Forced Conversion that Violates Human Rights Becomes an International Problem
On 29 November, Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR) from Italy and Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF) from Belgium hosted a seminar on human rights entitled “Intolerance and Discrimination Against New Religious Movements: An International Problem”.
This seminar, held in Seoul, South Korea, was devoted to the protection of the rights of religious minorities targeted by the majority groups, particularly in the context of anti-human rights situations such as the forced conversion that occurred in Korea.
Forced conversion, also known as “Deprogramming”, is a social issue that causes human rights violations by kidnapping and detaining the members of religious groups labeled as “cults” by their opponents in order to compel them to abandon their faith.
More than 80 participants including legal experts, journalists, and civil society representatives reviewed the current situation of forced conversion and discussed solutions to defend the freedom of faith and human rights that have become the norm of the international community.
Massimo Introvigne, Managing Director of CESNUR as well as an Italian sociologist, stressed that forced conversion is conducted through the mainstream by saying, “Korean deprogrammers are specialized pastors from the mainline churches, most of them Presbyterian."
"The protests that commemorate the victims from forced conversion were mentioned in the 2019 U.S. State Department Report on Religious Freedom, including violations of religious freedom in the year 2018. However, there were new cases of deprogramming even after their death," he criticized.
Regarding the multi-dimensional strategy to solve such phenomenon, Willy Fautré, Founder and Director of HRWF stated several suggestions; pointing at the responsibility of the leadership of the Presbyterian Church which tolerates, endorses, and maybe encourages such a practice; developing advocacy at the UN and in organs defending freedom of religion or belief; prosecuting those who encourage people to perpetrate an act of abduction and confinement.
In an open letter, signed by 15 international NGOs including CAP-LC and HRWF, to the South Korean President Moon Jae In on July 24th, it said, “South Korea may well be the last democratic country in the world where deprogramming is still tolerated” and asked the President to “investigate in-depth accusations of forcible deprogramming, put a stop to this obnoxious practice, and hold those responsible fully accountable.”
Meanwhile, South Korea was elected to serve the 5th term on the United Nations Human Rights Council on October 17th. South Korea’s mission to the UN said that it plans “to participate in the international efforts to respond to human rights crises around the world.” Participants urged the Korean government to respond to the issue of forced conversion which is still threatening the human rights of its people.
HWPL Hosts Peace Education Webinar by Connecting South Asian Countries during the COVID-19 Crisis
The Department of Peace Education in Western Busan branch, HWPL held the peace education webinar (web-based seminar) with about 30 people including education classes in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries in South Asia on September 19 (local time).
In spite of the global panic in the news about COVID-19, participants had a time to raise awareness of the importance of peace education through a video conferencing solution by sharing practical examples of peace education conducted in schools in South Asia, and live Q&A.
With the congratulatory remarks by Dr. Har Prasad Kain, chairperson Indian branch of HWPL (former commissioner of Indian Tax Commission) Mr. Mahbubur Rahman Mollah, principal of Bangladesh Shamsul Hoque Khan school and college, gave a speech on the necessity of peace education. Afterwards, Mr. Imran Maqsood, the founder of Faisalabad School for Peace in Pakistan, introduced cases of peace education, and Ms. Firoza Moradi, a teacher in Afghanistan Mukhtar private school, presented the role of peace education in countries including Afghanistan.
Mr. Imran Maqsood who signed MOU with HWPL for peace education addressed, “School aims to break down the religious and social barriers of all religious people in Pakistan, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Sikhs, through diversity and harmony, the first subject of peace education, by creating a community where children from different religions gather together to learn, play and grow together.”
“To improve critical thinking and communication skills, students should have a concept of peace in their minds and find how to solve problems peacefully. Although classes have not been conducted since COVID-19, students have actively suggested that they want to take peace education classes even through online sessions,” Ms. Firoza Moradi, who has taught HWPL peace education since January last year, said.
In particular, HWPL's examples of peace education which have been actively implemented in each country drew attention from the participants in the webinar. 214 schools from 36 countries in Africa participated at the HWPL Peace Education’ sessions hosted by Ethiopia's Kotebe Metropolitan University. Since then the peace education has been regularly conducted. In addition, HWPL signed an MOA with Kenya National Commission for UNESCO to prepare for the annual Peace Educator workshop. In Philippines, Commission on Higher Education and HWPL have formed an MOA, which currently performs monthly peace education more than 50 schools. Especially, the HWPL Peace Education Camp between Israel and Palestine was the historical antecedents attended by 150 faculty and students crossing border despite the disputed territory.
Most of the attendees participated in the webinar emphasized, "Let's overcome the COVID-19 crisis together by continually sharing news of peace education by country!"
Press-Release of the HWPL
South Korea: Plasma Donation by Shincheonji Church Facilitates Development of the Vaccine for COVID-19
On August 27th, over 1,000 members of religious organization called Shincheonji Church of Jesus participated in donating plasma for the cure of COVID-19.
This is carried out under the invitation of the health authorities in South Korea back on 24th, asking Shincheonji Church to cooperate for donating additional plasma for the development of the vaccine.
Early this year, around 5,000 confirmed cases were found in Shincheonji Church members with most infections from the city of Daegu, while most of them recovered from the virus with 11 deaths.
According to the report from the Korea Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (KCDC), 562 recovered members from the church registered to donate plasma and 409 completed donation in July through the cooperation between KCDC and Shincheonji Church. Facing the need for “facilitation of developing a cure through plasma donation and clinical trial”, the KCDC asked another round of a large-scale donation by members of Shincheonji Church in August.
The KCDC in its official document expressed appreciation to Shincheonji Church (Chairman Lee, Man Hee) for “active participation in the collection of plasma as a group for the development of corona(virus) cure for the purpose of national health safety under the global crisis caused by the COVID-19.”
“With the cooperation of Daegu city, Daegu Athletics Center plans to provide GC Pharma equipment and personnel (for the donation) from 27th August to 4th September. We express our gratitude to the city for providing a location for the group donations. We also express our gratitude to the congregation members of the religious organization, Shincheonji to be specific,” said Mr. Kwon Jun-wook, Deputy Director of the KCDC.
Research and development of the convalescent plasma treatment is underway by National Institute of Health under the Ministry of Health and Welfare in cooperation with Green Cross (GC) Pharma, a biotechnology company in South Korea.
On the same day, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized an emergency use of convalescent plasma for the treatment of COVID-19. Experts say that more data need to be collected to see the benefit of such treatment.
Major challenges of researching the effectiveness and the development of convalescent plasma treatment come from limited supply from donors who must be recovered from the virus.
As a religious leader, Chairman Lee, Man Hee of Shincheonji in July said, “This (plasma donation) is the work that needs to be done as citizens of this country and as true believers. It is keeping the command of Jesus of loving your neighbor as yourself (Mt 22:39 of the Bible).”
Source: The South Korea Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention.
Global Leaders Urge South Korean Government and the UN to Correct Religious Oppression in the Name of Covid-19 Quarantine
As the spread of coronavirus continues to increase around the world, voices from the international community are rising to stop religious oppression occurring in South Korea, known as an exemplary case for Covid-19 quarantine.
On August 17th, the Coalition of Caribbean Leaders for Peace (CCLP) consisting of the former and current leaders in the Caribbean including the former president of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sent a joint letter to South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
In the letter, they said the governments, even in response to the urgency of the pandemic, must take responsibility for the protection of human rights regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status and expressed concern about ongoing oppression against Shincheonji Church, a South Korea-based Christian denomination that suffered from the unexpected mass infection at the beginning of this year.
Ahead of this joint letter, 11 NGOs including the European Coordination of Associations and Individuals for Freedom of Conscience (CAP-LC) submitted the “annual report for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights” regarding the inappropriately targeted discrimination against Shincheonji Church to the UN Secretary-General.
The annual report was titled “Scapegoating Members of Shincheonji for COVID-19 in the Republic of Korea”.
The letter briefly pointed out the facts surrounding Shincheonji and Covid-19 as follows;
〮 Covid-19 was introduced to South Korea from China.
〮 According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus was already prevalent in the city of Daegu before the confirmation of (Shincheonji) the Patient 31 (in Daegu).
〮 The government’s refusal to close the border to China contributed heavily to the outbreak.
〮 In the face of growing public discontent that the government did not impose a travel restriction on China, Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae ordered the prosecution to investigate Shincheonji.
〮 Vice Minister of Health confirmed that the list of private identification information gathered was not much different than that collected and checked by the government.
〮 Prosecutors have arrested the officials of Shincheonji on the grounds that the list of congregation members submitted by Shincheonji was not complete.
By referring to the report “Factsheet on the global response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the impact on religious practice and religious freedom” by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), the joint letter reiterated that South Korea provides a vivid example of how public health emergencies can increase the risk to marginalized religious groups.
They pointed out that the South Korean government's silence about the current situation would set a dangerous global precedent for allowing similar persecution, violence, and harassment against other religious minorities, and strongly urged the Korean government to “step forward to an end to this discrimination.”
Source: the Coalition of Caribbean Leaders for Peace (CCLP)
Joint Letter Sent to the UN Secretary-General to Stop Human Rights Violations and Religious Oppression in South Korea
On August 10th, 155 youth groups with one million members from 62 countries around the world sent a joint letter to the UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the UN affiliates, including the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
The joint letter contained a request for recommendations to stop discrimination against Shincheonji Church, a new Christian denomination headquartered in South Korea, and a UN ECOSOC-affiliated organization named Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL).
The representative of this letter, the director and founder of FREE WATCH AFGHANISTAN, Mobeenullah Aimaq, said that he agreed with the UN's concern for the persecution of minorities and vulnerable groups as well as human rights violations that continue to occur in the pretext of fighting the coronavirus. To solve this problem, he proposed a joint letter to young people around the world to appeal to the international community.
He strongly urged that the Korean Government should knock off the prosecution of Shincheonji Church and HWPL in South Korea. "Prosecuting Shincheonji Church and HWPL should be immediately stopped so that the international reputation of the government, known as a proponent of peace in the globe, will be saved," he added.
In the letter, they reported the several acts of unfair discrimination and oppression of the Korean government and the media against these organizations by citing the concerns of UN Secretary-General regarding "disproportionate effects on certain communities, the rise of hate speech, and the targeting of vulnerable groups".
According to the report, there have been over 5,500 instances of human rights abuses of members of the Shincheonji Church during this period of the ongoing pandemic. Among the cases include two female members’ death in suspicious circumstances. Many of these victims are promising young people who are now facing increased discrimination in workplaces and schools, violence at home, and even forced deprogramming.
The letter highlights that the members of Shincheonji Church are also victims who were unfortunately infected with the virus despite following the government's guidelines related to the pandemic.
Furthermore, the unprecedented custody investigation against 89-years-old Chairman Man Hee Lee of Shincheonji Church and HWPL was recently determined. The charters of these two groups have been revoked by the government and they have been subject to rigorous tax investigations. Those in leadership positions within the organizations also have been taken into custody for questioning.
In the Korea Times column titled “Can unpopular sect expect justice?”, Michael Breen, CEO of Insight Communications, referred the current investigation into Shincheonji Church as a “witch-hunt” by saying that Shincheonji is a safe target for politicians and others who comment in public since it is unpopular.
In the joint letter, they urged that cases of human rights, social and religious repression, such as the ones occurring in South Korea, must be put to an end in order to build "more effective and inclusive solutions for the emergency of today and the recovery for tomorrow."
Press Release of the Department of Public Relations
Heavenly Culture, World Peace, and the Restoration of Light
Armenia, Ukraine and South Korea protest against the existence of bio laboratories
The global coronavirus pandemic has not only paralyzed economic activity around the world, but has also revealed a large number of socio-political problems in many countries. Political scandals related to the existence of US military bio laboratories have erupted because of coronavirus in countries such as Armenia, Ukraine and South Korea. Recent protests in Armenia and Ukraine have again called for the closure of US military bio laboratories operating in the country. In their demands, the speakers expressed concern that the new US testing viruses in these laboratories posed a deadly threat to both the country's population and the environment. That's why the protesters demanded the immediate closure of American bio laboratories.
Russian researcher Victoria Popova wrote in her article "American Bio-Laboratories in Armenia: Wonders of Multi-Vectorism" as early as 2017 that the entire network operates in Armenia - 12 bio-laboratories created or modernized with US military money under its Biological Threat Reduction Program (BTRP). In turn, it is part of the US Joint Program on Cooperative Biological Engagement Program (CBEP). Three of them are in Yerevan: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the State Food Service, and the Infectious Diseases Clinical Hospital "Nork". There are regional laboratories at the black plague prevention stations in Ijevan, Gyumri, Martuni, Sisian, Artashat, Vanadzor and other places. The scandal erupted in Armenia after 14 employees of the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC) and the country's Ministry of Health became infected with the coronavirus. The party "Armenian Eagles - United Armenia" recently demanded the liquidation of all US sub-bio laboratories in the country within two months from Prime Minister N. Pashinian. A scandal is occurring in Ukraine over the activities of 11 American bio laboratories in the country. A few years ago, the media reported that American bio laboratories had been set up in Ukraine, but this information failed to gain attention. This time, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the opposition demanded that the government explain what is happening on the secret facilities.
Two lead deputies of the "Opposition Platform for Life" - Viktor Medvechuk and Renat Kuzmin (Deputy Prosecutor General of Ukraine in the past), have publicly called on the Ukrainian authorities to provide information on the activities of US bio laboratories.
"Independent Military Review" reviewer Vladimir Ivanov writes that after the collapse of the USSR, US bio laboratories were also set up in CIS countries such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Moldova and others. Only American specialists have access to them and the results of their research. Local scientists and technical staff are not allowed to enter the areas where the most important and secret surveys are conducted.
Foreign media has reported on the escalation of inter-Korean relations these days. One reason for this is the existence of American bio laboratories in South Korea. North Korea has once again requested the closure of US military bio laboratories in South Korea. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, for several years has accused United States of preparing the start of a biochemical war. As early as 2018, according to "RIA Novosti", the Democratic People's Republic of Korea accused the United States of preparing for a biochemical war on the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang's suspicions were linked to a US-South Korean program to set up a network of military biochemical laboratories, which also researches poisonous substances. It should be noted that with the spread of the coronavirus epidemic in South Korea, the protest of citizens has intensified due to the presence of American biochemical laboratories in the country. Protestants have demanded the closure of American biochemical laboratories in South Korea because they pose a major threat to both the country's population and South Korea's ecological security. South Koreans still remember well how the U.S. admitted in 2015 that it mistakenly sent live Anthrax to private laboratories in South Korea. The head of the Pentagon, Ashton Carter, personally apologized to the South Korean Minister of Defense, Han Min-Goo, for this.
Badri Nachkebia, Political scientist,
Doctor of History
Expert-consultant of several leading universities abroad
(Information is prepared based on internet materials)