Wednesday, July 31, 2002

North Korea: Reassessing self-reliance?

Date: Wednesday 31 July 2002
Subj: North Korea: Reassessing self-reliance?
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator

North Korea is one of the world's most severe abusers of religious liberty and cruelest persecutors of Christians. The Reunification Talks that commenced in Pyongyang, North Korea, in June 2002, opened a window of hope that change may be possible in the previously impenetrable "Hermit Kingdom". However, the talks have constantly been frustrated and beset with difficulties.

In these testing times we should not forget that many believers, especially South Korean believers, have prayed consistently; even daily for some fifty years, for God to liberate North Korea.

Famine is the primary factor forcing North Korea to once again return to the negotiating table, and to reassess its policy of "Juche" or "self-reliance". While none of the diplomatic or economic changes outlined below relate directly to any religious liberty issues, they do however, give grounds for optimism that North Korea may truly be seeking to end its isolation and commence real engagement with the outside world - in which case, real opportunities to exert influence and leverage regarding religious freedom should also open up.


Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who recently visited North Korea and met with Kim Jong-il, reports that North Korea is seeking constructive dialogue with Japan and the US to talk unconditionally about lessening its international isolation.

On 25 July 02, only days after Mr. Ivanov's visit, North Korea expressed "regret" to South Korea over the naval clash that occurred on 29 June in which five South Korean sailors were killed. What makes this so significant is that it is so out of character - it is only the third time North Korea has ever expressed remorse in a long history of attacks on South Korea. In this same message, North Korea also proposed the resumption of reunification talks between the North and South - an offer South Korea has accepted. South Korea's Unification Ministry has now offered to send a working-level team to North Korea's Mount Kumgang resort from 2 - 4 August to prepare for a ministerial meeting in Seoul.

But most remarkable, is the news that North Korea has scrapped its centralised state rationing system and is replacing it with public markets that have been operating since 1 July 02. Wages have been increased accordingly to accommodate the change. Factories and companies will also end their reliance on state subsidies and become self-supporting with profits linked to productivity.

A BBC correspondent in Seoul, Kevin Kim, says that recently the North's leader, Kim Jong-il, called for a new way of thinking, suggesting he was more open-minded about adopting capitalist systems in his country. (see link 1) Some observers have compared the steps to those China took in the late 1970s as China gradually opened up its economy.


Christians in North Korea have long suffered severe Communist oppression, firstly under the Soviets who controlled North Korea after WWII, and then under Stalin's handpicked successor, Kim Il-sung. It is estimated that some 2,300 North Korean Christian congregations with around 300,000 members have disappeared since the border closed in 1953 at the end of the Korean War. An estimated 100,000 Christians are amongst the one million North Koreans currently suffering as prisoners of conscience in North Korea's gulag of some 200 concentration camps where torture and starvation are commonplace.

It has been reported that in the camps and prisons, Christians are especially despised and singled out for the most severe treatment. Hundreds of North Korean believers found with Bibles have been executed. The government insists that the dead but "Eternal President" Kim Il-sung be worshiped as a god, and his son, the present ruler Kim Jong-il, to whom all manner of supernatural phenomena are attributed, be the object of "ardent worship".

1) BBC "North Korea 'moves to market economy'" 19 July 2000

Friday, July 26, 2002

Sudan: Translating a Document (Machakos Protocol) into a Reality

Date: Friday 26 July 2002
Subj: Sudan: Translating a Document into a Reality
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator

The Peace Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Sudan and the Southern People's Liberation Movement/Army, signed at the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) talks in Nairobi on 20 July 02 is, in itself, nothing short of a miracle. Reactions to the peace deal have ranged from jubilant optimism to bitter skepticism and angry rejection. Continued prayer and international leverage will be needed if the miraculous peace agreement is to be translated into a miraculous reality.


After 19 years of bloodshed, destruction and jihad (Islamic holy war) - what circumstances have produced this opportunity for peace in Sudan? One month ago, analysts were saying that both sides were intransigent, that both the government and the southern rebels had sacrificed too much and fought for too long to make compromise an option. However, the very issues that were considered the major sticking points, the issues that have derailed all previous peace negotiations - the Southerner's demand for religious freedom and their request for a referendum on self-determination - have been granted by a government that is under intense international pressure to make peace, and which indeed, needs peace if it is to develop and receive any benefit from its oil industry.

Three main circumstances have put the Government of Sudan in this position:

* Firstly - the falling-out in 2001 between President Omar el-Bashir and Sudan's chief Islamist ideologue Hassan Turabi, the primary mastermind behind el-Bashir's political Islamist program. This opened the door for a degree of moderation and engagement that was never even remotely possible with Turabi wielding power and influence.

* Secondly - the both desperate and patient, long-suffering, persevering advocacy of Christian and other human rights and anti-slavery groups, that have made human rights and religious liberty in Sudan, issues with political significance. The advocacy of these groups and individuals produced the domestic leverage necessary to encourage influential governments to exercise international leverage.

* Thirdly - the terrorist attack on USA on 11 September 2001 has forced Sudan to make watershed decisions regarding direction and allegiances.

An Associated Press article posted on Tuesday 23 July 2002 entitled, "This Sudanese agreement could be different" by Donna Bryson in Cairo, Egypt, sums up the situation well. Quoting excerpts from that article: (the full article can be found using link 1 below)

"With Saturday's announcement in Kenya, the government, which had vowed to create an Islamic state after seizing power in 1989, agreed state and religion should be separate. It also said that six years after a full peace agreement was signed, Sudanese in the mainly Christian and animist south would be allowed to vote on whether to remain part of the country.

"The government had for years resisted those rebel demands.

"John Ashworth, a South Africa-based analyst who works for Sudanese churches, said leaders in Khartoum could be yielding now in hopes peace will open the way to international aid and oil entrepreneurs and help end talk of their extremism - a label they fear could make them targets in the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

"'They've been looking for international credibility and international respectability,' Ashworth said in a telephone interview.

"'After Sept. 11, things changed,' Tombe agreed (Rev. Enock Tombe is head of the Sudan Council of Churches).

"Sudan's desire to be seen as an ally by the United States gives Washington great influence. Strong U.S. interest in resolving Africa's longest war, fueled in part by U.S. Christian groups who have rallied to the southerners cause, was expressed in the appointment last year of former U.S. Senator John Danforth as special presidential envoy to Sudan.

"Hard-liners in Khartoum already have questioned whether the government was offering to give up too much.

"'Issues and established facts such as Islamic law, federal rule and unity should not be compromised,' Mohammed Hassan al-Amin told The Associated Press Sunday (21 July). Al-Amin is an official of the Popular National Congress headed by Hassan Turabi."

A Sudanese communist party member, requesting anonymity, expressed his concern that the issue of retaining Sharia law in the north is likely to undermine the peace agreement. "Sharia law is unpopular in both the south and the north," he said. "Keeping the law in the north is unlikely to bring peace to Sudan." (see link 2)

Ibrahim Elnur, a Sudanese analyst at the American University in Cairo added that the agreement needed to include other northern and southern parties, otherwise it could collapse like a similar north-south deal in 1972 that sparked a return to war in 1983. "Now we need to widen it and bring in a democratic element. This is the only guarantee of stability," he said. (see link 2)

The agreement is known as the "Machakos Protocol" because the talks have been held in the Kenyan town of Machakos.

Eric Reeves, a Sudan analyst says, "The Machakos Protocol holds out extraordinary promise, even as it is burdened by exceedingly great difficulties if that promise is to be realized in a just and lasting peace. We do no service to the peace process if we ignore either the promise of Machakos or the many and various obstacles. This is the moment of truth for peace in Sudan. We should ask - with honesty, appropriate skepticism, and moral determination - how the peace process can be supported."

Reeves continues, "Machakos means only as much as the international community forces it to mean. Unrelenting pressure must be exerted on the National Islamic Front to build on the Machakos Protocol, rather than seek ways to renege and walk away from what has been
agreed. There is no room for complacency or self-congratulation: we are at best well begun."

Mel Middleton of Freedom Quest International agrees, "Two things are certain: 1. This 'agreement' still has a long way to go before it is, in fact, a 'just peace' agreement - the fighting has not stopped yet. 2. The need for vigilance is greater now than ever before."

Talks will resume on 12 August 2002. Issues on the agenda are: power sharing, distribution of oil revenues, human rights and a ceasefire. Peter Woodward, a professor of politics at Britain's Reading University, told Reuters (see link 3), "We have got a lot more to be negotiated, and really it's very much a question of keeping the pressure on to do it."

- Elizabeth Kendal

1) Associated Press "This Sudanese agreement could be different" by
Donna Bryson, CAIRO, EGYPT 23 July 2002

2) Reuters "Sudan Hails Peace Deal, Opposition Wants Democracy" by
Alfred Taban, KHARTOUM, SUDAN 21 July 2002

3) Reuters "ANALYSIS-Sudan on path to peace but bumpy ride likely"
by Fiona O'Brien NAIROBI, KENYA 23 July 2002

Freedom Quest International

For all news on Sudan:

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Europe: Escalating Anti-Semitism

Date: Tuesday 23 July 2002
Subj: Europe: Escalating Anti-Semitism
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator

There has been a shocking surge of anti-Semitic attacks across Europe since the Palestinian uprising erupted in September 2000. Anti-Semitic violence escalated further in early April 2002, corresponding with the Israeli offensive in the West Bank.

Although violence against Jews has been reported from the Ukraine to the UK, France has been the most severely hit, with some 360 anti-Semitic attacks in the first few weeks of April 2002 alone (BBC - see link below) - everything from graffiti and abuse to the firebombing of synagogues. Recent events in the UK and Italy show that the disease is continuing to spread and will not be extinguished without a decisive strategy.


On 19 July, the New York Times (NYT) reported the desecration of the Jewish section of the historic Verano cemetery in Italy. In all, thirty-four graves were desecrated and one coffin was partly ripped open. According to Frank Bruni's article entitled, "Nearly 40 Jewish Graves Are Desecrated in a Rome Cemetery", it was " a chilling scene that marked the arrival in Italy of a wave of anti-Semitic attacks across Europe."

Tullia Zevi, the former president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, is quoted in the NYT article as saying, "I think it's a very complex phenomenon. Is it the old anti-Semitism which has been nurtured for centuries and reached its tragic climax in the concentration camps, or is it something that has a kind of link with the Middle East situation? Whatever the case, our civilization is somehow unable to prevent or counteract this violence." Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi lamented, "Italy has a deep-rooted tradition of civility, but not even Rome is immune from the barbarity of anti-Semitism."

An Associated Press article entitled "Culprits Desecrate Jewish Tombstones", AP 18 July 2002, quoted Italian Deputy Premier Gianfranco Fini as saying that the desecration "unfortunately shows that our society isn't immune from the risk of new and odious forms of anti-Semitism.'" The new anti-Semitism, he said, is "often masked by a violent criminalisation of Israel." A spokesman for Milan's Jewish community, Yasha Reibman, was also quoted as saying, "in Italy and in Europe, a new, political anti-Semitism is growing, which uses as an alibi all that's happening in Israel."

On Thursday night 11 July, vandals broke into a synagogue in Swansea, South-western Britain. Mike Whine of the Community Security Trust, which oversees security in Jewish communities, told the Associated Press, "There was a big sign saying 'T4,' which we believe is a reference to the Nazi euthanasia program in the concentration camps. Excrement was left, and there was a failed attempt to set fire to the place." According to the Associated Press report, a swastika was daubed in green paint on the rabbi's lectern, an ancient scroll was destroyed and the prayer shawls had been hurled to the floor.

The European governments have been quick to denounce anti-Semitism. On Sunday 21 July, France's Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, pledged to catch and punish anyone found complicit it anti-Semitic attacks, saying an attack on France's Jewish community is an attack on France.

Not since the end of World War II has Europe seen such aggressive anti-Semitism. The situation is complicated, with the perpetrators coming from various reaches of society - from the political far-right neo-Nazis / anti-immigrant skinheads, and from Muslim immigrants, mostly Arabs from North Africa.

The World Jewish Congress (WJC ) charge that while the majority of violent anti-Semitic attacks in Europe have been perpetrated by Muslims, it is Europe's social and intellectual elites that have made Jews and the Jewish state the targets of an intense campaign of public vilification and demonising. The WJC insist that these elites have helped create the present climate where anti-Semitism (cloaked of course behind a self-righteous indignation over Israeli policy) is somehow acceptable and even justifiable. (WJC: see link below)

But surely violence and vilification against Jews is not justifiable on the grounds of Israeli aggression in the West Bank, just as violence against Arab Muslim immigrants could not be justified on the grounds of Palestinian Muslim aggression in Israel.

Once again Europe is facing a moral testing and the way this issue of rising anti-Semitism is handled will certainly direct the future of the continent that some 50 years ago said, "Never again!"

- Elizabeth Kendal

BBC: "Jews warn of rising anti-Semitism" - 23 April 2002

The Word Jewish Congress, Policy Dispatches, number 77 - April 2002
"The 'New Antisemitism': A haunting reawakening of anti-Jewish
violence stirs memories of the Holocaust".

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Sudan: Must Peace Remain Elusive?

Date: Thursday 11 July 2002
Subj: Sudan: Must Peace Remain Elusive?
To: World Evangelical Alliance - Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator

Once again the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is attempting to broker peace in Sudan. The five-week long talks commenced on Monday 17 June in Nairobi Kenya.

The Government of Sudan's determination to impose Shari'a (Islamic) law and its extremist interpretation of Islam on the whole nation, including the African Christians and traditional religionists in the south, remains a key factor in the continuance of the war. It is amazing that, in spite of severe suffering, discrimination, persecution and a jihad that has claimed more than two million lives, the Sudanese Church has grown at a phenomenal rate, especially in the south. Many more Sudanese are spiritually hungry and living under Shari'a law that charges apostasy as a criminal offence in spite of a constitution that guarantees freedom of religion.

The present round of peace talks aimed at ending Sudan's 19 year long war are being touted as the best chance for peace in decades. Yet analysts such as John Prendergast, the co-director of the Africa programme of the International Crisis Group, fear that negotiating peace in Sudan is beyond the scope of IGAD alone, and will require greater commitment, effort and leverage on the part of the broader international community, in close partnership with regional states, if it is to succeed. Prendergast told the US Congress on 5 June, "In the absence of such a commitment, the best chance in years to end a generation of war will surely slip away."


A United Nations Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) report entitled "SUDAN: IGAD under fire over conflict escalation" 4 July 2002 states, "Mwandawiro Mghanga, the coordinator of the Kenya-Sudan Friendship Society told IRIN on Thursday (4 July) he doubted IGAD's ability to 'bring peace' to Sudan if it was 'unable to bring pressure to bear on the Khartoum government to halt the killing of civilians.'

"Analysts had hailed the talks, which began on 17 June 02, as a decisive opportunity for negotiators to push forward the peace process between the Muslim-dominated north of the country and the mostly-Christian south. Sticking points, such as self-determination for the south and the separation of religion and state, have hitherto held up the process."

According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF): Report on Sudan April 2002, President Jaafar al-Numeiri's declaration of an Islamic Republic and the imposition of Shari'a law, done in total contravention of the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement of 1972, was most certainly the trigger for conflict.

Quoting from the USCIRF report, "In 1983, Sudan's President Jaafar al-Numeiri renounced the Addis Ababa Accords, which had given the south a degree of regional autonomy and religious freedom, and decreed that Shariah 'be the sole guiding force behind the law of the Sudan.' The September Laws, as the decree was called, instituted an Islamic penal code. Popular and political discontent with Numeiri's rule mounted following the promulgation of the September Laws and led to the civil war that continues to this day."

A report by the Brussels based International Crisis Group (ICG), entitled "God, Oil and Country: Changing the Logic of War in Sudan" 10 January 2002, portrays the war this way: "It is a struggle, to be sure, between a northern government that is largely Arab and Muslim and a southern insurgency that is largely black and significantly Christian, but it is also increasingly a contest between a non-democratic centre and hitherto peripheral groups from all parts of the country. It is a contest over oil and other natural resources, but also one about ideologies, including the degree to which a government's radical Islamist agenda can be moderated and a rebel movement's authoritarianism can embrace civilian democracy."

The war has indeed become very complicated. What is not complicated however, but clear as day, is the obscene terror and inhumanity associated with this war that is openly referred to as a jihad by those in authority in Khartoum. Atrocities are committed on both sides, but there is really nothing on earth that compares with the crimes against humanity being perpetrated by the Government of Sudan. These include systematic slavery conducted in the context of war, starvation - orchestrated as a silent killer of masses, and the almost daily aerial bombardment and gunning down of humanitarian aid workers and starving, wounded, war-weary, distressed civilians.

According to the ICG, the choice now is for either dialogue or destruction. The ICG released a report entitled, "Dialogue or Destruction? Organising for Peace as the War in Sudan Escalates" 27 June 2002.

Quoting that ICG report: "Sudan's civil war, already one of the deadliest conflicts since World War II, has entered its most destructive phase to date. Oil revenues have allowed the government to purchase increasingly lethal weapons, more effectively pursue population-clearing operations, and expand the use of its greatest comparative advantage, air power.

"Many issues divide the Sudanese parties, not the least of which are religion and the distribution of power. But self-determination for the South stands above the others for its potential to be the ultimate spoiler of the peace process.

"With battle lines and negotiating positions so clearly drawn, the efforts to energise the IGAD peace process have so far been useful, but not sufficient. The window of opportunity for peace in Sudan is beginning to close. A much more robust effort must be undertaken both by the IGAD states and, in their support, by the international community if peace is to be made.Absent this, the Sudanese people will be condemned to increasing death and destruction, and a wide swathe of Africa will remain subject to the destabilising consequences."

Elizabeth Kendal

Primary sources:
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), part of the UN
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
IGAD under fire over conflict escalation IRIN 4 July 2002
War at its deadliest phase, ICG warns IRIN 28 June 2002

International Crisis Group
God, Oil and Country - Changing the Logic of War in Sudan ICG 10 Jan 2002
Dialogue or Destruction - Organising for Peace as the War in Sudan
Escalates ICG 27 June 2002

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom -
Report on Sudan April 2002

For more information
Eric Reeves is a professor at Smith College, a Sudan expert and advocate. His most recent article, entitled "The Terror In Sudan", published in the Washington Post on 5 July 2002, can be found at

World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission prayer
RLP 176 Sudan the desperate need for peace 9 July 2002
RLP 171 Sudan Revival Amidst Unspeakable Horror 5 June 2002
RLP 158 Sudan 'Religious Freedom' Not Really! 6 March 2002

Wednesday, July 3, 2002

India: Hindu Nationalism Returns to Politics

Date: Wednesday 3 July, 2002
Subj: India: Hindu Nationalism Returns to Politics
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


The present ruling party in India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has recently made several key political appointments that indicate its intention to return to the distinctive Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) ideology that swept it to power in March 1998.

A politically motivated revival of militant Hindu nationalism (Hindutva) would not bode well for the Christians and other religious minorities of India who, under the BJP, have suffered the worst persecution in all India's years of independence.


During 2001 the BJP was forced to moderate its hard-line Hindutva stance in order to keep its coalition government together. However, in mid February 2002, when twenty percent of India's population went to Legislative Assembly elections in four key states -Punjab, Uttaranchal, Manipur, and the most populous and politically significant 'kingmaker state' of Uttar Pradesh - the BJP lost all four states. Now, with crucial elections coming up in ten states in the next eighteen months and national elections looming in 2004, the BJP desperately wants to regain its lost ground.

On 1 July 2002, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) published an article by Amrit Dhillon, a journalist in New Delhi, entitled "Extremist Agenda Pushed in the Pursuit of Votes." Dhillon states, "The decision to revert to its 'purist' ideological roots is manifest in recent decisions. The BJP has chosen Vinay Katiyar, a vociferous supporter of the demolition of the former Babri Masjid mosque at Ayodhya, built on a holy site also claimed by Hindus, to lead the party in Uttar Pradesh. His appointment is a clear indication that the party intends to use the temple issue in Uttar Pradesh to rally Hindu support."

Related Hindu organisations that come under the same umbrella as the BJP have stepped up their militant language. According to the same SCMP article, Ashok Singhal of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad or World Hindu Council (VHP - a sister organisation to the BJP) is on record as having said that the bloody sectarian riots in Gujarat earlier this year have been "the first positive response of the Hindus to Muslim fundamentalism in 1,000 years".

"Commentator Inder Malhotra described it as 'the politics of hate', adding: 'The BJP's silence on the VHP's ranting is eloquent, showing that it is prepared to claw its way back to power through any means.'"

The promotion of Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani to the position of Deputy Prime Minister (a position that does not even exist in the Constitution) also has great political significance. Advani is a controversial Hindu hardliner.

According to another SCMP article of 1 July, entitled "Three Ministers Quit ahead of Cabinet Reshuffle", Advani "is said to nurse a deep-rooted bias against the country's Muslims and has been formally charged by the Central Bureau of Investigation over his role in the demolition of the Babri Mosque in 1992.

"The choice of Mr. Advani as deputy premier came three months after the country's worst religious bloodshed in a decade, in the western state of Gujarat, where nearly 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed by Hindu mobs."

The following four paragraphs are from a 3 July SCMP article, again by Amrit Dhillon in New Delhi, entitled "Cabinet reshuffle clears way for Hindu revivalism".

"Sections of the BJP and its extremist Hindu affiliates.[had] dared not promote their ideological poster boy, Mr. Advani, for fear of antagonising their secular allies. They feared that Hindu hardliner Mr. Advani was simply too hawkish to be acceptable to the allies as a possible successor to moderate Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

"All that has now changed. Throwing caution to the wind, the party has pushed Mr. Advani to the forefront as the rightful heir to Mr. Vajpayee and, far from revolting, the allies have accepted it without demur. Analysts say Mr. Advani's appointment marks the end of the Vajpayee era and the return of the BJP to its original moorings.

"Despite knowing that the party intends to reassert its original Hindu revivalist agenda - of which Mr. Advani's promotion is just one sign - the allies have given in. 'The reshuffle heralds the domination of the BJP over its allies,' said Congress party spokesman Jaipal Reddy.

"In the cabinet expansion, the BJP has got the lion's share of posts and is in charge of all the key portfolios. It now has 56 ministers in the 77-strong cabinet, hence the Congress party's charge that the coalition government is actually 'a government of the BJP, for the BJP'."

Neelesh Misra, an Associated Press writer, in a 1 July article entitled, "India's P.M. Shakes Up Cabinet", quoted Jaipal Reddy, the spokesman of the main opposition Congress party as saying, "BJP is brazenly getting back to its original agenda of Hindutva." Misra also quoted Communist Party of India leader A.B. Bardhan as saying, "Advani is a symbol of hard-line Hindutva.... His coronation as deputy prime minister is something more than meets the eye."


FOR a detailed examination of the situation for Christians in India under the Hindutva policies of the BJP, see:
INDIA POLITICS BY OTHER MEANS: Attacks Against Christians in India
Human Rights Watch report of October 1999