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Korean archbishop urges Catholics to help migrants, refugees

Korean Catholics have been urged to protect the rights of migrants and refugees amid a state crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

Published: September 29, 2023 11:18 AM GMT

Updated: September 29, 2023 12:03 PM GMT

Archbishop Peter Chung Soon-taick of Seoul has urged Korean Catholics to protect the rights of migrants amid a government crackdown on undocumented immigrants and alleged rights violations in detention facilities. The prelate made the remarks in a homily during a commemorative Mass on World Migrants and Refugees Day at Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul last Sunday.

A cultural event following the Mass showcased traditional culture including music and dance performed by migrant communities. About 1,000 people, including migrants from the Philippines, Vietnam, Mongolia, Indonesia and South America, participated in the event.

Archbishop Chung’s appeal came as rights groups accused South Korean authorities of violating rights of migrants. The East Asian nation has welcomed foreign migrants to overcome labor shortage due to a demographic crisis fueled by a low birth rate and rapidly aging population.

Government data shows the country has 1.3 million legal migrants and estimated 410,000 undocumented foreigners. About 13,000 illegal migrants were deported in March and April.

Migrants from South America perform a traditional dance to mark World Migrants and Refugees Day at Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul, South Korea, on Sept. 24

Migrants from South America perform a traditional dance to mark World Migrants and Refugees Day at Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul, South Korea, on Sept. 24. (Photo: Archdiocese of Seoul)

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Indian Christian leaders have deplored ongoing abuse and persecution of minorities including tribal people and lower-caste communities. The reaction came after an upper caste man urinated on a downtrodden Dalit woman, in the second such incident in less than two months.

In the latest case reported last Friday, the poor Dalit woman in the northeastern state of Bihar was beaten and stripped for failing to repay a loan worth 18 US dollars. Police said the woman managed to escape when the accused told his son to urinate into the woman’s mouth.

India’s state-run National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) said in a report last year that crimes against Dalits (formerly untouchables) increased by 1.2 percent in 2021. (Photo: AFP)

Church leaders say the incident is just another example of ongoing discrimination, attacks, murders and insults. In July, a leader of the ruling pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party in Madhya Pradesh state had allegedly urinated on a man from the tribal community.

Government data shows crimes against Dalits, who make up over 16 percent of the nation’s 1.4 billion people, continue to rise. 

Ahead of the upcoming national election, Bangladesh government has agreed to establish a commission to protect the interests of religious minorities – Buddhists, Christians and Hindus –by October.

The announcement last Saturday came two days after the country's largest minority forum, The Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, launched an indefinite hunger strike in Dhaka.

Devotees and activists from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) take part in a demonstration on the outskirts of Ahmadabad on October 23, 2021, against the fresh religious violence against Hindus in Bangladesh. (Photo by SAM PANTHAKY / AFP)

The council earlier accused the ruling Awami League for not keeping its promises made before the previous elections. The council had planned a series of protests across the nation through September pressing for government systems and policies amid ongoing repression of religious minorities including violence and land grabbing.

The government agreed to establish a commission after seven council leaders, including two women, who were on hunger strike were hospitalized. The strike was called off following the announcement.  

Thousands of teachers in Nepal called off a strike against a proposed education bill last Friday after the government agreed to address their grievances. The strike saw most of the nation’s 29,000 schools shut for three days.

The agitating teachers said the proposed law threatens their job security and development. About 282,500 teachers from public and private schools joined the protests that affected the education of over 7 million students.

Members of the Nepal Teachers’ Association protest near the parliament against the new school bill in Kathmandu on Sept. 21. (Photo: AFP)

The teachers alleged the bill proposes to hand over the jurisdiction of schoolteachers to the local government instead of the central government. They are concerned the change will encourage political infiltrations in the management of teachers.

The proposed School Education Bill, 2023 seeks to reform the five-decade-old Education Act. Amid the fiasco, rights activists and educationists have appealed teachers not to deprive student of their right to education.

Church groups and rights activists in Papua condemned a police raid at a church and alleged assault and arrest of five members. Reports say police forcibly entered the Tent Gospel Church in Keneyam, Nduga Regency late at night on Sept. 17 and arrested members, accusing them of supporting the Papuan separatists.

In a statement last Friday, the Humanitarian Coalition for Papua urged the government and security forces in the region to stop all forms of violence and uphold human rights. Amnesty International, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence and the Democratic Alliance for Papua also criticized the use of excessive force.

The Kingmi church in Keneyam, Nduga Regency, Papua, where Indonesian police reportedly entered by force on Sept. 17 and arrested five members of the congregation accusing them of being supporters of pro-independence groups. (Photo supplied)

The incident occurred two days after the bodies of five civilians were discovered from a river following a clash between security forces and rebels in the conflict-torn Christian-majority region.

Rights groups reported 31 incidents of violence including shootings, torture, arbitrary arrests and other acts of violence since January.

Some members including leaders of a supposed religious “cult” in Catholic majority Philippines have been accused of crimes such as rape and forced marriage of children, illegal drugs and arms possession.

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The parliament issued a summons to the Soccorro Bayanihan Services Inc., based in Surigao province in Mindanao region, last Thursday. The group faced the hearing scheduled for September 28.

The Soccorro Bayanihan Services Inc., an alleged religious cult, is said to be based in a heavily guarded mountainous area in Mindanao of southern Philippines. (File Photo: AFP) 

The group’s leader, Jey Rence Quilario, who is accused of building a private army, was detained after the Senate hearing. The alleged crimes came to light after Senator Risa Hontiveros recently revealed about the existence of the “cult” in an enclosed and heavily guarded area in Sitio Kapihan, a mountainous portion of Socorro town.

Some former members reported about its crimes. Media reports say the organization has at least 3,500 members, including 1,580 children. Quilario, also known as “Senyor Aguila”  or Mr. Eagle, allegedly claims to be the “messiah” or the reincarnation of Jesus. 

Pope Francis has named two bishops from mainland China as members of the upcoming assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome.

Bishop Joseph Yang Yongqiang of Zhoucun has served as vice president of the government-related Council of Chinese Bishops, and Bishop Anthony Yao Shun of Jining is the first bishop ordained after the Vatican and China signed a provisional agreement on the nomination of bishops in 2018. They will be among the 365 synod members to attend the Oct. 4-19 meeting.

Pope Francis (center) celebrates a closing Mass at the end of the Synod of Bishops at the Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican on Oct. 28, 2018. (Photo: AFP)

Earlier, the pope named Cardinal-designate Stephen Chow Sau-Yan of Hong Kong as a member, but no bishop from the Chinese mainland was included.

China expert Belgian Scheut missionary Father Jeroom Heyndrickx said the pope’s decision to include the Chinese bishops show positive results of the Sino-Vatican deal despite the dialogue between Beijing and Rome not progressing as desired.

Hong Kong’s Beijing-controlled government has condemned demands made by a forum of overseas rights groups against the legal actions against pro-democracy supporter Jimmy Lai, on his 1,000th day in custody.

The Washington DC-based rights group, Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation, issued a letter on Monday with signature of around 67 other rights groups, urging US President Joe Biden to call upon Hong Kong for the “immediate and unconditional release” of Lai.

Millionaire media tycoon Jimmy Lai poses during an interview with AFP at the Next Digital offices in Hong Kong, a month before he was arrested on Aug. 10 under Beijing's new national security law. (Photo: AFP / UCAN files)

In statement on Tuesday, the Hong Kong government said remarks by various organizations and media against the law enforcement actions and legal proceedings linked to Lai are “misleading and slanderous” and an interference in the internal affairs of Hong Kong. 

Lai who is a Catholic and the founder of the now-defunct pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, was first arrested under the national security law on suspicion of “colluding with foreign forces” in August 2020. He was further accused of fraud and formally charged in December 2020. Lai was convicted and jailed for five years and nine months for fraud last December.

Catholic leaders in Cambodia say the ordination of four new native priests in little over a month are signs of hope and growth of the tiny Church in the Buddhist-majority nation.

French missionary Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler, the Vicar Apostolic of Phnom Penh, ordained three diocesan priests at Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in the national capital, last Saturday.

Father Damo Martin Chour is the first Jesuit priest from Cambodia. He is among the four new priests ordained in the country since August. (Photo: Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific)

Hundreds of Catholics from across the country attended the ceremony marked by traditional culture, including music and costumes. This came after the ordination of the first native Jesuit priest, Father Damo Martin Chour, on Aug. 19.

Catholic Church in Cambodia has about 20,000 members, 14 native priests and about 100 missionary priests and religious based in 80 parishes. Christians make up less than one percent of the nation’s more than 16 million people. The Church almost withered during Cambodia’s deadly civil war but revived after the missionaries returned in the 1990s.

The Unification Church of Japan has deplored a TV program aired by state broadcaster NHK as defamatory and demanded its cancellation. The church issued a protest note asking NHK to immediately halt the show 'Kikenna Sasayaki,' or Dangerous Whispers, claiming it has caused “serious damages” to its reputation.

The program’s previous title 'Akuma no Sasayaki'  translated into The Devil's Whispers, was changed following the protest. The church also demanded a formal apology for using "insulting" phrases.

Members of the Unification Church attend a rally in Seoul on Aug. 18, 2022, to protest against the media coverage the group received in Japan following the assassination in early July of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP)

The show includes a dramatization of past attempts to recruit believers for the Unification Church; including hiding the group's name and door-to-door sales tactics disguised as charitable activities.

The controversial church came under the spotlight and criticism following the assassination of former premier Shinzo Abe on July 8 last year.

Abe was shot by Tetsuya Yamagami who reportedly told investigators he had a grudge against the former PM for his ties to the Unification Church. His mother reportedly donated 100 million yen  or 720,000 US Dollars, a parcel of land and their house, to the church that devastated the family.

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