Archive for the category “Human rights”

ERLC: Criminalizing homosexuals unjust

Tom Strode writes for Baptist Press:

ugandaA government that criminalizes homosexual behavior “has overstepped its bounds drastically and unjustly,” say two leading Southern Baptist ethicists.

Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), and Andrew Walker, director of policy studies for the same entity, wrote in a March 3 essay they remain aligned with the Bible’s view of sexuality while also contending homosexuals should not be targeted by the law.

They believe, Moore and Walker said, what the church has affirmed traditionally and universally — “that sexuality is to be expressed only within the one-flesh union of the marriage of a man to a woman. Anything else is a sin against God. The church has believed this, and will always believe this, because the Bible teaches it.

“At the same time, we believe laws criminalizing homosexual activity to be unjust and an affront to the image of God embedded in all persons,” they wrote in the commentary, which was posted at the ERLC’s “Canon & Culture” blog channel.

The comments from Moore and Walker came in the wake of additional countries criminalizing homosexual activity.

Uganda enacted a law Feb. 24 that includes life sentences for people convicted of repeated homosexual activity and imprisonment for “aiding and abetting” homosexuality, according to a March 7 article by The Christian Science Monitor. In January, Nigeria approved a similar measure that authorizes 10-year prison sentences for same-sex couples observed kissing publicly and people visiting a gay club, the newspaper reported.

The United Nations (U.N.) reports 78 countries either have laws that criminalize homosexual behavior or have prosecuted lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people under other laws. Seven regimes — mostly Islamic states in Africa and the Middle East — have authorized capital punishment for homosexual conduct, according to the U.N.

Their principal reason for opposing such laws is the Gospel of Jesus, said Moore and Walker, who wrote, “Not everything that is sinful should be a crime.”

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Labor camps instead of justice

chinaDavid McKenzie writes at CNN.com:

Liu Xiuzhi’s story begins, like many legal battles in China, over a property dispute with a powerful neighbor.

She says that when she won a civil case against the neighbor, he sent thugs to beat her up. They left her unconscious, several teeth knocked out of her lower jaw. At first, complaints to the local police were met with indifference, she says. Then anger.

So Liu started to petition. Following a centuries old tradition that started in dynastic China, Liu tried to take her grievances to local and national authorities. She says all she received was more beatings and humiliations.

“We are powerless people in China,” she says. “Either you have money in China and you have power or you are poor and you have none. I followed the law and I had to suffer.”

Over time, her petitioning became more overtly political. She started to display signs with slogans like “power and money rules in China” and “in China there is no justice and no equality.”

McKenzie goes on to say that China’s state security finally lost its patience with Liu’s campaigning and charged her under a provision for “hooliganism, prostitution, theft and fraud” that landed her in the Xi An Re-education Through Labor Jail in southern Beijing. The “re-education” system allows state security agents to arrest offenders for up to four years without trial. The government admits tens of thousands of prisoners are held in those centers. At least some of them are political dissidents.

Ben Booker points out at BreakPoint that those dissidents include Christian prisoners of conscience and that a movement to reform China’s labor camps is growing:

Christianity can be a major boon to this effort. By advocating the self-worth of individuals and the importance of love and justice, the Church can be a boon to humanitarian efforts to correct for this grave injustice. The prospect is terrifying though. Chinese Christians face daily persecutions for their beliefs and may even find themselves in these re-education camps. On strict political terms, the advantage lies with the government. They hold political authority and the backing of the police and military establishment. That does not mean Christians should shy away from engaging in the political discussion, but it does present its own set of challenges that are not faced as readily by people in Western states. However, the Church is not limited to political confrontation to rectify these grave injustices brought forth on China. Rather, ministry is an avenue to social change.

Chinese Christians (I should say Christians in general) can combat injustices through evangelizing and spreading the gospel to others. The fields of social justice and evangelism can too often be separated in the minds of Christians (myself included) but where can true, lasting social justice come from beside the life-giving power of the gospel? The gospel changes the mindset from one focused on self-aggrandizement typified through the lust for power and control that the Chinese government has exhibited through its labor camps to one of sacrificial service in the name of Jesus’ glorification. Through this, real change can take hold as the principles that have shaped law and policy come to reflect Jesus’ ideas of grace and peace. These changes can be slow because it is a person by person effort, but it is rewarding since it imparts lasting change to individuals. These spiritually touched people can reform the content, character, and, most importantly, practice of the law.

This all seems far off to Christians here in the U.S., but the body of Christ must grieve with those who suffer, especially fellow Christians. This is not something to glibly sweep under the rug and believe it does not exist. It is happening, it is wrong, and something must be done.

Read the full text of McKenzie’s article by clicking here.
Read the full text of Booker’s article  by clicking here.

Islamist crimes against humanity in Mali

CC Washington Post NCSudarsan Raghavan reports for the Washington Post on Islamist crimes against humanity in northern Mali:

SEGOU, Mali — On a sweltering afternoon, Islamist police officers dragged Fatima Al Hassan out of her house in the fabled city of Timbuktu. They beat her up, shoved her into a white pickup truck and drove her to their headquarters. She was locked up in a jail as she awaited her sentence: 100 lashes with an electrical cord.

“Why are you doing this?” she recalled asking.

Hassan was being punished for giving water to a male visitor.

The Islamist radicals who seized a vast arc of territory in northern Mali in the spring are intensifying their brutality against the population, according to victims, human rights groups, and U.N. and Malian officials. The attacks are being perpetrated as the United States, European countries and regional powers are readying an African force to retake northern Mali, after months of hesitation. …

Refugees fleeing the north are now bringing stories that are darker than those recounted in interviews from this summer. Although their experiences cannot be independently verified — because the Islamists have threatened to kill or kidnap Westerners who visit — U.N. officials and human rights activists say that they have heard similar reports of horrific abuses and that some may amount to war crimes.

The refugees say the Islamists are raping and forcibly marrying women, and recruiting children for armed conflict. Social interaction deemed an affront to their interpretation of Islam is zealously punished through Islamic courts and a police force that has become more systematic and inflexible, human rights activists and local officials say. …

Radical Islamists have transformed vast stretches of desert in the north into an enclave for al-Qaeda militants and other jihadists. They have imposed a hard-edged brand of sharia law, echoing Afghanistan’s Taliban movement, in this West African country where moderate Islam has thrived for centuries.

People are deprived of basic freedoms, historic tombs have been destroyed, and any cultural practices deemed un-Islamic are banned. Children are denied education. The sick and elderly die because many doctors and nurses have fled, and most clinics and hospitals have been destroyed or looted. …

The Islamists .. have encouraged their fighters to marry women and girls, some as young as 10, and often at gunpoint. After sex, they initiate a quick divorce. In an extreme case that has shocked the country, a girl in Timbuktu was forced last month to “marry” six fighters in one night, according to a report in one of Mali’s biggest newspapers.

“They are abusing religion to force women and girls to have intercourse,” said Ibrahima Berte, an official at Mali’s National Commission for Human Rights. “This kind of forced marriage is really just sexual abuse.”

In a telephone interview, a senior Islamist commander conceded that his fighters were marrying young girls.

“Our religion says that if a girl is 12, she must get married to avoid losing her virginity in a wrong way,” said Oumar Ould Hamaha, the military leader of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, one of the three radical groups ruling the north. …

Boys, too, are being abused. With a possible war looming, some as young as 10 have been taken to training camps, where they learn to use weapons and plant homemade bombs, U.N. officials and human rights activists say. And as the economy worsens in rebel areas, some parents have “sold” their children as it becomes harder to buy food and to curry favor with the Islamists.

“They give $10 to impoverished parents to recruit their children in the name of defending Islam,” said Gaoussou Traore, the secretary general of Comade, a Malian children’s rights group. “The Islamists tell parents that their children will go to paradise, that they will benefit in the next world.” …

Read the full text of this excellent article by clicking here.

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