Thursday, December 22, 2011

Whither America on Religious Freedom? -- UPDATE

By Elizabeth Kendal

USCIRF SURVIVES, BUT IS EVISCERATED


As Emily Belz reports for World Magazine (16 Dec 2011): "After four months of struggle, Congress approved the reauthorization of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, hours before the commission was set to shut down. The House approved the final reauthorization of USCIRF by a voice vote Friday (16 Dec), in a bill that will reduce the commission’s budget and remove most of the current commissioners."

For background see previous post:
Whither America on Religious Freedom? 8 Dec 2011

That Senator Richard Durbin, D-Ill. could essentially take a bill hostage by means of a secret procedural "hold" after it had passed in the U.S. House of Representative by a vote of 391-21 (15 Sept 2011), and then play games with it in order to advance an agenda, is astonishing and profoundly undemocratic. To ensure that there would be a high degree of desperation and no time for debate, Durbin waited until the 11th hour before releasing his "hold" on H.R. 2867 (the bill reauthorising funding for the USCIRF) and introducing his amendment S.AMDT. 1461, which limits commissioners to two-year terms.

When Congress voted on Friday 16 Dec, the legislators essentially had no option other than to pass Durbin's amendment or see the USCIRF close.

Congressman Frank Wolf, R-Va., slammed Durbin's move charging that it essentially amounted to "blackmail", while Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va. condemned the amendment as "bad".

As it was, the original reauthorisation Bill cut the USCIRF's funding from $4 million to $3 million and reduced the number of commissioners (all unpaid) from nine to five. With Durbin's amendment, seven of the nine current commissioners will be permanently forced out. As Southern Baptist minister Reverend Richard Land laments, the effect of the amendment will be to leave the USCIRF with "very little institutional memory".

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On the surface this looked like basic political pork-barrelling by a rogue Senator. However, on closer inspection it looks more like premeditated strategic manoeuvring with one of the intended outcomes being the evisceration of the USCIRF.

Senator Durbin's alleged reason for placing a procedural "hold" on H.R. 2867, was that he wanted to "force members of the House of Representatives into earmarking funds for the federal government to purchase a state prison in Thompson, Illinois that his home state can no longer afford to operate". (Gaffney)

Frank Gaffney, Jr., the President of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for the Washington Times, writes: "When the idea of a federal takeover of this facility was first floated last year, it ran into strenuous opposition on both sides of Capitol Hill. Not only was the deal deemed to be unaffordable at a time of yawning federal deficits. It turned out that the Obama administration and its allies in Illinois' Democratic machine in Washington and Springfield state had in mind another, even more outrageous motivation: the Thompson prison could serve as the place to relocate terrorists currently held offshore at Guantanamo Bay, allowing Gitmo's closure.

"In other words, Sen. Durbin is seeking to secure by stealth an earmark that would overturn existing legislation barring the relocation of such detainees inside the United States - and the real risk that they would, thereby, be granted constitutional rights, access to civilian U.S. courts and perhaps be set loose in our country by irresponsible federal judges."

See: Silencing the Watchdogs of Religious Freedom: Durbin's War on the USCIRF
Center for Security Policy | Dec 12, 2011
By Frank Gaffney, Jr.

Be that as it may, why did Durbin suddenly release the bill even though he had failed to secure the ransom? And if Durbin was simply accepting defeat on the matter of Thompson prison, how come the bill (his hostage) came back with an amendment attached?

According to Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., "There are people who are trying to kill this commission."

Reporting for World Magazine, Emily Belz writes (15 Dec): "Smith said President Bill Clinton opposed the creation of the commission and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton doesn't want it around now, either. The State Department hasn't undertaken many of the commission's recommendations in recent years . . .

"'Religious freedom is not a priority' at the State Department, said Smith. 'Homosexual rights and abortion rights' are priorities, he said, referring to the Obama administration's recent push to put gay rights at the top of its global human rights agenda."

According to Gaffney, "the Obama administration has been working behind the scenes to do as its Islamist friends have demanded by shutting down the USCIRF. It has enlisted for this purpose Senator Dick Durbin, the Senate's Number 2 Democrat. Sen. Durbin is not only perfectly placed to do the deed stealthily. He has his own close associations with a number of the Brotherhood's top fronts and operatives in his home state of Illinois, in Washington and elsewhere across the country. . ."

That the highest levels of the US administration could be complicit in the evisceration of the USCIRF is very disturbing. It will be interesting to see who the administration appoints to fill the USCIRF's vacancies. If the new commissioners do not come with considerable experience in international religious liberty, then, though the USCIRF might survive, it will have been rendered harmless (harmless, that is, to religious liberty abusers) and non-threatening (non-threatening, that is, to economically and geo-strategically beneficial but morally compromising alliances).

ISOLATED INCIDENTS OR A TREND?

As noted in the previous posting, when the Obama administration recently appointed the popular and immensely gifted Reverend Suzan Johnson Cook to the post of US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom -- after a lengthy delay -- it was praised for finally filling the post, thereby affirming America's commitment to international religious freedom. This was despite the fact that the appointee had absolutely no experience in international religious freedom. In no other field would such a thing be tolerated.

As I have previously noted, when it comes to dealing with the propaganda and religio-political ideologies and strategies that threaten religious liberty both domestically and internationally, lack of religious liberty background puts the cause of religious liberty at a serious disadvantage.

In the light of this, the machinations surrounding the reauthorisation of funding for the USCIRF provide me with an uneasy sense of déjà vu.

Is the Obama administration intentionally and strategically disempowering international religious liberty advocacy because, while it wants to appear domestically to be supportive of it, in reality, it doesn't want to be embarrassed internationally by it?

By retaining the religious freedom bodies, the form or appearance of international religious freedom advocacy is maintained for the purpose of public relations and propaganda. But by filling these bodies with appointees who, despite their gifts and graces, have little or no experience in dealing with the religio-political complexities inherent in international religious liberty advocacy, they render those bodies ineffective, or worse.

How does the administration get away with it? Well, if the administration can hold the sword of Damocles over the heads of religious freedom advocacy bodies for long enough, then for mere life all will be immensely grateful!

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The reality is, when powerful alliances and/or big money and /or geo-strategic gains are involved, there is nothing more inconvenient than an informed, experienced and passionate dedicated religious freedom advocate who is absolutely committed to shattering the deadly silence.

Christians should pray for Rev Suzan Johnson Cook -- the Obama-appointed US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom -- that she might learn quickly, be gifted with discernment and wisdom, and have the courage to be the most inconvenient Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom America has ever known!

Likewise, Christians should pray that when the Obama administration appoints new commissioners to the USCIRF in the next few months, they will prove to be the most inconvenient religious liberty advocates imaginable!

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. (Proverbs 19:21 ESV)

As violent persecution escalates and impunity becomes the order of the day, the last thing the persecuted need is to be left to suffer in darkness under a shroud of silence.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Whither America on Religious Freedom?

-- Implementing the OIC's Resolution 16/18 (with updates)
-- USCIRF prepares for closure
-- New foreign policy priority: LGBT Rights

By Elizabeth Kendal

During the week of 12-16 Dec 2011, the US will have two opportunities to either defend OR diminish religious liberty. Religious liberty is already in decline in the US (see Religious Liberty Monitoring, label: USA). But by the end of next week we should know exactly what path the Obama administration intends to take with regard to domestic and international religious liberty policy. Will the tide be turned OR will the Obama administration add momentum to the flow of world forces in this age of escalating persecution? Whither America?


The US and the OIC: implementing UNHRC Resolution 16/18

As I have noted previously, far from being a breakthrough for free speech, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's (OIC's) new Resolution 16/18, "Combating intolerance . . ." is actually more dangerous than resolution 2005/3, "Combating Defamation of Religion". Indeed, the strategic shift from defamation to incitement actually advances the OIC's primary goal: the criminalisation of criticism of Islam. For, in Resolution 16/18, the OIC has deliberately and strategically adopted the language of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 20.2, which mandates: any advocacy of hatred that "constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law".

As The International Islamic News Agency (IINA) reported on 1 Aug 2011, implementation of the resolution will require that domestic and international laws be enacted to prevent the incitement that results "from the continued defamation of religions." In other words, anything that could have been deemed defamation under Resolution 2005/3 will doubtless now be deemed incitement under Resolution 16/18 -- incitement which must be prohibited by law.

The question no one seems to be asking is: What is it that makes some people highly incitable to reactionary violence and destruction?

For full background see: UNHRC Resolution 16/18
By Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 21 Aug 2011.

The first meeting pursuant of Resolution 16/18 took place in Istanbul on 15 July 2011. The next meeting will be held in Washington from 12-14 December 2011. It will be hosted by the Reverend Suzan Johnson Cook, (profile New York Times) the new US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

In July 2010, Foreign Police magazine noted that the Reverend Suzan Johnson Cook's appointment was "welcome but curious". For while the Harlem-born Johnson Cook (54) has an impressive, indeed phenomenal, resume -- particularly in urban evangelistic and pastoral ministry -- she has no experience at all in religious liberty or foreign policy.

I would suggest that when it comes to dealing with the propaganda and religio-political strategies that threaten religious liberty both domestically and internationally, then lack of religious liberty background puts the cause of religious liberty at a serious disadvantage. A cynic might even question whether this was exactly why Rev Johnson Cook -- described by the New York Times as "Billy Graham and Oprah rolled into one" -- was appointed.

Concerning the forthcoming US-OIC meeting, Judson Berger of FOX News notes: "Critics describe the get-together . . . as a Trojan horse for the long-running OIC push for restrictions on speech.

"A key worry is that the meeting could become a platform for Islamic governments to push for hate-speech laws which, in their most virulent and fundamentalist form, criminalize what they perceive as blasphemy.

"'It's just an astonishingly bad decision,' said Nina Shea, who sits on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and serves as director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom."

See: Free Speech Concerns Ahead of Meeting With Muslim Nations on Religious Tolerance
By Judson Berger for FoxNews, 11 Nov 2011

UPDATE:
D.C. Islamophobia Conference Was a Bad Idea
December 13, 2011 11:19 A.M.
By Nina Shea
QUOTE: Legal and security officials of a delegation which will remain unnamed gave a sweeping overview of American founding principles on religious freedom and how they have been breached time and again in American history by attacks against a broad variety of religious minority groups — including now against Muslims. A raft of current cases were mentioned; America’s relative exemplary and distinctive achievement in upholding religious freedom in an emphatically pluralistic society was not. That same speaker reassured the audience, which was packed with diplomats from around the world, that the Obama administration is working diligently to prosecute American Islamophobes and is transforming the U.S. Justice Department into the conscience of the nation . . .

Across the room, smirking delegates from some of the world’s most repressive and intolerant regimes could be spotted, furiously taking notes.

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The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) prepares for closure.

The US International Freedom from Religious Persecution (IFRP) Act 1998 tied international religious freedom to US foreign policy by mandating that sanctions be leveled against regimes deemed to be severe violators of religious liberty. As such, the US IFRP Act caste a veil of protection over many of the world's vulnerable religious minorities by ensuring that dictators had a reason to reign in their most intolerant and belligerent elements.

There is little doubt that the financial crisis of August 2008 robbed the US of her economic leverage, which in turn robbed the US Freedom from International Persecution (US IFRP) Act 1998 of its power. This is why persecution has increased so dramatically since Aug 2008. With the veil of protection stripped away, vulnerable religious minorities are now finding that impunity is the order of the day. And impunity is like fuel to the fires of persecution.

Despite this new reality, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) -- a Commission created by the US IFRP Act -- is still desperately needed. As violent persecution escalates globally, the USCIRF's role in monitoring religious liberty and advising the President, the Secretary of State, the US Congress and indeed the world, is more important than ever.

When impunity is the order of the day, the last thing the persecuted want or need is silence. Indeed, with violent persecution increasing, it is imperative that truth-revealing, hope-inspiring, silence-shattering speech be enabled and magnified, lest the persecuted simple slip from our consciousness into deadly darkness.

Consequently, it is profoundly disturbing that the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) will cease to exist from Friday 16 December 2011 unless funding is reauthorised before then.

See:
USCIRF Announcement

6 December 2011

Dick Durbin May Block Religious Freedom Commission's Renewal to Force Feds to Buy Prison He Wanted for Gitmo Detainees.
Faith McDonnell, 5 Dec 2011

See also (recommended)
Myths about religious freedom abroad
By Felice D. Gaer and Nina Shea, Commissioners on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom - 12 Dec 2011

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New foreign policy priority: LGBT (Gay) Rights.

On Tuesday 6 December, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, in recognition of International Human Rights Day.

The principle focus of her speech was LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender) Rights.

As this report from Associated Press reveals: "The Obama administration is making gay rights a foreign policy priority as the U.S. government agency monitoring international religious rights [the USCIRF] prepares to close.

Secretary of State Clinton's speech, which has been received with great excitement in the Gay community, has some serious worrying elements. (Transcript)

Excerpts and comments:

"In the 63 years since the [Universal Declaration of Human Rights] was adopted, many nations have made great progress in making human rights a human reality. . . In many places . . . the ability of religious minorities to practice their faith freely has been secured.
[Is this a "Mission Accomplished" statement?]

"Today, I want to talk about the work we have left to do to protect one group of people whose human rights are still denied in too many parts of the world today. In many ways, they are an invisible minority. They are arrested, beaten, terrorized, even executed. Many are treated with contempt and violence by their fellow citizens while authorities empowered to protect them look the other way or, too often, even join in the abuse. They are denied opportunities to work and learn, driven from their homes and countries, and forced to suppress or deny who they are to protect themselves from harm. I am talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender [LGBT] people . . .

"Now, raising this issue, I know, is sensitive for many people and that the obstacles standing in the way of protecting the human rights of LGBT people rest on deeply held personal, political, cultural, and religious beliefs.
[Note: undefined "religious beliefs" are, in and of themselves, deemed to be an obstacle to the human rights of LGBT people.]

"Of course, it bears noting that rarely are cultural and religious traditions and teachings actually in conflict with the protection of human rights."
[This implies that any religious teaching that conflicts with "human rights" as defined by the UN and "international community" will be rejected as erroneous interpretations, unrepresentative of the faith: i.e. the Islamic fundamentalist teaching that homosexuals should be killed; and the traditional mainline Christian teaching that homosexuals couples are not eligible for marriage which is defined as the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others.]

"Indeed, our religion and our culture are sources of compassion and inspiration toward our fellow human beings."
[Considering the fact that Mrs Clinton is speaking to a highly diverse audience, what does she mean by "our religion" and "our culture"? Clearly Mrs Clinton is asserting here that all religions and cultures are not only inherently the same, but inherently compassionate and inspirational as well. Of course the dhimmis and dalits of this world -- human beings who want their human rights protected FROM abusive religion and culture -- might disagree.]

"It was not only those who've justified slavery who leaned on religion, it was also those who sought to abolish it. And let us keep in mind that our commitments to protect the freedom of religion and to defend the dignity of LGBT people emanate from a common source."
[NOTE: "dignity" is not defined. To one it may mean right to live in peace and security according to the traditional understanding of human rights, while to another, dignity might include the "right" not to be offended, or the "right" not to have your religious or lifestyle choices challenged.]

The following paragraph is especially concerning.

"But progress comes from changes in laws. In many places, including my own country, legal protections have preceded, not followed, broader recognition of rights. Laws have a teaching effect. Laws that discriminate validate other kinds of discrimination. Laws that require equal protections reinforce the moral imperative of equality. And practically speaking, it is often the case that laws must change before fears about change dissipate." (emphasis mine)
[This is a clear, unambiguous warning that laws will soon be enacted to teach us not to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation. How long will it be before anti-defamation or anti-incitement laws are enacted that will essentially criminalise all criticism of the LGBT lifestyle? Just as the OIC is seeking to protect and advance Islam, so too is the Gay lobby seeking to protect and advance the homosexual lifestyle -- all in the name of "human rights". But this has nothing to do with human rights. This is authoritarian repression and radical social engineering in the name / under the cover of human rights.]

"This morning, back in Washington, President Obama put into place the first U.S. Government strategy dedicated to combating human rights abuses against LGBT persons abroad. Building on efforts already underway at the State Department and across the government, the President has directed all U.S. Government agencies engaged overseas to combat the criminalization of LGBT status and conduct, to enhance efforts to protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, to ensure that our foreign assistance promotes the protection of LGBT rights, to enlist international organizations in the fight against discrimination, and to respond swiftly to abuses against LGBT persons.

"I am also pleased to announce that we are launching a new Global Equality Fund that will support the work of civil society organizations working on these issues around the world. This fund will help them record facts so they can target their advocacy, learn how to use the law as a tool, manage their budgets, train their staffs, and forge partnerships with women’s organizations and other human rights groups. We have committed more than $3 million to start this fund, and we have hope that others will join us in supporting it." (emphasis mine)
[So if the Obama administration fails to reauthorize funding for the USCIRF, then at least we will know where the money is going!]


See also:
Obama, Clinton to World: Stop Gay Discrimination
By Anne Geran, AP National Security Writer
GENEVA, 6 December 2011 (AP)
Quote: The Obama administration bluntly warned the world against gay and lesbian discrimination Tuesday, declaring the U.S. will use foreign assistance as well as diplomacy to back its insistence that gay rights are fully equal to other basic human rights.

Obama Elevates Gay Rights as a Foreign Policy Priority
Dan Robinson, at the White House for Voice of America, 6 Dec 2011

Clinton Says Obama Wants Gay Rights Over Religious Freedom in Key Speech
By Paul Stanley, Christian Post, 7 Dec 2011

COMMENTARY: Obama, Clinton put world on notice over LGBT rights
Ken Williams - Editor in Chief, SDGLN (San Diego Gay & Lesbian News)
7 December 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

PAPUA, INDONESIA: Racial and religious hatred in action

By Elizabeth Kendal

More footage has emerged of the Indonesian Army's violent crackdown on the Third Papuan People's Congress in Zakeus Field, Abepura, on the outskirts of Jayapura, on 19 October. (For background, see Religious Liberty Monitoring: 27 Oct 2011 )

Many will find this footage quite upsetting. It shows plain clothed and uniformed security personnel shooting hundreds of rounds of ammunition into the crowd; beating, brutalising and humiliating scores of participants, and violently attacking the elected President of the West Papuan Transitional Government, Forkorus Yaboisembut.

More Brutal Footage emerges from Congress crackdown
West Papua Media 11 Nov 2011

The level of violence was more than disproportionate; it was totally unnecessary, for the participants were all unarmed civilians. The brutality was thus nothing more than raw racial and religious hatred in action. The footage will give viewers a clearer picture of what the Papuans have to live with.

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In addition to this, another article provides further testimony from those who endured the military raids on the nearby religious institutions.

Papuan Church No Longer a Save Haven
By Engage Media 3 Nov 2011

On the afternoon of 19 October, after breaking up the Congress, armed police officers, Mobile Brigade officers and TNI soldiers stormed nearby religious institutions in search of fleeing Congress participants.

According to the above article, Father John Jehuru OSA, Rector of the Inter-diocesan Seminary, was watching the events unfold in Zakeus Field from in his study room in Fajar Timur School of Theology when a bullet flew through his window, only narrowly missing him.

Eye witnesses report that armed soldiers went room to room, ransacking the facilities and screaming at the "stupid priests" who had been providing refuge to Congress participants.

Several priests -- including Father Gonsa Saur and Father Yan You -- displayed immense courage and spiritual integrity in the face of serious intimidation and threats to their life. Likewise, many seminary students risked their lives to protect others. One student was violently attacked as he was trying to help a participant who had been shot. Soldiers struck the seminary student with the butt of a rifle, fracturing his arm. They also struck him in the face with a rubber batten, causing his nose swell. Finally they dragged him off to prison and held him in detention overnight. Only after being released the next day was the student able to seek medical attention for his broken bones and other injuries.

Once again -- this was not about putting down a coup or defending the integrity of Indonesia. Rather, this was nothing other than pure racial and religious hatred in action. It was armed Javanese Muslim soldiers given free range to do whatever they liked to unarmed Melanesian Christian civilians.

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On 8 November, Aljazeera ran an excellent feature on Papua. Author, William Lloyd George, cut straight to the chase with his opening line: "While the international community is fixated on events taking place across the Middle East, they are turning a blind eye to desperate cries for help by the Papuan people."

West Papua's cry for help
By William Lloyd George, for Aljazeera, 8 Nov 2011

After providing an overview of contemporary Papuan history and suffering, William Lloyd George concludes by giving voice to the Papuan cry: "Why can Indonesia get away with shooting unarmed people, but other governments cannot?"

"The difference between us and the Middle East," one local Papuan told George, "is that we're not fighting a dictator. We’re fighting invading neo-colonialists who have stolen our land. If the international community doesn’t help us, West Papuan people will slowly perish while fighting for the independence we deserve."

But as Religious Liberty Monitoring has noted -- it really is not that simple. It is not that neo-colonialists can get away with murder but dictators can't. The sad reality is this: as much as we hate to admit it, foreign policy is dictated by economic and strategic interests, not human rights.

Unfortunately for the Papuans it is not in the interests of the "international community" (and by that they mean the West) to help them. For Papua is a resource-rich land and Indonesia is a highly strategic nation in a world where international politics has nothing to do with advancing what is right and just but everything to do with pursuing wealth and power. In such a depraved system, human beings are an inconvienience to be dealt with, while human rights are an obstacle to be navigated.

Consequently, it is imperative that men and women of conscience lift their voices and their prayers for, and be prepared to stand in costly solidarity with, such "inconvenient peoples". For the powers of this world -- even powers we have long trusted -- will only betray them, at least until it is in their political interests not to!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

BURMA (Myanmar): Interests, Smokescreens, Chemical Weapons & Ethnic Cleansing

By Elizabeth Kendal

Burma/Myanmar is indeed the Sudan of Asia and the regime's recent reforms are nothing more than the calculated steps of a brutal Burman-Buddhist-supremacist regime determined to advance its own interests and ensure its own survival. Through these token reforms, the regime hopes to pacify the Burman-Buddhist masses and create a smokescreen around the centre, behind which it can pursue its brutal policies of racial and religious hatred; policies aimed at the subjugation and even extermination of the non-Burman, non-Buddhist ethnic minorities that live around Burma's periphery.

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Burma's reforms: not 'democracy', just interests and smokescreens

Burma has been subject to Western political and economic sanctions for decades on account of its repression of democracy. However, since the mid-1990s ascendant China has been taking Burma into its embrace, supplying it with loans and commodities, trading freely and building infrastructure -- but not out of benevolence. China is pursuing its own interests, in particular its interest in gaining access to Burmese ports on the Bay of Bengal, where there has long been a power vacuum. Motivated by this threat, the US is now pursuing engagement with Burma. Consequently Burma's geo-strategic value is rising in line with China's economic and military ascendancy, which means Burma (like Indonesia -- RLPB 119) can now play geo-politics to its own advantage. To this end, the regime is welcoming the US overtures as they offer a way to counter the anti-China sentiment rising inside Burma.

[While China's largess might have neutralised the impact of Western sanctions, many amongst the junta's powerful elite are not happy to see Burma becoming a client state of their former enemy. Many of Burma's military elite fought and lost comrades in the war that raged from 1968 to 1978 between the Burmese nationalists and the China-backed Communist Party of Burma (CPB). The fact that China continues to support the United Wa State Army (the successor to the CPB) is a sore point for many military elites; furthermore, it raises the spectre of Chinese duplicity. Further to this, Chinese goods have flooded the markets and Chinese firms are buying up the land, causing social tensions to escalate.]

The West is highly excited over Burma's recent reforms: the release of some 200 political prisoners (despite over 1000 still behind bars); talks held with Aung San Suu Kyi ; improvements in press freedom and the introduction of debate into its parliament.
See: Burma: At freedom’s gate
By Amy Kazmin, Financial Times, 24 October 2011

The Burmese, however, are more sceptical. The reforms really do need to be seen in the light of Burmese domestic realities. Domestically, the regime wants to lessen its dependence on China. It also wants to chair the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2014 (which will be decided this month ).

The only reform that has really captured the imagination of the Burmese is the regime's 30 September decision to suspend until 2015 the immensely controversial Myitsone Dam Project in Kachin State. A joint project between the previous Burmese junta and the China Power Investment Corporation, the Myitsone Dam project was not only opposed by the Kachin -- a Christian people whose lands would have been decimated -- but by many Burmese. For not only would 90 percent of the output and 70 percent of the profits go to China, but the impact on the Irrawaddy River -- Burma's life source -- would be catastrophic. So even this move must be seen in the context of the regime's survival strategy amidst Burma's internal reality of high anti-China sentiment.
See: A Case of Mistaken Priorities
By Aung Zaw, Friday, October 21, 2011
AND
China behind Myanmar's course shift
By Bertil Lintner, Asia Times Online, 19 Oct 2011

DAM SUSPENDED YET WAR CONTINUES

Whilst the regime has suspended the Myitsone Dam Project, its war on the Christian Kachin -- a war triggered in part by the dam project (see Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin RLPBs 114 (28 June 2011), 115 (5 July 11), 118 (27 July 11)) -- continues unabated.

One can only hope that Lindsay Murdoch is right in his assessment: "Burma's armed forces have committed serious abuses against ethnic rebels in renewed fighting, setting back efforts by the country's leaders to convince Western nations they are serious about ending 50 years of brutal military rule." (emphasis mine)
See: Burmese military abuses cast doubt on leaders' reforms
Lindsay Murdoch, Bangkok, October 20, 2011

The trouble is, with the US working to bring Burma out of China's embrace into its own so as to secure strategic gains in the Bay of Bengal, it is quite likely that the US might be keen reward the tokens while ignoring the genocide, exactly as is happening in Papua, Indonesia.

ETHNIC CLEANSING


In its 18 October report, Human Rights Watch estimates that 30,000 Kachin are now displaced. Despite this, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has inexplicably downplayed the ethnic cleansing in Kachin , just as he downplayed the ethnic cleansing of Abyei, Sudan. In contrast, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, told the UN General Assembly on 19 October that recent fighting had resulted in more than 15,000 displaced Kachin being confined to a remote mountainous area on the Chinese border in conditions that can only be described as 'perilous'. According to Quintana, the UN informed the Burmese authorities that it was willing to help these Internally Displaced Persons but Thein Sein's government declined the offer.
See Quintana: Burma’s government failing to solve ethnic issues
Thursday, 20 October 2011 21:24 Thomas Maung Shwe

Further to this, Burma expert Zin Linn reports that China is blocking the delivery of food, emergency shelter and medicines, leaving some analysts wondering if Kachin State is being ethnically cleansed at China's behest.
See: Why does Burma want war in Kachin State?
By Zin Linn , for Asian Correspondent.com, Sep 26, 2011
and
Is Burma attempting to colonize Kachin state
By Zin Linn Jul 21, 2011

QUESTION:
Is the suspension of the dam project just a smokescreen behind which Burma will have three years to ethnically cleanse Kachin State?

CHEMICAL WEAPONS

On 1 November 2011, Burma expert Zin Linn wrote to his blog The Democratic Question of Burma : "The Burma Army’s full-scale offensives are becoming greater than ever in Kachin State. The fighting seems vengeful as Burmese soldiers commit various crimes – such as looting, killing, raping and burning down the civilians’ villages – on the front line. [. . .] Kachin natives are singled out by the Burmese soldiers and they are not regarded as citizens of their own nation. It looks like the Burma Army has been launching a racial war. In frontline areas, Burmese soldiers are committing crimes freely as there are no effective or appropriate penalties set by senior authorities.

"The worst and concrete evidence is that the wicked Burmese Army has used a mysterious chemical weapon in the recent offensive against Kachin rebels in Northern Burma . . .

"For more than a week, Burmese soldiers used the unidentified chemical weapon in three war zones — Christian Prayer Hill and Lung Zep Kawng in Ga Ra Yang village, and Shwe Nyaung Pyin village — against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) on Myitkyina-Manmaw (Bhamo) Road in Waingmaw Township. Those events were narrated by KIA soldiers, who said they were under attack by poisonous gas.

"On October 29, Burma Army troops fired two mortar rounds of chemical weapons on the People’s Army fighters under the KIA in Prayer Hill, said civilian fighters. 'Two rounds of chemical weapons were fired at us in Prayer Hill. There were seven of us present. Dark smoke billowed from the areas where the mortar shells landed,' La Gun, a civilian fighter and a victim of the chemical weapon told Kachin News Group on Sunday. When the victims breathed the dark smoke, they felt extremely dizzy, found it hard to breathe, thirsty and vomiting for hours, according to one victim.

"The same chemical weapon was used during the week-long fighting in Lung Zep Kawng last week, La Gun said. The same day, the chemical weapon was used by the Burmese Army in Ntap Bum battle zone, near the KIA headquarters Laiza. Four KIA soldiers suffered dizziness, fell on the ground and began vomiting for a long time, said eyewitnesses.

"President Thein Sein’s government has to take responsibility for the use of such chemical weapons. . ."
(emphasis mine)

See: Kachin fighters claim Burma Army using chemical weapons
By Zin Linn Nov 01, 2011

CHURCH DEEPLY IMPACTED

With the Kachin people being over 90 percent devout Christian, the Church is being hit hard. Churches in Kachin State have been attacked, seized, used as prisons and burned. The Christian Kachin are being raped, brutalised, enslaved, starved and slaughtered.
See Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) label: Burma
ALSO: Burma Army Targets Christian Civilians in War on Insurgents
Troops attack churches in Kachin state conflict.
Compass Direct News, 28 Oct 2011

Furthermore, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported on 31 October, that in Maw Wan Ward, Phakant Township, the town administration is now requiring Christians to seek official permission to read the Bible, pray and fast, amongst other Christian 'cultural' activities. Requests must be accompanied by recommendations from other departments and must be submitted to the Township Administration Office 15 days in advance.

With war and repression escalating behind a smokescreen of token reforms from a Burman-Buddhist-supremacist regime operating from a position of increasing geo-strategic significance, the Christian Kachin need our prayers for God's intervention now more than ever.


For suggested prayer points:
RLPB 132. Burma: Interests, Smokescreens & Ethnic Cleansing

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Papua, Indonesia: from 'Peace Child' to genocide. Indonesian Army storms Third Papuan Congress; 6 dead, dozens wounded, hundreds arrested.

The indigenous ethnic Melanesians of Papua (formerly Irian Jaya) turned from shamanism to Christ in the early part of the 20th Century as Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) USA opened the mountainous region up for courageous pioneer missionaries, several of whom shed their blood, becoming martyrs for Christ, that these remarkable people might know the LORD. It is one of the great missionary stories of the 20th Century.

Unfortunately, however, the story doesn't end there.

In 1962, the US convinced the Netherlands (the colonial power in Dutch/West New Guinea, which had wanted West New Guinea to be independent) to cede the territory to Indonesia in order to prevent Indonesia moving into the Soviet sphere of influence. The treaty between the Republic of Indonesia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands is known as the New York Agreement.

In 1963, Indonesia invaded and occupied Papua, ultimately annexing the territory in 1969 after a rigged plebiscite, the ironically named "Act of Free Choice". [NOTE: The 1969 "Act of Free Choice" may yet be challenged at the International Court.]

Since then the government of Indonesia has facilitated the rapid colonization of Papua by Javanese Muslims for political and geo-strategic purposes. The result: the Papuans have suffered decades of exploitation, increasing political marginalisation, Islamisation, racial and religious hatred, discrimination and violent persecution -- all of which, in many estimates, is amounting to genocide.

So the great missionary tale that starts with Dutch missions, expands through the sacrificial ministry of MAF USA and Australian missionaries, and blossoms -- thanks to God's preparation of the people -- with mass conversions to Christ, may yet end in tragedy.

But the story that goes from "Peace Child" (Part 1, Part 2) to genocide within a century involves not just the victims (the Papuans) and not just the killers (the Indonesians), but all those who, on account of greed, arrogance, power-lust and/or indifference, have betrayed and abandoned the Papuans to their terrible fate.

THE PAPUAN CONGRESS

On 16-19 October 1961, before the Papuan people found themselves being traded like a common commodity they held a historic Papuan Congress. Richard Chauvel explains (SMH, 23 Oct): "The political manifesto of October 19, 1961, was issued at the time when the United Nations was debating a Dutch proposal to internationalise the administration of West Papua, then Netherlands New Guinea, and secure the UN's support for Papuan self-determination.

"Papuan leaders who formulated the manifesto supported the Dutch proposal, but they wanted to introduce a Papuan voice into a decade-long dispute between Indonesia and the Netherlands about their homeland and their future."

At that first Papuan Congress, a declaration of Independence was read and the Morning Star flag raised.

The event was re-enacted on 16-19 Oct 2000, when Abdurrahman Wahid was president of Indonesia and the prospects for Papuan autonomy were good, the mood was positive and hopes were high.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the first Papuan Congress, a Third Papuan Congress was held -- with government approval -- in Jayapura, Papua from 17-19 October 2011. Of course today the overwhelming sentiment in Papua is despair: despair at the total failure of Special Autonomy; despair at the creeping systematic genocide; despair at living with daily anxiety on account of the perpetual gross human rights abuses being committed at the hands of the Indonesian military -- abuses committed with impunity and in darkness as Papua remains closed to the outside world.

THIRD PAPUAN CONGRESS

After failing to get permission to use either Cenderawasih University auditorium or the GOR sports stadium in Jayapura, the Third Papuan Congress opened not on 16 October as planned, but on 17 October in the open air at Lapangan Sakeus (Sakeus Field, also spelled Zakeus). The event had the approval of the central government.

Opening with prayers, the congress included several Christian leaders amongst the speakers, including Rev Benny Giay, Rev Socrates S. Yoman and Rev Yemima Krey. The theme of the congress was: “To uphold the basic rights of the Papuan people now and in the future.”

It appears, however, that as far as Jakarta is concerned, the basic rights of the Papuan people exist within the confines of subjugation. For as it turned out, the Papuans would not be permitted to dream too vividly.

The Jakarta Globe reports: "Anxiety was apparent among the participants of the Third Papuan People's Congress on Wednesday [19 Oct] as they marched toward the event venue in Abepura, passing by lines of military and police officers in full combat gear and holding assault rifles.

"By 8 a.m. that morning, the final day of the three-day congress, security officers were standing at the ready. Five Barracuda armored jeeps were parked not far from the Zakeus oval, the site of the event, as were seven police trucks and three trucks from the region’s Cendrawasih Military Command."

See: At Papuan Congress, a Brutal Show of Force
Oktovianus Pogau, Jakarta Globe, October 22, 2011

WestPapuaMedia.info reported: "One Papuan video activist sent a text message to Engage Media this morning (19 Oct): 'Good morning, brother, I’m down at the field, and we’re surrounded by the military. Please pray so the congress is safe.'

The Jakarta Globe continues: "As the congress drew to a close, the 3,100 officers sprang into action, marching toward the venue with their fingers on the triggers of their Pindad SS1 assault rifles. As the prospect of a full-blown attack became evident, fear could be seen in the eyes of many congress-goers.

"Minutes later, the situation descended into violence.

"Soldiers from the Armed Forces (TNI) and police officers fired bullets into the air and ordered the participants to disband. Some of the officers pointed their weapons directly at the unarmed civilians.

"As the crowd dispersed in panic, the troops pressed forward."

At 3:30pm (Jayapura time) the Papuan video activist sent another text message: "Brother, they’ve opened fire … to us all."

The Jakarta Globe describes the violence and brutality wielded by the Indonesian police against these unarmed civilians.

As Chauvel (SMH, 23 Oct) reports, "At least six people were killed, more than 300 were taken into custody [pictured], the leaders accused of treason, and many others were beaten by police and soldiers."

See: RAW FOOTAGE OF THE ATTACK ON THE PAPUAN PEOPLE’S CONGRESS

The trigger for this heavy-handed crackdown? As in the 1961 and 2000, a declaration of independence was read and the now-banned Morning Star flag raised.

"On this day, 19 October 2011, we declare our complete Independence and Sovereignty as the Papuan people and the state of West Papua", read Prokorus Yaboisembut, the newly elected President of West Papua.

see: Report by GKI on Third Papuan Congress and Declaration of Independence
[Full translation by TAPOL of the report received from KPKC, Synod of GKI, Indonesian Christian Church on 21 October 2011]

With that, the military and police stormed the congress ostensibly to put down the "coup".

Armed soldiers also stormed a nearby monastery, terrorising the residents for two hours. Oktovianus Pogau reports that "Later, bullet holes could be seen in some of the walls, and bullet fragments were found in some bedrooms.

"'Dozens of officials forced their way into the monastery and walked back and forth for two hours in front of us,' the Rev. Adrianus Tuturu said. 'We were so afraid we hid in our rooms.'"

According to Pogau, the chairman of the House of Representatives commission on defense, Mahfudz Siddiq, said security forces "should have been firmer" and refused to issue a permit for the congress.

"The Jayapura Police chief said he would do whatever it took to quash subversion. 'Whoever supports separatism or subversion activity, I will do the same as yesterday [19 Oct]. I’ll finish them,' Adj. Sr. Comr. Imam Setiawan told state news agency Antara."

See also: Rights Bodies Grill the Police Over Beatings, Deaths at Papua Congress
Banjir Ambarita, Jakarta Globe, October 25, 2011

US SUPPORTS JAKARTA'S STRONG STANCE AGAINST "SEPARATISTS"

"While visiting Indonesia, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reiterated the U.S. commitment to closer ties with Indonesia and voiced support for Indonesia's strong stance against a separatist movement in the eastern province of Papua.

"But U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell says the warming relationship has not stopped the U.S. from speaking out against possible human rights abuses by the military in Papua.

"'We have made very clear where there are allegations of abuse or problems associated with excessive violence,' said Campbell. 'We want those circumstances thoroughly explored. And if there is indeed cause for subsequent remedial action, we would expect a legal process to be followed accordingly.'"

See: US Officials Back Indonesian Stand Against Papua Independence
Voice of America, 25 October 2011

But of course we have seen this before. For as was noted in Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin 119 (3 Aug 2011) "On 24 January [2011] an Indonesian court sentenced three soldiers to eight, nine and ten months imprisonment for insubordination after video footage emerged showing the soldiers torturing Papuan civilians -- beating, burning, knifing and suffocating them. [See also, Papua: evidence of human rights abuses]. Whilst the US expressed regret over the leniency of the sentences, they praised the fact that the soldiers were tried at all, hailing it as 'progress'. (Without the trial, the US would have been obliged by its own laws to withhold military aid.)"

And the above was not an isolated incident, for TNI crimes and human rights abuses are routinely covered up or whitewashed so as to ensure that they do not negatively impact Indonesian or US mining or strategic interests.

On 23 Oct 2011, the Jakarta Globe featured a photo of Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro smiling broadly with his counterpart Leon Panetta, US secretary of defense. "We clearly explained", said Purnomo, "that the [gathering] was a separatist movement. Everywhere it's the same -- separatism has to be put down. The Indonesian government will not tolerate separatists.”

And according to Purnomo, Panetta "completely agreed".

See: Jakarta Gives US Its Side of Story in Papua Deaths
Made Arya Kencana, Banjir Ambarita & Ulma Haryanto,
Jakarta Globe, 23 October 2011

It appears that US policy concerning whether "separatism" be put down (as were the Papuans in Papua) or supported (as were the Albanians in Serbia) depends entirely upon an assessment of US economic and strategic interests; nothing more.

The Jakarta Globe(23 Oct) continues: "A photograph of a body purported to be that of Daniel Kadepa, a 25-year-old university student, was obtained by the Jakarta Globe. It showed the body of a man lying face down with a wound to the back of his head.

"'I talked to the forensic doctor who checked the body and he told me that Daniel was killed by a gunshot to the head,' said Oktovianus Pogau, a member of the Papua Solidarity Society. 'A relative of his also told me that she saw with her own eyes a military officer shoot him.'

"Other photos showed bodies purported to be those of Max Asayeuw, 31, and Yacob Samonsabra, 54. Both men were part of the Papuan Caretaker Movement (Petapa) and were guarding the congress. Yacob had a gunshot wound to the chest, while Max’s face was bruised and bloodied."

The lone voice of moral outrage came from US Congressman Eni Faleomavaega, a Democrat from American Samoa.

The crackdown prompted the Congressman to ask Indonesia’s ambassador to the United States for guarantees of safety for those arrested last week.

"'It has been reported that the Indonesian Armed Forces [TNI] fired shots during the meeting where a crowd of thousands of defenseless and unarmed civilians were engaged in peaceful political assembly,' he wrote.

"Faleomavaega said the reports gave evidence of crimes against humanity, adding: 'I have very serious concerns in the matter and I do not condone the serious acts of violence by the TNI and police on the peaceful demonstration by unarmed civilians who were simply voicing their opinions about the failure of the government of Indonesia to seriously implement the Special Autonomy Law for West Papua.'" (Jakarta Globe, 23 OCt)

With six Congress leaders facing charges of treason, many Congress participants have fled into hiding.

See: Papua Congress participants hiding from Jayapura police
Interview with Ferry Marisan, director of the Institute of Human Rights Study and Advocacy in Papua. Radio Australia, October 20, 2011

Today, Friday 28 Oct 2011, ABC Lateline released an excellent video report.
See: Video shows aftermath of Papua crackdown
By Hamish Fitzsimmons, 28 Oct 2011

John Baransano, a Protestant minister in Jayapura who was at the rally, appealed through ABC Lateline for international help.

"I call on the churches around the world to care about this," he said. "I'm calling for an intervention for us because today's events show that we need a transitional government and this needs to happen to help the people of Papua," he said.

"We are now in a dangerous situation . . ."

Anglican minister Peter Woods, who lived in Indonesia for many years, was in Jayapura during the Congress and filmed interviews with many of the independence movement's leaders. Reverend Woods told ABC Lateline that he believes the violence on October 19 was premeditated.

For more on Papua;
See Religious Liberty Monitoring, label: "Papua"
Includes articles on Islamisation, colonisation, political marginalisation, gross human rights abuses, and Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold Inc.
ALSO: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin, label: "Papua"

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

EGYPT: "more radicalised than we realised"; Islam, Dhimmitude and the Maspero Massacre

By Elizabeth Kendal


Islam is a materialistic, imperialistic and political religion. Its aim is to achieve dominance -- demographically or through military or political conquest -- so that Muslims might rule and Sharia (Islamic Law / the law of Allah) might be applied.

Where Islam is dominant, atheists and polytheists have two choices: convert to Islam or die. Jews and Christians (the People of the Book), however, have a third choice: dhimmitude -- i.e. they may pay for their "protection" (i.e. right to life) with "jizya" / tax / protection money (religiously santioned extortion) and by submitting to Islamic rule and Sharia law in total subjugation and abject humiliation (Sura 9:29).

The subjugated peoples are known collectively as the dhimma (singular: dhimmi). The state of subjugation -- a state of immense insecurity, vulnerability, perpetual anxiety and psychological trauma -- is known as dhimmitude. The rules under which the dhimma must live are codified in the dhimma pact. If at any time, the dhimma violate the dhimma pact, then "protection" is withdrawn and jihad (Islamic holy war) resumes -- meaning the dhimmis may be killed and their properties plundered.

Europe's rise and Islam's decline -- commencing in the late 17th Century and culminating in defeat for Islam in the 20th Century's two world wars -- saw dhimmitude wane. Today, however, Islam is back and so too is dhimmitude. And nowhere is this more evident than in Egypt.

This is unsurprising considering the results of a recent survey by Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. For according the the study, while 61 percent of those living in cities support a civil state, 48.5 percent of rural residents support an Islamic state. When asked what state they wished to see Egypt resemble, 48.9 percent of rural Egyptians and 31.5 percent of urban residents named Saudi Arabia. Turkey was a distant second with 11.9 percent of urban residents looking to it as a model, and only 6.5 percent of rural residents. Further to this, some 40.1 percent of Egyptians classified themselves as Islamists. As one observer remarked: "I think Egypt has become more Islamized than we realized."

See:
Al-Ahram Center releases extensive political survey.
Tuesday Aug 23, 2011

Talking about secularism when Egypt looks to Saudi Arabia as a model
Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey), Monday, October 17, 2011

It is little wonder that some 93,000 Coptic Christians have left Egypt since 19 March. This figure comes from a report by the Egyptian Federation of Human Rights (EFHR). Furthermore, Naguib Gabriel, the head EFHR, estimates that the figure could increase to 250,00 by the end of 2011.

NGO report: 93,000 Copts left Egypt since March
Almasry Alyoum, 25 Sept 2011

The Maspero Massacre

In Elmarinab village in Egypt's Aswan Province on 30 September, thousands of Muslims went on a pogrom after having been incited in their mosques during Friday prayers. The military watched on without intervening while the Muslims destroyed St. George's church and other properties owned by Coptic Christians. Subsequently the state-run media whitewashed the incident. [NOTE: the Copts are the indigenous people of Egypt; the true descendents of the Pharoahs. They have been Christian for 2,000 years.] The Muslim pogrom was launched in response to church renovations. Though the Christians had legal permission to repair their dangerously dilapidated church, church repair is nevertheless prohibited by the dhimma pact, for the Christians must not only be humiliated, they must be seen to be humiliated lest they become a source of fitna (strife / temptation / anything that could shake the faith of a Muslim and thereby cause "chaos").

On Sunday 9 October, around 1,000 Christians, plus numerous sympathetic Muslims, peacefully protested outside Cairo's Maspero building -- the home of Egyptian state television and radio -- calling for an end to religious discrimination and sectarianism. However, to demand equity and justice instead of accepting subjugation and humiliation is yet another violation of the dhimma pact. This time the reprisal came first and formost from the Egyptian military.

See:
Egypt On Edge After Army Kills 20 Coptic Christians At Protest

Associated Press, Sun, 10/16/2011

The night Maspero turned into a war zone: A firsthand account
Reem Abdellatif, October 16, 2011

Violence and Bloodshed in Egypt: An Eyewitness Account
Sharif Abdel Kouddous, for the Pulitzer Center, Cairo, Egypt, October 10, 2011

Maspero survivors finally testify: army shot at unarmed demonstrators without provocation
Multiple eyewitness survivors of 'Bloody Sunday' at Maspero answer SCAF [Supreme Council of the Armed Forced], say military police shot at unarmed Coptic and Muslim demonstrators, APC's [Armoured Personnel Carriers] crushed people repeatedly, and afterwards police searched for 'Christians'.
Nada Hussein Rashwan, Thursday 13 Oct 2011

Stunned by bloodshed, Egyptians torn over army
By SARAH EL DEEB - Associated Press | AP – Sat, Oct 15, 2011

As violence escalated outside Maspero, state media falsely reported that armed Coptic protesters had attacked the military, killing three soldiers. The state media urged loyal Muslims to rise up in defence of their military, an appeal to which thousands of angry Muslims responded.

Egypt's State Media Implicated In Violence Against Christian Demonstrators
AINA, 13 Oct 2011

The Maspero Massacre left 26 dead and more than 300 wounded. On Sunday 16 Oct. Magdy Fahim Mosaad became they 27th Christian protestor to die when he succumbed to the injuries he received on Sunday 9th when he was run over by an armored personnel carrier.

Eye witnesses have testified that police and military shot, beat and chased Christians who they abused as 'infidels' and 'sons of dogs'. And so that truth could not be reported, the military attacked the studios of al-Hurra ('The Free One'), a United States-based Arabic-language satellite TV channel funded by the U.S. Congress, targeting Christian reporters and forcing its closure.

While the state media did apologise for its false report (blaming a 'nervous reporter') the military publically denied that they had killed any Christians -- this despite volumes of video and mobile phone footage showing armoured vehicles ploughing through the protesting Christians, running them over, crushing and tearing them, to cries of 'Allahu Akbar' (Allah is great).

Furthermore, a committee of "experts" appointed by the Minister of Information himself, Osama Heikal (who has praised the state media's coverage of the Maspero violence), has determined that while state television may have committed "professional errors" it did not intentionally incite violence against unarmed protesters.

Committee: State TV's Maspero coverage did not incite violence
Nada Hussein Rashwan, Monday 17 Oct 2011

And so we have yet more whitewashing and impunity.

By Monday 17 Oct. Egyptian newspapers were shifting the blame, from the military, onto Coptic priests and leaders. "Coptic religious leaders, clergy and intellectuals are responsible not only for the Maspero violence but also for threatening national unity, according to several papers."

Monday's papers: Editorial pages shift Maspero blame
Almasry Alyoum, 17 Oct 2011

Though an independent civilian prosecutor had begun looking into the Maspero Massacre, the military has now taken over the investigation. Military officials claim that the army must conduct the investigation on its own and in private due to the sensitivity of the clashes and in order to preserve troop morale. The head of the military judiciary, General Adel El-Morsi, has called for all evidence to be handed to the military.

Egypt military takes over inquiry of Coptic unrest
By AYA BATRAWY - Associated Press | AP – Thu, Oct 13, 2011

SCAF alone to investigate Maspero clashes
The head of military judiciary said Thursday armed forces alone will investigate Sunday's deadly clashes . . .
Ahram Online , Thursday 13 Oct 2011

No doubt the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) will call for "reconciliation" -- by which they mean the military will agree to make peace with the Christians in exchange for the Christians dropping all charges. Such "reconciliation" has been standard practise in Egypt since mid 2007. It provides the ruling regime with a win-win solution, for while it deceives and appeases the West it is actually a consession to politically powerful Islamists who insist on upholding the Islamic order which instutionalises legal discrimination / religious aparthide by prohibiting Christians / dhimmis from testifying against Muslims in court.

-----------

The West's reluctance to challenge the immoral religious aparthide inherent in Islam is both immoral and short-sighted. If the West truly believes in the principle of universal human rights, then religious and cultural rights can never trump human rights. Furthermore, silence in the face of Islamic religious aparthide is discriminatory; for why should these victims be less worthy of our moral outrage? Anyone who maintains that the systematic religious aparthide inherent in Islam is the religious right of Muslims, is clearly no defender of universal human rights.

See also:

A Double-Bind Upon the Copts: dhimmitude in action.
Rev Dr Mark Durie, Monday, October 10, 2011
Quote: "The Copts are in a double bind. If they protest against the abuses brought upon their heads by the dhimma system, they are treated as rebels, and the value of their blood and possessions discounted accordingly: the more they protest, the less right they have under Islamic law even to exist. On the other hand, the more they acquiesce, the more voracious and emboldened their persecutors will become. [. . .] The international community will be held accountable if they do not act swiftly on the brutal attacks towards Egypt’s Coptic Christians who are suffering under a modern day form of apartheid where institutionalised discrimination and deadly attacks have a become a way of life for Egypt’s 15 million Copts."

The forgotten Christians of the East
By Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, 10 Oct 2011
Quote: "JUST AS the Jews of the Islamic world were forcibly removed from their ancient communities by the Arab rulers with the establishment of Israel in 1948, so Christians have been persecuted and driven out of their homes. Populist Islamic and Arab regimes have used Islamic religious supremacism and Arab racial chauvinism against Christians as rallying cries to their subjects. These calls have in turn led to the decimation of the Christian populations of the Arab and Islamic world. [. . .] It is unclear what either Western governments or Western churches think they are achieving by turning a blind eye to the persecution and decimation of Christian communities in the Muslim world. As Sunday’s events in Egypt and other daily anti-Christian attacks by Muslims against Christians throughout the region show, their behavior is not appeasing anyone. What is clear enough is that they shall reap what they sow."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

SUDAN: war spreads across 'new south' into Blue Nile

by Elizabeth Kendal

The Arab-supremacist, Islamist regime of President Omar el-Bashir has long systematically marginalised (politically and economically) all Sudan's non-Arabs and violently persecuted all those who dare resist Islamisation. Black African Muslims who oppose the racist regime are labeled apostate and targeted for elimination along with the infidels. Consequently, Khartoum has long been at war not only with the predominantly-Christian South, but with the entire non-Arab periphery. In fact anyone -- including Arabs -- who advocates religious liberty and ethnic diversity over Sharia and Arabisation is treated as an enemy. The most significant opposition has long been the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A).

Consequently, the secession of South Sudan was never going to bring peace to the Republic of Sudan, for while the South seceded, the problem -- the regime in Khartoum -- remained. As was inevitable, the secession of the South has only made Khartoum more determined to entrench its power and exert total control over coveted lands and resources.

The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) mandated that three regions -- Abyei (straddling the North-South border) along with South Kordofan and Blue Nile states (both in the north) -- be entitled to "popular consultations" through which the predominantly black African, largely-Christian, SPLM-allied tribes could determine their own futures. However, in total defiance of the CPA, the Government of Sudan (GoS) seized and ethnically cleansed Abyei in May 2011, before launching, on 5 June, an ethnic cleansing campaign in South Kordofan. As is their regular strategy, Khartoum is engineering famine in South Kordofan by means of aerial bombardments and denial of humanitarian aid, in order to use starvation as a weapon of mass destruction.
SEE
Sudan: Nuba genocide resumes, 24June 2011.
AND
Nuba Genocide: US House Committee hears testimony, 9 Aug 2011.

In June, as war raged in South Kordofan, President el-Bashir postponed Blue Nile's "popular consultations", prompting Blue Nile's elected governor, SPLM-North chairman Malik Aggar, to warn that war may indeed be imminent. For just as in neighbouring South Kordofan, the people of Blue Nile have no desire for Arab domination or Islamisation. In Blue Nile, just as in South Kordofan, the SPLA-North -- which has long defended the peoples of Blue Nile and South Kordofan from Khartoum's aggression -- is refusing to disarm, and Khartoum is labeling this refusal an act of rebellion justifying military intervention in the name of defending national unity.

[NOTE: This is exactly the same as the situation in Burma, where the Burman-supremacist Buddhist junta is demanding the disarmament of the long-persecuted ethnic-religious minorities, and citing their refusal as justification for war. (NOTE: in both cases -- Burma and Sudan -- the demand was preceded by fraudulent elections, rigged to deliver a majority in parliament and to give the impression of a popular mandate.)
see: http://rlprayerbulletin.blogspot.com/search/label/Burma ]

On 28 and 29 August, the GoS moved "significant military forces – comprised of Popular Defence Forces (PDF) [Arab militias] national security, and Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) – with heavy equipment into Blue Nile state." (source: Reeves / African Centre of Justice and Peace Studies)

On 1 September 2011, GoS forces attacked the home of Governor Malik Aggar in Al-Damazin, the capital of Blue Nile State before launching a full-scale assault on SPLA positions. Heavy military equipment has been deployed inside civilian areas.

On 2 September, President Bashir declared a state of emergency in Blue Nile and, in what is being described as a "political and military coup", dismissed Governor Aggar, installing Major General Yahya Mohamed Khair as military ruler in his place.

Reports abound of massive GoS troop deployments, aerial bombardments and wide-scale displacement across the Blue Nile state. An estimated 50,000 people have been displaced, with some 16,000 having crossed the border into Ethiopia. Furthermore, as in South Kordofan, the GoS is refusing to allow humanitarian aid groups access to the region. As food supplies run out, starvation will set in and we will witness yet another GoS-engineered humanitarian crisis.

Not only is the GoS moving to secure valuable resources (oil in Sth Kordofan and water and hydroelectric power in Blue Nile), the GoS is doubtless acting preemptively to hamstring the SPLM-North.

Now that South Sudan has seceded, Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile have become the "new south". Today conflict is raging right across this "new south" as well as in Darfur in the west. Should Sudan's other marginalised and persecuted peoples decided to fight -- such as the Nubia in the far North and the Beja in the east -- Sudan may well disintegrate.

Khartoum takes aim at the GoSS


Further to this, Khartoum has accused the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) of supporting rebel movements in the north. SPLM-N secretary general Yasir Arman, however, categorically denies that the GoSS is supporting the SPLA-North. (NOTE: As long-time civil war allies, soldiers of the SPLA-North carry weapons that have come from the South.)

GoS moves against the SPLM-North


The GoS has banned the SPLM-North, seized its offices and is arresting its members, not only in Khartoum but in all states across the North.

The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) reports
that perceived SPLM-North supporters are being arrested throughout Sudan. The ACJPS report provides a list of dozens known to have been arrested.

SPLM-N secretary general Yasir Arman has slammed the GoS for carrying out "arbitrary arrests" of SPLM-N members across the country and for the "closure of its offices and confiscation of vehicles and properties". He also scoffed at the GoS, saying its plan to crush the SPLM-N was little more than "wishful thinking" and an "impossible mission".

As Arman notes, the conflicts in South Kordofan and Blue Nile started long before the separation of South Sudan. "The current conflict," says Arman, "is a creation of [President Bashir's] NCP [National Congress Party] in that they sowed the seed of the problem when they voluntarily destroyed the CPA; attempted to disarm the SPLA/N and rejected the Addis Ababa Framework Agreement. The SPLM/N and other resistance movements and democratic forces are determined to put an end the illusive NCP program of the second Islamic Republic (see RLPB 117 ), a Taliban Republic that is based on heavy human cost and loss, denial of diversity, ethnic cleansing, genocide and terrorism."