Displaying items by tag: UN
A Saudi women’s rights activist, Loujain al-Hathloul (31), was arrested along with about a dozen other female activists in May 2018. She has been on hunger strike for a week, and on 5 November her health was said to be rapidly worsening. UN experts are calling for her immediate release. She was arrested just weeks before Saudi Arabia lifted a decades-old ban on female drivers, yet she is still in prison. Her deteriorating health was ‘deeply alarming’, said the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The committee, made up of 23 independent experts, also voiced serious concern ‘by recent information concerning the conditions of Ms al-Hathloul’s prolonged detention, including reports that she is not allowed regular contact with her family’. Some activists arrested with her were provisionally released. Others remain in detention, subjected to waterboarding, sexual harassment, and court trials for contacting media, diplomats and human rights groups.
On 13 October, the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, the UN released a report saying the world needs rapidly to raise investment for early warning systems for extreme weather events. Over the past 50 years, recorded disasters have increased five-fold and could increase by 50% over the next decade; one in three people on Earth are not adequately covered by warning systems. The researchers are calling for a change in emphasis, from simply forecasting what the weather will be to showing the impact of that weather system. Pray for good-quality warning systems in the least developed countries and in small island states. The advent of coronavirus has made building early warning systems more difficult. Pray for governments to add climate change threat to pandemic threat as they strategise to save lives and livelihoods, and to focus investment on turning early warning information into early action. See
Days after the UN called for a halt to fighting in Yemen amid the coronavirus pandemic, a two-week ceasefire was declared by the Saudi-UAE coalition. But the Houthis said they would keep fighting unless a years-long siege on the impoverished nation is lifted. The conflict has killed over 100,000 people and pushed millions to the verge of famine. The vulnerable impoverished people now have their first coronavirus case, and the country is now bracing itself for the pandemic. Continue to pray for a de-escalation in the fighting, widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and for the Houthis to join the UN-sponsored talks for a settlement to the five-year conflict. Pray particularly for God to soften the heart of Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, the Houthi spokesman.
Ministers pledged urgent action after it emerged that tens of millions of British foreign aid cash is funding schools in Gaza and the West Bank where textbooks on martyrdom and radical Islamism are used in school lessons. The money goes via a UN agency that some other nations have stopped financing because of concerns. The textbooks include a reading exercise for six-year-olds with the words 'martyr' and 'attack', poems for eight-year-olds include phrases such as 'sacrifice my blood' to 'eliminate the usurper from my country' and 'annihilate the remnants of the foreigners'. Teaching on Newton’s Second law for eleven-year-olds uses pictures of a boy with a slingshot targeting Israeli soldiers during the Palestinian uprising and nine-year-olds learn maths by adding the number of martyrs in Palestinian uprisings in textbooks illustrated with pictures of their funerals. Ten-year-olds learn that the most important thing is giving their life for 'sacrifice, fight, jihad, and struggle'.
UK Christian politician Jeremy Hunt read Brother Andrew’s book ‘God’s Smuggler’ in his youth. This gave him a lifelong prayerful concern for the persecuted church. When he was appointed foreign minister, he looked into what the foreign service was doing to help persecuted Christians worldwide. What he discovered made him uncomfortable: there had been very high-profile interventions supporting Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Bahai in Yemen, and Yazidis in Iraq - but little UK and international diplomatic assistance for suffering Christians, even though NGOs and churches were advocating on their behalf. Mr Hunt identified possible blind spots for persecuted Christians by his staff: awkwardness about bringing God into politics, post-colonial guilt, and fearfulness of being seen to impose our faith on others. He called it ‘misguided political correctness’ in his independent review. Now Boris Johnson has appointed a special envoy on freedom of religion or belief to head up the process of dealing with Christian persecution. The UN and the EU have similar envoys.
The Foreign Office has called on China to allow UN observers ‘immediate and unfettered’ access to China’s Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region, after two leaks provided further evidence of mass arbitrary detentions. An estimated 1 to 3 million Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities are detained without charge in ‘political re-education’ camps. US media published 400+ pages of documents detailing widespread involvement of senior Chinese officials in these unprecedented mass detentions, where authorities use a scoring system to determine who can leave the camps. Also, the behaviour of relatives outside the camps can affect detainees’ chances of release. More documents were leaked by investigative journalists, similarly detailing mechanisms, guidelines and procedures behind the detentions in Xinjiang and the severity of conditions inside the camps. China claims that the camps are voluntary training centres to combat terrorism.
For decades political leaders have promised that free markets would lead to prosperity, which would take care of other problems. The promises came to nothing, and thousands of protesters are chanting, ‘Chile, wake up’. The middle class struggles with high prices, low wages, a privatised retirement system, and the elderly in bitter poverty. A series of corruption and tax-evasion scandals eroded faith in the political and corporate elite. While protests began peacefully over three weeks ago, now there are images of metro stations destroyed, supermarkets looted, and flaming street barricades. There are accusations of torture and abuse by the 200,000 security forces, who have used tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators. Social media is reporting many deaths. The UN is investigating human rights abuses. Two centuries after independence from Spain, the Catholic Christian faith of the conquistadors remains the largest in Chile today. Pray for the Church’s voice of peace and justice to be heard.
The UN has urged the Algerian government to stop harassing its Christian minority, after several churches, Christian bookshops and a day-care centre for Christian children were closed down in recent months. Dozens of other churches also received notifications ordering them to close. The UNHRC is reviewing Algeria’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and said it ‘remained concerned’ over the closures. It has called on Algeria’s government to ‘guarantee the full exercise of freedom of thought, conscience and religion to all’. It also said Algeria should ‘refrain from obstructing the religion of persons who do not observe the official religion, by destruction and closure of establishments or refusal to grant registration of religious movements’.
The 'Hope for the Middle East' petition, signed by over 800,0000 people, was presented at the United Nations on 12 December, urging the protection of Christians and other persecuted minorities in Iraq and Syria post-IS. It calls on the UN to work with religious leaders to maintain peace and rebuild Iraq and Syria.
Campaigners claim that disabled people are being ‘increasingly marginalised and shut out of society’ as they bear the brunt of Government spending cuts, most notably in their right to independent living. There are calls for the UK to take the human rights of disabled people more seriously, as officials prepare for an examination on the issue at the UN. The UN's Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had previously commented that the UK’s welfare reforms led to ‘grave and systematic violations’ of disabled people's rights. The Government strongly disagreed, saying that the UK is a world leader in disability rights and spends billions of pounds to support those with disabilities and health conditions every year.