Gulf states refuse to open doors to Syrian Muslim refugees

September 24, 2015 by admin  
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Muslim refugeesSeptember 21, 2015: As Europe begins to respond to the need to provide safe shelter for Syrian refugees escaping a brutal conflict, many are beginning to ask why wealthy Gulf states are refusing to accept any refugees, despite the religious, cultural and geographical proximity. “Surely,” wrote Lord Carey in an article published in The Telegraph on 5 September, “if [Gulf States] are concerned for fellow Muslims who prefer to live in Muslim-majority countries, then they have a moral responsibility to intervene.”

Arab nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and UAE) have taken extremely few, if any, refugees from Syria – “and this,” said Geoffrey Mock, Syria specialist for Amnesty International USA, “is shameful”.

None of these Arab countries are signatories of the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, and to enter them Syrians must be in possession of a tourist visa or a work permit. Saudi Arabia has accepted around 500,000 Syrians since 2011, according to the BBC, but all of these have entered with visas or because of family connections. The only Arab countries that will accept Syrian refugees without a visa are Algeria, Mauritania, Sudan and Yemen.

Gulf states have responded to criticism by pointing out the millions of US dollars of aid they have given to support refugees living in camps. In total, Gulf nations have given US$900 million from charities and private individuals.

Donations to the United Nations Syria response fund show that Saudi Arabia has given US$18.4 million this year so far and Kuwait US$305 million; the US has given US$1 billion and the UK US$475 million.

The Gulf states are some of the wealthiest nations in the world, much more so than the countries that neighbour Syria, which are accommodating millions of Syrian refugees. Jordan has taken in 630,000 refugees despite the fact that the average income is 13 times higher in the Gulf state of Qatar.

The majority of Syrian refugees are Sunni Muslims, as are most people in the Gulf nations. But Gulf countries are concerned about the potential threat to security should Syrian refugees supportive of Bashar al-Assad enter their countries with the intention of carrying out revenge attacks. Gulf nations have backed rebel groups fighting Assad’s regime in Syria, which is supported by Iran, a Shiite Muslim regime.

Gulf nations are also concerned about the social impact of accepting an influx of Syrian refugees where so much of their resident populations is made up of migrant workers. In the smaller Gulf states of UAE and Qatar, nationals make up around just 10% of the population.

Cultural identity is controlled through the strict control of the non-Arab resident population. Visas are granted only to those who have work permits and their spouses. As soon as the work contract terminates, residents are obliged to leave the country. It is almost impossible for migrant workers to obtain nationality.

Criticism of the Gulf countries’ stance has even begun to emerge from within, particularly in recent days as heart-wrenching pictures of desperate Syrian refugees permeate the global media.

Saudi Arabia’s Makkah Newspaper published a cartoon depicting two closed doors: at one, a woman dressed in rags and carrying a baby in her arms, kneels begging for the door to open. This door opens the way to Europe: the yellow stars of the European Union flag circle the tiny window. At the other, an Arab man looks out of the window and shouts angrily at the Europeans to let the woman in. His own door, however, remains firmly shut and barbed wire prevents the desperate woman from even getting close.

“The Gulf must realise that now is the time to change their policy regarding accepting refugees from the Syria crisis,” said Arab expert Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi. “It is the moral, ethical and responsible step to take.” Few, however, expect the Gulf nations to relent.

Archbishop in Mindanao warns against rise of Islamic extremism

September 21, 2015 by admin  
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Archbishop in Mindanao warns against rise of Islamic extremismPhilippine, September 8, 2015: A Catholic archbishop in Mindanao has warned of the possible rise of Islamic extremism if the Philippine government fails to implement a peace deal with Moro rebels in the region.

“A failed BBL [Bangsamoro Basic Law] will favor the growth of extremism, fundamentalism, terrorism in Mindanao,” said Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro.

The Jesuit archbishop said failure to pass a basic law that will eventually create a Bangsamoro region in Mindanao, southern Philippines, “will not help solve the conflict.”

The establishment of the Bangsamoro, an autonomous Muslim region, is part of the peace deal signed by the Philippine government and Moro rebels in 2014 to end a five-decade old insurgency.

“Failure to pass a meaningful BBL is very dangerous as this may trigger the rise of Moro extremism,” he said, adding that there is a growing number of young Moros who are “entertaining political thoughts that have shades of extremism.”

Archbishop Ledesma called on members of Congress to pass a law that is consistent with the peace deal signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014.

Philippine legislators are currently deliberating the passage of a basic law that will create the Bangsamoro region.

The prelate said Congress should pass a “meaningful” basic law that will address the “longing for genuine self-governance of the Bangsamoro and embodies the political agreements of the MILF and the government.”

Archbishop Ledesma, who is a member of the Citizens Peace Council, said “support for a meaningful BBL is a support for the Mindanao peace process.”

In July, the Philippine bishops declared support for the establishment of an autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao “that remains part and parcel” of the Philippines.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., however, said the immediate passage of the basic law in Congress is becoming “an impossible dream” due to lack of time.

“I’m still a bit hopeful and confident…. We still have to go on it to show that peace in Mindanao as exemplified by the BBL is a continuing concern,” said Belmonte.

- ucan

How Islamic is the “Islamic State”?

September 12, 2015 by admin  
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ISISIraq, September 05, 2015: About 3 million Iraqis displaced, around 4 million of Syrians fleeing their country in tremendous horror. Women captured, beheaded for refusing to indulge in sex-slavery. Mosques being bombarded in Muslim countries. Hundreds of civilians being killed in just minutes by missiles and air strikes.

Because, a group of self-proclaimed “Islamic jihadists” are out to restore the world order back to what it was 1400 years ago, during the time of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W). Switch on the TV, read newspapers, or click on your android news-apps – ISIS is on popular demand.

The attacks, killings, beheadings, flogging, persecution are “religiously motivated.” The “Islamic jihadists” of the organization identify their ideologies as “jihad” and “Salafi” school that propagate “purest extremist interpretation of Islam” as reported by the Australian National Security website and “Mapping Militant Organization” report by The Stanford University. The ISIS has been active since 2002, promoting extreme religious views, wreaking havoc through its most inhumane violence, often killing masses of civilians tagging them as “apostates” or “infidels.”

The ultimate goal is to create a “Sunni Islamic State.”

Does anything as “Sunni Islamic State” exist in the holy scriptures or texts of Islam? Or did it ever exist even at the peak time of the rise of Islam, during the Prophet’s Caliphate 1400 years ago in the Gulf?

Does Islam encourage “jihad”? Does Islam suggest persecution?

The photo of the 3 year old Aylan Kurdi from Syria washed ashore in the Turkish coast, face-down; the harsh sun falling on his bright red coloured t-shirt and Velcro sneakers – forces the above questions in mind.

The haunting image has gone viral in social media with distressed tweets in Turkish by the hashtag, “KiyiyaVuranInsanlik,” translating to “Humanity Washed Ashore.”

The unstoppable and unspeakable murder of humanity in the hands of these “religious extremists”, the failure of international peace-making communities, human rights organizations, or the grand mismanagement of the resourceful Arab world – who to blame for countless children and families dying every day?

The ISIS adheres to “Sunni Islam” rooting itself to the Quran and Ahadeeth as guidelines, as asserted in the last sermon by the Prophet. But did the Prophet really profess this?

A little look at the activities of ISIS and what do the Quran and Ahadeeth say about them :

ISIS : Demolishes historical city of Palmyra, beheads journalists from around the world for their non-acceptance of the faith.

Quran: “There shall be no compulsion in (acceptance of) religion.” [Surah Al Baqarah, Verse 2:256]

ISIS : Bombards a Shia mosque in Kuwait during Friday prayers in Ramazan.

Quran : “Indeed those who have divided their religion and become sects – you – (O Muhammad), are not associated with them in anything. Their affair is only left to Allah, then He will inform them of what they used to do” [Surah Al Anaam, Verse 6:159]

ISIS : As reported by THE WEEK, life under the caliphate of ISIS for women centres around strict moral policing. Women must compulsorily “wear two black gowns to mask their body shape, and three veils so their eyes cannot be seen, even in sunlight.” Any shift in the prescribed clothing style or a female seen unaccompanied by a male relative is detained and dealt with by the all-women “Al Khansaa Brigade.” Children and women have been taken as sex slaves, and the ISIS decrees that girls can marry by the age of 9, and must be married by 16 or 17.

Quran : “Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so – for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.” [Surah Al Ahzab, Verse 33:35]

Ahadeeth : Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

“The most complete of the believers in faith, is the one with the best character. And the best of you are those who are best to their women.”(At-Tirmidhi and authenticated by Al-Albani)

There are authentic historical records of women participating in political, economic, domestic, public spheres of life during the Prophet. They were traders (Khadijah bint Khuwaylid ), scholars (Aishah bint Abu Bakr), fighters (Khawla bint Al Azwar), leaders (Zaynab bint Ali), etc.

ISIS : Deliberately raping, looting, beheading, killing, immolating, and bombing civilians which largely include infants, pregnant women and children.

Quran: “Whoever kills an innocent soul, has killed entire mankind. Whoever saves one, has saved mankind entirely.” [Surah Al Maidah, Verse 5:32]

Numerous examples in Ahadeeth illustrate the Prophet’s generous and amiable behaviour with the Jewish and Christian tribes of Madinah,that earned him their good will too.

I am not a Sunni, or a Shia, or a Kurd, or a Syrian, I am a Muslim.

I am a Muslim woman.

Being a Muslim Woman – is my biggest identity. Yet, every time I hear of, read about, or research on the ISIS, I am plagued by the contrasting ideologies between the Islam in reality and the so-called “Islamic State.”

I wonder what the millions of non-Muslim population of the world thinks about my faith, my identity, my way of living…. Despite the differences in beliefs, their questions and mine are still the same:

“How Islamic is the Islamic State?”

- tcn

Myanmar Christians poised to take political stage

September 9, 2015 by admin  
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Myanmar electionsMyanmar, August 20, 2015: In less than three months, Myanmar’s fragile, half-formed democracy will be tested by the first election to be contested by all comers since 1990.

While at first blush, the poll looks like a two-horse race between the military-backed government and the opposition National League for Democracy, led by Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the situation is far more complex.

Myanmar has seven stand-alone ethnic states, four of which have sizable Christian populations.

These could hold the keys to power with dozens of locally based parties expected to win seats in the 440-member lower house, making a coalition the only option for Suu Kyi’s party to take control of parliament.

The situation has been further complicated in recent weeks. First, massive flooding has already cost more than 100 lives and is likely to further affect more than half a million people. The wreckage could make it difficult for voters to reach polling stations in a country with a still largely primitive infrastructure.

Suu Kyi has already addressed this issue, pointing to a similar situation in 2008 following the devastation left by Cyclone Nargis. A vote on Myanmar’s constitution was held only six weeks after that disaster and, as Suu Kyi said in a video on her Facebook page, it “raised very many questions about the effectiveness of that referendum, about how acceptable the results of that referendum were.”

It remains unclear just how much damage the recent floods have caused, but with at least 600,000 people seriously affected — and the wet season not yet over — it will likely persist as an issue.

More explosively, there has been an internal bloodletting by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). The party leadership on Aug. 13 removed the nation’s No. 2 politician and one-time presidential hopeful, lower house speaker Shwe Mann, from all party positions. While he has so far retained his role in the legislature, there were rumors that fresh moves were afoot to dump him from parliament and the speaker’s job as well.

All this almost certainly ensures incumbent Thein Sein a second term as president, which only a year ago he had vowed not to seek.

This kind of undemocratic behavior, in a ruling party still dominated by members of the former military junta, reeks of the Burma of yesteryear. And most observers believe that, behind the scenes, the dark shadow of the country’s long-term dictator Than Shwe continues to loom. Many people believe he remains firmly in control of the levers of power.

A game of seats

At the weekend, Thein Sein’s spokesman said Shwe Mann’s “crime” was that he had become too close to other parties. There has been talk in recent months that the speaker was seeking to make a deal with Suu Kyi that would have seen him elected president and her selected to be the new speaker. The NLD leader is barred from the president’s job, according to Myanmar’s constitution, because she has a foreign spouse and children.

Although the USDP appears fractured, it has a singular vested interest in maintaining a firm grip on power. And it can be expected to put up a united front for the election, even if it appears weakened in the eyes of the voting public.

The real game remains whether the NLD can gain a majority in the parliament despite another constitutional handicap: 25 percent of seats are reserved for the military.

The distribution of seats in Myanmar gives the seven states outsized representation. Rather than seats being decided more or less equally on a population basis, they are based on the nation’s traditional townships with about 30 percent of the seats in Myanmar’s parliament from the seven states.

Electorates in the states versus, say, Yangon are generally far smaller in terms of population. So even if there were little support for the ruling USDP, the NLD would struggle to gain a majority of the remaining 75 percent of seats that it can contest.

Support for the NLD remains strongest in the center of the country around Myanmar’s two biggest cities, Yangon and Mandalay. The NLD’s ability to win enough votes nationwide to gain more seats remains untested since it did not participate in the 2010 election.

That was Myanmar’s first poll since the NLD’s landslide election victory in 1990. A coup d’etat led by Than Shwe annulled the results and the NLD was suppressed, condemning the nation to another two decades of military rule.

As one senior politician from Shan state put it: “The Lady (Suu Kyi) certainly gets big crowds everywhere she goes around the country, but it’s another question as to whether people will vote for her.”

She also has long been criticized for not speaking out on behalf of ethnic minorities. Most recently it has been her sustained silence on the plight of the Muslim Rohingya people during the refugee crisis that came to light earlier this year.

Myanmar has four states with large Christian populations — Chin, Kachin, Kayin (or Karen) and Kayah. And significant parts of Sagaing region, which sits between China and Kachin, are also Christian. The other three states are Shan, Mon and Rakhine — the last home to the disenfranchised Rohingya Muslim minority.

All of the state-based parties have the benefit of incumbency and experience in campaigning, which could reap more rewards this time around.

At present the two biggest state-based parties in the lower house are the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, which holds 12 seats, and the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, which has eight seats. Various other parties across all the states hold between one and six seats. A larger number of parties are expected to heavily contest the pole this time around. It is said that the USDP is backing some of them as spoilers.

Already, 21 of the major state-based parties have formed an alliance that could well hold the balance of power after the Nov. 8 election.

Myanmar is very much a Buddhist country with a strong majority of 80-90 percent of its population identifying with the religion. But Christianity makes up, by far, the largest religious minority.

This is a nation where ethnic identity and religion are generally synonymous, putting politicians from those religions in a unique position. And that is likely to hold true if — and it is a big “if” — the USDP continues to play fair.

- ucan

Christian man faces blasphemy accusations in Pakistan

September 6, 2015 by admin  
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blasphemy lawsKarachi, September 4, 2015: Rights activists say that a Christian brick kiln worker was arrested in Pakistan on charges of making derogatory remarks about Prophet Mohammed.

Pervaiz Masih, 40, a resident of Garrewala village of Kasur district, was arrested Sept. 2 after being accused by his Muslim contractor of committing blasphemy — a charge he denies.

Shamoon Masih, brother-in-law of Pervaiz Masih, said that he was being punished for demanding his wage.

“Pervaiz and one fellow Muslim had a brawl with their Muslim contractor on the issue of payment of delivery of four trolleys of sand,” he told “The contractor did not make the agreed payment, resulting in heated arguments between two sides,” he said.

Sardar Mushtaq Gill, a human rights activist and lawyer, said that police lodged a case of blasphemy against Pervaiz under Section 295-C of the criminal code, which prohibits making derogatory comments that insult the prophet. The maximum penalty for being convicted of the charge is a death sentence.

Joseph Francis, national director for the Center for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement, a charity that helps persecuted Christians in Pakistan, said the development is reverberating through Pervaiz’s community.

“We have received reports that some Christians families have already fled the village over fears of any potential mob violence, but a heavy contingent of police has been deployed to protect the minority members,” Francis said.

The case is another example of the power of the country’s controversial blasphemy laws. Critics have repeatedly said that the laws are misused to settle scores and personal vendettas. Minority Christians have often become the target of accusations of blasphemy.

Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, national director of National Commission for Justice and Peace, the human rights body of Pakistan’s Catholic Church, strongly condemned the arrest of the brick kiln worker.

“We cannot even think about disrespecting Islam, any other religion or holy figures. Respect for religions is part of our teaching. How can someone commit such an act, which carries the death penalty?” he questioned.

Pevaiz Masih’s brother-in-law said the family is suffering because of the accusations.

“Pervaiz is a poor man who has four children and wife with a minor disability. They are all terrified over what has happened,” Shamoon Masih said.

Masih is not a surname but is used to identify a male Pakistani as a Christian.

- ucan

Faisalabad’s central prison denies Christian prisoners the right to a Mass

August 20, 2015 by admin  
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denies Christian prisoners the right to a MassPakistan, August 18, 2015: Hashmat Barkat, a Christian lawyer and director of the Peace for Nation International (PNI) non-governmental organisation, spoke to AsiaNews about the decision taken by Faisalabad’s central prison (Punjab) to end Sunday Mass for Christian prisoners.

“Restricting the right of Christian prisoners to profess freely their own religious faith is a clear violation of Article 20 of the Constitution of Pakistan,” he said.

The latter states that “(a) every citizen shall have the right to profess, practise and propagate his religion; and (b) every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.’”

He is not alone in his opposition to the prison’s decision. Indeed, some rights organisations filed a case with the Sessions Court of Faisalabad, demanding that prisons respect the principle of freedom of religion guaranteed by the country’s fundamental charter.

This prison’s decision comes as conditions in penitentiaries become more repressive after the end of a moratorium on the death penalty following a Taliban attack on a military school in Peshawar in December 2014.

The Faisalabad prison superintendent justified the decision citing security concerns and drug smuggling among prisoners. The Sessions judge however rejected his argument.

In view of the situation, prison authorities said they would allow the church service if it is officially authorised by the Inspector General (I.G.) of Prisons or the Home Secretary.

The judge thus directed the parties to approach the two offices for a decision in the matter. As of today, the case is still pending.

For Suneel Malik, an activist and director of the Peace and Human Development (PHD) Foundation, “Pakistan has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of the United Nations.* Therefore, it is under the obligation to protect the religious freedom of its citizens since Article 18 of the Covenant provides that’ Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.’”

Malik added that Pakistan is also a party to the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) since 2013, which guarantees tax exemptions in trade if the country respects its conventions and recommendations. These include the obligation to respect freedom of worship without restrictions or discrimination.

“The PHD Foundation sent a series of letters to Punjab authorities but we have not received any answer. This situation is distressing,” he said.

Fr Khalid Rashid Asi shares that view. “Religious freedom is frequently violated and discrimination based on faith prevents individuals from fully enjoying their human rights,” he explained.

“When the government denies freedom of worship, the most obvious consequence is more complaints from the groups that suffer limitations. The lack of religious freedom can also result in social, economic and residential conditions that contribute to higher levels of violence.”

“The government has to foster a climate of tolerance and respect for minorities and ensure the protection of minority rights through the law. The government must allow Christian prisoners to celebrate their Mass,” he said.

Lastly, “This example of freedom denied to Christian prisoners increases the sense of fear, deprivation, pessimism, and insecurity among minorities, particularly Christians,” said Hashmat Barkat. Hence, “I will fight for the rights of Christian prisoners in Faisalabad’s central prison until justice is done.”

- asianews

Sri Lankan rights leaders want Christian politicians to take a stand

August 13, 2015 by admin  
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Sri LankaSri Lankan, August 11, 2015: Civic rights leaders are campaigning for Christian candidates in the upcoming general election to take a stand against drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution and development projects that harm the environment.

“We act as a pressure group to stop all these evil activities in Christian-majority areas and create a good political culture,” said Thilina Alahakoon, the convener of 20 Christian organizations, during a meeting at a Baptist church in Colombo Aug. 10.

The organizations are, through their policy document, working for good governance and building of a just society.

Christian candidates for parliament should also oppose projects that might endanger the environment — such as the proposed US$1.4-billion Colombo Port City project funded by a Chinese company. The government has wavered on the project because of a debate about how it will affect the environment and the local fishing community.

“Environmentalists have already warned that [because of] this project, the coastal land, sea and lagoon and fish-breeding grounds will be damaged and affect the livelihood of the fishing community,” Alahakoon said. “Houses on the coast will be at risk of being washed away due to erosion,” he said.

The activists also urged Christian voters to reject candidates who were involved in cases of drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution or were not ready to take a stand on environmental issues.

Dominican Father Jayalath Balagalle, lecturer at the Aquinas University College, urged Christian voters to reject corrupt politicians and make those elected accountable because “we are the ones who elected them,” he said.

The Sri Lankan general election is scheduled for Aug. 17. President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved parliament in June, calling a general election.

Sri Lanka is 70 percent Buddhist, 15 percent Hindu, 8 percent Christian and 7 percent Muslim. A total of 6,151 candidates from 21 registered parties and 201 independent groups will be contesting in the election.

- ucan

Party loyalty should not be sole criterion for election, Sri Lankan bishops say

August 5, 2015 by admin  
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Sri lanka ElectionsChilaw, August 3, 2015: Sri Lanka’s bishops are appealing to citizens to choose worthy candidates for parliament during the country’s August 17 general election.

The bishops urged citizens to think of present and future generations by electing representatives with great care.

“Loyalty to a party should not be the sole criterion for voting,” said Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, president of the bishops’ conference.

“The Catholic Church has always upheld the importance of electing worthy candidates to the legislature as the people’s representatives,” the bishops said in a July 31 statement.

“Educational background, general culture, integrity and honesty, respect for law and order are qualities that should characterize those who are aspiring to political leadership,” the bishops said.

Bishop Raymond K Wickramasinghe of Galle told ucanews that the bishops wanted to remind citizens of their fundamental responsibility to cast an educated vote.

The statement from the bishops was released amid a recent corruption investigation that saw former minister Basil Rajapaksa — brother of the former president — and several other ministers questioned by the federal Fraud and Corruption Investigation Division.

The Chilaw diocese distributed more than 50,000 leaflets printed in the Sinhala and Tamil languages among its 47 parishes insisting on the importance of casting a vote for a qualified candidate.

“If we fail to select the best candidates being once again blind to an extreme attraction toward one party, no doubt once again we will have to wait another five years to change them,” said Father Jude Shayaman Fernando, who participated in a diocese-led awareness program aimed at community leaders in Chilaw.

- ucan

Jakarta Cathedral opnes gates to help Eid prayers

July 21, 2015 by admin  
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Jakarta CathedralIndonesia, July 15, 2015: The Jakarta Cathedral will open its gates on Eid ul-Fitr to provide parking for Muslims wishing to pray at the Istiqlal Grand Mosque, which is located across from the church.

Sharing parking lots is not just a gesture of religious tolerance but an example of the cooperation that has connected the congregation members of the church and the mosque in Central Jakarta for decades.

“This kind of cooperation with Istiqlal has been going on for more than 30 years. The cooperation also continues outside of Idul Fitri prayer times. We will also be glad to help them in their other religious activities,” the cathedral’s security coordinator Thomas Bambang told The Jakarta Post on July 14.

The Istiqlal Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia. It was deliberately built across from the Jakarta Cathedral as a symbol of religious harmony and tolerance in Indonesia. The mosque was designed by Frederich Silaban, a Christian architect, in 1955.

Thomas said that as many as 250 motorcycle parking spaces and 160 car parking spaces as well as a number of the church’s employees and youth members would be ready to facilitate Idul Fitri prayers from 3 a.m.

“We hope the Muslims can hold solemn Idul Fitri prayers,” Thomas said.

He said that the Istiqlal Grand Mosque’s management was also always ready to return the favor by opening its gates for churchgoers’ vehicles during Christmas, Easter or any other big events at the church.

Istiqlal’s public relations officer Abu Hurairah Abdul Salam said he expected to see as many as 150,000 people pray for the upcoming Idul Fitri at the mosque. He said he appreciated the additional parking spaces provided by the cathedral.

He said that during Easter this year, dozens of Istiqlal’s employees and several members of Muslim organizations were deployed to secure the church area.

“The cathedral’s security post at Easter and Christmas was even established inside the Istiqlal parking space,” he said.

Abu said that there was more to the relationship between the two houses of worship than shared parking spaces. He said foreign Catholic leaders who attended events at the Cathedral were also likely to visit the Istiqlal Grand Mosque, adding that he was more than happy to give tours.

“Although we have different beliefs to Catholic followers at the cathedral, we have a strong relationship with them,” he said, adding that it was very important for the two places of worship to be an example of religious tolerance in these days of increasing intolerance.

- the jakarta post

Pakistan: The “crime” of being women and non Muslim

July 15, 2015 by admin  
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CLAASLahore, July 10, 2015: Being women is the “first crime” in our society while being a non Muslim women is a double crime, said Mehboob Khan legal aid advisor of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan HRCP. Centre for legal Aid Assistance and Settlement discussed concerns over sexual and gender based violence in the country during a stakeholder meeting with legal fraternity of Lahore on July 8.

“Women, children and religious minorities are among the most disadvantage groups. Christians especially prefer to remain silent when it comes to speaking about social justice. There are different forms of gender based violence for which society is to be blamed”.

He was addressing more than 35 participants including lawyers and human rights activists. The event also marked launching of Centre for legal Aid Assistance and Settlement CLAAS Annual Report 2014. The Christian NGO noted three Christian females, including an eight year old, raped by Muslims in Punjab province last year. CLAAS pursued all these cases, visited concerned police stations and kept regular contact with families of the victims.

According to latest HRCP annual report, a woman is raped every two hours, and gang raped every eight hours. Less than four percent of Pakistan’s rape cases result in a conviction, it states. More than 3000 women have died in honour killings in Pakistan since 2008.

The panelists in Lahore meeting also noted that more than 900 cases of honor killings, 500 cases of abductions and more than 400 cases of gang rapes were reported in Punjab last year.

Ever since coming to power in 2013, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’led Punjab government has only passed four pro women bills including one on reproductive, maternal, neo-natal and child health authority.

“Our struggles end at the doors of provincial assembly of the Punjab”, Bushra Khaliq, another panelist, told AsiaNews at the sidelines of the event. “A feudal and tribal mindset generally prevails among the lawmakers. Whenever the issue of a pro woman bill is raised, everybody becomes concerned about its misuse. This affects both the policy and psyche that follows”, said Executive Director of Women in Struggle for Empowerment.

- asianews

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