Staff cuts will hurt the National Gallery of Australia, but it’s not spending less on art. It’s just spending it differently



Thennicke/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Joanna Mendelssohn, University of Melbourne

On September 10 1965, Sir Robert Menzies commissioned the National Art Gallery Committee of Inquiry to consider the establishment of a national gallery for Australia.

The resulting Lindsay Report, published in 1966, is an ambitious document, describing an art gallery to serve the nation through the quality and range of its collections and exhibitions.

It emphasised the need to have an all encompassing collection of Australian art. The report recognised, in the second half of the 20th century, it was not possible to acquire a significant collection from European art history and advised a focus on modern art, including from Indigenous Australian artists, south and east Asia, and the Pacific Islands.

James Mollison became the gallery’s first director and began collecting work in 1971, construction began in 1973, and the National Gallery of Australia finally opened in 1982. The Lindsay Report was most recently reviewed in 2017, and is still the guiding document for the gallery’s foundation and continuing collection policies.

Menzies understood a culture that supported the arts and the humanities was essential to Australia’s development. Although his aesthetic taste was conservative, often described as reactionary, he greatly valued the arts.

For many years, his successors showed equal enthusiasm for seeing the National Art Gallery grow into international prominence.

Now, with subsequent efficiency dividends, the gallery is facing a budgetary shortfall and will lose 10% of its staff. The gallery has also recently reduced the number of new acquisitions, leading some to assume a connection to the loss of funding. This is not the case.

A $6 billion collection

In the late 1970s, after the prices paid for American and European art became a political issue, the Fraser government placed restrictions on the price the gallery could pay for international art. Any major purchases would now require permission from parliament.




Read more:
Blue poles 45 years on: asset or overvalued drip painting?


As the gallery’s acquisition budget was not otherwise constrained, the gallery redirected its purchases to create an encyclopaedic collection of Australian art. Over the years, the collection has matured into a balance between Australian, American, European, Asian and Pacific art, still keeping the bias towards art of the 20th and 21st centuries as proposed by the Lindsay report

The collection now comprises almost 160,000 works of art valued at A$6 billion – a remarkable achievement for a collection that began only fifty years ago.

Over the last decade, the gallery has added an average of 2,134 items to its collection each year, including 863 new purchases.

In the early years, under James Mollison’s directorship, there was a need to build the collection from a very small base of works that had found their way into the hands of the old Commonwealth Art Advisory Board.




Read more:
James Mollison: the public art teacher who brought the Blue Poles to Australia


Collections policy is not governed by numbers of works but by the nature of what is available, and how it relates to other works already in the collection. Once the collection was established, acquisitions could be focused on areas of particular need. Ron Radford expanded the Pacific collection; current director Nick Mitzevich is focused on contemporary art.

The gallery’s significant budget cuts will not impact the acquisitions budget. Gallery director Nick Mitzevich tells The Conversation the $16 million annual spend on buying art will be maintained, and cannot be appropriated for other purposes.

With such a collections base to work from, he says the gallery will focus on the quality, rather than quantity, of works which can be purchased from the same budget: collecting major works, or, as Mitzevich describes, “absolute excellence”.

But while the acquisitions budget is being maintained, other gallery departments are facing serious budget cuts.

With the exception of the Australian War Memorial, which will receive a controversial $500 million expansion, Australia’s national cultural organisations have been hit exceptionally hard by a succession of conservative governments.




Read more:
Federal budget 2014: arts and culture experts react


The gallery’s operations budget must comply with the Australian Public Service’s efficiency dividend. This year, operating revenue is reduced by $1.5 million. To counteract this reduction, the gallery will cut 10% of its total staff, beginning with voluntary redundancies.

This will inevitably mean a loss of senior staff, some of those with the greatest expertise.

Shifting worlds

It has been a difficult year for the gallery. Due to smoke from the bushfires on January 5 and 6, the gallery had to close for the safety of its collection, including the major summer blockbuster Picasso and Matisse.

It was the first time the National Gallery of Australia has ever closed for more than one day.

Then, COVID-19 struck. The gallery shut its doors on March 23, not re-opening until June 2. Visitor numbers remain small. Yesterday, only 250 came through the doors. This time last year they were in the thousands.

Mtizevich has yet to calculate the full cost of these dual disasters to the gallery’s revenue. He told The Conversation the act of keeping to budget while keeping faith with the National Gallery’s objectives is “not an easy job, a tightrope”.

He is adamant the collections policy will remain unchanged.The Conversation

Joanna Mendelssohn, Principal Fellow (Hon), Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne. Editor in Chief, Design and Art of Australia Online, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What employers need to know: the legal risk of asking staff to work in smokey air


Elizabeth Shi, RMIT University

Amid thick bushfire smoke in cities including Canberra and Melbourne, employers need to consider their legal obligations.

Some have directed their workers not to turn up in order to avoid to occupational health and safety risks. Among them is the Commonwealth department of home affairs which last week asked most of its staff to stay away from its Canberra headquarters for 48 hours.

Other employers want to know where they stand.



Each state and territory has its own occupational health and safety laws.
However most line up with the so-called Model Act, a federal act of parliament intended to harmonise state laws.

Under section 17 it imposes on employers a duty to, so far as is reasonably practicable, ensure health and safety by eliminating or minimising risks.

This employer’s duty applies not only to its employees, but also to other types of workers including independent contractors.

Meaning of ‘reasonably practical”

Under the section 18 of the Model Act, “reasonably practicable” means

that which is, or was at a particular time, reasonably able to be done in relation to ensuring health and safety, taking into account and weighing up all relevant matters

By themselves, these words aren’t much of a guide, so the Act includes examples of “relevant matters”, among them:

  • the likelihood of a hazard or risk occurring

  • the degree of harm that might result

  • what the employer knows or ought reasonably know about the hazard or risk, and ways of eliminating or minimising hazard or risk

  • the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or reduce hazard or risk

  • the cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk

Meaning of ‘likelihood’

Employers should make themselves aware of the risk of an air quality hazard.
This can be achieved by checking the most up to date air quality index in the location on an environment protection authority website:

NSW

Victoria

Queensland

South Australia

Western Australia

Tasmania

Northern Territory

Australian Capital Territory

Workers who work outdoors are more likely to be subject to harmful effects of bushfire smoke than indoor workers.

They are more likely to experience irritation to their airways, nose and eyes.

They might also experience low visibility which might make their work more dangerous.

The machines they operate could also be impacted by the smoke and dust in a way which would make operating them more dangerous.

Special measures should be taken to protect workers who work outdoors, such as providing them with face masks or rescheduling their work.

Smoke emissions from the Australian bushfires from 1 December 2019 to 4 January 2020.

Meaning of ‘degree of harm’

Asthma suffers might be at greater risk.

It is certainly arguable the likelihood of harm for indoor workers is much lower, especially if the air quality in their workplace is the same or even better than the air quality in their homes.

Employers should have up-to-date information about the health of their workers, especially those workers who have pre-existing conditions that might predispose them to harm from smoke.

Among these would be workers who have asthma or other respiratory disorders.

Special steps should be taken to protect them, taking into account their pre-existing conditions.

Meaning of ‘reasonably ought to know’

Employers should be checking up-to-date information on an environment protection authority website and on the website of Safe Work Australia which is the Commonwealth regulator for occupational health and safety laws.

It’s very likely law enforcers will presume the information on these websites constitute information the employer ought to have known in determining the appropriate action to take.

For example, it would be difficult for an employer to argue they didn’t know P2 rated face masks should be provided to workers when the Safe Work Australia website specifically mentions them as an appropriate way of eliminating or reducing air quality hazards.

Meaning of ‘availability of ways to reduce risk’

Safe Work Australia directs employers to have in place measures to manage the risks to health and safety of working outdoors when air quality is reduced, including:

  • working indoors (where possible)

  • rescheduling outdoor work until conditions improve

  • ensuring buildings and equipment are functioning correctly and have not been affected by dust or debris

  • cleaning dust and debris off outdoor surfaces

  • providing personal protective equipment such as eye protection and correctly fitted P2-rated face masks.

Meaning of ‘cost of minimising hazard’

The cost of elimination or minimising hazard will be higher for some measures than others.

For example, it might cost more to direct workers to stay home than to provide face masks.




Read more:
Our buildings aren’t made to keep out bushfire smoke. Here’s what you can do


These costs need to be weighed up against the likelihood and degree of potential harm.

If the likelihood and degree of harm is high, it’s unlikely law enforcers will be particularly sympathetic to arguments about cost.The Conversation

Elizabeth Shi, Senior Lecturer, Graduate School of Business and Law, RMIT University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Inquiry finds Husar behaved badly to staff but dismisses allegations of lewd conduct


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The inquiry into Labor MP Emma Husar’s conduct has upheld complaints that she behaved unreasonably towards her staff, but rejected claims of lewd conduct and misleading the parliament.

These are the central findings of the independent assessment by barrister John Whelan, commissioned by the NSW Labor party. The party said the legal advice, based on this assessment, was that there was “no basis” for Husar to resign from parliament.

Husar, who is in her first term, announced this week she would quit at the election.

NSW Labor issued a summary of the Whelan inquiry’s findings on Friday.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Turnbull is trying to turn Emma Husar story into a Bill Shorten narrative


The assessment said the allegation of misuse of public entitlements should be referred to the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority for audit, and noted Husar had advised she was referring herself.

It found allegations of sexual harassment, on the balance of probabilities and Briginshaw Standard, were not supported. Nor were claims that she behaved in a lewd manner in the office of Labor frontbencher Jason Clare.

But complaints that staff performed non-work related and personal duties for Husar had merit – “even accounting for the particular nature of political offices”. They should be referred to the Department of Finance’s Ministerial and Parliamentary Services for advice about the appropriate employment guidelines issued to MPs, the assessment said.

It also found merit in complaints that “staff were subjected to unreasonable management, including unreasonable communication, demands, practices and disciplinary methods”.

The assessment outlined the two contrasting perceptions of what had happened that it had been given.

Husar argued “she manages appropriately to achieve higher standards of performance and loyalty. And does so under a heavy workload, intense personal stress and a desire to serve Western Sydney and in particular the cause of victims of domestic violence.”

But the men and women who made complaints “perceive and allege they have found much of the member’s management offensive and unreasonable”.

“After considering all sides of the relevant issues the assessment has generally favoured the complainant’s perception of events.”

The inquiry recommended Ministerial and Parliamentary Services review the accessibility of the current electorate office staff complaints resolution process.

It also said Husar, who is on extended leave, and Finance’s Ministerial and Parliamentary Services should be asked to develop a “return to work” plan, covering timing, training, staff needs and office support.

The assessment condemned as “reprehensible” the release publicly of selected allegations.

It said there were concerns for the wellbeing of many involved and counselling was being made available.

The full assessment – which emphasised the need for a “de-escalation” – will not be released.

Husar said the report had cleared her “of the most malicious and damaging of allegations, which were not only baseless but leaked to media.”

“I don’t believe any of these should have cost me my reputation, my job, or humiliated me and my children, ” she said.

“This has been trial by media, gossip and innuendo.

“I am gutted that the willingness of certain individuals, and certain parts of the media, to defame me on vexatious and unfounded accusations, has caused so much personal, emotional and professional damage to me, so much hurt to those close to me, and political harm to the party I love, have supported and worked so hard for.”

The ConversationShe said she was confident that if she had been given the opportunity to respond to all allegations in full, without the public attacks, she would have been able to put the matter behind her and continue to serve her electorate of Lindsay.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Labor MP Emma Husar takes personal leave as party investigates conduct towards staff


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Labor’s member for the NSW marginal seat of Lindsay, Emma Husar, has announced she is taking personal leave, after a long-running party investigation into allegations she misused and bullied staff members became public.

Husar said in a statement that she had received threats of violence.

The NSW Labor party probe, led by barrister John Whelan, into the claims against Husar, who is in her first term, has been going on for some time but the story only broke publicly with a BuzzFeed report last week.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten has said he first heard of the allegations last week.

They include that Husar had members of her staff perform baby sitting and dog walking chores, and that she had been abusive towards staff. Her office has had a big turnover. There has been speculation that she could lose preselection if the investigation finds against her.

In her statement late Tuesday Husar said: “The past few days have been incredibly difficult for my family. I’m a single mum and my first priority is the safety and wellbeing of my children.

“I have received threatening messages including threats of violence and have referred them to the Australian Federal Police.

“The best thing for me and my family right now is for us to be out of the spotlight so I can access support.

“I look forward to returning to my duties as the Member for Lindsay very soon. I love my community and there is no higher honour for me than representing the people of Western Sydney in Australia’s parliament.

“As I said last week, I respect and am co-operating with the independent process that is underway”.

Shorten said on Tuesday Husar had “been a hard-working member in her electorate” but he didn’t want to further comment until the inquiry was finished.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said: “I’ve always found her very passionate about Western Sydney, about the issues she cares about deeply, and entirely professional, but these serious matters should be dealt with through that independent investigation.”

Labor frontbencher Mike Kelly defended Husar, saying the use of staff members for some personal help was “a small price to pay for having a truly representative democracy and facilitating the ability of women to participate in our parliament.”

“You’ve got a hard-working young woman here, a single mother with three kids, having to juggle a very tough electorate in Lindsay with a lot of diverse issues and then of course do the commute to Canberra,” he told Sky.

The ConversationRecently former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce took a stint of personal leave after a furore over his paid TV interview about his affair with his former staffer and now partner Vikki Campion, with whom he has a baby.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Barnaby Joyce affair highlights Australia’s weak regulation of ministerial staffers



File 20180213 58315 1i9gpqg.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Barnaby Joyce has denied he breached ministerial standards with the employment of his partner, Vikki Campion.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Yee-Fui Ng, RMIT University

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce continues to face questions about the employment of his former media adviser – now current partner – Vicki Campion. Campion left Joyce’s office last year to take another ministerial adviser position with Resources Minister Matthew Canavan, and then with Nationals whip Damian Drum.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has claimed Joyce did not breach the Statement of Ministerial Standards regarding employment of spouses and family members as Campion was not his partner at the time of her appointment. Joyce has also denied he breached the ministerial rules.




Read more:
Labor moves in on the Barnaby Joyce affair


What is the role of ministerial staffers?

Ministerial advisers are politically partisan staff who are personally appointed by ministers to work out of their private offices.

These advisers have become an integral part of the political landscape in the last 40 years. The number of Commonwealth ministerial staff increased from 155 in 1972 to 423 in 2015.

The advisers undertake a wide range of functions. Tony Nutt, a former senior ministerial staffer, said:

… a ministerial adviser deals with the press. A ministerial adviser handles the politics. A ministerial adviser talks to the union. All of that happens every day of the week, everywhere in Australia all the time. Including, frankly, the odd bit of, you know, ancient Spanish practices and a bit of bastardry on the way through. That’s all the nature of politics.

How do they fit in our system of government?

The modern Westminster ministerial advisory system is built on the 1853 Northcote-Trevelyan report in Britain.

In the 18th and early 19th century, it was difficult to be appointed to a UK government office unless you were an aristocrat with the right connections to a very small elite. The Northcote-Trevelyan report rejected appointment based on patronage. It argued this led to difficulties in getting a good supply of employees in the public service compared to other professions.

This report forms the basis of the Westminster public service today. Public servants are expected to be neutral and apolitical, and recruited and promoted on the basis of merit. The intention was very much to purge the system of patronage.

Ministerial advisers pose a challenge to the Westminster system as they are largely recruited on a partisan basis and are expected to be politically committed to the government of the day. This undermines the intentions of having ministerial advisers who are recruited on the basis of merit, rather than patronage.

How are ministerial staff appointed?

Australian ministerial advisers are employed under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act as ministers’ personal staff.

The employing minister determines the employment terms and conditions of ministerial advisers; the prime minister can vary these. The law is sparse and does not stipulate any precise requirements in terms of staff appointments.

In practice, the appointment of ministerial advisers is based on a party-political network of patronage. The primary consideration is loyalty to the political party – not merit.

There have been notorious instances of the appointment of unsuitable staff. These include then deputy prime minister Jim Cairns’ appointment of his mistress, Junie Morosi, as his principal private secretary (although she was considered spectacularly unqualified for her position).




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Is Barnaby’s baby a matter of ‘public interest’ or just of interest to the public?


Some prime ministers have instituted a centralised process to reduce the appointment of unsuitable candidates. However, my research has shown that some senior ministers are able to circumvent such a process due to their position within the party.

Also, these processes primarily seek to filter candidates based on political danger – rather than on merit considerations.

Is there a breach of the rules in Joyce’s case?

Turnbull’s Statement of Ministerial Standards provides that ministers’ close relatives and partners are banned from being appointed to positions in their ministerial or electorate offices. They also must not be employed in the offices of other members of the executive government without the prime minister’s express approval.

Joyce and Campion claim their relationship started after her appointment – so the government has argued this clause does not apply.

However, the ministerial standards also specify that ministers must declare any private interests held by them or members of their immediate family. And under the Statement of Standards for Ministerial Staff, ministerial advisers have to disclose – and take reasonable steps to avoid – any real or apparent conflicts of interest connected with their employment. Staff are required to provide their employing minister and the special minister of state with a statement of private interests.

Therefore, the relationship between Joyce and Campion should have been disclosed when it arose, as there might have been an apparent conflict of interest connected with Joyce’s ministerial position. It is then up to the prime minister to decide what is to happen following this.

But both the standards for ministers and for their advisers are not legislated. They are not enforceable in the courts or in parliament. Enforcement is handled completely within the executive, which has an incentive to bury embarrassing material wherever possible.

This means any breaches of the standards by ministers and their advisers would be handled behind closed doors, without any formal scrutiny by parliament or any external bodies.

The enforcement of ministerial and adviser standards has been patchy. Whether a minister resigns depends on the prime minister of the day and if there is media furore and public outrage over an issue.

Are the rules too lax?

The legislation governing the employment of advisers is sparse and limited to affirming ministers’ powers to employ their advisers. Beyond this, there is no legislative requirement for ministerial advisers to adhere to certain behavioural rules.

The weak appointment rules have allowed Campion to be shuffled around different offices without a formal appointment process.

Other Westminster countries have stricter restrictions on the employment of advisers, either through a cap on the number of advisers (as in the UK) or a cap on the total budget for advisers (as in Canada).

The UK has a cap of two advisers per minister. Australia has no such limits.

Australia has the weakest regulation of ministerial staff when compared to other similar Westminster democracies. Other countries have stricter regulations that both restrict the actions of advisers and increase transparency.

The ConversationAustralian ministerial staff are now very important players in our democracy, but ministers and advisers are weakly regulated within our system. The law has lagged behind, but now is the time for reform.

Yee-Fui Ng, Lecturer, Graduate School of Business and Law, RMIT University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Latest Persecution News – 13 March 2012


Islamists in Egypt Use Rumors to Attack Christians

The following article reports on rioting Muslims attacking Christians in Meet Bahsar, Egypt.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/egypt/article_1433598.html

 

Egyptian Court Sentences Priest from Attacked Church Building

The following article reports on the arrest and jailing of an Egyptian priest in Aswan, Egypt, over a building violation. The arrest occurred after the burning of his church by an Islamic mob.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/egypt/article_1436277.html

 

Two Christian Hospital Workers Abducted in Karachi, Pakistan

The following article reports on the abduction of two Good Samaritan Hospital staff who are Christians in Karachi, Pakistan.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/pakistan/article_1436466.html

 

Another Church in Jos, Nigeria Hit by Suicide Bombing

The following article reports on yet another suicide bombing of a church in Jos, Nigeria, by extremists linked to Boko Haram.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/nigeria/article_1440491.html

 

The articles linked to above are by Compass Direct News and  relate to persecution of Christians around the world. Please keep in mind that the definition of ‘Christian’ used by Compass Direct News is inclusive of some that would not be included in a definition of Christian that I would use or would be used by other Reformed Christians. The articles do however present an indication of persecution being faced by Christians around the world.

Pakistani Christian Sentenced for ‘Blasphemy’ Dies in Prison


Murder suspected in case of Christian imprisoned for life.

LAHORE, Pakistan, March 15 (CDN) — A Christian serving a life sentence in Karachi Central Jail on accusations that he had sent text messages blaspheming the prophet of Islam died today amid suspicions that he was murdered.

Qamar David’s life had been threatened since he and a Muslim, Munawar Ahmad, were accused of sending derogatory text messages about Muhammad in June 2006, said David’s former lawyer, Pervaiz Chaudhry (See “Pakistan’s ‘Blasphemy’ Laws Claim Three More Christians,” March 10, 2010).

David was convicted under Section 295-C under Pakistan’s widely condemned blasphemy laws for derogatory remarks against Muhammad in a case registered at Karachi’s Azizabad Police Station, with another case registered at Saddar Police Station pending. Maximum punishment for Section 295-C is death, though life imprisonment is also possible. On Feb. 25, 2010 he received a sentence of life in prison, which in Pakistan is 25 years, and was fined 100,000 rupees (US$1,170).

Chaudhry, who said he was David’s counsel until Islamic threats against his life forced him to stop in July 2010, told Compass that the Christian had expressed fears for his life several times during the trial.

“David did not die of a heart attack as the jail officials are claiming,” Chaudhry said. “He was being threatened ever since the trial began, and he had also submitted a written application with the jail authorities for provision of security, but no step was taken in this regard.”

Conflicting versions of his death by jail officials also raised doubts.

A jail warden said David was reported crying for help from his cell today in the early hours of the morning. He said that David, who was breathing at the time, was transported to the Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK), but that doctors there pronounced him dead on arrival.

He also said, however, that he had heard from colleagues that David was found dead inside his cell and that his body had been sent to the hospital for post-mortem, not for treatment. Investigations are underway, he added.

Karachi Central Prison Deputy Superintendent Raja Mumtaz said David was shifted to CHK for treatment after jail staff members found him crying for help with “one hand on the left side of his chest.” He said the prisoner was first taken to a local healthcare center, but that doctors there suggested that he should be taken to a hospital for proper treatment.

Mumtaz said that David was shifted to the hospital at around 10:45 a.m. today and was alive when he reached the hospital.

Sindh Inspector General of Prisons Ghulam Qadir Thebo insisted to BBC that David died of natural causes, saying he was housed in a Christian-only wing in which no Muslim prisoners had access to him.

“Our investigations have not yielded any evidence of foul play,” Thebo told BBC. “There is no evidence to suggest he was murdered.”

David’s family reached Karachi today to take custody of the body. An impartial probe and autopsy report is awaited, as no jail officials were ready to say on record whether they had seen any visible injury on David’s body.

David’s son, Aqeel David, told Compass that the family had been informed only that his father had suffered a heart attack and died while he was being taken to the hospital.

“We don’t know anything besides this little piece of information that was given to us on the telephone,” he said. “We are unsure about the circumstances surrounding my father’s death because of the serious nature of the cases against him.”

David’s former attorney said that the trial in which David was convicted and sentenced was a sham.

“The judge acquitted Ahmad in this case, even though all 11 witnesses clearly pointed out his direct involvement in the incident,” Chaudhry said.

In regard to the other blasphemy case registered at the Saddar Police Station, Chaudhry said he had cross-examined witnesses who had again accused Ahmad of mischief and absolved David of any wrongdoing.

“Ahmad’s lawyer had filed an application for re-examining the witnesses when I withdrew from the case,” Chaudhry added. “I stopped pursuing his cases last year because of serious threats to my life by Islamist groups who used to gather outside the courtroom.”

Chaudhry said threats were made “both inside and outside the courtroom.”

During the cross-examining of witnesses, he said, Senior Superintendent of Police Muhammad Afzal had also admitted that Ahmad was the real culprit and that David was arrested on the information of “some sources.” Chaudhry said there was no relation whatsoever between Ahmad and his client before the trial started.

“They were complete strangers,” Chaudhry said. “David was definitely framed in these cases.”

Report from Compass Direct News
http://www.compassdirect.org

Recent Incidents of Persecution


Madhya Pradesh, India, December 31 (CDN) — Hindu nationalists on Dec. 26 beat a Christian distributing gospel tracts in Damoh Naka at Jabalpur. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that at about 3 p.m. Devanand Dandale was distributing literature when Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal and Dharam Sena grabbed him, seized his mobile phone and money and phoned other extremists to come. A GCIC coordinator told Compass that for nearly two hours the extremists repeatedly slapped and kicked Dandale, pulled his hair and mocked him, finally forcing him to the Kotwali police station. En route, they falsely told news reporters that Dandale was a convert who was forcing others to convert. On advice of police, Dandale filed a complaint against Amit Tiwari, Sunil Sonkar, Ambasingh Thakur, Surendra Jain and Babu Tiwari, after which he was sent home at 9 p.m. At press time Dandale was receiving medical treatment for swollen legs and severe pain.

 

Andhra Pradesh – On Dec. 20 in Hi- City, Hyderabad, about 100 Hindu extremists attacked Pastor T.R. Raju, warning him to vacate the area. The previous day Pastor Raju had led a Christmas celebration with a convert from Hinduism, an actor identified only as Surya, as a quest speaker, reported the All India Christian Council (AICC). Surya had mentioned the blessing of having Christ as God and did not criticize other faiths, according to the AICC. Afterward, however, four people came and argued with the pastor and verbally abused him. The next day, about 100 Hindu hardliners gathered at the pastor’s house, verbally abused him and beat him, according to the AICC. Surya also showed up and pleaded with the furious mob to stop, and police arrived as the attackers scattered. The extremists continued to threaten the pastor to leave the area or face harm. They also threatened the pastor’s landlord, who subsequently gave notice to the pastor to vacate the house in 10 days.

 

Maharashtra – Carol singers on Dec. 18 were beaten at 10:15 p.m. in Worli Koliwada, Mumbai, reported national daily the Times of India (TOI). Joseph Dias of the Catholic Secular Forum reportedly said 25 members of the New Life Church youth group were singing carols when Dhananjay Desai of the Hindu extremist Hindu Rashtra Sena began mocking them, saying they were paid to sing. Desai then phoned other Hindu extremists, who rushed to the spot in three cars and charged into the youth group, beating two of them, Ganesh Gadam and Joel Metrin. The TOI reported that the extremists forced the victims into their cars and took them to a police station. Dias told Compass that police issued a warning to the assailants, who threatened the Christians with harm if they persisted in holding public Christian activities.

 

Karnataka – Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Sawaymsevak Sangh on Dec. 17 attacked a Christian and accused him of “large-scale conversion” in Shimoga. The All India Christian Council (AICC) reported that about 15 Hindu extremists gathered at the house of S. Prakash, manager of the Dalit Education Centre, and accused him of using the school as a cover for the alleged conversions. The extremists beat Prakash, leaving him with several internal injuries, and threatened further harm if he did not close down the school. They also cut down trees at the school and destroyed its signboard. Prakash filed a complaint with local police. Village officials are supportive of the work by the school, reported the AICC. A police investigation was ongoing at press time.

 

Madhya Pradesh – On Dec. 9 in Satna, police arrested Pastor V.A. Anthony and booked him under the state anti-conversion act. The arrests was made in connection with an incident that took place earlier this year when the pastor conducted a Christian funeral at the request of the parents of the diseased, reported the All India Christian Council (AICC). An activist with the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, Lakshimi Yadav, learned of the funeral and filed a case against Antony. Police investigated the case but found no wrongdoing by the pastor. In early September, Hindu extremists from the Sangh Parivar forced local newspapers to publish biased reports about the funeral and complained to the inspector general of police that the pastor had forcibly converted the parents of the deceased, identified only as Rajesh. The Hindu extremists threatened the pastor on Sept. 12.

 

Karnataka – Hindu nationalists from the Bajrang Dal on Dec. 8 disrupted a prayer meeting, falsely accused Christians of forcible conversion and seriously injured two of them in Gonilkoppa. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that at about 8 p.m. the Shakina Full Gospel Church was worshiping when 10 extremists led by Hindus identified only as Manu, Devaraj and Manju stormed in. A GCIC coordinator told Compass that Christians identified only as Raju, Kaliamma, Rajukamma, Belli, Lovaliamma and Viji were verbally abused and dragged to the Gonilkoppa police station, where the extremists pressured police to arrest them. The Evangelical Fellowship of India reported that officers released the Christians without charges but strictly warned them, for security purposes, not to conduct future worship meetings at their homes. Belli and Viji, who bled profusely from the attack, received medical treatment at the Gonilkoppa Government Hospital. “Police, however, did not take action against the extremists for attacking the Christians,” a GCIC coordinator noted.

 

Madhya Pradesh – Armed men on Dec. 6 attacked the Rev. Thomas Chirattavalli in Satna. The suspected Hindu extremists hit the priest’s head when he opened the door of the parish house, then they chased and beat him. The parish driver, cook and another staff member heard the disturbance and tried to come out, but the assailants had locked the doors from outside. The priest sustained two deep wounds on the head, as well as injuries on other parts of his body. He filed a First Information Report at Burgama in Singrauli district.

 

Karnataka – Shimoga police on Dec. 5 forced the closure of a house church at Rippon Pete, Shimoga district. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that on Dec. 3 Pastor Sebastian Babu was falsely accused of forced conversion by area Hindu extremists who threatened to harm him if he continued church services. On Dec. 5, as Sunday worship was going on in Rippon Pete, police arrived after the extremists complained of “conversion activities.” Officers took Pastor Babu into custody and warned him against conducting worship, adding that he had to report to the police station the next day with the landlord of this rented house. A GCIC coordinator told Compass that Pastor Babu and his landlord went to the police station on Dec. 6, where officers learned that the landlord had no objection to the house church. Nevertheless, they advised him against conducting Christian worship “as a security measure.”

 

Karnataka – Hindu extremists on Dec. 5 pressured the Slum Board administrative committee in Kengeri, Bangalore to demolish the Gypsy Prayer Church building. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that the extremists barged into the prayer hall and disrupted a service led by a pastor identified only as Rajesh. They filed a complaint with the Slum Board committee against the Christians and persuaded it to order that the church building be demolished.

 

Karnataka – Police on Dec. 2 arrested a pastor on charges of attempted forcible conversion in Udayanagar, near Mahadevapura. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that a pastor identified only as Johnson and a senior church member identified only as George were invited for a prayer service at the home of a Christian. Johnson, 26, of Kerala, was staying at the Evergreen School at Udayanagar near Mahadevapura. While they were praying at about 11 a.m., nearly 25 Hindu nationalists from the Bajrang Dal stormed the house, dragged Johnson outside and continued hitting and kicking him while falsely accusing him of forced conversion. A GCIC coordinator told Compass that the extremists forcibly took them to the Mahadevapura police station, where officers filed charges. At press time, the pastor was still in jail.

 

Kerala – Hindu extremists on Dec. 2 attacked a nun who is a college student in Ernakulam. The All India Christian Council reported that Sister Ann Matthews was attacked by a group of men inside Ernakulam South Railway Station and had to be treated for her injuries at Medical Trust Hospital. Matthews said she was targeted because she was a nun. Police have registered a complaint, but no arrests had been made at press time.

 

Karnataka – Police arrested a pastor on Dec. 2 after Hindu extremists beat him and accused him of forceful conversion in Udayanagar, near Bangalore. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that Hindu extremists stopped the pastor, identified only as Johnson, as he was returning home after a prayer meeting. They accused him of forcefully converting Hindus to Christianity, beat him and dragged him to Mahadevapura police. The assault continued in front of police. Later Pastor Johnson was arrested under Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code for damaging a place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class. A judge sent the pastor to Bangalore Central Jail, but he was released on bail the next day.

 

West Bengal – Radical Muslims in Natungram, Murshidabad have forbidden a woman who converted to Christianity from Islam to buy or sell if continues in her new faith, a source told Compass. The past few months the Muslims had ordered Chanda Babi and her family, who became Christians in February, not to attend church services and told them not associate with any neighbors. As Babi and her family continued to follow Christ, the Muslim radicals on Nov. 28 ordered villagers not to buy from her family’s milk business, and they ordered shopkeepers not to sell to her, the source said. They further warned that they would impose a large fine if her family continues to believe in Christ.

 

Uttarakhand – Police on Nov. 9 detained three Christians from the Indian Pentecostal Assemblies on false charges of forceful conversion in Ravli Mehdud, Haridwar. The Evangelical Fellowship of India reported that police officers stormed into the prayer meeting and took Pastor Manoj Kumar and two church members into custody. Officers verbally abused the Christians, uttered derogatory remarks against Jesus Christ and the Christian community and threatened to harm Pastor Kumar. The Christians were released without charges after the intervention of area Christian leaders.

Report from Compass Direct News

Police in Sudan Aid Muslim’s Effort to Take Over Church Plot


With possibility of secession by Southern Sudan, church leaders in north fear more land grabs.

NAIROBI, Kenya, October 25 (CDN) — Police in Sudan evicted the staff of a Presbyterian church from its events and office site in Khartoum earlier this month, aiding a Muslim businessman’s effort to seize the property.

Christians in Sudan’s capital city told Compass that police entered the compound of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) on Oct. 4 at around 2 p.m. and ordered workers to leave, claiming that the land belonged to Muslim businessman Osman al Tayeb. When asked to show evidence of Al Tayeb’s ownership, however, officers failed to produce any documentation, the sources said.

The church had signed a contract with al Tayeb stipulating the terms under which he could attain the property – including providing legal documents such as a construction permit and then obtaining final approval from SPEC – but those terms remained unmet, church officials said.

Church leader Deng Bol said that under terms of the unfulfilled contract, the SPEC would turn the property over to al Tayeb to construct a business center on the site, with the denomination to receive a share of the returns from the commercial enterprise and regain ownership of the plot after 80 years.

“But the investor failed to produce a single document from the concerned authorities” and therefore resorted to police action to secure the property, Bol said.

SPEC leaders had yet to approve the project because of the high risk of permanently losing the property, he said.

“The SPEC feared that they were going to lose the property after 80 years if they accepted the proposed contract,” Bol said.

SPEC leaders have undertaken legal action to recover the property, he said. The disputed plot of 2,232 square meters is located in a busy part of the heart of Khartoum, where it has been used for Christian rallies and related activities.

“The plot is registered in the name of the church and should not be sold or transfered for any other activities, only for church-related programs,” a church elder who requested anonymity said.

The Rev. Philip Akway, general secretary of the SPEC, told Compass that the government might be annoyed that Christian activities have taken place there for many decades.

“Muslim groups are not happy with the church in north Sudan, therefore they try to cause tension in the church,” Akway told Compass.

The policeman leading the officers in the eviction on Oct. 4 verbally threatened to shoot anyone who interfered, Christian sources said.

“We have orders from higher authorities,” the policeman shouted at the growing throng of irate Christians.

A Christian association called Living Water had planned an exhibit at the SPEC compound on Oct. 6, but an organization leader arrived to find the place fenced off and deserted except for four policemen at the gate, sources said.

SPEC leaders said Muslims have taken over many other Christian properties through similar ploys.

“We see this as a direct plot against their churches’ estates in Sudan,” Akway said.

The Rev. John Tau, vice-moderator for SPEC, said the site where Al Tayeb plans to erect three towers was not targeted accidentally.

“The Muslim businessman seems to be targeting strategic places of the church in order to stop the church from reaching Muslims in the North Sudan,” Tau said.

The unnamed elder said church leaders believe the property grab came in anticipation of the proposed north-south division of Sudan. With less than three months until a Jan. 9 referendum on splitting the country according to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, SPEC leaders have taken a number of measures to guard against what it sees as government interference in church affairs.

Many southern Sudanese Christians fear losing citizenship if south Sudan votes for secession in the forthcoming referendum.

A top Sudanese official has said people in south Sudan will no longer be citizens of the north if their region votes for independence. Information Minister Kamal Obeid told state media last month that south Sudanese will be considered citizens of another state if they choose independence, which led many northern-based southern Sudanese to begin packing.

At the same time, President Omar al-Bashir promised full protection for southern Sudanese and their properties in a recent address. His speech was reinforced by Vice President Ali Osman Taha’s address during a political conference in Juba regarding the signing of a security agreement with First Vice President Salva Kiir Mayardit (also president of the semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan), but Obeid’s words have not been forgotten.

Akway of SPEC said it is difficult to know what will become of the property.

“Police continue to guard the compound, and nobody knows for sure what the coming days will bring,” Akway said. “With just less than three months left for the South to decide its fate, we are forced to see this move as a serious development against the church in Sudan.”

Report from Compass Direct News

Chinese Christians Blocked from Attending Lausanne Congress


Police threaten or detain some 200 house church members who planned to attend.

DUBLIN, October 15 (CDN) — As organizers prepared for the opening of the Third Lausanne International Congress on World Evangelization tomorrow in Cape Town, South Africa, Chinese police threatened or detained some 200 delegates who had hoped to attend.

After receiving an invitation to attend the event, house church groups in China formed a selection committee and raised significant funds to pay the expenses of their chosen delegates, a source told Compass. Many delegates, however, were “interviewed” by authorities after they applied to attend the Congress, the source said.

When house church member Abraham Liu Guan and four other delegates attempted to leave China via Beijing airport on Sunday (Oct. 10), authorities refused to allow them through customs, reported the Chinese-language Ming Pao News. Officials detained one delegate and confiscated the passports of the other four until Oct. 25, the closing date of the conference.

China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security had notified border control staff that the participation of Chinese Christians in the conference threatened state security and ordered them not to allow delegates to leave, Liu told U.S.-based National Public Radio (NPR).

Officials also prevented two house church Christians from Baotou City, Inner Mongolia, from leaving the country, and on Oct. 9 placed one of them in a 15-day detention, the China Aid Association (CAA) reported.

When Fan Yafeng, leader of the Chinese Christian Legal Defense Association and winner of the 2009 John Leland Religious Liberty Award, discussed the harassment with NPR on Tuesday (Oct. 12), officials assigned some 20 police officers to keep him under house arrest.

On Wednesday (Oct. 13), approximately 1,000 police officers were stationed at Beijing International Airport to restrain an estimated 100 house church members who planned to leave for the Congress via Beijing, according to CAA.

CAA also said authorities over the past few months had contacted every delegate, from Han Christians in Beijing to Uyghur Christians in Xinjiang, for questioning, and threatened some family members.

Normal church operations were also affected. The Rev. Xing Jingfu from Changsha in Hunan province told NPR that authorities cited the Lausanne Congress when they recently ordered his church to close.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ma Zhaoxu, in a statement issued to NPR, accused the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization of communicating secretively with members of illegal congregations and not issuing an official invitation to China’s state-controlled church.

According to the Ming Pao report, the Lausanne committee said members of the Three-Self Protestant Movement had asked if they could attend. Delegates, however, were required to sign a document expressing their commitment to evangelism, which members of official churches could not do due to regulations such as an upper limit on the number of people in each church, state certification for preachers, and the confinement of preaching to designated churches in designated areas. House church Christians faced no such limitations.

The first such conference was held in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974, which produced the influential Lausanne Covenant. The second conference was held in 1989 in Manila. Some 4,000 delegates from 200 countries are expected to attend the third conference in Cape Town.

 

Progress or Repression?

China watchers said there has been a slight easing of restrictions in recent months, accompanied by a call on Sept. 28 from senior Chinese political advisor Du Qinglin for the government to allow the independent development of the official church. Du made the remarks at the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, according to the government-allied Xinhua news agency.

The BBC in August produced a glowing series on the growth of Christianity in China after Chinese authorities gave it unprecedented access to state-sanctioned churches and religious institutions. Religious rights monitor Elizabeth Kendal, however, described this access as part of a propaganda campaign by the Chinese government to reduce criticism of religious freedom policies.

NPR also produced a five-part series on Chinese religions in July. The series attributed the growth of religious adherence to the “collapse of Communist ideology” and pointed out that growth continued despite the fact that evangelism was “still illegal in China today.”

The claims of progress were challenged by an open letter from Pastor Zhang Mingxuan, president of the Chinese Christian House Church Alliance, to Chinese President Hu Jintao on Oct. 1, China’s National Day.

In the letter, published by CAA on Oct. 5, Zhang claimed that Chinese house church Christians respected the law and were “model citizens,” and yet they had become “the target of a group of government bandits … [who] often arrest and beat innocent Christians and wronged citizens.” Further, he added, “House church Christians have been ill-treated simply because they are petitioners to crimes of the government.”

Zhang then listed several recent incidents in which Christians were arrested and sent to labor camps, detained and fined without cause, beaten, interrogated and otherwise abused. He also described the closure or demolition of house churches and the confiscation of personal and church property.

He closed with a mention of Uyghur Christian Alimjan Yimit, “who was sentenced to 15 years in prison because he evangelized among Uyghurs – his very own people.”

Report from Compass Direct News