The link below is to an article reporting on persecution in India, where a Pentecostal pastor has been jailed for baptising a woman with her consent.
Country’s religious regulatory authority expected to consider recognition before year’s end.
NEW DELHI, November 4 (CDN) — For the first time in Bhutan’s history, the Buddhist nation’s government seems ready to grant much-awaited official recognition and accompanying rights to a miniscule Christian population that has remained largely underground.
The authority that regulates religious organizations will discuss in its next meeting – to be held by the end of December – how a Christian organization can be registered to represent its community, agency secretary Dorji Tshering told Compass by phone.
Thus far only Buddhist and Hindu organizations have been registered by the authority, locally known as Chhoedey Lhentshog. As a result, only these two communities have the right to openly practice their religion and build places of worship.
Asked if Christians were likely to get the same rights soon, Tshering replied, “Absolutely” – an apparent paradigm shift in policy given that Bhutan’s National Assembly had banned open practice of non-Buddhist and non-Hindu religions by passing resolutions in 1969 and in 1979.
“The constitution of Bhutan says that Buddhism is the country’s spiritual heritage, but it also says that his majesty [the king] is the protector of all religions,” he added, explaining the basis on which the nascent democracy is willing to accept Christianity as one of the faiths of its citizens.
The former king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, envisioned democracy in the country in 2006 – after the rule of an absolute monarchy for over a century. The first elections were held in 2008, and since then the government has gradually given rights that accompany democracy to its people.
The government’s move to legalize Christianity seems to have the consent of the present king, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, who is respected by almost all people and communities in the country. In his early thirties, the king studied in universities in the United States and the United Kingdom. Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigmey Thinley is also believed to have agreed in principle to recognition of other faiths.
According to source who requested anonymity, the government is likely to register only one Christian organization and would expect it to represent all Christians in Bhutan – which would call for Christian unity in the country.
All Hindus, who constitute around 22 percent of Bhutan’s less than 700,000 people, are also represented by one legal entity, the Hindu Dharma Samudaya (Hindu Religion Community) of Bhutan, which was registered with the Chhoedey Lhentshog authority along with Buddhist organizations a year ago.
Tshering said the planned discussion at the December meeting is meant to look at technicalities in the Religious Organizations Act of 2007, which provides for registration and regulation of religious groups with intent to protect and promote the country’s spiritual heritage. The government began to enforce the Act only in November 2009, a year after the advent of democracy.
Asked what some of the government’s concerns are over allowing Christianity in the country, Tshering said “conversion must not be forced, because it causes social tensions which Bhutan cannot afford to have. However, the constitution says that no one should be forced to believe in a religion, and that aspect will be taken care of. We will ensure that no one is forced to convert.”
The government’s willingness to recognize Christians is partly aimed at bringing the community under religious regulation, said the anonymous source. This is why it is evoking mixed response among the country’s Christians, who number around 6,000 according to rough estimates.
Last month, a court in south Bhutan sentenced a Christian man to three years of prison for screening films on Christianity – which was criticized by Christian organizations around the world. (See http://www.compassdirect.org, “Christian in Bhutan Imprisoned for Showing Film on Christ,” Oct. 18.)
The government is in the process of introducing a clause banning conversions by force or allurement in the country’s penal code.
Though never colonized, landlocked Bhutan has historically seen its sovereignty as fragile due to its small size and location between two Asian giants, India and China. It has sought to protect its sovereignty by preserving its distinct cultural identity based on Buddhism and by not allowing social tensions or unrest.
In the 1980s, when the king sought to strengthen the nation’s cultural unity, ethnic Nepalese citizens, who are mainly Hindu and from south Bhutan, rebelled against it. But a military crackdown forced over 100,000 of them – some of them secret Christians – to either flee to or voluntarily leave the country for neighboring Nepal.
Tshering said that while some individual Christians had approached the authority with queries, no organization had formally filed papers for registration.
After the December meeting, if members of the regulatory authority feel that Chhoedey Lhentshog’s mandate does not include registering a Christian organization, Christians will then be registered by another authority, the source said.
After official recognition, Christians would require permission from local authorities to hold public meetings. Receiving foreign aid or inviting foreign speakers would be subject to special permission from the home ministry, added the source.
Bhutan’s first contact with Christians came in the 17th century when Guru Rimpoche, a Buddhist leader and the unifier of Bhutan as a nation state, hosted the first two foreigners, who were Jesuits. Much later, Catholics were invited to provide education in Bhutan; the Jesuits came to Bhutan in 1963 and the Salesians in 1982 to run schools. The Salesians, however, were expelled in 1982 on accusations of proselytizing, and the Jesuits left the country in 1988.
“As Bhutanese capacities (scholarly, administrative and otherwise) increased, the need for active Jesuit involvement in the educational system declined, ending in 1988, when the umbrella agreement between the Jesuit order and the kingdom expired and the administration of all remaining Jesuit institutions was turned over to the government,” writes David M. Malone, Canada’s high commissioner to India and ambassador to Bhutan, in the March 2008 edition of Literary Review of Canada.
After a Christian organization is registered, Christian institutions may also be allowed once again in the country, given the government’s stress on educating young Bhutanese.
A local Christian requesting anonymity said the community respects Bhutan’s political and religious leaders, especially the king and the prime minister, will help preserve the country’s unique culture and seeks to contribute to the building of the nation.
Report from Compass Direct News
Hundreds of demonstrators from outside area try to create image of local opposition.
JAKARTA, Indonesia, February 25 (CDN) — Hundreds of Muslims from outside the area where a 600-member church meets in West Java staged a protest there to call for its closure this month in an attempt to portray local opposition.
Demonstrators from 16 Islamic organizations, including the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), gathered on Feb. 15 to demand a stop to all activities by the Galilea Protestant Church (GPIB) in the Galaxy area of Bekasi City.
The Rev. M. Tetelepta, pastor of the church, told Compass that the church has had the required consent of local residents and official permission to worship since its inception in 1992.
“From the beginning we had permission to worship from both the government and the nearby residents,” Tetelepta said. “We worked on the building permit and had received principle clearance from the mayor of Bekasi. We had also received permission from the Bekasi Interfaith Harmony Forum.”
At the Galaxy area demonstration, FPI Bekasi branch head Murhali Baeda tried to impugn the legal status of the Galilea church by telling ANTARA, the official news agency of the Indonesian government, that he was “certain” that “a number of the church buildings” in the area “do not have complete permission.”
“This is proved by the large number of posters and banners that are displayed in the alleys and public gathering places rejecting the presence of these [church] buildings,” Murhali told ANTARA.
A Joint Ministerial Decree promulgated in 1969 and revised in 2006 requires the permission of more than 60 neighbors and a permit from local authorities to establish a place of worship in Indonesia.
Representatives of Islamic organizations at the demonstration shouted, “Churches are not allowed in Galaxy” and carried posters and banners declaring, “We Faithful Muslims Reject the Presence of Churches,” as well as “Beware of Christianization of Galaxy.”
Local organizations represented at the demonstration included the Bekasi Dakwah Council, the Bina An Nisa Dakwah Council of Bekasi and the Galaxy Mosque and Mushola Forum, but Tetelepta said he was sure that 95 percent of the protestors were not local people.
Also present at the demonstration were representatives of the Islamic Youth and Student Forum, Islamic Unity, the Committee to Enact Syariah (Law), Muhammadiyah, the Islamic Youth Movement, the Syariah Concern Society, the Islamic Youth Federation, the Bungin Dakwah Council, the Gembong River Society, Irene Centre and the Indonesian Mujahadin Council.
Baeda of the FPI accused the church of “Christianizing” local residents by distributing food “and the nine essentials at a reduced price.”
“The church is distributing these things as incentive to confess Jesus as their Lord,” Baeda told Compass. “We have received several reports of this from people who have accepted these distributions.”
This type of activity disturbs society, he added. “I consider this wrong-doing.”
The local FPI leader told ANTARA that there are at least six churches and a number of homes that function as churches.
“At night praises to their God in the form of songs disturbs the people’s sleep,” he reportedly said.
Tetelepta denied that the church had tried to “Christianize” people.
“We have never distributed food or the nine essentials,” he said. “The only thing we have done is to spray for mosquitoes near the church.”
Before coming to Galaxy the congregation had worshipped in various places in Bekasi. At the suggestion of the government, Tetelepta said, the church purchased the property in Galaxy in 2006 in order to construct a worship place.
He added that there has been an effort to discredit the church in the Bekasi area.
“Our worship services will continue as usual in spite of the demonstrations,” he said. “We are coordinating things with the police.”
Report from Compass Direct News
Baptists in Uzbekistan have told Forum 18 News Service that they fear the head of the Baptist Union, Pavel Peichev, and the Union’s accountant Yelena Kurbatova will now be removed from their roles leading the registered Baptist Union.
This follows a Criminal Court in the capital Tashkent upholding the criminal conviction of the two, as well as of a Baptist layman Dmitri Pitirimov. The Court also upheld a three-year ban on each holding responsible positions. However, the court overturned massive fines on each.
The three continue to insist that the charges against them of evading taxes and involving children in religious activity without their or their parents’ consent were fabricated. Peichev stated that an appeal to the Supreme Court will probably be made.
"The conviction was unjust and we want it overturned," he told Forum 18. Baptists in Uzbekistan have repeatedly insisted to Forum 18 that the authorities’ main aim was to remove the leadership of the Baptist Union, continuing a pattern of state interference in the leadership of religious communities such as the Muslim and Jewish communities. Also, the Justice Ministry has forced a church website to close.
Report from the Christian Telegraph
By Piero A. Tozzi
WASHINGTON, D.C., November 12, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Activist organization Amnesty International is putting its weight behind an Australian bill seeking to legalize "same-sex marriage" in that country, claiming that "internationally recognized" non-discrimination norms dictate such a result.
In a submission to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee of Australia’s Senate, Amnesty’s Australian affiliate contends that laws limiting the right to marry to opposite-sex couples amounts to "arbitrary discrimination" in contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
The group further interprets a provision of the ICCPR guaranteeing adults the right to enter into "consensual marriage" as applying to same-sex couplings. Critics contend this distorts the meaning of the word "marriage" without regard to context and the apparent intent of the drafters. The ICCPR provision cited, Article 23, states that "The right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family shall be recognized," and that "No marriage shall be entered into without the free and full consent of the intending spouses."
Underscoring what critics say is the problem of United Nations (UN) treaty monitoring bodies exceeding their mandates and seeking to reinterpret treaties to include novel concepts not agreed upon by those who negotiated or ratified the treaties, Amnesty asserts that "For more than a decade, non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation has been an internationally recognized principle which has been endorsed by UN treaty bodies and numerous inter-governmental human rights bodies." Specifically, Amnesty cites interpretations of the ICCPR and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by their respective treaty monitoring bodies as forming a soft-law jurisprudence in favor of a new non-discrimination category.
The creation of such a non-discrimination category is hotly-contested among UN member states, however. To date, efforts to enshrine "sexual-orientation and gender identity" as a category on par with ones such as race and religion in a legally binding document have been repeatedly rejected.
Amnesty points to a French-initiated statement signed by roughly 65 member states, including Australia, last December asserting the existence of a non-discrimination category based on sexual orientation and gender identity in support of Amnesty’s call to allow same-sex couples to enter into "a legally binding union of couples, otherwise known as marriage." The Amnesty submission contends that preventing "same-sex couples from entering into a legally binding union on the basis of sexual orientation" contravenes "the statement Australia supported in the UN General Assembly last year."
A contemporaneous counterstatement, however, signed by nearly 60 nations, principally from the Islamic world, Africa and Oceania, along with independent statements made by Russia, Belarus and the Holy See, pointed out that no non-discrimination category based on sexual orientation and gender identity exists in international law. Amnesty’s submission makes no reference to the counterstatement.
Critics of the French-led statement pointed out at the time that, though non-binding and supported by only a minority of member states, advocates would hail it as a soft-law norm signaling of a movement by states toward a rights-based acceptance of homosexual conduct – in this particular case, using it to place same-sex unions on par with marriage.
This Report from LifeSiteNews.com
With extortion and violence, authorities pressure father to return daughter to Muslim husband.
ISTANBUL, October 9 (CDN) — State Security Investigations (SSI) forces in Egypt arrested, abused and then extorted money from a Coptic Christian for rescuing his daughter from her Muslim husband, who was holding her against her will in Alexandria, according to sources in Egypt.
Security forces also arrested 10 people in Alexandria and tortured them in an attempt to find those involved in the rescue. Authorities are preparing to make a new wave of arrests, the sources said.
On Sept. 30, they said, the only daughter of Gamal Labib Hanna called home and asked her family to save her from her Muslim husband. How Hanna’s daughter, Myrna Gamal Hanna, came to marry Mohamad Osama Hefnawy is disputed, but sources said the now-20-year-old woman was 19 and under the age of marital consent when she and Hefnawy were wed 10 months ago.
According to Egyptian civil law, a woman under the age of 21 has to have approval of her father or another male member of her family if the father is deceased. In Myrna Gamal Hanna’s case, no such approval was given.
Moreover, sources said, the woman’s future father-in-law was inexplicably allowed to stand in place of her father in approving the marriage, in violation of Egyptian law.
Later, sources said, Hefnawy and his father converted the young woman to Islam.
The sources said that the elder Hanna went to Hefnawy’s apartment on Oct. 1 to get his daughter. En route he passed a café where he enlisted the help of Rafaat Girges Habib and at least four other men.
At the apartment, Hefnawy attacked the Copts with a metal pole but Hanna was able to retrieve his daughter, who was six months pregnant. He and his wife hid her at an undisclosed location.
After the rescue, Hefnawy and his neighbors filed a report with local police and the SSI, a powerful Interior Ministry agency accused of various human rights violations. Soon after, Hanna’s brothers, one brother-in-law and his mother-in-law were rounded up, charged with abduction and detained.
According to sources in Egypt, at least one of the family members was tortured until Hanna turned himself in. Authorities also ransacked his apartment.
The sources said security forces pressured Hanna until he agreed not only to hand his daughter back to Hefnawy but also to give him several thousand dollars.
“Cases like this are very common, they happen every day,” said Rasha Noor, an Egyptian human rights activist and journalist living outside of Egypt. “That’s usually what happens when families try to rescue daughters from their kidnappers in most of these kinds of cases.”
As part of terms forced upon Hanna, he is not allowed to see his daughter unless he meets her in a police station and is accompanied by SSI officer Essam Shawky. Additionally, phone calls to his daughter will be monitored.
“Once [a woman] becomes a Muslim, you can’t get her back,” Noor said.
Hanna and the members of his family were released on Oct. 2, but soon after authorities began seeking Habib. Police broke into Habib’s plumbing shop and demolished it.
On Saturday (Oct. 3) they rounded up at least 10 people, most members of Habib’s immediate family. Security forces tortured the men, but sources said Habib’s brother, Romany, bore the brunt of the brutality. When he was released the next day, they said, his clothes and those of the others were smeared with blood.
Habib and at least four other people remain in hiding in Egypt. Sources said authorities will make a third round of arrests in an attempt to flush him out.
Report from Compass Direct News
The U.S.-based National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) has just released its long-awaited comprehensive review of over 125 years of scientific research on homosexuality, reports Family Watch International.
This groundbreaking report, “What Research Shows,” dispels the myths that are commonly used to promote the legalization of same-sex marriage and the mainstreaming of homosexuality throughout society and in the public schools by force of law.
NARTH is a professional association of scientists and mental health professionals whose stated mission is to conduct and disseminate scientific research on homosexuality, promote effective treatment, and to protect the right of individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction to receive effective care.
While one might think that such a mission would be viewed as both commendable and relatively non-controversial, the reality is just the opposite. Homosexual activists try to suppress research on same-sex attraction because one of the pillars of homosexual advocacy is the falsehood that homosexuals are “born that way” and cannot change their orientation. Since the NARTH report proves that homosexuality can be changed through therapy in the same way conditions like alcoholism and other addictions can be changed, the whole case for mainstreaming homosexuality into society crumbles. Another myth the NARTH report disproves is that therapy to help people with unwanted same-sex attraction is ineffective and even harmful.
The extensive research and clinical experience reviewed by NARTH makes it clear even to a layman that these claims are false. Homosexual activists spread these misconceptions about homosexuality and even persecute their own who seek treatment because they know that public opinion polls show that people who believe homosexuals are born that way are more likely to support the homosexual agenda. NARTH is one of the very few credible, professional organizations anywhere in the world that is successfully challenging this propaganda.
Specifically, the NARTH report substantiates the following conclusions:
1. There is substantial evidence that sexual orientation may be changed through reorientation therapy.
“Treatment success for clients seeking to change unwanted homosexuality and develop their heterosexual potential has been documented in the professional and research literature since the late 19th century. …125 years of clinical and scientific reports which document those professionally-assisted and other attempts at volitional change from homosexuality toward heterosexuality has been successful for many and that such change continues to be possible for those who are motivated to try.”
2. Efforts to change sexual orientation have not been shown to be consistently harmful or to regularly lead to greater self-hatred, depression, and other self-destructive behaviors.
“We acknowledge that change in sexual orientation may be difficult to attain. As with other difficult challenges and behavioral patterns—such as low-self-esteem, abuse of alcohol, social phobias, eating disorders, or borderline personality disorder, as well as sexual compulsions and addictions—change through therapy does not come easily.”
“We conclude that the documented benefits of reorientation therapy—and the lack of its documented general harmfulness—support its continued availability to clients who exercise their right of therapeutic autonomy and self-determination through ethically informed consent.”
The NARTH report warns that “The limited body of clinical reports that claim that harm is possible—if not probable— if a person simply attempts to change typically were written by gay activist professionals.”
3. There is significantly greater medical, psychological, and relational pathology in the homosexual population than the general population.
“Researchers have shown that medical, psychological and relationship pathology within the homosexual community is more prevalent than within the general population. …In some cases, homosexual men are at greater risk than homosexual women and heterosexual men, while in other cases homosexual women are more at risk than homosexual men and heterosexual women. …Overall, many of these problematic behaviors and psychological dysfunctions are experienced among homosexuals at about three times the prevalence found in the general population—and sometimes much more. …We believe that no other group of comparable size in society experiences such intense and widespread pathology.”
You can read NARTH’s executive summary of the report on our Web site here.
Report from the Christian Telegraph
Christian lobbyists in the UK are calling a pending EU directive that would introduce a policy similar to Britain’s Sexual Orientation Regulations to all member states, a “threat to religious freedom.” Pro-family activists fear that the inclusion of sexual orientation as a protected grounds for discrimination may leave European Christians and others vulnerable to legal actions, reports Hilary White, LifeSiteNews.com.
The proposed directive aims to outlaw discrimination in the provision of goods and services and may also outlaw ‘harassment.’
Critics have also said that the directive would mean that countries which legally recognise same-sex civil partnerships would be required to expand their provisions to include homosexual adoption. It is also feared that the directive’s definition of harassment is so broad that even explanations of Christian beliefs on sexual conduct or those of other religions like Islam, could fall foul of the law.
In April 2008, the BBC reported that the directive had been “shelved.” Jan Jarab of the Employment Department of the Commission told the BBC that “signals” from some member states indicated that there would not be the required unanimous consent on a blanket anti-discrimination law that would include “sexual orientation.”
In May 2008, however, the European Parliament issued a memo reminding MEPs of the “commitment to put forward a comprehensive directive covering disability, age, religion or belief and sexual orientation.”
Accordingly, the EU Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) last week voted to approve the final version of its report on the issue. This will now go to the EU Parliament for a vote in early April on whether to adopt the report as its own recommendations on the directive. Power to enact, amend or reject the directive lies with the Council of the European Union, a body composed of government representatives from each of the 27 member states.
The Christian Institute, the UK’s most prominent Christian lobby group, argues that similar laws in the UK and other nations have caused serious erosion of religious liberty and the exclusion of Christianity from the public sphere.
The Christian Institute called the “harassment” provision one of the “most alarming” aspects of the proposed legislation. The directive defines it as the creation of an “intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.”
(With files from the Christian Institute)
Report from the Christian Telegraph
Residents reject letter of permission from Religious Affairs department.
JAKARTA, September 25 (Compass Direct News) – Residents in North Jakarta have ordered the pastor of a small congregation to cease holding services in his home, despite a letter of permission issued by the Religious Affairs department.
On Sept. 12 village officials in South Rawa Badak, Koja district called a meeting with pastor Syaiful Hamzah and his wife Tiolida Sihotang, police officers, and representatives from the village mosque. Officials urged Hamzah and his wife to sign a document agreeing to cease all worship services in their home, effectively rejecting permission granted by Religious Affairs officials.
During the meeting, a sympathetic Muslim cleric, Wasi Sholeh, informed Hamzah that “certain people” had made violent threats against him, and that he could not guarantee Hamzah’s safety if he refused to sign the agreement. Mosque official Mohammad Ayub told Hamzah, a convert from Islam, that he should change his name to a Christian name, although there is no law in Indonesia requiring him to do so.
The couple eventually signed the document under duress. Other signatories included an official from the Religious Affairs department, Adi Eli Zendito, Ayub and village head Mohammad Maibu.
Hamzah has now arranged to hold services in a building used by a registered church about three kilometers (1.86 miles) away from his home. Aside from the rental fee, he will now have to rent cars to take congregation members to and from the service, since most of them have no means of transport.
Hamzah’s small congregation first began holding informal meetings in his home in 2003. Meetings were initially held on Saturdays. When numbers increased to 25, the congregation decided to hold worship services on Sunday mornings.
In accordance with a Joint Ministerial Decree regulating places of worship, Hamzah on Aug. 1 wrote to the Jakarta office of the Religious Affairs department describing his ministry and seeking permission to hold simple services in his home.
The department replied on Aug. 5 with a letter granting permission to hold such services.
Hamzah then submitted a copy of the letter to several local government offices, including the village council, local Public Order officials and the mayor’s office. He also advised local and district police stations of his ministry activities.
A few days later, he received a letter of objection from the community’s Public Order official, dated Sept. 7 and signed by a number of local residents.
The letter asked Hamzah to suspend worship services on the grounds that local Public Order officials had not given their consent, and it claimed that those attending were not resident in the village, a condition of the Joint Ministerial Decree.
Hamzah was then ordered to attend a meeting in Maibu’s office on Sept. 12 to settle the dispute.
Report from Compass Direct News