UNITED NATIONS FAILING RELIGIOUS MINORITIES AND CHRISTIAN CONVERTS
The suffering of persecuted Christians around the world is exacerbated by the failure of UN bodies to fulfil their obligations to uphold religious freedom, a damning report has claimed. The report entitled The UN’s Failure to Promote and Protect Religious Freedom, argues that concerns about the protection of vulnerable religious minorities are lost amid tugs of war with Muslim-majority countries and pro-gay, pro-choice and pro-euthanasia groups. It argues that converts to Christianity are put at risk by the UN’s “straying” from its original mission to uphold human rights. The report, was published by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International, which “builds alliances and engages in legal advocacy to protect and promote religious freedom throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas”.
It criticises the UN for failing to label the crimes committed against religious minorities by Islamic State as “genocide”, a move that would facilitate the prosecution of perpetrators. However it notes the cost of setting up an international criminal tribunal, adding that the budget for the body investigating atrocities in the former Yugoslavia has increased 500-fold since 1993. It notes that the UN Security Council held a special meeting in 2015 on ISIS’ crimes against approximately 30 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. The lack of a special meeting on ISIS’ violence against religious minorities, which it says includes more than 10,000 deaths, “is especially glaring”, it says.
The membership of the UN’s Human Rights Council, among them Saudi Arabia and China, includes “states that perpetuate human rights abuses, including abuses of the right to freedom of religion,” it says. Of the current 47 members, 13 appear on this year’s World Watch List of the nations where Christians face severest persecution, compiled by the charity Open Doors. In addition, five members are classified “Tier 1 Countries of Particular Concern” by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The report quotes USCIRF commissioners Katrina Lantos Swett and Mary Ann Glendon as saying: “Their presence on the Security Council makes a mockery of its mission.”
Concern is also voiced about 2011’s Resolution 16/18 on defamation of religion, which had been championed by a number of Muslim-majority countries, and which the report says was too ambiguous and threatened “the related freedoms of expression and religion”. It also cites an instance in 2015 when wording that would have strengthened protections for at-risk minorities was blocked by various Muslim-majority countries, despite efforts by Britain. The council was guilty of “partisan posturing”, it says, which is evident in the body’s disproportionate focus on criticising Israel. The report also takes issue with the human rights reports given by member states to other member states known as the Universal Periodic Review.
The review process fails to prevent states from paying lip-service to good practice “while continuing their abuse of human rights, including religious freedom”, it says, citing Myanmar’s defence of its laws discriminating against non-Buddhists, Chinas continued prosecution of Christians, and Indonesia and Pakistan rejecting recommendations to repeal harsh blasphemy laws. The Organisation of Islamic Countries complained that a proposed annual report on religious freedom would not be culturally sensitive.
VIRGINIA PASSES BILL TO PROTECT INSTITUTIONS OPPOSED TO SAME SEX MARRIAGE
The Virginia Senate has passed a bill that would protect the rights of religious institutions to operate in accordance with their religious beliefs on marriage without fear of government backlash. The legislation, SB 1324, passed with a narrow 21-19 vote along party lines. The bill, introduced by Republican Sen. Charles Carrico, “provides that no person shall be required to participate in the solemnization of any marriage or subject to any penalty by the Commonwealth, or its political subdivisions or representatives or agents, solely on account of such person’s belief, speech, or action in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.”
The measure defines the term “person” to include any religious organization, or organizations connected with them, employees of such organizations who are acting as volunteers or paid staff, or any representative or agent of a religious organization and the clergy. The measures come after Democrat Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an order in January that bans LGBT discrimination from state contractors and state employees. McAuliffe vowed in issuing his executive order that “the commonwealth of Virginia will not do business with entities that discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.” The order received criticism from a number of conservative lawmakers and groups like the Family Foundation of Virginia, which say the executive order is nothing more than an “act of blatant religious bigotry.”
Despite both houses passing bills, McAuliffe has vowed to veto them. He even assured a crowd in Richmond for a reception hosted by the pro-LGBT group Equality Virginia. “It’s not about doing the most vetoes of any governor in Virginia history,” The Virginia Gazette quoted McAuliffe as saying. “We’re stopping people from doing things that discriminate against people’s basic rights. They’ve slipped a few bills through, but they’re not going to slip through the governor’s office. I’m going to veto them,” McAuliffe added. McAuliffe also vetoed a similar religious freedom bill introduced by Carrico last March. An LGBT order similar to the one that McAuliffe put in place was enacted at the federal level by President Barack Obama in 2014.
The order prevents all federal contractors, including religious-based humanitarian groups, from discriminating against LGBT people in their employment policies. Opponents of the order say that the bill does not let the faith-based contractors operate their organizations in accordance with their biblical beliefs. There was hope that new President Donald Trump would rescind the Obama order. However, reports have indicated that Trump will keep the Obama order. However there is a draft “religious freedom” order circulating through the Trump administration that would protect the rights of religious institutions and faith-based contractors. However, that order is just one of several draft orders circulating through the administration that may or may not be enacted.
FEMINISTS JOIN CHRISTIANS TO STOP TRANSGENDER BATHROOM BILL IN AMERICA
Two unlikely groups are joining forces to challenge former President Barack Obama’s transgender bathroom mandate. Last year, Obama told public school administrations that they must allow anyone who identifies as transgender to use the bathroom of their choice. If they refused, schools could lose federal funding. The Family Policy Alliance, a public policy partner with Focus on the Family, has teamed up with radical feminist group, the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) to protect women and girls from sexual predators. Kara Dansky, the chair of WoLF’s Board of Directors, told Fox News host Tucker Carlson of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that although the organizations differ, there is common ground when it comes to privacy and safety for women.
“On certain issues, such as gender identity, pornography and prostitution, we’ll find that the Left has pretty much sold out women on these issues,” Dansky said. “We stand up for women and girls.” Dansky also said it’s unfair that men who identify as women get the same benefits as women under Title IX. “We think that ‘women and girls’ are a meaningful category worthy of civil rights protection,” she said. “If we define sex, under Title IX, to mean gender identity, what we’re essentially saying is that ‘woman and girl’ can mean anyone who self-identifies as ‘woman and girl,’ which makes the category ‘women and girls’ meaningless as a category.” Autumn Leva, Director of Policy for Family Policy Alliance, said the two groups’ unity is a telling sign of how wrong the transgender mandate is.
“How wrong does something need to be for a Christian family group and a radical feminist group to take their argument together to the Supreme Court?” she asked. “This is a privacy and safety matter and we’re asking the High Court to acknowledge that.” Dansky has said the group has received backlash for speaking out on the issue. “We’re called transphobic bigots because we ask questions about gender identity,” Dansky said. “We’re asking questions and we’re standing up for women and girls. And that seems to be not permitted.” The groups have submitted an amicus brief to challenge the mandate.
Bartu has paid the ultimate price for refusing to deny Jesus. He and his wife were forced to stand overnight in a pond up to their necks in cold water with their hands tied for seven hours. In India, where they live, temperatures can drop below freezing in winter. When villagers pulled them out of the pond the next morning, they beat them repeatedly, to force them to return to their traditional religious beliefs. The couple refused. Bartu’s wife survived: he died some time later. Please pray for Bartu’s family, who have stayed in the village, despite death threats. Bartu, 50, became a Christian ten years ago, and suffered intense persecution for the past three years. Villagers forced him to attend and participate in indigenous worship ceremonies, threatened him and even allegedly polluted the family’s drinking water.
Initially Bartu’s wife, two sons and daughter-in-law fled the village, but have since returned home. Police have failed to take firm action, describing Bartu’s death as being from ‘natural causes’ and suggesting villagers start ‘peace talks’. Powerless to intervene, Beneswar kept vigil over his father, Bartu, while he was in the water. ‘The villagers kept asking my father if he is ready to forsake Christ. He reiterated every time, “I will not deny Christ. I will continue to believe till my last breath.”
* for the steadfast faith of Bartu and his family. Nine other families who became Christians at the same time have since renounced their faith due to persecution. Pray that Bartu’s willingness to die for his faith will inspire them to return to Christ.
* that the rest of the village will also be struck by Bartu’s witness and receive God’s love and grace in Jesus.
* for God’s people throughout India, where intolerance appears to be growing. Pray that He will overwhelm them with His love and peace and give them the courage to stand firm.
SEVEN OUT OF TEN AMERICANS SUPPORT THE HEARTBEAT ABORTION BILL
A new poll conducted by the Barna Group reveals that an overwhelming majority of Americans agree with the premise of the Heartbeat Protection Act of 2017. Otherwise known as the “Federal Heartbeat Bill,” HR 490 was offered by pro-life U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who has vowed to introduce the bill into every Congress until it is adopted. The bill would prohibit abortions everywhere in America whenever a foetal heartbeat is detected. According to the Barna findings, 69% of Americans agree with the statement “If a doctor is able to detect the heartbeat of an unborn baby, that unborn baby should be legally protected.” While the measure has much greater support among Republicans (86%) and Independents (61%), even a majority of Democrats (55%) polled said they supported the statement.
The Bill and the Barna results will soon be discussed on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Janet Porter, president of Faith2Action was the author of the original “Heartbeat Bill” introduced in Ohio in 2011. That bill was finally adopted by the state legislature last year, but vetoed by Gov. John Kasich over threats of legal action. “The heartbeat is the medical measurement of life,” Porter said. “It’s the reason you’ve never been to the funeral of someone with a heartbeat. Faith2Action legislative director Rachelle Heidlebaugh said HR 490 provides a voice from the womb to mothers who were never told about their babies’ beating hearts before taking their life. “I urge Congress to pass the Heartbeat Bill, the first step to make America safe again,” Porter added.
In 2010 the gates of GKI Yasmin church in Bogor were padlocked by the city governor. Since then the church has had several courts rule in their favour to reopen. But because of local pressure, they haven’t been able to. In the most recent development, the church was told it could reopen if a mosque is built in the same compound. Despite opposition, the church and its pastor have hope. The church has continued meeting outside the building ever since it was closed. They have also held monthly services outside the presidential palace. While the local government has opposed the church, the congregation has continued to meet together and worship God.
* praising God that the members of the church have remained faithful and continued to meet together.
* for God to provide wisdom to the leadership in resolving the impasse.
* that all involved would remain a positive witness of Jesus’ love to those who oppose them.