"The Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If ever there were a safe truth it is this, and Protestantism has ever felt it so; to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant." (-John Henry Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine).

"Where the bishop is, there let the people gather; just as where ever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church". -St. Ignatius of Antioch (ca 110 AD)a martyr later thrown to the lions, wrote to a church in Asia Minor. Antioch was also where the term "Christian" was first used.

“But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15

"This is the sole Church of Christ, which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic." -CCC 811

Monday, May 18, 2009

Religious Freedom Under Threat

By Father John Flynn, LC ROME, May. 10, 2009 (Zenit.org through Catholic.net).- The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom continues to show that religious freedom is a human right under fire, but changes have come about and they are not all negative.

Though Myanmar and Venezuela have a worsening record when it comes to religious freedom, India is showing signs of improvement.

On May 1 the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its annual report, together with its recommendations about which countries should be denominated as "countries of particular concern," or CPCs.

This is the 10th report by the commission since it was set up by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.

The CPC countries named by the USCIRF are: Myanmar, China, North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

The recommendations made by the USCIRF go to the State Department, where a decision is made about how many of the nations on the USCIRF list will actually be declared CPCs.

The current State Department list of CPC countries is made up of eight of the nations recommended by the USCIRF: Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan.

The commission also announced a "Watch List" of countries whose behavior calls for close monitoring due to the extent of violations of religious freedom. The 2009 list is made up of: Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey and Venezuela.

The report has detailed information on the countries in the CPC and Watch List categories. Myanmar, the report affirmed, has one of the world‘s worst human rights records, and religious freedom has diminished in the last year. The military regime severely restricts religious practice and monitors the activity of all religious organizations, the commission noted.

An estimated 136 Buddhist monks remain in prison, awaiting trials, according to the report, and monasteries remain closed or function in a limited capacity. As well, ethnic minority Christians and Muslims continue to encounter difficulties.

In China, according to the commission, "there has been no improvement in the religious freedom situation and, in fact, there has been a marked deterioration in the past year, particularly in Tibetan Buddhist and Uighur Muslim areas."

Egregious violations

"The Chinese government continues to engage in systematic and egregious violations of the freedom of religion or belief, with religious activities tightly controlled and some religious adherents detained, imprisoned, fined, beaten and harassed," the report stated.

The commission also commented that the repression of many religious groups intensified prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Turning to the Middle East the report said that in Iran, "official rhetoric and government policy resulted in a deterioration in conditions for nearly all non-Shi‘a religious groups."

Government policy endorses the violation of religious freedom, including detention, torture and executions based on the religion of the accused, the commission alleged.

The report also drew attention to the situation in Iraq, where it said, "The government continues to commit and tolerate severe abuses of freedom of religion or belief."

Turning to Saudi Arabia, the report acknowledged that King Abdullah has allowed some limited reform measures, as well as promoting interreligious dialogue. Nevertheless, the government still bans all forms of public religious expression other than that of the government‘s own interpretation of one school of Sunni Islam.

In addition, the commission accused Saudi authorities of supporting on the international level groups that promote "an extremist ideology, including in some cases, violence toward non-Muslims and disfavored Muslims."

In Egypt, the report continued, there are serious problems of discrimination, intolerance, and other human rights violations against members of religious minorities. Serious religious freedom violations continue to affect Coptic Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Baha‘is, as well as members of minority Muslim communities, the commission accused.

Moreover, the report argued that the government has not taken sufficient steps to halt the repression and discrimination against religious believers, or to punish those responsible for violence or other severe violations of religious freedom. Read more...

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