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NGOs write to international Govt leaders to alert on 45 reporters of Bitter Winter arrested in China
A group of NGOs, including EIFRF, wrote a joint letter to various international government leaders to alert them on the arrest of 45 reporters working for the online newspaper Bitter Winter, and calling them to action. The letter reads as follows:

To:
Dr Ahmed Shaheed
UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion
Mrs Federica Mogherini
High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Mrs Dunja Mijatović
Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe
Mr Stavros Lambrinidis
EU Special Representative (EUSR) for Human Rights
Mr Jan Figel
EU Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief
Mr David Kaye
UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
Mrs Mairead McGuiness MEP
Vice President of the EU Parliament in charge of Implementation of Article 17 TFEU
Denis De Jong MEP
Co-chair of the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief
Peter Van Dalen
Co-chair of the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief
 
 
Brussels, the 21 January 2019
 
 
Dear Madam, dear Sir,
 
We write as an informal group of organizations and individuals who are scholars, religious leaders, human rights advocates and practitioners to express our deep concern about the fact that since August 2018, at least 45 Bitter Winter (a magazine on religious liberty and human rights in China) contributors in mainland China have been arrested for filming incidents of, or gathering news about, the CCP’s persecution of religious freedom and violation of human rights. Reporters are usually detained and interrogated on the charge of “divulging state secrets” or “involvement in infiltration by foreign forces.” Some reporters have been sent to “legal education centres” to undergo mandatory indoctrination, while others have been tortured and abused.
 
We are a truly multi-faith group, representing a high degree of diversity. While there is very little we agree on theologically, or politically, we all agree on the importance of religious freedom for all faiths and none. It strengthens cultures and provides the foundation for stable democracies and their components, including civil society, economic growth, and social harmony. As such, it is also the ultimate counter-terrorism weapon, pre-emptively undermining religious extremism.
 
There is one enemy totalitarian regimes fear more than any else: a free press. They know they should use all means to prevent their wrongdoings from being exposed internationally by free media.
 
Bitter Winter (https://bitterwinter.org/) is a daily magazine on religious liberty and human rights in China, published since May 2018 in eight languages, including Chinese, by the respected Italian academic centre CESNUR (Centre for Studies on New Religions).
 
Since CESNUR is the oldest (it was founded in 1988) and largest international network of scholars of new religions, the magazine covers the persecution of both mainline religion and new religious movements such as The Church of Almighty God and Falun Gong in China. The magazine relies on an extensive network of Chinese reporters willing to risk their liberty to send news, photographs, and videos abroad. Bitter Winterachieved international fame when it managed to smuggle out of China several exclusive videos  (1) shot inside the “transformation through education” camps where one million Uyghur and other Muslims are detained.
 
Obviously, Bitter Winter did not go unnoticed to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The magazine itself published two confidential documents (2) where the CCP asks the State Security to crack down on those who send information to Bitter Winter from China.
 
The first Bitter Winterreporters were arrested in July, but many more were arrested in the last month. The magazine reports that 45 of its journalists are in jail, and that it has received credible information that some have been tortured to compel them to disclose the names of other reporters involved in the network. The reporter who shot the videos in the Uyghur camps “disappeared,” and precedents in China induce to fear the worst.
 
We call on democratic governmental authorities, international organizations, and media to ask China to immediately release the arbitrarily detained Bitter Winter reporters, and to comply with the international obligations it has freely subscribed about human rights and freedom of the media.
 
Respectfully,
 
 
Organizations
 
CAP FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE
 
CENTER FOR STUDIES ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION, BELIEF AND CONSCIENCE – LIREC 
 
CITIZEN POWER INITIATIVES FOR CHINA
 
EUROPEAN INTERRELIGIOUS FORUM FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM – EIFRF
 
EUROPEAN OFFICE OF THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
 
EUROPEAN MUSLIM INITIATIVE FOR SOCIAL COHESION (EMISCO)
 
GERARD NOODT FOUNDATION
 
HUMAN RIGHTS WITHOUT FRONTIERS INT’L (BRUSSELS) - HRWF
 
INTERNATIONAL OBSERVATORY OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY OF REFUGEES – ORLIR
 
JUBILEE CAMPAIGN

MUSLIMS FOR PROGRESSIVE VALUES (MPV)
 
SOTERIA INTERNATIONAL
 
STEFANUS ALLIANCE INTERNATIONAL
 
WORLD UYGHUR CONGRESS
 
 
Individuals
 
Ivan Arjona
President - European Office of the Church of Scientology for Public Affairs and Human Rights
 
Veysel Filiz
Spokesperson – EMISCO
 
Russel Moore
President – Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
 
Bashy Quraichy
Secretary General- EMISCO
 
Jianli Yang
Founder and President - Citizen Power Initiatives for China

Rédigé par EIFRF le Monday, January 21st 2019 | Comments (0)

The Faith and Freedom Summit is not an organisation. It’s a campaign proposed and run by a large coalition of faith-based and non faith-based NGOs and supported by many EU stakeholders.


The Faith and Freedom Summit has a new website
The Summit launched a pledge that all MEP candidates are asked to sign, that reads as following: "I pledge that I will uphold and defend the freedom of conscience and religion of all individuals by rejecting and speaking out against bigotry, discrimination, harassment and violence; and so build a more equitable society for all."  The signature of the pledge is inter alia supported by Mr Ahmed Shaheed, current UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief (see here).

Their new website can be seen here: https://faithandfreedomsummit.eu/

EIFRF is part of the coalition of NGOs that promotes the pledge.

As it is written on the first page of the website, we, as others, are committed to freedom of religion or belief and believe that the EU should have more involvement than only tackling these issues in its external relations, as it is the case nowadays. If we want to have a legitimate influence outside of EU borders in the field of freedom of religion, we must be beyond reproach within our borders. Unfortunately, this is not the case today.

We strongly believe that EU citizens must enjoy a real freedom of religion or belief, at every level, and that this fundamental right is not given the importance it deserves in the EU institutions, and in the EU instruments to protect the various freedoms of EU citizens.

It is for these reasons that our mission is to propose and develop initiatives that will put Freedom of Religion or Belief in Europe back in the spotlights. We will see a great deal of committed stakeholders from various backgrounds (scholars, human rights fighters, religious leaders, politicians) joining in to become a real force of proposal for a better Europe, a Europe which cares about freedom.

Your organisation may want to join the coalition. Please do not hesitate to contact them to contact@faithandfreedomsummit.eu

Rédigé par EIFRF le Saturday, January 5th 2019 | Comments (0)

On December 11, 2018 the US State department placed Russia on a Special Watch List for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom."


US State Dept places Russia on Special Watch List for severe violations of religious freedom
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced it in a press release that can be found here: https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2018/12/288006.htm, with these words:
"In far too many places across the globe, individuals continue to face harassment, arrests, or even death for simply living their lives in accordance with their beliefs. The United States will not stand by as spectators in the face of such oppression. Protecting and promoting international religious freedom is a top foreign policy priority of the Trump Administration. In July, I hosted the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, which brought together some 85 likeminded governments and more than 400 civil society organizations to harness global attention and motivate forceful action to advance respect for the human right of religious freedom."

Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, during his congressional testimony, explained why Russia was put on the list:
“Russia is trending in the wrong direction a series of things, arbitrary arrests and imprisonment particularly of Jehovah’s Witnesses that were banned, widespread suppression of religious expression and in practice they have a 2016 law criminalizing illegal missionary activities that have included 156 cases reported by NGO’s in 2017 starting with Salvation Army, Pentecostals, Jehovah Witnesses, of course, Baptists, the Administrative Center of the new Apostolic Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Lutheran Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Ukrainian Reform Orthodox Church, and the Russian Orthodox Church abroad, along with a series of Muslim groups and they banned the reading of the Turkish Islamic theologian Said Nursi.  Under a distorted interpretation of its extremists laws they have 145 currently jailed prisoners for religious beliefs, 106 of which are Muslims, they particularly as well go after the Church of Scientology and those are the reasons we’re put them on the special watch list.  Along with other regions as well that we could talk about.”

You can find a video of this testimony here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6qc0uwKvRA, and the above excerpt can be listened to at 43:01.

Rédigé par EIFRF le Saturday, December 15th 2018 | Comments (0)

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