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Fines for Worship, Prison for Bible Study in China

Persecuted Chinese Christians

The Persecution of Believers in China

Amid increasing attempts to suppress religious activities, Chinese authorities have detained, fined, and imprisoned Christians for public worship, buying and selling devotionals, and group Bible study.

In late April, a court in Xinjiang convicted five Protestants who attended a Bible study in 2016, charging them with “gathering a crowd to disrupt social order,” Asia News reported. The verdict came with five-year prison sentences for two pastors, and four- and three-year sentences for three others. They plan to appeal.

Earlier in April, authorities raided a Christian concert and arrested those attending. Taiwanese Pastor Xu Rongzhang was singing “Jesus Loves You” when the raid took place, China Aid reported. Before releasing them, officials forced the Christians to say they would not organize large gatherings again and told Xu not to hold any meetings of more than 10 people.

A Chinese court also recently convicted prominent Christian human rights lawyer Li Heping on charges of subverting state power. Judges sentenced Li to three years in prison but suspended the sentence for four years. If he does not reoffend during that time, Li will stay out of prison.

Since 1997, Li has defended dissidents, victims of forced evictions, and members of the banned Falun Gong religious group. Officials detained him and nearly 250 others in 2015, in what Amnesty International condemned as a nationwide crackdown against human rights lawyers and activists. Amnesty said the Communist Party’s official newspaper described it as an attempt to destroy a “major criminal gang.”

Several of those lawyers and activists remain in detention, even though Western governments urged Beijing to release them.

Earlier this year, officials in Xinjiang targeted a network of Christian house churches and arrested more than 80 people. They fined and later released them, according to China Aid.

All these incidents illustrate the worsening persecution of Christians under President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on religious activity and human rights. Critics say he wants to eradicate any potential opposition to the ruling Communist Party.

Because religious freedom in China continued to erode in 2016, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) called on the U.S. State Department to keep China listed as a country of particular concern in its recently released 2017 report.

USCIRF reported China’s government revised regulations to more tightly control religious groups, increased penalties against “illegal” Christian churches and activities, and formally prohibited any religion from harming “national security” concerns.

A campaign to remove crosses from churches has continued, and officials targeted and imprisoned Christians who spoke out against it, including Pastor Bao Guohua and his wife, Xing Wenxiang. Not even members of state-sponsored churches were safe from persecution.

China also continues to suppress other religious groups, including Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong, while continuing to forcibly repatriate North Korean refugees, according to USCIRF.

“It is crucial that the U.S. government not only integrate human rights messaging—including on freedom of religion or belief—across its interactions with China, but also consistently make clear that it opposes Beijing’s overt violations of international human rights standards,” USCIRF said in its report.

 

 

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France passes law imposing up to two years prison for running pro-life websites

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PARIS, France, February 17, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — The French National Assembly has adopted legislation to make what it calls “spreading misleading information” about abortion punishable with up to a two-year prison sentence and a fine.

The law specifically targets “electronic” and “online” means of spreading information with the intention of dissuading women from ending their pregnancy, but its wording is not restrictive. By and large, any person or group aiming to call public attention to the dangers and risks of abortion will be potentially at risk of prosecution.

Thursday’s vote was the final stage of a lawmaking process that saw various versions of the text come alternately before the Assembly and the Senate. The upper house repeatedly tried to impose less severe wording without trying to scrap the law entirely. In the absence of an agreement between the two governing bodies, the National Assembly has the last word and so it achieved its aim of virtually outlawing pro-life speech.

The law was adopted by a show of hands – an indication that few lawmakers were present in the Chamber – during which all left-wing representatives present as well as a majority of the centrists voted for the measure. It is the latest in a series of pro-abortion laws that have made “voluntary interruption of pregnancy,” as the French euphemism goes, a purely elective and 100 percent publicly-funded “fundamental right” since socialist François Hollande came into power five years ago.

The criminalization of negative information on abortion is the result of a process that began when members of Hollande’s socialist government realized that Google searches were linking women to pro-life groups. These sites explain the risks and realities of the procedure and where to find assistance to help women keep their baby.

The Ministry of Health responded by putting up a government information site on abortion that is limited to providing details about access to the procedure. It also characterizes as “misconceptions’ the allegations that abortion can have negative side effects and cause health problems or psychological consequences. Included is a page on “misinformation about voluntary interruption of pregnancy” that claims there are pro-life sites masquerading as information sites. Women are urged to link to Planned Parenthood or sites that list abortion center addresses. There is no information on help and public subsidies for expectant mothers.

This initiative did not suffice to gag the pro-life sites the government wanted to relegate to insignificance. So it came up with a new law. It in effect expands an existing ban on “moral and psychological pressure searching to hinder abortion that was adopted in 2001 in order to stop peaceful pro-life activists from speaking to women planning an abortion or organizing demonstrations near abortion centers in clinics and public hospitals.”

The law was rarely used, but Dr. Xavier Dor, a well-known elderly and almost blind pro-lifer, was fined heavily for having given knitted baby boots to a woman he spoke to in the public stairway of the building where Planned Parenthood has its Paris offices.

The new law imposed the same punishment – a maximum of two years imprisonment and a $30,000 fine – on any manner of “spreading or transmitting allegations or indications liable to intentionally mislead, with the purpose of deterring (from abortion), on the characteristics or medical consequences of a voluntary interruption of abortion.”

The Republican (center right) party said the law was a deliberate infringement of freedom of expression and voted against. They also intend to submit the text to the Constitutional Council in the hope of having it declared contrary to the French Constitution.

But while the party was in power, it made no move to abrogate the existing law that already bans “moral and psychological pressure” aiming to dissuade a woman from having an abortion. This has become a pattern in France over the last 40 years since abortion was made legal. All aggravating texts, once voted into law by the left, have never been disputed by the right when it came back into power.

Marisol Touraine, the minister of health, said the law exclusively targets websites that do not present themselves as being pro-life while aiming to deter women from having abortions. Laurence Rossignol, minister for women’s rights, said opponents to abortion would still be free to voice their opinion “under the condition they openly state who they are, what they do and what they want.”

However, the wording of the law does not match this restriction. As it stands, it can be used to prosecute those with any “information” that presents abortion in an unfavorable light and pushes women not to choose abortion. The law does not define who has authority to judge whether information is officially “misleading.” That will be up to judges in principle and specifically to health and government officials.

If government information on abortion is anything to go by, misinformation is likely to run rampant. It calls surgical abortion an “aspiration of the egg” and asserts that “abortion is not the removing of a life,” as Rossignol said in the National Assembly.

Jean-Marie Le Méné, president of the Fondation Lejeune, commented: “That which dissuades from abortion is not false information, but correct information.”

During the parliamentary debate, Rossignol went on record as saying: “Freedom of expression does not signify a right to lying.” That is why pro-lifers in France are slamming a law that attempts to prevent expression of an inconvenient truth.

 

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Mexico: Persecution Forces 30 Christians to Flee Their Homes

Armed villagers raided and destroyed the homes of Protestants in Leyva Velazques village, Chiapas, Mexico on 4 January in the latest example of religious persecution in the country, according to a human rights organisation.

Entrances into the village were blocked by locals forcing the Protestants to flee to the nearby mountains rather than seek help in a neighbouring village, Jorge Lee Galindo, Director of Impulso 18, told International Christian Concern (ICC).

Two men, the commissioner of the community, Jimenez Hernandez, and the municipal agent, Francisco Jimenez Santiz, are thought to be responsible for inciting the violence.

This is not an isolated incident in the village. According to ICC, seven Protestants were arbitrarily imprisoned when they refused to renounce their faith in December 2015.

Protestants are a minority religion in Mexico and “in the rural areas where we see persecution, many villages and their councils are dominated by adherents to syncretistic Catholicism,” ICC’s advocacy manager, Nathaniel Lance, told Christian Today.

Syncretistic Catholicism is a religion formed of components of Catholicism and indigenous beliefs and rituals.

The victims of persecution are “on the fringe of Mexican society”, Lance said.

“As non-Spanish speaking, rural, Protestant Christians, they have no access to the financial, legal, or political resources necessary to end the persecution they suffer.”

Persecution is likely to continue “as long as the Mexican government continues to ignore [it], and refuses to prosecute those responsible”, Lance added. He said the government is unlikely to engage with the persecution as “there is no political incentive to take action”.

Despite Mexico’s consitution protecting freedom of worship, the government uses the Law of Uses and Customs – which states that indigenous culture and customs should be protected – as an excuse not to act.

“They use this to say that the persecution in these areas are part of the indigenous culture,” Lance said.

“There is little media or governmental attention paid to these cases both internationally and in Mexico, which is why raising awareness of persecution is vital.”

ICC staff visited Mexico last year and conservatively estimated that there were over 70 open cases of religious persecution against minority Christian communities, with between 20 and 100 victims each, in the states of Chiapas, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Puebla and Guerrero. This equates to thousands of victims and only represents incidents that have been reported.

The persecution often begins with “financial disagreements, where village leaders want the Protestants to pay for the religious festivals, and other things used for syncretistic Catholic rituals,” Lance said.

“When the Protestant Christians refuse to pay, these situations then escalate to attempted forced conversion, imprisonment, forced expulsion from homes, burning of houses and violent threats.”

It is important to note that the Protestant community is not the sole victim of persecution in Mexico. In 2014, more Catholic priests were killed in Mexico than anywhere else in the world, typically in cartel-related violence.

 

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Chinese Christian Says He and His Church do Not Fear Government Persecution

Although the Chinese government has been cracking down on churches and Christians in China, one Chinese Christian says Christians in China are not afraid.
According to Christian Today, Zhang Tan who is a member of Huoshi church in Guiyang, Guizhou province, condemned the government’s decision to ban his church.
In China, religious freedom is limited and all churches are banned except government-sanctioned ones.
Zhang said that he and other Christians do not want to be a part of a church that is associated with the government. “With genuine faith, and as a Three-Self Church in the truest sense, we do not want to participate in political organisations, particularly a political organisation that committed many political mistakes and will not admit it, defiling the sanctity of the Lord’s Church,” he stated.
Zhang added that members of his church are involved in running the “Home of Love,” a place for orphaned children to receive care.
“Why was this church, which provided positive energy to the community, banned by authorities?” Zhang asked.
China is reportedly increasing its crackdown on churches and Christians, but Zhang says, “As a Christian and a member of Huoshi Church, I would say that we do not fear. We accept that God blesses us; we also accept that God allows suffering to happen.”

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Open Doors World Watch List 2015

wwl map 2015

The World Watch List ranks countries according to the intensity of persecution Christians face for actively pursuing their faith. The list is compiled from a specially-designed questionnaire of 50 questions covering various aspects of religious freedom. A point value is assigned depending on how each question is answered. The total number of points per country determines its position on the World Watch List of the world’s worst persecutors of Christians. The World Watch List lists the 50 countries where faith costs the most. The list is based on detailed information from Open Doors co-workers in over 65 countries, as well as independant experts. Worldwide, the List reports an overall increase in the persecution of Christians in 2014. 

The Open Doors’ WWL 2015 tracks a marked increase in persecution for Christian communities in a large number of African states. Sudan, Eritrea and Nigeria make their appearance in the Top 10. Kenya and Djibouti have marked the steepest climb on the list, and Tanzania and Eritrea also scored significantly higher compared to 2014.

While Africa saw the most rapid growth of persecution, the Middle East saw targeted attacks, resulting in a mass exodus of Christians. In forty countries of the Top 50, Islamic extremism was a major source of persecution. It would be fair to say that the WWL 2015 again shows that the persecution of Christians seems to become more intense in more countries of the world. Approximately 100 million Christians are persecuted worldwide, making them one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world. While persecution can take many forms, Christians throughout the world risk imprisonment, torture, rape and even death as result of their faith.

World Watch List 2015 – Top 10 Countries – Including Summaries

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