In line with the ongoing project “Right to Truth” announced last 4 February in Florence at the end of presentation event for the book of proceedings of the FOB convention, Paris Human Right Attorney Patricia Duval, member of FON Scientific Committee, wrote the following article for the prestigious magazine Coscienza e Libertà. In such article she stigmatizes the work of some organizations, existing throughout Europe, in manufacturing fake news that instigate campaigns of hatred and religious intolerance. Patricia Duval has been one of the spealers at the 18-19 January 2018 convention “Law and Freedom of Belief in Europe, an Arduous Journey”, during she did a speech titled “State neutrality and anti-sect movements: the France case”.
At the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, together with several other NGOs and officials, we participated at the United Nations, Geneva, at the conference "A civil society commitment". Some of us questioned during the past years why Freedom of Religion and Belief needs special protection, apart from freedom of speech, opinion, assembly etc. The question seems to find support in the vague and culturally biased understanding of what religion or belief is, especially when it comes to new religious movements. The entire conference was a source of inspiration and opening up to a new level of networking in the field of human rights. Here we present Soteria's International contribution, video and text.
On 10 December 2018, we celebrated the celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in the Palace of Nations of the United Nations in Geneva.
The Conference was organized by CAP Liberté de Conscience* and Fundacion VIDA* with the support of the:
-Permanent Representation of Estonia,
-Permanent Mission of Finland in Geneva,
-Permanent Mission of the Slovak Republic to the United Nations Office,
There were more than 120 attendees including 20 Representatives of Permanent Missions at the U.N. and 25 speakers/moderators.
The general theme was: A Commitment from Civil Society.
In August 2018, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities designated Bitter Winter a “foreign hostile website” for publishing secret documents and news reports about the CCP’s suppression of religious beliefs and human rights violations. The authorities have retaliated by launching repeated attempts to hack the website, and by targeting reporters and contributors.
Since August, at least 45 Bitter Winter contributors in mainland China have been arrested for filming incidents of, or gathering news about, the CCP’s persecution of religious freedom and violation of human rights. Reporters are usually detained and interrogated on the charge of “divulging state secrets” or “involvement in infiltration by foreign forces.” Some reporters have been sent to “legal education centers” to undergo mandatory indoctrination, while others have been tortured and abused.
We welcome all online participants to join as online video conference on the platform Zoom (https://zoom.us/). Zoom works very well for sharing video. If you are not yet familiar with this platform you can download the app to computer or mobile device. To create an account is for free.
You can join on https://zoom.us/j/958901246, or log onto zoom and enter Meeting ID: 958 901 246
We will open the official video zoom conference at 13.45, and urge you to join us in good time before we start at 14.00:)
Thank you for joining us!
Saturday, 8th December, Soteria International offers the 2018 Spiritual Human Rights conference to review the UDHR from a spiritual perspective.
The UDHR has inspired judicial frameworks and international law. The UDHR has also come to serve as a standard framework, as to what society should provide and state secure for the individual.
The Spiritual Human Rights 2018 conference offers speakers and participants to reflect and review the full potential of a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as to comment on its content.
Place: Verdens Kultur Centret, Copenhagen
Time: 14.00 – 16.00
Date: 8 December 2018, Saturday
The conference is also offered as an online WEBINAR – you find the connecting link on our site soteriainternational.org and Facebook – Soteria Int’l.
Welcome to the Spiritual Human Rights conference 2018!
On December 10th we will be celebrating at the UN Geneva the 70th Anniversary of the UDHR and look for people willing to come, who were born on 10th December 1948.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
For information, to:
Secretary General of the United Nations
United Nations Committee for Human Rights
Secretary General of the Council of Europe
President of the European Commission
President of the United States of America
President of the Community of Independent States
President of the Russian Federation
President of the Republic of Italy
President of the Republic of France
Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
President Xi Jinping,
we are addressing You, as the guide for the widest and most populous country on earth.
We are a group of NGOs that have been working for years to protect freedom of belief, a fundamental human right granted by a number of norms of international laws, first and foremost article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and also by article 36 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China of 1982 as well as by article 53 of the Common Program of 1949.
Chinese people’s freedom to practice religions they believe in, is consistently challenged and trampled on.
Indo-Canadian engineer retired, Neelam Makhija, 71, spends two months in prison and is held against his will in France for two and a half years. His crime, being a friend of a coach who hosted, once a year, meditation seminars! Despite his acknowledged innocence before the court, he cannot obtain compensation (financial, moral) for the damages suffered.
On 10/09/18, by Jean-Luc Martin-Lagardette
Neelam Makhija, 71, shares his life between Mumbai (India) and Toronto (Canada). Of Indian origin, he is also a Canadian citizen. An engineer in third cycle electronics (MSEE) and holder of a master of business administration (MBA), he founded and directed for 23 years in Canada a company specialized in high-tech electronic projects. Retired since 2006, he spends his time between Canada and India where his two daughters and grand-children live.
SOTERIA INTERNATIONAL contribution to OSCE - HDIM 2018 - WORKING SESSION 7:
Fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief
13th September 2018:
HOW UNIVERSAL IS THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS TODAY?
• Soteria International recommends ODIHR and the OSCE member states to explore how to guarantee the universality of human rights as universal principles, rather than cultural expressions.
• Soteria International recommends ODIHR and the OSCE member states to explore how religion and spiritual systems from a universal perspective may provide answers to fundamental human needs and tools for developing human potentials.
• Soteria International recommends the OSCE member states to the educational system to play a major role in reintegrating religion and belief as a constructive part of our lives. By integrating and understanding religions and belief systems by their universal principles, we overpass the differences between cultures, traditions and religions.
At the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights we would like to ask: How Universal is The Universal Declaration of Human Rights today?
Especially when it comes to Freedom of Religion and Belief we find great confusion, where even in the heart of Europe we find that what would pass as civil service in a secular frame (such as coaching your child's football team), when practiced in a religious context (offering one’s service as karma yoga) can be tried as a criminal offence (human trafficking).
SOTERIA INTERNATIONAL CONTRIBUTION TO OSCE HDIM 2018
WORKING SESSION 5- RULE OF LAW
12 September 2018
Today, rule of law is challenged not only from arbitrary application of the law within certain OSCE member states, but increasingly by how the tools regulating the interaction between different national judicial systems lacks a precision to hinder abuses and misinterpretations. Thus, the very tools for securing the rule of law open a risk for its corruption.
1- Soteria International recommends the ODHIR and all OSCE member states to embrace an investigation into stopping cultural bias to influence the application of tools of international judicial collaboration.
2- Soteria International recommends international bodies and all OSCE member states to scrutinize the frameworks regulating international judicial collaboration in general, and especially with regards to the European Arrest Warrant, in order to prevent human rights infringements in the margins between one national judicial system and another.
We live in world of increasing international collaboration. In trade, science and art, international collaboration is carried by its own mechanisms, some cultures being inter alias more compatible than others. The tools of judiciary international collaboration do not have the privilege of letting an organic process develop, but is regulated by imposed regulations. The bluntness of these regulations seem to open for abuses and misinterpretations, intentional or not.
Soteria International & Coordination of Associations and Individuals for Freedom of Conscience (CAP) invite you to our upcoming conference, hosted at the OSCE HDIM 2018:
How Universal is “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”?
Globalization underline that the UDHR is often applied relative to regional culture, rather than securing universal principles. Especially when it comes to Freedom of Thought, Religion or Belief we find how cultural bias influence policy and law-making. What one considers a religious practice - such as devotional work in monastery - others consider criminality - in this case human trafficking.
Often it passes as a non-regrettable consequence of natural differences between one culture and another. Still, what may pass as normal when it comes to cultural norms, must still be questioned when presented within the framework of human rights, claiming to be universal.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is based on converging and finding common ground between different cultures. However well accomplished, Mrs Roosevelt's project never sought a base for Universality other than an estimation from a fixed position in time and space.
CAP, Church of Scietology, EMISCO, FOB, FOREF will be together with Soteria International in debating the Universality of UDHR.
Heavily persecuted in China, with many documented cases of torture and extra-judicial killings, hundreds of members of The Church of Almighty God have escaped to South Korea, where they are seeking refugee status. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is pursuing them also in Korea. It has coerced or persuaded with threats their relatives to go to Korea and ask that the refugees “return home,” i.e. go back to China where they would not go “home” but to jail, and is staging false “spontaneous demonstrations” with the help of local organizations against the “cults.”
Together with several others NGO, Soteria International addressed a common letter to Italian Minister of Economy, Mr. Giovanni Tria. He is currently visiting China and we hope that the disscussion to reach also to the freedom of belief and religious liberty.
Here is the letter:
"Dear Mr. Tria:
We wish you a fruitful visit to China on behalf of Italian economic interests.
Last July, Italy was an official participant in the Washington D.C. “Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom”. There, 82 countries solemnly agreed that religious liberty should be regarded as a non-negotiable cornerstone of international relations.
We hope that the good economic relationships between China and Italy may help you in raising with your Chinese counterparts the matter of the gross violations of religious liberty in China, which became even worse with the new laws on religion that came into force in 2018.
The Board of Immigration Appeals granted on August 13 a stay of removal to the leader of The Church of Almighty God in four Chinese provinces, who was to be deported to China after August 15.
We are now pleased to report that the application for stay has been granted.
The Board will now examine the substance of the matter, and the legal battle is far from being over, but the immediate risk of repatriation to China – where Sister Zou would be arrested and may be executed – has been averted.
Mr. Russell Abrutyn, attorney for the leader of The Church of Almighty God in four Chinese provinces currently detained in Detroit, who faces deportation back to China and possible execution there, has filed a motion to reopen her case, with new evidence.
Ms. Zou Demei, a Chinese woman, is currently detained in Detroit and facing deportation back to China, where she will be arrested and probably executed.
Ms. Zou was until 2016 the regional leader of The Church of Almighty God (CAG), a Christian new religious movement banned in China, in the four provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou, Chongqing, and Sichuan. This made her one of the top leaders of the CAG in China, and one of the most wanted by the authorities, with a substantial bounty placed on her head. As all CAG members, she destroyed all evidence of her true identity and went under the pseudonym of Yao Lu.
Dear Chancellor Merkel:
We are NGOs active in the field of religious liberty, and write about the urgent situation of a Chinese refugee, Ms. Zhao, currently detained at the Aufsichtsund Dienstleistungsdirektion Landeseinrichtung für Asylbegehrende und Ausreisepflichtige in Hamburg, after she resisted forcible deportation to China on July 9.
We urge you to consider that, should Ms. Zhao be returned to China, she would certainly be arrested and might be subject to torture or “disappear” while in custody.
Ms. Zhao is a member of The Church of Almighty God (CAG), also known as Eastern Lightning, a Chinese Christian new religious movement founded in 1991, whose core teaching is that Jesus has returned on earth incarnated as Almighty God, a Chinese woman currently living in the U.S.
Dear President Trump:
We are NGOs, some of them with ECOSOC consultative status, active in the defense of human rights and religious liberty, with a special experience and concerns for China, and write to ask for your urgent intervention in a question, literally, of life and death.
It regards an asylum seeker of a Chinese Christian new religious movement, The Church of Almighty God, who is detained in Detroit, Michigan, and threatened with immediate deportation back to China, where she will be arrested and will be at serious risk of being executed.
The European Pillar of Social Rights was jointly proclaimed and signed by the European Commission, European Parliament, and the Council at the Gothenburg Social Summit in November 2017. The European Institutions hold regular high-level meetings and dialogue seminars with churches, non-confessional, and philosophical organisations as partial fulfilment of Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
On 26 June 2018, the European Parliament brought together representatives from religious communities for a dialogue on the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, a “set of 20 principles and rights that support the renewal of labour markets and welfare systems across the EU.”
Economic and political challenges have hurt the quality of life for many in Europe. Risk of unemployment and poverty remains high, many deal with precarious and unstable work, unpaid or underpaid internships are on the rise, and Europe is falling short of many goals outlined in the EU 2020 strategy.
Mairead McGuinness, First Vice-President of the European Parliament, emphasised the unique importance of churches and other religious communities in responding to these challenges, and defending human dignity and contributing to public policy debates. “You are present in every town and village across the 28 Member States.”
Interreligious Leadership Conference took place in Wien, on 28 – 29 April 2018, hosted by Universal Peace Federation, International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace, Interreligious Association for Peace and Development.
Raffaella Di Marzio, very appreciate collaborator of Soteria International, spoke on Saturday April 28 afternoon, in Session III on the theme “The Role and Relevance of Religion in Building Inclusive, Peaceful and Prosperous Societies”.
Dr Raffaella di Marzio (Director, Center for Studies on Freedom of Religion, Belief and Conscience (LIREC), Italy) spoke on the positive influence of religion in society, referring to a number of studies, including an awareness project on minorities, the role of interfaith dialogue in conflict resolution, and religious freedom as a positive influence on economic growth.