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Catholic rights activist receives international award

Benedict Rogers has spent nearly three decades defending the right to freedom of religion in Asia

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: July 16, 2021 09:23 AM GMT
Catholic rights activist receives international award

Benedict Rogers speaks to the International Religious Freedom Summit by video link on July 15. (Photo supplied)

An advocate of human rights in Asia has been honored for his 27 years of work in defending the right to freedom of religion or belief for people of all faiths.

Benedict Rogers, who writes for UCA News, received an International Religious Freedom Champion award for advocacy leadership on July 15 at the International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, DC, in the United States.

He is the co-founder and chief executive of Hong Kong Watch, senior analyst for East Asia at the international human rights organization CSW, co-founder and deputy chair of the UK Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, a trustee of the China Democracy Foundation, the Chin Human Rights Organisation and the Phan Foundation, co-founder of the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea, and a member of the advisory group of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) and the Stop Uyghur Genocide Campaign.

He is the author of three major books on Myanmar, including Burma: A Nation at the Crossroads and Than Shwe: Unmasking Burma’s Tyrant, and co-author of two other books on religious persecution and a Christian approach to human rights.

He became a Catholic in Myanmar, received into the Church in St Mary’s Cathedral, Yangon, by Cardinal Charles Bo, with Lord Alton of Liverpool alongside him as his sponsor, a story which is told in his book From Burma to Rome: A Journey into the Catholic Church.

“I am deeply humbled and profoundly honored to receive this award alongside other such distinguished religious freedom champions,” said Rogers, who was unable to travel to the award ceremony because of Covid-19 restrictions.

In receiving this award, I dedicate it to the real heroes and champions with whom I have been privileged to work

“I gratefully receive this award but I do so not for myself but on behalf of everyone with whom I have had the privilege of working for religious freedom, particularly my friends in CSW, with whom I’ve worked in various capacities for over 25 years since I was a student — all my adult life.

“And my colleagues in Hong Kong Watch, an organization I co-founded four years ago to monitor human rights in Hong Kong. As I focus more of my energies in the fight for freedom for Hong Kong, I am conscious that defending religious freedom will be increasingly required there too, for as freedom itself is dismantled in Hong Kong, religious freedom is inevitably undermined.

“In receiving this award, I dedicate it to the real heroes and champions with whom I have been privileged to work — those, of all faiths and none, religious leaders, human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, civil society activists, politicians, who risk their lives on the front lines of persecution, repression and conflict to defend the basic right for every human being to be able to choose, practice, share and change their beliefs.”

Rogers paid tribute to four Asians who have inspired his work — Shahbaz Bhatti, who was assassinated in Pakistan 10 years ago, Myanmar’s Cardinal Charles Bo, Indonesia’s Alissa Wahid and Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen.

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“And I think of all my friends — Christian, Muslim, Ahmadiyya Muslim, Falun Gong, Buddhist, Uyghur and Rohingya in the places where I’ve worked, including Burma, Indonesia, China, Hong Kong, North Korea, Pakistan and elsewhere,” said Rogers.

“In receiving this award with humility and gratitude, I commit to renewing and redoubling my fight for religious freedom for all of them, and for everyone, everywhere, all the time.”

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