Friday, February 27, 2004

Nigeria: Investigating Wahhabi insurection and Saudi funds.

Date: Friday 27 February 2004
Subj: Nigeria: Investigating Wahhabi insurection and Saudi funds.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

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NIGERIA: INVESTIGATING WAHHABI INSURECTION AND SAUDI FUNDS.
- what terror is breeding in the northern sharia states?
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On 25 January 2004, UN Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) reported, "Nigerian security agencies have in the past voiced concerns about the activities of certain Islamic preachers whom they feared were radicalising Muslims in parts of the north. Many were suspected of having links to terrorist groups and foreign organisations.

"In the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, several Afghan and Pakistani preachers and other residents were arrested and deported because, according to the authorities, they could not give satisfactory explanations of their mission in Nigeria." (Link 1)

UN IRIN expressed the concern that a recent violent but failed insurrection in the northern state of Yobe by the Wahhabi militant group Al Sunna wal Jamma ("Followers of the Prophet") could be evidence that extremist Islamist ideology and terrorism could become a threat to Nigeria's peace and security.

The recent arrest in Kano of a Sudanese Islamist named Sheikh Muhiddin Abdullahi confirms the fears of analysts who have suspected that the northern sharia states would become an incubator for radical Islamist ideology and a breeding ground for militants.

It is alleged that Sheikh Muhiddin Abdullahi helped channel funds from Saudi Arabia through his Almundata Al-Islam Foundation to Al Sunna wal Jamma. (Link 2)

The Almundata Al-Islam Foundation is a "charity" that builds new mosques in Nigeria - 42 in Kano). It promotes Wahhabi Islam and is funded by wealthy Saudis. It has been reported that Malam Mohammed Yusuf, who is believed to be the ideological leader of the Al Sunna wal Jamma, has fled to Saudi Arabia. Nigeria has asked Interpol to help apprehend him. Meanwhile, officers of the State Security Service have taken Sheikh Muhiddin Abdullahi and his associate Alhaji Sharu, a Kano-based businessman, to Abuja for questioning.

Nigerian authorities are now trying to unravel the extensive network of cells through which Islamist militants are being recruited from all across Nigeria and beyond. They are also trying to put together the details of how this group got its weapons and training. The Al Sunna wal Jamma militants in custody in Yobe are mostly well-educated university students and the children of "notable" Nigerians. The police are not releasing their names.

The growing evidence of foreign involvement in Islamist militancy in Nigeria is grounds for concern, especially as UN IRIN points out, "Nigeria was mentioned alongside Jordan, Morocco and Saudi Arabia in a tape purportedly released by Osama bin Laden, the fugitive leader of Al Qaeda, as a country where Muslims need to be liberated."

[Quote from bin Laden's audio-message aired by al-Jazeera on 11 February 2003, "The most qualified regions for liberation are Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, the land of the two holy mosques [Saudi Arabia], and Yemen."]

UN IRIN reports (25 Jan), "Political analysts and security officials fear the emergence of the Al Sunna Wal Jamma (Followers of the Prophet) group may be an indication that extremist Islamic groups have found enough foothold in Nigeria to make Africa's most populous country a theatre for worse sectarian violence than it has seen in recent years and acts of terrorism.

"'What I find striking is that the group had operated in Nigeria for some time, had a cell network of members that included highly educated people and could use weapons,' said Ike Onyekwere, a political analyst. 'Though they appear to have been put to flight, there is a chance they might still regroup and emerge in another, perhaps more deadly form.'"

BACKGROUND: THE DECEMBER 2003 INSURRECTION IN YOBE

In the last days of December 2003, some 200 Muslims of a fanatical strict Islamic sect known as Al Sunna Wal Jamma or "Followers of the Prophet", and led by a man calling himself "Mullah Omar", invaded Kanamma and Geidam local government areas of Yobe state. They ransacked the local government headquarters and the police station, killing one local policeman and stealing ammunition. They distributed leaflets complaining that the Yobe state governor, Abba Ibrahim, was corrupt and not complying with Sharia (Islamic law). They then took over a local primary school, renamed it "Afghanistan", hoisted their own Afghan flag and sent local residents into forced exile.

Soldiers had to be deployed to contain and eventually quell the insurrection. In the end, the fighting left three policemen and at least a dozen rebels dead. More than 200 Al Sunna Wal Jamma militants have been taken into custody.

This group had also targeted Damaturu, Yunusari, Toshiya, Dapchi, Babbangida, Bursari and other villages, leaving at least 10,000 people displaced by the insecurity. According to Compass Direct (6 January) the militants designated their base an "Islamic state" and stated that their aim was to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria. They also vowed to kill all non-Muslims and declared a holy Islamic war on Christians and the national government.

UN IRIN reported on 5 January 2004, "The Al Sunna Wal Jamma group has been active in Borno and Yobe states over the past two years, preaching strict adherence to Islamic Shari'ah law and expressing admiration for the Taliban movement in Afghanistan. However, this is the first time they have been known to take up arms."

- Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) Muslim fundamentalist uprising raises fears of terrorism
UN Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN)
25 January 2004
http://www.irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=39110

2) Sudanese Arrested, Accused of Funding December Islamic Uprising
UN IRIN 20 February 2004
http://www.irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=39618
ALSO
Kano Police Arrest Mastermind of Bloody Revolt
Vanguard, Lagos, 21 February 2004
http://allafrica.com/stories/200402230169.html

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

China (2): Freedom of "normal" religion.

Date: Tuesday 24 February 2004
Subj: China (2): Freedom of "normal" religion.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


FREEDOM OF "NORMAL" RELIGION.

In October 2003 the Religious Affairs Bureau (RAB) of the City of Qingdao, China, promulgated its "Policy and Regulations with regard to Banning Secretly-Established Christian Gathering Places".

Qingdao is a major costal city in the province of Shandong. While this is a local document, it is based on the official policy of the Chinese Communist Party and would therefore conform to national standards.

The RAB policy is divided into five sections:
I) "The Communist Party's basic view and policy on the issue of religion"
II) "Freedom of religious belief enshrined in the Constitution"
III) "Laws and regulations concerning religion"
IV) "Harms of secretly-established gathering places and self-claimed preachers"
V) "Several proposals on dealing with secretly-established Christian gathering places".

The document makes it quite clear that freedom of "normal" religion is protected by the constitution and by law. In section III point 1 the term "normal" is clearly defined as registered. "Through registration, the society may distinguish abnormal illegal activities from normal religious activities conducted at religious sites."

Section I, points 7,8 and 9, establish that it is the purpose of the Patriotic Church to act as a "bridge" linking the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to the church, so the CCP can "channel religion", thus "safeguarding the social stability". Section II point 3 states that patriotic believers are an "efficient barrier" of defence, protecting China from foreign interference, infiltration and invasion.

Section IV describes "self-claimed preachers" (preachers not recognised by the CCP) as law-breakers who "greatly impede the implementation of the religious policy". It is alleged that "self-claimed preachers" set up their illegal religious sites in order to collect money, raise issues, create factions, seduce believes into wrongdoings, and to establish more secret gathering places. They also "conduct superstitious activities, distort religious teachings, spread heresy, and instigate believers to turn from registered religious sites to secretly-established gathering places, thus disrupting normal religious activities". They also provide illegal sites for criminals and facilitate the activity of cults.

Finally, section V opens with the statement, "Secretly-established Christian gathering places and self-claimed preachers must be banned." It then gives procedures to deal with, and if needs be punish, those participating at various levels: 2. the ignorant, 3. the nominal, 4. the devout, and 5. the leaders.

The following is the full text of the RAB document.

- Elizabeth Kendal
rl-research@crossnet.org.au

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"Policy and Regulations with regard to Banning Secretly-Established Christian Gathering Places."

Religious Affairs Bureau of the City of Qingdao.
October 2003.

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I. THE COMMUNIST PARTY'S BASIC VIEW AND POLICY ON THE ISSUE OF RELIGION

1. Religion has a process of origination, development and extinction. And it will exist in the socialist society for a long period of time. Therefore, we may neither extinguish nor develop religion by administrative means.

2. Freedom of religious belief is protected by the Constitution. People enjoy freedom to believe in religion, and freedom not to believe in religion.

3. We shall publicize atheism. However, we cannot equate the difference between theism and atheism to the political confrontation. We need to adhere to the principle of cooperation in terms of politics, and mutual respect in terms of faith.

4. The government shall administer religious affairs according to law, protect normal religious activities and religious people'slegal rights, and deter criminal activities conducted in the name of
religion.

5. Contradictions with respect to religion in our country are mainly the ones from among the people. However, under certain circumstances confrontations might occur. Therefore, we need to strictly differentiate and carefully handle contradictions of two different types of essence.

6. The principle of self-running the church shall be adhered to. Foreign goodwill religious exchanges shall be conducted on the basis of equality. Infiltrations by hostile overseas forces in the name of religion shall be boycotted. No overseas religious group or individual shall be allowed to interfere in our country's religious affairs.

7. Patriotic religious groups serve as the bridge linking the Party, the government and religious people. We shall give them support in their self-development, self-conducted activities, and in fulfilling their roles.

8. Patriotic religious personnel are an important force in solidifying religious believers, and safeguarding the social stability. Religious groups shall train patriotic religious personnel purposely and systematically.

9. We shall positively channel religion to adapt to the socialist society. Religious believers shall combine their faith with patriotism, and conduct their activities within the framework of law and government policy.

10. All religious groups and believers shall safeguard the dignity of law, the interests of people, the national solidarity and reunification.

II. FREEDOM OF RELIGIOUS BELIEF ENSHRINED IN THE CONSTITUTION

Article 36 of The Constitution of the People's Republic of China stipulates, "Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. The state protects normal religious activities. No one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state. Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination."

1. Respect and protect freedom of religious belief.
Religion, as along-term popular phenomenon in mankind's spiritual life, has deep epistemological ground and social roots, and follows objective rules that are not controlled by human will. Our country is a socialist one with people as its master. People enjoy extensive freedom and democratic rights, including right to freely choosing religious belief. Believers and non-believers share common political and economic interests. Only by respecting believers' religious faith can we solidify them to make concerted efforts in socialist modernization drive.

2. Administer religious affairs according to law.
The state protects normal religious activities allowed by the Constitution, law and policy. Religion shall not interfere with the executive issue, the judiciary issue, religious education and social public education of the state. We shall not allow any activity conducted in the name of religion that may disturb the social order, hurt people's health, and impede the state's education system. It is allowed in no way to use religion to oppose the Party's leadership and socialist system, to sabotage the state's reunification and national solidarity. Religious affairs in our country include that religious activities must be administered according to law.

3. Adhere to the principles of independence and self-running the church.
In history, colonialists and imperialists took Roman Catholic and Christianity as tools to invade China, so Roman Catholic Church and Protestant Church in China were once dominated by foreign forces, thus hurting Chinese people deeply. After the founding of new China, patriotic religious personnel and believers are not willing to see the foreign domination of the Chinese church. Therefore they seek to be independent and self-run the church. This is the common aspiration of both believers and non-believers, is the efficient barrier by which we may defend our country's religious affairs against foreign interference and infiltration, and serves as an important guarantee of avoiding the replay of historical tragedy, and safeguarding the state sovereignty and national dignity. All religions in our county must adhere to the principles of independence and self-running.

III. LAWS AND REGULATIONS REGARDING RELIGION

To protect freedom of religious belief, safeguard believers' legal rights, and administer religious affairs according to law, the State Council, the State Administration for Religious affairs and the People's Congress of Shandong Province established and promulgated laws and regulations concerning religion. In 1994, the State Council, through executive order No. 144, and No. 145, promulgated the Provisions on the Administration of Religious Activities of Aliens within the Territory of the People's Republic of China, and the Provisions on Administering Religious Sites. Subsequently, the State Administration for Religious Affairs issued Methods on Registering Religious Sites, and Methods on the Annual Inspection of Religious Sites. In 2000, the 16th Session of the Standing Committee of the Ninth People's Congress of Shandong Province adopted the Provisions on Administering Religious Affairs of Shandong Province. These laws and regulations provide legal foundations for the government to administer religious affairs. Religious believers shall abide by them.

1. Religious sites must be registered.
Religious sites are public places where believers and clerks conduct religious activities, and are social organizations whose establishment and activities involve various social aspects. Various relationships may originate from among believers, between believers and clerks, between believers and non-believers, and between religious sites and other social organizations, which shall be coordinated according to laws and regulations. Without resorting to laws and regulations, we cannot solve contradictions within religious sites, and contradictions between religious sites and other social aspects, and safeguard legal rights of religious sites. To register according to law is the legal procedure that religious sites must undergo in obtaining legal status, and is also the precondition on which the government may administer religious sites. Only registered religious sites are legal. All non-registered ones are illegal. Through registration, legal rights of religious sites will be protected by law. Through registration, the society may distinguish abnormal illegal activities from normal religious activities conducted at religious sites, thus making people know and respect legal religious activities, guard against illegal religious activities, and bringing illegal activities to justice.

2. The following conditions shall be met in establishing religious sites:
a. Having fixed places and names
b. Having regular members
c. Having administration body consisting of believers
d. Having clerks or personnel who meet requirements of respective
religion, who preside over religious activities.
e. Having bylaw
f. Having legal income

3. Procedures and requirements on registering religious sites.
The Religious body submits application for establishing a religious site, materials and certificates regarding this site, the endorsement of the township government or neighborhood office in the city, to the department of religious affairs of the government at or above the county level. After receiving the application, all related materials and certificates, the registrar shall make timely decision of either accepting or declining the case. If the case is accepted, the registration form will be issued. Then follow the procedures of examining, approving and certificating.

4. Major obligations that religious sites shall implement.
Religious sites, as a kind of social organizations, while their legal rights are respected and protected by the state and society, shall assume responsibilities that social organizations should assume to the state and society. Therefore, Article 4, 5, 9, and 12 of the Provisions on Administering Religious Sites stipulate the following:

a. Religious sites shall establish administration system, strengthening self construction and self administration.

b. The Provisions clearly states, "No one may make use of religious sites to engage in activities that disrupt the state reunification, national solidarity, social order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state." Religious sites are equal to other social organizations in front of law, whose activities shall be subject to the state law and policy.

c. Stick to the principle enshrined in the Constitution, that "Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination." Article 4 of the Provisions clearly states, "Religious sites are not subject to the domination of foreign religious organizations or individuals."

d. Religious sites shall follow the concerned regulations in receiving donations from overseas religious organizations or individuals.

e. All social activities at religious sites shall be conducted according to concerned laws, rules and regulations, and subject to the government's instruction and supervision.

5. Regulations on religious clerks.
Article 8 of the Provisions on Administering Religious Affairs of Shandong Province stipulates, "Religious clerks shall abide by the state laws and regulations, and rules and regulations of religious bodies and religious sites to which they belong. The confirmation or dismissal on clerk status shall be reported to the corresponding department of religious affairs for recording purpose."

6. Regulations on punishing illegal evangelists.
Article 32 of the Provisions on Administering Religious Affairs of Shandong Province stipulates, "The department of religious affairs shall ban religious clerk from presiding over religious activities outside religious sites, and non religious clerk from presiding over religious activities, and confiscate illegal incomes and possessions, and impose a fine ranging from 500 Yuan to 5000 Yuan (note: 1 dollar approximately equals 8.2 Yuan)."

7. Regulations on punishing illegal religious activities.
The Provisions on Administering Religious Affairs of Shandong Province stipulates that the department of religious affairs shall ban the following conducts, and confiscate illegal incomes and possessions, and impose a fine ranging from 3,000 Yuan to 30,000 Yuan:

a. Rebuild, dismantle, or remove temples, mosques and churches without approval.
b. Establish religious sites without approval.
c. Accept foreign religious donations, mission fund, or receiveforeign donations without approval.
d. Set up commercial or service network, conduct exhibitions, or shoot films at religious sites and religious education institutions without approval.
e. Set up outdoor religious signs without approval.
f. Non-religious organizations set up religious facilities, conduct religious activities, receive or receive in disguised form religious donations.
g. Accept additional religious conditions in foreign exchanges.

IV. HARMS OF SECRETLY-ESTABLISHED GATHERING PLACES AND SELF-CLAIMED PREACHERS

Secretly-established Christian gathering places are the illegal ones that have not filed application through religious bodies, and not registered with the department of religious affairs according to law, and not been administered according to law. Their activities are illegal religious ones. Self-claimed preachers are the ones who are not recognized by religious bodies, and not recorded by the department of religious affairs.

Their harms are as follows:

1. Violate religious policy, laws and regulations of the Party and the state.
The Constitution enshrines, "Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief." But freedom of religious belief is subject to the state's law, regulations and policy, and does not mean anarchism, nor means that people can do whatever they want to do. The Provisions on Administering Religious Sites stipulates, "Religious sites must register. Religious activities conducted at religious sites are subject to law and regulations." Since secretly-established Christian gathering places are mass organizations which defy the administration of the government and the leadership of patriotic religious bodies, and are in disarray, and their religious activities are conducted according to self-claimed preachers' own will and requirements, thus failing to meet the demand of the state and society, they greatly impede the implementation of the religious policy and regulations of the Party and the state.

2. Disrupt the normal order of religious activities.
The increase of secretly-established Christian gathering places and their members imposes great impact upon the normal order of religious activities. On the one hand, leaders of secretly established gathering places and self-claimed preachers, for the purpose of collecting money, constantly raise issues among the church, conduct splitting activities, form different factions, and seduce believers into wrongdoings, to establish new secret gathering places. On the other hand, leaders of secretly-established gathering places and self-claimed preachers conduct superstitious activities, distort religious teaching, spread heresy, and instigate believers to turn from registered religious sites to secretly-established gathering places, thus disrupting normal religious activities.

3. Sabotage social stability and people's lives.
The spread of secret Christian gathering places not only provide illegal sites for criminals, but also facilitate some cultic activists to conduct illegal activities. Some leaders of secret-established gathering places and self-claimed preachers collect money in the name of religion, thus constantly increasing believers' burden. Some cultic activists take advantage of the disorder of secret gathering places to become their member, and spread heretic teaching, many people are thus deceived, leaving their family and possessions, and wandering around. Therefore, people's normal lives and social stability are disrupted.

V. SEVERAL PROPOSALS ON DEALING WITH SECRETLY-ESTABLISHED GATHERING PLACES

Secretly-established Christian gathering places and self-claimed preachers must be banned. Concrete proposals are as follows:

1. All secret gathering places that fail to register according to law shall be banned.

2. Large secret gathering places, which are established due to improper location of religious sites and believers' lacking knowledge of religious policy and regulations, and pursuing orthodox faith, shall be dealt with through education. Those who wish to join patriotic religious bodies, and submit themselves to the government's administration shall be dealt with through lawful registration or proper arrangement of religious sites.

3. Those who become believers and set up secret gathering places due to the preaching of self-claimed preachers, but not being deeply affected by them, shall be brainwashed with the government's policy and regulations, and ordered to desert heretic teachings. On this basis, if one wants to give up his religious belief, his own will shall be respected. If one wishes to keep his religious belief, he shall be ordered to stop illegal religious activities, join patriotic religious bodies, submit himself to the government's administration, and go to legally registered religious sites for religious activities.

4. Those who are deeply affected by self-claimed preachers, oppose patriotic religious bodies, and defy the government's administration shall be "educated" and "transformed" through compulsive study of the government's religious policy and regulations.

5. Those self-claimed preachers, leaders and core members of secret gathering places who are stubborn and refuse to be transformed shall be detained and dealt with through different means. Each shall be brainwashed into giving up his wrongdoing. He who transforms himself well shall write down his confession and sign pledge of correction. He who sticks to his wrongdoing shall be seriously punished according to law.

6. Illegal gathering places established by "Eastern Lightning" and other cultic organizations shall be banned by the police department according to law.

END

China (1): Crackdown on house-churches.

Date: Tuesday 24 February 2004
Subj: China (1): Crackdown on house-churches.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


CRACKDOWN ON HOUSE-CHURCHES

In January 2004, top cadres of China's Religious Affairs Bureau and the policy-making United Front Work Department met for the annual National Religious Working Conference.

During that meeting, communist leaders screened a new, four-hour digital video, "The Cross: Jesus in China", written and directed by pro-democracy leader and Christian Yuan Zhiming, and produced by USA-based "China Soul for Christ". The cadres were also briefed on the new book, "Jesus in Beijing", by journalist and former TIME magazine correspondent in Beijing, David Aikman.

Timothy C. Morgan reports for Christianity Today magazine that "Both the video and book document the stunning growth and vibrancy of Christianity in China. The video has been classified as 'political matter', and Public Security Bureau officers are confiscating CDV copies of the widely distributed series and other Christian literature". (Link 1)

AsiaNews reports, "At a National Religious-Work conference in January, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Jia Qinglin, urged all party groups nation-wide to recommit to supervising religious activities and to guard against the influence of foreign church affiliated groups. He declared that the energy of the people must be directed instead to building up a prosperous society. The State Council has given 450 million yuan (around 56 million euro) to the Religious Affairs Bureau, to build up a team of expert cadres and eliminate unregistered religious groups. Suspicious factions are to be rooted out and replaced by 'patriotic' forces, religious sources said." (Link 2)

CBN News published a report by Gary Lane that included statements by Peter Xu (pastor of the "Born Again" movement) and Tianyun Samuel (Brother Yun, author of the book "Heavenly Man"). Both have been imprisoned several times in China for their Christian activity. Both have found refuge in the U.S.A.

Gary Lane quotes Peter Xu as saying, "The Cross [video] is a look at the growth of the house church movement in China, but the hardliners say it is subversive and undermines national religious policy. They have called for all copies of the DVD in China to be confiscated, and the house church leaders depicted in the video to be detained for questioning." (Link 3)

Gary Lane notes in his report that "Xu's sister Deborah, who was arrested January 24th because of her evangelistic activities, cannot be found. Xu says, 'We don't know where she is.we don't know where she is locked in. Her health is very weak.' Xu asks that Christians worldwide pray for his sister, and other Christians who have been arrested for the sake of the Gospel." (See also WEA RLC Prayer bulletin, link 4)

LEGITIMISING PERSECUTION

On 19 February, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) published an article entitled, "Temple fire leads to crackdown on religious activity", by Nailene Chou Wiest in Beijing. Wiest reports that fire in a bamboo prayer hall that killed 40 elderly women folk-Buddhist worshippers in Wufeng village, Haining county, Zhejiang province on Sunday 15 February, (see link 5), "has been used as grounds for provincial authorities, citing safety concerns, to clamp down on popular religious activities.

"The crackdown coincides with a new nationwide campaign intensifying the suppression of unregistered religious groups."

The AsiaNews article reports, "The fire in Zhejiang has given justification to officials for the crackdown, citing it as a prime example of the effect of superstition and foolishness. 'The Hianing
fire gave Zhejiang provincial bureaus new reasons to stamp out unregistered religious groups in the name of public safety,' a church source in Hangzhou stated." (Link 2)

SCMP reported, "As the families mourned the dead, the Zhejiang provincial department of public security and fire prevention units sent 11 work teams to demolish unauthorised meeting places across the province and condemned the 'superstitious practices' for causing the deaths."

KEEPING THE PARTY PURE

On Thursday 19 February, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) published an exhaustive list of taboo activities that could lead to a party member being expelled. A 19 February SCMP article entitled "Communist Party lists 178 things members cannot do", reports that "Besides the usual political no-nos, like opposing Marxism, Leninism, Maoism and Deng Xiaoping thought, the 178-article list published in the leading People's Daily also included apparently criminal acts such as accepting bribes, extortion and economic crimes.

"Other off-limit activities punishable by internal party sanction include visiting prostitutes, keeping mistresses, gambling, using illegal drugs or joining religious and 'cult' like groups."

The SCMP followed this on 20 February with an article entitled "Cadres face expulsion under new vice rules", which elaborated that the rules cover all party members and even retired leaders. "Party members can now be expelled for a wide range of activities. These include opposing party policy, economic crimes such as accepting bribes, joining religious groups, engaging in adultery or polygamy, watching pornographic shows, visiting prostitutes, gambling and using drugs."

If nothing else, this list of wicked, depraved, punishable sins demonstrates the status of religion in the CCP mind.


Links

1) China Arrests Dozens of Prominent Christians
By Timothy C. Morgan with David Neff in Washington, D.C. 18 Feb 2004
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/107/31.0.html

2) Underground communities: more persecutions after the temple blaze
Beijing (AsiaNews) 20 Feb 2004
http://www.asianews.it/view.php?l=en&art=392

3) Faith Amidst Persecution: Many Chinese Churches Destroyed
By Gary Lane, Chief International Correspondent, CBN, 20 Feb 2004
http://cbn.org/CBNNews/News/040220a.asp

4) RLP 259 18 Feb 2004. China: Church Demolition and Arrests
http://www.worldevangelical.org/persec_China_18feb04.html

5) Haining city closes illegal worship houses after fatal fire
18 Feb 2004
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2004-02/18/content_1320678.htm

Friday, February 20, 2004

India: Liberty, persecution, and conspiracy theories.

Date: Friday 20 February 2004
Subj: India: Liberty, persecution, and conspiracy theories.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


The Hindu nationalist movement in India is collectively known as the "Sangh Parivar". This movement, which advocates for the establishment of a Hindu state, consists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council, VHP), an organization to promote the Hindu religion; the VHP's militant youth wing, the Bajrang Dal; the militant Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps, RSS), possibly the world's largest paramilitary organization, combining Hindu ideology and martial arts; and a political wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The BJP rode to power in the 1998 elections on a radical platform of Hindutva (Indian "Hinduness" and the promotion of a Hindu state) and the promise to develop nuclear arms. They campaigned with the slogan, "One nation, one people, one culture." India has not been
the same since.

Religious tensions have escalated, communities are polarizing along religious lines, and persecution of non-Hindus has escalated across the nation. Religious freedom, which is guaranteed by the constitution, is now being defined to exclude the right to convert. Textbooks have been re-written ("Saffronised") and culture is being Hinduised according to Hindutva ideology. (The BJP wants to ban the eating of beef.)

The approaching elections (probably April 2004) are a matter for all Christians and advocates of peace and liberty to be greatly concerned about. Mr. Vajpayee's ruling BJP is going to the polls
early expecting to capitalise on state election successes, a strong economy, the prospect of good harvests, and improved Pakistan ties. The BJP is also excited by the fact that they now have a Gandhi in their fold. Varun Gandhi, the nephew of Congress Party leader Sonia Gandi, has elected to throw his weight behind the BJP and assist Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in the BJP's campaign for re-election. (South China Morning Post, 20 Feb 2004).

India is home to more than one billion people: 79.8% (792 million) are Hindus, 12.5% (126.7 million) are Muslims, and only 2.4% (25 million) are Christian. Should not God be concerned about that great nation? (Jonah 4:11) Advocates must advocate and intercessors must pray.

DEMOCRACY AND LIBERTY

India is the world's largest democracy. However, as Bhushan Raj, Chairman of the Coalition for Safe Democracy points out, democracy is one thing, liberty is another.

Bhushan Raj believes the Indian elections will be free and fair. He is concerned however, that "those elected can be castesist, racist, fascist or religious nationalists". Raj continues, "For people in India, democracy still means liberal democracy. This refers to a political system marked not only by free and fair elections but also rule of law, a separation of powers, and the protection of basic liberties of speech, assembly, religion and property. This bundle of freedom, what might be termed as 'constitutional liberalism', has nothing to do with democracy and the two need not always go together. This is the challenge facing India. What is at stake is not democracy but constitutional freedoms.

"The BJP has appealed to the electorate to elect them by a two-thirds majority so that it can change the constitution. If a BJP-NDA alliance comes to power in the coming national elections, democracy will flourish but liberty will not. Democracy is one public virtue but not the only one. Constitutional liberalism has to be safeguarded. Without this, democracy will become an empty shell."

Paul Marshall of Freedom House writes, "To expand its support and hold its political coalition together, the national BJP moderates its stance, but then it courts extremists to appeal to its base. Meanwhile, it is Hinduizing the school curriculum, undercutting minority rights and supporting laws forbidding lower castes to change their religion to escape their low status under Hinduism.

"India continues to have proud democratic institutions, but the growth of often-violent Hindu nationalism threatens its tolerant traditions and pluralistic democracy. If religious extremism
continues to grow, it will, as we have learned elsewhere, drag India's democracy, economy and foreign policy down with it. We cannot afford to be silent against that threat, even when the
country is an important partner and ally of the United States in the war against terrorism." (Link 1)

COMMUNAL TENSIONS AND SECTARIAN VIOLENCE

The Sangh Parivar's propagation of Hindutva through all its VHP, RSS and BJP "wings" leads inevitably to attacks against Christians.

The Hindu Press of India reported on 10 February, "Seven women and a man were forcibly tonsured [heads shaved] in an Orissa village for embracing Christianity. Some 20 Christians, including the women victims and two infants, fled the village fearing more attacks on them." The Christians said that they became Christian seven years and had never had any trouble until now. (Link 2)

Abhijeet Prabhuof of Compass Direct News (CD) reported on this incident from Bangalore India. The CD report (17 Feb) notes that two of the women were 15-year-old girls and that when the women refused to return to Hinduism, the extremists beat them, stripped them, and forced them to walk naked through their village before shaving their heads. CD also reported that those who fled took shelter in an evangelical church in the capital city of Bhubaneshwar where they are now receiving pastoral care and support.

Abhijeet Prabhuof spoke to local Christian workers from Bhubaneshwar who "told Compass that Hindu extremists are actively working in the area to 'create awareness about the evils of Christianity' among the villagers. Representatives of Hindu organizations such as the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad have been appointed in each village to report any signs of missionary or evangelistic activity."

A January report by CD also reveals this practise of Hindu organisations actively propagating anti-Christian sentiment and fomenting sectarian conflict. CD reported on the case of Sujata, the 9-year-old daughter of a fruit-seller in Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh, who was raped, murdered and then dumped in a Catholic mission school compound.

The following day, a 500-strong mob, mobilised by militant Hindu groups such as the Hindu Jagran Manch (HJM) and the VHP, gathered outside the school grounds "chanting anti-Christian slogans, and pelting stones at staff and vehicles in the compound" and "demanding the arrest of mission school staff". Seven staff members, including the principal, Father John Sunni, were arrested to placate the crowd.

Vijayesh Lal, writing for CD, reported that Manoj Jadhav, arrested a few days later, confessed to the heinous crime. Despite this, Khumsing Maharaj, the local leader of the VHP, claimed Jadhav was not responsible for the crime and threatened to take drastic steps if the "real culprits" were not caught. Hindu militants were then imported to exacerbate the situation which escalated to riot levels. Homes were burnt and churches ransacked. The police failed to intervene.

CD reports, "Arjun Pal, a member of the Hindu organization Seva Bharati, was killed in the clashes that day. Chief Minister Uma Bharati, a Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) hardliner, later paid tribute to Arjun Pal and said the sum of Rs.100,000 ($2,200) had been paid to his family as compensation.

"On January 21, the situation remained tense. Anti-Christian pamphlets were distributed openly in bus terminals, at marketplaces and at the funeral of Arjun Pal -- now described as a martyr for the Hindu cause.

"The pamphlets warned against conversion drives sponsored by 'anti-nationalist forces and missionaries,' urging Hindus to band together and defend India as a Hindu nation.

"Throughout Jhabua, banners and pamphlets continue to accuse Christians of the murder. Many still believe the accusations, even though an investigative team led by minister of state Kailash Vijayvargiya returned from Jhabua convinced that school personnel are innocent.

"Local government minister Kailash Vijayvargiya believes the violent clashes in Jhabua were the result of a 'well-planned' conspiracy against the school. He has called for a judicial inquiry into the incident."

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CONSPIRACY THEORIES GO WILD
TEHELKA CLAIMS - evangelicals, missions, NGOs, "spies", the CIA, USAID, and the US government are conspiring together to convert, in order to subjugate, India.
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Tehelka is an Indian news website that rose to fame two years ago when it exposed corruption in defence deals involving India's top political leaders. The then leader of the BJP, Bangaru Laxman, and several other significant leaders were subsequently forced to resign and BJP forced Tehelka to close.

Tehelka was relaunched on 30 January 2004, and its debut edition devoted eleven pages to the cover story, "Preparing the Harvest", by V. K. Shashikumar. The main thrust of this article is the claim that "religious expansionism" on a never-before-witnessed scale, is taking place in India thanks to intimate links between evangelical Christian missions and NGO's (Indian and foreign), the CIA, USAID, and the American government of G.W. Bush.

The writer talks about the "enormous, well-coordinated and strategised religious conversion plan" of American evangelicals. He alleges that research done by evangelical missions such as AD2000, Joshua project, Operation World, Southern Baptists etc, is used by U.S. government intelligence organisations. Shashikumar writes, "When AD2000 was conceived for India, the plan was based on a military model with the intent to invade, occupy, control, or subjugate its population."

V. K. Shashikumar alleges that G.W. Bush's faith-based initiative is a strategy to fund the advance of Christianity with US taxpayer's money. He claims the conversion plot is advancing due to the "unique collaboration between the US government and US-based evangelical mission agencies".

Under a section entitled "Holistic development tactics", Shashikumar alleges that Christian NGOs (specifically targeting World Vision) claim to be doing humanitarian work when they really have a conversion agenda and government funds for that purpose. He claims Christian ministries are "exploiting" those with HIV/AIDS, using them as a means to employ their conversion conspiracy. He claims it is the Bush government's alleged desire to advance conversions that drives American foreign policy and foreign aid budget (rather than a desire promote justice and freedom, or to do good and bring relief to those in need following the model of the Good Samaritan as taught by Jesus Christ).

This is a highly inflammatory article, with "imaginings" presented as fact. It is full of rubbish, but that will not prevent it from being used to incite fear, loathing and even violence.

Another Tehelka writer, Mayabhushan Nagvenkar, also wrote about the spread of Christianity in India, claiming once again that it was "a sinister and subversive strategy, hatched in the US, backed by the Bush administration over the years". Nagvenkar interviewed Indian mission directors and evangelists (all named) who were please to tell him about Church growth, conversions and baptisms.

Information was freely given because Nagvenkar and Shashikumar lied about their identity and purpose. The two Tehelka journalists created new identities for themselves - new names, email addresses and business cards, and posed as Christian journalists for a fictitious Christian newspaper.

Vishal Arora writes for the Evangelical Fellowship of India (which Tehelka names as a proponent of conversions) that, while Tehelka claimed to be publishing something "Top Secret", all it did was publish "what has been openly accepted by Christians for ages, that they have a biblical mandate to propagate the gospel of Jesus Christ and to serve the poor and needy". (Link 3)

Vishal Arora's response is brilliant. After refuting a list of contentious accusations, he points out that the Tehelka reports simply demonstrate "the transparency of the Christian mission work.

"The so called expose reads like another one-sided thesis projecting Christian conversion in India as a social menace, neglecting the undeniable contribution by Christians in our country in the field of education, health care and social development."

Rev. Dr. J. B. Singha, the Managing Editor of Voice of Asia responded to Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal pointing out how ridiculous it is to "equate a Sikh being baptized to a crime being hatched". Dr. Singha challenges Tejpal: "Christians in India have been systematically tortured by your community. In fact, you have proved to be a total coward by not raising a conscientious voice against: the rapes of Christian nuns, the heinous crimes against the 9 and 10-year-old children of Missionary Staines when they were burnt alive, against the violation of young tribal girls, the murder and killing of innocent priests and Christian workers. Is this not a Tejpal conspiracy?"

The whole thing leaves one wondering if the Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal may have been "bought" and Tehelka revived by the RSS/VHP/BJP in a quid pro quo deal.

Vishal Arora (EFI) concludes, "This is disturbing indeed, as it comes at a time when one of the social evils our nation needs to fight is the harvest of communal hate, as also recently witnessed in Jhabua district in Madhya Pradesh."

The BJP is unlikely to raise a voice in support of Christian missions and NGOs. The Tehelka report was merely following in the footsteps of BJP cabinet minister Arun Shouri, who, in his book "Harvesting Our Souls" (2000) has already called for state intervention to protect the social fabric of India from "missionaries, their design, their claims".

Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) Make the Tough Decisions. By Paul Marshall
The Washington Times, 14 January 2004
http://www.freedomhouse.org/religion/country/india/Make%20the%20Toug
h%20Decisions.htm

2) Seven Christian women, one man assaulted in Orissa village
Press Trust of India, Kendrapara, 15 Feb 2004
http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_573555,000900030010.htm

3) Tehelka investigation: "Top Secret" or another anti-Christian
thesis? By Vishal Arora. February 2004 Issue I - The Bi Monthly
Edition of EFI NEWS Magazine. http://www.efionline.org/

Friday, February 13, 2004

Sharia Law: Deemed Converts

Date: Friday 13 February 2004
Subj: Sharia Law: Deemed Converts
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


There has been considerable confusion amongst Western Christians about the implications of Sharia Law in family matters. Some Western Christians are proposing that Western nations embrace sharia for Muslims, as a way of encouraging cultural diversity and religious freedom. However, someone who supports religious freedom cannot support sharia because sharia restricts, even denies religious freedom.

The following story of a courageous Iraqi Mandaean girl is an example of how sharia abuses the religious liberty of individuals. (Mandaeans follow the teachings of John the Baptist.)

The following report is written by Mr. John Clugston of the Sabian Mandaean Association of Australia (SMAA).

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DEEMED CONVERTS
- By John Clugston


In Iraq a miserable class similar to the forced converts is that of the hapless deemed converts: i.e., those who are deemed to be Muslims by operation of law because one or other of their parents has been converted to Islam.

An example of this is the case of "Nisbai" (not her real name.) When "Nisbai" was 10 years old her father converted to Islam and her registration was changed from "Mandaean" to "Muslim". When "Nisbai" reached her majority she commenced legal proceedings seeking to have her registration as Mandaean restored.

After several years the case reached the highest court of appeal, the Court of Cassation, which in 2002 ruled as follows:

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COURT RULING:
- quoted from a certified translation of the judgment of the court.
------------------------

Changing the religion of the minor who was considered Muslim due to the conversion of one of his parents is based on the Sharia rulings. By checking these rulings it was found that they were based on two principles; the first if one of the parents convert to Islam his minor children became Muslims. The other principle is that any person who became a Muslim whether he became Muslim on his own or by consequence, he is not allowed to reverse from it as this is considered apostasy prohibited by the rulings of Islam and it is punishable.

These two rules hold their roots in the verses of the Koran and the revered prophetical tradition and by the consensus of the learned religious scholars [Fokahaa] and those are the sources of the Islamic jurisprudence in the Islamic Sharia.

In the Koran Allah said, 'For those who believed, and their children also followed them in belief, we will have their children join them.' [sura 52:21] [al-Tur:21] and in Tafseer Kabir [great interpretation] of El-Razzie about this verse, he said the Allah linked the siblings to the parent in faith and not in infidelity; so who convert to Islam, their children are considered Muslims, and those Muslims who apostatise, their children would not be considered apostates. vol 28, p.251.

And Allah also said [3:19] 'The only religion approved by Allah is Islam' [sura 3:19] [al-Imran:19] and His saying, 'Anyone who accepts other than Islam as his religion, it will not be accepted from him, and in the Hereafter, he will be with the loser' [sura 3:85] [al-Imran:85] and His saying 'Those among you who revert from their religion, and die as disbelievers.' [sura 2:217] [The Cow:217].

This is supported by the tradition of the Prophet (pbuh) who said 'he who changed his religion, kill him', and his saying, 'It is not allowed to spill the blood of a Muslim except through one of three [reasons]: person for person, woman caught in adultery, and he who leaves his religion and part the group.'

All Muslim sects agreed to these rules by consensus except one who came lately named Sofian Elthowry [Sofian the revolutionary].

-----------------------------------------

Mr. John Clugston continues: Faced with being irremediably compelled to be Muslim, "Nisbai" fled from Iraq and has been granted refugee status in a Western country, where she is able to practise the Mandaean Religion without hindrance.

The judgment in "Nisbai"'s case was made while Saddam Hussein was still in power and maintaining an ostensibly secular regime which did impose some restraint upon Islamists. As Iraq descends into an Islamic state the situation and legal status of Mandaeans, Jews and
Christians and other non-Muslim minorities must be expected to deteriorate further.

"Nisbai" herself is now safe and free from Islam. But there are now many in Iraq in the miserable situation that she was in. Please reflect upon how distressing and humiliating and degrading it would be for anyone to be obliged on a daily basis to engage in Islamic religious observances, to recite the Koran, to attend the mosque and listen to mullahs' sermons and go through Islamic prayer rituals, while all the time conscientiously believing Islam to be a false religion and even heartily detesting it.

Moreover, a woman deemed to be Muslim could not legally marry a Mandaean (or a Christian) but could only marry a Muslim and might well be forced to do so. Any offspring of such a union would also be legally deemed to be Muslim.

Besides the Mandaean forced converts and deemed converts, the report issued by the Barnabas Fund 'Mainstream Political Leaders denounce attacks on Christian Minority', would appear to indicate that it is likely that many Christians also are in this dreadful predicament.

- John Clugston
------------------------------------------------------------

The 14 January 2004 Barnabas Fund report mentioned above reported that Iraqi intellectuals had protested that "'horrific' crimes had been committed against women in forcing them to wear the veil, but worst of all was the 'terrorising of our Christian brothers', intimidating them to become Muslims." (Link 1)

The above story is similar to that of Mrs Siham Qandah, a Jordanian Christian widow who has been fighting for nine years to retain custody of her two children, daughter Rawan (15) and son Fadi (14), who were officially deemed Muslim after baseless allegations were made that Siham's husband had converted to Islam before he died.

Siham Qandah's daughter, Rawan (15), has been unsuccessful in her attempt to start a court case in a local court in Irbid. The Sharia court is refusing to issue her with a certificate to prove that she is of mature age (which she is according to sharia). There is considerable anxiety that if the courts are successful in having Rawan committed into the custody of her estranged Muslim-cleric uncle, he may marry her to a Muslim man. (Link 2)

Christians can only support sharia if they are prepared to abandon religious liberty and betray people like "Nisbai" and her mother, Siham and her children, and all other sharia victims.

- Elizabeth Kendal


Links

1) Mainstream Political Leaders denounce attacks on Christian Minority.
Barnabas Fund, 14 Jan 2004
Link
2) For reports on Siham's case, visit Compass Direct News