Four years, no answers: The disappearance of Pastor Raymond Koh

On 13 February 2017 Pastor Raymond Koh was abducted in broad daylight. He was on his way to see a friend when he was kidnapped from his car by 15 men in three black SUVs and four other vehicles in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.  Video footage of the incident, as well as eyewitness reports, appears to indicate that the men were professionally trained.

The abduction incident is infamously known as ‘7-15-40’; seven vehicles, 15 professional men and the whole process took just 40 seconds.

In 2018, I met his wife and son in Kuala Lumpur. The two of them have consistently called for answers regarding the pastor’s whereabouts, but today, over four years since his abduction, these answers remain elusive.

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Seguir los mandatos bíblicos acarrea un alto precio para los líderes religiosos en México

Un líder religioso y su colega son secuestrados de un refugio para inmigrantes; no se los ha vuelto a ver ni se ha sabido de ellos desde entonces. Otro es agredido, extorsionado y amenazado a punta de pistola. Ambos brindaron protección a inmigrantes y solicitantes de asilo que se encontraban atrapados en la frontera. En el mismo país, los líderes religiosos advierten que las amenazas y los ataques contra ellos constituyen uno de los problemas más graves que enfrentan las iglesias en la actualidad. Irónicamente, todo esto está ocurriendo en lo que se considera uno de los países más religiosos del mundo, México.

El deterioro de la situación para los inmigrantes y solicitantes de asilo que pasan por México se ha visto exacerbado por la implementación del Protocolo de Protección al Migrante (MPP) de los Estados Unidos, también conocido como “Permanecer en México” a principios de 2019. [1] La política ha dificultado cada vez más que los inmigrantes ganen casos de asilo en los EE.UU., sólo el 0.1% de los casos han tenido éxito y muchos han buscado asilo en refugios para inmigrantes administrados por la iglesia en todo México mientras esperan, especialmente en la frontera norte. El 28 de febrero de 2020, un tribunal de apelaciones federal de EE.UU. dictaminó que la política de “Permanecer en México” era ilegal.

Si bien muchos líderes protestantes y católicos han respondido a los crecientes niveles de necesidad en una manifestación de su fe siguiendo los mandatos de ayudar a los pobres, [2] albergar a los desamparados [3] y amar al extranjero [4], su trabajo los deja cada vez más expuestos a amenazas y ataques de grupos delictivos organizados que se aprovechan de la población migrante vulnerable.

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Following Biblical mandates carries a high price for religious leaders in Mexico

A religious leader and his colleague are kidnapped from a migrant shelter; they have not been seen or heard from since. Another is assaulted, extorted and threatened at gunpoint. Both provided protection to migrants and asylum seekers trapped on the border. In the same country, religious leaders warn that threats and attacks against them constitute one of the most serious problems facing churches today. Ironically, all this is taking place in what is considered to be one of the most religious countries in the world, Mexico.

The worsening situation for migrants and asylum seekers passing through Mexico has been exacerbated by the implementation of the US’ Migrant Protection Program (MPP) also known as ‘Remain in Mexico’ at the start of 2019.[1] The policy has made it increasingly difficult for migrants to win asylum cases in the US, only 0.1% of cases have been successful, and many have sought refuge in church-run migrant shelters across Mexico while they wait, especially at the northern border. On 28 February 2020, a US federal appeals court ruled that that the Remain in Mexico policy was illegal.

While many Protestant and Catholic leaders have responded to the rising levels of need in an outworking of their faith by following commands to help the poor,[2] shelter the homeless,[3] and love the foreigner,[4] their work makes them increasingly exposed to threats and attacks from organised criminal groups who prey on the vulnerable migrant population.

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FoRB on the Frontlines: In the face of government opposition

 In the run-up to Human Rights Day on 10 December and the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders on 9 December, CSW has been speaking with HRDs across South Asia to find out what it means to be a FoRB defender in the region.

Fatima Atif is a human rights defender working in Pakistan:

“Pakistan has a population of over 210 million people, with a wide range of ethnic, religious, sectarian and tribal identities. This diversity makes Pakistan a challenging place to live, particularly for those who are in minority and have limited say and access to decision and policy-making forums.

I have worked as a human rights defender in Pakistan for 15 years. I have regularly faced bullying and online harassment for my work, as well as for being a female Hazara activist. (Editor’s Note: The Hazara are a minority community in Pakistan who adhere to the Shi’a branch of Islam).

The security situation in the country is volatile and there are multiple rival armed opposition groups fuelling armed conflict in different regions of the country. In this tug of war, only innocent citizens have been brutally killed and victimized.

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#FREELEAH

A guest blog by the Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP. 

The Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP is Conservative Member of Parliament for Meriden and Second Church Estates Commissioner. In May 2018 she met with Rev Yunusa Nmadu, CEO of CSW Nigeria and CSW UK’s Parliamentary Officer, Alice Braybrook to discuss freedom of religion or belief in Nigeria.

Today is the 15th birthday of Leah Sharibu. But, unlike most young girls around the world, she will be spending her birthday in captivity.

On 19 February 2018, Leah was among 110 girls who were abducted from the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi, north eastern Nigeria, by the al-Barnawi faction of Boko Haram. The oldest abductees were 18 years of age; the youngest were 11.

On 21 March 2018, over a month after their capture, Boko Haram returned 105 of the girls to Dapchi, following negotiations with the government. Five had reportedly died during the arduous journey to Boko Haram’s hideout.

However, returnees confirmed that Leah Sharibu, the sole Christian among them, remained in captivity due to her refusal to convert and wear a hijab. Her friends said they begged her to feign conversion so they could all leave together.  However, a tearful Leah is reported to have informed them she could not live with herself if she did so. She also asked them to tell her mother, Rebecca Sharibu, to pray for the will of God to be done in her life. In a comment to Nigerian media her father Nathan Sharibu said: “They gave her the option of converting in order to be released but she said she will never become a Muslim. I am very sad… but I’m also jubilating too because my daughter did not denounce Christ.” 

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