FoRB in Pakistan: Announcement of upcoming UPR Side Event in Geneva

UPR Side Event: The Denial of Religious Freedom in Pakistan

pakistan graveyard

Members of the Ahmadi Muslim community hold the names of victims as they stand over their graves in Chenab Nagar, in Punjab’s Chiniot District, on May 29, 2010. © 2010 Reuters

DATE and TIME: Monday 13 November 2017: 12.30pm-2.00pm

VENUE: Room XXIII, Palais de Nations, United Nations, Geneva

The side event will reflect on the challenges facing religious communnities in Pakistan. The country’s draconian anti-Ahmadi laws and Blasphemy laws have been used by the state to persecute religious communities for more than 40 years. Thousands have been charged under these laws, with many hundreds murdered and many more are languishing in prison. The laws have fed the rise of extremism in Pakistan and also deny Ahmadi Muslims their fundamental democratic right to vote.

The international panel of experts will discuss these issues and highlight what steps can be taken by Pakistan, civil society and international actors to ensure Pakistan effectively implements the UPR recommendations and its wider human rights obligations. We invite you to join this timely discussion and we look forward to your participation. 

Presentations to be followed by Q&A

SPEAKERS INCLUDE:

  • Sir Iftikhar Ayaz, Chairman International Human Rights Committe
  • Dr Aaron Rhodes, President of the Forum for Religious Freedom Europe
  • Mahmood Ahmad, General Secretary Ahmadiyya Muslim Lawyers Association USA
  • Baseer Naveed, Asian Human Rights Commission
  • Dr Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion and Belief (Keynote Message)

Moderator:
Thierry Valle, President CAP Liberté de Conscience.

The event is supported by:

  • The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for International Freedom of Religion or Belief
  •  Christian Solidarity Worldwide
  • The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK
  • Forum for Religious Freedom Europe

Organizers:

  • CAP Liberté de Conscience
  • The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK

For further information contact:
SideEvent@PakistanUPR.com

 

 

Posted in Ahmadiyya, FoRB Violations, pakistan, Persecution of Religious Groups, Religious Discrimination, Religious Freedom, UN, UN Special Rapporteur, United Nations | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Intervention at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting

Russian Federation’s illegal ban on the Jehovah’s Witnesses

Intervention by Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), in cooperation with the Forum for Religious Freedom – Europe (FOREF)

Warsaw, Thursday 14 September 2017

 OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting:
Working Session 6: Freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief

 

Human Rights Without Frontiers, along with the Forum for Religious Freedom – Europe, takes this opportunity to raise once again what is arguably the most flagrant assault on religious freedom to occur in the Euro-Atlantic region since the end of the Soviet Union and its satellite communist regimes in Eastern Europe – namely, the Russian Federation’s illegal ban on the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

As we meet here today, Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are charged with membership in an “extremist” organization, are being prosecuted for no other crime than their religious faith.

The ban was confirmed by the Russian Supreme Court on the 20th of April 2017. The law makes it a crime for about 170,000 Russian citizens to practice their faith. The denomination has faced increasing persecution in Russia for decades.  Indeed, we have warned about the growing persecution of members of this group in Russia for 13 years.

Dennis Christensen, a Danish citizen, was arrested for attending a religious meeting of Jehovah’s Witness and was sentenced to a 2-month pretrial detention that has been extended until 23 November.  Russia is thus incarcerating a prisoner of conscience in this case.

Continue reading

Posted in FoRB Violations, Jehovah's Witnesses, OSCE, Religious Discrimination, Religious Intolerance, Russia | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB) as a universal, fundamental right must not be compromised by the pretext of “spiritual” or “cultural” security

The Need of a Shared Understanding of Freedom in the OSCE Region

Austrian Chairmanship 2017

By HRWF/FOREF Europe

Vienna, 23.06.2017 (HRWF/FOREF) – The Austrian OSCE Chairmanship and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights hosted a Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting (SHDM) on the 22nd and 23rd of June in the spacious halls of the Hofburg, the former imperial palace in the inner city of Vienna. This SHDM’s theme was Freedom of Religion or Belief for All and was aimed at discussing the opportunities and challenges in confronting intolerance and discrimination against Jews, Christians, Muslims and members of other faith communities. As the contributions to the SHDM have shown, notions of what FoRB means and how basic freedoms form a normative basis for government policies are becoming increasingly blurred in the OSCE region. Restrictive government policies tend to prioritize concepts of security over the individual and collective right to religious freedom with impunity. The lack of a shared understanding of freedom in the region makes it even easier for authoritarian governments to compromise on fundamental human rights.

In his introductory remarks to one session of the meeting, Ambassador Jean-Christophe Peaucelle, the Advisor for Religious Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France, stated: “France is not hostile to religion. France is committed to non-segmented freedom of religion and belief, and ensures the protection of universal and indivisible human rights.” He underlined that the French version of secularism does not view religion negatively, but takes a neutral stance on religion. Continue reading

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Condemn Russia’s Jehovah’s Witnesses Ban

Statement for the OSCE – Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting (SHDM) I: Freedom of Religion or Belief
22-23 June 2017, Vienna

Condemn Russia’s Jehovah’s Witnesses Ban
By the Forum for Religious Freedom-Europe
and Human Rights Without Frontiers

Russia’s Supreme Court pronounces a ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses nationwide

Vienna, 23 June 2017 – The Russian Federation’s ban on the Jehovah’s Witnesses is arguably the most flagrant assault on religious freedom to occur in the Euro-Atlantic region since the end of the Soviet Union and its satellite communist regimes in Eastern Europe.

The ban was confirmed by the Russian Supreme Court on the 20th of April. The ban makes it a crime for about 170,000 Russian citizens to practice their faith. The denomination has faced increasing persecution in Russia for decades. Recently, Dennis Christensen, a Danish citizen, has been arrested for attending a religious meeting of Jehovah’s Witness and was sentenced to a 2-month pretrial detention. Russia has thus started to incarcerate prisoners of conscience.
Yet this unprecedented restriction on the fundamental human right to freedom of religion, a right the Russian Federation is legally and politically committed to protect, has been met with only limited and muted criticism, and more often than not, by silence indicating indifference.

DANISH CITIZEN FACES UP TO 10 YEARS IN PRISON AFTER BIBLE READING

International reaction has not been consistent with the gravity of this massive violation of human rights, and compels us to ask, why not?
What would have happened had the Russian Federation banned the Catholic Church, or the practice of Judaism or Islam?

The weak reaction to the ban on the Jehovah’s Witnesses reflects enduring prejudice against minority religions, and what are categorized as “sects.” Indeed, it reflects the same ignorance and condescension that motivated Russian authorities, at the behest of the Russian Orthodox Church, to outlaw the group.

Our organizations applaud numerous activists, experts, international officials, and governments, and the few human rights organizations, which have voiced their objections.
But not enough have done so. The issue has not been afforded the importance it deserves, but has largely remained underreported. We can only conclude that weak international criticism and action to counter this assault on freedom of religion will be taken as a “green light” for further legal discrimination against religious communities not only in Russia, but in other states where authoritarian regimes seek to impose cultural and spiritual harmony upon their citizens.

We are thus calling on the participating States of the OSCE to raise your voices against the ban on the Jehovah’s Witnesses by the Russian Federation. Without exaggeration, the future of religious freedom in the region depends on it.


For more information and/or interviews:
Aaron Rhodes (President, FOREF) 
/ +49-170-323-8314
Peter Zoehrer (Executive Director, FOREF) 
/ +43 664-523-8794
Email: foref.office@gmail.com
Blog: foref-europe.org
Willy Fautré (Executive Director, HRWF)
Phone: +32478202069
Email: international.secretariat.brussels@hrwf.net
Website: http://www.hrwf.eu
Posted in Alexander Dvorkin, Christians, Countries, Court Decisions, EU Special Envoy on FoRB, Europe, FoRB Violations, FOREF Europe, HRWF, Human Rights, Jehovah's Witnesses, Legislation, OSCE, Persecution of Religious Groups, Putin, Religion, Religious Discrimination, Religious Freedom, religious persecution, Russia, Sects | Leave a comment

International Conference “Our Aid to the Persecuted for Religious Belief” 12 June 2017

International Conference “Our Aid to the Persecuted for Religious Belief”
12 June 2017

Left to right:
Mark von Riedermann (director, Church in Need, Germany), Dr. Jan Figel (EU Envoy on FoRB), Pavel Demes (fr. Min. of Foreign Affairs, SLOVAKIA), Andreas Thonhauser (ADF, Alliance Defending Freedom), Dr Martin Dilong (Education & Family Institute)

 

Peter Zoehrer, Director General of FOREF Europe (Forum for Religious Freedom Europe), giving his presentation on Religious Freedom -International Context

 

Presentation (sound track) by Peter Zoehrer
(FOREF Europe)
“Human Rights & the International Context of Religious Freedom”

Presentation (English) starts at 1:38 min

Presentation (PDF- slides) by Peter Zoehrer

“Human Rights & the International Context
of 
Religious Freedom”
FOREF-Bratislava-17-PDF

https://photos.google.com/album/AF1QipM4_T-DbhGx_21oY0jAA5Esq_xdsp6SDnyYqOCX

Posted in Christians, EU Special Envoy on FoRB, European Intergroup on FoRB & RT, FoRB Violations, FOREF Europe, Human Rights, Islam, Religious Discrimination, Religious Freedom, Religious Intolerance, religious persecution, Sects, Slovakia, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Both Ukraine and Russia violate religious freedom

Both Ukraine and Russia violate Religious Freedom

Russian President Vladimir Putin greets Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II

Vienna / Brussels, 19 May 2017 – The Forum for Religious Freedom-Europe (FOREF) and Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), independent and nonpartisan human rights organizations, called on Ukraine and Russia to cease exploiting and repressing religious communities.

In Ukraine, Bills 4511 and 4128 proposed in the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovnaya Rada) place Ukrainian Orthodox churches belonging to the Moscow Patriachate in a special category as religious organizations “whose administrative centers are located in a state recognized …as an aggressor state.”   Bill 4128 is aimed at promoting the transformation of such churches into members of the Kiev Patriarchate.

The legislation has been denounced as discriminatory by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, and also by Ukrainian politicians and civil society groups who understand that it constitutes a serious interference into religious affairs by the state, and violates fundamental human rights, and freedom of religion principles and legal obligations of Ukraine.

In fact, ever since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and military subversion of sections of Eastern Ukraine, Orthodox congregations have been attacked, abused and manipulated by both pro-Russian agitators and Ukrainian groups that oppose them.

“Discriminating against followers of the Moscow Patriarchate is not justified by Russian aggression in Ukraine,” according to Dr. Aaron Rhodes, president of FOREF.  “It violates human rights, and alienates citizens,” he said.

The unfortunate Ukrainian legislation emerged shortly after the Russian Supreme Court issued a ban on the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a decision that, if upheld, will make it a serious crime for 170,000 Russian citizens to practice their faith.

The decision has been praised by leading representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church. According to Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations,   “This is a sect, totalitarian and harmful…Their doctrine contains a lot of false teachings. They do not believe in Jesus Christ as the God and the Savior. They do not recognize the doctrine of the Trinity. Therefore, they cannot be called Christians.”

“One cannot escape the irony of Russian Orthodox Church officials calling on Ukraine to respect freedom of religion while they support the legal destruction of a religious group with which they have doctrinal differences,” said Willy Fautre, Executive Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers.
_____________________________________________________________

For more information and interviews:

Willy Fautré (Executive Director, HRWF)
Email: international.secretariat.brussels@hrwf.net
Website: http://www.hrwf.eu
Aaron Rhodes (President, FOREF) +49-170-323-8314
Email: aaronarhodes@gmail.com
Peter Zoehrer (Executive Director, FOREF) +43 664-523-8794
Email: foref.office@gmail.com
Blog: foref-europe.org

Download Press Release as PDF:
UKRAINE-RUSSIA-HRWF-FOREF

 

Posted in Aaron Rhodes, FoRB Violations, FOREF Europe, HRWF, Human Rights, OSCE, Putin, Religious Discrimination, Religious Freedom, Religious Intolerance, Russia, Russian-Orthodox Church, ukraine | Leave a comment

RUSSIA: Statements on the recent Jehovah’s Witness Ban

On Video: Experts React to Threat of Ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia


On April 5, 2017, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation is expected to rule on whether to liquidate and ban the activity of all legal entities used by Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout Russia. A ruling against the Witnesses would criminalize their worship. Several human rights experts from Russia and abroad comment on the unjust actions of Russian authorities and how a ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses would affect not only the Witnesses but also Russia’s international reputation and religious freedom for its citizens.

Heiner Bielefeldt

“If Jehovah’s Witnesses are extremist, I think we all are.”

Former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief

 

Annika Hvithamar

‘If Jehovah’s Witnesses are extremist, then most versions of Christianity could be accused of the same thing.’

Associate Professor/Head of Studies, Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen

Dr. Massimo Introvigne

Dr. Massimo Introvigne: “The only relationship between Jehovah’s Witnesses and violence is that they have been victims of violence”

Sociologist and Former Representative of the OSCE on Combating Racism, Xenophobia, Discrimination

 

Posted in Commentaries and Interviews, Europe, FoRB Violations, Human Rights, Jehovah's Witnesses, Putin, Religious Discrimination, Religious Freedom, Religious Intolerance, religious persecution, Russia, UN Special Rapporteur, Uncategorized, UNHRC, United Nations | Leave a comment