China cracks down on unregistered churches
DOZENS of leaders and members of churches in China have been detained and accused of “inciting subversion”, during a crackdown by the authorities. Both the Early Rain Covenant Church in Sichuan and the Rongguili Church in Guangzhou were shut down this week after raids. Both churches were technically illegal because they were not registered, although they attracted thousands of worshippers each week. Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said that the charges of subversion were politically motivated. “The increasing arrest, detention, and harassment of religious groups in China stand in sharp contrast to the government’s claim that it protects religious freedom for its citizens.”
UN calls for calm ahead of DRC vote
DAYS before a long-delayed presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Nations has condemned a series of violent incidents in which police and security forces have shot at and killed protesters and opposition activists. “It is essential that the authorities ensure that the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fully protected, and that they take all possible measures to prevent violence,” a spokeswoman for the High Commissioner on Human Rights said. On several occasions, the police and army had used force against those running against the ruling party’s candidate, she said.
Bishops draw attention to plight of West Papua
A COALITION of bishops and Primates from the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia have demanded that governments across the Pacific hold Indonesia to account for the “state-sanctioned abuse and violation of human rights” in West Papua, a province of the multi-island nation. West Papua was absorbed into Indonesia in the 1960s. The bishops’ statement accused the Indonesian government of suppressing West Papuans’ right to self-determination. Churches in the region should also stand with their “brothers and sisters” in the province, and draw attention to both ethnic violence and destruction of the environment, the statement said.
UN invited into Rakhine
THE UN’s development programme and its refugee agency have received permission from Myanmar’s government to begin work on community projects in Rakhine, the province from which 750,000 mostly Muslim Rohingya people have fled from government-backed violence and persecution. Small-scale initiatives will focus on improving livelihoods and rebuilding social cohesion between communities, the UN said. In the longer-term, the two UN agencies intend to create the conditions for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to return home, although many are still fearful of renewed oppression by the Burmese authorities.