Thursday March 6, 2014
Christian files discrimination complaint.
By the Editor
March 6, 2014 (Morning Star News) – A Christian woman in Sweden has been unable to find work as a midwife since a hospital where she interned last year let her go for refusing to help perform abortions.
Hospital officials in the southern town of Eksjö had promised to extend Ellinor Grimmark’s contract until she refused to participate in abortions last summer, she said. Another hospital agreed to hire Grimmark but then reneged due to her convictions and the controversy growing over them, and no other hospital would hire her in spite of a shortage of midwives in Sweden, she said.
“They have said that because I do not perform abortions, I cannot work as midwife,” Grimmark told Morning Star News, referring to both the hospital that let her go and prospective employers. “In my contact with my employer or a prospective employer, I have talked very carefully about my inability to perform abortions based on my Christian faith, my sincere religious conviction. My employer has not been willing to discuss the issue further.”
Grimmark, a 37-year-old wife and mother who has since found work as a nurse, has filed a complaint with Sweden’s Discrimination Ombudsman (DO). Attorneys with human rights group Provita and religious liberty organization Alliance Defending Freedom are helping Grimmark in a case they hope will help establish protections for freedom of conscience in Sweden.
Grimmark, of Tenhult, said she had prepared for work as a midwife with the understanding that the primary responsibility would be to help deliver babies, though she was aware that hospital work in Sweden could conflict with her convictions.
“I knew it could be a problem, but I was hoping for a supportive employer that would be willing to help me and grant me the right to freedom of conscience,” she told Morning Star News. “But unfortunately, I have encountered a very negative attitude and a direct unwillingness to resolve my case. They answered me that, ‘Someone with your opinions has no place at our clinic.’”
Sweden has no comprehensive and clear legal and policy framework regarding freedom of conscience, said Provita CEO Ruth Nordström. She noted, however, that the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR, formally European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms), offers protections and that they are legally binding in Sweden.
“Ellinor Grimmark is denied the right to exercise the most basic manifestation of Article 9 of the ECHR,” Nordström told Morning Star News. “Her employer has not complied with either the Swedish Discrimination Act’s prohibition against direct or indirect discrimination, or the requirement of a general obligation to cooperate with the employee ‘to achieve equal rights and opportunities in working life regardless of religious belief, and in particular to combat employment discrimination on such grounds.’”
A 2010 resolution should greatly affect how the European Court of Human Rights interprets the ECHR articles, she said.
“European case law protects religious manifestation and maintains a right to freedom of conscience, which is strengthened by the Council of Europe resolution 1763 of conscience for health care workers and the protection of freedom of conscience in health care among member states in Europe,” Nordström said.
The case has sparked debate in Sweden, where a woman may obtain an abortion for free at up to 18 weeks after conception, and in some cases 22 weeks. Asserting that legal protections of freedom of conscience would result in violations of the right to an abortion in Sweden, many fear women seeking abortions would run into a shortage of those willing to perform them.
Among those voices is that of the Swedish Association of Health Professionals, whose vice chairwoman, Pia Arndorff, told TT news agency, “As a patient in Sweden, it must be very clear what you can expect according to Swedish law. It should not depend on whom you happen to encounter.”
Sweden and Finland are said to be the only two members of the 47 Council of Europe states without well-defined freedom of conscience measures.
“In the majority of Council of Europe member states, the freedom of conscience is well regulated in national legislation,” Nordström said. “In some countries, the right to freedom of conscience is implemented in the constitution.”
Resolution 1763, which the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly adopted on Oct. 7, 2010, implies the right to conscientious objection in lawful medical care, she said. It stipulates that “No person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion, the performance of a human miscarriage, or euthanasia or any act which could cause the death of a human fetus or embryo, for any reason.”
Sweden has been accused of non-compliance of several counts related to freedom of conscience before the European Council of Social Rights. In March 2013 the Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe filed a complaint with the Council delineating the counts, and attorneys hope Grimmark’s case could also help bring Sweden into compliance with Council of Europe standards.
Provita’s Nordström, who also serves as president of Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers, said Grimmark could win a case in the European Court of Human Rights.
Grimmark said she felt hospitals in Sweden spurned her for her Christian convictions.
“I believe that life starts at conception,” she said. “I do not believe that a man may decide over life and death. I believe there is a plan for every person’s life even before birth.”
Thursday March 6, 2014
Suspected Fulani herdsmen attack communities in Plateau state.
By Our Nigeria Correspondent
JOS, Nigeria, March 5, 2014 (Morning Star News) – Armed gunmen believed to be Muslim Fulani herdsmen yesterday and early today attacked a cluster of villages in Plateau state, killing 16 Christians and destroying numerous homes, Christian leaders said.
The assailants, reportedly dressed in military camouflage, shot randomly as they struck Torok, Gwon, Gwarim, Gwareng and Rim villages in Rim District of the Riyom Local Government Area west of Jos. Musa Gunduma Dang of Gwon village said they killed his mother, wife, four children and three other relatives.
“They shot sporadically and set my house ablaze, killing all members of my family, and the entire village has been destroyed,” Dang said.
Daniel Bitrus Manjang, a pastor with the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN), told Morning Star News the attacks were “very tragic.”
“About 200 houses were burned, and 16 Christians were killed,” said Manjang, a resident of Rim.
About 10 years ago Manjang lost his father, the Rev. Bitrus Manjang, a former COCIN vice president, to a similar attack in Rim village, he said.
The Rev. Patrick Kim, COCIN pastor in Gwarim, told Morning Star News by phone that the Muslim attackers invaded the villages at about 4 p.m., killing and destroying until 12:30 a.m.
The church leaders said two worship sanctuaries and residences of two COCIN pastors were among the buildings set ablaze.
They said it was the second such attack in the district in less than a week, as Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed two other Christians in Diyan late last week.
On Jan. 6, Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed 33 Christians in an attack on Shonong village in Riyom LGA in which Special Task Force soldiers assigned to protect the villagers were said to turn their weapons on them.
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population of 158.2 million, while Muslims account for 45 percent. Those practicing indigenous religions may be as high as 10 percent of the total population, according to Operation World, so the percentages of Christians and Muslims may be less.
Thursday March 6, 2014
Teheran, March 6th Middle East Concern
Sevada Aghasar was released on bail on Sunday (2nd March) having been detained in Evin prison, Tehran, since 21st August 2013. Sevada is an Armenian Christian. His home was searched during a wave of raids at Christmas 2012. In August 2013 he was arrested together with two other believers, Masoud and Ebrahim, both of whom are from Muslim backgrounds. According to reports, Masoud has also been released.
Secondly, we are pleased to report that Pastor Behnam Irani has been able to receive hospital treatment. He has been in Ghezal Hasar prison, Karaj, since May 2011 serving a six-year sentence for alleged anti-state activity. Since 2012 he has received only minimal treatment for a worsening intestinal complaint. On 22nd February he was allowed to undergo surgery and the operation was reportedly successful. He remained in hospital for a few days recuperation before being returned to prison.
Thirdly, during February another detained believer, Alireza Seyyedian, was granted five-days' temporary leave from Evin prison. In November 2011 he was convicted on charges including "propaganda against the regime" and "acting against national security." It is understood that his sentence was adjusted to three and a half years' imprisonment following an appeal. He began serving the sentence in March 2012.
Across Iran, at least 40 believers are understood to be detained for their faith or Christian activities.
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Separatist Islamic extremists suspected.
By Our East Africa Correspondent
NAIROBI, Kenya, March 3, 2014 (Morning Star News) – Suspected Islamic extremists bombed three church buildings on Tanzania’s semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar in February, with one of the blasts injuring several Christians, sources said.
A bomb exploded near the door of the Evangelistic Assemblies of God Zanzibar (EAGZ) church building on Feb. 23 in Kijito Upele-Fuoni, outside Zanzibar City, just before the end of the service at about 1:15 p.m., according to area Christian leader Lucian Mgaywa.
The loud explosion shook the building on the island 16 miles (25 kilometers) off the coast of Tanzania, a church member said.
“Several people had minor injuries from broken pieces of bottles and metallic objects,” the member, who requested anonymity, told Morning Star News. “The extent of the injuries has not been established. The members were only complaining of pains and were advised to seek medical attention.”
Police from Fuoni began investigating, and officers from the mainland’s Dar es Salaam arrived and collected the broken metallic and glass pieces. Liquids in some of the bottles turned out to be highly acidic, Mgaywa said.
“The gloves that the policemen wore caught fire, but no one was hurt,” he said.
The next day, Feb. 24, at about 2 p.m., another bomb exploded at the entrance of Christ Church Cathedral, an Anglican church building in the historic city center known as Stone Town. Tourists often visit the site, but no one was near at the time of the explosion. Anglican officials said the bomb, detonated remotely, did no damage to the structure.
Police have arrested one person in connection with the bomb attack; his name was not released at press time.
In the Tomondo area about four kilometers away from Stone Town, a home-made bomb was thrown at the door of a Seventh-day Adventist church on Feb. 15 during a worship service at 11 a.m. Another such bomb landed at the doorway the next day at around noon. There were no reports of injuries.
A church leader reported the incidents at the Mazizini police station in Zanzibar City. Officers found pieces of broken bottles at the site.
“My church members are shaken and afraid that two bomb attacks have taken place,” said the church leader, whose name is withheld. “We need prayers.”
The head of the Zanzibar Pastors’ Fellowship, Fabian Obed, said he was very concerned about the bomb attacks.
“We urged the government to take serious measures at the series of bomb attacks targeting churches here in Zanzibar in the past few days, because worse things will follow soon if nothing is done swiftly,” Obed said.
In the tourist area of Malindi on the Zanzibar seashore, a bomb exploded near the Mercury Restaurant coast on Feb. 24, the same day the Anglican church building was bombed. The explosion, which hit at about 1 p.m. damaged the wall of the building but no injuries were reported.
The separatist group Uamsho or “Awakening,” the Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation, has threatened Christians since 2012. An Islamist group fighting for full autonomy of the Zanzibar archipelago from Tanzania, Uamsho arose after Zanzibar’s primary opposition, the Civic United Front, formed a government with the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party in 2010.
On Sept. 13, 2013, suspected Muslim extremists threw acid on the face and chest of a Catholic priest, the Rev. Joseph Anselmo Mwangamba, as he stepped outside an Internet café on the outskirts of Zanzibar City.
Suspected Islamic extremists on Feb. 17, 2013 shot and killed the Rev. Evaristus Mushi, a 56-year-old Roman Catholic priest, in the Mtoni area outside Zanzibar City. On Dec. 25, 2012, suspected Islamic extremists shot the Rev. Ambrose Mkenda, a Roman Catholic priest, through his cheeks and in the shoulder as he arrived home in Tomondo. Members of Uamsho were suspected.
While Tanzania’s population is 34.2 percent Muslim and 54 percent Christian, according to Operation World, the Zanzibar archipelago is more than 97 percent Muslim.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that mobs have looted, burned or demolished at least 20 island church buildings. CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said use of a remote device in the Anglican church bombing suggested “new levels of sophistication and planning.”
“The government of Tanzania must undertake swift investigations in order to ensure that those responsible for these attacks are brought to justice,” he said in a press statement. “It is also vital for the Tanzanian government to uphold freedom of religion or belief for all its citizens, including the Christian minority in Zanzibar, in line with its international obligations under article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”