by Massimo Introvigne
On July 17, 2020, the USCIRF, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, unveiled a new document, whose title is “The Anti-cult Movement and Religious Regulation in Russia and the Former Soviet Union.” The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). Its Commissioners are appointed by the President and by Congressional leaders of both political parties.
The title may indicate that the document does not concern China, and in fact its main focus is Russia. However, there are three important connections between the new USCIRF report and China.
Dear Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha:
We represent NGOs and academic research centers specialized in the defense of freedom of religion and belief. We write to you as we are aware of your distinguished career at the United Nations, and appreciate your attention to human rights.
We have followed with great concern the problems in South Korea of a new religious movement known as Shincheonji. Some of us have studied Shincheonji for years, and some have produced academic studies about it. We are aware that Shincheonji is regarded by conservative Christians as “heretic,” and that they resent its success, which happened mostly at their expenses, and its active proselytization methods.
A webinar organized by the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR) and Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF)
Date/Time: Monday, July 20, 2020, 17:00 (UTC +2, Brussels time)
The fact that one member of Shincheonji, a Christian new religious movement in South Korea, was not timely diagnosed with COVID-19, attended church services, and set in motion a chain of events where thousands of her church’s members were infected, led to the government’s requests for lists of all members of the group and massive testing.
While it is possible that mistakes were made by Shincheonji, health and police authorities acknowledged that the movement submitted substantially accurate lists of its members, and tried to cooperate as it could. Shincheonji, however, is at the receiving end of an aggressive hostility by conservative Christians, who have tried for decades to have the movement, which has been very successful in converting Protestants, banned in South Korea.
At the 4th Conference of the Baltic Alliance of Asian Studies was devoted a session to Shincheonji.
In view of the interest, you can find the video recording following the link of CESNUR website:
H.E. Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner of Human Rights
H.E. Ambassador Sam Brownback, US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom
Dear President Bachelet:
Dear Ambassador Brownback:
We represent international NGOs specialized in the defense of religious liberty. We are deeply concerned with a growing number of instances of intolerance and discrimination against Shincheonji, a South Korean new religious movement, after a number of its members were diagnosed with COVID-19.
Shincheonji is a South Korean Christian new religious movement, founded by a Korean preacher called Lee Man Hee. Chairman Lee, as its members call him, is not regarded as God nor as the second coming of Jesus, but as the promised pastor who will lead humanity into the kingdom of peace that many Christians call the Millennium. Shincheonji has experienced a rapid growth in the last decades, and now has more than 200,000 members.
Arch-conservative and fundamentalist Protestantism, marginal in other countries, is the largest segment of Protestant Christianity in South Korea and a powerful voting bloc. It has promoted virulent campaigns against minorities it has labeled as “cults,” as well as against Roman Catholics, homosexuals, and Muslim immigrants and refugees. Shincheonji has been particularly targeted, for the good reason that its growth has largely happened by converting members of conservative and fundamentalist Protestant churches.
Soteria International hosted on 11 December 2019 a new conference on the series “Spiritual Human Rights”, with the topic: “Base and Debasement of Human Rights - Rights, Obligations and Society”.
The conference brought together important keynote speakers, experts in the human rights field, sociologists and politicians:
After important contributions presented by the speakers, the debate went smoothly towards the fundament of human rights and their integration in institutional and social system.
Invitation for scientific researchers, activists and practitioners within the trans-disciplinary field of human rights and spirituality!
11 December 2019, between 10.00 - 13.00 - webinar or our venue in Copenhagen.
For the twelves consecutive year Soteria International welcomes participants to a visionary conference on the emerging field of Spiritual Human Rights.
This year’s event presents key note presentations and Q&A sessions addressing the Base and Debasement of Human Rights - Rights, Obligations and Society.
The right to a good healthcare or education and freedom of though, conscience and belief are all important rights in our society, but not in the same way. The first should be secured politically, the other fundamentally as unalienable human right.
Are our human rights currently debased by a strong influx of social and economic rights into the discussions on human rights? If health, education and gender issues are to be secured by court and not by politics, do we not risk a more totalitarian perspective on governance and simultaneously a debasement of the fundamental natural rights?
When making social and financial issues human rights, do we risk that the lives of many are disproportionately restricted by the few. We are given universal human rights, but what about universal human obligations?
Since being established, the 'FoRB Roundtable Brussels-EU' has been known for an unparalleled commitment to advocate for Freedom or Religion or Belief issues, for people and communities of ALL faiths or not.
The FoRB Roundtable Brussels-EU is an informal group of individuals from civil society who gather regularly to discuss FoRB issues on a non-attribution basis. It is simply a safe space where participants gather, speak freely in sharing ideas and information, and propose joint advocacy actions to address specific FoRB issues and problems globally. It's part of an informal international network of such roundtables (see A Model for Sustainable Peace and Prosperity for more info). While being part of this network, the FoRB Roundtable Brussels-EU is completely independent in its governance.
Participants are free to propose initiatives regarding the protection and promotion of freedom of religion, conscience, and belief in Europe and around the world, and other participants have then the possibility to join these initiatives and self-select into coalitions of the willing on such initiatives.
In Copenhagen this autumn, was held The meeting of the Government's Contact Forum for Religious and Religious Freedom on 8 October 2019, in the Common Hall of Parliament.
Soteria International’s representative attended the event and consider the event a step forward in the collaboration between the Human Rights NGOs and officials.
The meeting was held in continuation of a Danish-funded international expert seminar on the identification of positive vision energies between religious and religious freedom and equality through the use of the UN's World Goals.
The fourth meeting of the Contact Forum therefore use the occasion to invite international FoRB experts to a round table with the Danish Contact Forum of particularly interested in the Danish effort for religious and religious freedom.
In September, between 5 to 7 September took place” The International Conference of CESNUR 2019” in Turin, Italy, at the Luigi Einaudi Campus of the University of Turin.
The subject of this year CESNUR conference was: “RE-ENCHANTING THE WORLD:
SPIRITUALITIES AND RELIGIONS OF THE THIRD MILLENNIUM”.
Soteria International’s representative was the chairperson of session 31 of the CESNUR Conference 2019.
We can say that there are several scholars and human rights organizations interested in studying such subjects and problems in the society.
One of them, which is an international network of scholars who study new religious movements is CESNUR, which has as founder and managing director Prof Massimo Introvigne.
The CESNUR, Center for Studies on New Religions , is the largest Research and Information Center on the modern and contemporary religious phenomenon of Europe, which has also created an Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy updated online daily, and promoter of the Journal of CESNUR , magazine in-depth academic studies on minority religions and spirituality issues.