From Persecution to Desperation – Fact Finding Mission to Thailand and Malaysia

SPECIAL REPORT

Picture of Refugee Child in Thailand

Read the full version of the special report here:
HRC-Report-2019_web-edition

Preface

Ahmed Shaheed, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief

Ahmed Shaheed – UN Special Rapporteur

Some 70.8 million people were displaced worldwide as of 2018. Of these, an estimated 13.6 million people were newly displaced that year due to conflict or persecution on the basis of their ethnicity, their exercise of conscience, or because of their religion or belief.

Today’s news is filled with shocking accounts from various countries about the situation of the Ahmadiyya Muslims, Baha’is, Christians, Hindus and other religious minorities. Many of these individuals face harrowing circumstances in their home countries simply for claiming their religious identity, exercising or manifesting their faith. This includes serious threats to life, liberty and physical integrity, leading them no choice but to flee their homes, towns, or countries, with or without their families, to countries where they think they could seek protection. By the end of 2018, about 25.9 million people were refugees, and another 2.8 million applied for asylum in foreign countries by the end of that year.

These journeys, which all begin with the dreams for a better future, can also be full of danger and fear. Some people risk falling prey to human trafficking and other forms of exploitation. Some are detained by the authorities as soon as they arrive in a new country. Others may face years of frustration and be subject to abject poverty and fear as they await decisions on their fate by authorities that may be suspicious of their claims, lack a substantive understanding of what constitutes the right to freedom of religion or belief, be uninformed about the situation of religious freedom in the country from which they fled, or may hold personal convictions or prejudices of their own. Moreover, once in their new country these victims can also find themselves strangers in anew land troubled by familiar aspects of their persecution, including daily racism, xenophobia and discrimination. Hence, these victims of religious persecution are trapped in a vicious cycle of unfair treatment simply for laying claim to their identities.

I read with much concern, the Report that reflects on the findings emanating from the 13-18 May 2019 fact-finding mission carried out by the International Human Rights Committee (IHRC) working in collaboration with the Centre for Asylum Protection, Forum for Religious Freedom – Europe (FOREF), Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Asian Resource Centre, and CAP Freedom of Conscience.

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The ‘Untouchables’ In Europe – 10 Years After the Murder of Their Saint

RAVIDASS – Once Part of the Sikh Community – Now a New Religion.
Who they are and what they believe.

______________________
Essay in Remembrance of the Saint Ramanand Ji, murdered on 24 May 2009 in the Ravidassia Temple, Vienna by fanatical extremists.

  • The attack continues to strain the relationship between the Sikh community and the members of Ravidassia.
  • Ravidassias fear further attacks.
  • Sikhs also face prejudices.

The Assassination:

Guru Sant Ramanand (right), was assassinated by Sikh extremists. Guru Sant Niranjan Dass (left), sustained severe gunshot wounds.

On 24 May 2009 at about 13.00, the worship service in the fully occupied Ravidassia prayer hall in the Vienna-Fünfhaus was disrupted by a shootout. Six Sikhs in blue-yellow turbans attacked the preacher with a pistol and two knives. Onlookers overcame the attackers, and in the process over a dozen people were injured and one of the preachers,  Saint Ramanand (57), was killed. A second guru, Saint Niranjan Dass (68), sustained severe gunshot injuries but survived the attack.

The six perpetrators were identified as Sikh extremists, thought to have traveled from Spain.

The result of this incident was a far-reaching escalation of the conflict between the two groups as seen in bloody riots and curfews in Punjab, the home of most Sikhs and Ravidassias.

Background of the Conflict:

The background of this incident can be found in the very foundation of both religions. Although a distinct separation was triggered only in 2009 by this incident, there has long been a smoldering conflict between the Sikhs and the Ravidassias.

Sikhism was established in the fifteenth century in India as a reform movement of Hinduism with elements of Islam. The last guru, Gobind (1666- 1708) did not nominate a successor because he saw the danger of a potential split in the community. Rather, he designated the holy book, containing the teachings of the ten founding fathers, as the next guru. Since that time, the honor of central guru has been assigned to the holy book Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Continue reading

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CHINA: Open Letter concerning Asylum Seekers from The Church of Almighty God

CHINA: Asylum Seekers from The Church of Almighty God (CAG)

Open Letter to all members of the EU Parliament and all EU States Ambassadors to the EU by the Freedom of Religion or Belief Roundtable Brussels-EU

Brussels, the 23 July 2019
To all members of the EU Parliament
To all EU States Ambassadors to the EU

Copies to:

Dr. Jan Figel, EU Special Envoy for Freedom of ReligionÂ
Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief

Re: Asylum seekers from The Church of Almighty God (CAG)

Dear Members of the European Parliament,

Dear Ambassadors,

We write as an informal group of organizations and individuals who are scholars, religious and secular leaders, human rights advocates and practitioners.

One of our concerns is the situation of refugees who fled religious persecution. Unfortunately, legitimate concerns about immigration often translate into a general societal hostility to refugees, whose situation is obviously different from the predicament of economic migrants. Religion-based asylum seekers are women and men who would risk their liberty and their life if they would go back to their country of origin.

This letter focuses on a specific case, asylum seekers from China who belong to The Church of Almighty God (CAG), a Christian new religious movement that is severely persecuted there. The U.S. State Department’s Report on International Religious Freedom for the year 2018, published on June 21, 2019, reported claims that in the year 2018 only, Chinese “authorities arrested 11,111 of its members”, and “subjected 525 of its members to ‘torture or forced indoctrination.'” The report also mentioned the cases of three CAG members who were tortured to death while in detention. According to updated CAG statistics, at least 105 members of the Church have been “persecuted to death” to date.

The USCIRF (U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom) similarly noted in its 2019Â Annual Report that “in 2018, the Chinese government harassed and arrested thousands of followers of …[T]he Church of Almighty God. Many of those detained during the year… suffered torture and other abuses, in some cases resulting in deaths or unexplained disappearances while in custody.”

The Office of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, summarizing NGOs claims at the 2019 Universal Periodic Revision of China, mentioned that “during 2014- 2018, the Chinese Communist Party’s monitoring, arrest, and persecution had caused at least 500,000 Church of Almighty God (CAG) Christians to flee their home, and several hundred thousand families had been torn apart.”

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RUSSIA: Another Minority Religion Under Attack

Another Minority Religion Under Threat in Russia: Who Is Afraid of Sri Prakash?

Guru Sri Prakash

The situation of religious minorities in Russia has been a cause of serious concerns for several years. While Russia hosts high-level academic institutes and tolerant intellectuals, it is also home to radicals who believe that the Russian Orthodox tradition should be defended by cracking down on minority religions.

Notorious in this respect has been, again for years, one Alexander Dvorkin, who heads an “anti-cult” center in Moscow and co-operates with international anti-cultists under the aegis of an organization known as FECRIS. Although rarely taken seriously abroad, Mr. Dvorkin has shown that he can be a real danger for religious minorities in Russia, unleashing against them friends in the media and in otherwise respectable institutions.

One of the obsessions of Mr. Dvorkin is Hinduism. He never really recovered from the international ridicule that targeted him in 2012 after he supported a ban against the ISKCON edition of the Bhagavad Gita as an “extremist book.” He believes that, through meditation and ritual, Hindu masters can “hypnotize” or “brainwash” unsuspecting Christian followers and turn them into Hindus overnight. Scholars of religion and Western courts of law have dismissed brainwashing theories as pseudoscience long ago.

Alexandr. Dvorkin, controversial Russian anti-cult activist and vice-president of FECRIS

The main target of Mr. Dvorkin is the Hindu master Sri Prakash Ji, who has been living in Russia since 1990 and has a sizable Russian following, as well as disciples in several other countries. What particularly upsets Mr. Dvorkin is that Sri Prakash dared challenging his anti-cult center in a Russian court, obtaining on December 10, 2018, a declaration that some statements were indeed defamatory. Even more unacceptable in Mr. Dvorkin’s eyes are Sri Prakash’s projects for building a Hindu temple in Moscow.Mr. Dvorkin has now started again a media campaign against Sri Prakash and his alleged “hypnotic” practices, calling from his deportation from Russia, a country where he and his family have been peacefully living for 29 years.

We fully understand that Mr. Dvorkin’s activities do not represent or express the voice of the majority of the Russian people and of the faithful members of the Russian Orthodox Church. They know that their tradition and identity are not well served by bigoted anti-minorities, anti-Hindu and anti-Indian attitudes. It is for this reason that the most respected Russian institutions should urgently clarify that they are not on the same side of Mr. Dvorkin on the Sri Prakash issue.

July 23, 2019

  • Asociación por la Defensa de la Tolerancia y los Derechos Humanos
  • CAP-LC Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience
  • CESNUR – Center for Studies on New Religions
  • EIFRF European Inter-Religious Forum for Religious Freedom
    Fedinsieme
  • FOB – European Federation for Freedom of Belief
  • FOREF – Forum for Religious Freedom Europe
  • HRWF – Human Rights Without Frontiers
  • LIREC – Center for Studies on Freedom of Belief, Religion, and Conscience
  • ORLIR – International Observatory of Religious Liberty of Refugees
  • Osservatorio sul Pluralismo Religioso
  • Soteria International
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TODAY IN SEOUL, KOREA: Press Conference by Chinese Christians Who Fled From Persecution

Press Conference on July 22 of 2019 Given by The Church of Almighty God, a Religious Group Persecuted in China

Persecuted Christians demonstrate near the Blue House in Seoul, Korea

1. Speeches at the press conference
2. Witnesses telling their story as victims: Xiao Rui and Zhao Lin


 Speech on the Press Conference Held by The Church of Almighty God, a Religious Group Persecuted in China

“The Chinese government’s religious persecution is true. We are the witnesses of this fact: we were tortured and detained, and we fled here for freedom. The CCP government should immediately stop the persecution of Christians, and stop its despicable acts of using our family members to incite Korean media to make false propaganda. ”


  1. In recent years, the CCP is persecuting all religious faiths, with its suppression of Christianity including Catholicism reaching a peak. Even the state-approved Three-Self churches are not spared: Church buildings were demolished, a large number of crosses were removed, and countless Christians were dispersed and left without a gathering place—many crying and making prayers on the ruins of their meeting venues. Due to their rapid growth, some house churches were condemned as “xie jiao” and subsequently suppressed and banned. CCP’s propaganda uses rumors and slanders to portray these churches as “anti-social religions.” Under the comprehensive and cruel suppression of the CCP, many Christians were sentenced to prison and some were even beaten to death. In addition, countless Christians were rendered homeless, fleeing here and there. Many foreign missionaries, including those from South Korea, were arrested and deported.
  2. The Church of Almighty God (CAG) has been suffering from the CCP government’s manic suppression and persecution since its foundation 28 years ago. The CCP issued a large number of secret documents and launched many special campaigns against CAG. It has performed more than a million arrests of CAG Christians. Many of the Christians were tortured and subjected to forced indoctrination, with over a hundred death cases. Some 500,000 to 600,000 Christians have to flee from the CCP’s hunting year after year, unable to return home. Believers in God are subjected to criminal punishment for merely engaging in regular religious activities or possessing a religious book. Faced with the cruel persecution from the CCP, some CAG Christians resorted to fleeing abroad.
  3. The Chinese government has been non-stop in its religious persecution, yet it denies such facts and carries out deceptive propaganda overseas. Through various approaches, the CCP obtained the personal information of us Christians fleeing abroad and did its utmost to find our relatives in China, who were subjected to forced indoctrination or threatened with their work, pension, and the education and employment of our children. Through coercion and temptation, our family members came to South Korea multiple times to stage false demonstrations under the banner of “searching for relatives.” They distorted facts and claimed that China had religious freedom, falsely accused us to be “fake refugees,” and tried to force us to return to China. We are standing here today to tell people the truth of our situation as Christians fleeing abroad. Despite the CCP’s attempts to deceive the government, media, and people of South Korea through lies and rumors, we choose to express what is in our hearts in the most peaceful and rational way.
  4. There is absolutely no religious freedom in China. We were deprived of any freedom to worship God. All of us standing here are victims who personally experienced imprisonment, torture and all kinds of mistreatment in China. We are the witnesses of the CCP government’s persecution of religious faiths.
  5. By no means is it true that China is free from religious persecution and that people who came here to escape persecution are “false refugees.” The well-founded facts of CCP’s violation of human rights are supported by the U.S. Department of State Report on International Religious Freedom, reports submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council by international NGOs with consultative status, and the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom hosted by the U.S. Department of State last week.
  6. Having stated above, we would like to make the followings appeals:

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OPEN LETTER: Forced Conversion in South Korea Should Be Put to an End

Forced Conversion in South Korea Should Be Put to an End: An Open Letter to President Moon Jae-in

한국의 강제 개종은 끝나야 한다 : 문재인 대통령에게 보내는 공개 서신

South Korean President Moon Jae-in

Dear President Moon

문재인 대통령님

We represent international NGOs and scholarly organizations specialized in researching religious pluralism and new religious movements throughout the world, and advocating for religious liberty.

우리는 종교 다원주의와 세계의 새로운 종교 운동을 연구하고 종교 자유를 옹호하는 국제 민간단체와 학술 단체를 대표합니다.

South Korea is a democratic country in an area where several totalitarian regimes persecute believers of all religions. We commend your government’s efforts to speak out for human rights and religious liberty in Eastern Asia.

여러 전체주의 정권 하에서 모든 종교인이 박해받는 지역에 위치한 대한민국은 민주주의 국가입니다. 우리는 동아시아의 인권과 종교 자유를 옹호하는 한국 정부의 노력을 높이 평가합니다.

At the same time, religious liberty is a fragile human right. All countries have their own problems, particularly when it comes to small or unpopular minorities. As the United Nations stated in CCPR’s General Comment No. 22to Article 18 (Freedom of Thought, Conscience or Religion) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Article 18 is not limited in its application to traditional religions” and condemns “any tendency to discriminate against any religion or belief for any reason, including the fact that they are newly established, or represent religious minorities that may be the subject of hostility on the part of a predominant religious community.”

동시에 종교의 자유는 취약한 인권입니다. 국가마다 각기 다른 인권 문제가 있으나 특히 영세하거나 잘 알려지지 않은 소수집단에 있어서는 문제가 두드러집니다. 유엔에서 세계인권선언 제18(사상, 양심 및 종교의 자유)에 대한 자유권규약위원회(CCPR)의 일반 논평22호에 언급한 바와 같이, “18조는 그 적용에 있어 대상을 전통 종교에만 국한하지 않으며, 신생종교이거나 영향력이 큰 종교 세력으로부터 적개심의 대상이 되는 소수 종교를 포함하여 이유를 불문하고 모든 종교나 신념에 대한 일체의 차별적 경향을규탄합니다.

South Korea hosts a large number of successful Christian new religions. The fact that they have non-conventional theologies and grow by converting members of traditional Christian churches make them the target of hostility by some mainline denominations. Obviously, theological criticism is itself part of religious liberty. It is an entirely different matter when adult members of new religions are kidnapped, in most cases by their parents, kept in a situation of confinement, and submitted to all sort of pressures by specialized “counselors” or “deprogrammers,” who are often pastors of the mainline churches, to forcibly compel them to abandon their faith and “convert” them back to the religion of their parents.

한국에는 많은 수의 성공적인 기독교 신흥 종교가 있습니다. 그들의 비전통적인 신학과, 전통적인 교회의 교인들의 개종으로 그 교세가 성장한다는 사실 때문에 일부 유력 교단에서는 이들을 적대시합니다. 분명히 신학적 비판 자체는 종교 자유의 일부입니다. 그러나 성인인 신흥 종교 교인의 납치는 전혀 다른 문제입니다. 대부분의 경우 이들은 부모에 의해 납치되어 감금당한 채 주로 주류 교회의 목회자인 이른바 전문상담사또는개종목사에 의해 갖은 압력을 받아 강제로 자신의 신앙을 포기하고 부모의 종교로 다시개종할 것을 강요 받습니다.

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Religion ist (doch) keine Privatsache!

Religion ist (doch) keine Privatsache!

Gebet für Sebastian Kurz in der Wiener Stadthalle bei einer Rally der Freichristen und Evangelikalen (16.Juni 2019)

Der Auftritt des ÖVP-Chefs Sebastian Kurzbeim „Awakening Europe“ Event in der Wiener Stadthalle gab das Signal zum Angriff auf ein Grundrecht: Religion ist zwar eine sehr persönliche Sache, trotzdem keine Privatsache, wie auch im Artikel 18 der Menschenrechtsdeklaration zu lesen steht: „Jeder hat das Recht auf Gedanken-, Gewissens- und Religionsfreiheit; dieses Recht schließt die Freiheit ein, seine Religion oder Überzeugung zu wechseln, sowie die Freiheit, seine Religion oder Weltanschauung allein oder in Gemeinschaft mit anderen, öffentlich oder privat durch Lehre, Ausübung, Gottesdienst und Kulthandlungen zu bekennen.“

Wer ist hier scheinheilig?

Ein Gastkommentar von Josef Gundacker*

Die „Initiative Religion ist Privatsache“ fordert die gesetzliche Aberkennung der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rechtspersönlichkeit der „Freikirchen in Österreich“.  Ihr Sprecher Eytan Reif behauptet: „Aus unerklärlichen Gründen wurden Bestimmungen, die für die gesetzliche Anerkennung von zentraler Bedeutung sind, außer Acht gelassen. Die zwingend notwendige gemeinsame, eindeutige Lehre war beispielsweise vorgeschoben und der frühere Bestand als Bekenntnisgemeinschaft war nicht gegeben“. Welches Recht hat Herr Reif als Atheist darüber zu urteilen, was eine eindeutige religiöse Lehre ist, und was nicht?

Liste JETZT-Abgeordneter Peter Pilz meinte in seinen gewohnt scharfen Worten: “Es ist peinlich, wenn sich ein Altkanzler an fundamentalistische religiöse Sekten anbiedert und für sich beten lässt.“ Es ist allerdings genauso peinlich, wenn Pilz, als bekennender Atheist einem bekennenden christlichen Politiker vorschreiben will, was dieser zu glauben hat und wen er besuchen darf. 

Die Ambivalenz dieser Forderung könnte größer nicht sein!  Viele prominente Politiker nehmen an Massenversammlungen mit eindeutig kultischem Charakter teil, wie z.B. bei der durch Fördergelder und Spenden finanzierten „Gay-Pride“ Parade. Blickt man hinter die Kulissen der Glanz- und Glitzerwelt der „Gay-Pride“, wird es schnell dunkel und grob bedenklich. Begleitet von ohrenbetäubenden Trommeln wird der Götze Sex angebetet und für Toleranz gegenüber sexueller Freizügigkeit geworben.

Der frühere NEOS-Chef Matthias Strolz kritisierte auf Twitter sogar die katholische Kirche. Er wisse noch nicht, wie er es den nehmen solle: „Scheinheiligkeit, Doppelbödigkeit, Naivität oder verunfalltes Popevent“. Dass aber die „Gay Pride“ die Scheinheiligkeit, Doppelbödigkeit und Naivität der kath. Kirche weit in den Schatten stellt, kann er nicht nachvollziehen! Wie sich aus eigener Beobachtung viele Teilnehmer der Gay Pride aufführen ist nicht nur scheinheilig, sondern auch beschämend.

Josef Gundacker ist Präsident des Vereins Familienforum Österreich
Kontakt: info@familienforum.at
Websuite: www.familienforum.at
Tel: 0676-3743899

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