The political shifts in Sudan from the authoritarian rule of Omar al Bashir to the transitional government (a mix of civilians and the military), has garnered many positive headlines. The welcome changes and relief that there is a reservoir of political will to address the root causes of the country’s conflicts have indeed been positive.
In particular, the pledges of reform, the recent announcement that the government will accede to the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the changing of some public order laws that infringed on the rights of women, especially women from marginalized communities, as well as the removal of apostasy have been warmly received.
Continue reading “Beyond the headlines: Freedom of religion or belief and women’s rights in Sudan” →
However, beneath the headlines are simmering social hostilities which have already generated a series of violations that have not been sufficiently investigated or addressed. These violations threaten to undermine the positive steps taken so far, and both the transitional government and supporters of this new political arrangement in the international community need to note and address them.
Under China’s current religious regulations, only government-approved faith leaders can carry out government-approved religious activities in government-approved sites. As a result, there are many situations in which a religious leader can find themselves on the wrong side of the law in China, even facing charges that have no apparent connection to religion but can carry lengthy sentences.
The widely-reported cases of Pastor Wang Yi and Pastor Yang Hua highlight how the Chinese authorities prosecute leaders of unregistered Protestant churches with flagrantly baseless criminal charges: ‘inciting to subvert state power’ and ‘illegal business operations’ for Wang and ‘divulging state secrets’ for Yang. Alarmingly, fraud charges seem to have become one of the most damaging tools that the authorities use against pastors, for persecution as well as defamation.
Elder Zhang Chunlei
On 1 May 2021, the day the new administrative measures on religious clergy came into effect, Love Reformed Church received a notice saying their leader Zhang Chunlei had been officially arrested ‘on suspicion of fraud’. To this, the unregistered church in Guiyang in Guizhou province expressed incredulity in a prayer update issued on the same day.
Continue reading “Pastors or fraudsters? Neither registered nor unregistered religious leaders are safe from the Chinese Communist Party’s false allegations” →
On 21 May, Sudan’s transitional government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (Agar) announced the creation of an independent National Commission on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB). This welcome development has the potential to be of great benefit to the Sudanese people, and particularly to groups that have been marginalised historically. However, implementation will be the key factor determining whether the commission realises its full potential.
The transitional government, specifically the Prime Minister and Minister of Religious Affairs, have made positive statements and pledges regarding the advancement of FoRB for all. However, there are limitations to the current government’s capacity to respond effectively to the many obstacles to the full enjoyment of FoRB by every religious community.
Continue reading “A welcome development – the National Commission on Freedom of Religion or Belief in Sudan” →
Over the last 30 years, policies, laws and practices have systematically undermined the rights of marginalised communities in Sudan, particularly Christians, as well as Muslims who did not conform to what the former regime deemed to be permissible religious practice. The transitional government has the herculean task of investigating, reviewing and taking steps to compensate for past violations, and ensuring an end to these abuses.
In recent weeks Hong Kong has seen unprecedented protests in which over one million demonstrators have taken to the streets to protest a controversial extradition bill that would allow the extradition of suspected criminals to Mainland China. On 9 July the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, declared that the bill was ‘dead,’ however some protesters remain concerned that the bill is still on the official agenda and has not been formally withdrawn.
Near the beginning of the protests CSW spoke with a Chinese pastor who explained the main concerns regarding the bill, and what the bill may indicate about the general direction for freedom of religion or belief in Hong Kong.
Continue reading “Quick read: Hong Kong protests – an interview with a Chinese pastor” →
When the official results confirming the re-election of Joko Widodo as President of Indonesia were announced on 21 May, supporters of his rival, former General Prabowo Subianto, took to the streets. Riots led to carnage in the capital, Jakarta, with at least six people dead. The divisions unleashed by the election campaign were exposed in their ugliest form.
point, Indonesia’s elections had been peaceful and orderly, despite what almost
all observers describe as the most divisive campaign in the country’s recent
history. On 17 April, over 190 million people cast their votes for the
presidency and the national, regional and local legislatures, in one of the
world’s biggest and most complex democratic exercises in recent times. To
conduct such a poll, in the world’s third largest democracy and fourth most
populous nation, across the world’s largest archipelago of 17,508 islands
stretching from the Indian to the Pacific Oceans, is a significant feat.
I spent three weeks in Indonesia during the election period. I witnessed the final week of the campaign, election day itself, and the first twelve days after the elections. I travelled to four cities – Jakarta, Medan in North Sumatra, Surabaya in East Java, and Pontianak in West Kalimantan – where I met civil society activists, religious communities and government advisers. I left Indonesia with profoundly mixed feelings.
Continue reading “Indonesia’s elections reveal a nation at the crossroads between pluralism and intolerance” →