AUSTRALIAN PRAYER NETWORK NEWSLETTER
- UNITED NATIONS WANTS ERITREA REPORTED FOR CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY
- SOUTHERN BAPTISTS VOTE TO DEFEND MARRIAGE AND AUTHENTIC SEXUALITY
- PAKISTAN MOTHER BURNS HER DAUGHTER TO DEATH OVER MARRIAGE
- JESUS APPEARS TO REFUGEES AND CALMS THE WATERS OF STORMY SEA
- SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN ARRESTS IN UK FOR HATE SPEECH ON SOCIAL MEDIA
- FREE SPEECH UNDER THREAT AS SOCIAL MEDIA GIANTS AGREE TO SUPPRESS HATE SPEECH
UNITED NATIONS WANTS ERITREA REPORTED FOR CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY
A report from the United Nations says “systematic and widespread crimes against humanity”, including abuses of religious freedom, have been committed in Eritrea and should be investigated by the International Criminal Court. Only 4 religious denominations are tolerated in Eritrea: Eritrean Orthodox, Catholicism, the Lutheran church and Sunni Islam. All other denominations are strictly prohibited. On religious discrimination, the report states: “The Government controls freedom of religion tightly. Religious practice by members of non-authorised religious groups is prohibited and subject to repression. Following a 2002 decree requiring registration of all religions seeking authorisation to practice, a number of smaller religious groups attempted to register. To date, they have not received authorisation.”
The report adds that the government also continues to “control” authorised religious groups. It references the recent arrest and detention (in April) of 10 Orthodox priests for protesting against the continued detention of Orthodox Patriarch Abune Antonio, who was arrested more than 10 years ago. The Eritrean government claims religious freedom “is guaranteed by law” in Eritrea, and says Eritrea has “a rich history of religious tolerance, co-existence and harmony in a turbulent region that is often wracked by acute religious polarisation and strife”. It says its 2002 regulations were intended only to “request new faiths to declare their sources of funding. Most of the miniscule new faiths did not want to comply with the regulations because they have external funding”.
The UN says between 300,000 and 400,000 people are “enslaved” in Eritrea, mainly through enforced and indefinite “national service”, including, but not confined to, military conscription. The BBC’s Africa Editor Mary Harper told the World Service in response to this report, “it is possible that certain individuals from Eritrea might end up being indicted by the International Criminal Court”. But the Eritrean government’s Head of Political Affairs, Yemane Gebreab, said the allegations were “laughable”. “There is no basis to the claims. Everyone who knows anything about Eritrea, including European governments, will tell you this is rubbish,” he told reporters. The UN says it “recognises that there is a considerable degree of religious harmony among those religious denominations authorised in Eritrea.
“Many of the acts of discrimination constitute the crime against humanity of persecution,” it adds. In 2015, Eritrea, which has a population of only around 6 million, was the source of 25 per cent of the migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, more than any other nationality. In 2011, 659 Eritreans made the journey; in 2015, the number was 38,791, according to figures from Frontex. The reasons for this are multifarious, but a lack of religious freedom has regularly been cited as one factor. One Eritrean Christian gave the following account: “I left Eritrea on 20 January 2016 because I was not able to practise my religion freely and I was detained many times for being a member of a non-recognised religion.
“I was detained the last time on 9 March 2014. We were 58 people, including women and children, worshipping together when the military police stormed the premises and arrested us all. They took us to the local police prison. “They beat us very badly and many of us sustained injuries. When we arrived at this prison, we met 50 other Protestants from a banned church detained for practising their faith. “On 29 March 2014, 11 of us refused to renounce our faith, so were transferred to an underground prison. “On 27 April 2014, five persons agreed to renounce their faith and were released after signing documents saying that they were now members of the Eritrean Orthodox Church.
“In May 2015, we were transferred to a military prison which contained 108 religious prisoners. I was beaten again because I refused to renounce my religion. “In November 2015 I managed to escape. People are still being arrested for worshipping. I know that many of those arrested have died in prison due to torture and pneumonia, with some having been forbidden proper medical treatment. Protestants detained are only released after promising to worship in the Eritrean Orthodox Church.” Meanwhile, an Eritrean who is alleged to have masterminded the illegal migration of thousands of people across the Mediterranean has been arrested and extradited to Italy. Mered Medhanie, is believed to have arranged the transit of one boat which sank near Italy in 2013, killing at least 359 people.
Father Mussie Zerai, Chairman of the Agency, which works on behalf of these migrants, said at the time that he believed that 90% of those killed were Christians from Eritrea and Ethiopia. In Eritrea there is a dictator and they live without any type of freedom or democracy. Many Christians are persecuted because of their faith. It’s not easy for them to live in Eritrea at this time.” An Italian newspaper reported that Medhanie charged migrants up to €5,000 to travel to northern Europe. Prosecutors have accused him of running the network alongside an Ethiopian accomplice, who is still at large. The BBC says the migration crisis has acted as a “catalyst for closer engagement between Eritrea and Europe. Eritrea does not want to lose its youth, and Europe would prefer them not to come knocking at its doors.” it says.
Source: World Watch Monitor
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SOUTHERN BAPTISTS VOTE TO DEFEND MARRIAGE AND AUTHENTIC SEXUALITY
Southern Baptists voted to officially defend marriage, religious freedom and natural gender at their annual meeting this week, making strong statements against controversial measures over the last year that pose a threat to each. In addition to laying out the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) passed a resolution specifically rejecting last year’s Supreme Court Obergefell decision redefining marriage, along with Barack Obama’s “guidance” requiring public schools to provide transgender bathroom access, handed down last month. “The Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision in 2015 purporting to redefine marriage does violence to the Constitution and is contrary to the Bible and natural order,” the resolution states.
“The Obama Administration’s recent ‘guidance’ requiring transgender access in public school bathrooms and locker rooms based on its unauthorized redefinition of sex in federal law, rejects God’s design of male and female.” The declaration, titled, “Biblical Sexuality and Freedom of Conscience,” was adopted with overwhelming support from the more than 7000 conference participants. “We dissent from the Obergefell opinion that purports to redefine the institution of marriage created by God,” the Baptist resolution states, along with pledging to strengthen Biblical marriage in homes, schools and communities. “We applaud and support the efforts of eleven state attorneys general in their challenge to the Obama Administration’s transgender ‘guidance.’”
The nation’s largest Protestant denomination affirmed the Biblical definition of marriage at its conference last year, just prior to the Obergefell ruing being released in late June. The year prior at the annual meeting the SBC voted to oppose “sex reassignment” surgery, urging transgender people to “trust in Christ and to experience renewal in the Gospel,” and affirming “God’s good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one’s self-perception.” Baptists met for this year’s conference in St. Louis, reaffirming love for individuals identifying as transgender in their convention statement, “seeking their good always,” and offering them welcome in Baptist churches.
“God alone is Lord of the conscience,” Baptists said in their resolution, making several references supporting religious freedom protection and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). “Any law that directly contradicts natural law and biblical truth is an unjust law,” it states. “Our highest respect for the rule of law requires that we not affirm an unjust law that directly contradicts higher law.” They also made mention of recent religious liberty attacks suffered by U.S. citizens targeted for their biblical values, stating, “Business owners and employees of various faiths are increasingly faced with decisions to submit to unjust laws about marriage and sexuality or violate their consciences.”
“Experience and recent history have shown that when government redefines marriage as anything other than between a man and a woman, the police power of the state is brought to bear to enforce that redefinition,” the resolution continued, “resulting in an inevitable collision with religious freedom and conscience rights.” Baptist convention attendees also voted to call on the U.S. Congress along with civic leaders at all levels to pass the First Amendment Defence Act supporting religious freedom, and stated their unity with those persecuted for their religious convictions on marriage. “We commit to pray,” they concluded, “for revival and a return to a recognition of the sanctity of marriage as between one man and one woman, God’s design for gender, freedom of conscience, and unhindered religious freedom.”
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PAKISTAN MOTHER BURNS HER DAUGHTER TO DEATH OVER MARRIAGE
Police in the Pakistani city of Lahore have arrested a woman suspected of murdering her daughter for marrying without getting family consent. According to the BBC, Police say the body of Zeenat Rafiq shows signs of torture. She was doused with fuel and set alight. Her mother Parveen is accused of luring her back from her in-laws. “It is the third such case in a month in Pakistan, where attacks on women who go against conservative Islamic rules on love and marriage are common,” said the BBC story. “Last week a young school teacher, Maria Sadaqat, was set on fire in Murree near Islamabad for refusing a marriage proposal. She died of her injuries.” A month earlier village elders near Abbottabad ordered the murder of a teenage girl who was burnt to death because she helped a friend to elope, police said.
Zeenat Rafiq, who was 18, had been burnt and there were signs of torture and strangulation, police told BBC Urdu. A post mortem examination may establish if she was still alive when she was set on fire. Police Superintendent Ibadat Nisar said officers were looking for her brother who is “on the run”. Her mother was found in the house with the body. “Her mother has confessed to the crime, but we find it hard to believe that a 50-year-old woman committed this act all by herself with no help from the family members,” he said. The BBC said that neighbours contacted authorities after hearing screaming, but Ms. Rafiq was already dead by the time police arrived, BBC reporter Saba Eitizaz says.
Ms. Rafiq and her husband, Hassan Khan, married a week ago through the courts after eloping. They went to live with his family. Her family lured her back, promising reconciliation and a proper wedding. She was afraid. She said ‘they are not going to spare me’. She didn’t want to go but my family convinced her. How were we to know they would kill her like this?” Nearly 1,100 women were killed by relatives in Pakistan last year in so-called honour-killings, the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) says. Many more cases go unreported. Violence against women by those outside the family is also common. Najam U Din, a joint director of the HRCP, said that societal attitudes had not changed in line with greater education and freedom for young women.
He said “So when women become more assertive, more reluctant to be content with submissive survival within the family, then the society does not allow it.” Punjab province, where the two latest attacks happened, passed a law in February criminalizing all forms of violence against women. However, more than 30 religious groups, including all the mainstream Islamic political parties, threatened to launch protests if the law was not repealed. The Council of Islamic Ideology, which advises the government, then proposed making it legal for husbands to “lightly beat” their wives. It was criticized as a result. Religious groups have equated women’s rights campaigns with promotion of obscenity. They say the new Punjab law will increase the divorce rate and destroy the country’s traditional family system.
Source: Assist News Service
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JESUS APPEARS TO REFUGEES AND CALMS THE WATERS OF STORMY SEA
When the wind and the waves threatened to swamp a boat filled with refugees fleeing the Middle East, Jesus made a dramatic appearance to them and calmed the waters, saving their lives. The truly amazing account is from Erick Schenkel, executive director of the Jesus Film Project. “A group of refugees fleeing the fighting in the Middle East were jammed into several pontoon boats. They were trying to make it across the Aegean Sea to Greece,” Schenkel recounts. The seas were extremely rough and dangerous and some of the boats in this small armada capsized. The report is reminiscent of a similar storm on the Sea of Galilee described in the Gospel accounts, when “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.” (Matthew 4:37)
The refugees were afraid, just as Jesus’ fellow travellers were frightened. “But the people in one boat cried out to God. Suddenly, a ‘shining heavenly figure’ appeared in the boat,” Schenkel reports. “The entire boat knew it was Jesus.” Then something miraculous happened. Jesus calmed the storm! “From that point the sea became calm and peaceful, and they finally landed safely on shore.” In the biblical account, Jesus “rebuked the winds and the waves and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him! ’The present-day refugees were so convinced that the heavenly figure was truly God, they all wanted to become followers of Jesus, according to the report.
Weeks later, the refugees were meeting together sharing the remarkable story with their Bible teacher—a former jihadist who is now a Christian. “Thousands of Iraqi and Syrian refugees now spend their nights in abandoned buildings, store fronts, garages, open spaces or tents. In camps without electricity, they often sit in darkness,” Schenkel reports. The Jesus Film Project is currently distributing solar-powered “Light Their World” LED lamps throughout the refugee camps. The lamps include a built-in audio player and speaker with 200 hours of audio memory containing the “JESUS” film. “A worker didn’t have time to explain to a refugee that there was an audio player contained in the lamp. The next day, the refugee told the worker with joy, ‘You didn’t just give me light, you gave me The Light of the World!’
Source: God Reports
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SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN ARRESTS IN UK FOR HATE SPEECH ON SOCIAL MEDIA
The number of people arrested in London for so-called “online crimes of speech”, mainly made on social media, has shot up in the past few years. Six hundred and twenty-five arrests were made for online speech crimes in 2010, rising to 857 in 2015 — a 37 per cent increase in just five years. The shocking data was released in a freedom of information request made to the Metropolitan Police, reported by The Register. Offenders were targeted with Section 127 of the Communications Act of 2003, which covers offensive and threatening messages sent over a “public” electronic communications network – a law which has increasingly been used to arrest and prosecute for tweets and Facebook posts since 2010.
The law criminalises “using [a] public electronic communications network in order to cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety,” and can result in a six-month prison term or fine of up to £5,000. After more than 3,000 section 127 cases were heard in court in 2012, new guidelines were published by the then Director of Public Prosecutions. The Times reported just last year that prosecutions had declined “dramatically” as a result. However, the new data proves this not to be the case: Arrests for section 127 online speech crimes continued to decline gradually until 2013, but shot back up in 2015. A whopping 857 section 127 arrests were made last year – up almost 100 per cent on two years previously.
And the number is likely to keep on rising as this week the EU announced that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft had “committed” to working more closely with them and national governments to help “criminalise” perceived “illegal hate speech” online. Section 127 was the law used to prosecute James McConnell, the Northern Irish Pastor charged with making “grossly offensive” remarks about Islam during a sermon published online in 2014. He was eventually found not guilty at the beginning of this year. In 2011, a Scottish football fan was sentenced to 8 months in prison for insulting Celtic fans, Catholics and the Pope on a Facebook page under section 127. During sentencing, the sheriff told the defendant that “the right-thinking people of Glasgow and Scotland” would not tolerate his views.
Source: Breitbart Daily News
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FREE SPEECH UNDER THREAT AS SOCIAL MEDIA GIANTS AGREE TO SUPPRESS HATE SPEECH
The world’s leading social media companies, Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Microsoft, have agreed to combat “hate speech,” including “homophobia,” on their platforms in an agreement with the European Union. The companies have collectively produced a “code of conduct that includes a series of commitments to combat the spread of illegal hate speech online in Europe.” Social conservatives warn that the pact is not based on law and could be used to suppress politically incorrect views about Muslim immigration, abortion and the homosexual agenda. Virginia Nunziante, president of the Association for the Defence of the Family, told LifeSiteNews, “Most of all perversions and corruptions of customs in Europe come from the EU: This seems to be the very specific aim of this institution.”
Agenda Europe, a Christian news website, commented, “In their world-view, recalling that abortion means to kill a human being, or that marriage is between two persons of different sex, may “insult” some people who must be shielded from such disagreeable truths.” Last month the European Commission announced they were consulting with the social media companies following recent terrorist attacks. Vĕra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality said, “these attacks have reminded us of the urgent need to address illegal online hate speech. Social media is one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalize young people and racists use to spread hatred. It is important to ensure that the internet remains a place of free expression, where European laws are respected.”
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