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Baptist pastor shot dead by unknown hitmen in Myanmar

In conflict-torn Myanmar, political fighting crossed religious lines when a Christian pastor was shot dead by three unknown attackers in Kachin state this week

Published: March 22, 2024 11:47 AM GMT

Updated: March 22, 2024 11:49 AM GMT

Three unknown assailants shot dead 47-year-old Nammye Hkun Jaw Li, a Christian pastor from Kachin Baptist Convention at his computer shop in Mogaung township in Myanmar's conflict-torn Kachin state. He was reportedly shot in the head and abdomen. The slain pastor was a community leader active in anti-military protests in the state.

A former township executive of the convention, he was also involved with a community-based anti-drug organization. The family and villagers have called for justice.

But they refrained from accusing specific organizations as they were still in the dark about the attackers’ identities.

Kachin state has been embroiled in deadly fighting between the military and rebel forces since the 2021 military coup. Hundreds have been killed and thousands have been displaced by violence.

Baptist Christian pastor Nammye Hkun Jaw Li from Myanmar's Kachin state is seen in this file image. The religious leader was killed in a targeted attack by three unknown gunmen on March 18.

Baptist Christian pastor Nammye Hkun Jaw Li from Myanmar's Kachin state is seen in this file image. The religious leader was killed in a targeted attack by three unknown gunmen on March 18. (Photo: RFA)

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The top court in India’s northern Uttar Pradesh state has prevented police from arresting three Catholic girls, a priest, and several others accused of violating a stringent anti-conversion law.

The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court granted anticipatory bail to the college girls on Monday. Catholic priest Father Dominic Pinto of Lucknow diocese was arrested in February along with 10 Protestant Christians who conducted a routine prayer in a diocesan social work center.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) greets Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath during his oath-taking as chief minister in the state capital Lucknow on March 25, 2022. The monk-turned-politician introduced the sweeping anti-conversion law in India’s most populous state. (Photo: AFP)

This was after an activist from the ruling pro-Hindu Bhartiya Janta Party filed a police complaint alleging mass conversion activity banned under the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Act, 2021. Church officials dismissed the allegation as baseless.

Uttar Pradesh is India’s most populous state where a high number of attacks against Christians have been recorded since the BJP came to power in 2017. Last year, the state accounted for 287 of 687 incidents targeting Christians in India. 

The death of two young Christian sanitary workers in Pakistan was termed as "murders through duty" by a human rights group. Cousins Asif Masih, 25, and Shan Masih, 28, died last Sunday after they entered a sewer in Faisalabad city of Pakistan’s Punjab province without protective gear.

Media reports say the men died due to suffocation caused by poisonous gas. Such fatalities are a common occurrence among sanitary workers, mostly from the impoverished Christian community. Angry relatives of the victims blocked a road for hours to demand justice before the police intervened to break up the protest.

A sanitary worker cleans a sewer with the help of colleagues in a residential area in Lahore, on March 9, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

In a statement on Monday, rights group Human Rights Focus Pakistan strongly criticized the authorities for neglecting the safety of the workers.

The group said such accidents have been occurring for years, leaving workers dead, injured and disabled, but nothing changed despite a court order in 2015.

Filipino activists have blamed military ties between the US and Philippine governments for aggravating the nation’s maritime disputes with China.

The activists made the remarks as progressive groups rallied in the capital Manila during the visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday. They alleged the expansion of US military ties had worsened the territorial disputes in the South China Sea and threatened regional security.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo shake hands after a joint news conference in Manila, on March 19. (Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/ AFP)

During a press conference in Manila, Blinken said the US government will continue to back a “common vision for a free, open Indo-Pacific, including in the South China Sea and in the Philippines exclusive economic zone.”

He also promised to stand by the Philippines against China’s provocative actions as well as for economic cooperation, humanitarian assistance, and critical infrastructure development. The Chinese Embassy blasted the US for fueling tensions amid maritime disputes and urged it not to take sides or instigate trouble in the South China Sea.

Indonesian Catholic bishops have refuted rumors of a papal visit to the nation this year. In a statement on Monday, the national bishops’ conference said information circulating via various social media platforms about the time, place and events of Pope Francis' visit to Indonesia has been confirmed to be incorrect.

The bishops also said that the Vatican or the Indonesian government have made no official announcement about the visit.

Women from Indonesia gesture during Pope Francis' weekly general audience at Saint Peter Square on Sept. 21, 2016. The last pope to visit the Muslim-majority nation was St. Pope John Paul II who came in 1989. (Photo: AFP)

The bishops' clarification comes after news about a possible papal visit in September to the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation flooded web channels and social media.

However, the government in Catholic-majority Timor-Leste has already started preparations for a possible papal trip and formed a special committee for the visit. Pope Francis planned to visit Indonesia, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea in 2020 but canceled the trip due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A top Malaysian rights activist has warned that ongoing religious intolerance and extremism could derail the nation’s progress and development.

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Malaysia-based Global Human Rights Federation deputy president Peter John Jaban said several recent incidents underscored the rise of xenophobia, racism, racial discrimination, and intolerance in the nation.

Malaysian Muslims display placards in front of the Netherlands embassy during a protest against the insults to the Koran in European nations, in Kuala Lumpur on January 27, 2023. (Photo: AFP)

He pointed out several racial cases such as the baseless accusations against Chinese vernacular schools as breeding grounds for intolerance, and controversies surrounding school canteen operations during Ramadan month, among others.

Malaysia also made headlines by banning international celebrities and artists from performing and imposing strict rules on holidaymakers in popular tourist destinations. Rumors are rife that the government might ban wearing shorts and consuming alcohol in destinations like Langkawi Island, which the authorities have refuted.

Sri Lanka's former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has alleged the Catholic Church played a key role in mass civil protests that led to his ouster in 2022.

In a new book, Rajapaksa said the Church was a major player behind the mass unrest that blamed him for the nation’s worst economic crisis since independence. The book titled, “The Conspiracy to Oust Me from the Presidency,” pointed fingers to Colombo archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and sections of the Catholic Church in the crisis-hit island nation.

A woman looks at the copies of the 'The Conspiracy' book written by toppled Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa displayed at a bookshop in Colombo on March 7. (Photo: AFP)

The sensational claims by the former president who is a member of the powerful Rajapaksa clan, have made the book a bestseller in the nation. However, the Church has yet to respond to the claims made in the book.

Catholic Church blames the government for its failure to stop the deadly Easter Sunday bombing in 2019 and has demanded an international probe to uncover the conspiracy behind it. 

In their annual report, two global rights groups have slammed Thailand for inequalities and double standards in Thai prisons. The 56-page report jointly compiled by International Federation of Human Rights and the Union for Civil Liberty was released on Tuesday. It covers developments, trends, facts, and figures related to the Thai prison system in 2023.

The report deplored the ill-treatment of ordinary prisoners and preferential treatment for inmates with a higher social status, a longstanding feature of Thai prison system.

Thai student activist Patiwat Saraiyaem (center) accused of insulting the royal family is seen in this file image. The latest annual report from International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and the Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) criticized inequalities and double standards in Thailand's prison system. (Photo: AFP)

The special treatment of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who returned to Thailand last year after spending years in exile, has been cited as an example.

The report revealed that wealthy, well-known, or influential prisoners typically enjoyed a wide range of privileges over the general prison population including sleeping dormitories with fewer occupants; better quality mattresses; priority in receiving more nutritious meals; and certain levels of impunity when committing disciplinary offenses.

A court in Vietnam jailed two ethnic Khmer Krom activists for allegedly “abusing democratic freedom” on Wednesday. Activists To Hoang Chuong and Thach Cuong were arrested last year when they were caught distributing books about the rights of indigenous people. They were convicted under Article 331 of the Penal Code.

Rights activists say Article 331 is used by the communist government to silence dissent, including by the Khmer Krom people who live in the lower Mekong Delta area of South Vietnam.

Youth activists raise their arms to mark the 67th anniversary of the loss of a large territory called Kampuchea Krom (Khmer Krom) to Vietnam, during a ceremony at a pagoda in Phnom Penh on June 4, 2016. Kampuchea Krom, or Lower Cambodia, was home to about 12 million ethnic Khmers. The region was incorporated into what is now Vietnam during the French colonial era. (Photo: AFP)

Ethnic Khmer Krom are considered Cambodians who live in Vietnam and were targeted for extermination by Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 and 1979.

Last month, activist Danh Minh Quang, 34, was convicted on similar charges. He was sentenced to three-and-a-half years by a court in a neighboring province. The Buddhist activists were reportedly targeted because they were distributing information about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The son of a South Korean missionary detained in North Korea aims to seek international cooperation for the repatriation of his father and other detainees during a United Nations meeting.

Sixty-five-year-old Choe Chun-gil has been detained in North Korea since 2014 and is among six other South Koreans detained for years and whose whereabouts are unknown.

This picture taken by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 26, 2015 shows South Korean Choe Chun-Gil speaking at a press conference at the People's Palace of Culture in Pyongyang. (Photo: AFP)

His 34 year old son, Jin Young is visiting Geneva this week to “muster international attention on North Korea's abductee issue,” according to South Korea’s unification ministry.

Kim Kuk-gi, a Presbyterian pastor and former missionary, is also reportedly detained with Choe.

In May 2015, the North Korean authorities presented Kim and Choe at a press conference in Pyongyang attended by journalists and foreign diplomats.

Jin's visit coincides with the ongoing session of the 55th session of the UN Human Rights Council from Feb. 26 to April 5.

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