino workers.

To read the full debate go to:

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2019-01-24/debates/74EF331A-8B2E-4BCC-A4A1-3BF3688F02A2/Philippines

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

 

My Lords, I too congratulate my noble friend Lord Hylton on securing this debate. No one in this House needs persuading of his long-standing and tenacious commitment to human rights. It is characteristic of him not to have lost sight of the plight of suffering Filipinos. 

 

I hope the Minister will respond to the recommendations that he has made, and particularly to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, that the Philippines should be officially designated as a country of concern. 

 

That would be a positive outcome of today’s debate.

 

I have a non-pecuniary interest as a trustee of the Arise Foundation, an anti-slavery charity with a brilliant team that does superb work in various countries of origin for trafficked people, including the Philippines.

 

In addition to the human rights abuses in the Philippines itself, we would do well to remember the many thousands of Filipinos working abroad who suffer exploitation.

 

 I was shocked when I first learned that over 10% of the entire GDP of the Filipino economy is remitted back to the Philippines from abroad from an estimated 2.3 million overseas Filipino workers. 

 

The principal countries of destination are: Saudi Arabia, which takes 25.4% of these workers; the UAE, 15.3%, Hong Kong, 6.5%; and Qatar, 5.5%.

 

I know from work by the Arise Foundation that many of these Filipinos are exploited and enslaved in unimaginably cruel and inhumane conditions. 

 

I go so far as to say that the stories of Filipina women enslaved in the Middle East are the most extreme and unrepeatable I have ever heard. 

 

The situation is Qatar is so bad that the Philippine embassy has a rescue shelter attached to it which is reportedly always full. 

 

Can the Minister tell us whether the dire and well-documented human rights conditions of Filipino overseas workers in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar feature in our discussions with the respective Governments?

 

While considering the difficulties faced by Filipinos abroad, we also need to look closer to home. 

 

Even if they find work, there is no guarantee that they can remit their earnings back to their families. What measures are in place to ensure that companies do not charge unfair and exorbitant fees to transfer money home? 

 

During the passage of the modern slavery legislation, my noble friend Lord Hylton and I divided your Lordships’ House on the issue of domestic migrant labour. 

 

Many Filipinos are tricked by unscrupulous employment agencies who prey on their hopes for a better life. Some take on huge debts to pay unaffordable agency fees which have to be paid back once work has begun—a well-worn pattern leading to debt bondage in the destination country.

 

The UK is a significant destination for Filipinos seeking employment as domestic workers; sadly, the Philippines is never far down the list of source nations for modern slavery victims of our own national referral mechanism. 

 

What are we doing to disrupt the unethical recruitment corridor that clearly exists between the Philippines and the UK? 

 

The United Kingdom has a memorandum of understanding with the Government of the Philippines to enable the recruitment of nurses and other health professionals. 

 

In 2018 the number of Philippines-born workers in the National Health Service was 15,400. What guarantees can the Minister give that our recruitment methods are ethical and respect the communities from which these workers are sourced?

 

Arise works with front-line charities in the Philippines which continue to do superb work in difficult circumstances. 

 

Many of them have stood bravely against Duterte’s Administration, as described so powerfully and so well by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, a few moments ago. 

 

Unfortunately, bilateral funding for work such as theirs has decreased due to lack of confidence in that Government. 

 

Many of the charities working in the Philippines are struggling for support. 

 

I hope the Minister will assure us that, in allocating UK aid, we will not make the mistake of conflating worthy front-line work with a wayward Government, and will not falter in our commitment to the wonderful Filipino people.

 

 5.24 pm

 

In response the Minister, Baroness Goldie said:

 

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, asked for certain assurances for Filipinos working abroad. It is difficult for the UK to intervene in the affairs of other sovereign states. However, the British embassy in Manila and the Government of the Philippines co-chair a working group on the rights of domestic and tourist workers. The group looks at ways to improve the rights of Filipino workers abroad and fosters collaboration between government and international agencies. That was a point that the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, also sought assurance on.

 

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, also raised the issue of Filipino workers in this country. We have removed the overseas domestic worker visa tie and will be introducing additional reforms to ensure that workers are even better protected from abuse and slavery. These new measures will include information sessions for overseas domestic workers to ensure that they are aware of their rights as workers in the UK. He will also be aware that the Modern Slavery Act introduced a range of powerful protections for victims, including greater support through legal aid, special measures in court and immunity from immigration enforcement action.

 

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

Extremists Urged To End the Violence In Joint Declaration in UAE

http://wam.ae/en/details/1395302737926

 

Thu 07-02-2019 17:34 PM

 

Human Fraternity declaration ‘sends strong message,’ says UK Parliamentarian

LONDON, 7th February, 2019 (WAM) —

The Declaration on Human Fraternity signed in Abu Dhabi this week by Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church, and Dr. Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar, “sends a strong message to those, on both sides, who seek to promote division and extremist views,” according to British parliamentarian Lord Alton of Liverpool.

Lord Alton, a  member of the House of Lords, works actively on human rights and religious liberty issues.

Noting that the Human Fraternity declaration had been “proclaimed in Arabia,” he told the Emirates News Agency, WAM, that “this is hugely important In the Middle East, which has seen so much strife in recent years.”

“The greatest challenge of the 21st century is how we learn to respectfully live together, honouring each other’s traditions and recognising the strength of diversity and difference,” he added.

“The antidote to the horrific persecution of Rohingya and other Muslims or the genocide of Christians and other Middle Eastern minorities must be a new determination by religious and political leaders to promote mutual respect and tolerance. The Pope’s visit should stir us all to denounce and combat violent extremism and visceral hatred wherever it emerges.”

Lord Alton, who is president of the UK Copts Association, a body representing the Egyptian Coptic population in Britain, went on to note that, “The UAE’s proclamation of 2019 as the ‘Year of Tolerance’ and the first-ever visit of a Catholic Pope to the Arabian peninsula – birthplace of Islam – is powerfully symbolic. So too were the frequent references made during the visit by Pope Francis to the UAE’s own heritage of a 1400 year old Christian presence.”

“The UAE has initiated really important interfaith dialogue and respect,” he said. “The country’s willingness to welcome many faiths and cultures, with its own thriving Christian expatriate communities, demonstrates how we can begin to meet the challenge of learning to live together.”

 

 

Jeremy Hunt’s promised Foreign Office Review into Persecution will have no credibility if it simply seeks to justify the indifference that led to the mass graves of Nineveh. Read Christina Lamb’s account of what happens when you ignore genocide.

Ten years ago, in 2008, I wrote a column about the dangers facing Iraq’s Christian minority on the Nineveh Plains. I have reprinted it below this powerful article by Christina Lamb of The Sunday Times which appeared just before Christmas.

Since 2008,  the Christian, Yazidi, and other minorities, have been subjected to genocide and crimes against humanity – something that some of us was going to happen and which the signatories to the Genocide Convention failed to prevent . Even now, the UK Foreign Office refuses to acknowledge these appalling crimes as a genocide. See:

 https://davidalton.net/2018/11/28/the-genocide-convention-at-70-lessons-learned-and-yet-to-be-learned-70th-anniversary-of-the-genocide-convention-recalled-in-mr-speakers-house-november-27th-2018-government-answers-to-ques/

The Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, now says that there will be a Review of how the Foreign Office responds to persecution of Christians.  This is welcome and long overdue but it will have no credibility if it simply seeks to justify the indifference that led to the mass graves of Nineveh,

 

 

 

David Alton Column

December 21st 2008.

    As our minds travel to the ancient town of Bethlehem, and to the marvellous wonders that occurred there, listen carefully enough and you can still hear the cadences of the Aramaic tongue, the language spoken by the young Jesus and his parents.

    This is the language of the Assyrian and Chaldean Catholic Christians of Iraq; churches that have their roots in the first Christian communities at Antioch; churches,  language, and a people now in great peril.

     I recently took Archbishop Toma Dawod, the Syrian Orthodox Archbishop resident in London, to meet Ministers and officials in the Foreign Office.

   He graphically described the suffering and plight of Iraq’s Christians and appealed for our help.  He estimates that there are about 350,000 Christians in Iraq. There are also around 150,000 Iraqi Christians living in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and the Gulf.

   Their lives have become a living hell.

   During the months of September and October insurgents instigated a wave of attacks against the peaceful Christian population of Mosul, killing a large number of innocent people.

   Many were threatened through loud speakers and as the doors and windows of their homes were smashed down they were told to vacate their homes immediately or else they would be killed.  Many were murdered; homes were blown up; contents stolen. Others escaped to the comparative safety of nearby Christian villages.

 

In one particularly vicious attack in mid-November gunmen killed two Christian sisters after breaking into their Mosul home. They left behind a booby-trap bomb for security forces.

 

The sisters’ mother was hurt in the initial attack and two policemen were wounded when the bomb left by the intruders went off as they entered the house.

 

Aid To the Church In Need (ACN) say that more than 2,000 Christian families fled Mosul in October alone

 

In an interview with ACN, Fr Bashar Warda, who has overseen the charity’s emergency relief programmes for people fleeing Mosul, said the campaign of killing is having a “dramatic” effect on the faithful, who now fear another wave of attacks against them.

Fr Warda said: “It is clear that many would think of leaving Mosul again. The Government is trying to say that the city is now safe and then suddenly you have incidents like this.”

Iraqi Christian leaders say that the deaths of the sisters graphically underlines how the government is failing to deliver on its promises to deliver peace and security for vulnerable Church communities lacking militia and other means of self protection and whose only option in times of crisis is to flee.

 

  Archbishop Dawod believes that during the autumn a total of 15,000 escaped from the city – among whom are some who are very old, sick, and women and children.  Many have fled to the Nineveh Plains.

   The story of Nineveh is familiar to every Christian and Jewish believer.

    It will always be connected to Jonah’s stubborn disobedience and refusal to go to Nineveh when God told him to. Our reluctant traveller finally found himself unceremoniously deposited at Nineveh, spewed out from the belly of a great fish.  The people of Nineveh needed Jonah – and, as it turned out, he needed them.

   Nothing much has changed – and we are a generation of Jonahs once again turning our backs on Nineveh and its people.

   Nineveh Plains are northeast of Mosul in the Iraqi province of Ninawa. Mosul, itself, is increasingly controlled by Sunni radicals who have been determined to cleanse the city of its Christian population. If it were not for the more welcoming authorities in the neighbouring Iraqi Province of Kurdistan – controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government – no-one would stand between these unarmed, unprotected people and those who would slay them.

 

The ancient city of Nineveh is on the bank of the River Tigris and the nearby villages are inhabited by a number of minority religious groups that are non-Muslim. Most of these inhabitants are Aramaic speaking Christians from the Syriac Christian tradition.

 

Some years ago I visited one of their ancient monasteries, Mar Gabriel,  in the Turabdin region of Kurdish Turkey.

I was stunned by the beauty of their liturgies, the intensity of their faith, and the fragile threads by which their small communities were hanging on.

 

There are four patriarchal churches in this part of Iraq. They are the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Syrian Catholic Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church and the Church of the East (both Assyrian and ancient).

 

 These are the people now abandoned – in atrocious weather, exposed, without protection, to all the elements – on Nineveh Plains. The Archbishop says: “It seems as if the Government has been merely watching over this as a spectator.” The motive he says is to “force these Christians to emigrate.” 

    

Archbishop Dawod believes that the first priority should be to provide protection from the killers and murderers so that they can live safely.  The Iraqi Government seems incapable and indifferent. Without protection there is no way they may return to their homes.

 

 Outside of Nineveh, elsewhere in Iraq, the terrorists and insurgents seem equally determined to target Christians.  Despite the Iraqi Government appearing to be comparatively more in control in Baghdad, Christians living in the city have been forced out and have seen their homes occupied by the insurgents. They are now scattered as refugees in northern Iraq, Syria and Jordan.

 

   Financially, many are in perilous circumstances, having lost their homes and livelihoods and the Iraqi Government provides no social security and benefits.  It is very difficult for to survive.

 

  Politically, too, Christians are also being increasingly marginalised. Last month  the Iraqi Parliament offered them just three seats in the provincial elections scheduled for  31st January 2009, 10 fewer than proposed in Article 50, which was dropped from a draft electoral bill last September.    

 

 Unsurprisingly, faced with all this, Christians across the region have appealed during this Christmas season for prayer and a return to peace and stability. 

 It was Longfellow, who in the midst of the ravages of America’s Civil War, who penned the bitter words

 ‘There is not peace on earth,’ I said
‘For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men”

But who also concluded

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep,
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.'”

May the bells once again peal for the Aramaic speaking Christians of Nineveh.

 

Wishing you a very happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous 2019 – with words from Chesterton, Tolkien, Southwell, the Coventry Carol, and The Universe Christmas 2018 Feature Article

.

Wishing you a very happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous 2019 – with words from Chesterton, Tolkien, Southwell, and the Coventry Carol

Click here to read:

Universe Christmas edition 2128-12-18 page 30

December edition Universe 7-12-18 page 23

 

Two poems by St.Robert Southwell SJ

 

Southwell poem

Behold, a silly tender babe,

In freezing winter night,

In homely manger trembling lies.

Alas, a piteous sight!

 

The inns are full: no man will yield

This little pilgrim bed.

But forced he is with silly beasts

In crib to shroud his head.

 

This stable is a prince’s court,

This crib his chair of state;

The beasts are parcel of his pomp,

The wooden dish his plate.

 

The persons in that poor attire

His royal liveries wear;

The Prince himself is come from Heav’n;

This pomp is prized there.

 

With joy approach, O Christian wight,

Do homage to thy king.

And highly praise his humble pomp,

Which he from Heav’n doth bring.

Chesterton (2)

Wishing you a very happy Christmas 

G.K.Chesterton on Christmas:

“Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home…..but “The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and someday suddenly wake up and discover why.” 

The House of Christmas

“There fared a mother driven forth

Out of an inn to roam;

In the place where she was homeless

All men are at home….

A Child in a foul stable,

Where the beasts feed and foam;

Only where He was homeless

Are you and I at home….. To the place where God was homeless

And all men are at home.”

 

Full text at:

 

https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-house-of-christmas-2/comments/ 

 

The poem below, Noel, is by J.R.R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings.  Tolkien celebrates the triumph of Mary in a moment of darkness.

 

Noel
J.R.R. TolkienGrim was the world and grey last night:
The moon and stars were fled,
The hall was dark without song or light,
The fires were fallen dead.
The wind in the trees was like to the sea,
And over the mountains’ teeth
It whistled bitter-cold and free,
As a sword leapt from its sheath.

The lord of snows upreared his head;
His mantle long and pale
Upon the bitter blast was spread
And hung o’er hill and dale.
The world was blind, the boughs were bent,
All ways and paths were wild:
Then the veil of cloud apart was rent,
And here was born a Child.

The ancient dome of heaven sheer
Was pricked with distant light;
A star came shining white and clear
Alone above the night.
In the dale of dark in that hour of birth
One voice on a sudden sang:
Then all the bells in Heaven and Earth
Together at midnight rang.

Mary sang in this world below:
They heard her song arise
O’er mist and over mountain snow
To the walls of Paradise,
And the tongue of many bells was stirred
in Heaven’s towers to ring
When the voice of mortal maid was heard,
That was mother of Heaven’s King.

Glad is the world and fair this night
With stars about its head,
And the hall is filled with laughter and light,
And fires are burning red.
The bells of Paradise now ring
With bells of Christendom,
And Gloria, Gloria we will sing
That God on earth is come.

 

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote ‘Noel’ when he was Professor of Anglo-Saxon at the University of Oxford. It was published in the 1936 Annual of Our Lady’s School, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, and remained largely unknown for decades. It was rediscovered in the school archives in 2013 and came to the attention of the media in 2016. ‘Noel’ is a retelling of the Christmas story from the perspective of the Blessed Virgin. The grey winter opening scene gives way to Mary’s singing and the triumphant ringing of Heaven’s bells at Christ’s birth.

.

Chesterton on Christmas.

In “All Things Considered” Chesterton wrote “What life and death may be to a turkey is not my business; but the soul of Scrooge and the body of Cratchit are my business”.

Elsewhere he said that “The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and some-day suddenly wake up and discover why.”

Chesterton’s insistence that we mustn’t be half hearted in our celebrations strongly contrasted with the prohibitions of Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans.

The seventeenth century Puritan-dominated Parliament said Christmas was “a popish festival” with no biblical justification and replaced it with a day of fasting – and it took King Charles II, in 1660, to restore the festivities.  Poor Robin’s Almanack celebrated the restoration: “Now thanks to God for Charles return; Whose absence made old Christmas mourn; For then we scarcely did it know; Whether it Christmas were or no”.

But the Puritans were mild compared with what followed.

The atheistic French revolutionaries banned Christian Christmas services and in a foreshadowing of some of our politically correct twenty-first century ideologies the three kings cake had to be renamed “the equality cake.”

By the twentieth century their atheistic Soviet heirs had outlawed Christmas celebrations – encouraging school children to spit on crucifixes – while Joseph Perry ( “How the Nazis co-opted Christmas: A history of propaganda”says “because Nazi ideologues saw organized religion as an enemy of the totalitarian state, propagandists sought to deemphasize—or eliminate altogether—the Christian aspects of the holiday” and, consequently “propagandists tirelessly promoted numerous Nazified Christmas songs, which replaced Christian themes with the regime’s racial ideologies.”

In England, in our own times, Christmas-deniers have tried to rebrand the festival by calling it Wintermas, or some such, and wishing visitors or customers “Happy Holidays” –  anything but Christmas. 

The contemporary festivities that many of us will enjoy had their origins in the reign of  Queen Victoria – inspired by the writings of Charles Dickens. Chesterton argued that Dickens saved Christmas for England.

He also insisted that beyond the raised glass and the fatted bird, there is a literally an earth-shattering story that must be told.

I particularly like his paradoxical call to give “Glory to God in His Lowest”and his description of “ the hands that had made the sun and stars were too small to reach the huge heads of the cattle.”

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

 I often think of the children’s picture book where the mythical Santa Claus is reading to the real baby Jesus the story of the baby’s own birth. “And how does it all end?” the baby asks.

We know that it doesn’t end in the stable or with the visit of the Magi; and we know that even within days of His birth, the life of Jesus is threatened by Herod and his butchers, sharpening and their knives even as the Son of God is being born.

In “The God In The Cave” Chesterton, points to the way evil is always waiting in the wings with a particular “detestation of innocence”:

“There was” said Chesterton “present in the primary scenes of the drama that Enemy that had rotted the legends with lust and frozen the theories into atheism, but which answered the direct challenge with something of that more direct method which we have seen in the conscious cult of the demons.”

Of Herod, he “seems in that hour to have felt stirring within him the spirit of strange things… Everyone knows the story; but not everyone has perhaps noted its place in the story of the strange religions of men… a seer might perhaps have seen something like a great grey ghost that looked over his shoulder…The demons in that first festival of Christmas, feasted also in their own fashion.”

And those demons continue to feast, in their own fashion, today.

I cannot reflect on the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, brilliantly commemorated in the carol, “In Rama There Was a Voice Heard” without thinking of the nearly nine million of our babies whose lives have been ended in their mother’s wombs. 

In the words of the sixteenth century Coventry Carol, written by Robert Croo, in 1534, for the traditional Coventry Plays:

“Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.”

Coventry Carol.jpg

This lament of a mother for her child who is doomed to die might have been written for a country in which one child in the womb loses its life every three minutes of every hour of every day.

This terrible loss of life is a great evil. In Britain like Rama there is nothing sentimental about the Christmas story and there must be a moment when we reflect on the brutal, violent world we have created.

 

“Then woe is me, poor Child, for Thee,
And ever mourn and say;
For Thy parting, nor say nor sing,
By, by, lullay, lullay.”

But we also know that in Bethlehem and at Calvary that although evil has its day, it does not triumph.

It’s why, this Christmas, we can joyfully rejoice with Chesterton’s Wise Men

“Hark! Laughter like a lion wakes
To roar to the resounding plain,
And the whole heaven shouts and shakes,
For God Himself is born again,
And we are little children walking
Through the snow and rain”
.

And we can join with Chesterton in hoping and praying that our nation will “someday suddenly wake up and discover why”  we are celebrating Christmas. And why we’re not doing it in a half hearted manner.  

chesterton-christmas-paradox

“Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home….The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and some day suddenly wake up and discover why.” – G.K.Chesterton

 

Christmas 2011

January 10th Ministers Questioned in the House of Lords about tortured lawyers; demolished Christian churches; abducted Pastor; organ harvesting and incarceration of Uighurs. The continued deterioration of human rights in China will fuel resentment and radicalisation across the globe and threaten China’s desire to create a harmonious society. Speech by Fiona Bruce MP about the Uighurs.

 

January 10th 2019 House of Lords – British Parliament

*Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the violations of human rights in China, including the arrest and disappearance of political activists and religious adherents, forced organ harvesting, and restrictions on free speech; and when they last made representations on these matters to the government of China.

  

China: Human Rights
10 January 2019
Volume 794

Question  11.22 am Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the violations of human rights in China, including the arrest and disappearance of political activists and religious adherents, forced organ harvesting, and restrictions on free speech; and when they last made representations on these matters to the government of China.

My Lords, we are deeply concerned about restrictions to civil and political freedoms in China, particularly the treatment of ethnic minorities, freedom of expression, association and assembly, and freedom of religion or belief. We highlighted these concerns publicly during China’s universal periodic review in November 2018 and in my subsequent Statement. During 2018, the UK raised human rights bilaterally with China on a number of occasions, including through the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, Ministers and senior officials.

My Lords, I commend the efforts of the noble Lord in consistently raising this issue and standing up for the different communities, the lawyers and activists, those of different faiths, and those who are being subjected to specific targeting for organ harvesting. I reassure him that, during the last UPR in Geneva, I made it a point to directly raise these issues, including the treatment of lawyers and religious minorities, and specifically the closure of Christian churches and the desperate situation of the Uighurs.

Sir Geoffrey Nice is conducting a review on organ harvesting, and the noble Lord will note that I ensured that some of my officials attended the hearings of the preliminary findings of that report. We are currently awaiting the detailed outcome. Let me reassure all noble Lords that we will consistently raise this publicly, through processes such as the UPR, and bilaterally, as I indicated in my original Answer.

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Minister for his response and also for Mark Field’s response to my honourable friend’s Written Question just before Christmas. However, noting all the contact that we have had through the Foreign Secretary and the Minister himself in raising our concerns, has the FCO taken the trouble to speak to the Department of Trade and other civil society organisations, including business, about our concerns on civil liberties? Engagement is not simply about political representation. We should make clear to everyone engaged with China that we have genuine concerns over human rights, and that to do business with China we need to see an improvement.

It is good to know that the Government are making these representations, but what evidence is there that the Chinese are listening and acting on them? Surely it is a matter of the profoundest concern that the country that will be the dominant power in the world by the middle of this century indulges in these practices.

My Lords, as I said, our job is to raise this concern bilaterally and, with other like-minded partners, with our Chinese counterparts, and we will continue to do so. If I may, I will refer to a recent example that I have already mentioned in your Lordships’ House. Just before Christmas, we sent our diplomats to undertake an insight into the suffering of the Uighur community. They have now reported back and we are looking very closely at their findings and recommendations to ensure that we can take those up with the Chinese. This cannot in any way be done by force of hand. It is through consistent and collaborative representations that we will, I believe, begin to see a change. If the Chinese wish to see a place for China that is progressive—which they clearly do—they need to subscribe to the international standards set and be held accountable.

My Lords, according to Amnesty International, there are more executions in China than the rest of the world. Issues that have been identified include not only the death penalty but the one-child policy, the legal status of Tibet, freedom of the press, the lack of regular legal recognition of human rights, the lack of independence of the judiciary, and the lack of rule of law and due process. In our haste to build a good relationship with China, particularly for trade, are we compromising on these human rights issues?

 

Following this House of Lords Oral Question on human rights violations in China I thought that you might find of interest the following briefing from Human Rights Without Frontiers.

 

 

The Orwellian life in Xinjiang campuses

 

(28.12.2018) – More than a million Uyghurs are languishing in transformation through education camps, but millions are still at large in the no-mans land of uncertainty where a careless word or administrative whim could put them behind bars.

 

Continue reading…

 

Dozens of Bitter Winter reporters arrested

 

(27.12.2018) – Accused of espionage and subversion, at least 45 contributors were arrested and interrogated; the reporter who filmed a secret camp in Xinjiang “disappeared” after the arrest.

 

Continue reading…

 

 

House churches shuttered in Northeastern China

 

(30.12.2018) – Government officials have been going on a rampage to close churches that won’t join the state-approved Three-Self Church.

 

Continue reading…

 

 

The Red Armbands are watching you. Everywhere

 

(30.12.2018) – Reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution, China mobilizes citizen spies, vigilantes to “maintain public order” and suppress religion.

 

Continue reading…

 

 

New pogrom against The Church of Almighty God

 

(28.12.2018) – In early December, Heilongjiang provincial authorities mobilized a large police force and launched a mass arrest operation against members of the CAG.

 

Continue reading…

 

 

Pastors accused of “foreign affiliations”

 

(28.12.2018) – Husband and wife pastor duo in Tongjiang city lose church after buying religious books from South Korea, which officials deemed illegal.

 

Continue reading…

 

 

CCP monitors, punishes comments on social media

 

(28.12.2018) – Authorities in China scan cell phones at will, and even the most benign comment – from years ago – can have lifelong consequences.

 

Continue reading…

 

 

In China, Moses delivers only nine commandments

 

(28.12.2018) – In a “sinicization” move bordering on farce, authorities force a church to delete one commandment from the fundamental law of Judaism and Christianity.

 

Continue reading…

 

 

3,000 officer squelch garbage plant protest

 

(28.12.2018) – Fearing for health and safety, residents of Teng’ao town protest a large-scale garbage incineration plant close to town. People protest, authorities crack down.

 

Continue reading…

 

 

 

 

Sermons censored, donations seized at patriotic churches

 

(27.12.2018) – Even government-approved Three-Self Church faces control of preaching, mandated patriotism, and control of finances, in ongoing “sinicization” push.

 

Continue reading…

 

 

New details of secret transfer of Uyghurs

 

(27.12.2018) – Despite the best efforts of the Chinese authorities, more leaks emerge of the logistics and the inhumane treatment, and the fear endured, by Uyghur detainees.

 

Continue reading…

 

 

Even going to the doctor poses trouble for believers

 

(27.12.2018) – Patients in China are forced to register religious status when seeking medical care and also undergo a litany of questions about private life.

 

Continue reading…

 

 

Authorities destroy place of worship in Henan

 

(27.12.2018) – Chinese officials allege, on false grounds, that the buildings on the Chinese Christian Church Prayer Mountain broke laws.

 

Continue reading…

 

 

Christians arrested for thanking the Lord

 

(27.12.2018) – Instead of using frequent Christian expressions of praise, believers must thank the Communist Party of China – or face dire consequences.

 

Continue reading…

 

 

Fengqiao – a Maoist revival to attack religion

 

(27.12.2018) – Cultural Revolution technique revived from the 1960s pits masses against masses, brother against brother, faith against faith, to control belief.

 

Continue reading…

 

 

 

Dalai Lama gives important Christmas interview

 

(26.12.2018) – He explains to the Hindustan Times how a decision on whether there will be a next Dalai Lama or not will be taken.

 

Continue reading…

 

 

Muslims forced out of jobs, in Xinjiang and beyond

 

(26.12.2018) – Uyghurs working outside Xinjiang forced to return home, Huis in Xinjiang – to their places of origin, facing questions of how to support families.

 

Continue reading…

 

 

Underground Catholics in Jiangxi may lose their churches

 

(26.12.2018) – Authorities are harassing underground Catholic churches in the Diocese of Yujiang, intimidating believers into joining the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

 

Continue reading…

 

 

Anti-Muslim repression expands outside Xinjiang

 

(25.12.2018) – Using “terrorism” as an excuse, Beijing’s fight against Islamic religion reaches other western border regions.

 

Continue reading…

 

 

Elderly believers suffer for their faith

 

(23.12.2018) – House churches are forced to change locations to avoid being closed down by Chinese authorities, making the life of senior Christians extremely difficult.

 

Continue reading…

 

 

Religious books banned and destroyed by the state

 

(23.12.2018) – New regulations are banning the sale of religious books, including the Bible, and churches and temples are threatened with the burning of scriptures.

 

Continue reading…

 

 

Chinese authorities boycott Christmas

 

(23.12.2018) – Churches have been ordered to get approvals to celebrate Christmas from multiple state institutions and people are forbidden from having Christmas decorations.

 

Continue reading…

 

 

Underground Catholic priest arrested, kept under surveillance

 

(23.12.2018) – Government’s “patrol inspection team,” supervising religious affairs, has been stationed in Fuzhou city. Underground Catholic priests are the main targets.

 

Continue reading…

You may also be interested in the work of the China Tribunal, led by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, into involuntary organ harvesting. Details appear at this link:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ewelinaochab/2018/12/08/the-independent-tribunal-into-forced-organ-harvesting-in-china-begins-its-work-in-london/#2ce392bb5eb3

How Chinese Doctors Who Harvest Organs Get Away With Murder

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ewelinaochab/2019/01/08/how-chinese-doctors-who-harvest-organs-get-away-with-murder/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ewelinaochab/2018/11/03/forced-re-education-of-muslims-in-china/#1031ab2859ed   

A wall of silence around China’s oppression of its Muslim minority is starting to crumble 

More and more countries are standing up to China over its oppression of the Uighurs, a majority-Muslim ethnic minority living in the country’s west. See –

https://www.businessinsider.com/muslim-countries-standing-up-to-china-over-uighur-muslim-oppression-2018-12

 

 

Also see this bulletin from Human Rights Without Frontiers

 

https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/muslims-camps-china/

China: Uighur Muslims

19 December 2018

Question

3.30 pm

 

Asked by

Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to raise (1) with the government of China, and (2) in international fora, the treatment and conditions of Uighur people held in “re-education” camps in China.

 

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)

My Lords, we have serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang, including the use of political re-education camps and widespread surveillance and restrictions, which are targeted particularly at Uighur Muslims. Indeed, our diplomats recently visited Xinjiang. We highlighted our serious concerns at the September UN Human Rights Council, during China’s universal periodic review in November and in my subsequent public statement. My right honourable friends the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific also raised the issue with their Chinese counterparts.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, having met Uighurs in western China, I thank the Minister for that very robust reply.

Reports suggest that up to 1 million Uighurs have been incarcerated without trial in a network of sinister re-education camps: these are bristling with barbed wire and watchtowers, with torture and brainwashing that demands renouncing God and embracing Communism.

People are forced to change family names, give DNA samples and eat and drink forbidden things.

Is this not a return to the methods of the Cultural Revolution, when thought-crime regularly led to imprisonment and worse?

What are the Government doing to encourage Muslim and other heads of state to speak out, recognising that such appalling treatment of a Muslim minority will fuel resentment and radicalisation right across the globe?

What are they doing to persuade Beijing of the benefits of Article 18 and pluralism, and show that this appalling treatment of the Uighur people is the last way to create integration, loyalty and harmony?

 

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising this issue. When we talk of religious persecution and the rights of different minority communities around the world, the plight of the Uighur Muslim is often forgotten. I have certainly been aware of this. The noble Lord will know that we raised this issue in a deliberate, focused way during the universal periodic review with the specific reference to the plight of the Uighur Muslims. To answer his question directly, that has resulted in strong support at an international level, not just among Muslim leaders, but in other states, ensuring that we raise the bar on raising this issue consistently with the Chinese authorities. Indeed, as I said earlier, our diplomats have recently returned from the region. The reports they provided are quite challenging and even quite horrific in certain respects, with people being asked to remove any sign that they are of a particular faith.

Lord Anderson of Swansea (Lab)

My Lords, the United Nations estimates that there are over 1 million people—mostly Uighur Muslims, including Kazakhs and others—in these resettlement camps. We are a member of the UN Human Rights Council; China has been a member for six years and this expires in October of next year. It is good that we have raised this issue, but what support have we received from others on the Human Rights Council, and what response has there been from China?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon

My Lords, it would be fair to say that at this stage the response from China on the concerns raised has been quite limited. However, this is an issue that has come to the fore and has now been raised at an international level, where perhaps it had not previously got the focus it deserves. Let me assure the noble Lord and your Lordships’ House that this remains a key priority on our human rights agenda. Specifically, we have been talking to partners at the Security Council, we raised this directly and bilaterally with the Chinese authorities and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary raised this in his direct talks with the Foreign Minister of China.

Baroness Northover (LD)

I thank the noble Lord for his very strong response, but does he recognise that some of the actions we have taken on this matter have been taken in conjunction with the EU External Action Service? Of course, we also worked together with France and Germany on the case of Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia. How does he think we will be able to maximise our impact on human rights with a superpower such as China if we leave the EU?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon

My Lords, our stance on human rights predates our membership of the European Union. The noble Baroness is right to say that we have worked very closely with our European partners. In bilateral discussions with EU partners and beyond, the importance of human rights and the impact of raising those issues when we stand together is clear. Unity of action on these issues is clear, and it is my view that after we leave the European Union, we will continue to work very closely with our European partners on human rights issues and the benefits we have seen will continue.

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)

I appreciate that the Government have been raising this issue with the Chinese authorities, but have they raised it with the US in order to get joint action to persuade China that human rights are a matter of international concern and not something that can simply be left to individual countries to deal with on their own?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon

My Lords, the noble Lord raises an important point, but let me assure him that through our membership of the Security Council and the Human Rights Council, we raise these issues with like-minded partners but also with countries from the Islamic world—to which the noble Lord, Lord Alton, referred—to ensure that a consistent message is delivered. China is an important partner of the United Kingdom on a range of different issues, but that should not preclude our raising human rights issues clearly and unequivocally.

Lord Elton (Con)

My noble friend’s replies have been encouraging, but I understand that the situation is even worse at present. It is now reported that the Chinese authorities are removing the children from these camps, which are full of 1 million of their nationals, and taking them away to be re-educated separately. That is totally heartless and should be a central part of his inquiry.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon

My Lords, my noble friend raises a disturbing turn of events, which has been much reported. Any parent of any child can relate to the issue he has raised. The issue of the Uighur Muslims in particular, but also that of all the different religious minority communities in China, is a concern. Let me assure him and your Lordships’ House that in my role as the Prime Minister’s special envoy on freedom of religion or belief, I will raise it consistently, both bilaterally and in all international fora.

Lord Hylton (CB)

My Lords, the Minister will doubtless know that there are factories alongside these concentration camps that are paying very low wages. Will the Government therefore ensure that their products do not enter supply chains into this country?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon

My Lords, I have been made aware of this and we are certainly reviewing the reports we have received. As I said, earlier this month senior diplomats from our mission in Beijing visited the region, and we are looking at their observations and recommendations very closely.

———————————————————————–

Congressman Chris Smith (R, New Jersey) has introduced a new Bill into the US Congress drawing attention to the China’s barbaric treatment of the Uyghurs as well as concrete  steps to be made in response. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/7123 

Washington Post endorsed the bill in an editorial: Opinion | China got rid of one of the most oppressive practices of the Mao era. Now it’s coming back.

————————————————————————-

 

Yingye’er re-education camp managed like prison (video)

New exclusive video details internal management regulations of the Yingye’er “transformation through education” camp in Xinjiang. Experts confirm that the rules are almost identical to those of a prison.

 

By Massimo Introvigne

 

Bitter Winter (11.12.2018) – https://bit.ly/2SLeFyZ – At the end of November, Bitter Winter posted an exclusive video about the large-scale Yingye’er “transformation through education” camp for Uyghurs in Yining city of Xinjiang. The video has drawn a lot of attention throughout the world. We now present another video about the same camp, detailing its internal management rules and regulation.

 

The rules and regulations are posted on public signboards displayed in the corridors of the camp and detail a variety of internal management issues, such as the security of the camp, the code of conduct of “students” and personnel, as well as provisions regarding the inmates’ communication with families. According to public security personnel, some of these rules and regulations are almost identical to the management regulations of prisons.

 

The instructions regarding the security of the camp state, “The section needs to make overall arrangements of armed police officers, public security personnel, security guards, and other forces.” In fact, armed police officers and public security personnel are part of the state security forces. So, if Yingye’er camp were an ordinary vocational school, the daily routine of providing safety would only require regular security guards.

 

The “Code of Conduct” for ‘students,'” posted on the “class affairs board” in the corridor, contains 26 regulations. Among these, article 23 is especially worth mentioning: it requires “students” to address armed police and special police as “police officers” and address teaching cadres as “training officers.” The requirement is notably similar to the code of conduct used for prison inmates.

 

One of the responsibilities for teachers requires them to “strive hard to study Marxism-Leninism and Chairman Mao’s thought,” “adhere to the Party’s basic line,” and teach students a “proletarian philosophy.”

 

As per the regulations, the responsibilities of the headmaster and Mandarin Chinese teachers include the indoctrination of students through ideological and political education. The rules state that, basically, only the students who speak Uyghur are required to learn Mandarin.

 

In a recent interview with Bitter Winter, an employee of another “transformation through education” camp revealed that all Uyghur detainees are forced to learn Chinese. “But even if an Uyghur manages to get a perfect score in Chinese, he or she will not be allowed to leave the camp,” revealed the employee.

 

The regulations of the Yingye’er camp include detailed provisions regarding contacts between “students” and their families, which are extremely restrictive. Phone calls between them must be applied for and approved, and the length of each phone call is usually limited to under five minutes. The rules require that phone calls must be “personally registered, personally dialed, and personally monitored” by members of the staff. The use of “code words and secret language” during conversations is prohibited. Inmates who do not comply with these rules will be punished with deprivation of family phone call privileges from one to six months based, depending on a situation.

 

Article 1 of the regulations states that “anti-extremism” should be incorporated within the content of “heart-to-heart chats,” and emphasizes that through such chats, “staff should gain a multifaceted understanding of students’ ideological dynamics and strive to discover emerging and tendentious intelligence information and clues.”

 

Our reporter has also discovered a room with a sign on the door “zhēnbié shì (Screening Room).” The original meaning of the Chinese word zhēnbié (screening) is “to differentiate and distinguish,” which emphasizes carrying out the assessment, examination, identification, and verification cautiously and seriously.

 

One of the most probable explanations for the function of this screening room could also lie in the interview with the employee of another “transformation through education” camp, mentioned earlier. He states that all detainees are divided into four levels of supervision: lenient, ordinary, strict, and enforced. According to him, special teams regularly screen “students” to determine whether they have signed a statement of repentance and “admitted their guilt.” An assessment is then conducted, and students who do not pass are sent to a detention center. Therefore, most probably, the screening room at the Yingye’er camp is used to evaluate the degree of “transformation” and “reform” of students.

 

Although CCP’s propaganda strives to conceal the truth, a growing body of evidence shows that the CCP authorities are carrying out large-scale persecution and suppression of Muslim Uyghurs. In its external communications, the CCP refers to “transformation through education” camps as “schools.” The factual materials our reporter has collected confirm that in terms of both internal structure and management regulations, this “transformation through education” camp is, in fact, a prison.

 

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

It is a privilege to speak in this debate, and I thank the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) for securing it and for his speech, with which I very much concur.

Last week, as chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, I was able to meet a Uyghur Muslim who is now living in Washington DC and part of the NGO the Uyghur Entrepreneurs Network. He said that, about two years ago, Uyghurs who use Washington as a base—there are now about 3,000 of them—started reporting that relatives in China were disappearing. He says that, now, every Uyghur he meets there has a relative who has disappeared. Indeed, all of his own relatives have disappeared. The last one was his father, who sent a message to him saying, “Son, they have come for me.”

As we have heard, reports suggest that there are huge numbers—quite possibly more than 1 million—in the camps. People are often there for no reason at all. I am told that the difficulties experienced by Uyghur girls are such that they are even selected for Communist party officials to have relationships with them and used for bartering in exchange for their family’s freedom.

The religious dimension to the detentions is self-evident. Detainees are predominantly, although not exclusively, Muslim; they include people of Uyghur, Kazakh and Kyrgyz ethnicity. In this climate of fear, Uyghur Muslims have stopped public and communal religious observance. We have been told about the treatment of people once they are in the camps. Detainees have been not only forced to renounce their religion but forced, we understand, to eat pork or drink alcohol, in violation of their right to freedom of religion or belief. Conditions in the camps are extremely difficult, as we have heard.

The awful treatment extends even to children in the camps. Children as young as three can be detained, although sadly the children of those detained are often left to fend for themselves. We were told last week of one child who was found frozen—they had died when their parents were taken away. Children are often mistreated or sent to retraining centres. We have heard of children as young as six months old being locked up like farm animals in a shed.

Let me also draw the Minister’s attention to the concerns about DNA testing of Uyghurs, about which we have heard, and the potential that that might be being used for forced organ harvesting. I know that that is currently being investigated by the independent China tribunal, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice, QC. It would be interesting to hear the Minister’s comments on that.

Bob Fu, of China Aid, told us last week that the human rights violations in terms of religious persecution are at their worst for some 40 years in China. I am grateful to the UK, during the universal periodic review, for calling on China to implement the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and to allow the UN to monitor the implementation. But the UK needs to do as much as it can to ensure international accountability for the human rights violations, so can the Minister say whether he will support the calls for the UK to work with others in the international community to establish an independent, impartial and comprehensive UN-led investigation and to work towards the establishment of a mechanism for accountability on this issue?

Let me also draw colleagues’ attention to concerns in America. In relation to what is said to be happening in China, the Washington Post says:

“It’s hard to read that as anything other than a declaration of genocidal intent.”

This month, members of Congress and the Senate introduced the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which calls for the President to condemn the abuses, for the Secretary of State to co-ordinate closely with the traditional allies on targeted sanctions and restrictions, and for the appointment of a US special co-ordinator for the Uyghur autonomous region. It also calls on the private sector to conduct due diligence in dealings with China, and asks the FBI to track and take steps to hold accountable officials from China who harass, threaten or intimidate US citizens and legal permanent residents. I hope the Minister will join me in welcoming this action from the US and that he will co-ordinate with his counterparts there on this situation.

 

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/

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

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…

View original post 4,194 more words

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

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

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

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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.”