Advertisements

UKRAINE: In Kiev, protests bring Orthodox priests to pray on the frontline despite Government warnings

26 01 2014

.

We believe all those priests pictured below deserve Nobel Peace Prize for their actions during the recent, still ongoing, conflicts between protesters and police. CERFI is inviting all individuals and organizations to qualified to nominate Peace Prize candidates, to officially nominate Ukrainian priests for Nobel Peace Prize for 2014.

Jura Nanuk, 
CERFI Founder & President

Related post: APPEAL of the Ukrainian churches and religious organizations on the occasion of the foreign aggression
  

Two months into an uprising that has claimed at least two lives and brought thousands to the streets, Ukraine’s political crisis still seems far from any resolution. President Yanukovych has refused to declare a state of emergency, though by all accounts theprotests are escalating.

Amidst burned buses, tear gas and barricades, however, there is another sight that stands out on the frontline: The strong numbers of Orthodox priests who have turned out, not to protest, but rather to pray.

Earlier this month, Ukraine’s government threatened to ban prayer services at the protests, but even that didn’t keep the priests from showing up with their robes and crosses and holy books.

As one priest said about the proposed ban, “It is illegal. It is immoral. Nobody can forbid people to pray.”

Here are some amazing photos of these brave priests on the frontline:

APTOPIX Ukraine Protest

Orthodox priests pray as they stand between pro-European Union activists and police lines in central Kiev, Ukraine, early Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

A priest holds an icon at a barricade of the anti-government demonstrators in the center of Kiev early on January 24, 2014. (SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

A priest holds an icon at a barricade of the anti-government demonstrators in the center of Kiev early on January 24, 2014. (SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

Orthodox priests pray as they stand between pro-European Union activists and police lines in central Kiev, Ukraine, early Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Orthodox priests pray as they stand between pro-European Union activists and police lines in central Kiev, Ukraine, early Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Priests of different faiths pray during clashes with police in central Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Priests of different faiths pray during clashes with police in central Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

An Orthodox priest prays in front police officers as they block a street after clashes in central Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

An Orthodox priest prays in front police officers as they block a street after clashes in central Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Orthodox priests pray as they stand between pro-European Union activists and police lines in central Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)

Orthodox priests pray as they stand between pro-European Union activists and police lines in central Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)

An Orthodox priest prays in front of police officers as they block a street after clashes in central Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

An Orthodox priest prays in front of police officers as they block a street after clashes in central Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

An Orthodox priest holds a cross in front of riot policemen standing guard in front of the parliament's building in Kiev on January 14, 2014, as Ukrainian veterans and invalids of Chernobyl's nuclear disaster try to give their demandings to the parliamentary leadership. (SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

An Orthodox priest holds a cross in front of riot policemen standing guard in front of the parliament’s building in Kiev on January 14, 2014, as Ukrainian veterans and invalids of Chernobyl’s nuclear disaster try to give their demandings to the parliamentary leadership. (SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

Three Ukrainian priest/monks from Kiev stood between protesters and soldiers last week, refusing to take sides and preserving peace. It is one of many such encounters between what The Guardian called “steel-nerved priests” and increasingly violent people on both sides. Photo source: Unknown; via Twitter.

Three Ukrainian priest/monks from Kiev stood between protesters and soldiers last week, refusing to take sides and preserving peace. It is one of many such encounters between what The Guardian called “steel-nerved priests” and increasingly violent people on both sides. Photo source: Unknown; via Twitter.

Source unknown.

Source unknown.

Jan. 22, 2014 – An Orthodox priest tries to stop a clash between protesters and the police in the center of Kiev, Ukraine. Anti-government street protests in Kiev turned deadly overnight, as opposition organizers announced that three demonstrators had been killed, one from a fall and two shot by police. Sergei Supinsky / AFP/Getty Images

Jan. 22, 2014 – An Orthodox priest tries to stop a clash between protesters and the police in the center of Kiev, Ukraine. Anti-government street protests in Kiev turned deadly overnight, as opposition organizers announced that three demonstrators had been killed, one from a fall and two shot by police.
Sergei Supinsky / AFP/Getty Images

Orthodox priests have been urging security forces to refrain from using violence. Getty Images.

Orthodox priests have been urging security forces to refrain from using violence. Getty Images.

Advertisements




UK: Atheist Afghan man granted asylum to protect him from ‘religious’ persecution

15 01 2014

An Afghan asylum seeker who become an atheist has been granted leave to remain in Britain because he would face ‘religious’ persecution for abandoning Islam.

An Afghan man prays at the end of the day in Ghazni, Afghanistan Photo: AFP

An Afghan man prays at the end of the day in Ghazni, Afghanistan Photo: AFP

By John Bingham / The Telegraph

A young Afghan man who became an atheist after coming to Britain has been granted asylum on the grounds that the threat to his life for having no faith would amount to “religious” persecution.

In what is thought to be the first case of its kind in the UK, the Home Office accepted that sending the man back to his country of birth could put him in danger specifically because of his lack of religious beliefs.

The man, who is not being named for safety reasons, was born a Muslim but abandoned his faith after coming to the UK as a teenager around five years ago.

Apostasy – or abandoning the faith – can be punished with the death penalty under Afghan law.

Central to his case to the Home Office was the example of Abdul Rahman an Afghan man who was put on trial and faced death in 2006 for converting to Christianity.

He was released and given asylum in Italy only after the intervention of the Afghan President Hamid Karzi who had come under intense international pressure over the case.

In the latest case the man’s lawyers argued that as someone of no religious faith he could face even greater danger in Afghanistan than a member of a minority religion such as Christianity.

It comes just weeks after Supreme Court effectively recognised Scientology as a religion in a landmark judgment which established that it is not necessary to worship a god or gods to constitute a religion.

In the asylum case lawyers did not have to establish atheism as a “religion” because it was clear that any risk he faced would be of a religious nature.

But his solicitor, Sheona York, said it nonetheless underlined the significance of atheism as a distinct “philosophical position”.

The man’s case to the Home Office was prepared by Claire Splawn, a second year law student at the University of Kent, under the supervision of Ms York, through the Kent Law Clinic, a partnership between students, academics and solicitors and local lawyers.

She said: “We argued that an atheist should be entitled to protection from persecution on the grounds of their belief in the same way as a religious person is protected.”

Ms York added: “We believe that this is the first time that a person has been granted asylum in this country on the basis of their atheism

“The decision represents an important recognition that a lack of religious belief is in itself a thoughtful and seriously-held philosophical position.”

In the submission they explained that having lived in Britain for several years and adopted western customs and dress, the young man feared that even were he to disguise his atheism in Afghanistan it would quickly be discovered.

It says that the application was made on the basis that: “As an atheist, if returned to Afghanistan, he will face persecution for a Convention reason, namely (lack of) religion; or alternatively that he faces a substantial risk of serious harm on account of his lack of religious beliefs”

It adds: “Afghanistan is a Muslim dominated country where religion underpins every aspect of everyday life.

“Furthermore, in Afghanistan, and even in Kabul, life is lived in such a way that everyone is connected with everyone else.

“There is no sense of privacy and his lack of beliefs would become very quickly known. “It is clear hat the applicant fears for his life in Afghanistan where he is not only non-Muslim but does not in fact believe in any religion.”

It goes on to explain how the man had recently made a visit to another predominantly Muslim country, to visit friends, and had been “shocked” by how his lack of belief made him stand out.

“He was shocked by how everyone talked as if life meant nothing to them,” it says.

“People said ‘this is not the only world’ and that you have to believe. People said ‘you cannot sit and eat with people who are not Muslim’.

“He noticed that to the people he met, this life meant nothing to them and all their expectations were focused on the other world, life after death.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need it and we consider every application on a case by case basis.”





HUNGARY: Methodist church leader calls government decision “discriminatory”

14 01 2014
Gabor-Ivanyi

Pastor Gabor Ivanyi celebrating mass at pastor celebrates mass at the Church of Reconciliation of Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship.

By Benjamin Novak / BUDAPEST BEACON

Students attending the John Wesley Theological College will no longer qualify for state educational grants according to Gabor Ivanyi of the Evangelical Fellowship.  The Department of Education’s decision to deny government scholarships to those attending (or wishing to attend) this esteemed institute of higher learning is the latest in a series of government measures targeting the Hungarian Methodist Church.  Ivanyi calls the decision “discriminatory”.

In addition to theology, the John Wesley Theological College offers programs in social work and minority outreach.  One of its faculty members, Zoltan Balog, was appointed state secretary for minority affairs in 2010 and presently serves as Hungary’s Minister of Human Resources (to which the Department of Education belongs).

In addition to the John Wesley Theological College, the Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship operates 25 schools in 18 impoverished villages and towns around Hungary, providing education for over 3,000 children who would otherwise not be able to attend school.

In 2011 the Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship was stripped of its status as a state-recognized religion. Widely criticized at home and abroad, the 2011 Law on Religion provides for only state-recognized religions to receive government funding of any kind.

Since then the government has stripped the Methodist church of state subsidies with which to fund its various social programs and facilities, including homeless shelters, refugee housing, and retirement homes.

Towards the end of 2013 the government required the Methodist church prove its “legitimacy” by collect endorsing signatures from all of its members.  After the church collected twice the required number of signatures, the government appointed a committee of three ‘religious scholars’ to determine the “theological legitimacy” of the church. The scholars’ identities have not been made public and the committee has yet to issue its findings.

If the committee finds the Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship merits legal recognition, the matter will be forwarded to the Parliamentary Committee on National Security to determine whether the church poses any kind of national security threat. If it passes that stage of approval, a plenary session of Hungary’s Parliament will vote on the fate of Ivanyi’s church. In order for the church to regain the status it enjoyed from the late-1970’s until 2011, two-thirds of the National Assembly would need to vote in favor of granting the church a ‘recognized’ status.

Ivanyi officiated at the marriage of Prime Minister Viktor Orban and also christened two of his children. Ivanyi also buried the father of National Assembly Speaker Laszlo Kover. When Queen Elizabeth visited Hungary in the early 1990s she met Ivanyi and visited Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship’s homeless shelter on Danko street.   A photograph of Ivanyi with Her Majesty the Queen of England, adorns Ivanyi’s Danko street office.

Pastor Ivanyi Gabor

Pastor Ivanyi Gabor





United Nations too Christian, claims report

6 01 2014

United Nations

Study calls for greater religious tolerance with Hinduism and Buddhism under-represented and funding a major issue

Christianity dominates the United Nations and more diversity is needed to increase non-Christian representation in world peacemaking, according to a study.

Research undertaken by Prof Jeremy Carrette, with colleagues from the University of Kent’s department of religious studies, has revealed that more than 70% of religious non-government organisations (NGOs) at the UN are Christian, and that there is historical privilege in allowing the Vatican a special observer status, as both a state and a religion.

The report, called Religious NGOs and the United Nations, calls for greater awareness, transparency and equality in the way religious NGOs operate within the UN, and more emphasis on religious tolerance.

The report also asks for greater understanding of how religions enhance and constrain human rights. It provides evidence that funding limits other religious traditions from establishing NGO work at the UN.

Islam, is represented more significantly through a collective of states (the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation) rather than civil society NGOs, which are dominated by Catholic groups, according to the report.

Asian religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, are under-represented and funding is a major issue in preventing their equal access, it said.

Carrette said: “It would seem there needs to be more of a ‘global goodwill’ to make the UN system work for all religions equally, and for religions to follow and share equally UN goals for peace and justice.

“The report highlights that while all religions are represented in some way in the peacemaking system of the UN, there are structural and historical differences that need to be addressed.

“It also shows that religions form an important part of international global politics and that in a global world we need to establish a new pluralistic contract for equal access for all religions to the UN system.

“This must also entail religious groups working towards the ideals of the UN, in terms of human rights, fairness and justice for all men and women.”

The report questions claims by the Christian right that new age cults run the UN , saying evidence suggests these are greatly misjudged and erroneous.

It also shows the number of inter-faith and new age NGOs is very small, and religious NGOs in total form only 7.29% of the total of consultative status NGOs at the UN.

But despite their small size, some religious NGOs can have a far greater influence, the research suggests. Among the most active religious NGO groups are Catholics, Quakers and the Baha’i faith, which have some of the highest number of meetings with UN diplomats.

Source: Hindu Human Rights





NEWS ALERT: Hungarian Government Investigates Evangelicals; US Concerned

1 01 2014

WASHINGTON/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife) — A senior Democratic member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee has warned that a Hungarian government investigation into a key evangelical church “opens the door” to communist-style “repressive measures” against faith groups.

US Senator Ben Cardin

US Senator Ben Cardin

In a statement obtained by BosNewsLife early Monday, December 16, Senator Ben Cardin said he was disturbed that Hungary’s center-right leadership is “launching an investigation into the Methodist Evangelical Church, a church persecuted during communist times.

The denomination, officially called the ‘Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship’ (HEF), “is known for its outreach to Roma, work with the homeless and is one of the largest charitable organizations in Hungary,” Cardin told the Senate last Friday, December 13.

It was among “hundreds of religious groups stripped of official recognition” in this former communist nation, after Hungary’s new religion law was rushed through parliament by supporters of the ruling Fidesz party of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, he noted.

“The church has now complied with submitting the necessary number of supporters required by the law and, as a reply, the government has announced an unidentified ‘expert’ will conduct an investigation into the church’s beliefs and tenets,” the senator added.

“ACCEPTED CHURCH”

In a statement, Hungary’s Ministry for Human Resources confirmed the probe would focus on “evaluating whether the church’s activities are primarily of a religious nature.”

The investigation is also aimed at uncovering “whether the church complies with its own beliefs and rituals, and whether the church has maintained an active congregation over the past 20 years in Hungary,” the Ministry said, citing regulations introduced in 2011 and 2013.

Pastor Gábor Iványi  condemned the latest “official assault” on his Methodist church, which claims to have at least 18,000 members.

Pastor Ivanyi Gabor

Pastor Ivanyi Gabor

In an open letter he said the church was “dedicated to following the teachings of Jesus Christ” by serving the community. He made clear that the investigation was painful as his church was “persecuted and banned during the communist era.”

In earlier remarks he said, “Those who voted for the [religious] law are not with us….This is called dictatorship.”

”ACCEPTED CHURCHES”

Cardin agrees. “This step only reinforces fears that parliamentary denial of recognition as a so-called “Accepted Church” opens the door for further repressive measures,” he explained, according to records obtained by BosNewsLife.

The government has denied wrongdoing. It says the ‘Law on the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion, and on Churches, Religions and Religious Communities’ prevents abuse of Hungary’s tax regulations and other laws.

Cardin said the latest developments come while other religious groups and minorities, including Jewish people and Gypsies, who prefer to be known as Roma, face extremism.

“Veneration of Hungary’s wartime regent,  Miklós Horthy, along with other anti-Semitic figures such as writer József Nyírő continues. In November, a statue of Hungarian Jewish poet Miklós Radnóti, who was killed by Hungarian Nazis at the end of 1944, was rammed with a car and broken in half,” he said.

“At roughly the same time, extremists staged a book burning of his works along with other materials they called “‘Zionist publications”. At the beginning of December, two menorahs were vandalized in Budapest.”

TARGETING HUNGARIANS

The senator noted that targeted Hungarians are seeking asylum abroad. “Reflecting the climate of extremism, more than 160 Hungarian nationals have been found by Canada this year to have a well-founded fear of persecution,” he recalled.

“Almost all are Roma, but the refugees include an 80-year-old award winning Hungarian Jewish writer who received death threats after writing about antisemitism in Hungary.”

He said the writer, Ákos Kertész, “was stripped of his honorary citizenship of Budapest on an initiative from the far-right Jobbik party, supported by votes of the ruling Fidesz party.”

The influential senator said that while “many suggest the real problem comes from the extremist opposition party Jobbik, and not the ruling government,” it seems that some members of Fidesz have contributed “to a rise” in intolerance.

He expressed concerns however about perceived government attempts to undermine media efforts to report on these issues. “I am particularly troubled that the government-created Media Council, consisting entirely of Fidesz delegated members, has threatened ATV–an independent television station–with punitive fines if it again characterizes Jobbik as extremist.”

EVANGELICAL SUPPORT

ATV is backed by the Faith Church, one of Hungary’s largest Pentecostal churches. “If you can’t even talk about what is extremist or anti-Semitic in Hungary without facing legal sanctions, how can you combat extremism and antisemitism?,” the senator wondered.

“Moreover, this decision serves to protect Jobbik from critical debate in the advance of next year’s elections. Why?”

Hungarian State Secretary Zsolt Németh told BosNewsLife however that his ruling Fidesz party won’t seek a coalition with Jobbik, whatever the outcome of the 2014 elections. “I cannot speak for the government, but as a member of Fidesz I can say that will not happen,” he said.

Yet, Cardin said the government is stifling free speech and cracking down on religious freedom. “Unfortunately, and somewhat shockingly, last month Hungary amended its defamation law to allow for the imposition of prison terms up to three years. The imposition of jail time for speech offenses was a hallmark of the communist era.”

The veteran politician noted that during the post-communist transition, the Helsinki Commission advocacy group “consistently urged [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] OSCE countries to repeal criminal defamation and insult laws entirely. In 2004, for example, the Helsinki Commission wrote to Minister of Justice Péter Bárándy regarding the criminal convictions of András Bencsik and László Attila Bertók.”

NEW LAW

Cardin said, “The new law, raced through under an expedited procedure in the wake of a bi-election controversy in which allegations of voter manipulation were traded, was quickly criticized by the OSCE representative on Freedom of the Media. I share her concerns that these changes to the criminal code may lead to the silencing of critical or differing views in society and are inconsistent with OSCE commitments.”

The senator stressed that “Hungary was once held up as a model of peaceful democratic transition and is situated in a region of Europe where the beacon of freedom is still sought by many today. I hope Hungary will return to a leadership role in the protection of human rights and the promotion of democracy.”

However he appeared pessimistic about Hungary’s immediate future. “Since the April 2010 elections, Hungary has undertaken the most dramatic legal transformation that Europe has seen in decades. A new Constitution was passed with votes of the ruling party alone, and even that has already been amended five times.”

Additionally, “More than 700 new laws have been passed, including laws on the media, religion, and civic associations. There is a new civil code and a new criminal code. There is an entirely new electoral framework. The magnitude and scope of these changes have understandably put Hungary under a microscope,” he said.

Cardin added that at a recent Helsinki Commission’s hearing in March, he “examined concerns that these changes” have also “undermined Hungary’s system of democratic checks and balances, independence of the judiciary, and freedoms of the media and religion.”

WITNESSES TESTIFY 

He said he based his conclusions on several sources, including testimonies about rising revisionism and extremism from József Szájer, a European parliamentarian who represented Hungary’s government at the hearing.

Other officials presenting evidence included Princeton University constitutional law expert Kim Lane Scheppelle, Paul Shapiro from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Sylvana Habdank-Kolaczkowska from rights group Freedom House.

“Unfortunately, developments in Hungary remain troubling,” despite international concern, Senator Cardin complained.

Hungary, a nation of nearly 10-million people, joined the European Union in 2004, some 15 years after the collapse of communism here. It is also a member of the NATO military alliance since 1999.








%d bloggers like this: