ASIA/SYRIA - Torture and mutilation of children held in prisons in the country
Damascus (Agenzia Fides) - The United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) expressed serious concern due to the incidents of general violation of human rights that are registered in Syria and for the total impunity to the perpetrators, as well as for complaints of tortures and mutilation perpetuated on children held in prisons. In the Asian country, for about 9 months, a crackdown rages that has led to armed violence. Among them are mostly torture of prisoners, attacks on civilians, killings of protestors and persecution against the activists. In particular, there is concern about the violence and mutilation against children in prisons, of which public authorities cannot but be aware of. Considering the seriousness of the situation, the CAT has officially called on Syria to respond to these complaints in the shortest possible time. (AP) (Agenzia Fides 28/11/2011)
ASIA/INDONESIA-Six churches threatened by extremist groups, other two will be demolished by the state
Jakarta (Agenzia Fides) -Islamic extremists of the Islamic Defenders Front ("Front Pembela Islam," FPI) took to the streets en masse in Bekasi, one of the biggest suburbs of the metropolis of Jakarta, threatening to raze six Christian churches in the area. The police were alerted and ordered, in advance, forced closure of six churches, to avoid riots. According to local sources of Fides, the majority of Islamic militants come from outside, therefore, "we are talking about an organized action": "They came after the Muslim prayers on Friday, challenging the presence of churches in several villages, although the locals have never raised any objections". According to the militants, the churches, that belong to the evangelical Christian community, rose without authorization, and therefore must be dismantled. "Either the state does it, or we will deal with this issue", say the militants. In the suburbs of Jakarta, such as Bekasi and Bogor, inter-religious tension remains high due to the presence of Islamic militants, who do not take kindly to the presence of Christian communities, accusing them of proselytizing.
Fr. Benny Susetyo, Secretary of the Commission for Interreligious Dialogue in the Episcopal Conference of Indonesia, says to Fides: "The main problem for the peaceful coexistence in Indonesian society is the presence of extremist groups like the FPI. The government should do more to stop them, ensuring the rule of law and fundamental principles of Pancasila. I hope that the international community gives a warning to the Indonesian government in order to respect freedom of religion. The problem of fundamentalism exists today, inside the Muslim world".
Another story, report Fides sources, affects the Christian community of Manado on the island of Sulawesi (eastern Indonesia). There is a real risk that, at the end of 2011, two Christian churches are demolished in Manado, one apparent to the reformed church, another of the Pentecostal Church. On the two churches, which have been opened for worship for decades, there is a demolition order issued by the Supreme Court: the two houses of worship, in fact, stand on the disputed land, claimed by heirs of a former owner who had sold it more than 50 years ago to the Christians. The local faithful are organizing initiatives and public events and have announced non-violent forms of protest to prevent the demolition. Fr. Susetyo hopes, in that case, "a different solution, perhaps with a clearing of land, taking into account the needs and history of the Christian community". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 28/11/2011)
ASIA/PAKISTAN - Paul Bhatti: "The NATO attack may compromise the fight against terrorism and religious harmony in Pakistan"
Islamabad (Agenzia Fides) - "The NATO attack is serious because it can compromise the fight against terrorism but also interreligious harmony, intercultural dialogue, and peace in Pakistan": with these words, the Catholic Paul Bhatti, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister for Minority Affairs and president of the "All Pakistan Minorities Alliance" (APMA) comments in a note sent to Fides, the attack of NATO forces on Pakistani military posts on the border with Afghanistan , which resulted in the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers and caused a crisis in international relations between Pakistan and the Atlantic Alliance.
Bhatti defines the NATO raid "an act of terrorism, which affects sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of our country" and says: "As adviser to the Prime Minister and as President of the APMA I am shocked and, on behalf of the Christian community, I express sympathy and condolences to the soldiers' families, assuring prayers for the speedy recovery of the wounded".
The tension in the country remains high and there are anti-Western demonstrations in major cities. Gulshan Barkat, of the community of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Quetta, in the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan, told Fides: "People are really angry against NATO, also because there has not been any form of apology. In fact I think this serious episode could have negative repercussion concerning social harmony in the country: anti-Western propaganda, fueled by extremist Islamic groups, has good game and gets stronger. But I do not think that there may be consequences or violent acts against Christians in Pakistan". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 28/11/2011)