Interesting article and video.....
On 11 December most countries will sign the UN Compact in Morocco. It is part of the "Agenda 21" plan for the 21 st century started in 1992. Read up about Agenda 21, agenda 2030 and about this Compact for Migration which will criminalize anyone saying anything against the UN plan. Those countries who signed are obliged to assist migrants financially and basically all people have a right to migrate....(no more borders). About 20 nations are now fighting it and will be forced by fines for not complying. It is part of the UN plan for one world government... Is this real? Or a conspiracy.... ? Watch this little video and give comments of the implications. I have the original documents and on this Youtube link you can also download the UN document "agenda 21". NGOs have already been receiving funds to implement it for the past 20 years and both republican and democratic governments has been changing laws to implement is..... It has been going on under our noses and the general public does not know. My interest in this is the fulfillment of prophecy which indicates the UN or coalition of governments to rule for short period of time before Armageddon. There are huge implications to this .... but first watch this little video to begin the discussion.... here is the link.....
By Claudia Sanchez
In the second century, the Church faced its first great heresy: Gnosticism. This confusing and eclectic system of beliefs threatened to destroy the Church in its infancy. Among Gnosticism’s tenets was the conviction that the material world is contemptible, unworthy of redemption. Unlike the Christian view that the material world was originally created good but then fell through sin, Gnostics believed that the world we live in was created as the result of some tragic accident. Only the spiritual world mattered; anything physical was to be left behind.Â
Against this heresy rose the great Church Father St. Irenaeus, who inÂ The Scandal of the IncarnationÂ explained that the key doctrine of Christianity is the Incarnation: the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). The physical world is not to be held in contempt; on the contrary, it provides the means of our salvation.
Although eventually Gnosticism was conquered,Â its material/spiritual dualism has reared its ugly head throughout Church history. Many heresies borrowed it, including Manichaeism, the heresy embraced for a time by St. Augustine. And although Protestantism does not fully endorse a material/spiritual dualism, there are aspects of this flawed worldview in its belief systemÂ—for example, in its rejection of a visible Church.Â
In the most common Protestant view (since there are always competing views within Protestantism), the Church is an invisible entity made up of all Christian believers (how a Â“believerÂ” is defined also varies among Protestants). Any visible manifestations, such as leaders or physical sacraments or buildings, are merely tools Christians use for practical reasons. None are essential to the Church, and all can be discarded if need be.Â
In contrast, the Catholic faith teaches that there is a visible Church here on earth, founded by Christ himself. It includes a visible membershipÂ—the baptizedÂ—and a visible leadership structure: the hierarchy of bishops and the service of ordained priests and deacons. These visible aspects are fundamental to the Church and cannot be discarded. Throughout history, many Christians have been scandalized at the visible quality of the Church, usually because of the un-Christian behavior of its members. ScandalsÂ withinÂ the Church emphasize the scandalÂ ofÂ the Church.Â
There is a certain attractive neatness to the idea of a purely invisible Church.Â If a leader commits some egregious sin, then one can simply claim he wasnÂ’tÂ reallyÂ part of the true, invisible Church (which contains only the pure and holy). Since the ChurchÂ’s membership is invisible, this can never be disproven. We can even understand why this notion of an invisible Church gained so much traction in the sixteenth century; after all, this was a time of great moral crisis in the visible institution of the Catholic Church. Many priests were immoral and many bishops were corrupt, and some popes were both. How could these men be part of ChristÂ’s Church? So the simple answerÂ—theyÂ’re notÂ—proliferated.
Yet in spite of all the scandalous sins among its clergy and hierarchy, Catholics continued to insist that Christ founded a visible Church, and that we can know with certainty who are the members and who are the leaders. Why this insistence? BecauseÂ visibilityÂ is essential to each of the four marks of the Church: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.
One:Â Visibility is perhaps most important to the onenessÂ—the unityÂ—of the Church. We see this clearly by the opposite example: the disunity of Protestantism, which teaches a purely invisible Church. If the universal Church is invisible, it doesnÂ’t matter if you belong to the Presbyterians or Methodists or Lutherans. It also doesnÂ’t matter, then, if your beliefs are unified. An emphasis on invisibility ultimately leads to tens of thousands of visible denominations teaching conflicting belief systems.
Holy:Â Although the visible Church has always had sinners in its midst, it has also always possessed the means of holiness. And the primary means of holiness are the very visibleÂ sacraments. Through material things such as water, bread, wine, and oil, Christ dispenses his graces upon his followers. With the sacraments, we can know with certainty that holiness is attainable; without the sacraments, we can only guess.
Catholic:Â To beÂ catholicÂ is to be universal. A purely invisible Church can claim universality, but only a visible Church can prove it. What we see in denominations claiming to be part of an invisible Church is constant breakups, with one faction claiming that another isnÂ’t truly Christian. But in a visible Church, the Catholic Church, we can see with our own eyes the same faith practiced from America to Africa to Asia.Â
Apostolic:Â Christ himself picked twelve men to lead his Church. He wanted them to be the visible leaders so that all men would know that communion with the apostles meant communion with him. The apostles understood how important a visible leadership was, and so they appointed successorsÂ—the bishopsÂ—to take up their mantle after their deaths. The hierarchy of the Church is a visible sign of the continuity of the ChurchÂ—in teaching and in practiceÂ—from the time of the apostles to today.Â
Even during a time of many scandals within the Church,Â there is nothing more scandalous thanÂ the Church itself. It reflects the reality that God has taken this broken material worldÂ—and its equally broken inhabitantsÂ—and uses it to bring us to him. It is a constant sign to the world that the material, physical world matters. We are each a body/soul composite, and so we need physical as well as spiritual signs to direct us to God. Just as God came into this world as a visible man, he gave us a visible Church to lead us into the next world.
via .ORGWorld News
By David Normand
December 15, 20172:52 AM ET Heard on Morning Edition In a far-reaching report on child sex abuse in Australia, a government commission is recommending that the country's Catholic Church lift its celibacy requirement for diocesan clergy and be required to report evidence of abuse revealed in confession.
Those are among the 400 recommendations contained in the 17-volume final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, which is wrapping up a five-year investigation Â– the longest in Australia's history.
"We have concluded that there were catastrophic failures of leadership of Catholic Church authorities over many decades," the report said.
The AustralianÂ reports: "More than 15,000 people contacted the commission to share their experiences of abuse, more than 8,000 of them spoke personally with the commissioner about the trauma it caused, and approximately 2,500 cases have now been referred to police."
The commission said the church failed to properly address allegations and concerns of victims, calling the Church's response to them "remarkably and disturbingly similar."
The report also detailed abuse in churches of other denominations and at such institutions as schools and sports clubs. However, it concluded that the greatest number of alleged abuse perpetrators were found in Catholic institutions. The commissionÂ has concluded that 7 percentÂ of priests who worked in Australia between 1950 and 2009 had been accused of child sex abuse.
Â Â Among the report's recommendations:
Â— A national strategy to prevent child abuse, with a national office of child safety.
Â— Making failure to protect a child from risk of abuse within an institution a criminal offense on the state and territory level.
Â— Implementing preventative training for children in schools and early childhood center.
Â— A requirement that candidates for religious ministry undergo external psychological testing.
Â— Any person in a religious ministry subject to a substantiated child sex abuse complaint should be permanently removed from the ministry.
Currently, Australian law exempts confessional evidence from the rules that apply to other kinds of evidence in court,Â according to The National Catholic Register.
Vatican Cardinal Charged With 'Historic Sexual Offenses' In Australia
Prominent Cardinal Returns To Australia To Face Sex Abuse Charges
"We recommend that canon law be amended so that the 'pontifical secret' does not apply to any aspect of allegations or canonical disciplinary processes relating to child sexual abuse," the report said.
It said that "Religious ministers, out-of-home care workers, childcare workers, registered psychologists and school [counselors] should be brought into line with police, doctors and nurses who are all obliged by law to report sexual abuse," according toÂ The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
"Without a legal obligation to tell police about abuses, many staff and volunteers failed to let anyone outside the institution know, the commission found," theÂ Heraldreported.
The commission called for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to ask the Vatican to introduce voluntary celibacy for clergy. The commission found that clerical celibacy was not a direct cause of abuse, but that it increased the risk of abuse when celibate male clergy had privileged access to children.
In anÂ official statement, Archbishop Denis Hart of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, apologized for past abuse, calling it a "shameful past" and said the commission's report "will be taken very seriously."
However, speaking to reporters later, Hart said the commission's report "hasn't damaged the credibility of the church" and called the recommendations on the confessional "a distraction."
"The seal of the confessional, or the relationship with God that's carried through the priest and with the person, is inviolable. It can't be broken," Hart told reporters.
"I think everyone understands that this Catholic and orthodox practice of confession is always confidential,"Â he said.
Hart also pushed back on the subject of celibacy: "We know very well that institutions who have celibate clergy and institutions that don't have celibate clergy both face these problems. We know very well that this happens in families that are certainly not observing celibacy."
The commission's findings follow numerous allegations of sex abuse by Catholic priests in Australia in recent years. In June,Â Police in Victoria charged Cardinal George Pell, now a high-ranking Vatican official, with sex abuse dating to his time as a priest in Australia in the 1970s and 80s. Pell has denied the allegations.
The report concluded: "Tens of thousands of children have been sexually abused in many Australian institutions. We will never know the true number." the report concluded.
"It is not a case of a few 'rotten apples.' Society's major institutions have seriously failed," it said.
'Mismanagement' keeps UN from reaching full potential, Trump says in debut speech
Rules that the American Catholic sect is giving to their parishioners to get rid of Jehovah's witnesses. ?By Bible Speaks
Rules that the American Catholic sect is giving to their parishioners to get rid of Jehovah's witnesses.
Would you be able to rebut these almost military standards?
Interaction with a Jehovah's witness
Answer the door. This may seem counter-intuitive to get rid of someone, but the fact is, if you don't answer the door, it's likely to mark you as "no house" and come back in the near future. If you really want to get rid of them, you'll have to answer the door and let them know.
Interrupt. Sounds rude, but it doesn't have to be. It is likely to deepen your command sequence and it will only be more difficult to get a word Polly interrupt to take control of the conversation.
When a Jehovah's witness begins to speak, interrupt with an educated gesture: "excuse me" to draw your attention.
Try to raise your hand and keep it between the two at the chest level with the palm of your hand to the other person and start your interjection with "wait".
If you wait until the Jehovah's witness asks a question, you can simply reply with: "I would rather not have this conversation".
Be honest. If you make up a reason not to want to talk to them, you can see this as an invitation to come back another time. This also starts a conversation.
Be honest and direct with your answer to get your point through and avoid one of your starters of the conversation.
Avoid making excuses. They are trained to respond to specific protests and may consider coming back in the future if they are too busy right now.
We politely. Choose very few words to reject your invitation to speak. It's unnecessary to be rude, and arguing will only stimulate the conversation. A simple and polite decline will do the trick.
Once I get a chance to talk, try a simple, "No, thank you".
It can also be direct saying, " I'm not interested, thank you."
Close the door. Don't hit him in the face, but I understand you've been trained to keep the conversation. Once I have rejected, close the door gently. This is important, because, like the caretakers or any lawyer, they are not likely to accept the first, "no" and will do everything possible to return to you.
Closing the door may be the only way to end the conversation.
If this feels rude to you, try to say, "I'm sorry" when you close the door.
By The Librarian
Our Brother Bill Underwood wrote an interesting article in the newspaper:
If you had to choose between Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech, which would you choose?Now, you’re thinking, ‘I don’t have to choose, I already have both.’ Are you sure?Last August, the central district court of Tver – the oblast or ‘state’ in which Moscow resides, banned a religious website, jw.org. They did this secretly, not notifying the owners of the website until the day before the ban was to go into effect – January 22, 2014. Had they prevailed, their rationale would have been to claim, as they have in the past, that the ‘free speech’ on jw.org defames other religions. Jw.org won that battle in the court of appeals, but the foundation on which the attack was based still exists.In 1999, Pakistan brought a resolution to the UN calling for a ban on “Defamation of Islam.” Cooler heads prevailed and, after much discussion, the Commission on Human Rights passed instead a resolution banning “Defamation of Religion.”Over the years from 2000 to 2009 the resolution was added to, revised, strengthened, and re-worded, but it was consistently approved. Aside from the lack of elections, U.N. politicians are no different from any other type. It would have been politically incorrect to be seen as anti-Muslim, especially after 9/11, so passing a bill to protect them from defamation seemed like a good idea. Typical was the vote of the UN General Assembly in December, 2007: 108 for, 51 against, and 25 abstaining.In 2009, however, Pakistan pushed again. Their resolution that year stated that they were concerned that defamation of religion led to “the creation of a kind of Islamophobia in which Muslims were typecast as terrorists." They weren't opposed to freedom of expression, oh no. They merely wanted to ban "expression that led to incitement.”They said the hatred of Muslims was just like the hatred of Jews that Hitler had whipped up in pre-WWII Germany, and look what that led to. Has there been a Muslim “krystallnacht” that I didn’t hear about...the night of August 9, 1938 when Germans destroyed over 7,000 Jewish businesses and over 1,000 synagogues? Even in the days after 9/11 when there was enormous outrage against Muslims, the level of hatred never approached that.Pakistan’s proposed resolution said basically that freedom of speech sometimes has to yield in order to maintain peace. Governments such as Russia, Pakistan, and most of the middle east are quick to use this argument: some opinion or expression of yours is causing distress to others; therefore, instead of telling the ‘others’ to grow up and get over it, they tell you to stop expressing your opinion.In any case, this was a step too far, and the pendulum began to swing back. Pakistan’s argument was recognized for what it was, and over 200 civic groups, some Muslim, some Christian, some atheist, demanded that the UN push back.Over the preceding 10 years, the UN had assigned a “special rapporteur” to analyze the subject of defamation of religion and report back. The rapporteur’s report in 2009 included this telling statement:
“[We] encourage a shift away from the sociological concept of the defamation of religions towards the legal norm of non-incitement to national, racial or religious hatred." Three months later when the United States and Egypt introduced a resolution which condemned "racial and religious stereotyping," EU representative Jean-Baptiste Mattei said the European Union "rejected and would continue to reject the concept of defamation of religions." Significantly, he said:
"Human rights laws did not and should not protect belief systems." And the representative from Chile pointed out that,
"The concept of the defamation of religion took them in an area that could lead to the actual prohibition of opinions." A month later, at a human rights meeting in Geneva, the United States representative admitted that defamation of religion is “a fundamentally flawed concept.” The rep from Sweden repeated what the Frenchman had said earlier: international human rights law protects individuals, not institutions or religions.By 2011 the backlash was complete. The UNHRC declared that "Prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with” the charter of the Human Rights Committee.In the years since then, any proposal in the UN attempting to ban ‘defamation of religion’ has been shot down. Freedom of speech has trumped freedom of religion.Last week, far from worrying about ‘defamation,’ the UN came out loudly and publicly chastising the Vatican.
This has never happened before. Their purported justification for doing so went like this: The Vatican is a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 34 of which reads in part:
“Parties undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.” The UN accused the Vatican not merely of failing to protect children, but of actively endangering children by their policy of moving pederasts to new parishes where they could continue their predations, and of obfuscating all attempts by law enforcement agencies to find and prosecute the offenders.Now, here’s where it gets really interesting: The UN went further. They also condemned the Church’s doctrines regarding homosexuality, abortion, and ‘reproductive rights.’Chastising a signatory of a contract for failing to abide by the contract is one thing; Attempting to dictate to a church what their doctrines should be is something else. Where is the UN’s authority to do that? Yet they did it anyway.If, as the UN says, religions and belief systems are not protected by human rights - and I agree, they clearly are not – what prevents them from taking the next step: deciding that religions and belief systems are nothing more than ancient superstitions that are doing more harm than good, and that it’s time to ban them?It’s too bad the UN doesn’t have any teeth. Do they? We'll Investigate that next.
By Bible Speaks
Pedophile Priest With HIV who Raped 30 Children Forgiven by Church
Catholic Church absolved priest after who faces no criminal charges for raping young girls under 10
A Catholic Priest has been acquitted by the church after he admitted to raping almost 30 young girls aged between 5 and 10-years-old.
The priest, Jose Garcia Ataulfo, was cleared of any wrong-doing and won't face any criminal charges, despite the fact that he knew he was infected with HIV when he sexually abused all the children he admitted to raping.
The mother of one of the priest's victims wrote a letter to The Pope asking to meet with him in Rome to discuss the case, but was shunned by the Vatican who declared that "the matter is closed".
Ataulfo admitted to sexually assaulting well over two dozen children, many of whom were indigenous young girls from Oaxaca, a state in southern Mexico known for its large indigenous population.
Due to the significant influence that the Catholic Church wields in Mexico, the priest won't face any criminal charges, particularly for his crimes in areas populated by indigenous ethnic groups.
The report which first appeared on the Spanish-language news site Urgente24.com, says the priest, was absolved of any wrongdoing by the Archdiocese of Mexico.
According to Urgente24.com, only two out of the thirty rape victims have come forward to denounce the acquittal.
The UN should create a set of international rules to help stop the pandemic of fake news and Cold war-style disinformation, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said during a session of the UN Committee on Information in New York.
GENEVA (4 April 2017) – Moves by the Russian Government to ban the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses using a lawsuit brought under anti-extremism legislation have been condemned as “extremely worrying” by three United Nations human rights experts*.
“This lawsuit is a threat not only to Jehovah’s Witnesses, but to individual freedom in general in the Russian Federation,” the experts said.
“The use of counter-extremism legislation in this way to confine freedom of opinion, including religious belief, expression and association to that which is state-approved is unlawful and dangerous, and signals a dark future for all religious freedom in Russia,” they stressed.
The condemnation follows a lawsuit lodged at the country’s Supreme Court on 15 March to declare the Jehovah’s Witnesses Administrative Centre ‘extremist’, to liquidate it, and to ban its activity.
A suspension order came into effect on that date, preventing the Administrative Centre and all its local religious centres from using state and municipal news media, and from organizing and conducting assemblies, rallies and other public events.
A full court hearing is scheduled for 5 April and if the Supreme Court rules in favour of the authorities, it will be the first such ruling by a court declaring a registered centralized religious organization to be ‘extremist’.
Concerns about the counter-extremism legislation have previously been raised in a communication by the three experts to the Russian authorities on 28 July 2016.
The Suspension Order imposed on 15 March is the latest in a series of judicial cases and orders, including a warning sent to the organization last year referring to the ‘inadmissibility of extremist activity’. This has already led to the dissolution of several local Jehovah’s Witness organizations, raids against their premises and literature being confiscated.
“We urge the authorities to drop the lawsuit in compliance with their obligations under international human rights law, and to revise the counter-extremism legislation and its implementation to avoid fundamental human rights abuses,” the UN experts concluded.
(*) The experts: Mr. David Kaye (USA), Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. Maina Kiai (Kenya), Special Rapporteur on freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association, and Mr. Ahmed Shaheed (the Maldives), Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights, country page: Russian Federation
- See more at
The Catholic Church raised a “cry of alarm”, because every year ten thousand Catholics become Jehovah’s Witnesses.By Kurt
The FRANCISCO POPE PRAISES GOD’S WITNESSES WORLDWIDE
Moving – Pascom Porto Feliz: Catholic Conference discusses increasing Witnesses … What drives so many people to become Jehovah’s Witnesses? This was the question asked by some clerics, as shown by the following quotations. For example, in Bologna, Italy, the ecclesiastical authorities, with the approval of the pope, held a conference to discuss ways to combat the success of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Catholic Church raised a “cry of alarm”, the newspaper La Republica, because every year ten thousand Catholics become Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Jesuit Giuseppe De Rosa said that “the religious point of view the most dangerous are Jehovah’s Witnesses. They come fully trained, and always have the Bible in hand.”
In an article that deals specifically with Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica said:
“The first reason for the spread of this movement are the propaganda techniques [ie, in preaching]. On the one hand, the work is thorough, carried from house to house by people who are strictly trained in this work, and are deeply convinced [ …] ”
“The second reason for the success of TJs is the force of attraction of Jehovah’s message, because it can meet the needs, demands and expectations of the people of our time. First, answers the need for certainty, which is much appreciated at a time where everything is uncertain and unstable. […] Above all, it is an absolutely safe revelation of the future and, therefore, all who accepted, experience freedom from fear and anxiety and can face the future with joy, with ensuring that survive the destruction that will come the great day of God’s judgment on a wicked world, to live in eternal happiness on earth. Second, Jehovah’s message helps to overcome the concern of the individual against the woes of this world, announces that soon will end the unbearable situation of today, and soon, so there will be a new era will be born a new world in which all the wicked will be removed now triumph. […] ”
“The third reason for the success of TJs is that this movement gives its members a precise identity and strong, and is a place where they were greeted with warmth and a sense of brotherhood and solidarity.”
The Vatican document analyzed the needs of people today, and the quote above the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica showed that the message of Jehovah’s Witnesses meet those needs. This also showed Vittorio Messori Catholic writer in his recent book Scommesse sulla morte (a bet on death), who writes: “It makes us think that Jehovah’s Witnesses, is one of the religious denominations of the fastest growing in the world. It is among the religions that are practiced in many countries and perhaps […] is first in terms of fervor, zeal, activism, the ability to make proselytes. ” “And his presence, increasingly pronounced, is not limited to Christian tradition countries, but reaching the whole world, where in the name of Jehovah, and before long, they get results that are superior to those of Catholic missionaries, Protestants and Orthodox, who have worked for centuries. ”
“This stunning expansive force is incomprehensible only to those who simply do not want to admit that […] course in how to understand the Bible, Jehovah’s Witnesses meet the real needs that other theologies do not meet.” “You can not get around the issue suggesting that the growth of witnesses is because they scare people is precisely the opposite:. Unlike the churches” official “, deny the existence of hell and preach the destruction, disappearance after death to the wicked and unbelieving. This may be an unpleasant prospect, but certainly less frightening than the threat of a terrible pain for all eternity. “Yes, the God of Jehovah’s Witnesses is a loving God, and not one that terrorizes the people .
The following quote is the Catholic magazine Mondo ERRE March 1986: “It must be said that Jehovah’s Witnesses are the first to live the faith they preach: Do not IRAM, do not smoke, do not accumulate wealth, remain outside the political discussions […] pay taxes. They live a virtuous and honest life, they are happy and helpful. All this has made people appreciate the ”
I’m glad to know that they have had success in evangelizing them my family is Catholic more from small learn to admire their work in all the earth ….
By Guest Nicole
The Clean Seas campaign was launched last week, aimed at eliminating major sources of marine plastic and changing shopping habits.
The United Nations has declared war on plastic. In an unexpected announcement that emerged from the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali last week, the UN officially launched its ‘Clean Seas’ campaign. The goal is to eliminate major sources of pollution, including microplastics in cosmetics and single-use disposable plastics, by pressuring governments and individuals to rethink the way goods are packaged and their own shopping habits.
Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, stated:
“It is past time that we tackle the plastic problem that blights our oceans. Plastic pollution is surfing onto Indonesian beaches, settling onto the ocean floor at the North Pole, and rising through the food chain onto our dinner tables. We’ve stood by too long as the problem has gotten worse. It must stop.”
It’s a problem that must be dealt with as aggressively as possible. Scientists say that the equivalent of a dump truck load of plastic is deposited in the world’s oceans every minute, and this quantity will only increase as consumption and population grow, too. By 2050, it’s said there will be more plastic than fish in the seas. The UN writes, “As many as 51 trillion microplastic particles – 500 times more than stars in our galaxy – litter our seas, seriously threatening marine wildlife.”
On the campaign website, people can commit to certain actions to combat their personal plastic pollution, such as not using disposable grocery bags, bringing their own coffee cup, avoiding cosmetics with microbeads, and pressuring firms to reduce excess packaging. The campaign’s press release says it will make announcements throughout the year, highlighting advances made by countries and companies to reduce disposable plastics.
Some countries have taken noteworthy steps, with ten already signing onto the #CleanSeas campaign. Indonesia, for example, has pledged to reduce marine litter by 70 percent by 2025, and Costa Rica says it will “take measures to dramatically reduce single-use plastic through better waste management and education.” Other nations are turning to taxes on plastic bags.
The UN Clean Seas campaign is a good place to start, as it will spread the awareness of a little-known problem much further afield. Awareness, however, is just the first small step. It must translate into real lifestyle changes in order to make any sort of difference. It requires people to think ahead – request no straw with a drink, pack containers and bags when going to the store, trade in the diaper wipes for a washcloth, kick the bottled water habit – and it requires municipal governments to take a strong, often unpopular, stance.
Just as microbeads are being eliminated in many places, plastic shopping bags should be, too; or at least the tax should be high enough to deter anyone, say $5 a bag, instead of 5 cents. Every town should have a bulk food store where the use of reusable containers is incentivized. Styrofoam and plastic takeout containers should be made illegal. Places to return packaging directly to manufacturers should be built alongside recycling facilities, based on the successful model of returning wine and beer bottles for refund in the province of Ontario. Schools need to start teaching children to care proactively for the Earth and to live with a reduced footprint, much like the strong anti-littering messages taught in Japan.
Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard quotes Wang Yang Ming in his book, Let My People Go Surfing: “To know and not to do is not to know.” Hopefully the Clean Seas campaign will be that crucial first step toward informing greater swaths of the world’s population and inspiring them to further action.
By The Librarian
United Nations Building, New York City
Photo Credit: Flash 90
For years, critics of the United Nations have been calling on the U.S. to defund and even quit the world body. Some have urged that a rival or successor organization be established. Now, the empty sheet of bitter discontent with the UN has been filled in with a new name and a new movement calling to “defund and replace” the troubled organization with the Covenant of Democratic Nations. This writer has been a participating witness to the birth of this movement.
Just days after the passage of UN Resolution 2334, which declared, among other things, that Israel’s Jewish connection to the Western Wall was effectively illegal, concrete replacement action began. It has started with a conversation of ideas proposing an official international conference that would carefully propound a multilaterally-signed diplomatic convention to be ratified by countries as a binding treaty that would juridically forge the covenant into operational reality.
The entire process would be limited to nations governed by democratic principles. Each member would or could defund the United Nations while it labored to construct a successor entity dedicated to world peace along democratic principles with equal respect for all people regardless of religion, gender, race, identity, or national origin, as well as formulating a mechanism to resolve disputes.
A prime mission of the new world body would be to re-ratify, amend, or nullify all acts and resolutions of the United Nations and its agencies such as UNESCO. Thus, the Covenant would create a new body of long-overdue, reformed, clarified, and updated international law. Sensibly, most CDN nations would remain as vestigial members of the UN overseeing its collapse from economic and bureaucratic processes as was done when the League of Nations was dissolved after World War II and replaced with the present UN.
Clearly, the history of world bodies, fluttering high-minded banners of peace on earth following wars that scorched the world and scarred all humankind, is not a good one. The League of Nations was born after World War I out of a quest for revenge by the victors, laced with a visionary desire to end colonialism and empower self-determination among nationally awakened peoples, so long as the whole business conquered the oil fields of the Mideast, lubricating the machinery of the post-Second Industrial Revolution West—and the multinational corporate palms that controlled it.
Countries were invented that had never existed, carved and chipped off the toppled Turkish and German empires, with handpicked kings and sovereigns put into place who could legally sign lucrative petroleum contracts. Backstage, oil companies got the oil. But the flaccid League of Nations – which never included the United States –proved its utter uselessness during the Hitler regime.
After World War II, the League was replaced by the United Nations. Although enshrined as a democratic enterprise, profoundly undemocratic and scheming governments penetrated the organization from its inception. Civil war-torn China and a tyrannical and hegemonic Soviet Union joined France, Great Britain, and the United States to create the Security Council. Expansion, inclusion, and extension eventually enrolled 193 nations, including such egalitarian democracies as North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Saudi Arabia. The world body began as a sick organ and deteriorated from there.
The Covenant conversation launched in earnest on January 23 when a panel of like-minded voices assembled in a crowded Gold Room of the Rayburn House Office Building. Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ,) who currently supports a bill to defund the UN, opened the Covenant Launch proceedings by declaring, “This is a critically important issue. The United Nations started out with a noble charter…but the United Nations has not only failed their charter, they have distinctly moved in the opposite direction and done actual harm…. They have become an anti-American, anti-Semitic, anti-democratic, anti-freedom mob…. We need some type of alternative – a Covenant of Democratic Nations…. We need to repeal and replace.”
Sarah Stern, founder of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), pinpointed America’s 22 percent share of the overall UN budget. Stern said America was not getting what it pays for when “despotic, ruthless, tyrannical regimes” such as Syria “could pass judgment on the one democracy in the Middle East.” The UN has, she said, proven to be “abysmal” and added, “It is now time to begin having this conversation about dissolving the United Nations and replacing with a Covenant of Democratic Nations that share our common values…of tolerance, human rights, and the rule of law.”
Famed constitutional attorney Nathan Lewin, who has worked on 28 Supreme Court cases, proclaimed to the room, “The United Nations deserves an obituary…because the United Nations committed suicide when it adopted Resolution 2334. It wrote its own death warrant…. Today I am happy to join a group that would spell the end of the United Nations, the end of its funding, it presence and significance in the world order.”
The Covenant launch in Washington was only the beginning. Additional panels and town hall meetings will convene in several locales in the coming weeks. The conversation has begun.
About the Author: Edwin Black is the author of several books including “ IBM and the Holocaust” and the initiator of the Covenant of the Democratic Nations effort. For his prior efforts, he has been awarded the Moral Courage Award, the Moral Compass Award, and the Justice for All Award.
By Guest Nicole
Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart said yesterday the sanctity of what was mentioned to a priest during the sacrament of confession was ‘inviolate in the Catholic Church throughout the world’. Picture: Josie Haden
The child abuse royal commission will collide with the Catholic Church over the confidentiality of the confessional when it holds a public inquiry into the disproportionately high numbers of abusive priests.
With evidence before the commission suggesting that as many as 13 per cent of those in some Catholic orders may be perpetrators, the commission will hold a three-week hearing in February to investigate what has led to this level of abuse and governed its cover-up.
Evidence gathered in case studies, submissions and private hearings to date has led the commission to target several pillars of the church during the hearing, including the role of the Vatican, canon law, celibacy and the use of secrecy.
It is the confessional, where an individual privately reveals his sins to a priest in return for absolution, that is likely to prove the most contentious.
While church leaders have conceded celibacy and an organisational structure that provided priests with unquestioned authority may have led to child abuse, they are expected to hold the line on the sanctity of the confessional during February’s hearing.
This will likely place them at odds with the commission, which this week published a report criticising the Jehovah’s Witnesses for using Christian doctrine to avoid reporting admissions of abuse to police.
By Guest Nicole
UNESCO has intervened in the long-running Israeli-Arab conflict over Jerusalem's holy sites of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. It passed a resolution for the sites to be referred to only by their Arabic names - Haram al-Sharif and the Buraq Wall - thereby ignoring any Jewish connection.
By The Librarian
Over the past year we have been celebrating 70 years of the United Nations and indeed, there is much to be proud of and grateful for. Over the past year alone, Member States adopted an ambitious development agenda – Agenda 2030 – as well as the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change, a process in which I was honoured to play a role. These agreements demonstrate, once again, the power and the value of the UN when its Member States are united in purpose.
At the same time, the world is facing complex challenges that the UN’s founders could have scarcely imagined 70 years ago. As our societies have grown more interconnected, so have our problems. The global migration and refugee crisis has demonstrated that armed conflict, environmental degradation and human rights violations in one part of the world can have repercussions across the world. We are already witnessing the effects of climate change, the impacts of which are being felt most acutely by the poorest societies that are least able to cope. We have also been made painfully aware that terrorism knows no borders and that violent extremists are increasingly adept at exploiting power vacuums, instability and discontent to spread hatred and destruction.
Image: United Nations Working together to tackle the biggest challenges
It is evident that we can no longer afford to deal with such challenges in an isolated manner or ignore the full range of their impacts – social, political, environmental and economic. Doing so risks inflaming vicious cycles of conflict. The only way to take on these challenges is by working collectively; either we figure out ways of winning together, or we will all lose together.
In these complicated times, and in a fraught and shifting geopolitical environment, the United Nations remains the indispensable organization that can bring the world around the table to formulate collective responses to shared challenges. Even as these challenges grow increasingly complex, Member States continue to turn to the UN as the universal forum to build consensus and unity in the face of daunting obstacles. But in order to deliver on its crucial responsibilities in a fast-moving world, the UN as an institution has to evolve. This requires visionary leadership and creativity to adapt the way we think, the way we engage, and the way we work.
Four priorities for peace and security
For the UN to take on the global challenges of the 21st century, I believe the next secretary-general should focus on four broad priorities in the field of peace and security.
First, conflict prevention and strengthened political engagement must be brought to the forefront of the UN’s agenda. This is not a new idea –three major reviews of the UN’s peace and security architecture over the past year have reiterated this point. The UN secretariat needs to be more creative in presenting to the Security Council the full spectrum of instruments we have at our disposal to prevent and de-escalate conflicts, from special envoys, regional political offices and political missions, to peacebuilding support efforts and specialized, interdisciplinary teams that can provide host governments with focused support. The UN should also use its greatest assets – its convening power and legitimacy – to be more active at bringing together stakeholders to negotiate political settlements and resolve conflicts before violence erupts.
Additionally, we must remember that conflict prevention requires sowing the seeds of long-term peace through development and prosperity. Agenda 2030 highlights the old truth that there is no peace without sustainable development – and no sustainable development without peace.
A second priority should be promoting full integration of UN system-wide efforts. Too often the UN’s political, developmental and human rights efforts are functioning at cross-purposes. This must stop. The multi-dimensional challenges we face require multi-dimensional thinking and action. We must overcome institutional inertia and instil a culture of systemic collaboration and inter-disciplinary thinking appropriate for the interconnected world we live in. The new secretary-general and their team should find innovative ways of harnessing the full capacities of the UN system, including the agencies, funds and programmes to be able to tackle issues on all fronts. This also requires undertaking renewed efforts to promote better internal governance, transparency and accountability. And we must heed the call from both Member States and UN staff to adapt our bureaucratic processes to be more agile and effective, and better respond to evolving realities in the field.
Third, the UN must become a better partner. Regional and sub-regional organizations such as the African Union, European Union, Arab League, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and others play a critical role in conflict resolution and prevention. We must recognize that other actors are sometimes better placed to react more rapidly and effectively. In such cases, we should work together with these organizations to identify the ways the UN can best support and enable regional efforts. And our approach should be grounded in a spirit of mutual respect and recognition of comparative advantages.
Finally, the next secretary-general should redouble diplomatic engagement with Member States, particularly the Security Council, through closer and more regular interaction aimed at finding and expanding points of consensus. While the Council has been criticized for its handling of the Syrian crisis, we must recognize that it found common ground on the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons and on authorizing cross-border humanitarian access. Even in the most seemingly intractable conflicts, there is room for agreement on issues of common interest, and the secretary-general should use their diplomatic arsenal and creativity to facilitate consensus among Member States, even when consensus seems impossible.
Making the impossible a reality
Indeed, a universal agreement to combat climate change seemed impossible only a few years ago. But through persistent, hopeful leadership and old-fashioned multilateral diplomacy –the UN’s raison d’être and greatest strength – we were able to make the impossible possible. I am confident that together we can do the same for the multitude of challenges we face today. Billions of people around the world affected by conflict, poverty and hardship are counting on us. We cannot fail them.
By Guest Nicole
A Catholic priest has confessed he sexually abused around 20 boys decades ago on the U.S. island of Guam - but was never prosecuted. Other Church members were aware of the situation, but only suggested the priest pray and repent for his sins.
By Guest Nicole
AN UNHOLY row has broken out after the Protestant owner of a Christian bookshop refused to sell a bible to a woman - because she is CATHOLIC.
Muriel Swan, 61, was told she should “get the Pope to open a few bookshops for her” after she was turned away from The Mustard Seed Christian Bookshop.
She went to the shop to look for a gift for her eight-year-old grandson Cameron for his first Holy Communion.
But she was left cross when, she claims, staff told her they didn't stock Catholic literature and goods - despite advertising themselves as a Christian bookshop.
Mrs Swan blasted the owner of shop in Gedling, Nottingham, for being "anti-Catholic".
The gran-of-six, a carer from Redhill, Nottingham, said: "We asked the lady in the shop if she had anything for first communion and the reaction we received left us reeling.
"In this day and age I was left speechless when she said the shop was anti-Catholic.
"She went almost into a rage, my grandson and daughter in law were upset by this, it was truly awful.
"I bought two bibles previously from there but when I mentioned buying one for Holy Communion she said we don't stock Catholic items.
"But a bible is a bible surely.
"That's not what really upset me though. It was the fact she said the words 'we are anti-Catholic.'
"It is like saying she is anti-Christ. It was verging on racism.
"I said 'well you do Confirmation gifts' and she said 'they are Church of England not Catholic.'
"I couldn't believe my ears, we just left the shop empty-handed and feeling dumbfounded.
"I've since found out although they are a Protestant shop but they also stock Jewish things too.
"I have come up against discrimination before but all the time I have lived in England this is the first time anti-Catholicism has reared its ugly head.
"There were other people in the shop and that made it worse.
"We just wanted to buy a special Bible."
The Mustard Seed, which has been running for more than 30 years, describes itself as "Nottingham's only Christian bookshop".
Defiant owner Chris Stala defended her store and said Muriel should "get the Pope to open a few bookshops for her".
She added: "We are Protestant, not Catholic.
"The bottom line is that if you want Catholic things go to a Catholic shop.
"The complaint is ridiculous and its just logical you won't get Catholic things here.
"If you want Catholic goods you go to a Catholic store.
"We are not anti-Catholic anyway. I am a Christian and she is too but we are part of different sects.
"You would not get Jehovah's Witnesses coming here either.
"We don't advertise as a Protestant shop but people who come here just know.
"She should get the Pope to open a few bookshops for her because he has plenty of money."
The Equality and Human Rights Commission refused to comment on the case as it is a private matter and said it was up to the shop what they sell.
The recent passing of music icon Prince has motivated many people to look at a once little-known fact about his life: his faith. Though he was baptized a Seventh-day Adventist, Prince became a Jehovah’s Witness. He regularly attended services and even knocked on doors, as this CNN.com story illustrates:
On one occasion Prince knocked on a door in a middle class suburb of Minneapolis. A woman answered and stared at the instantly recognizable singer, easily the Twin Cities’ biggest celebrity, Lundstrom recalled. “In the middle of Prince’s very nice Bible presentation, the woman says, ‘Excuse me, but has anyone told you that you look a lot like Prince?’ He looks at her and says, ‘It's been said.’ Then goes back to his presentation. When the woman asked Prince for his name, Prince said, ‘Rogers Nelson,’” his middle and last name.
One problem in stories like these and other commentary on Prince is that he is often described as a “conservative Christian,” even though Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Christians. Now, before I explain why Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Christians, I need to head off some objections, specifically: “How dare you question someone else’s faith!” and “Don’t you have any respect for the recently departed?”
First, when I say Prince was not a Christian, I’m not saying he was a bad person. “Christian” and “good person” are not synonymous. Bad people can be Christians—indeed, all Christians are sinners—and there are good people who happen to be non-Christians. The term Christianrefers instead to people who believe certain truths about God and have received certain sacraments, namely baptism, in accordance with those truths.
Second, I’m not questioning what Prince believed or judging the contents of his heart and soul. I’m assuming that Prince was a faithful Jehovah’s Witness until death. What I am saying is that if someone believes Jehovah’s Witnesses theology, he is not a Christian. Of course, the critic will reply, “Who gave you the right to say who is and isn’t a Christian?”
But even the critic will admit that some people, like Jews or atheists, are not Christians. His criteria for being a Christian is probably “anyone who says he is a Christian,” which makes sense in a world where one’s personal sense of self-identity is allowed to override almost any objective measure of reality. However, if Jesus rose from the dead and left us an authoritative church to guide believers to salvation, then I’m going to go with the definition of Christianity Christ’s Church gives us.
Tangling with the Trinity
The key difference between Christians and non-Christians such as Jehovah’s Witnesses is the doctrine of the Trinity. According to theCatechism of the Catholic Church:
Christians are baptized ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ Before receiving the sacrament, they respond to a three-part question when asked to confess the Father, the Son and the Spirit: “I do.” “The faith of all Christians rests on the Trinity” (CCC 232).
But Jehovah’s Witnesses emphatically deny the doctrine of the Trinity. They say the Trinity is “the lie that made God a mystery” and is simply “not a Bible teaching.”
Many of their objections to the Trinity can be answered by explaining what it actually is. For example, when Jesus was tempted to worship the devil, he refused and responded by quoting the Old Testament’s command to “worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve” (Luke 4:8).
The Watchtower, the official magazine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, says of this passage, “Jesus made it clear that there is just one God who must be worshipped when he said ‘him alone,’ not ‘us,’ which hewould have said if he were part of a Trinity.” But the Trinity doesteach that there is just one God to be worshiped, and this God is a unity that can be referred to as “him.” God is not a collection to be referred to as “us” but three persons united in one being, each of whom fully possess the divine nature.
Other Jehovah’s Witnesses criticisms of the Trinity try to prove that the doctrine is unintelligible or is a pagan belief that was assimilated by Christian doctrine and is not biblical. For example, one Watchtowerarticle says:
The Trinity, explain Catholic scholars Karl Rahner and Herbert Vorgrimler, "could not be known without revelation, and even after revelation cannot become wholly intelligible." Can you really love someone who is impossible to know or understand? The doctrine of the Trinity, therefore, is a barrier to knowing and loving God.
But this objection confuses being incomprehensible with beingunintelligible. Yes, the Trinity cannot be fully comprehended, or understood, in every respect. But just because something is not “wholly intelligible,” it does not follow that it is unintelligible, or nonsense. Jehovah’s Witnesses even admit that their God Jehovah is not completely understandable. According to their training manualReasoning from the Scriptures, “Should we really expect to understand everything about a Person who is so great that he could bring into existence the universe, with all its intricate design and stupendous size?
Since there is nothing else in the universe like the Trinity, we can expect that there would be things we don’t understand about this doctrine, even though on the whole the doctrine is not a logical contradiction. The Trinity is a mystery, but that does not mean it is some unknowable “black hole.” Rather, a theological mystery refers to truths that we would not know if God had not revealed them to us. It is, like other mysteries of the faith, “not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:13).
Jehovah’s Witnesses also claim the term Trinity is a pagan one derived from ancient mythology and is not found in the Bible. It is true that the word does not appear in Scripture, but neither do the wordsGoverning Body, generation of 1914, kingdom hall, or other words associated with many important Witnesses doctrines. This shows that a doctrine does not have to appear in the Bible in order for one to believe it to be true.
Furthermore, the claim that the Trinity is based on mythological “triads” of gods such as Osiris, Isis, and Horus in Egypt is false. These pagan triads are nothing like the Trinity, because they represent three different and competing gods, while the Trinity is one God who is three co-equal, co-eternal persons, or, as Tertullian wrote in A.D. 216, “The unity is distributed in a Trinity. Placed in order, the three are the Father, Son, and Spirit.”
The bottom line
All people, no matter what their beliefs, will eventually stand before God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That’s why Catholics evangelize, or share the good news about God: so that all people can have a relationship with God before death.
This is especially true when it comes to evangelizing groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons who claim Jesus as their savior but deny the deity of Christ. These groups don’t even feel it is appropriate to pray to Jesus, so it is an act of kindness, not arrogance, to correct their mistaken Christology. This is done out of love so that the person can come to know the God who not only became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14) but stands ready with the Father to dwell within our very being (John 14:23).
Join me in praying for the soul of Prince and for all those who die with mistaken beliefs about God. In this Year of Mercy especially we have hope of their eternal salvation.
If you want to learn more about how to answer the arguments of Jehovah’s Witnesses, see my booklet 20 Answers: Jehovah’s Witnesses.
 “The Lie That Made God A Mystery,” The Watchtower, November, 1 2013, 5. http://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/wp20131101/lie-made-god-a-mystery-trinity/. ?
 Reasoning From the Scriptures (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1989), 405. ?
 “Is the Trinity a Bible teaching?” The Watchtower, March 1, 2012, 23. http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2012173. ?
 “The Lie That Made God A Mystery,” The Watchtower, November, 1 2013, 5. http://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/wp20131101/lie-made-god-a-mystery-trinity/. ?
 Reasoning From the Scriptures (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1989), 149. ?
 Against Praxeas, 2. ?
After his conversion to the Catholic Faith, Trent Horn earned a bachelor's degree in history from Arizona State University and a master's degree in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is currently pursuing a graduate degree in philosophy from Holy Apostles College.
Trent is a...
more... Source:the Catholic Faith
In 2001, while he was a cardinal, the pope issued a secret Vatican edict to Catholic bishops all over the world, instructing them to put the Church's interests ahead of child safety. The document recommended that rather than reporting sexual abuse to the relevant legal authorities, bishops should encourage the victim, witnesses and perpetrator not to talk about it. And, to keep victims quiet, it threatened that if they repeat the allegations they would be excommunicated.
The main problem here is that the roman catholic "church" is one of the only organizations that has offered peverts of every stripe and pedophiles in particular a career, protection and access to children. Over time this has led to more and more perverts being attracted to the Church.
"The real problem the Catholic Church faces," explains Father Donald B. Cozzens, author of "The Changing Face of the Priesthood," is the "disproportionate number of gay men that populate our seminaries." "I think we have to ask the question: Why are 90 to 95 – and some estimates say as high as 98 – percent of the victims of clergy acting out against teen-agers, boys? Why isn't there ... a higher percentage of teen-age girls?" Cozzens declared on NBC's Meet the Press recently.
January 31, 2000 | CNN KANSAS CITY, Missouri (AP) -- Roman Catholic priests in the United States are dying from AIDS-related illnesses at a rate four times higher than the general population and the cause is often concealed on their death certificates, The Kansas City Star reported in a series of stories that started Sunday.
WE ARE NOT TALKING NUMBERS, BUT ORDERS FROM THE CATHOLIC ORGANISATION TO COVER UP AND HIDE THEM!
By Guest Nicole
By Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service
Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience Bahram Hemdemov was not freed in the February amnesty and an appeal on his behalf is now being prepared to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18 News Service. Despite rulings from the UN Committee in 2015 that the rights of four imprisoned Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors had been violated (both by their imprisonment and torture during their imprisonment), the Turkmenistan government has failed to expunge their criminal records, offered recompense or taken measures to prevent similar violations in future. No alternative to compulsory military service has been introduced. Pirnazar Hudainazarov, Chair of Parliament's Legislative Committee, refused absolutely to discuss this with Forum 18. At the labour camp at Seydi where Hemdemov is being held, Muslim prisoners are too afraid to attend the prison mosque for fear of being branded "Wahhabis" and sent for harsher punishment, a former prisoner told Forum 18.
Jehovah's Witnesses have expressed disappointment that 52-year-old prisoner of conscience Bahram Hemdemov was not included in the prisoner amnesty declared in February, when 1,485 prisoners were reportedly freed. All Hemdemov's attempts to overturn his sentence on appeal have failed. "Since his imprisonment, officers have pressured him to confess to fabricated violations, subjected him to hard physical labour, and severely beaten him in retaliation for judicial complaints filed by his wife on his behalf," Jehovah's Witnesses lamented to Forum 18 News Service. No civilian alternative to compulsory military service has been introduced.
An appeal on Hemdemov's behalf is being prepared to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18.
Hemdemov is being held in the general regime section of the Seydi Labour Camp, in the desert in the eastern Lebap Region. Many prisoners of conscience have been held there in recent years, including Jehovah's Witness and Protestants. Many of these have been tortured in the camp in recent years (see Forum 18's Turkmenistan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1676).
Muslims in the Seydi Labour Camp are too frightened to attend the prison mosque (see below).
No conscientious objectors to military service are known currently to be imprisoned. The last known imprisoned conscientious objector, Ruslan Narkuliyev, was freed in February 2015 (see F18News 18 February 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2039).
UN: rights violated
In March and October 2015 the UN Human Rights Committee found that Turkmenistan had violated the rights of four young men by imprisoning them for refusing compulsory religious service on grounds of religious conscience. The Committee also ruled that beatings and other maltreatment (such as a head being repeatedly bashed against a wall) of Zafar Abdullayev, Mahmud Hudaybergenov, Ahmet Hudaybergenov and Sunnet Japparov is torture and the government needs to provide reparations (see below).
The government is also under an obligation to arrest those guilty of the torture.
No one at the Foreign Ministry in the capital Ashgabad was available on 5 April to discuss with Forum 18 what measures – if any – have been put in place to compensate the four young men for the violation of their rights or to prevent others similarly having their rights violated.
The official who answered the telephone at Turkmenistan's Mission to the United Nations in Geneva on 5 April told Forum 18 that Ambassador Atageldi Haljanov was unavailable and asked for questions to be sent in writing. The same day Forum 18 wrote to ask what steps the government has taken to recompense these four young men for the violations of their rights and what steps it has taken to prevent the violations (imposition of compulsory military service, torture) happening again. Forum 18 had received no response by the end of the working day in Switzerland.
New Religion Law, but no alternative service law
On 26 March, Turkmenistan's parliament, the Mejlis, adopted a new Religion Law. The text had not been made public by 5 April (see forthcoming F18News article).
However, despite the UN Human Rights Committee's reminder to Turkmenistan that guaranteeing those with conscientious objections to serving in the armed forces requires the provision of a genuine civilian alternative, the country has not adopted an alternative service law or any other civilian alternative to compulsory military service.
Turkmenistan offers no alternative to its compulsory military service. Article 41 of the Constitution describes defence as a "sacred duty" of everyone and states that military service is compulsory for men. Military service for men between the ages of 18 and 27 is generally two years. A proposed Alternative Service Law was reportedly drafted in 2013, but officials have been unable to tell Forum 18 if and when it might be adopted (see F18News 29 September 2014 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2002).
Pirnazar Hudainazarov, Chair of the Mejlis Legislative Committee, refused absolutely to discuss why no civilian alternative service has been introduced. "You shouldn't call me – you need to speak via the Foreign Ministry," he insisted to Forum 18 on 5 April. He then put the phone down without explaining why the Foreign Ministry needed to be involved. The telephone of Atamurad Tayliev, Chair of the Mejlis Committee on the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms, went unanswered the same day each time Forum 18 called.
Raid, arrest, torture, prison term
Police arrested Hemdemov on 14 March 2015 during a raid on a meeting for worship in his home in Turkmenabad [Turkmenabat] (formerly Charjew), following which they tortured him. On 19 May 2015 a Judge at Lebap Regional Court sentenced him to the maximum four year prison term on charges of inciting religious hatred under Criminal Code Article 177, Part 2. The Judge also ruled that Hemdemov's property should be confiscated (see F18News 21 May 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2063).
"The prison warden refused to allow anyone to visit Bahram Hemdemov in prison - including close relatives - until the time limit for appealing against the verdict had passed," Jehovah's Witnesses complained to Forum 18. "The warden thus prevented Bahram or a representative from appealing against the conviction."
On 10 June 2015 the authorities transferred Hemdemov from his home town of Turkmenabad to the labour camp in Seydi.
Hemdemov's wife, Gulzira Hemdemova, appealed to the Supreme Court in Ashgabad. However, the deputy chair of the Supreme Court found no basis to grant the appeal. In early August 2015, Hemdemov's lawyer filed a supervisory appeal. On 25 August 2015, the Supreme Court denied the appeal because Hemdemov "propagates the religious beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses", fellow Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18.
Hemdemov's address in prison is:
746222 Lebap vilayet
Afraid to attend prison mosque
Although the general regime Seydi labour camp has its own prison mosque, prisoners are afraid to attend, according to a former prisoner in the camp. "The mosque is open to any prisoner, but Muslim prisoners won't go for fear of being branded a ‘Wahhabi'," the former prisoner told Forum 18. "So at Friday prayers there are usually only about four or five people." The former prisoner added that the prison library – which prisoners make good use of - has no religious literature.
The term "Wahhabi" is widely used in Central Asia for any devout Muslim, regardless of whether they do or do not commit or espouse violence.
Prisoners branded as "Wahhabis" are given harsh treatment and are often confined in special sections of prisons. In February 2015 in the strict regime Seydi Labour Camp, Muslim prisoners convicted of alleged "Wahhabism" were subjected to brutal beatings. One man suffered a broken hand, while another suffered a broken rib and damage to his lung.
Many imprisoned "Wahhabis" are also held in a closed section of the isolated top-security prison at Ovadan-Depe in the Karakum desert 70 kms (45 miles) north of Ashgabad (see F18News 18 February 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2039).
Forum 18 has been unable to find out if these "Wahhabis" were imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief or for committing crimes.
Authorities frequently use torture
The authorities frequently use torture and violence, including violence apparently ordered by the government. In 2011 the UN Committee against Torture found that, in Turkmenistan "persons deprived of their liberty are tortured, ill-treated and threatened by public officers, especially at the moment of apprehension and during pretrial detention, to extract confessions and as an additional punishment after the confession" (see UN reference CAT/C/TKM/CO/1 http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4ef0540f2.html).
This includes against the relatives and friends of 15 then-current and former conscientious objector prisoners who appealed to the UN Human Rights Committee between September 2012 and August 2013 against their imprisonment and maltreatment. The prisoners of conscience were in Seydi Labour Camp regularly subjected to spells in the punishment cell and some were brutally beaten (see F18News 21 March 2014 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1940).
After the UN sought information from the government about the complaints, the home of a prisoner was raided in January 2013 and individuals were beaten, threatened with rape and fined (see F18News 14 February 2013 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1801).
UN says rights violated
The four Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors - Abdullayev, Mahmud Hudaybergenov, Ahmet Hudaybergenov and Japparov - all lodged cases against Turkmenistan to the UN Human Rights Committee in September 2012. They complained both about their conviction and punishments for wishing to perform a civilian alternative service in place of the compulsory military service, as well as beatings and other torture they endured while imprisoned. Abdullayev also complained that he had been convicted and punished twice for the same "crime".
In a 17 March 2014 response to the UN Human Rights Committee, the Turkmen authorities insisted all four were not eligible for exemption from compulsory military service and that each man's criminal offence was "determined accurately according to the Criminal Code of Turkmenistan" and had been "considered carefully" by the courts. The response failed to address the issue of why the men had not been offered a civilian alternative to military service or why they had been tortured while imprisoned.
The UN Human Rights Committee issued its decisions in 2015 (Zafar Abdullayev v. Turkmenistan, 25 March 2015 (CCPR/C/113/D/2218/2012); Mahmud Hudaybergenov v. Turkmenistan, 29 October 2015 (CCPR/C/115/D/2221/2012); Ahmet Hudaybergenov v. Turkmenistan, 29 October 2015 (CCPR/C/115/D/2222/2012); Sunnet Japparow v. Turkmenistan, 29 October 2015 (CCPR/C/115/D/2223/2012)). The UN made public Abdullayev's decision in May 2015, the other three in December 2015.
The Committee found in all four cases that the men's right to freedom of religion or belief under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights had been violated.
"The right to conscientious objection to military service inheres in the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion," the Committee noted. "It entitles any individual to an exemption from compulsory military service if such service cannot be reconciled with that individual's religion or beliefs. The right must not be impaired by coercion. A State may, if it wishes, compel the objector to undertake a civilian alternative to military service, outside the military sphere and not under military command. The alternative service must not be of a punitive nature. It must be a real service to the community and compatible with respect for human rights."
The Committee found in all four cases that the men's right to be free from torture under Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights had been violated.
"The Committee takes note of the author's claim that, when he was arrested on 4 September 2010, the police slammed his head against a wall and that, after his conviction, during the first 18 days of his detention he was beaten on four occasions," the UN ruling in the case of Ahmet Hudaybergenov notes. "The author also claims that upon arrival at the LBK-12 prison on 8 October 2010, he was again beaten and that beatings continued regularly throughout his imprisonment. The State party has not refuted these allegations, nor provided any information in this respect. In the circumstances, due weight must be given to the author's allegations."
In Abdullayev's case, the Committee found that his right not to be punished twice for the same offence under Article 14, Part 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights had been violated.
"Under an obligation" to make reparation
All four judgments point out that under Article 2, Part 3a of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Turkmenistan's government is "under an obligation" to provide the victims with an effective remedy. "This requires it to make full reparation to individuals whose Covenant rights have been violated. Accordingly, the State party is also obligated, inter alia, to expunge the author's criminal record and to provide him with adequate compensation. The State party is under an obligation to avoid similar violations of the Covenant in the future, which includes the adoption of legislative measures guaranteeing the right to conscientious objection."
The government has not expunged the criminal convictions of Abdullayev, Mahmud Hudaybergenov, Ahmet Hudaybergenov or Japparow, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. Nor has it offered compensation. Nor has it adopted a civilian alternative to compulsory military service.
The UN Human Rights Committee said it "wishes to receive" from Turkmenistan its response on measures it had taken within 180 days. It also requested Turkmenistan to publish the Committee's rulings in the cases.
Forum 18 is not aware that the Turkmen government has responded to the UN Human Rights Committee on Abdullayev's case. However, it provided "brief" responses on the other three cases and "dialogue" is continuing, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. (END)
Russia Targets Jehovah’s Witnesses With Anti-Extremist Legislation, Reports UN Human Rights CommitteeBy Guest Nicole
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia—The year 2016 marks 125 years since czarist authorities banished Semyon Kozlitskiy, one of the first Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, for preaching the Bible’s message. In 1891, without a trial, Mr. Kozlitskiy was shackled in chains and exiled to Siberia, where he lived until his death in 1935.
Over the past century, Russia’s feelings toward Jehovah’s Witnesses have remained largely the same. As noted in the latest reporting cycle of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, numerous sources indicate that Russia continues “to curtail freedom of expression, . . . and freedom of religion, targeting, inter alia, Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt, United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
The Human Rights Committee has been mandated to monitor compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Russia is a state party. “The drafters of the ICCPR,” says Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, “recognized the essential character of freedom of religion or belief by making it, in its internal sphere, non-derogable [cannot be taken away or compromised] even in times of emergency (Article 4.2). Being non-derogable is a status that few other categories of human rights enjoy.” Following its 113th session (see top image), the Committee issued its latest periodic report of the Russian Federation, concluding that while Russia ostensibly protects freedom of religion by being party to the Covenant, courts throughout the federation have been arbitrarily wielding anti-extremist legislation against the Witnesses.
Russia’s Federal Law “On Combating Extremist Activity” (No. 114-FZ), was adopted in 2002, partly to address concerns about terrorism. However, Russia amended the law in 2006, 2007, and 2008 so that it extends “far beyond any fears of extremism linked to terrorism,” according to the article “Russia’s Extremism Law Violates Human Rights,” published in The Moscow Times. Now the law “simply seizes upon the ‘terrorist’ vocabulary that has become commonplace internationally since the 9/11 assault on the Twin Towers in [New York City], and uses it to describe unwelcome religious groups across Russia,” explains Derek H. Davis, formerly the director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. Hence, “the ‘extreme’ label,” says Mr. Davis, “has been unfairly and disproportionately used against Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
The Human Rights Committee detects that the heart of the problem lies in the law’s vague definition of extremist activity. Geraldine Fagan, author of Believing in Russia—Religious Policy After Communism,explained to The Washington Post that the law’s open-ended language makes it very easy for local courts “to rustle up a few so-called experts who may not particularly like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and get them to write a report that their literature is extremist.”
Such was the case at the start of this year, when negative testimony by an expert linguist resulted in a Vyborg City Court judge declaring two of the Witnesses’ magazines extremist. The same prosecutor also filed a claim to declare as extremist the New World Translation, the Bible produced by the Witnesses. Hearings began on March 15, 2016.
Bible literature intended for import to Russia stored at the Central Europe branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses located in Selters, Germany. In March 2015 Russian customs officials began blocking imports of the Witnesses’ publications.
The Witnesses’ legal difficulty in 2016 was presaged by alarming developments in 2015. As Roman Lunkin, head of the Center for Religion and Society Studies at the Institute of Europe Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, points out, “not only did persecution become more severe in 2015 but it also significantly increased.” In March, Russian authorities blocked all imports of the Witnesses’ religious literature, even literature that Russian courts had previously examined and declared free of any signs of extremism. In July, Russian customs officials began blocking the importation of Russian-language Bibles published by the Witnesses. Also in July, the Russian Federation became the only country in the world to ban the Witnesses’ official website, jw.org. In November, Jehovah’s Witnesses were denied import of a shipment of Russian Synodal Bibles commonly used by other Christian communities in Russia—including the Russian Orthodox Church. The year ended with what The Washington Postdescribed as “one of Russia’s largest anti-extremism trials in recent memory,” when a judge in the port city of Taganrog convicted 16 of Jehovah’s Witnesses on criminal charges for organizing and attending peaceful religious meetings.
In the Taganrog case, as well as others like it, there is great irony. “The older generation of Jehovah’s Witnesses who are being prosecuted already hold certificates as victims of repression,” recalls Mr. Lunkin. During the Soviet era, thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses were imprisoned. In 1990, Russia released the last of the Witnesses. These former prisoners had their reputation officially cleared, each receiving Certificates of Rehabilitation, which stated they were not “enemies of the nation,” but innocent victims. Thus, reasons Mr. Lunkin, “Russian authorities are now, by means of the anti-extremist legislation, in effect, revoking that rehabilitation.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia did, however, win a rare legal victory on May 27, 2015, when the Russian Federation Ministry of Justice restored the registration of Jehovah’s Witnesses as a Local Religious Organization (LRO) in Moscow, a status the Witnesses lost when their legal entity in Moscow was liquidated on March 26, 2004. The Witnesses appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and on June 10, 2010, the ECHR ordered Russia to reinstate the Witnesses’ registration in Moscow as well as pay moral damages.
Lyubov and Alexey Koptev, Jehovah’s Witnesses, embrace in their garden in Taganrog, Russia, on November 11, 2015. On November 30, 2015, Mr. Koptev, along with 15 other Witnesses, was convicted at the Taganrog City Court for extremist activity—organizing and attending peaceful religious meetings. Mr. Koptev, a retiree with grandchildren, holds merits from the state for 38 years of faithful work at the legendary Factory ‘Red boilermaker’ (‘Krasnyy Kotelshik’).
“I agree with the ECHR’s finding,” states the UN Special Rapporteur. “Banning Jehovah’s Witnesses’ right to organize themselves according to their religion was ‘drastic’ and ‘disproportionate,’ and violated freedom of religion.” Per the ECHR ruling, the Russian government paid the fine; but they waited to restore the Witnesses’ legal entity until last May—nearly five years after the ECHR order.
Certificates of Rehabilitation. Thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses who were imprisoned for their faith during the Soviet era received these documents upon their release, officially clearing their reputation and confirming that they were not “enemies of the nation.”
A spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, Yaroslav Sivulskiy, states: “Moscow is home to over 9,600 Jehovah’s Witnesses, with an estimated 175,000 Witnesses living throughout the federation. All Witnesses in Russia, as well as our global brotherhood of over 8 million worshippers, remain hopeful that the registration issued from Russia’s capital proves to be a harbinger of genuine religious freedom throughout the federation.” However, experts such as Mr. Davis suggest Russia’s move to restore Jehovah’s Witnesses as an LRO, “while integral to its facial obligations to practice religious freedom, should be viewed principally as a political move to appease the world community.”
In 2015 the Human Rights Committee reiterated its recommendations from 2003 and 2009, that Russia should “revise without undue delay the Federal Law on Combating Extremist Activity,” clarifying the definition of “extremist activity,” ensuring that it requires an element of violence or hatred and clearly outlines how materials may be classified as extremist. Additionally, the Committee has implored Russia to “take all measures necessary to prevent the arbitrary use of the law and revise the Federal List of Extremist Materials.”
Nikolay Trotsyuk (second from right) was imprisoned for three years for conscientiously objecting to military service during the Soviet era. On November 30, 2015, he was again criminally charged, this time along with his son-in-law Andrey Goncharov (far left), daughter Oksana Goncharova (third from left), son Sergey Trotsyuk (far right), and 12 other Witnesses in Taganrog.
“The discrimination against communities of Jehovah’s Witnesses constitutes religious persecution in the truest sense,” states Mr. Lunkin, “while other recognized religions can engage in the same religious activity as Jehovah’s Witnesses and remain unpunished.” Yet, after all of the legal accusations, often accompanied by aggressive media campaigns against them, Mr. Lunkin concludes, “Jehovah’s Witnesses remain a nationwide organization, and the number of their followers has steadily grown.”
Over the years, nearly 30 Roman Catholic dioceses around the country have publicly disclosed a list naming priests accused of sexually abusing children.
The names of all those 6,427 clergy are not publicly known, but through court documents, diocese lists and news reports,BishopAccountability.org has aggregated the
names of 4,129 accused priests.
This means there are at least 2,298 accused priests that have not yet been identified.
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