Tag archives: Religious Persecution

Sudan must redress Meriam’s new plight along with its legal system, which is already leading to other apostasy charges

by Travis Weber, J.D., LL.M.

June 24, 2014

Just when it looked like Sudanese mother Meriam Ibrahim and her two children would finally be free from the grip of injustice, they were snatched back into the clutches of the Sudanese authorities, who detained them when they arrived at an airport to leave Sudan today. Though it’s unclear on what basis they are being detained, we call on Sudan to immediately release Meriam and her children. In addition, the United States government, specifically Secretary of State Kerry and the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum – must pursue high level engagement on Meriam’s case. Sudan needs to know that the United States and its high level officials are watching whether Sudan pursues justice or regresses backwards into permitting the unjust detention of Meriam and her children to occur once again.

Yesterday, in a heartening turn of events, a Sudanese appeals court overturned a lower court ruling in which Meriam had been sentenced to death for apostasy and 100 lashes for adultery. According to Sudan’s official SUNA news agency (as reported by the Independent), “The appeal court ordered the release of Mariam Yahya and the cancellation of the (previous) court ruling.”

This was certainly a good bit of news, as numerous human rights organizations and governments had pressured Sudan and called on the ruling to be reversed. The U.S. government had been slow to respond, however, only recently issuing statements bearing on the matter. Numerous groups had spoken and petitioned on Meriam’s case, including the Family Research Council. And in Sudan, Meriam’s attorneys had filed appeals and vowed to fight to the end.

It is important to note that the Sudanese court ordering Meriam’s release got this issue right. Yet her re-arrest appears arbitrary – no basis for her detention has been offered – and it will be increasingly harmful to Sudan’s relations with the United States and the other countries outraged by the original charges against Meriam. Moreover, in the eyes of the many of the activists and NGOs which have spoken out on her case, Sudan’s reputation as a just and reasonable country will continue to degrade until it safely releases this family and allows them safe passage out of the country. 

Many have made their voices heard around the world on Meriam’s case. In addition, however, voices within Sudan have made it known that they wanted justice for Meriam too. Here, Muslim men (Meriam’s Sudanese attorneys) are defending a Christian woman (Meriam) in her quest for justice. These attorneys strongly believe in her case, and despite receiving death threats for defending a Christian, they vowed to fight to the end and exhaust all appeals. Furthermore, other Muslims in Sudan have been demonstrating on Meriam’s behalf.

While her attorneys and others in Sudan were on her side, not everyone was happy with Meriam’s freedom. When she was released, Meriam had to go into hiding due to threats against her life. Now, as she is trying to leave the country along with her family, she is being detained by Sudanese national security forces for an unknown reason. We call on Sudan to immediately release Meriam in accordance with the court order overturning her conviction and sentence. In addition, Secretary of State Kerry and the U.S. Embassy in Sudan must pursue high level engagement on Meriam’s case. Sudan needs to know that the United States and its high level officials are watching whether Sudan pursues justice or regresses backwards into permitting the unjust detention of Meriam and her children to occur once again. Sudan is close to bringing justice to Meriam, and must not fail her now.

We have witnessed Meriam’s attorneys and the protesting crowds expressing their support for Sudan to take ownership of this issue and be ready to handle religious freedom challenges when they inevitably arise in the future, for this issue is not going away. Indeed, it has already shown itself again: On April 2, 2014, Sudanese police arrested Faiza Abdalla near Sudan’s eastern border. Though details are scant, it appears that Abdalla, whose parents converted to evangelical Christianity before her birth and raised her in the same faith, was arrested because she has a Muslim name and yet professed Christianity. Her Catholic husband fled Sudan two years ago because of persecution, Morning Star News reported. As in the case of Meriam Ibrahim, Sudanese officials voided her marriage and accused her of apostasy when she refused to deny Christianity.[1]

There is no reason for these cases to recur—Sudan’s apostasy laws are inconsistent in light of the commitments it has made under its Constitution and international agreements, and must be repealed. Sudan’s 2005 Interim Constitution states that the government “shall respect the religious rights to … worship or assemble in connection with any religion or belief and to establish and maintain places for these purposes.”[2] Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sudan is a party, states: “[e]veryone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”[3] The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights states, to which Sudan is a party, states that the “[f]reedom of conscience, the profession and free practice of religion shall be guaranteed. No one may, subject to law and order, be submitted to measures restricting the exercise of these freedoms.”[4]

 

Sudan’s apostasy laws are in conflict and inconsistent with these legal authorities, which provide a religious freedom that includes the freedom to choose one’s beliefs. Sudan has given its word and agreed to abide by these sources of authoritative law, and yet the apostasy laws under which Meriam was jailed and Faiza is detained are still being used to work injustice in Sudan. As a matter of integrity for the Sudanese nation and its legal system, and to avoid ongoing and future injustices like Meriam’s and Faiza’s, Sudan must repeal its apostasy laws.



[1] 2nd Sudanese Woman Jailed for Her Faith, Baptist Press, May 28, 2014, http://www.bpnews.net/printerfriendly.asp?id=42656.

[2] 2005 Interim National Constitution of the Republic of Sudan, art. 6.

[3] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, G.A. res. 2200A (XXI), art. 18, 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force Mar. 23, 1976 [hereinafter ICCPR].

[4] Organization for African Unity, African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, art. 8, June 27, 1981, CAB/LEG/67/3 rev. 5, 21 I.L.M. 58 (1982).

The “Top Ten” Countries for Violence Against Christians

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 12, 2014

The respected anti-persecution ministry Open Doors has released its annual “Top Ten Violence List of countries in which Christians have experienced the most violent incidents for their faith in Jesus Christ.”

Nigeria, thanks to be vicious actions of the Islamist “Boko Haram” group, ranks first on the list. The others, in order, are: Syria, Egypt, Central African Republic (CAR), Mexico, Pakistan, Colombia, India, Kenya and Iraq. For a complete country summary of the Top 10 Violence List, click here.

Today, FRC President Tony Perkins and a host of FRC staffers went to the White House to call on President Obama to work for the release of Meriam Ibrahim from a fetid Sudanese prison, in which she is being held with her toddler son and newborn daughter. Her crime? Her refusal to jettison her lifelong Christian faith. FRC joined 40 other groups in calling on the President at least to make a public statement of support for this woman, who is married to an American citizen and whose children arguably are thus themselves American citizens. Meriam and her little ones should be released — now — and the U.S. government should take the lead in making this happen.

You can read Tony’s remarks and learn more about this tragic situation here.

Religious Persecution Around the World is Growing

by Rob Schwarzwalder

January 17, 2014

Religious persecution around the world is growing. Consider two recent studies from respected sources, Pew Research and Open Doors USA, and a summary analysis by The Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University. Here are excerpts and links to each of these moving reports:

Pew Research: “The share of countries with a high or very high level of social hostilities involving religion reached a six-year peak in 2012, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. A third (33%) of the 198 countries and territories included in the study had high religious hostilities in 2012, up from 29% in 2011 and 20% as of mid-2007. Religious hostilities increased in every major region of the world except the Americas.”

Open Doors USA: “For the 12th consecutive year the hermit communist country of North Korea remains the world’s most restrictive nation in which to practice Christianity, according to the Open Doors 2014 World Watch List (WWL). However, a major trend which the WWL tracked in 2013 was a marked increase in persecution for Christian communities in states that are commonly regarded as ‘failed.’ A failed country is defined ‘as a weak state where social and political structures have collapsed to the point where government has little or no control’.”

Berkley Center: “A common myth is that it is just fear-mongering to imagine that Christians and other religious groups could suffer serious restrictions in Western countries. Of course, Western countries have been free of the kinds of violent attacks on Christians and other religious groups that have occurred in countries such as Egypt and Syria in recent years. But the trend lines are not encouraging.”

We do not experience physical attacks or imprisonment in the U.S. We do experience a growing tide of anti-religious bias, not just from our culture but from the current administration (as FRC has documented at length).

Loss of liberty is seldom, if ever, sudden. Almost invariably, it occurs incrementally. The Obama mandate that even explicitly Christian-based businesses, religious colleges and universities, and faith-based hospitals must provide their employees access to at least one health insurance plan that includes coverage of drugs that can produce abortions is a troubling sign that the incremental erosion of our “first freedom” is real.

FRC continues to lead the battle to oppose the mandate and is active with the conservative legal community to fight this disturbing Obama Administration proposal. We also continue to stand with people of Christian faith who are killed, tortured, and expelled from their homes and schools simply because of their profession of faith. If you already haven’t, please join us.

Albrecht Dürer Unsequestered

by Robert Morrison

June 10, 2013

I must applaud The New York Times’ review of the Albrecht Dürer exhibit recently offered at Washington’s National Gallery of Art. It is heartening to know that the great Sequestration—about which there has been so much hype and hubbub—did not shut down this amazing exhibit.

Exhibit organizers refer to Dürer’s famed Praying Hands as the most famous painting in the world. Can it be? Can we really say that of this devout artist’s most beloved work?

There is nothing idealized in these hands. They are rough, veined, wrinkled, hard-worked hands. They tell a story in themselves.

The Martyrdom of St. John the Evangelist is a work of the young Dürer (1496-98). It shows the death by boiling oil, supervised by a ruler dressed as a Turkish sultan. No political correctness here. (Or, historical accuracy, either, since these martyrs died centuries before the Ottomans came on the scene.)

Adam and Eve are depicted as ideal human forms, part of Dürer’s lifelong effort to get the human body right. (My theologian friend notes the strategic placement of the leaves, saying that this was chronologically incorrect since Adam and Eve had not yet fallen. Or, Fallen. And thus they had no need to feel shame. But I’m not sure those are fig leaves.)

I especially like the great German artist’s rendering of lions. He drew some of them from the stone lions of Venice, which he had seen on a youthful trek to that fabled republic. But then, in 1521, the mature Dürer sees a real lion for the first time in a Netherlands zoo.

The contrast is startling. One wonders whether we will react the same way when we see the real savior for the first time. Is he safe? Certainly not, but he is good.

I come upon Dürer’s “Head of an African.” The Museum text tells us he probably encountered this young black man during his Venetian sojourn. It’s a powerful portrait, rich in empathy.

You have to think: If all Europeans had seen this drawing could the African Slave Trade ever have existed? Well, all Europeans (and Americans) today have seen incredible pictures of unborn children and yet the abortion traffic still exists.

Albrecht Dürer depicted himself as Jesus in a work titled “Man of Sorrows.” We might think this egotistic, but it was no less a Reformation figure than Martin Luther who said we should each strive to be “little Christs.” Albrecht and Agnes Dürer were childless and they doubtless knew what sorrow was. Dürer announced his sympathy with Luther and grieved when he thought the Bible scholar had been kidnapped and might face the flames of martyrdom.

It is interesting to see Albrecht Dürer as a Medieval figure in his religious sensibilities and also as a bridging figure in his commercial striving and obvious yearning for fame.

By comparison, the great artisans of the High Middle Ages often left us no record of their names. They who carved the statues at the magnificent Chartres Cathedral in France pointedly did not sign their work. It was all done for God, in devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, so why would you need to sign it?

Dürer, faithful as he is, wants the credit. He signs everything. He even makes a signature block print of his initials “AD” and places them where lesser artists might have placed anno domini (in the Year of our Lord).

One Dürer work not included in this exhibit is one I had hoped to see—The Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand. The painting is a vast tableau, an incredibly complex and vivid visual representation of a mass killing dating from the earliest days of Christendom. Dürer has portrayed himself and his friend, Konrad Celtis, in the center of the painting. They are clad in funereal black, as if in mourning, as if they are mere witnesses to the massacre of innocents.

The story of this martyrdom is a part of what is called the Golden Legend, a work familiar to Christians in Dürer’s day, filled with stories of the true cost of discipleship. Ten thousands Roman soldiers converted to Christ are killed in one act of vengeance and persecution. The killers are Persians and local forces aligned with the pagan emperors of Rome and acting upon their direction, just as the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate felt he was remembering Caesar when he sentenced blameless Jesus to death.

Dürer depicts those ordering the killings as Oriental despots, arrayed in Turkish attire. We know from the legend itself they are not Muslim Turks. Still, it makes one wonder if a public display now of Muslim Ottomans killing Christians would be considered too inflammatory to show.

Will future painters dare to depict the martyrdom of the ten thousand Copts? Will artists memorialize the murder of Christians in Pakistan? Or Northern Nigeria? Maybe Drummer Lee Rigby’s beheading in broad daylight on a London street will be the subject of an artist’s heart’s desire to witness to the truth.

We are living in the times of the Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand. We need to witness to these truths, as our ancestors in the Faith did unhesitatingly. Or will these truths be sequestered?

Albrecht Dürer is at once quintessentially German and a wholly universal figure. Like Johann Sebastian Bach, he exemplifies that broad Christian humanism, that caritas that embraces all mankind.

Paying Off Egypt’s Persecutors

by Robert Morrison

May 30, 2013

Earlier this year, The New York Times reported that Secretary of State John Kerry had signed off on $250 million of a projected $1 billion aid package for the new Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt. As the late Sen. Everett Dirksen said, “a billion here, a billion there. Pretty soon, you’re talking real money.” So perhaps it’s time to take a look at what American taxpayers are getting for their money.

Raymond Ibrahim is a Coptic Christian, originally from Egypt. He reports on a world too often overlooked by our increasingly secular media—the world of Christian persecution. In Egypt, it is a world of hurt. Ibrahim documents this and much more in his new book, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians. Here are some of his findings:

In November 2012, an Egyptian court decreed that eight Christians living in America—seven native Egyptians, and one American, Pastor Terry Jones—be sent to Egypt and executed in connection with the 16-minute YouTube Muhammad video. The prosecution offered no real evidence against the Christians, most of whom deny any involvement, and instead relied on inciting Muslims against the accused by replaying the video in the courtroom.

In September 2012, 27-year-old Copt Albert Saber was accused of posting clips of the Muhammad movie—which he had actually downloaded from a Muslim site, not YouTube. Muslims attacked and evicted him and his mother from their home; he was arrested and is currently awaiting a multi-year sentence.

In March 2012, Makram Diab, a 49-year-old Christian, was sentenced in a 10-minute show trial to six years in prison for “insulting Muhammad.” He had gotten into a religious argument with a Muslim colleague, who went on to protest that Diab had offended the prophet. The judge doubled the sentence to appease an angry mob, 2,500 strong, which had surrounded the courtroom demanding Diab’s death.

In August 2012, Bishoy Kamil, a Copt in his 20s who worked as a teacher, was arrested and given six years in prison for posting cartoons deemed insulting to Islam and its prophet on Facebook. Like Diab, he was given more than double the maximum penalty to appease mob calls for his death.

In April 2012, Gamal Abdu Massud, a teenage Christian student, was sentenced to three years on accusations that he had posted a Muhammad cartoon on his Facebook account, which had only some 135 friends.  Apparently the wrong “friend” saw it, for it was not long before local Muslims rioted, burning the Coptic teenager’s house as well as the homes of five other Christians.

In June 2011, another Christian woman, Naima Wahib Habil, newly hired as director of a junior high school for girls, was sentenced to two years imprisonment on the accusation that she had torn a copy of the Koran in front of her students. The rumor inspired mob riots and calls for her death.

Note the dates of the legal persecutions and prosecutions of Christians in Egypt. Every one of them has occurred since the much-hailed “Arab Spring.”

President Obama’s own role in this pattern of persecution is by no means that of an innocent bystander. He went to Egypt’s Cairo University in June 2009, to deliver his “New Beginning” speech to what he then called “the Muslim world.” Right from the start, we knew there could be no place for Christians in that world he so designated.

President Obama referred to the Muslim scriptures as “the Holy Koran,” something no previous U.S. President had done there.  He also said that the Mideast was “the region where Islam was first revealed.” That was a theological term freighted with meaning. It must mean, at minimum, that Islam has superseded Christianity and Judaism.

In that seat of Muslim learning, in that hotbed of Muslim Brotherhood underground activity, the forces of upheaval took Mr. Obama’s words at face value: They would find a new friend in the White House.

They soon did. Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, who had at least maintained a thirty-year “cold peace” with Israel and who had not given official sanction to the persecution of Egypt’s ten percent Christian minority, was soon swept away.

The “Arab Spring” would bring democracy and human rights to Egypt. The Obama administration welcomed the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. And paid them generously out of money we must borrow from China.   John Brennan, the current Director of the CIA, referred to the Muslim Brotherhood as “largely secular.” That is true only if you discount its origins, its teachings, its history, and its practices.

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt began almost at the same time as Germany’s National Socialists and shared with that “Nazi” movement a strong commitment to dominate all of society. They also shared with the Nazis a fanatical judenhass—hatred of the Jews. Like the Nazis, they use electoral politics to achieve their ends because they couple open appeals for votes with the threat of violence if they don’t get what they want.

Not all the reactions to Islamist persecution have been those of outraged Western critics, however. Even in the midst of violence and hatred by the jihadists, some Christians are speaking truth to power.

Abraham Kuruvilla is an American of Indian descent. He brings his gentle manner to bear in this thoughtful essay. Abraham is a graduate of University of Virginia and recently returned from a two-year course of study in Defence and National Security at the University of Madras. Abraham’s column—“Amidst Jihadist Hatred, Something New”— is well worth reading.

Still, we as American citizens and taxpayers can use our rights just as Paul did with the Roman rulers. We can speak out and protest our tax monies being used to fund such murderous mistreatment of our fellow Christians in Egypt. 

A Response to “Why Tolerate Religion?”

by Rob Schwarzwalder

May 3, 2013

Freedom of Religion encompasses more than intellectual assent and private, enclosed worship services. It includes the integration of one’s faith into all spheres of life, such that one’s deeply held religious convictions are allowed to animate, unhindered, speech and conduct in the public, professional, and community spheres.

It is for this reason that the Bill of Rights lists freedom of religion as its first enumerated freedom: The Founders recognized that allegiance to God has to precede allegiance to the state, or else the state itself would usurp the role of God. This is directly opposed to the essential principle of America’s very existence, that our rights come from our Creator, not the government.

University of Chicago law professor Bruce Leiter thinks otherwise. In his new book, Why Tolerate Religion, Leiter asserts, “no one has been able to articulate a credible principled argument for tolerating religion qua religion - that is, an argument that would explain why, as a matter of moral principle, we ought to accord special legal and moral to religious practices” (p.7).

I wonder if Prof. Leiter has every read a survey of Western history, perhaps one that contains sections on the persecution of the early church, the Inquisition, anti-Catholic violence, or the Holocaust? Perhaps he should spend a few minutes reading official federal government reports on the ongoing and massive oppression of Christians and other people of faith around the globe.

The assertion that a “principled” case for religious liberty remains unmade is so striking in its ignorance that it invites the derision a serious academic should find embarrassing. As my friend Joe Loconte, professor of history at The King’s College in New York, writes:

The author seems astonishingly unaware of the Judeo-Christian intellectual tradition and its contribution to the foundations of liberal democracy. The scientific revolution, the concept of human dignity, an ethos of compassion for the poor, the political ideals of equal rights and government by consent — all of these developments are unthinkable without the influence of the Judeo-Christian tradition in the West. (Source: Standpoint Magazine)

The University of Chicago Law School often is hailed as one of America’s premier institutions of legal thought and training. It’s luster has been dimmed by Prof. Leiter’s uninformed and prejudicial rant. However smooth his prose, the absence of logic, factuality, and dispassion - ostensibly the very foundations of legal reasoning - does not deter him from publishing one of the most troubling and intellectually discreditable books by a serious American scholar in some time.

My distinguished colleague Bob Morrison summarizes the case for religious liberty this way: “One’s right to worship God and follow his conscience according to the principles of his religious faith was foundational to all morality. A man whose religious faith was repressed could never be a loyal citizen, since the state was usurping his first allegiance and costing him his primary, or first, freedom.”

Anyone presenting himself as an interpreter of American law and justice who fails to grasp these truths should read an interesting couple of texts he might find rather arresting, namely the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Remembering the Creator to Whom the Declaration refers and Whose bestowal of rights and liberties is the steel beam of American public life might prove useful to Prof. Leiter and all who, like him, would reduce religious and, thereby, all liberty to the whim of the state, the very thing against which a brave and thoughtful generation of Americans revolted in the 1770s.

A Tale of Three Converts

by Rob Schwarzwalder

November 20, 2012

Farhan Haji Mose was cut in two this past Friday. His crime was conversion from Islam to Christianity. He was 25.

Beheaded before he was severed, Farhan was executed before a crowd of Muslims and Christians. His body was dumped on a beach in the Somali port city of Barawa, where it was found by a local fisherman.

Farhan became a Christian in 2010 while visiting Kenya on a business trip. For this, his killers accused him of being a spy and joining a foreign religion.

Al-Shabaab is the name of the terrorist/Islamist organization that murdered Farhan. They run much of southern Somalia, arguably the worlds most lawless state. Among their most notorious achievements:

Morning Star News reports that Al Shabaab rebels have killed dozens of Christian converts from Islam since embarking on a campaign to rid Somalia of Christianity. The insurgents, variously estimated at 3,000 to 7,000, seek to impose a stricter version of Sharia (Islamic law) on Somalia.

Rimsha Masih, a young, mentally-challenged Pakistani woman, was freed from prison earlier today after charges that she burned pages of the Quran were found baseless and then dropped. International pressure on the government of Pakistan played a role, as did the common decency (or political concerns) of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and various Muslim religious leaders. Rimsha is a Christian.

Asia Bibbi, a young Pakistani Christian wife and mother of five, was arrested and imprisoned in 2010 for blasphemy against Islam (she talked to some friends about her faith in Jesus). She is under a death sentence, but thus far Pakistani fear of international outrage has surmounted the brutality of its courts and religious laws.

One Christian murdered. Another freed. Another left dangling over the mouth of death.

Why has God allowed their lives to be so disposed? Why has He let one captive go free, kept another in prison, and allowed a third to be horrifically murdered?

We dont know, other than that He is God and is sovereign, loving, just, and deeper in His wisdom and working than we can begin to comprehend. Yet whatever He permits, however small or large, significant or seemingly unimportant, He is intersecting every event in every life to accomplish purposes which are, for now, obscure to us. But He never leaves, never forsakes. He does not exempt us from pain. Rather, He is with us in it.

May God have mercy on the killers of Farhad and give great comfort to his family. May He protect Rimsha Masih and her family; they can no longer go back to their village for fear of reprisal. And may He strengthen and sustain Asia Bibbi as she awaits the liberty that is rightfully hers.

Last week, FRC partnered with our friends at Voice of the Martyrs to highlight the suffering of Christians throughout the world, Christians whose only crime is owning Jesus as Savior and Lord. You can watch it here, and be inspired to take the action steps given at the end to help defend our brothers and sisters in Christ whose lives are at risk simply for following the God of the universe.

Be faithful unto death, said the Lord Jesus, and I will give you the crown of life (Revelation2:10). Farhad Haji Mose has now been crowned with a life no force on earth or hell can ever take away from him. It will be joyous to meet him someday.

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