Monday, September 30, 2002

The Starving of Sudan

Date: Monday 30 September 2002
Subj: The Starving of Sudan
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


On Friday 27 September 02 the Government of Sudan (GoS) suspended all humanitarian flights into Eastern and Western Equatoria regions of war-ravaged Southern Sudan, at least for the next nine days. This is an appalling crime against humanity but it has long been a standard GoS strategy whenever it has desired to weaken, punish or eliminate-en-masse the Southern Sudanese.

This time the GoS is also suspending all security flights, meaning that evacuations will not be able to occur. Humanitarian workers that are able have been forced to flee in haste to avoid becoming trapped. Others are bunkering down. Observers are expecting that a major and bloody GoS offensive is imminent.

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THE STARVING OF SUDAN

The BBC reports, "The Sudanese Government's action will cut off almost the entire south of the country, preventing humanitarian flights from getting in, and also potentially blocking the evacuation of foreign staff from the war zone.

"Martin Dawes, a spokesman for the United Nations umbrella organisation Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), said the UN was extremely concerned and was seeking clarification from the Sudanese government.

"The flight ban applies to two huge regions in the far south. One of them, Eastern Equatoria, is experiencing very heavy fighting at the moment, but the other is peaceful. Aid flights from neighbouring Kenya carrying about 150 tonnes of food a day will be grounded." (Full article see link 1)

CNN elaborates, "The flight ban effectively means no U.N. aid flights can get to any part of southern Sudan. There is no way of flying in from the main base at Lokichoggio, just over the border with Kenya, without passing over the prohibited zone. Martin Dawes (OLS) said an average of 20 OLS flights leave Lokichoggio every day, carrying medicine, food, equipment or staff." (See link 2)

On Thursday 26 September, SPLA (Southern People's Liberation Army) fighters shot down a GoS helicopter gunship just north of Torit. The BBC noted that the GoS was experiencing difficulty recapturing Torit, which is in Eastern Equatoria, and added, "Critics say the Sudanese government uses and abuses the (UN) system as an instrument of war by denying access to certain areas in order to starve both rebels and civilians." (link 1)

"MEASURING THE WORLD'S RESPONSE"

In his mailing of Saturday 28 September 02, Sudan expert Dr. Eric Reeves said, "There is no clear end in sight to this catastrophe deliberately precipitated by the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum as a means of securing military advantage in its ongoing offensive in Eastern Equatoria. We could have no clearer example of the ways in which Khartoum's denial of humanitarian aid and its military tactics are intertwined."

Reeves reminds us of the GoS-induced, war-related famine of February 1998, "in which perhaps 100,000 people died." Reeves says that was, "a signal example of how destructive Khartoum is willing to be in using the denial of humanitarian aid as a potent weapon of mass destruction."

The UN estimates that three million men, women and children are at imminent risk of starvation. Reeves suggests that "Khartoum is every hour taking the measure of the world's response, of action---or inaction---on the part of the UN, the United States---and the other Western democracies."

Reeves laments Khartoum's "ruthlessly accurate assessment of what price it will have to pay for breaking its commitments. So far there appears to be no price, and this augurs very poorly for the regaining of humanitarian access."

- Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) BBC "Khartoum halts aid flights to south" By Andrew Harding.
BBC correspondent in Nairobi, Kenya
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/world/africa/2283833.stm

2) CNN "Sudan suspends aid flights" Friday, 27 September 2002
http://asia.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/africa/09/27/sudan.relief.reut/index.html

AP "OLS: Sudanese government bans all U.N. flights into large part
of southern Sudan for nine days beginning Friday" 26 September 2002
http://www.sudan.net/news/posted/5919.html

Monday, September 23, 2002

Belarus: new religion law drafted

Date: Monday 23 September 2002
Subj: Belarus: Advocating for religious freedom.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


The government of Belarus is presently considering introducing a highly restrictive religion law that would drive Belarus back into Soviet era oppression, crippling the numerous small Protestant evangelical and non-traditional groups that have revived, or come into Belarus, since Perestroika and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

BELARUS RELIGION BILL

If adopted as drafted, the new religion law will outlaw unregistered religious activity and only those religious communities that consist of more than 20 Belarusian citizens will be able to gain registration. This will threaten smaller groups and make the founding of new communities impossible. Also, the leader of any religious organisation will have to be a Belarus citizen. This is highly discriminatory and will cause serious difficulties for many religious groups after so many years of Communist oppression.

If the law is passed religious meetings will not be permitted to take place regularly in private homes and all religious literature will be subjected to State censorship.

If the law is passed, a denomination seeking registration as a legal entity will have to have at least 10 separate registered groups, of which one must have existed in 1982 - at the height of the Soviet oppression. Julia Doxat-Purser, Socio-Political Representative and Religious Liberty Coordinator of the European Evangelical Alliance, notes, "This means that many Protestant Churches and other faiths cannot and can never become associations. Only religious associations can train clergy, invite foreigners to come and be staff, establish missions and schools or run mass media (Articles 27 - 29). Denying faith communities the right to train leaders or have foreign staff would make continuing existence impossible."

WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY

There had been great secrecy around the proposed religion law and most people were completely unaware of its contents until it was brought before parliament for discussion. The lower house of parliament voted to have the reading of religion law postponed, but this was overthrown and the law was hastily passed in the lower house on 27 June. However, on 28 June, the final day of the spring session, the upper house voted to postpone the reading until after the summer recess, citing lack of time get acquainted with the text. The reading in the upper house will now take place on 2 October, the first day of the next parliamentary session.

The postponement has given churches and human rights lawyers in Belarus a window of opportunity to raise awareness of the issues and to advocate for religious freedom. Many analysts believe the law is part of a wider political policy of supporting the Orthodox Church (who are in full favour of the bill) in an effort to strengthen Slavic identity / nationalism and unity. This fails to acknowledge the immense social contribution and positive influence the Protestant Church has made to all spheres of life in Belarus ever since the fifteen century.

Julia Doxat-Purser reports, "The Baptist, Pentecostal, Full Gospel and Adventist Churches are united as they stand together to talk to politicians. They are working closely with human rights lawyers. They are helping to organise a conference on the proposed law for 30 September."

Church Representatives were also able to distribute information about the religious situation in Belarus at the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) conference in Warsaw, held from 9-19 September 2002.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Tracking freedom in Hong Kong.

Date: Thursday 19 September 2002
Subj: Tracking freedom in Hong Kong.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


The eroding of freedom in Hong Kong has been done so gently and slowly that it has scarcely attracted any attention, like a burglar tiptoeing so quietly that he manages to steal without setting off any alarm bells. However, Beijing's insistence that Hong Kong start enacting controversial anti-subversion legislation just might trigger the sensors, especially when we understand that it is China's definition of subversion that will stand, as it is China's National People's Congress in Beijing that has the final word on all matters pertaining to interpretation of Basic Law in Hong Kong.

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TRACKING FREEDOM IN HONG KONG

In 1985, Britain and China ratified the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Under its terms, China would regain sovereignty over Hong Kong on 1 July 1997 and Hong Kong would become a Special Administrative Region (SAR) with its economic and social systems remaining unchanged for 50 years.

In 1995 all seats in the Legislative Council were declared vacant and democratic elections were held. Pro-China parties polled poorly, winning only 16 of the 60 seats, while candidates in favour of increasing openness and democracy won 26 seats and pro-business, politically neutral candidates won those remaining. China was so incensed that they threatened to dissolve the Legislative Council after 1997, even though that would be a clear violation of the 1985 Sino-British Joint Declaration.

Hong Kong passed from British to Chinese hands on 30 June 1997 and the Chinese immediately dissolved the Legislative Council and replaced it with a handpicked body.

In 1999 Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal acknowledged the primacy of China's National People's Congress in Beijing as having the final word on all matters pertaining to constitutional issues and interpretation of Basic law.

On 11 July 2002 a bill was passed that gave Beijing the power to dismiss Hong Kong's leader. The BBC reported, "Under the proposal approved by Hong Kong's legislature on Wednesday (11/7/01), an 800-person committee will choose Hong Kong's next leader - but Beijing can fire the person."

"Critics say the law - proposed by the government - demolishes a crucial pillar of the autonomy the territory was promised when it was returned to China four years ago. The controversy over the bill is just the latest row that has raised fears that Hong Kong's autonomy is slowly being chipped away.

"The government is reportedly considering following China's example by banning the Falun Gong spiritual movement. However, Mr Tung said he told Mr Bush the territory would continue to tolerate a broad range of religious expression. 'Freedom of the press and religion are alive and kicking and doing well,' said Mr Tung. 'Four years since the return of Hong Kong, one country-two systems is everyday reality'." ("HK leader says freedom is safe" BBC 12 July 2001)

However, during 2002, journalists, Falun Gong and activists such as Harry Wu have been restricted, harassed, detained and deported. As the BBC notes, "A clear message is being sent - if Beijing doesn't like you, you will find it hard to get into Hong Kong." (See Link 1 - "Fears for Hong Kong's freedom" BBC 1 July 2002)

ENACTING THE ANTI-SUBVERSION LAW

An article entitled "Hong Kong signals it could soon enact anti-subversion law" (AFP 13 Sept) states: "The Hong Kong government has signalled it could soon move to enact controversial anti-subversion legislation it has been obliged to introduce since returning to Chinese rule five years ago.

"Justice Secretary Elsie Leung told reporters 'it is about time' to enact the law, which would punish offences against the state. Her remarks follow reports that a consultation paper on the issue would be issued as early as next month.

"Senior Chinese officials led by Vice Premier Qian Qichen, who is responsible for Hong Kong affairs, have told the territory to enact the subversion law as soon as possible.

"But some legislators fear such laws could run counter to Hong Kong's policies on freedom of speech and have argued that prohibition of treason and subversion are covered by existing legislation." (Full article - see link 2).

The Anti-subversion law in Article 23 of the Basic Law requires Hong Kong to legislate against treason, sedition, secession and subversion.

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported the same story under the headline, "Groups meet to share views on proposed subversion law". Law Yuk-kai, director of Human Rights Monitor, is quoted as saying, "It will be a serious test of the willingness of the government to maintain Hong Kong as a tolerant and free society. Should the administration seek to interfere with Hong Kong's freedom of expression, freedom of information and academic freedom through such a law, it will fundamentally change the nature of Hong Kong's society."

"He (Mr. Law) said Human Rights Monitor and the Hong Kong Christian Institute had jointly called today's (Friday 13 Sept) meeting with NGOs including green groups, trade unions, religious groups and student organisations." The non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are meeting together to decide on a joint response. ("Groups meet to share views on proposed subversion law" by Angela Li, SCMP 13 Sept 2002).

Chinese authorities have denied that the law would affect freedom of expression in Hong Kong. However Mr. Law believes there is a need to take action. "'With the draconian law in place, non-governmental organisations which have dissenting voices would be banned gradually,' he said."

Pro-democracy legislators are seeking to widen public understanding of issues concerning the anti-subversion law. According to the SCMP, "They hope to provide campaigners against the proposed laws with substance to back up their slogans."

"Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, non-affiliated legislator representing the legal sector, is due to release to the media today (19/9) an information pack on Article 23 legislation. Another pro-democracy legislator, Cyd Ho Sau-lan, of the Frontier, plans to launch a Web site on Article 23 legislation in a fortnight's time." ("Legislators in push to broaden public knowledge of Article 23" by Angela Li and Jimmy Cheung, SCMP, 19 Sept 2002).

The NGOs will meet again on Monday 23 September to finalise the action they will take. ("NGOs weigh subversion law action" by May Sin-Mi Ho, SCMP 18 Sept 2002).

- Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) "Fears for Hong Kong's freedom" By Damian Grammaticas,
BBC Hong Kong correspondent 1 July 2002.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/2077589.stm

2) "Hong Kong signals it could soon enact anti-subversion law"
AFP 13 Sept 2002
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/020913/1/32qns.html

Monday, September 16, 2002

Sudan: Update on 'Peace'.

Date: Monday 16 September 2002
Subj: Sudan: Update on 'Peace'.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


On 20 July 02, the Government of the Republic of Sudan and the Southern People's Liberation Movement/Army, signed the "Machakos Protocol" at the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) talks in Nairobi, Kenya (see WEA RLC posting "Sudan - Translating a Document into a Reality").

The parties met in Kenya again on 12 August to negotiate power sharing, distribution of oil revenues, human rights and a ceasefire. Direct negotiations commenced on 2 September following twenty days of indirect negotiations through international mediators from IGAD, the USA and Europe. The same day direct negotiations commenced, the Government of Sudan (GoS) withdrew from the talks.

UPDATE ON 'PEACE'

A ceasefire had not been declared in the July talks and so the fighting in the south continued unabated. To many observers it actually appeared that Government of Sudan (GoS) was escalating its people-clearing operations around the oil fields in anticipation of a ceasefire being negotiated in the August / September talks.

An AFP news report on 1 August entitled, "Sudan says it fights to secure oil areas, prevent attacks" said, "The Sudanese government said here (Khartoum) Wednesday, that its forces had engaged in 'military battles' in southern Sudan but that they were part of previous actions to secure oil fields or prevent future rebel attacks.

"The SPLA has put the civilian death toll during a weekend attack by government forces on southern Mayom county at 300 people, with up to 100,000 displaced." (See Link 1)

On 1 September however, the Southern People's Liberation Army (SPLA) had a major military victory and captured the strategic major garrison town of Torit. Torit was the scene of the first southern uprising against the central government in 1955 and had been the rebels' headquarters until GoS forces captured it in 1992. It was this SPLA victory that provoked the GoS withdrawal from the peace talks on 2 September.

According to the BBC's Alfred Taban, the GoS immediately commenced recruiting for mujahideen at universities and schools in preparation for a major offensive. Reuters reported the SPLA as saying their capture of Torit had simply been a response to a government offensive.

IMPOSING PEACE THROUGH JIHAD

Hundreds of government supporters took to the streets of Sudan's capital, Khartoum, to protest the rebel capture of Torit. President Omar al-Bashir vowed that government forces would retake Torit. "The jihad process will continue until peace, security and stability is achieved," he said.

ArabicNews.com quoted Sudanese defence minister Bakri Hassan Saleh as saying "the army is able to restore back Torit. The Mujahideen will teach the people's army for liberating Sudan (SPLA) an unforgettable lesson."

According to the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), (part of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), the GoS dropped some 100 bombs on Torit on Monday 9 September.

On 10 September, the AFP published and article entitled, "Sudan's Beshir vows to 'impose' peace". The following statements are excerpts: "Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir vowed to 'impose' peace in Sudan. 'We manufacture weapons and arm ourselves, not for war but for imposing peace,' said Beshir. 'We and all the Sudanese people were pleased when peace came into sight, but the rebel movement spoiled this pleasure,' Beshir said. Beshir also inspected Monday (9/9) a newly-expanded ammunition factory at Khartoum's Shajarah neighbourhood, and claimed that his country now 'manufactures all the sorts of ammunition it needs.'" (See link 2).

OTHER MOTIVATING FACTORS?

The GoS has received intense criticism from Egypt (concerned about its Nile water supply should Southern Sudan secede) and from Islamists inside Sudan, over the Machakos Protocol. (For an example of Islamist resistance see link 3).

The Washington Post has revealed that European, Pakistani and U.S. investigators have reported that large quantities gold belonging to al Qaeda and the Taliban have recently been shipped out of Pakistan and into Sudan via United Arab Emirates and Iran. (See link 4). Sudanese authorities however, have been quick to deny the reports and that they have any link to international terrorism. (See link 5).

Observers are watching to see which way Khartoum will decide to go. The hope is that they will return to the talks and face the difficult issues pertaining to a ceasefire - particularly the issue of where the border of Southern Sudan lies (the GoS puts it considerably further south than the Southerners do).


- Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) AFP "Sudan says it fights to secure oil areas, prevent attacks"
31 July 2002 http://www.sudan.net/news/posted/5554.html

2) AFP "Sudan's Beshir vows to 'impose' peace" 10 Sept 2002
http://www.sudan.net/news/posted/5847.html

3) "The true reality of the Machakos protocol"
http://www.hizb-ut-tahrir.org/english/leaflets/wilaya4.htm

4) WP "Al Qaeda Gold Moved to Sudan" 3 Sept 2002
http://www.sudan.net/news/posted/5782.html

5) AFP "Sudan denies receiving al-Qaeda gold" 4 Sept 2002
http://www.sudan.net/news/posted/5804.html

Tuesday, September 3, 2002

IRAN: DESPERATELY NEEDS THE GOSPEL

Religious Liberty Prayer List - No. 184 - Tue 03 Sep 2002

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IRAN: DESPERATELY NEEDS THE GOSPEL
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The Islamic Revolution of 1979 established a theocratic dictatorship that has left many Iranians despairing, rebelling, and seeking an escape or alternatives. Iran is a land with two faces. The public face is one of Islamic 'purity' - black chador-clad women, and conformity with Islamic rules. The secret face however, is one of rapidly escalating unemployment, drug addiction, prostitution, HIV and AIDS, discontent, despair and suicide. With a population of 60 million, and 35 million under the age of 20, it is the young who are most severely affected.

An Iranian report released in 2000 estimated that five tonnes of narcotics were being consumed in Tehran (the capital) every day. In 1999, prostitution had increased by 635% among high school students and the suicide rate by 109%, in 12 months. The report also said that 75% of the population - 86% of school students - do not say daily prayers.

Today it is acknowledged that Iran has 2-3 million drug addicts. Many girls are running away from home, from arranged child marriages or a horrific home-life. One women's rights advocate in Iran says an average of 30 runaway girls are found lost and confused in Tehran every day. She estimates that there could be up to 100 run-aways coming there daily. Some 90% of all run-away girls end up in prostitution.

In 1979, the number of Muslim background Christians in Iran was around 500 and today it is estimated to be up to 20,000. The majority of evangelical Christians in Iran were once Muslims, but many remain secret, as apostates are severely persecuted and even killed or 'disappeared'. Other Christians are harassed and threatened also. As a result, Christians who are able to, emigrate.

Iran is home to some of the world's largest unreached people groups - only 8 of the 70 ethnic groups in Iran have any known believers. Many of the 5 million Iranians in the diaspora are hearing the gospel and are finding life in Christ. Inside Iran however, amidst the disillusionment, despair and desperation, witnessing is prohibited and millions of Iranians live and die unaware of the love of Jesus and the abundant life and salvation he freely offers.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:

* the faith and hope of Iranian Christians to remain strong in spite of crippling discrimination, severe trials and persecution.

* safety for Muslims who choose to follow Jesus, whose lives are at risk constantly; for great wisdom to know God's will daily.

* God to use Iranian believers to bring blessing and hope to others, that the Church may grow.

* God to reveal himself to Iranian leaders through dreams and visions - Jesus himself knows no such thing as 'restricted access'.

"Healthy people don't need a doctor - sick people do. I have come to call sinners to turn from their sins, not to spend my time with those who think they are already good enough." Jesus - Luke 5:31,32 (NLT)