Churches in Myanmar subject to military raids
CHURCHES in Myanmar are being targeted by security forces in the Buddhist-majority country in an attempt to crack down on opponents of the military coup in February (News, 5 February). The coup has been followed by mass protests and months of violence (News, 9 April). At least four Roman Catholic churches in villages in Pathein diocese were raided by police and soldiers last week in search of alleged illegal activities or anti-coup activists. Other churches in Kachin state, a Christian stronghold, were razed over the Easter weekend.
Assyrian priest imprisoned in Turkey
AN ASSYRIAN Christian priest, Fr Sefer Bileçen, known as Fr Aho, has been sentenced to two years and one month in prison by a Turkish court this week, after being arrested in January 2020 and charged with joining a terrorist organisation, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports. He was reportedly accused of providing food and water to members of the People’s Defence Forces, the military wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which Turkey has designated a terrorist organisation. The founder president of CSW, Mervyn Thomas, said: “We call for an urgent review of the charges levelled against Father Aho, and for his lawyer to be allowed unhindered access to all documents and testimonies related to his case in order to facilitate due process. We also call on the international community to press the Turkish government to end all forms of discrimination against religious minorities.”
Roman Catholic group abducted in Haiti
FIVE priests and two nuns, two of whom are French citizens, were among ten Roman Catholics who were abducted in the municipality of Croix-des-Bouquet in Haiti on Sunday, where the group were preparing to attend the installation of a new parish priest, Vatican News reports. The kidnappers, suspected to be part of an armed gang, demanded a ransom for their release. Haiti has been in a political and socio-economic crisis for several years, now exacerbated by the pandemic and security threats. The instability has led to a spike in crime and kidnappings. The Bishop of Miragoâne, the Rt Revd Pierre-Andre Dumas, said: “This is too much. The time has come for these inhumane acts to stop.”
USPG deplores rights abuses in the Philippines
THE Anglican mission agency USPG has called on the United Nations to intervene regarding the persecution of the Lumad population in the Philippines. In a joint statement issued on Tuesday with the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (an independent Christian denomination) and the NGO network Save Our Schools, USPG asks the UN to “support civil society in their call for an independent review of the human rights situation in the Philippines at the upcoming 51st session of The Human Rights Council”; “consider urgent, targeted sanctions against the Filipino government including the cessation of all sales of military and surveillance equipment”; and “consider a request to the International Criminal Court to expand their investigation to include the so-called ‘war on terror’ in the Philippines”. The agency is due to host a webinar on the issue at 12.30 p.m. on 23 April.