Religious Oppression
Around the World

Monitoring Violations of Religious Freedom


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Throughout centuries of history, persecution for religious belief has existed in every age and every nation. It is at the root of many conflicts throughout the world, even today. The interesting thing about religious oppression is, it rarely arises from irreligion, but rather from one religion or religious sect persecuting the beliefs of those who differ from them. Monitoring violations of religious freedom, therefore, becomes a matter of examining the ways in which established religion persecutes members of other religious faiths with impunity, and how they use their connections with, and influence on, government powers in order to promote themselves and discriminate against others. As a rule, only certain communist and other totalitarian governments have an interest in eliminating all religions, and this they do because they support a set of beliefs that are all-encompassing and leave no room for competing ideas.
    Some of the highest ideals of religious freedom are those that were expressed by Thomas Jefferson, especially his concept of "the wall of separation between church and state." Particular attention will be paid in these pages to the attempts to break down that wall in the United States and other countries, and to the calamities that result when that wall is breached.
    Like every other aspect of Liberty, the struggle for Religious Freedom is an eternal one. All but a very few religious systems consider those who differ from them to be infidels or heretics, and feel that any effort to destroy those other differing beliefs is the work of God. Monitoring violations of religious freedom, therefore, is often looked upon with disapproval because it too often calls into question values and practices that some consider legitimate expressions of religious duty. One man's attempt to propagate the Truth becomes another man's violation of his personal rights. The only resolution of these irreconcilable differences lies in Jefferson's famous "wall of separation between church and state," and that is the position that will be taken here.

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The Most Recent Reports


Muslims Attack Churches in Indonesia

May 25, 2001

      Following a lull of several months, radical Muslim mobs are once again attacking Christians and their churches in Indonesia. Poso, a Central Sulawesi Island, has been a hotbed of anti-Christian activity. On April 9-12, three church buildings and more than a dozen Christian homes were burned. Christians retaliated two days later by burning an abandoned Muslim school; Muslims set fire to 13 Christian homes the following day.

According to Eskol Net, a mob of several hundred Muslims burst into the Oikumene Christian Church during services on April 22. Three policemen arrived and prevented the mob from burning the church. Elim church and at least five Christian homes were destroyed on April 23. Another church, under renovation in Central Jakarta, was destroyed in April. More than 500 churches have been burned and destroyed in Indonesia since 1995.

Meanwhile, more than 21,000 radical Muslim troops are reportedly poised to wage jihad (holy war) in the Muluku and North Muluku Islands. The leader says he has 150,000 troops ready to confront armed supporters of any group that seeks to divide the Muslims.

--Used by permission of Religion Today


Hindu Nationalists Seek to 'Indianize' Christians

May 23, 2001

      In a fresh attack on Christians and Muslims, the Hindu nationalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in demanding their Indianization. "We are not demanding conversion of Muslims and Christians into Hindus. For the sake of unity and integrity of the country, we are demanding that they should be indigenized, and be given Indian names," he said.

Last October, RSS chief K. S. Sudershan called on Christians and Muslims to cut their spiritual links with "foreign sources." In a separate development, the VHP's general secretary claimed that about 33,000 people had been converted to Christianity in the northern state of Sikkim in the last 25 years. He added that the figure was compiled by VHP workers touring villages, cautioning people against conversion.

Meanwhile the VHP says it is planning to revamp its image and highlight its "social work" component in the rural areas among the backward castes and tribals. According to VHP's chief of social projects, the aim is to counter the influence of Christian missionaries.

--Used by permission of Religion Today


Muslim Law in Nigeria Used Against Christians

May 11, 2001

     According to a May 1 news release, five Anglican Christians will appear in court in northern Nigeria later this month, charged with abducting two teenage sisters who were going to be forced into arranged Muslim marriages. The five, who have been detained in police cells, claim the girls are practicing Christians who sought shelter in their church.

In another instance, the National Council of Ulamas, Nigeria's highest Islamic council, criticized the six northern Nigerian states, which have adopted Sharia law, for not having enforced the strict penal code as they should. According to the council, only the state of Zamfara is enforcing the law properly.

In using them as a model, it was reported that in January a pregnant 17-year-old girl was lashed 100 times in Zamfara as punishment for being pregnant and unmarried. She insisted that she had been become pregnant when raped.

--Used by permission of Religion Today


Minnesota Legislator Attacks Buddhism

May 7, 2001

     Minnesota Rep. Arlon Lindner has drawn criticism for recent comments regarding a planned appearance by the Dalai Lama before the state legislature. ``As a Christian, I am offended that we would have the Dalai Lama come and speak,'' said Lindner in an e-mail to colleagues.

In the correspondence, Lindner said that Buddhism is considered a "cult" and that he would not attend the joint session planned for May 9. The e-mail immediately drew harsh criticism. ``His comments are appalling,'' said Rep. Geri Evans, a member of the Twin Cities planning committee for the Dalai Lama's visit.

The Dalai Lama, who arrives in Minnesota on Monday, is the religious and political leader of the Tibetan government in exile based in India. He also is meeting with Gov. Jesse Ventura, as well as conducting several public events May 8 and 9.

--Used by permission of Religion Today


China Intensifies Religious Persecution

May 3, 2001

      China's violation of religious freedom has intensified, a U.S. panel said Monday in a report. "The situation in China has grown worse in the past year," according to Elliott Abrams, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The group's second annual report urged the United States to prod Beijing to ease its restrictions.

The 188-page document also accused India, Indonesia, Russia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Iran, Sudan, Vietnam and North Korea of either directly violating religious freedoms, permitting local or regional governments to restrict freedoms or ignoring intercommunity violence.

In China, the report said, the government has expanded its crackdown on unregistered religious groups, tightened control on official religious organizations, intensified its campaign against the Falun Gong spiritual movement and increased control over official Protestant and Catholic churches.

The panel urged the U.S. government to try to persuade China to ease its grip on religious freedom. Until China loosens restrictions, the commission said, Washington should continue to sponsor a resolution to censure China at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

--Used by permission of Religion Today


Kentucky School Removes Scripture, Reopens 'Quiet Room'

May 1, 2001

     A public school chapel that was locked after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) questioned its constitutionality was reopened April 23 following the removal of a framed Bible verse from Isaiah.

Edward Clem, principal of Cumberland High (Kentucky) said that board attorney Johnnie Turner, on whose advice the room was closed, had given his blessing to reopen the room, minus the scripture.

Turner explained he was able to resolve other objections to the room's contents by calling them by different names. Outside of church, a pew becomes a bench, and an altar becomes a podium; and what might appear to be a cross on the end of a pew, could be a letter "T."

The project was the brainchild of Don Disney, a retired minister, and his wife, Judy, who decorated the unused third-floor janitor closet to resemble a chapel. All furnishings had been donated. Both the Disneys and school officials adamantly describe the nine-by-twelve room as a "quiet room for anyone, including the ACLU, needing a break from stress," Disney remarked. The same county school district is already involved in a federal suit over posting of the Ten Commandments, according to the Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader.

--Used by permission of Religion Today


British Ban Independent Religious Broadcasts

May 1, 2001

     Thousands of Christians this week are calling on the British government to lift a ban on national religious broadcasting, in response to news that a government forum on the future of religious broadcasting is set to exclude independent religious broadcasters.

The government forum, to be held at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport on May 3, was originally proposed in connection with United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) Europe. However, UCB Europe has learned that the meeting now excludes independent religious broadcasters, and is misrepresentative of the 6,500 responses made in a white paper consultation requesting the lifting of the ban.

The response of Christians forms part of a growing movement of strong concern about freedom of speech by 300,000 supporters of UCB Europe (a Christian radio station that has been banned from applying for a national license in the UK for the past 10 years but broadcasts via satellite). The response also unites Christians from a wide range of denominations and organizations who are concerned that the ban is both unjust and undemocratic.

The ban on religious broadcasters has been in place since the 1990 Broadcasting Act, and the UK is one of only four countries to have such a ban, alongside Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iran.

--Used by permission of Religion Today


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