Thursday, July 31, 2003

Bangladesh: Sytematic Persecution of Religious Minorities

Date: Thursday 31 July 2003
Subj: Bangladesh: Sytematic Persecution of Religious Minorities
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


On 1 October 2001, as U.S. and coalition forces were assembling in Pakistan in preparation for the bombing campaign in Afghanistan, Bangladeshis were heading off to vote in their national elections.

A massive voter swing ousted the secular Awami League, which had, with the people's mandate, created the secular, democratic state of Bangladesh by securing independence from Pakistan in 1971. Riding to victory on an enormous wave of Islamic fervour was the pro-Pakistan, pro-Islam, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Support also rose dramatically for the pro-Shari'a, hardline Islamist Jama'at-e-Islami and Islami Oika Jote parties, which now rule in coalition with the BNP.

The election result was a massive protest vote against the forthcoming action of the coalition forces in what was being touted by Islamists as a "crusade against Islam". It was a vote for Muslim solidarity, and Bangladesh has not been the same since.

This posting details the serious situation for religious minorities in Bangladesh today. They are living in a state of terror amidst systematic, unrestrained persecution, as Islamists extort, rape, torture and kill with impunity.

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BANGLADESH: SYSTEMATIC PERSECUTION OF RELIGIOUS MINORITIES

The Guardian newspaper (UK) recently published an article on the persecution of religious minorities in Bangladesh entitled, "Rape and torture empties the villages" by John Vidal (21 July 2003).

Vidal reports, "Serious attacks on and persecution of religious minorities by Islamic fundamentalists are increasing." He continues, "Evidence is emerging that the oppression of minorities is becoming systematic."

Vidal quotes a leading Bangladesh lawyer as saying that the revival of fundamentalist Islam "is like a silent revolution. We are returning," he says, "to the dark ages. I think the backdrop is being created for the introduction of strict sharia laws. You see extremist rightwing fundamentalists infiltrating every professional area, in the appointment of the judiciary, the law, medicine and in education. They are capturing key positions in government, the universities and institutions."

According to Vidal, a serious incident took place in the village of Fhainjana. "A mob of 200 fundamentalists recently looted 10 Christian houses, allegedly assaulting many women and children. Christians were seriously beaten and others molested after refusing to give money to thugs in the village of Kamalapur, near Dhaka."

Vidal reports that many villages are said to be now empty of minorities. One man tells Vidal that all the Hindus have been driven out of his village of Sri Rumpur, near Khulna. "They have all been driven out by people threatening to torture them or demanding money," he says. "People who raise their voices are threatened. It's a kind of systematic ethnic cleansing."

The article also expresses the great concern of one leading Islamic scholar. "'What we are seeing is the Talibanisation of Bangladesh,' Maolama Abdul Awal, former director of the Bangladesh Islamic Foundation, said. 'If we allow them to continue ... [minorities] will be eliminated. Bangladesh will become a fascist country'."

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The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) listed Bangladesh as a Country of Special Concern in its annual report to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (April 2003). The WEA UN Report details the same strategy of persecution - extortion, torture, rapes, and killings.

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EXCERPT FROM THE WEA UN REPORT (APRIL 2003)

Up to 50 Christian families in Chatiangacha village in the western district of Natore, have been targeted for extortion. Reports in the daily 'Janakantha' newspaper of Bangladesh suggest that Islamist fundamentalists are behind a series of incidents during which men arrive on motorbikes and call out the family name of their victims. The family is then usually given between a week and ten days to raise between £150 and £300 or the daughter is forced to sleep with the men. The residents of Chatiangacha have complained to Boraignam Jubodol, a right-wing Islamist group, but to no avail. Jimmy Koraiya, who lives in the village, has been visited by the men on motorbikes who have called for his high school-age daughter three times. "What kind of country is this?" he asks. "If I can't give money, I have to give them my daughter."

In Bonparha Market area, also in Natore district, religious minorities are forced to pay huge fines to be released from false charges. The local BNP has also reportedly built a torture chamber to make victims confess to false charges. Islamic fundamentalist groups have used false papers to drive thousands of Hindus and Christians off their land. In the south-eastern Chittagong division, 30 Hindu families have been evicted and one Hindu killed. In other districts, minorities are forced to convert to Islam at knifepoint. Dr. Deb Lal Dakua, a Hindu from Nazirpur in the southern Pirojpur district, was forcibly circumcised on November 11 by a group of extremists. He was also told to pay £730 (INR 50,000) within seven days or face death. Minorities are concerned by the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Bangladesh. When the BNP was last in power, between 1991 and 1996, there was considerable violence against religious minorities. During that time, the Jama'at-e-Islami (JI) attempted to table a Blasphemy Bill, which was discriminatory against religious minorities.

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- Elizabeth Kendal

Monday, July 28, 2003

Iraq: The IGC and the Battle for Iraq.

Date: Monday 28 July 2003
Subj: Iraq: The IGC and the Battle for Iraq.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


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IRAQ GOVERNING COUNCIL (IGC)
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THE POWER OF SCIRI

SCIRI, (Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) is an Iran-backed Iraqi Shi'a resistance and opposition group that formed in exile in Iran more than 20 years ago. SCIRI also has an Iran-funded and armed militant wing known as the Badr Brigade. SCIRI only recently returned to Iraq but is now Iraq's largest and most well organised Shi'a political organisation.

SCIRI initially rejected the IGC as U.S.-appointed, and therefore undemocratic. However, a day of tough negotiations on 12 July 03 saw the U.S. administration yield to SCIRI's demands in order to secure SCIRI participation on the IGC.

In a 10 June Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) article, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, an independent Shi'a activist in London, reported that SCIRI had made a strategic decision to be part of the post-Hussein system in Iraq, and that through its initial rejection of the IGC, it hoped to win greater veto power over who was selected. "I don't think they wanted to be outside the process of democratisation in Iraq," al-Rubaie said. "I think they want to be part and parcel of it, but a major player. The difference is over how major a player [SCIRI] will be."

Al-Rubaie said the reason for SCIRI's determination to remain inside the system is its conviction that it can use the democratic process in Iraq to successfully advance its aims. He said the group wants to first win majority representation for the Shi'a community, which makes up some 60 percent of the Iraqi population, then use its access to the Iraqi media and other institutions to persuade Iraqis to adopt a more Islamic system of government.

As predicted by Al-Rubaie, one of SCIRI's demands was that the IGC be majority Shi'a, while another demand was the replacement of two candidates. The U.S. conceded and SCIRI came on board. The media touted this as a "dramatic U-turn by SCIRI", and hailed it as a victory for the U.S. administration and the IGC. In reality however, it was a strategic victory for SCIRI.

SCIRI has already stated that its intention is to "enforce the Islamic order", and call for the imposition of Sharia (Islamic law) and for Islamic religious leaders to decide important questions of state, based upon interpretations of religious principles. (RFE/RL 4 June)

UPHILL BATTLE FOR LIBERALS

The IGC has won measured support at the United Nations. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the Governing Council's formation is "an important first step toward the full restoration of Iraqi sovereignty." He then warned, "There is an overwhelming demand for self-rule, and democracy cannot be imposed from the outside."

At a press conference after his UN debut, Ahmad Chalabi said that Iraq faced two main challenges in drafting a new constitution -- determining the role of Islam and guaranteeing the rights of non-Arabs, especially Iraq's large Kurdish population. "We look forward to a process where we can separate religion from politics," he said.

Meanwhile, both Shi'ites and Sunnis inside Iraq continue to protest against the IGC, saying they will reject a constitution that does not come from a democratically elected body.

On 1 July, Iraq's leading Shi'a cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a fatwa (religious decree) attacking U.S. plans for a new constitution. The Grand Ayatollah says the constitution should be written by a democratically elected constitutional drafting committee, that can "uphold the Iraqi people's interests and express their national identity which is founded on Islam and lofty social values".

Another leading Shi'a cleric, Sayed Muqtadabal-Sadr, has rejected the IGC and called for the creation of an "Islamic army" that would answer to religious leaders. He is also threatening to establish a parallel Islamic government and a parallel Islamic constitution.

Sunnis meanwhile, are protesting that the Shi'a majority makes the IGC "sectarian".

Not all Iraq's neighbours are supportive of the IGC either. According to IGC representative Ahmad Chalabi, the IGC's attempt to take over Iraq's UN seat on Tuesday was derailed by "the reservations of some of our neighbours." He did not specify which countries were involved, but a source close to the delegation pointed to Syria, a member of the UN Security Council, as part of the problem.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Noah Feldman, author of "After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy" and a former senior adviser for constitutional law to the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in Iraq, believes democracy and Islam are compatible.

The point remains though, that Islam, when governed by Shari'a, is not compatible with religious freedom - religious freedom being full rights to freedom of belief (including freedom to convert) and freedom to exercise that belief. Yet Noah Feldman says many "Islamic democrats in Iraq" are presently calling for a system where citizens will be free to express their own choices in the realms of religion and politics.

The product of democracy can only be as good as the foundations upon which it is built. And so the battle between the liberals and the Islamists, for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, begins. Presently, the liberals appear to be swimming against the tide.

- Elizabeth Kendal

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Iraq: Will the Mandaeans Survive Post-War Iraq?

Date: Thursday 24 July 2003
Subj: Iraq: Will the Mandaeans Survive Post-War Iraq?
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


WILL THE MANDAEANS SURVIVE POST-WAR IRAQ?

Mandaeans are a small pre-Christian sect that honours John the Baptist. They are believed to have originated in Jordan, but persecution in the first century forced them to emigrate east. There are an estimated 100,000 Mandaeans worldwide, mainly in Iraq and Iran.

The Mandaeans have survived 1400 years of Islamic persecution, which includes many massacres of Mandaeans throughout the centuries. In 1870 an entire Mandaean community was massacred at Shushtar, north of Ahwaz in southwestern Iran, close to the southern Iraqi border.

Other forms of persecution include harassment and abuse, often accompanied with violence, in the streets and at the daily public Mandaean baptisms. Mandaean couples are often forced to divorce so that Muslim marriages can be imposed upon them, thus ensuring the Mandaeans lose their Mandaean identity.

In Islamic communities, Mandaeans are regarded as infidels (kaffir) and unclean (najes), hence they can have great difficulty obtaining employment and education. Islamic persecution has led many Mandaeans to emigrate. Others flee as asylum seekers, many of whom struggle against misinformation and propaganda for the right to be granted refugee status.

As Islamic fervor has risen, persecution has increased. A report by the Sabian Mandaean Association of Australia (SMAA) notes, "While the secular regime of Saddam Hussein had, to some extent, kept Islamic extremism in check, in the period leading up to the outbreak of war the Iraqi regime had sought to appeal to Muslim feeling against the 'infidels' (kaffir). Accordingly, television received in Ahwaz, Iran (both Iraqi and Iranian TV), had been constantly pouring out venomous hatred of the 'infidels', and Muslim feeling has become inflamed."

Persecution has skyrocketed and more than 80 Mandaeans have been murdered since the fall of Baghdad in April. Now there is great concern that Iraq's Mandaean community, having survived 1400 years of struggle, may not survive post-war Iraq.

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MURDERS AND RAPES

The Sabian Mandaean Association of Australia (SMAA), based in Sydney (home to some 2,000 Mandaeans) reports that more than 80 Mandaeans have been murdered in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad. In the days immediately following the fall of Baghdad, Islamists murdered some 30 Mandaeans in Baghdad alone. In the days after the fall of Baghdad, one Mandaean was attacked in his home and seriously wounded. A Mandaean doctor operated on him, without anaesthetic. The doctor was killed the next day.

Muslims have also raped at least 20 Mandaean women and young girls since the "end of the war", although this figure is likely to be much, much higher as most rape cases go unreported due to fear, shame and humiliation. As committed pacifists, the Mandaeans are extremely vulnerable as they are not only despised, but they are unarmed and defenceless.

The threat of sexual assault is particularly serious, as Islamic judges in Iran have set the precedent that the rape of a Mandaean woman can be regarded as an act of "purification", and as such, violators receive impunity. In Iran this defence has been used to acquit men of rapes on Mandaean girls as young as 8 years old.

Some 30 Mandaeans have been murdered in Basra in recent months. The remaining Mandaeans are fleeing and the SMAA has lost all contact with them. Allegedly, coalition forces are advising the Mandaeans to flee, as they cannot offer them protection. There is concern that Mandaeans may also have been murdered in the north, in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Dr. Edward Crangle is the Post-Graduate Research Co-coordinator in the Department of Studies in Religion with the University of Sydney. In a letter dated 21 April 2003, he wrote, "Since the demise of the recent Iraqi regime, many Sabian Mandaeans have been murdered by various extremist Muslim groups and tribes, including the extremely fundamentalist religious Sunni and Sheaat groups and parties such as Al-Wahabin, Al-Daawa Al-Islamiah and Ikhwan Al-Moslemin."

GENOCIDAL INTENTIONS?

Above and beyond the human rights violations and threat to life, the Mandaean community actually fears that some Iraqi Islamists have genocidal intentions and would be willing to effect a 'Final Solution'.

According to mail received by SMAA from Iraq, amongst the abuse being meted out to Mandaeans are phrases such as, "You are kaffirs (infidels)! We will treat you like the Jews! Get out of Iraq! This is an Islamic country! This is a clean country!"

Very recently, the President of the SMAA was able to speak by phone to a Mandaean clergyman in Baghdad who said that Mandaeans are living in a state of terror. He said they fear that one night the Muslims will just kill all of them. He also said that many Iraqis who formerly supported the Hussein regime are now supporting the Islamists in their campaign against invaders and infidels.

Mandaeans in Ahwaz (in Iran) have reported to the SMAA that they also are receiving news of murders of Mandaeans in Iraq. The Mandaean Archbishop in Australia visited Iran from 5 March to 10 May. He testifies that the situation for Mandaeans in Iran has also deteriorated considerably since the fall of Baghdad, and there is much fear. (In Iran, Mandaeans are an illegal sect without religious or legal recognition.)

One Mandaean in Ahwaz reports that he was traveling in a taxi with Muslims who were unaware that he was Mandaean. One of the Muslim men remarked that he was hopeful the time would soon come when the Muslims would be given permission to attack the areas where the infidels live.

HOUSE AND CHURCH CONFISCATIONS

There are reports that many Mandaeans are sharing accommodation and living together out of fear for their lives. However, as soon as their homes are unoccupied, Muslims acquire them. One Mandaean woman lost her home to a Shi'a cleric this way. One family was forced out of their home by Islamists who then immediately fixed green flags to the roof and converted the home into a headquarters for their movement.

One Mandaean who corresponds with the SMAA through a brother in Australia reports that Muslims are threatening to take over the Mandaean's mandi (church) and convert it into a mosque. This builds on another precedent established in Iran where, in 1989, the Mandaean mandi in Awhaz was confiscated and converted into headquarters for the Islamic Religious Police.

IN FEAR OF SHARIA

The Mandaeans, like the Christians, are also living in fear of an Islamic state under Sharia law. The new 25-member Iraqi Governing Council is made up of thirteen Shi'a Arabs, five Sunni Arabs, five Sunni Kurds, one Assyrian Christian Arab and one Turkman.

The Shi'a group includes the secretary-general of the Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood, and a Shi'a cleric named Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim who is the brother of Ayatollah Mohammad Baqr al-Hakim - the leader of Iranian-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). (The Ayatollah returned from exile in Iran in May and set up the SCIRI headquarters in Al-Najaf.) Also on the council are two representatives from the Shi'a Islamist al-Da'awa Party and two
from the Iraqi Hezbollah (Sunni). Stratfor Intelligence (http://www.stratfor.com) confirms that in all, seven members of the council are staunch Islamists.

U.S. President G.W. Bush said on 24 April, that he was determined to see an "Islamic democracy" built in Iraq. However, as Stratfor Intelligence notes, "The problem is that neither the United States nor the Iraqi people have a model of Islamic democracy to emulate." Also: "The Iraqi Governing Council is bound to face a crisis of legitimacy, since it is a U.S.-appointed, not elected, body." (Stratfor, Global Intelligence Report, 16 July 2003).

SCIRI, the best organised Shi'a political party in Iraq, initially rejected the Iraqi Governing Council because it is U.S.-appointed, not elected. However, the U.S. desire to have SCIRI represented on the council gave SCIRI leverage such that it was able to effect changes to the Iraq Governing Council membership in the last moments before it was unveiled, in exchange for SCIRI participation.

For further information on this issue see: "Iraq's New Governing Council: A Profile" (the first half of this article is an analysis, the second half is a profile of each member)
http://www.theestimate.com/public/071103.html

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Mandaeans, along with other religious minorities in Iraq are at great risk at this time of instability and lawlessness, and the future is not looking much brighter.

- Elizabeth Kendal

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Sudan: Peace Process can 'go to hell' (GoS)

Date: Tuesday 22 July 2003
Subj: Sudan: Update on the Peace Process
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator



MACHAKOS TALKS - JULY 2002


Twelve months ago, on 20 July 2002, a historic peace deal was signed in Machakos, Kenya, between the Government of Sudan (GoS) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). That document, known as the Machakos Protocol, provided a 'roadmap' for peace in Sudan.

The Sudan peace talks are sponsored by the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which groups Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda and nominally Somalia.

The Machakos Protocol granted Southern Sudan the right to hold an internationally supervised referendum on independence after six years of autonomous rule, and full religious freedom. Of course many hurdles lay ahead. The issues of power-sharing, wealth-sharing and religious freedom still loomed large. Efforts to resolve these issues would test the signatories' commitment to peace as talks progressed over the following year.

However, Machakos only happened because after 11 September 2001, the GoS came under intense international pressure to make peace, primarily from a US administration waging a war on international terrorism. It was a watershed moment for Sudan.

After the signing of the Machakos Protocol, Rev. Enock Tombe of Sudan's Council of Churches said "both sides now must move quickly to remove the remaining hurdles to peace before momentum is lost." Unfortunately, as international attention has drifted elsewhere - primarily to Iraq and the "axis of evil" (which did not include Sudan) - hurdles have not been removed and momentum, along with international attention, pressure and patience, has waned. The concern is now that the peace process may flounder.
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Machakos was a deal between the GoS and the SPLM/A. Yet for any peace deal to work, it had to include the other opposition parties, it had to be widened; it had to have a national consensus.

KHARTOUM DECLARATION

On Saturday 24 May 2003, Dr. John Garang, who heads the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and Sadeq al-Mahdi, head of the Umma Party, and Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, met for talks in Mirghani's home in Cairo where he lives in exile.

"Any peace agreement reached in Machakos will require a national consensus," said Garang. "We are doing the homework for this consensus." (AFP 25 May) One appeal to come from this meeting was that the national capital, Khartoum, be ruled under secular rather than Islamic laws.

Presidential Peace Adviser Ghazi Salah Eddin Atabani said this was out of the question. President Omar el-Beshir declared Khartoum "will never be secular and we will sacrifice our souls" to prevent this. "We took power on June 30 (1989) to foil a conspiracy for abrogating Islamic Sharia." He said opposition leaders Mahdi and Mirghani "are planning to undermine the negotiations and thus torpedo the entire peace process" (AFP 18 June). "Any attempt to renegotiate that (Khartoum's religion) question will mean undermining the peace talks and aborting the peace process," said el-Beshir (AP 19 June).

Then in early July, 18 opposition parties, 15 non-government organizations and more than 40 individual opposition leaders signed The Khartoum Declaration, which calls for Khartoum to be a national secular capital, an end of one-party rule, a release of political prisoners and a transitional government to supervise general elections. The Khartoum Declaration was due to be unveiled to the media on 2 July, but a government crackdown on opposition figures prevented it.

ISLAMIST PRESSURE

There is a lot of Islamist pressure rising in Khartoum. On 26 June, some 5,000 armed fighters of the Islamist Popular Defence Force (PDF) rallied in Khartoum vowing to support jihad and el-Beshir's "revolution of national salvation" (national Islamisation). (DPA 27 June). On 4 July, Khartoum's leading islamist scholars issued a fatwa: "Whoever approves or calls for the application of a ruling other than the Islamic Shariah - like those who call for socialism or communism or other subversive beliefs that contradict Islamic thought - is, frankly, an apostate," and as such deserves to be killed. Fourteen prominent scholars, including two university professors, signed the fatwa. (AP 4 July).

NAKURU TALKS - JULY 2003


From 6 - 11 July 03, meetings that were supposed to be the final stage of IGAD mediated talks were held in Nakuru, 160km (100 miles) west of Nairobi, Kenya. Those talks were intended to finalise the outstanding issues of the status of three disputed regions -- Abyei, Southern Kordofan (Nuba Mountains), and the Blue Nile - as well as power-sharing, wealth-sharing, security arrangements during the six-year transition period, and religious freedom. Also, final documents were to be drafted for the parties to sign in mid-August.

The GoS negotiators looked at the draft document presented to them by IGAD and rejected it. A major stumbling block was the call for Khartoum to be a shared and secular capital (for north and south).

TALKS FAIL

The SPLM/A saw the draft presented in Nakuru as a basis for peace. "For us, we see it as a way forward," an SPLA source said. "We are very happy with the draft, not that we agree with all the issues but it is a basis." (Reuters 11 July).

However, the GoS response was toxic. President Omar al-Beshir told the Kenyan-based IGAD mediators that if they insisted on pushing the draft peace settlement rejected by his negotiators, then "IGAD and those behind it" could "go to hell". He told the IGAD mediators to "come up with a reasonable alternative, otherwise they have to dissolve the document in water and drink it." El-Beshir then gave a speech at Nur al-Dinn, on how Sudanese government troops had fought a 20-year war to defend Islam. El-Beshir declared his government "is committed to peace but not to surrender" (AFP 15 July).

Amin Hassan Omer, a negotiator for the GoS, described the draft as "contrary to the contents of the Machakos framework unfair, contradictory and unfit to constitute a basis for negotiation" (DPA 12 July). The GoS has blamed IGAD for the failure of the talks and requested intervention from Egypt and the Arab League to help break the impasse (AFP 14 July). The GoS Presidential Peace Advisor, Ghazi Salah Eddin Atabani, complained that the draft proposals "differ largely" from the Machakos Protocol and "pave the way for secession of southern Sudan while Machakos calls for unity." Atabani has requested "entirely new proposals" (AFP 13 July).

The Sudan Council of Churches strongly rejects the GoS assessment, saying that the draft is indeed fair and in line with the Machakos Protocol. They also expressed concern about interference from Arab nations and the GoS request for alternative mediators, and called on the parties to return to the negotiating table. (Link 1)

The IGAD chief mediator, General Lazaro Sumbeiywo, also disagrees with the GoS assessment, maintaining that the peace draft is fair, impartial, balanced and supported by the international community.

"END GAME"

There is great concern that Washington, which appears to be running out of patience and commitment, might buckle under pressure from Khartoum and press for a "peace at any cost" deal. John Danforth, the special envoy of the US President George W. Bush in Sudan, has expressed his frustration, declaring that this is the "end game", and warning that the international community would divert its attention from Sudan if an agreement is not be made very quickly (Link 2).

It is unlikely that the GoS would view that as a threat -- probably more of an opportunity -- while it would truly signal an "end game" scenario for the Southern Sudanese. Even as the Nakuru talks were getting underway the GoS was resupplying its southern military garrison in Juba in direct violation of the Memorandum of Understanding of 15 October 2002.

The GoS has repeatedly terrorised and starved its people and violated ceasefire agreements with impunity -- and impunity equals permission. As such, one wonders whether the GoS has any desire to pursue peace or even if they have any reason to.

The GoS is a brutal regime that stops at nothing. Just last week GoS warplanes conducted bombing raids of twenty-five villages in northwest Darfur, western Sudan, killing at least 300 villagers and wounding 200, with many dying as victims of a "toxic gas". The GOS targeted the region because it believes the inhabitants support an opposition movement. (AFP 20 July). It is not the first time the GoS has used chemical or biological weapons. This is a regime that has used starvation as a weapon of mass destruction.
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A rejection of the IGAD mediation and draft peace proposals would seriously undermine the very principle of a diplomatic, democratic peace process, and fail the long-suffering people of Sudan who have lived with poverty, jihad and repression for far too long. Negotiations are supposed to recommence on 23 July, but there is already talk of postponement.


- Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) Sudan Council of Churches Speaks On Peace Process
Catholic Information Service for Africa, Nairobi, 18 July 2003
http://allafrica.com/stories/200307200023.html

2) Danforth: we have reached the end of the game in Sudan
Sudan-USA, Politics, ArabicNews.com 7/19/2003
http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/030719/2003071909.html

For further background see:
WEA RLC Sudan - Translating a Document into a Reality, 26 July 2002

For news on Sudan (including the other articles referred to in this
posting) see http://www.sudan.net/news/news.html

Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Northern Uganda Update: Kony and the Bishops.

Date: Wednesday 2 July 2003
Subj: Northern Uganda Update: Kony and the Bishops.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


BACKGROUND

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is a blasphemous, terrorist cult militia that has been waging a campaign of terror amongst the predominantly Christian populations of Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan for the past 17 years. The signature trademark of the LRA is unrivalled cruelty and barbarity. The leader of the LRA, Joseph Kony, is a spirit medium. In late May and early June, peace talks led by the Acholi Religious Leaders' Peace Initiative (ARLPI), resulted in the defection of several senior LRA commanders.

On Saturday 14 June, Joseph Kony ordered his LRA soldiers to target the Church. "Catholic missions must be destroyed," he ordered, "priests and missionaries killed in cold blood and nuns beaten black and blue." The WEA RL Prayer ministry issued an urgent call to prayer on 17 June. For further background and details see the WEA RLC E-mail Conference posting of 19 June, entitled, "Northern Uganda: Kony orders the LRA to target the Church", (contains a link to the WEA RL Prayer posting of 17 June).

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KONY AND THE BISHOPS
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BISHOPS -- KONY'S "MOST WANTED"

Joseph Kony has now placed Anglican Bishop John Charles Odurkami and Tom Okello of the Elim Pentecostal Mission on his "most wanted" list and issued an order for their heads (link 1). Urgent prayer is needed.

BISHOPS -- CHILDREN'S MOST LOVED

In May, the WEA RL Prayer ministry raised awareness of the plight of children in Northern Uganda and issued a call for prayer (link 2), as another signature trademark of the LRA is their use of abducted child soldiers. These children are brutalised and traumatised - and 5,000 children have been abducted by the LRA for use as expendable child soldiers and sex-slaves in the past 12 months.

To reduce the risk of abduction, the children walk from their home villages to the regional centre of Gulu each evening and sleep under the watchful eyes of aid and mission workers. These days, some 20,000 children are sleeping in the streets of Gulu each night

In an act of solidarity, some of Gulu's bishops have taken to sleeping on the streets with them.

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"Bishops Sleep On Streets, Seek UN Support Against Rebels"
By Dennis Ojwee, for New Vision (Kampala) 24 June 2003
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Three bishops, John Baptist Odama of Gulu Archdiocese, Retired Bishop of Kitgum Diocese, Marcleord Baker Ochola II and Rev. Nelson Onono-Onweng, on Sunday night slept out on the streets of Gulu Taxi Park with thousands of children displaced by the LRA.

This is to share the pain that the children are persevering in the cold along verandas in fear of being abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels. The children come from villages around Gulu, Pader and Kitgum towns.

The bishops gathered one-by-one at the sleeping centres by 7:00pm. Thousands of children thronged them with surprise and overwhelming respect to them.

The children, who looked humble and courageous, carried torn sacks and rags over their shoulders as beddings. They gathered around the spiritual parents (bishops) to listen to the Lord's words.

"Thousands of children have been abducted, butchered, battered or shot to death by the LRA. The UN should try to put the war in the north top of its agenda on its high level secretary meetings in order to intervene and save the children and the people of northern Uganda from the flame of murder by the rebels led by Joseph Kony," the three bishops, Anglican, Catholic and Muslim leaders under the Acholi Religious Leader's Peace Initiative (ARLPI) based in Gulu town said on Sunday. (22 June)

They appealed to the UN to intervene in the bloody rebellion.

--------------(see also link 3)--------------

Writer David Ouma Balikowa noted in an Opinion piece in The Monitor (Kampala) on 20 June: "Mr Kony, as the commander of the LRA, has outlived an entire line of army commanders President Yoweri Museveni has had during this war. The list includes Lt. Gen. Salim Saleh, Maj. Gen. Mugisha Muntu, Lt. Gen. Jeje Odongo and Maj. Gen. James Kazini. Mr Kony has lived to see all these able generals come and go while he himself has remained intact."

Many are praying that he will not remain in tact for much longer.

- Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) Bishops On Kony Rebels' List
New Vision (Kampala) 30 June 2003
http://allafrica.com/stories/200306300569.html

2) RLP 219, 14 May, Uganda: The Children, the Church and the LRA.
http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/s03050055.htm

3) CNN Thousands of children seek refuge in N. Ugandan town
23 June 2003 Kampala
http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/africa/06/23/uganda.frightened.ap/

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Kenya: Muslim tensions rise and churches burn.

Date: Tuesday 1 July 2003
Subj: Kenya: Muslim tensions rise and churches burn.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator

On 13 June, Muslims rioting over the arrest of one of their clerics torched five churches in Bura, Tana River district, not far from Mombasa in Kenya. The churches razed were the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) in Bura, the Bethel Church, and churches belonging to the Pentecostal Evangelism Fellowship of Africa (PEFA), the East African Pentecostal Church (EAPC), and the Full Gospel Church of Kenya (FGCK). (Link 1)

Of great concern to Christians in Kenya is the fact that no one has been charged over the burning of the churches. Christian leaders are still waiting to see if the arsonists will receive justice or impunity. As impunity equals permission, this is a serious issue of national significance at a time when Muslim tensions are rising to boiling point.

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CHURCH BURNINGS IN BURA

The Reverend Simon K. Mungumba, the Assistant Chairman of the Bura Pastors' Fellowship, has written a report of the incident. Rev. Mungumba writes (14 June) that on the evening of Thursday 12 June 2003, the Divisional Officer (DO) was passing through Manyatta withsome security officers in his vehicle. When they stopped in Manyatta and alighted from their vehicle, some Orma and Somali youths started stoning them, forcing them to retreat into their vehicle and flee.

According to Rev. Mungumba's account, the DO returned the following morning to inquire of the local Imam as to why they had been attacked. The Imam told the DO that the local Muslim youths had a visiting preacher in town and feared he may be arrested.

This 'visiting preacher', Sheikh Khalifa Mutiso, is a former Christian pastor who converted to Islam and now preaches aggressively against Christianity and Christians, with offensive messages that, according to Rev. Mungumba, "border on incitement".

Rev. Mungumba reports that at that point the DO decided to take Sheikh Khalifa Mutiso in for questioning. Once again the DO and his accompanying security officers were pelted with stones and abused by Muslim youths and women. The attack became so violent that the police fired their weapons into the air in the hope of dispersing the rioters. When that did not help, the DO arrested Sheikh Khalifa Mutiso and took him away for police questioning.

At that point the Muslim rioters stoned the police station and commenced burning and looting the churches, while others chanted, "release our sheikh, we want him to continue preaching".

The rioting lasted from the arrest at 9:00am until Sheikh Khalifa Mutiso was released at the intervention of a local MP.

There is little shade in Bura, so in an act of great solidarity and generosity, the Catholic Church provided tents for all of the churches that were burned down.

At a subsequent meeting of Christian leaders, Ibrahim Ormondi of the Evangelical Fellowship of Kenya spoke with Bishop Kinnogah, who told him that he had met with the Provincial Commissioner, who promised to order the arrest of Sheikh Mutiso for inciting Muslim hostility in Bura. So far, however, he has not been arrested.

The local Imams say they do not know Sheikh Mutiso, however Christian leaders know him as a preacher from Mwingi who has been preaching the same way in Mombasa and the administration are aware of his threats and inflammatory statements, which are usually directed towards youths, most of them of school age children and teenagers.

The Bura Pastor' Fellowship is calling on the Kenyan government to investigate the incident and compensate the churches that have lost their buildings.

"Also," says Rev. Mungumba, "as Bura leaders we feel the security in Bura needs boosting. The Muslim youths need to know the worth and authority of the government. This occurrence should be addressed with the decisiveness it deserves."

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MUCH IS COOKING IN KENYA

Kenya is 78.6 percent Christian and 6-8 percent Muslim. This incident over Sheikh Khalifa Mutiso and the burned churches is only one of several issues in the pot - under which the heat is rising. This is why it is imperative that the Kenyan government deal decisively with religious violence.

MYSTERIOUS KILLINGS IN EMBU

The Catholic Diocese of Embu wrote to the Officer Commanding Police Division (OCPD) in Embu, Eastern Province, recently, requesting an investigation into a series of killings. Since March this year, at least 12 church watchmen and one church cook have been killed. The victims all had their throats cut or were decapitated and only churches and church related institutions were being targeted. There are no clues however as to the culprits or their motives (other than
theft). It is quite mysterious and unsettling. (Link 2)

KADHIS COURTS

Kenyan Muslims are pushing to increase the power and influence of Kenya's Kadhi (Islamic / Sharia) Courts. Muslims want the Kadhi courts to be fully entrenched in the new Constitution with national rather than just local jurisdiction. Christians maintain that the entrenchment of Kadhi Courts in the constitution, elevating them to national level and giving them authority equal to the state's secular courts, will compromise Article 10 which states that, "The State shall treat all religions equally". Muslims maintain that they will accept nothing less than the entrenchment of the courts in the constitution and some Muslims unfortunately, have made inflammatory threats to establish a separate Islamic state if the Kadhi Courts are not accepted -- this has not helped the debate. (Link 3)

TERROR ARRESTS

On Monday 23 June, four Kenyan residents were brought before Chief Magistrate Aggrey Mchelule in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to face murder charges. They have been in detention since March 2003 on suspicion of harbouring the terrorists who carried out the car-bomb attack on the Israeli-owned beachfront Paradise Hotel near Mombasa in November 2002 that killed 18 people. They were remanded in custody and will appear before court again on 8 August.

The charges against the four - Kenyan father and son Mohamed Kubwa and Mohamed Kubwa Seif, and Said Saggar Ahmed and Aboud Rogo Mohamed, whose nationalities were not known - were the latest in a string of anti-terror measures.

Some 80 Muslims are currently detained on suspicion of terror links. Muslims are outraged by the arrests, saying that they are being used as scapegoats and that the cases are unduly influenced by foreign (USA, CIA) interference, pressure and funding.

Kenyan Muslim politicians and clerics believe that Kenya's proposed Anti-terrorism Bill abuses the rights of Kenyan Muslims. (Three MPs from the ruling NARC party have crossed the floor to support the opposition in this, and several lawyers are saying that it violates the constitution.)

Muslim leaders, led by the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) secretary-general Sheikh Mohammed Dor, and the chairman of unregistered Islamic Party of Kenya (IPK) Sheikh Mohammed Khalifa, have threatened to form their own political party. At a public rally in Mombasa on Sunday 29 June, Islamic speakers "blasted the Government for what they termed arassment of Muslims after branding them terror suspects on the whims of America and Israel." Sheikh Dor comments, "The way things are going on today, civil strife is looming." Dor also branded "America, Israel and the (ruling Kenyan) NARC Government as enemy number one of Muslims." (Link 4)

- Elizabeth Kendal


1) Five Churches Torched in Tana River District
The East African Standard (Nairobi) 20 June 2003
By Philip Mwakio And Jesse Masai
http://allafrica.com/stories/200306200072.html

2) Church Condemns Killings. 24 June 2003
Catholic Information Service for Africa (Nairobi)
http://allafrica.com/stories/200306240631.html

3) Christians Fear Shariah Will Undermine Tolerance
Joyce Mulama NAIROBI, 18 June 2003 (IPS)
http://www.ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=18853

4) Kanu, Muslims attack Govt.
The East African Standard
By Daniel Nyassy 30 June 2003
http://www.eastandard.net/headlines/news30062003011.htm