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Christians call for an end to injustice

Asian nations have reported repression against minorities including Christians as strong calls are made for an end to injustice, corruption and human trafficking.

Published: August 06, 2021 11:28 AM GMT

Updated: August 06, 2021 03:03 PM GMT

The brutal gang rape and murder of a 9-year-old Dalit girl has sparked angry protests and highlighted abuses against the marginalized community in India. Police in capital New Delhi have arrested four suspects including a Hindu priest at a crematorium in connection with the girl’s death last Sunday.

The victim was cremated under a false pretext that she had been electrocuted, triggering protests across the country for the death penalty to be imposed. The latest crime resembles an equally heinous murder reported from Hathras village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh about one year ago.

A 20-year-old Dalit girl was raped and quietly cremated in the dark of night without the consent of her family, which also triggered nationwide protests. Dalits or former untouchables were not included in the ancient Hindu caste system, and they still face widespread discrimination.

About 201 million of India’s 1.2 billion people are Dalits, while about 60 percent of India's 25 million Christians are from Dalit and tribal origins.

Christians call for an end to injustice

Indian activists protest the gang rape and murder of a minor Dalit girl in New Delhi on Aug. 3. (Photo supplied)

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A Muslim mob has vandalized a Hindu temple in Punjab province of Pakistan. Visuals posted on social media showed Muslims in Bhong Sharif of Rahim Yar Khan district attacking a temple dedicated to Hindu deity Ganesh on Wednesday.

People including children were seen pelting stones at statues and vandalizing furniture while chanting radical Islamic slogans. The mob also closed shops and blocked a motorway. The attack came after a local cleric filed a blasphemy case against an unidentified person for desecrating a madrasa.

A mob surrounds the Ganesh temple in Rahim Yar Khan district of Punjab province on Aug. 4. (Photo supplied)

The government deployed security forces to patrol the temple area, which has a Hindu community living in around 80 houses. In a video message, Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special envoy for religious harmony, condemned the attack and promised that action will be taken against rioters.

Attacks on places of worship of minorities is not new in Pakistan. Last December, a mob attacked a shrine of a Hindu mystic in Karak district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

A priest and a catechist from Hakha Diocese in Myanmar's Chin state who were detained by a local militia have been released following mediation by Catholic leaders.

The Chinland Defense Force seized Father Noel Hrang Tin Thang and a catechist as they traveled from Surkhua town to Hakha on July 26. They have been helping dozens of people displaced by clashes between the military and resistance groups.

Father Noel Hrang Tin Thang from Hakha Diocese in Myanmar's Chin state was arrested by the Chinland Defense Force on July 26. (Photo: RVA Hakha)

The Chinland Defense Force had accused the priest of giving information to the military junta, getting medical aid from the junta and urging locals to receive the junta’s support. Priests and religious in Myanmar have faced strong pressure and arrests by the junta since the military coup of February and consequent clashes between the army, ethnic rebels and civil defense groups.

More than 900 have been killed, over 7,000 arrested and thousands displaced since the military takeover. 

Ethnic Christians in a remote, hilly village in Bangladesh are under pressure from Buddhists to renounce their faith after two mob attacks severely damaged a Baptist church.

The Bawm Tribal Baptist Church in Sundrapara village in Rangamati district was attacked twice by dozens of black-masked men, said the church’s head pastor Jyotilaso Chakma. The attackers demolished the church’s brick wall, windows, doors, tin roof, gate and cross.

The wall of Bawm Tribal Baptist Church in Rangamati district in southeast Bangladesh was demolished by unknown masked men. (Photo supplied) 

The attackers, allegedly radical Buddhists, also threatened Christians in the village to reconvert to Buddhism. Pastor Chakma and a Christian villager said there had been pressure from extremist Buddhists since 30 Buddhist families converted to Christianity in 2008. Most of the families have fled the village fearing attacks.

The southeastern hilly region collectively called Chittagong Hill Tracts has a long history of insurgency and sectarian violence between largely Buddhist ethnic groups and settler Bengali Muslims.

A leading Filipino anti-trafficking Christian group has challenged the government of President Rodrigo Duterte to stamp out corruption to tackle human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

During an online seminar to mark the World Day Against Trafficking in Human Persons, the Philippine Interfaith Movement Against Human Trafficking, a forum of Catholic, Protestant and evangelical churches, demanded Duterte fire officials who take bribes from human traffickers and turn a blind eye.

Sex workers in the Philippines are often victims of human traffickers. (Photo: Jimmy Domingo)

The group said human trafficking is not only an issue of poverty but of corruption. An estimated 784,000 out of a population of about 102 million Filipinos are living in modern slavery, according to the Global Slavery Index.

The US government’s 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report placed Philippines in Tier 1 status, which means the country meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The anti-trafficking group says the country is “not even close” to the minimum standard and pointed out that more lawyers does not equate to fewer trafficking cases.

Authorities in communist China have jailed four Christians for selling electronic Bible players illegally. Four middle aged men were jailed from 15 months to six years and fined for their involvement in the business in Shenzhen city in southeast China’s Guangdong province.

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They were arrested in July 2020 when police also recovered computers from their company called Life Tree Culture Communication. They faced trial last December but their verdicts were delayed. Their family members and fellow Christians were reportedly threatened not to discuss the case.

A Chinese boy walks through the aisle during a Mass at a Catholic church in a village near Beijing on Holy Saturday, April 3. (Photo: Jade Gao/AFP)

China’s communist regime has long tolerated production and sales of electronic Bibles, which are popular among Christians. Media reports say things changed in 2018 when the Chinese Communist Party adopted repressive new regulations on religious affairs.

Christians and other religious groups have faced an intensified crackdown from the state since then.

In southern Thailand, an army ranger was killed and four others seriously wounded in an attack by suspected Islamist triggering fresh concerns about the long-running religious conflict between primarily Buddhist authorities and Muslim separatists in the region.

On Tuesday, attackers ambushed the operations base of the 45th Ranger Task Force in Narathiwat, one of Thailand’s three Muslim-majority provinces where a long-running insurgency has claimed thousands of lives.

Muslims pray next to the grave of relatives at a cemetery during the Eid al-Adha festival in Thailand's restive southern province of Narathiwat on July 21. (Photo: AFP)

The attackers reportedly threw pipe bombs into the compound and opened fire with military-grade weapons, which prompted the rangers to return fire during an exchange that lasted about 15 minutes and saw one ranger killed with four others requiring care in hospital. The suspected militants then withdrew and detonated bombs placed at several electricity poles, causing a power blackout in the area.

The day before, a suspected Islamist militant wanted for insurgency-related robbery and murder was killed in a shootout with security forces in Pattani province.

On a positive note, Catholics and Muslims in a Christian-majority province of Indonesia have joined hands to fight the raging coronavirus pandemic.

The Muhammadiyah Institute of Teacher Training and Education in Sikka district of East Nusa Tenggara province aimed to vaccinate at least 2,000 people daily this week. Catholic priests and nuns have joined the campaign to encourage residents to be vaccinated.

A nun in Maumere in East Nusa Tenggara province is vaccinated on Aug. 2 during a vaccination program at the Institute of Teacher Training and Education belonging to Muhammadiyah, a Muslim organization. (Photo supplied)

Meanwhile, three Catholic schools run by Ursuline nuns in capital Jakarta have kicked off a free mobile vaccination drive targeting students aged 12-18 as well as needy people. Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo of Jakarta, chairman of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference, blessed seven cars and one ambulance to be used for the campaign.

Indonesia has been reeling from the Delta variant of Covid-19 with an average 50,000 new cases and 1,400 deaths daily. 

The Catholic Church in South Korea has joined civil society groups and environmentalists to oppose the government’s move to revive nuclear power plants. The move is seen as a retraction from the nuclear phase-out policy of the government of President Moon Jae-in.

Critics say the move has political undertones ahead of a national election next year. Civil society organizations and environmental groups plan to demonstrate against the revival of nuclear power plants on August 24.

Pope Francis delivers his speech at the Atomic Bomb Hypocenter in Nagasaki, Japan, on Nov. 24, 2019. He railed against the use of nuclear weapons as he paid tribute to the 'unspeakable horror' suffered by victims of the Nagasaki atomic bomb. (Photo: AFP)

The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission conditionally approved the operation of Shin-Hanul No. 1 power plant in the coastal county of Uljin in July. Other plants waiting for permission to operate are Shin Wolsong 1, Shin Kori 4 and Wolsong 3.

Since his election in 2017, President Moon has adopted a policy to close all nuclear plants gradually and to seek renewable energy. However, the government has faced criticism for failing to adopt renewable energy effectively as the country faces power shortages. 

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