Displaying items by tag: United Nations

Friday, 03 December 2021 09:46

Global: food shortages

The world is in a critical hunger situation. The global prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity in 2020 was equal to the previous five years combined. Nearly one in three people globally (2.37 billion) did not have enough food in 2020. Moderate or severe food insecurity affects over 30% of the world. Covid-19 had a devastating impact on the global economy, triggering an unprecedented recession not seen since the Second World War, and the food security and nutrition status of millions of people, including children, will deteriorate if we do not take swift action. We can pray for God to inspire united humanitarian and peacebuilding policies in conflict-affected areas that will ease blockages to food distribution and develop avenues of safe transit of all aid. Pray for the UN to intervene in food supply chains so that costs of nutritious foods are lowered.

Published in Worldwide

Al-Qaeda is still "heavily embedded" within the Taliban in Afghanistan, in spite of a historic US-Taliban agreement earlier this year, a senior United Nations official has told the BBC.

Earlier this year, the US signed an agreement with the Taliban committing to withdrawing all American forces from the country by next summer if the Taliban ensured groups including al-Qaeda were not able to use Afghan territory to plot international attacks.

But Edmund Fitton-Brown, co-ordinator of the UN's Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and Taliban Monitoring Team, has told the BBC that the Taliban promised al-Qaeda in the run-up to the US agreement that the two groups would remain allies.

"The Taliban were talking regularly and at a high level with al-Qaeda and reassuring them that they would honour their historic ties," Mr Fitton-Brown said.

He said the relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban was "not substantively" changed by the deal struck with the US. "Al-Qaeda are heavily embedded with the Taliban and they do a good deal of military action and training action with the Taliban, and that has not changed," he said.

Eliminating the threat from al-Qaeda and overthrowing the Taliban regime that had harboured them was the original basis for the US invasion of Afghanistan, following the 9/11 attacks. At the time, President George W Bush vowed to hunt the militants until there was "no place to run, or hide, or rest".

Al-Qaeda's strength and ability to strike the West has significantly diminished over the past decade, but its leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is believed to still be based in Afghanistan along with a number of other senior figures in the group. The Afghan intelligence services announced on Saturday they had killed Husam Abd al-Rauf, a high ranking Egyptian al-Qaeda member, in an operation in Ghazni province. Mr Fitton-Brown told the BBC that despite its lower profile, al-Qaeda remained "resilient" and "dangerous".

How the Taliban's relationship with al-Qaeda develops could determine the future of the Afghan peace process. The Taliban's commitments on international terrorism are the most tangible demands that need to be met as part of the US-Taliban withdrawal agreement. However, the issue is likely to prove divisive, with Taliban hardliners thought to oppose any measures cutting their links with al-Qaeda.

It is feared the Afghan peace process is in any case losing its momentum. Despite the beginning of long delayed negotiations between the Taliban and an Afghan government-led delegation last month in Qatar, violence has continued and even intensified in recent weeks.

The negotiations have stalled amid attempts to resolve preliminary issues, with major issues such as a ceasefire or power-sharing arrangement yet to be discussed. There are fears that if US troops are withdrawn next year, before an agreement has been reached, the violence could intensify and the Taliban push for a military victory.

Mr Fitton-Brown warned that, were the peace process to fall apart, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group could attempt to further exploit "ungoverned space" in Afghanistan.

"Both of those groups have an avowed aspiration to pose an international threat," he said.

More at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-54711452

Extracts from an email received from a humanitarian organization serving the people of Afghanistan:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

While the Taliban are in Doha now since one month to presumable talk about peace with high officials of the Afghan government, the fighting continues unabated and yesterday the Afghan Ministry of Interior (MoI) reported that 180 civilians have been killed and 375 have been wounded over the last month in a spate of violence across Afghanistan.

Many Afghans were expecting that a cease fire would be announced or fighting would slow down, but the Taliban have increased their attacks on the government, Army, police and civilians throughout the country.

“Where is peace? Which peace? While we are going to Doha for talks, you witness a wave of suicide attacks, there are explosions, soldiers are being killed - we do not need this kind of peace,” said Najibullah Kabuli.

Fighting was also reported close to the capital and to the city where our team from the North East is based and also in the west of the country fighting has increased and many other parts. The Taliban try to get into a stronger position as they negotiate with the government.

Please pray that the Taliban would be pushed back and defeated and they would not make any further success!

Please continue to pray also for the so-called peace talks in Doha/Qatar.

The Taliban will definitely try to get a big influence on the present government which could really change the society again into strict Sharia rules.
Please continue to pray for all our foreign and local workers and brothers and sisters for their protection.

This prayer update is based on input from a contact of IPC’s who is living in the region…

Thank you for your faithful prayers for Afghanistan.

COVID-19 spreads like wildfire and it looks like the whole country is penetrated by this virus. We received reports that it has now reached the mountainous areas whereas it was mostly contained in the larger cities.

Many people are dying because of lack of medical facilities. People are poor and cannot afford to buy oxygen cylinders. A big number of brothers and sisters, expats and locals have become quite seriously ill. Some are also suffering from tiredness, anxiety and depression.

Deborah Lyons, Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), told the Security Council on Thursday that the novel coronavirus outbreak is casting “a huge shadow” over Afghan daily life.  Under the leadership of the Afghan government, the United Nations is supporting a coordinated response that includes setting up a nationwide network of laboratories and the provision of personal protective equipment, she said.

Pray that the desperately needed medical aid will reach as far as the rural hospitals and clinics.  Pray that sufficient oxygen can be supplied to relieve the suffering of all of the patients, regardless of circumstances.

The other great challenge is the strong attacks of Talibans and ISIS against the army and police. They killed and wounded over 400 soldiers in one week. The National Security Council called it the bloodiest week in 19 years. https://aje.io/q3gru

Please continue to pray for an end of the fighting and that the Taliban and ISIS movements would come to an end.  Despite these attacks, the U.S. government is committed to withdraw their troops.

Pray that Afghans in their great desperation would call on the Name of the Lord and will encounter and start to follow Him.

Pray also for continued boldness for those in the country to witness and share the gospel.

Sayed Mukhtar 13, an Afghan teenager who was trained by the Taliban for a suicide attack, has surrendered to the Afghan security forces in Kunduz province, the Ministry of Interior said on Thursday.

The teenager claimed that he spent five years in a Taliban camp and pursued military education and tactics for suicide attacks.  Sayed Mukhtar was due to detonate explosives strapped to his body in a marriage gathering two days ago, but he changed his mind and surrendered to the Afghan security forces.

“This is one of the examples of how the Taliban has resorted to such brutal acts over the past decade-and-a-half. they could have devastated tens of youngsters and youths,” said Tariq Aryan, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior.

Pray that these despicable attacks will be stopped in their tracks and for the youngsters who have been brainwashed – that they will reject the instructions to cause devastation and the loss of innocent lives, like Sayed did.

UN Article More: https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/06/1067162

The UN chief called on the world to step up “financial, humanitarian and political commitments”, to help end nearly a decade of brutal conflict and suffering across Syria, in a video message delivered to the fourth Brussels Donor Conference on Tuesday.

“After nearly a decade of war and economic hardship, the scale of suffering remains shocking”, said Secretary-General António Guterres.

The conference received pledges of $5.5 billion in funding, to support humanitarian, resilience and development activities in 2020, and $2.2 billion for crisis response in 2021 and beyond.  In addition, multilateral development banks and bilateral donors pledged up to $6.7 billion in loans.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed; half the pre-war population, or over 12 million Syrians, are displaced, including 5.6 million who fled the country; millions are going hungry or are malnourished; and 90 per cent of the population lives in poverty. 

And all of this is being further compounded by the coronavirus

UN in solidarity 

Currently over 11 million Syrians need emergency assistance just to survive, many of whom rely solely on the UN and its humanitarian partners.  “We provide life-saving food, healthcare, sanitation facilities, education and protection services, to millions of Syrians every month”, the UN chief said. “We help to address their trauma and provide legal advice so they can start to rebuild their lives” – all of which depends on “generous” donor support. 

Since only “a political solution can end the suffering in Syria”, he urged “all those with influence” to help Syrians find common ground.  

Downward spiral

Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock noted that the Syrian crisis is “approaching the length of the combination” of the two World Wars, as it wreaks havoc and acute economic strain across the region.

He painted a gloomy picture of the Syrian economy in “a dramatic downturn” with prices of essential food, medicines and fuel “soaring” as the Syrian pound “fell to a record low against the US dollar this month”. 

The UN official cited estimates from the World Food Programme (WFP) in revealing that an “unprecedented level” of 9.3 million people there are food insecure and almost half a million children suffer from stunting, a consequence of malnutrition.

“And now we have COVOID-19, which has the potential to cause much more suffering and loss, with preparations to tackle it inside Syria wholly inadequate in the light of the degrading of the health system through the years of crisis”, added the humanitarian coordinator. 

Mr. Lowcock elaborated on how the UN was supporting the situation on the ground, including by providing food assistance to more than 3.2 million people; nutrition support for half a million children; critical water and sanitation for 1.3 million people; and four million medical procedures.

“The humanitarian assistance we provide across Syria and in the region depends on the generous support of the States and constituencies represented here”, he flagged.

Stolen educations

Noting that “one of the most tragic consequences of the horror story of the last decade has been the robbing of millions of children of their right to a decent education”, he foresaw major long-term consequences, “for more than fifty years”. 

“One of the major challenges is funding”, Mr. Lowcock said and asked donors to prioritize pledges to the education of these children, saying it is “in your own interests, but most importantly in theirs”.  

‘Unlocking’ a political process

Syrian Special Envoy Geir O. Pedersen reiterated his call for “a nationwide ceasefire”, along with the need to be vigilant about COVID-19, the importance of resolution 2254, which calls for a ceasefire and political settlement,  and the challenges posed by groups listed as terrorists by the Security Council. 

Moreover, he again appealed for the Syrian Government and other parties to “carry out large-scale, unilateral releases of detainees and abductees, and meaningful actions on the missing persons”.   Mr. Pedersen expressed his hope that the Syrian-led, Syrian-owned Constitutional Committee facilitated by the UN in Geneva “will be able to meet on a regular basis throughout the rest of the year”. 

Acknowledging that a constitutional discussion would not address the full range of dire realities Syrians grapple with, he maintained that the Committee’s work can be “a door-opener to unlock a broader political process”

Pray: For a negotiated ceasefire and a political settlement.
Pray: With thanks for the pledges of loans and donations to support the humanitarian aid, education and covid-19 relief efforts.  May further funds be released to scale up all of these initiatives.
Pray: for the organisations delivering the aid and medical assistance, for protection, good health and free access to those who need their help.
Pray: For the many people who have been displaced by this war, that they will find safe refuge amidst the challenges and hardships.
Pray: for the UN and countries with influence, that they will bring about lasting peace to Syria and the region.

More: https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/06/1067482

Saturday, 29 February 2020 04:06

East Africa faces new locust threat

The locusts are swiftly breeding and their numbers could increase 400-fold by June if the infestation is left unchecked, the UN has warned.

Countries in East Africa are racing against time to prevent new swarms of locusts wreaking havoc with crops and livelihoods after the worst infestation in generations.

A lack of expertise in controlling the pests is not their only problem: Kenya temporarily ran out of pesticides, Ethiopia needs more planes and Somalia and Yemen, torn by civil war, can't guarantee exterminators' safety.

Locust swarms have been recorded in the region since biblical times, but unusual weather patterns exacerbated by climate change have created ideal conditions for insect numbers to surge, scientists say.

Warmer seas are creating more rain, wakening dormant eggs, and cyclones that disperse the swarms are getting stronger and more frequent.

In Ethiopia the locusts have reached the fertile Rift Valley farmland and stripped grazing grounds in Kenya and Somalia. Swarms can travel up to 150 km (93 miles) a day and contain between 40-80 million locusts per square kilometre.

If left unchecked, the number of locusts in East Africa could explode 400-fold by June. That would devastate harvests in a region with more than 19 million hungry people, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned.

Uganda has deployed the military. Kenya has trained hundreds of youth cadets to spray. Lacking pesticides, some security forces in Somalia have shot anti-aircraft guns at swarms darkening the skies.

Everyone is racing the rains expected in March: the next generation of larvae is already wriggling from the ground, just as farmers plant their seeds.

"The second wave is coming," said Cyril Ferrand, FAO's head of resilience for Eastern Africa. "As crops are planted, locusts will eat everything."

The impact so far on agriculture, which generates about a third of East Africa's economic output, is unknown, but FAO is using satellite images to assess the damage, he said.

PESTICIDE SHORTAGES

This month, Kenya ran out of pesticide for about a week and a half, he said. Farmers watched helplessly as their families' crops were devoured. In Ethiopia, the government can only afford to rent four planes for aerial spraying, but it needs at least twice that number to contain the outbreak before harvesting begins in March, Zebdewos Salato, director of plant protection at the Ministry of Agriculture, told Reuters. "We are running out of time," he said.

Meanwhile, locusts - which have a life cycle of three months - are breeding. FAO says each generation is an average of 20 times more numerous. When eggs hatch, as they are doing now in northern Kenya, the hungry young locusts are earthbound for two weeks and more vulnerable to spraying than when they grow wings.

After that, they take to the air in swarms so dense they have forced aircraft to divert. A single square kilometre swarm can eat as much food in a day as 35,000 people. FAO said containing the plague will cost at least $138 million. So far, donors have pledged $52 million. Failure means more hunger in a region already battered by conflict and climate shocks.

Since 2016, there have been droughts in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, then floods, Ferrand said. In South Sudan, more than half the population already faces food shortages.

By Omar Mohammed and Dawit Endeshaw
More at: https://news.trust.org/item/20200227122340-3t5r8

Pray: that sufficient resources, pesticides and planes will be made available to tackle this problem before it escalates or spreads further.
Pray: for a divine intervention that will stop the breeding and spread of these swarms in their tracks.
Pray: into this prophetic word from David Sseppuuya that these nations will seek repentance that will lead to restoration.
Pray: for the Church to rise up in these countries and to take a spiritual lead. (Joel 2:15-17)

Friday, 14 February 2020 10:00

Iran: UN demands Iran give Christians fair trials

Four UN human experts on human rights, freedom of religion, minority issues and the right to health have issued a joint statement, urging Iran to ensure ‘a fair and transparent final hearing’ at the court for three Iranian Christians sentenced for ‘conducting evangelism’ and ‘illegal house church activities,’ among other charges. The experts have expressed concern over last year's sentencing of Pastor Tamraz, an Assyrian Pentecostal leader, and of Amin Afshar Naderi and Hadi Asgari, house-church Christians. They were given between 10 and 15 year prison sentences. In November the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, called on Christian leaders to intervene for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been held in an Iranian prison since 2016 (see). The Revolutionary Court was due to hold a hearing on 9 February; the outcome is not yet known.

Published in Worldwide
Friday, 14 February 2020 09:54

Africa: locusts, drought, famine

Somalia has declared a national emergency as desert locusts destroy vegetation. An average swarm containing 40 million insects can travel 150 km in 24 hours, devouring enough food to feed 34 million people in that time. The UN said it is a race against time to tackle this invasion amidst ongoing humanitarian challenges. A spokesman said, ‘We do have a chance to nip this problem in the bud, but that’s not what we’re doing at the moment.’ Kenya’s food security is threatened, particularly communities keeping livestock on endangered pastures. Swarms crossed into Uganda on 9 February, and Tanzania and South Sudan are now on the UN’s ‘watch list’. Also, insufficient rain means that over two million Somalis will need emergency food aid this year after the worst harvest in 25 years. 300,000 were displaced in eight months; many have headed for the capital, Mogadishu. Six million Kenyans are food-insecure, while seven million Zimbabweans need aid after successive droughts and an inflation rate of 300%. Urban families are feeling the pinch of soaring prices. See

Published in Worldwide
Thursday, 23 January 2020 21:47

Germany: Libya civil war Berlin meeting

The Berlin conference on Libya, attended by rival leaders in the civil war and many international leaders including Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Erdogan, concluded on 19 January. It set forth mechanisms for the establishment of a cease-fire committee which will meet regularly. However, few expect short-term changes on the ground in Libya, as a sustainable resolution remains elusive. In the days following the summit, observers said that Turkey’s increased involvement in the conflict has expanded its diplomatic clout in the nine-year conflict; it has positioned itself as a key broker in developments moving forward. Boris Johnson said that the aim of the conference was to ‘stop jockeying for position. The people of Libya have suffered enough. It is time for the country to move forward.’ 

Published in Europe

China is killing religious and ethnic minorities and harvesting their organs, UN Human Rights Council told.

Lawyers for independent China Tribunal say UN member states have ‘legal obligation’ to act.

The Chinese government is harvesting and selling organs from persecuted religious and ethnic minorities on an industrial scale, the UN Human Rights Council has been told.

Speaking at the council’s headquarters in Geneva on Tuesday, lawyer Hamid Sabi presented the findings of the China Tribunal, an independent tribunal on allegations of forced organ harvesting.

Mr Sabi told the council that UN member states have a “legal obligation” to act after the tribunal’s final report in June found that “the commission of crimes against humanity against the Falun Gong and Uighur [minorities] had been proved beyond reasonable doubt”.

The China Tribunal was chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC. It concluded that there was clear evidence China had been extracting organs from, and thereby killing, members of the Falun Gong spiritual group for at least 20 years, and that the practice was ongoing today.

Detainees were “killed to order - cut open while still alive for their kidneys, livers, hearts, lungs, cornea and skin to be removed and turned into commodities for sale”, the tribunal’s final judgement said. 

The tribunal said there was also possible evidence, though in less volume, of forced organ harvesting in detainees from the Uighur Muslim minority, as well as Tibetans and some Christian sects.

China’s campaign of detention and “re-education” of more than a million Uighurs in the northwestern Xinjiang province has gained significant international attention and condemnation. The tribunal found evidence they were “being used as a bank of organs” and subjected to regular medical testing.

China has repeatedly denied the use of unethical organ transplant practices, and said that it stopped using the organs from executed prisoners in 2015. In a statement earlier this year, it accused the London-based China Tribunal of perpetuating “rumours”.

But Sir Geoffrey said the evidence collated by the tribunal meant the international community “can no longer avoid what it is inconvenient for them to admit”.

The organ transplant industry is estimated to earn China more than $1bn (£801.4m) a year, according to the tribunal. Sir Geoffrey called on the International Transplant Society and national medical associations dealing with transplant surgery to “face up to what is revealed in the China Tribunal judgment and act”.

The International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (Etac), which initiated the China Tribunal, said it expects a private members bill to stop unethical organ tourism will be tabled in the UK parliament in October. Etac is hoping its findings will prompt the Human Rights Council to open up a UN Commission of Inquiry into forced organ harvesting in China, said Susie Hughes, the organisation’s executive director.

Adam Withnall Asia Editor - Independent

More at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/china-religious-ethnic-minorities-uighur-muslim-harvest-organs-un-human-rights-a9117911.html

Pray: that the international community will take a stand against this shocking and inhumane treatment of minority groups.

Pray: for the ‘re-education projects’ to be closed and for the human rights of all people across China to be restored and respected.

Pray: Lets pray continually, for the church in China, that despite persecution, it will grow stronger. (Matt 5:10)

Trump takes first UN stand to stop religious persecution.

President slams world leaders for 'silencing, shunning, or censoring the faithful.'

NEW YORK—President Donald Trump called on countries to end religious persecution around the world, asking governments to release prisoners of conscience and repeal laws that restrict religion and belief.

World leaders gathered in New York recently for the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Trump started his meetings by hosting the “Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom” event on Sept. 23 at U.N. headquarters.

In his keynote remarks, the president said that he was the first leader to initiate discussion of religious freedom and persecution at the UNGA high-level meetings. He added that the meeting was long overdue.

“I was shocked when I was given that statistic that I would be the first. That’s very sad in many ways,” he said. “Today, with one clear voice, the United States of America calls upon the nations of the world to end religious persecution.”

Trump urged governments around the world to stop persecuting their citizens, release prisoners of conscience, eliminate laws that restrict religion, and protect oppressed people.

“Our Founders understood that no right is more fundamental to a peaceful, prosperous, and virtuous society than the right to follow one’s religious convictions,” he said.

Trump noted that the religious freedom enjoyed by Americans is rare in the world, adding that 80 percent of the world’s population live in countries where religious liberty is threatened or banned.

He slammed world leaders saying that too often they “preach diversity while silencing, shunning, or censoring the faithful.”

In his speech, Trump condemned both state-sponsored persecution and terrorist attacks against religious targets in the United States and around the world.

“We’re also urging every nation to increase the prosecution and punishment of crimes against religious communities,” Trump said.

He announced that the United States would form a coalition of U.S. businesses for the protection of religious freedom.

“This is the first time this has been done. This initiative will encourage the private sector to protect people of all faiths in the workplace,” he said.

In addition, the Trump administration will allocate an additional $25 million fund “to protect religious freedom and religious sites and relics.”

‘Communist Party in China’

Speaking at the event, Vice President Mike Pence singled out countries where the persecution against people of faith is the most severe, such as Iran, Iraq, China, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

“The regime in Iran brutally persecutes Christians, Sunnis, Baha’i, and Jews,” he said, adding that Iran-backed militias slaughtered Christians and Yazidis in Iraq.

“The Communist Party in China has arrested Christian pastors, banned the sale of Bibles, demolished churches, and imprisoned more than a million Uyghurs in the Muslim population,” he said.

“The president’s speech is an important and historic moment precisely because religious freedom is too often ignored or downplayed at the U.N.,” Kelsey Zorzi, Alliance Defending Freedom international director of global religious freedom and president of the United Nations’ NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief, said in a statement.

By Emel Akan - Follow Emel on Twitter: @mlakan
Full article at:
https://epochtimes.today/trump-urges-nations-at-the-un-to-stop-religious-persecution/

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