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Japan’s policy of denial on religious freedom

29 07 2014

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By 
Co-founder and principal investigator, Freedom Rights Project

 

Co-authored by Patricia Duval and Willy Fautré

For decades, Japanese authorities have looked the other way when families have attempted to force adult children to recant their religious faith by abducting them and subjecting them to physical and psychological coercion. Japanese police have protected the perpetrators from prosecution, in effect colluding in such crimes and thus violating the victims’ human right to religious freedom.

Over the past four years, we have brought this tragic situation to the attention of the international community. It has been exposed in reports by the U.S. Department of State and by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. We have briefed numerous members of the Japanese Diet on the matter, even meeting with current Prime Minister Abe when he was an MP.

In February, we were informed by a representative of the Japanese Justice Ministry that they were aware that the UN Human Rights Committee was looking into the problem. But when the Committee met with a delegation of Japanese officials in Geneva during its review of Japan on 16 July to go over their list of concerns, the officials brazenly claimed they had no information about such cases. Following the review, the Human Rights Committee concluded that it was “concerned at reports of abductions and forced confinement of converts to new religious movements by members of their families in an effort to de-convert them … [Japan] should take effective measures to guarantee the right of every person not to be subject to coercion which would impair his or her freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief.”

Japanese parents often dominate their children well into middle age, and desperately try to suppress actions that might bring shame to the family. When it comes to children joining new religious movements, they have been aided not only by police, courts, and the government, but by civil society as well. Despite the presentation of detailed evidence of illegal abductions and coercion, not a single criminal case has been accepted by Japanese prosecutors. Japanese newspapers did report on a civil court decision awarding Toro Goto, a member of the Unification Church, the meager sum of $42,000 following his having been forcibly detained and abused for over 12 years. But media have otherwise assisted in covering up the issue. No Japanese human rights group has investigated these human rights violations. Human rights lawyers in Japan are likewise disinterested.

There is no doubt this is a complex issue, because it lies at the intersection of family life, national culture and international law. Indeed, the abductions are cases of domestic violence. The authorities are reluctant to intervene, although inaction against domestic violence is a widespread concern in international human rights institutions. But the present case is more than simply a domestic issue, as prejudice against minority religions plays a major role. What is more, main-line Christian pastors and associated “de-programmers” have made a business out of “educating” parents against new religious movements and “assisting” them in organizing illegal abductions and forced de-conversions, in some cases winning converts to their own denominations in the process, which is a form of unethical proselytism.

Such cases used to be common in the United States and European countries, before courts began prosecuting perpetrators; now they are almost nonexistent. Japan could likewise solve this problem, and erase a shameful stain from its human rights record, by a few criminal prosecutions. The hierarchies of various Protestant denominations could also ensure that their pastors abide by the law and respect freedom of religion.

But Japanese authorities have chosen to lie to the highest international human rights authorities, and to continue to deny any problem exists, rather than cooperate in solving it. In February we visited police in Chiba Prefecture to urge them to look into the disappearance of Masato Ishibashi, who had not been seen since January 1, after activating a GPS device with the message that he was being held against his will. To date, the police refuse to speak directly to him, only taking the word of his family that he has not been deprived of his liberty.

We will not stop our efforts to defend religious freedom in Japan, despite the government’s attempts to choke off the international human rights process with its crude denial. And we wonder how many other human rights problems are buried beneath the surface of Japanese society, a society praised for its civility and humanism.

Patricia Duval is a Paris-based human rights attorney. Willy Fautré is director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, an independent nongovernmental organization in Brussels. Aaron Rhodes is a founder of the Freedom Rights Project and president of the Forum for Religious Freedom Europe, and was executive director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights 1993-2007.

 

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Eid ul-Fitr 2014: A celebration at the end of Ramadan (PHOTO ESSAY)

28 07 2014

CENTRAL-EUROPEAN RELIGIOUS FREEDOM INSTITUTE WISHES ‘EID MUBARAK’ TO ALL MUSLIM BELIEVERS

 

One of the most joyous days in the Islamic calendar, Eid al-Fitr, also known as Eid ul-Fitr or Eid, is a celebration that marks the end of Ramadan (a holy month of fasting observed by Muslims). This year Eid al-Fitr will most likely be observed on Monday, July 28. It is celebrated on the first day of Shawwal, the 10th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Traditionally, the observance begins with the sighting of the new moon.

To mark the beginning of Eid and in accordance with the Sunnah, or practices of the Prophet Muhammad, many Muslims wake up early in the morning and pray Salat ul-Fajr, or the pre-dawn prayer. After brushing their teeth, taking a bath and wearing perfume, they have breakfast before heading off to perform special congregational prayers known as Salaat al-Eid. Many Muslims recite the takbir, a declaration of faith, on the way to the prayer ground and give special charitable contributions known as Zakat al-Fitr.

Eid al-Fitr is a day of great merriment and thanksgiving. Muslims celebrate by gathering with friends and family, preparing sweet delicacies, wearing new clothes, giving each other gifts and putting up lights and other decorations in their homes. A common greeting during this holiday is Eid Mubarak, which means, “Have a blessed Eid!”  Here, we round up some of the best photos of Eid 2014 celebrations across the globe.

A Palestinian vendor offers balloons for sale at the market in the Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, Sunday, July 27, 2014. During normal times, families in Gaza would be busy now with preparations for Eid al-Fitr, the three-day holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Traditionally, children get new clothes, shoes and haircuts, and families visit each other. In the outdoor market, vendors set up stands with clothes and shoes, but said business was slow. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

A Palestinian vendor offers balloons for sale at the market in the Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, Sunday, July 27, 2014. During normal times, families in Gaza would be busy now with preparations for Eid al-Fitr, the three-day holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Traditionally, children get new clothes, shoes and haircuts, and families visit each other. In the outdoor market, vendors set up stands with clothes and shoes, but said business was slow. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

A Palestinian vendor plays with balloons at the market in the Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, Sunday, July 27, 2014. During normal times, families in Gaza would be busy now with preparations for Eid al-Fitr, the three-day holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Traditionally, children get new clothes, shoes and haircuts, and families visit each other. In the outdoor market, vendors set up stands with clothes and shoes, but said business was slow. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

A Palestinian vendor plays with balloons at the market in the Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, Sunday, July 27, 2014. During normal times, families in Gaza would be busy now with preparations for Eid al-Fitr, the three-day holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Traditionally, children get new clothes, shoes and haircuts, and families visit each other. In the outdoor market, vendors set up stands with clothes and shoes, but said business was slow. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

A Yemeni woman, center, shops in preparation for the upcoming Eid al-Fitr festival, at a market in the old city of Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

A Yemeni woman, center, shops in preparation for the upcoming Eid al-Fitr festival, at a market in the old city of Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

An Indonesian girl holds a balloon during Eid al-Fitr prayer that marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan on Parang Kusumo Beach in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Monday, July 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Slamet Riyadi)

An Indonesian girl holds a balloon during Eid al-Fitr prayer that marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan on Parang Kusumo Beach in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Monday, July 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Slamet Riyadi)

Muslims listen Eid al-Fitr sermons at the Lakemba Mosque in western Sydney on July 28, 2014. Thousands of Australian Muslims celebrated their religious Eid al-Fitr festival at the end of Ramadan. AFP PHOTO / Saeed Khan (Photo credit should read SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Muslims listen Eid al-Fitr sermons at the Lakemba Mosque in western Sydney on July 28, 2014. Thousands of Australian Muslims celebrated their religious Eid al-Fitr festival at the end of Ramadan. AFP PHOTO / Saeed Khan (Photo credit should read SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

An Egyptian child plays as Muslims pray Eid al-Fitr prayers, marking the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan at Al-Azhar mosque, the highest Islamic Sunni institution, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, July 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

An Egyptian child plays as Muslims pray Eid al-Fitr prayers, marking the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan at Al-Azhar mosque, the highest Islamic Sunni institution, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, July 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

 

Pakistani girls buy traditional bangles at a market ahead of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, ending the fasting month of Ramadan, in Lahore, Pakistan, on Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

Pakistani girls buy traditional bangles at a market ahead of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, ending the fasting month of Ramadan, in Lahore, Pakistan, on Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

A Pakistani beautician paints the hands of customers with henna ahead of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, ending the fasting month of Ramadan, in Karachi, Pakistan, on Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

A Pakistani beautician paints the hands of customers with henna ahead of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, ending the fasting month of Ramadan, in Karachi, Pakistan, on Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

A Pakistani beautician paints hands of customers with henna ahead of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, ending the fasting month of Ramadan, in Karachi, Pakistan, on Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

A Pakistani beautician paints hands of customers with henna ahead of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, ending the fasting month of Ramadan, in Karachi, Pakistan, on Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

Kosovo Muslims offer Eid al-Fitr prayers outside the Sultan Mehmet Fatih grand mosque during the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Pristina on Monday, July 28, 2014. The Eid al-Fitr, one of the holiest religious practices, is celebrated with prayers and family reunions and other festivities among Muslims all over the world. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Kosovo Muslims offer Eid al-Fitr prayers outside the Sultan Mehmet Fatih grand mosque during the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Pristina on Monday, July 28, 2014. The Eid al-Fitr, one of the holiest religious practices, is celebrated with prayers and family reunions and other festivities among Muslims all over the world. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

A Pakistani woman browses traditional bangles at a market ahead of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, ending the fasting month of Ramadan, in Lahore, Pakistan, on Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

A Pakistani woman browses traditional bangles at a market ahead of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, ending the fasting month of Ramadan, in Lahore, Pakistan, on Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

Muslim worshippers pray during the first day of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, at the Al Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem's Old City, Monday, July 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Muslim worshippers pray during the first day of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, at the Al Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, Monday, July 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

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A Yemeni girl poses for a photograph as she attends the Eid al-Fitr prayer with her father, in Sanaa, Yemen, Monday, July 28, 2014. Monday marked the beginning of the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday, which caps the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Muslims usually start the day with dawn prayers and visiting cemeteries to pay their respects to the dead, with children getting new clothes, shoes and haircuts, and families visiting each other. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

Bahraini fishermen look at the sky where a slim crescent moon should be visible to indicate the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, in Malkiya village, Bahrain, Sunday, July 27, 2014. Bahrain and several other Gulf countries announced Eid will begin on Monday. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

Bahraini fishermen look at the sky where a slim crescent moon should be visible to indicate the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, in Malkiya village, Bahrain, Sunday, July 27, 2014. Bahrain and several other Gulf countries announced Eid will begin on Monday. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

GRESIK, JAVA, INDONESIA - JULY 27: An Indonesian Muslims uses a telescope to hold a Rukyatul Hilal to see the new crescent moon that determines the end of Ramadan at Condro Dipo Hill on July 27, 2014 in Gresik, Java, Indonesia. There was confirmed sightings of the new moon, which ends the holy month of Ramadan with the Muslims holiday Eid ul-Fitr. (Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images)

GRESIK, JAVA, INDONESIA – JULY 27: An Indonesian Muslims uses a telescope to hold a Rukyatul Hilal to see the new crescent moon that determines the end of Ramadan at Condro Dipo Hill on July 27, 2014 in Gresik, Java, Indonesia. There was confirmed sightings of the new moon, which ends the holy month of Ramadan with the Muslims holiday Eid ul-Fitr. (Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images)

GRESIK, JAVA, INDONESIA - JULY 27: An Indonesian Muslims speaks during a Rukyatul Hilal, to see the new crescent moon, which determines the end of Ramadan at Condro Dipo Hill on July 27, 2014 in Gresik, Java, Indonesia. There was confirmed sightings of the new moon, which ends the holy month of Ramadan with the Muslims holiday Eid ul-Fitr. (Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images)

GRESIK, JAVA, INDONESIA – JULY 27: An Indonesian Muslims speaks during a Rukyatul Hilal, to see the new crescent moon, which determines the end of Ramadan at Condro Dipo Hill on July 27, 2014 in Gresik, Java, Indonesia. There was confirmed sightings of the new moon, which ends the holy month of Ramadan with the Muslims holiday Eid ul-Fitr. (Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images)

 

 





IN MEMORIAM

20 07 2014

Croatian Edition

Don Živko Kustić

1930 – 2014

Zivko-Kustic

 

Autor teksta: Ervin Farago / Udruga za vjersku slobodu u Republici Hrvatskoj

 

Danas brojni mediji prenose tužnu vijest: dugogodišnji urednik “Glasa Koncila”, grkokatolički svećenik Živko Kustić umro je danas u Zagrebu u 84. godini života, doznaje se u Križevačkoj eparhiji.

Živko Kustić (Split – 1930, Zagreb – 2014.) diplomirao je teologiju na Bogoslovnom fakultetu u Zagrebu, a za grkokatoličkog svećenika zaređen je 1958. godine. Cijenjen propovjednik i pastoralni djelatnik te britak polemičar, smatran je za legendom hrvatskoga katoličkog novinarstva. (index.hr)

Rođen je u Splitu 12. prosinca 1930. bio je suprug i otac petero djece. U Zagrebu je studirao matematiku, fiziku i teologiju koju je diplomirao 1975. Za svećenika grkokatoličke Križevačke biskupije zaređen je 5. svibnja 1958. u Križevcima. Od 1958. do 1963. bio je župnik u Mrzlom Polju i Sošicama na Žumberku.

Od 1963. do 1972. bio je pokretač, novinar, reporter i kolumnist Glasa Koncila. Glavni urednik Glasa Koncila bio je od 1972. do 1983. a glavni i odgovorni urednik od 1983. do 1990. Više puta je suđen i osuđivan. Od 1990. do 1991. bio je stručni savjetnik u Ministarstvu iseljeništva, voditelj Odjela za djelovanje vjerskih zajednica među Hrvatima izvan domovine. Od 1991. do 1993. djelovao je kao urednik lista “Živa zajednica” za iseljene hrvatske vjernike u Njemačkoj. Od studenoga 1993. do listopada 1998. bio je pokretač i glavni urednik Informativne katoličke agencije (IKA). (glas-koncila.hr)

Don Živko Kustić bio je glas vjerske slobode u svojoj sredini. Zato ću na ovom mjestu priložiti razgovor Darka Pavičića s njim, u kojem se jasno zalaže za razdvajanje simbola vjerskih i državnih institucija:

Legendarna pisma seoskog župnika don Jure iz Glasa Koncila upravo izlaze u knjizi koju će izdati zagrebačka Alfa, a don Jure je zapravo – don Živko. Don Živko Kustić, katolički novinar i publicist, nekadašnji glavni urednik Glasa Koncila i Ike, sada duhovnik u Domu umirovljenika Centar u Zagrebu i kolumnist u dnevnim novinama.

 Sviđa li vam se Ivo Josipović?

 – Ne bih znao reći što uopće znači pitanje sviđa li mi se netko ili ne, ali mi zakonito izabrani predsjednik moje države nekako sjeda u okvire onoga što možemo smatrati dobrim.

A to što se izjašnjava kao agnostik?

– Nedavno je Esad Ćimić vrlo dobro objasnio da agnostik ne znači ateist. Agnostik je čovjek koji s pitanjem Boga nije načisto, koji ne govori niti da ga ima niti da ga nema i ne pripada nijednoj religijskoj zajednici, ali nije protivnik Božji.

Je li to ključna razlika između ateista i agnostika?

– Ateist je uvjeren da Boga nema i druge u to uvjerava, a agnostik priznaje da mu nije jasna ta definicija.

Ali, što ako je u današnje vrijeme agnosticizam, eufemizam za ateizam jer je ljepše u većinski katoličkoj zemlji reći da si agnostik nego ateist?

– Ne samo u većinski katoličkoj zemlji nego i u civiliziranom svijetu riječ ateizam jako je neugodna. To samo znači da se razvila opća svijest. Nije da se čovjek pretvara, nego ga prilike tjeraju da iznova mora o tome misliti.

Jesu li se onda kod nas mnogi ateisti nominalno pretvorili u agnostike?

– Vjerujem čak nešto drugo: da su bili agnostici i prije, ali su se zvali ateistima iz neke partijske dosljednosti.

Znači, oni koji su lupali po vama bili su agnostici?

– Oni koji su mene mučili? Oni su bili politički neprijatelji moje Crkve i moga naroda! A ima li Boga ili ga nema, uopće im nije bilo važno.

Bilo im je to sporedno?

– Oni su se pokrivali teorijom ateizma, ali zapravo su bili neprijatelji moje Crkve i moga naroda.

Zašto su onda crkveni vrh i kler dali podršku Bandiću ako je to sada sve tako jednostavno?

– Nisu baš mnogi dali potporu, ali razumljivo je da nekoliko, čak i istaknutih predstavnika Crkve, razmišljalo da će biti teško glasovati za nekoga tko zvuči kao bivši komunist pa su se pokolebali tražeći izlaz u ovome drugome, koji je također jučerašnji komunist. Tako da u drugom izbornom krugu za vjernika i nije bilo mnogo izbora. Nijedno ni drugo nije mu bilo idejno blisko.

Obojica su, dakle, bivši komunisti.

– Točno, samo što mnogi, i od kršćana koje poznajem, skloni su misliti da je sadašnji predsjednik ipak nekako europskiji i kulturniji.

Hoće li on inzistirati na uklanjanju vjerskih obilježja iz javnih ustanova?

– Ne znam, to njega treba pitati. Nije još rekao što misli o tome. To ionako nije presudno pitanje.

Ali, izazvalo je burne reakcije?

– Izazvalo je burne reakcije kao i mnoge druge stvari koje nisu domišljene kod nas, a ako se o tome dublje promisli, onda ćemo znati što misliti. Mi još nemamo gotove definicije o tome.

Treba li to definirati i kako?

– Mislim da to ne treba definirati niti u vezi s tim tjerati velik spor. Kako je došlo, tako neka se razvija. A što će od toga biti, ja ne znam.

Trebaju li biti vjerska obilježja u javnim ustanovama?

– Da se mene pitalo nakon pada komunizma, ne bih inzistirao na tome da se to postavi u javne ustanove.

Zašto?

– Zato što javne ustanove nisu vjerske, a 50 godina naučili smo biti i te kakvi vjernici i bez križa i bez plaće svećeniku pa smo i dalje mogli biti dobri vjernici i bez križa u necrkvenoj prostoriji. I bez svećeničke plaće. A dobili smo i jedno i drugo.





Multinational clothing corporation pulls out Lord Ganesh bedding after Hindu protest

19 07 2014

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RELIGION NEWS SERVICE — Urban Outfitters has pulled a new duvet cover featuring Lord Ganesh after an outcry from some Hindus.

The cover depicted the elephant-head Hindu deity who symbolizes wisdom. It was only available online and was sold for $129-$169. Now, the webpage is saying it is “sold out.”

In a statement issued on July 14, Urban Outfitters confirmed that the item was pulled.

“It was never the intention for this item nor any of the items we carry that feature illustrations of Lord Ganesha to offend our customers,” the company said in a statement. “We are supporters of Valentina Ramos’s unique and uplifting illustrations and this item, to us, was another example of her beautiful work. Though Lord Ganesha merchandise is popular within the market we understand the sensitivities certain items may carry.”

The clothing and furnishing chain will continue selling other Lord Ganesh items, including tapestries and wall art.

Rajan Zed, Hindu activist

Rajan Zed, Hindu activist

Rajan Zed, a Hindu activist from Nevada and president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, spearheaded the protest, saying the duvet cover was “highly inappropriate.” He said he was upset that it took the company almost two weeks to respond to the issue.

“You can put him in a frame and on the wall. That is fine,” Zed said in an earlier interview. “But not to be put on the bed, on which you lie and your feet will go on. That is very inappropriate.”

Zed also directed a protest in December 2013 to remove Lord Ganesh socks from stores. Urban Outfitters responded quickly that time, pulling the item and issuing an apology.

Urban Outfitters has used religious symbols on merchandise before, upsetting other religious groups. In 2012, the company sold a shirt that resembled the yellow Star of David patch that Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany. In March the retailer was asked to remove a shirt that said “Jesus, I’m Drunk” with a picture of Jesus holding a beer.

Hoping to avoid this problem in the future, Zed wants senior executives from Urban Outfitters and other corporations to go to training in religious and cultural sensitivity.





Interfaith leaders launch daylong unity fast for Mideast peace

16 07 2014
Members of the Jewish Foundation School of Staten Island carry a sign that reads "Praying for Peace" as they march up Fifth avenue during the Celebrate Israel Parade, Sunday, June 1, 2014, in New York. Among the 35,000 marchers were New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Israeli diplomats and members of the Knesset, Israel's parliament. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Members of the Jewish Foundation School of Staten Island carry a sign that reads “Praying for Peace” as they march up Fifth avenue during the Celebrate Israel Parade, Sunday, June 1, 2014, in New York. Among the 35,000 marchers were New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Israeli diplomats and members of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

RELIGION NEWS SERVICE – While the violence escalates in Israel and Gaza, a movement is taking hold that unites Jews, Muslims and others in a campaign for peace.

On Tuesday (July 15), a daylong fast is planned as part of a public effort to show unity in the fight against war and violence in the region.

Using the Twitter hashtag#HungryforPeace, the cause started in Israel and gained strength in England, promoted by Yachad, a U.K.-based pro-Israel, pro-peace group. Last weekend, it was announced in temples, mosques and churches in the U.S.

Pastor Steve Norman of Kensington Church near Detroit used Twitter to call his 10,000-strong congregation to join him in the fast after reading about the efforts of Muslims and Jews to publicly stand together.

“It just seemed right to follow their lead,” said Norman, whose church sponsors several trips to Israel and the West Bank each year.

July 15 is a Jewish fast day (17th of Tammuz) and the beginning of a three-week mourning period for the destruction of the two Jerusalem Temples. It occurs this year during the Muslim observation of Ramadan, in which Muslims fast for a month during daylight hours.

The religious observances coincide with a public cry from many in Israel who have had enough.

“Sanity must prevail. Inertia cannot take over,” wrote Robi Damelin, in a July 10 editorial in The Huffington Post. Damelin, who lost her son, David, to the conflict in 2002, concluded, “We must come out and demonstrate to the powers that be. Stop the violence.”

As part of the Parents Circle-Family Forum, Damelin meets with Palestinian and Israeli families who have all lost children in the conflict.

The latest series of clashes between Israel and the Palestinians are blamed on the kidnapping of three Israeli young men who were later found dead, as well as the reported revenge killing of a teenage Palestinian boy from East Jerusalem. In the words of Lee Ziv, an Israeli peace activist, “The tears of an Israeli mother over her dead son are identical to those of a Palestinian Mother.”

Ziv started a Facebook page called “The Bus of Peace” and is organizing a bus to drive from Jerusalem to Gaza with flowers and peace slogans to demonstrate the goodwill of many Israelis toward the people of Gaza. In the past, she has gathered blankets and other supplies to donate to those living in Gaza.

“We know there is massive grass-roots desire to end the fighting and live in peace,” said Scott Cooper, an American Jew and co-owner of MEJDI Tours, a company that includes both Palestinian and Israeli “narratives” in Holy Land pilgrimages. “Tomorrow is just one way to bring attention to a movement that is rarely in the headlines.”

The fast begins at sunrise Tuesday and concludes at sundown.





In a time of anger & blame, some seek love & forgiveness

13 07 2014

This is what human spirit looks like:

Rabbi Dr. Yakov Nagen and Sheik Ibrahim Abu-el Hawa at peace manifestation called "Jerusalem Hug", June 2013.

Rabbi Dr. Yakov Nagen and Sheik Ibrahim Abu-el Hawa at peace manifestation called “Jerusalem Hug”, June 2013.

An Arab guy named Haj Ibrahim Ahmad Abu el-Hawa, and an unnamed Jewish guy in a knitted yarmulke hugging each other in front of the Old City walls of Jerusalem, during an event called The Big Hug, on June 24, 2013. Photo by Sarah Schuman/FLASH90

An Arab guy named Haj Ibrahim Ahmad Abu el-Hawa, and an unnamed Jewish guy in a knitted yarmulke hugging each other in front of the Old City walls of Jerusalem, during an event called The Big Hug, on June 24, 2013. Photo by Sarah Schuman/FLASH90

Jeremy, a Jew, and Sulome, an Arab. "He calls me neshama, I call him habibi. Love doesn’t speak the language of occupation.", says Sulome.

Jeremy, a Jew, and Sulome, an Arab. “He calls me neshama, I call him habibi. Love doesn’t speak the language of occupation”, says Sulome.

 For more information about Jerusalem Hug, please click on the link below:

www.jerusalemhug.org

 





European Court of Human Rights fails to protect religious freedom of Muslims

3 07 2014

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Threat of full-face veil to “open, personal relationships” trumps human rights

By Aaron Rhodes, President of FOREF

Vienna, 3 July 2014 – FOREF Europe:By upholding a French ban on wearing full-face veils, a common Muslim practice, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has failed to protect the religious freedom of Islamic women who choose the veil as an expression of their faith, according to the Forum for Religious Freedom-Europe (FOREF), an independent nongovernmental monitoring group.

A French law banning wearing a full-face veil has been in force since 11 April 2011.  According to a press release issued by the Registrar of the Court, the ECHR “emphasized that respect for the conditions of ‘living together’ was a legitimate aim” for the French law, given that “the State had a ‘wide margin of appreciation’ as regards this general policy question…”

“By giving priority to a vague social goal over the fundamental human right to manifest one’s religious beliefs, the ECHR has undermined the freedom of religion with this ruling, ” according to Dr. Aaron Rhodes, president of FOREF. 

According to the Registry statement, “the Court accepted that the barrier raised against others by a veil concealing the face in public could undermine the notion of “living together”. In that connection, it indicated that it took into account the State’s submission that the face played a significant role in social interaction…The Court was also able to understand the view that individuals might not wish to see, in places open to all, practices or attitudes which would fundamentally call into question the possibility of open interpersonal relationships, which, by virtue of an established consensus, formed an indispensable element of community life within the society in question. The Court was therefore able to accept that the barrier raised against others by a veil concealing the face was perceived by the respondent State as breaching the right of others to live in a space of socialisation which made living together easier.” (emphasis added)

“Living together, in a pluralistic society where individual rights are respected, means tolerating differences, not prohibiting them because others ‘might not wish to see them,’” Aaron Rhodes said. 

“Since the Court evidently thinks promoting ‘social interaction’ and ‘easier living together’ is more important than protecting one of the most basic human rights, then we can expect further erosion of respect for other human rights if exercising them is arbitrarily deemed unsocial,” he said.

France was the first country to ban the full-faced veil, followed by Belgium; several European cities have imposed similar bans.  In 2010, the ECHR ruled against Turkey, holding that religious garments were not a threat to public order.

Human Rights Without Frontiers, a Brussels-based group also focusing on freedom of religion, noted that the “Observatoire de la laïcité” in France “found that police have issued about 1000 fines since April 2011. About 600 women were concerned by this measure, some getting several fines (one woman got 33).

On 1st July, Michaël Khiri was sentenced to a suspended three-month prison term and a 1000 EUR fine by the Appellate Court of Versailles for violently opposing an identity control of his wife wearing the niqab in July 2013 in Trappes  (Yvelines). This incident then provoked several nights of violence.”

FOREF, based in Vienna, was founded in 2005 by former Graz University Rector and Law Dean Christian Bruenner and human rights activist Peter Zoehrer.  FOREF has focused largely on monitoring attacks on minority religions and appealing to governments to end discriminatory practices.








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