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Hope, resilience continue amid calamities in Asia

This week, strong calls for human rights and justice resonated in Asian nations, while stories of hope and resilience emerged amid calamities and conflicts.

Published: June 18, 2021 11:49 AM GMT

Updated: June 18, 2021 04:02 PM GMT

Catholics in the Philippines have welcomed a call from ICC or the International Criminal Court for a full investigation into President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on illegal drugs that has allegedly led to 30,000 deaths.

Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the ICC, said on June 14 that there is a “reasonable basis” to believe that Duterte had committed crimes against humanity through the “widespread” and “systematic” mass killing of drug suspects when he was mayor of Davao City in Mindanao. Bensouda launched a preliminary investigation into the killings in 2019 that prompted Duterte’s government to pull the Philippines out of the ICC.

However, Bensouda said the court still had jurisdiction over crimes committed while the country was a member. Divine Word Father Flavie Villanueva, a strong critic of Duterte, said it was high time justice ruled in the Philippines and for Duterte to be held accountable.

A spokesman for the president said the prosecutor’s call was politically motivated and an “insult” to the Philippine judicial system, adding the country will not cooperate with the ICC probe.

Hope, resilience continue amid calamities in Asia

A woman grieves beside the body of her son, an alleged drug user killed by unidentified assailants, in Manila on Oct. 3, 2017. (Photo: AFP)

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A Catholic nun in India has refused to move out of a convent of her congregation despite losing an appeal against her dismissal at the Vatican’s supreme tribunal. Sister Lucy Kalappura from the Franciscan Clarist Congregation based in southern India's Kerala state said she will live in the convent until an ongoing case about her right to housing is settled in an Indian court.

The nun has lived in the convent for more than three decades. Her congregation dismissed her in August 2019 over charges of disobedience and breaking religious vows. The nun lost another appeal against dismissal from the Vatican's Congregation for Oriental Churches in October 2019.

Sister Lucy Kalappura says she will continue to live in her convent. (Photo supplied)

Sister Kalappura has alleged that her congregation started acting against her after she supported the public protests of five nuns in September 2018 demanding the arrest of Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar Diocese who was accused of raping of a nun. Following the protests, Bishop Mulakkal was arrested and later released on bail while the case is in progress in a court.

The congregation said the nun’s dismissal was not linked to the bishop’s case but to her violation of rules and orders. 

Covid-19 has claimed a fourth Catholic bishop in India as the nation continues to reel under the deadly second wave of the pandemic.

65-year-old Bishop Paul Lakra of Gumla Diocese in Jharkhand state died on June 15 more than a month after he tested positive for coronavirus. While the deadly virus has plunged India a humanitarian catastrophe, the Catholic Church has been particularly hit.

Covid-19 patients are given medical attention in Kolkata, eastern India, on June 10. (Photo: AFP)

More than 520 priests, religious brothers and nuns have died of Covid-19, according to a list prepared by Capuchin Father Suresh Matthew, editor of church-run Indian Currents magazine.

India has recorded 29.7 million infections and more than 382,000 deaths from the coronavirus. 

In conflict-torn Myanmar, churches and convents have become sanctuaries as the military fights local resistance forces in various parts of the country. Thousands of people have been sheltering in Catholic and other Christian churches in the predominantly Christian states of Kayah, Chin, Kachin and Shan.

Churches have opened doors for fleeing civilians, especially the elderly, children, women, the sick and disabled, regardless of religion and race. In Loikaw Diocese of Kayah state, thousands are still spending their days and nights in churches and convents despite deadly military shelling that left three Catholic churches badly damaged and several dead.

Sacred Heart Church in Loikaw in Myanmar's Kayah state was hit by military shelling on May 23. Four people were killed and eight wounded in the incident. (Photo: Kantarawaddy Times/AFP)

In Penkhon Diocese, about 10,000 people are residing in five churches, while four parishes have been completely abandoned due to heavy fighting.

Myanmar’s bishops made an appeal recently urging armed groups to follow international norms and to stop attacking neutral places such as churches, pagodas, monasteries, mosques, temples, schools and hospitals.

Meanwhile, security forces in Myanmar have continued the harassment and detention of Catholic priests for allegedly supporting civil resistance groups. Last Sunday armed men raided Assumption Church and its clergy house in Chanthar village of Mandalay Archdiocese and detained six young priests.

The priests were guests attending liturgical programs on the feast of the Sacred Heart in Ye-Oo, a nearby town. The priests were questioned for their suspected links to civil defense groups. They were handcuffed and detained for 15 hours before being released.

Protesters hold banners at a demonstration against the military coup in Dawei on June 14. (Photo: Dawei Watch/AFP)

The priests were not allowed to wear their robes when they were taken to the police station. Another priest, Father Michael Aung Ling, and a boarding student at the parish compound of St. Michael’s Church in Kanpetlet town were arrested by soldiers on Wednesday and questioned for 11 hours.

Soldiers suspected the priest had supplied food to the Chinland Defense Force, a civil resistance group in Christian-majority Chin state.

Chinese authorities have banned and shut down churches of the Good News Mission, a South Korea-based international Protestant church, in two cities with significant Korean immigrants. The Good News Mission was banned and its churches closed in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin province on April 30.

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It followed a ban, raids and closure of the Good News Mission in Shaoxing in Zhejiang province on March 30. The closures only became known in early June. Several leaders and members of the church have also been arrested and imprisoned in two cities this year.

Pastor Ock Soo Park, founder of the Good News Mission, speaks during a conference in 2020. (Photo: Good News TV/YouTube)

The crackdown is seen as a part of ongoing repression of religious groups and affiliated organizations by the Communist Party of China under draconian regulations on religious affairs introduced in 2018. Founded in 1972, the Good News Mission became a global church with a presence in up to 80 countries in Asia, Africa, Central and South America. It has 178 churches in South Korea and 582 international churches. 

Chinese authorities have recently intensified crackdowns on religious groups including Christian churches and charities. Several Christian orphanages for poor and disabled children have been shut down, while churches have been closed and clergy and members arrested and tortured.

Church officials in Indonesia have welcomed the government’s new selection procedure to uproot potential extremists among civil servants. It aims to ensure a candidate’s commitment to the national ideology, respect for other religions and nationalism.

Indonesia has more than 4.3 million civil servants and at least 800,000 have been influenced by radical ideology, according to the Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Ministry. 

Members of the notorious Islamic Defenders Front attend a rally in Jakarta in 2017. The Indonesian government is seeking to prevent supporters of such groups entering the civil service through new selection tests. (Photo: Ryan Dagur/UCA News)

Extremist indoctrination came to the fore when civil servants were among those arrested for involvement in two suicide bombings at three churches in Surabaya, East Java province, in 2018 and a cathedral in Makassar, South Sulawesi province, this year. 

The ministry also said that it dismisses at least 40 civil servants each month because they have connections to radical groups linked to terror organizations such as al-Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah or the Islamic State-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah as well as banned hardline groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia and the Islamic Defenders Front. 

Authorities in Cambodian capital Phnom Penh have evicted hundreds of people and dismantled their house boats on the Mekong River, triggering strong criticism from rights groups including Human Rights Watch.

The evicted families had been living on the river for generations. The evicted residents, who are mainly ethnic Vietnamese, lamented that they have nowhere to go amid the pandemic that restricts travel while the border with Vietnam remains closed.

A floating village at Kampong Phuluk on the Tonle Sap. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0)

Phnom Penh authorities issued abrupt eviction notices following complaints the communities were little more than "floating slums" littered with plastic bags, raw sewage and other refuse along the Tonle Sap, a tributary of the Mekong.

The eviction drive is part of a clean-up campaign in the capital as Cambodia takes the chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations next year and hosts the Southeast Asian Games in 2023. 

A new report says tens of thousands of Rohingya refugee children in Asia are denied basic rights. More than 700,000 Rohingya children across Asia are subject to severe discrimination and denial of their most basic rights to citizenship and education, Save the Children said in a report published on World Refugee Day on Thursday.

The report reveals that Rohingya children across Myanmar, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia are prevented from accessing education and legal protection, which can expose them to abuse, child labor, child marriage, trafficking and detention.

Rohingya people take refuge in a temporary shelter after their boat washed ashore on Idaman island in Indonesia's Aceh province on June 5. A total of 81 Rohingya migrants, including children, were found stranded. (Photo: AFP)

Nearly 500,000 Rohingya children are living in refugee camps in Bangladesh, while many have taken refuge in neighboring countries. Malaysia hosts more than 100,000 Rohingya refugees, around a quarter of whom are estimated to be children.

Thailand and Indonesia host small Rohingya populations including children. Some 234,000 Rohingya children remain in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, of whom around 69,000 are confined to squalid camps. Despite living in Rakhine state for centuries, Rohingya have experienced decades of state-sponsored persecution and violence.

The Malaysian High Court has overturned a coroner’s ruling that found the death of French-Irish teenager Nora Anne Quoirin in 2019 was a case of misadventure. The ruling from Judge Azizul Azmi Adnan is seen as a victory for the girl's family who are seeking a fresh police investigation.

The verdict was in response to an appeal by the London-based parents of the 15-year-old schoolgirl, who suffered from learning difficulties.

Nora Anne Quoirin, a 15-year-old French-Irish schoolgirl from London, died mysteriously following her disappearance from a resort in Malaysia during a family holiday. (Photo: Facebook)

Nora disappeared from a resort in Dusan in Negeri Sembilan state in August 2019, only a day after her family arrived for a holiday from Britain. Her unclothed body was found in the forest following a 10-day frantic hunt involving hundreds of rescuers, helicopters and sniffer dogs.

Malaysian police concluded that it might be a case of accidental death resulting from Nora’s misadventure and getting lost in the forest. Her parents insisted there was a criminal element to her death. They said Nora might have been kidnapped as she would not have wandered off alone, prompting a new inquest.

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