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liberté religieuse

 

Visit in the United Arab Emirates – “A historic visit” – a first for a pope

04.02.2019 in ACN, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN SPECIAL SERIES, Adaptation Mario Bard, By Oliver Maksan, By Oliver Maksan, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, liberté religieuse, Middle East, Pope Francis, United Arab Emirates

Visit in the United Arab Emirates

“A historic visit”

 

Pope Francis is visiting Abu Dhabi until tomorrow. The country is more tolerant to Christians than other countries in the area. However, full religious freedom does not exist in the United Arab Emirates.

Bishop Hinder: “The decisive thing is that we Christians are credible witnesses of the message of Christ. And that also means accepting with humility that we will never play first fiddle in this society. It is sometimes enough to be able to play a simple recorder with sufficient proficiency to delight others!”

Shortly before the visit of Pope Francis to Abu Dhabi, the local church talked about the support it has received from Muslims. In an interview with ACN International, Bishop Paul Hinder, the Apostolic Vicar of southern Arabia, spoke of a “historic” visit and declared, “It will be the first time that the Eucharist will be celebrated on public property that the government has placed at our disposal for this purpose.”

Bishop Hinder, a Swiss Capuchin monk, is expecting around 130 000 faithful, who will gather together on 5 February to participate in the Holy Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in the capital city of the United Arab Emirates. Francis will be visiting the Islamic country from 3 to 5 February. This will be the first time that a pope has ever visited the Arab Peninsula. “A number of Muslims have contacted me to ask how they can help prepare for the visit. Many have expressed an interest in attending the Mass. The government is also doing everything in its power to ensure that as many of our faithful as possible will be able to see the Pope,” Bishop Hinder continued.

The United Arab Emirates is considered relatively open and tolerant towards non-Muslims. Thus, according to ACN’s Religious Freedom in the World report, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi had the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Mosque renamed Mary, Mother of Jesus Mosque in June 2017. According to the crown prince, this decision was taken to strengthen the human ties between the followers of different religions. “I have been living in Abu Dhabi for the last 15 years and have never experienced any animosity,” explained Bishop Hinder. “Of course we know that in all Islamic countries, non-Muslims – not only Christians – have to comply with the social laws of Islam. On the other hand, I see a deep respect for Christians, also among the local population. This is even more apparent now in the run-up to the papal visit.” According to the bishop, while in Saudi Arabia divine services are only tolerated when held in private in relatively small groups, in the United Arab Emirates there are churches where thousands of worshippers gather regularly to celebrate mass. Almost one million Catholics of different rites live in the United Arab Emirates. Practically all of them are foreign workers who stay in the country for a limited period of time. Many come from India, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. They are taken care of by nine parishes. For this reason, Bishop Hinder is hoping that more churches will be built. “More churches would be desirable, as the number of our parishes is still not commensurate with the number of believers.”

The visit of the pope: to answer The Spirit of the Gospel

Last year ACN’s Religious Freedom in the World report stated that Islam is the state religion of the emirates. Islamic sharia law is one of the primary sources of legislation. The report stated that “while Muslims may proselytize, penalties are in place for non-Muslims proselytizing among Muslims. If caught, non-citizens may have their residency revoked and face deportation.” According to the report, Christian churches may not be adorned with bell towers or have Crosses in them. Muslims do not have the right to convert to Christianity. Bishop Hinder explained, “I am not aware of any Muslim country that allows full religious freedom. Even in those where converting a Muslim to another religion is not punishable by law, at the very least the person’s social circle, in particular his or her family, will react with ostracism or even physical violence. Freedom of religion is greater or less depending upon the country.”

Bishop Hinder mainly hopes that the papal visit will have an effect on the general mood. “I hope that the visit of the pope will be able to change the overall mood for the better. However, it would be a mistake to expect too many miracles from this kind of visit,” the Apostolic Vicar said. “The decisive thing is that we Christians are credible witnesses of the message of Christ. And that also means accepting with humility that we will never play first fiddle in this society. It is sometimes enough to be able to play a simple recorder with sufficient proficiency to delight others!”

Father Andrzej Halemba, who is responsible for this region at ACN, agrees with Bishop Hinder. “The visit of the Holy Father is a great encouragement for the Christians working on the Gulf. They will experience the solidarity of the world Church.” Father Halemba emphasized the great importance of today’s interfaith meeting between the Pope and representatives of Islam. “By reaching out to Muslims, the Pope is fulfilling the mandate of the Gospel. This is a dialogue of God with humanity, which is continued as a dialogue from person to person.”

 


 

Pakistan – Interview – “The blasphemy law destroys lives”

01.02.2019 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN Interview, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Aide à l’Église en détresse., Asia, By Mario Bard, By Tobias Lehner, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, liberté religieuse, Mario Bard, Pakistan, Religious freedom, Voyager avec l’AED

Pakistan

“The blasphemy law destroys lives”

Dominican Father James Channan has been working to establish a dialogue between Christians and Muslims for years – in a country in which acts of violence against the infinitesimally small minority of Christians are a regular occurrence and any perceived criticism of Islam is subject to draconian punishments under the blasphemy law; Asia Bibi was not an isolated case. Father Channan is head of the Peace Center located in the city of Lahore in Pakistan.

During a visit to the headquarters of the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father Channan talked about the impact of the blasphemy laws, propitious developments in the Islamic world, and the future prospects of Asia Bibi in an interview with Tobias Lehner.

***

Tobias Lehner: The fate of Asia Bibi has given the world a face to associate with the perilous situation of many Christians in Pakistan. After years on death row, she was acquitted of blasphemy charges in late October 2018 and released from prison. What can you tell us about the current situation?

Father James Channan: The situation of the Christians in Pakistan is alarming. They live in fear and uncertainty. This situation has not changed since the 1970s, when legislation in Pakistan began to be based on Islamic Sharia law. Radical Muslims are misusing the controversial blasphemy law in particular to settle personal scores. Anytime, Christians are accused of supposed blasphemy, all Christians in the region are indicted with them. This often leads to acts of violence against Christians.

And this is exactly what happened in the case of Asia Bibi. She was on death row for nine years on charges of blasphemy. Even now, after her acquittal, she is anything but safe. Radical Islamists are trying to find her so that they can kill her. That is why she is currently under state protection. We hope that the Supreme Court will soon confirm her acquittal and refuse to grant permission to appeal. Then, hopefully, she will be able to leave the country and live in freedom.

Asia Bibi is not an isolated case. What can you tell us about the fate of Christians who are also facing charges of blasphemy?

According to a report of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, there are 224 other cases of Christians since 1984 facing charges of blasphemy, and currently 25. One of these is the case of the married couple Shafqat Masih and Shagufta Bibi. I visited them on death row. They have been accused of sending blasphemous text messages, which the couple denies. Their prospects are very bleak. Even should they be acquitted, they and their children will no longer be able to live in Pakistan. Fanatic Muslims will try to kill them. The blasphemy law destroys the lives of those who have been accused, even if they avoid being executed.

Following the acquittal of Asia Bibi we saw pictures of an angry mob that continued to call for her execution. In view of this, is there even a chance of religious freedom for Christians living in Pakistan?

It seemed as though at any moment, a group of militant Muslims would bring the entire country to a standstill. However, militant Islam does not hold the majority in Pakistan. The country has a fraction of about 10 to 15 per cent of radical Islamists who are provoking people to violence. The majority of Muslims do not follow these agitators. They are advocates for religious freedom, also for Christians. Both Christians and Muslims were greatly relieved when Pakistani security forces recently arrested more than 1000 Islamists. Cracking down on extremism was the right thing for the government to do. And I hope that this will continue.

Aid to the Church in Need has been working with you for many years. From a European standpoint, there is little one can do to change the situation. Does the aid actually make a difference for the Christians in Pakistan?

The support provided by ACN plays a crucial role in ensuring that the church in Pakistan can continue to proclaim the faith and promote a dialogue. The assistance has allowed us to build many bridges between Christians and Muslims. We want to demonstrate that the different religions have nothing to fear from one another. A large number of Muslim clerics, including the Grand Imam of the second largest mosque in Pakistan, are a fixed part of our programme at the Peace Center in Lahore and close friends. I am convinced that the foundation for a good and peaceful future can only be built by establishing a dialogue between Christians and Muslims.

Amanda Griiffin and Mario Bard from ACN-Canada met Father James Channan last September.


 

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT 2016

15.11.2016 in ACN International, Adaptation Mario Bard, AED Canada, liberté religieuse, MONDE

World

ACN Report on Religious Freedom Rapport 2016 

“Hyper-extremism” : a threat to World Peace

"I cannot go on living here", laments the father of David, one of the boys killed by the Isis bomb in Qaraqosh. "This country is drenched with blood". The mother, a young woman clothed completely in mourning, buries her head in her hands, weeping. (This was the hardest moment in the trip, please pray for her and for the whole family)

Religious Fundamentalism – more lethal than ever seen before – is unleashing death, destruction, displacement and instability at unprecedented levels, according to a report out today.  This is at least what is concluded in the report published today – online in Canada – by the international pontifical charity, Aid to the Church in Need.

“The Religious Freedom in the World 2016 report, produced by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, warns of the global impact of “a new phenomenon of religiously-motivated violence,” which it terms “Islamist hyper-extremism.”

In defining this new ultra-extremism, the report highlights distinguishing features which are described as evidence of the radicals’ threat to world peace, stability and social harmony in the West.

Iraq, December 2014 A woman with a child at the “Werenfried” centre at the129 District of Ankawa. IRAQ / NATIONAL 14/00247, 150 PVC caravans in Ankawa district for use as emergency accommodation for IDPs (Internally Displaced Peoples) forced from their homes by IS

In fact, key characteristics of “Islamist hyper-extremism” include systematic attempts to drive out all dissenting groups – including moderates, unprecedented levels of cruelty, global reach and the effective use of social media, often used to glamorize violence.

Adding its voice to calls for Daesh (ISIS) persecution to be recognized as genocide, the report’s authors warn of a widespread attempt to replace pluralism with a religious mono-culture.

 

 

Extremism threatens diversity

The report, which assesses the situation regarding religious freedom in each of the world’s 196 countries, concludes: “In parts of the Middle East including Iraq and Syria, this hyper-extremism is eliminating all forms of religious diversity and is threatening to do so in parts of African and the Asian Sub-Continent.”

 

(From left to right) Bishop Joseph Arshad, Father Emmanuel Pervez, footballer Salim Bad and Sumundri Football Club Manager Mohammed Shafiq.

Father Mourad during the press conferece in Rome

Father Mourad during the press conferece in Rome

This is echoed in the report’s foreword by Father Jacques Mourad, a Christian monk who was held by Daesh in Syria for five months before escaping in October 2015.

Fr Mourad writes: “Our world teeters on the brink of complete catastrophe as extremism threatens to wipe out all trace of diversity in society.”

This 13th biennial report, which draws on research by journalists, academics and clergy, records that in the two-year period under review from June 2014 to June 2016, attacks linked to “hyper-extremism” had taken place in one out of five countries worldwide (or 20%) – from Australia to Sweden as well as 17 African countries.

Countering the popular view that governments are mostly to blame for persecution, the report puts the blame on non-state militants in 12 of the 23 worst-offending countries. With refugee numbers at a new high of 65.3 million according to the United Nations, the report describes extremist Islamism as a “key driver” in the massive displacement of people fleeing countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria.

http://bit.ly/RFR2016

 

Some slight improvement

Refugee centre for Yazidi families who had to leave their villages in Northern Iraq because of approaching ISIS fighters. Yazidis are located in several centres around Kurdistan, majority of them being in Zakhu and Dohuk regions.The Aid to the Church in Need report goes on to highlight the ‘domino effect’ on countries in the West whose socio-religious fabric is being destabilized by the arrival of unprecedented numbers of refugees.

Such problems are, according to the report, compounded by the West falling victim to a sudden increase in fundamentalist Islamist attacks.

According to the report, however, not all problems regarding religious freedom are to do with militant Islam – with a “renewed crackdown” on religious groups reported in China and Turkmenistan and an ongoing denial of human rights for people of faith in worst-offending North Korea and Eritrea where human-rights are practically non-existent.

 

©Photopin

©Photopin

Nor is the outlook universally bleak – looking at Bhutan, Egypt and Qatar, countries notorious for religious freedom violations, the report found that the situation had improved for faith minorities during the period under review.

This is the 13th edition of this report produced by Aid to the Church in Need. The charity provides emergency aid and help for persecuted and other suffering Christians in 140 countries around the world.

The ‘Religious Freedom in the World’ 2016 report’

is available at  www.acn-aed-ca.org/religious-freedom-report