Unregistered and unrecognised: the plight of Vietnam’s Duong Van Minh community

One year ago today, on 12 December 2021, hundreds of persons in medical protective suits and plainclothes, and police, some armed with shields and batons, disrupted the funeral of Duong Van Minh, the ethnic Hmong founder of an eponymous religious community in Northern Vietnam.

The authorities claimed they were there to force people to take COVID-19 tests, despite no infection having been reported in the area.

Police in Tuyen Quang province arrested and beat at least 36 people as they attempted to attend the funeral. Seven more were arrested a day later, on 13 December, when they went to protest the police action. On 15 December, police announced over loudspeakers that five more people had to surrender. These five were subsequently arrested and accused of assaulting officials.

In total, at least 48 people were arrested.

Continue reading “Unregistered and unrecognised: the plight of Vietnam’s Duong Van Minh community”

‘Freedom of expression and the courage to express oneself go hand in hand’ – an interview with John Dayal

Indian human rights activist, senior journalist and former president of the All India Catholic Union John Dayal is this year’s winner of the prestigious annual Louis Careno Award for Excellence in Journalism, awarded to an individual or institution for their outstanding contribution to the press by the Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA). Dayal has spent over four decades as a champion of minority rights and the right to freedom of religion or belief in India and is a household name within the Indian Christian community.

The award will be conferred by the ICPA on 10 December, Human Rights Day, which follows International Human Rights Defenders Day, during the 27th National Convention of Christian Journalists in Chennai. The ICPA described Dayal as “a prophet of our times who is among India’s foremost voices against human rights violations, particularly on the persecution of religious minorities.”

Last month, CSW spoke to Dayal about his early years as a journalist, the state of freedom of religion and belief in India today, role of the press and more.

Continue reading “‘Freedom of expression and the courage to express oneself go hand in hand’ – an interview with John Dayal”

Intolerance towards Christians in many tribal communities in India does not end even in death

Janki Sori’s family were not given much time to grieve. Having laid her to rest in their own land on 1 November, only two days passed before her body was exhumed against her family’s wishes by members of a tribal group known as the Sarv Adivasi Samaj – all because of her conversion to Christianity.

Ms Sori, who was 35 years old when she died, lived in the village of Antagarh in India’s Chhattisgarh state, where the majority of the community are animists who worship nature and spirits, while also drawing some influence from Hinduism.

Those who exhumed her body claimed that their village belongs only to those who follow their religion, and, after burying Ms Sori in a different village on 4 November, the group claimed that they would continue to target converts to Christianity in the same manner until they ‘re-convert’ to the religion or their ancestry and culture.

Continue reading “Intolerance towards Christians in many tribal communities in India does not end even in death”

Disappointments at the UN, but we must not let the challenges obscure the good that it can achieve

Earlier this month, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) voted to elect 14 new members to the Human Rights Council (HRC) to serve from 2023 to 2025. Among those elected were Sudan and Vietnam. The former was selected in a clean slate election, meaning that the number of candidates equaled the number of seats available, while the latter defeated Afghanistan and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). 

The election of both of these states is deeply disappointing.  

Sudan is currently led by a military leader who seized power illegally from the civilian-led transitional government in an October 2021 coup, and where the past year has been characterized by the killing and brutalising of peaceful protesters, and attempts to reverse the limited human rights gains made under the transitional government, including in relation to the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB). 

The Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) has led the northern part of Vietnam since 1954, and took control of the rest of the country in 1975, following the collapse of the South Vietnamese government. During that time, the VCP has repeatedly violated human rights, including FoRB and land rights, whilst routinely targeting those who request or advocate for such rights with harassment, arbitrary detention, imprisonment, physical violence and even torture

Continue reading “Disappointments at the UN, but we must not let the challenges obscure the good that it can achieve”

Another terrorist attack reminds us of the Taliban’s failure to protect Afghan citizens

This piece was originally published on 14 October 2022 in Sight Magazine.

This time last year saw two shocking attacks on Afghanistan’s Shia Muslim community. First, on 8 October 2021, a suicide bomber affiliated with the Islamic State – Khorasan Province targeted a mosque in the northern city of Kunduz with an attack timed to coincide with Friday prayers which claimed at least 50 lives and injured 100 others. Some estimates placed the death toll as high as 100.

Then, exactly one week later, terrorists bombed another Shia mosque, again timed to coincide with Friday prayers, in the southern city of Kandahar. Estimates of those killed range between 47 and 65, while at least 80 others were said to have been injured.

CSW wrote at the time that the attacks “raised questions about the Taliban’s ability to offer security to citizens of Afghanistan, which they had presented as a key benefit of their rule.” And then, last month, with the anniversaries of both attacks on the horizon, the Shia community was targeted once again.

Continue reading Another terrorist attack reminds us of the Taliban’s failure to protect Afghan citizens