On April 16, Russian security services drove Raim Aivazov to a forest, forced him to his knees and put a gun to his head before firing a shot into the air. Aivazov, a Tatar Muslim activist from Crimea, was then told that the next time would be for real unless he signed a confession incriminating himself and other Crimean Tatars of membership in a terrorist group. Unfortunately, this incident was not an unusual one in Russian-occupied Crimea.
Face masks have become ubiquitous as the world continues to reel from the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, as the demand for face masks skyrocketed, so too have concerns about the labor conditions of the workers making them. According to a new report, some personal protective equipment imported from China was made in factories that use forced labor. This is part of a Chinese government program that forcibly sends ethnic Uyghurs and Kazakhs from their home in Xinjiang, a region in northwestern China that Uyghurs call East Turkistan, to work in factories across the country. The news that the equipment saving our lives was made at the expense of someone else’s freedom strikes us as a deeply troubling tradeoff. Unfortunately, it is just one example of many Chinese products in American markets made with forced labor.
Around the world, nations want to emulate the West in general, and the United States in particular, with regard to material achievements. We in the United States enjoy housing, clothes, electronics, and diet of an affluent nation. However, we have not done a good enough job of explaining to nations around the world that the major attribute that makes life worth living in the West is the freedom to express ideas in general, and religious ideas in particular.
Earlier this year, we joined hundreds gathered under a large tent outside of Khartoum, Sudan for Sunday mass. We served as a brief distraction for the curious eyes of children, who quickly returned to gently entertaining and minding the youngest among them.
Over half-a-million Central Africans remain displaced outside of their country, fearing religious or ethnic violence should they return. These refugees—many of them religious minorities—now find themselves wondering if they will be allowed to participate in rebuilding their war-ravaged country as the nation’s December elections approach.
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani must be released. As a religious prisoner of conscience in Iran, Pastor Nadarkhani is serving the second year of his six-year sentence, recently reduced from ten years. In the first half of this year, Iranian authorities have furloughed criminals, while those wrongly imprisoned for their religious beliefs remain locked up. In light of these circumstances, we call on the government of Iran to show mercy by releasing Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and return him safely to his family.
Tomorrow, August 3rd, the Yazidis will commemorate the sixth anniversary of the genocide committed by the so-called Islamic State, ISIS, that took place in Sinjar, located in northern Iraq. Yazidis will not have the chance to consider how to protect themselves from a future one. Instead, they will be haunted and reminded by the genocide they still endure. However, Yazidis should not be the only ones commemorating their tragedy, we all must.
For years, Deacon Jang Moon Seok ministered to North Koreans living in Changbai, China until he was kidnapped by North Korean agents in November 2014. The agents snuck across the border, abducted the deacon, and formally arrested him once he was on North Korean soil. Deacon Jang was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment. He was tortured for information about Han Chung-Ryeol, a high-profile pastor also working in Changbai whom North Korean agents assassinated in 2016.
Several airlines offer direct flights from Burma to Malaysia, but many Rohingya Muslims like Sharifah Shakira can only make the journey by using human traffickers. At the age of five, Shakira’s mother had her smuggled out of Burma to protect her from the military’s ongoing genocidal campaign against Rohingya Muslims. In the trunk of a car, trekking through jungles, and at the bottom of a boat, Shakira made the journey for her life to the shores of Malaysia.
As the world passively watches, Turkey is currently amassing troops on its border in preparation of once again invading and adding to its disastrous occupation of northeast Syria. It is imperative that the U.S. and the international community consider the consequences of Turkey’s actions on religious freedom in Syria—particularly on Yazidis, Christians, and Kurds—and take action before it is too late.