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Free Leah


Churches worldwide held prayers on 25 March in response to a call to prayer issued bythe Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for the release of Leah Sharibu, the Christian girl from Dapchi, Nigeria, who is still being held by the Boko Haram terrorist group for refusing to renounce her faith in exchange for freedom.
On 21 March, the al-Barnawi faction of Boko Haram returned 104 of the 110 girls they had abducted on 19 February from the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe State. They did so following an agreement that saw armed forces withdraw from the town, allowing the terrorists unhindered access.
As well as confirming that five of their fellow abductees were dead and had been buried in the bush, returnees said Leah Sharibu had been “held back on religious grounds” due to her refusal to renounce her faith and wear a hijab. Her mother, Rebecca Sharibu, was informed that Leah had already boarded the vehicle bound for Dapchi along with others, but was told to disembark after refusing to recite the Islamic profession of faith: “They said my daughter would only be brought back home the day she knows how to recite Kalima shahada.”
In an interview with Nigerian media, one of the girls speculated that she and the others may have been released “because we are Muslims and they felt it was right for them to free us so that we will not suffer”.
As reports circulated on 24 March of soldiers withdrawing from Dapchi town and Boko Haram militants on the move, many anticipated that Leah was about to be set free. Speculation was heightened further when the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, appeared to confirm that her release was imminent in an interview given to journalists during his visit to the Military Command and Control Centre in Maiduguri, Borno state. However, when the release did not occur and Leah’s father, Nathan Sharibu, confirmed his daughter was “yet to return”, the police media office issued a statement on 25 March claiming the IGP had been “misunderstood and misquoted.”
Calls continue to be issued for the Buhari administration to secure Leah’s immediate release. Rev Dr Jeremiah M Gado, president of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), to which Leah and her parents belong, issued a statement saluting her “courage, doggedness, and faith” and condemning “in strong terms any attempt to forcefully convert anyone from one religion to another.”
On 26 March, the Congress of Northern Nigeria Christians (CNNC) 19 states and Abuja said that while its members rejoiced that nearly all the Dapchi girls had been released, they were “heavily saddened” that Leah “is been held because of her faith.” In a statement issued on 23 March, CAN called for “total re-organisation of the security agencies aligned with professionalism that will make them respond rapidly to security challenges in any part of the country”, and the creation of “a high power judicial panel to investigate the abduction of the schoolgirls with a view to unmasking those behind the abduction and make them face the full wrath of the law.”
On 22 March, the European Union (EU) Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ray, commended the Nigerian government for the release of the 104 Dapchi girls, and said: “We renew our solidarity with all the girls still held captive and call for their liberation. … All young people have a right to safe education, and the EU will work with Nigeria in supporting efforts to secure this objective.”
Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said: “Our prayers are with Leah and her family as they await her return. Given Nigeria’s ethnic and religious diversity, we remain perplexed at her apparent exclusion, on account of her religious beliefs, from the deal that secured the release of the other girls. It is vital that last weekend’s rumours of her imminent release do not divert international attention from her case and hamper efforts to ensure her release. There must be no let-up in pressure being brought to bear on the militants holding her. CSW also continues to call on the Nigerian government to ensure that every child is free to pursue an education without fear.”

Churches worldwide held prayers on 25 March in response to a call to prayer issued by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for the release of Leah Sharibu, the Christian girl from Dapchi, Nigeria, who is still being held by the Boko Haram terrorist group for refusing to renounce her faith in exchange for freedom.

On 21 March, the al-Barnawi faction of Boko Haram returned 104 of the 110 girls they had abducted on 19 February from the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe State. They did so following an agreement that saw armed forces withdraw from the town, allowing the terrorists unhindered access.

As well as confirming that five of their fellow abductees were dead and had been buried in the bush, returnees said Leah Sharibu had been “held back on religious grounds” due to her refusal to renounce her faith and wear a hijab. Her mother, Rebecca Sharibu, was informed that Leah had already boarded the vehicle bound for Dapchi along with others, but was told to disembark after refusing to recite the Islamic profession of faith: “They said my daughter would only be brought back home the day she knows how to recite Kalima shahada.”

In an interview with Nigerian media, one of the girls speculated that she and the others may have been released “because we are Muslims and they felt it was right for them to free us so that we will not suffer”. 

As reports circulated on 24 March of soldiers withdrawing from Dapchi town and Boko Haram militants on the move, many anticipated that Leah was about to be set free. Speculation was heightened further when the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, appeared to confirm that her release was imminent in an interview given to journalists during his visit to the Military Command and Control Centre in Maiduguri, Borno state.  However, when the release did not occur and Leah’s father, Nathan Sharibu, confirmed his daughter was “yet to return”, the police media office issued a statement on 25 March claiming the IGP had been “misunderstood and misquoted.”

Calls continue to be issued for the Buhari administration to secure Leah’s immediate release. Rev Dr Jeremiah M Gado, president of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), to which Leah and her parents belong, issued a statement saluting her “courage, doggedness, and faith” and condemning “in strong terms any attempt to forcefully convert anyone from one religion to another.”

On 26 March, the Congress of Northern Nigeria Christians (CNNC) 19 states and Abuja said that while its members rejoiced that nearly all the Dapchi girls had been released, they were “heavily saddened” that Leah “is been held because of her faith.” In a statement issued on 23 March, CAN called for “total re-organisation of the security agencies aligned with professionalism that will make them respond rapidly to security challenges in any part of the country”, and the creation of “a high power judicial panel to investigate the abduction of the schoolgirls with a view to unmasking those behind the abduction and make them face the full wrath of the law.”  

 

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April 9, 2018 Posted by | Blog, Blogroll, Charity, Death, Disgusting, Food, fraud, Health, Homeless, housing, Internet, Just Wrong, People, Politics, religion, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Religious freedon in China


Chinese state media agency Xinhua announced on 21 March that the United Front Work Department, an agency of the Communist Party of China (CPC), will now oversee ethnic and religious affairs in the country. These changes are part of a restructuring of party agencies in China, which place the Chinese government more directly under Party control.
Previously, religious affairs were managed by the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA), and registered religious organisations were overseen by state-sanctioned associations. The United Front Work Department will now absorb SARA, effectively giving the Party direct oversight of religious affairs. The United Front Work Department will also oversee the State Ethnic Affairs Commission and the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “Many religious believers in China, including Christians, are already concerned about tightening control over religious activities. These changes will do nothing to allay their fears. Under Xi Jinping control of religious life has become a new priority for the Communist Party of China, and so far this has been manifested through the curtailing of the right to freedom of religion or belief for both registered and unregistered religious communities, including Protestants, Catholics, Buddhists and Muslims. We call on the Chinese authorities to protect the right to freedom of religion or belief for people of all faiths in China, in all parts of the country, and to release those detained in connection with their peaceful religious practice.”
Officials say the changes are aimed at the centralisation of leadership and will help to consolidate the Party’s direction on religious affairs. However, analysts suggest that these changes indicate that the Party sees the control of religious affairs as essential to maintaining and expanding its power, and could give rise to a situation in which the Party leadership may bypass laws and regulations.
The merger of SARA with the United Front is part of tightening control of religion or belief activities and communities under President Xi Jinping. On 1 February 2018, revised Regulations on Religious Affairs came into effect, which included further restrictions on religious practice, including online religious expression, and contained special provisions on national security and foreign connections. The Regulations continue to make registration with the government mandatory: communities which do not register, such as unregistered ‘house churches’, have been pressurized to register through harassment, eviction, intimidation and the detention of leaders.
Even before the regulations came into effect, churches and other religious communities reported an increase in violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief, including the demolition of religious buildings, and the harassment and detention of religious believers accused of belonging to ‘evil cults’.

April 9, 2018 Posted by | Blog, Blogroll, Charity, Death, Food, fraud, Internet, Just Wrong, People, Politics, religion, scams, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Vietnam Human Rights


On Thursday 5 April, Vietnamese human rights laywer Nguyen Van Dai was sentenced to 15 years in prison for ‘carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the government’ under Article 79 of the Vietnamese penal code.
Many of you will remember praying for and sending cards to Nguyen Van Dai, who was arrested on 16 December 2016 and has remained in prison without trial for over two years. As a Christian human rights lawyer he provided advice and representation to victims of human rights abuses – including religious freedom abuses – across Vietnam. Because of this work, he has been repeatedly harassed and intimidated by the Vietnamese authorities and has previously spent four years in prison.
Lawyer Dai was one of six defendants on trial: others included pastor and activist Nguyen Trung Ton and legal expert Nguyen Bac Truyen. Pastor Ton and Mr Truyen were sentenced to 12 years and 11 years in prison respectively: all of them will have a chance to appeal their sentences

April 9, 2018 Posted by | Blog, Blogroll, Charity, Death, Disgusting, fraud, Health, Internet, Money, People, Politics, religion, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Free Alimujan Yimit


 

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is calling for a judicial review in the case of Uyghur Christian Alimujan Yimit, who is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence for “illegally providing state secrets to foreign nationals”.
Alimujan Yimit (also written Alimjan Yimit or Alimujiang Yimiti) is a Uyghur Christian from Xinjiang in Northwest China. In 2009, he was convicted of “illegally providing state secrets to foreign nationals” and is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence. Mr Yimit has denied these charges. Those familiar with the case believe his detention is connected with a set of earlier charges put forward by the Kashgar Municipal Bureau for Ethnic and Religious Affairs in Xinjiang, relating to his “illegal” religious activities as the leader of an unregistered church.
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has rendered the opinion that Mr Yimit has been arbitrarily detained.
A Chinese author close to Mr Yimit’s family claims that his case could be reopened in connection with China’s nationwide anti-corruption campaign, which has resulted in the ousting of officials who handled Yimit’s case. CSW has not yet been able to verify this report.
Religion is a sensitive issue in Xinjiang. In 2015 and 2016 CSW continued to receive reports of restrictions on religious activities and expression in the region, including bans on civil servants and students fasting during Ramadan, restrictions on dress and appearance with religious connections, such as head coverings for women and long beards for men, and convictions for religious meetings outside designated venues. In August 2016, Radio Free Asia also reported that authorities were asking school pupils in Xinjiang about their families’ religious practices and telling them not to engage in religious activities.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “CSW has campaigned on Alimujian Yimit’s case for several years and continues to be concerned about his conviction and detention, which the UN has declared to be arbitrary. We believe the charges against him are groundless and that he is being penalised for his peaceful religious activities as an unregistered church leader. We urge the authorities to re-assess his case thoroughly, impartially and without delay, with a view to securing his unconditional release. We further call on the government to ensure that any persons found responsible for Yimit’s wrongful imprisonment and/or ill-treatment in detention are held accountable and to ensure that Yimit’s current conditions in detention comply with international standards.”

March 23, 2018 Posted by | Blog, Blogroll, Death, Disgusting, Health, housing, Money, People, Politics, religion, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

North Korea: ‘Lord! Help


World News

North Korea: ‘Lord! Help!’
Hannah Cho* tells her story of faith in God despite horrendous persecution.
World Watch Monitor

photo: iStock
After the Korean war, public religion was discouraged. The local church was turned into a school and Hannah remembers that her Christian mother prayed at home while the family kept watch for informants.
The cough signal
‘If anyone came close, we’d cough and she’d stop praying,’ Hannah said. ‘Sometimes my father was annoyed with her and didn’t want her praying in the living room, so she went outside, even when it was snowing.
Hannah wanted to understand her mother’s faith, but she spoke so fast when she prayed that it was difficult to understand. ‘All we could make out was “Hananim, Hananim!’ [Lord! Lord!], Help!’ she said.
‘We had no idea who this ‘Hananim’ was. My daughter even asked her one day why she wouldn’t simply visit this guy if he was that important to her. My mother replied: ‘One day I will.’
‘Because of my mum’s prayers, I was never as indoctrinated by the Juche [self-reliance] ideology as others,’ Hannah said. Hannah’s mother said nothing to her about her Christian faith until her marriage aged 23.
Leaving for China
After Hannah’s mother died, she and her family decided to leave North Korea for China. ‘My eldest daughters were first to flee, but they were betrayed by the broker. When we didn’t hear from them, my husband went to China to try to find them. Meanwhile, I took care of my two youngest children at home. My husband didn’t come back; a year later, I went to look for them all in China. At first, I couldn’t locate my husband. I prayed with the only words I knew: ‘Hananim, Hananim!’ Finally, I found my husband’s relative and he connected me with my husband, but my daughters were still missing.’
All converted
When the family were reunited after searching in China, they started to attend the church of a relative, where they all converted to the Christian faith.
‘We had seen my mother’s faith, but now we understood it,’ Hannah said. ‘We felt peace in our hearts and unexplainable joy. It was so refreshing, as if the specks in my eyes had been washed away and I could finally see God. Now I could follow him like my mother had. Our faith grew very quickly because we had been prepared all our lives for this moment.’
Arrested and sent back
‘But soon we were discovered by Chinese secret agents and arrested,’ Hannah recalled. ‘We were sent back to North Korea. We witnessed terrible things. A woman in prison was pregnant by a Chinese man. Race is very important in North Korea. When she gave birth the guard ordered her to kill her baby, but she couldn’t. The guard threatened another woman, telling her he would let her live if she killed the baby. He put his gun to her head and the inmate had no other choice but to strangle the baby until he died. And we had to watch.’
‘My husband told the guards he’d become a Christian. After he saw what they did with the baby and the guards threatened to kill his family, he had to tell them the truth. After his confession, all four of us were locked up in solitary confinement – a small cage. We didn’t receive any food or water and couldn’t sleep.
‘Prisoners in solitary confinement were badly beaten. The more they tortured my husband, the harder he defended his faith. He yelled: “If believing in God is a sin, I’d rather die! Just kill me! It’s my mission to live according to God’s will!”
‘Each time he spoke out, they beat him up as if he was an animal. His flesh was torn and ripped. When he lost consciousness, they woke him and started again.
‘I was dehydrated and beaten until I was unconscious too. When I woke up, I was dragged back to a regular cell with my daughter and other inmates. Then they beat me in front of them. All my daughter could do was cry silently, which she did day and night.
Praying in prison
‘We prayed throughout our time in prison. When we were granted an amnesty and released, we didn’t recognise each other due to the torture. My husband couldn’t stand up due to his injuries. When we walked out of the prison that night and were finally free and alone, we quietly sang a hymn.’
The family have not been able to reunite though, and Hannah’s husband died soon after leaving prison.
‘My mother only taught me one prayer. But I still pray it every day, for my family and for my country: “Hananim, Hananim! – Lord, Lord, please help!”
* Name changed for security reasons

October 6, 2017 Posted by | Awards, Blog, Blogroll, Charity, Death, Disgusting, Film, Food, fraud, Health, Homeless, Just Wrong, People, Politics, religion, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Why North Korea sanctions are unlikely to produce desirable results


Why North Korea sanctions are unlikely to produce desirable results

Why North Korea sanctions are unlikely to produce desirable results

For multiple reasons, there is little reason to be hopeful of positive results

Andrei Lankov

August 16th, 2016

As of late, the issue of sanctions has been at the front and center of all discussions regarding North Korea. Because of well-founded disappointment in the ‘soft-line’ approach – centered around negotiations and mutual concessions – an unavoidable result has emerged for many: that sanctions are now “the only game in town”.

Despite this recent shift in opinion, I cannot be enthusiastic about the tightening sanctions on North Korea, which are firstly difficult to implement and, secondly, unlikely to produce desirable results – even if properly implemented

This position – which I recently articulated in an interview with RFA in Washington – has consequently invited some criticism, notably from Joshua Stanton, an experienced and observant North Korea watcher who has very different views from mine on this issue.

This lengthy piece is, therefore, in a sense an indirect response to Joshua Stanton’s criticism – “indirect” because, instead of arguing point by point, I will reiterate my arguments about the inefficiency of sanctions in a more systematic manner.

Chinese boat sailing along Yalu River, adjacent to DPRK | Picture: NK News

Chinese boat sailing along Yalu River, adjacent to DPRK | Picture: NK News

HURDLES TO IMPLEMENTATION

To start with, North Korea sanctions don’t work. To put it in a more cautious way, so far they have failed to produce any noticeable impact on the state of the DPRK economy or the lifestyle of common North Koreans or members of the elite.

The international sanctions regime was first introduced by the UN Security Council in 2006, at the time when the North Korean economy began its slow recovery from the 15 years of crisis experienced after the collapse of the communist bloc. Yet despite ever-tightening sanctions, the ten years that since passed have been a time of steady economic growth and significant improvement in the living standards for a majority of the North Korean population.

The ten years that since passed have been a time of steady economic growth and significant improvement in the living standards for a majority of the North Korean population.

The inefficiency of those sanctions has been once again demonstrated by the results of Resolution 2270, which was adopted by the UN Security Council in early March 2016. This resolution envisioned sanctions of hitherto unprecedented severity, including, for example, a complete or partial ban on mineral exports from North Korea. However, after nearly half a year of the sanctions being implemented, it is still “business as usual” in North Korea. Such vital economic indicators as grain market prices and market exchange rates for foreign currencies have remained virtually unchanged, while most of the construction projects (including resource-wasteful hallmark projects in Pyongyang) are still continuing apace.

There are many reasons why initial UN sanctions and those outlined by Resolution 2270 have been so inefficient, but the major role is played by the uneasy and controversial attitude of China.

When from time-to-time the Chinese government expresses its support for some sanctions or criticizes North Korean policies on nuclear and missile issues, there are outbursts of joy in Washington and other Western capitals where people start saying that “finally the Chinese are in the same boat with us”. But such optimism has so far always been proven to be misplaced, for the Chinese are not in the same boat with the United States and they are unlikely to share this proverbial boat ride in the foreseeable future.

There is little doubt that China is seriously annoyed by North Korea’s nuclear brinksmanship and its nuclear and missile program as an indirect but significant security threat. However, on the list of the problems the Chinese government has to deal with, this particular danger is not very high. For China, any possible change in status quo on the Korean peninsula constitutes a potential challenge, and this is well understood in Beijing.

From decades of painful experiences, the Chinese have learned that the North Korean government is remarkably indifferent to minor pressures, so Pyongyang reacts to outside demands only when it faces a mortal threat. China, having a near complete monopoly on North Korean foreign trade, is in a position to create a crisis of such magnitude that it would indeed put in danger the survival of the DPRK economy and – perhaps – even reverse its policy on the nuclear issue. Indeed, if China stops all trade and dramatically reduces the number of North Koreans residing and doing business in China, this would wipe out the North Korean economy in a year or two.

China does not need regime collapse, revolution, and anarchy in a nuclear country located on its borders

However, such a crisis is likely to produce results which will not serve China’s long-term strategic interests. It is possible that the North Korean government would yield and indeed surrender its nuclear program, but it is even more likely that it will remain stubborn to the bitter end, leaving the crisis to trigger a revolution. However, this is clearly not what China wants. China does not need regime collapse, revolution, and anarchy in a nuclear country located on its borders. And, of course, it is not very enthusiastic about the emergence of a unified Korea, which is likely to be democratic, nationalistic, and friendly to the United States, Beijing’s major strategic adversary.

Thus, one should not be surprised that the Chinese are using their trade, economic exchanges and aid to North Korea in a very measured manner. They sometimes decrease the amount of economic exchange and giveaways, but it is usually done for symbolic purposes to indicate Chinese dissatisfaction with particular North Korean actions.

And it seems that this is exactly what we see now again: after a few months of a tough approach, China appears to be getting softer on Pyongyang. While this turn is currently being brought about by the general deterioration in Beijing-Washington relations and emergence of the THAAD deployment issue, it is nevertheles something that was going to happen anyway.

elite-north-korea

Targeting only elites in North Korea is difficult | Picture: E. Lafforgue

ELITE ONLY SANCTIONS?

Proponents of sanctions are likely to reject what has been said above, claiming that the major goal is not to damage the North Korean economy nor to make the life of common North Koreans more difficult. Instead, they will claim, it is rather to create uncomfortable conditions for the North Korean elite so they will start considering a change of their policies in order to have their life comforts returned to them. To simplify things a bit, it is assumed – or hoped – that if top decision makers are deprived of their Hennessey cognac, overseas travel and Mercedes Benz luxury cars for a sufficiently long period of time, they will start considering the denuclearization of their country.

Such logic would possibly work in most authoritarian states, where the ruling elite does not face an existential threat. Therefore in an average dictatorship, elite dissatisfaction might lead to a palace coup or revolution. But such political changes are unlikely to produce a wholesale replacement of the entire ruling elite, for while former colonels might become generals after revolutions, the overall elite change little. Just look at the Soviet Union: as of early 2016, only four of all leaders of post-Soviet States are neither former Soviet-era officials nor officials’ children.

This is not the case in North Korea, however, since the existence of a rich, free and highly seductive South Korea means that any serious internal disturbance there will likely result in regime collapse, soon followed by absorption of the North by its rich twin state.

In other words, unlike a majority of dictators’ henchmen in other countries, North Korean elite members understand that in case of even a successful coup, the winners will face too high a risk of rapidly losing everything as a result of instability, a popular uprising and potential unification (a cross of East German and Romanian scenarios).

They need stability, and, if worst comes to worst, they also need nuclear weapons to safeguard themselves against foreign powers

Taking this into consideration, these people are significantly less likely to start conspiracies – even if they are indeed deprived of their usual nightly glass of Hennessey cognac. They need stability, and, if worst comes to worst, they also need nuclear weapons to safeguard themselves against foreign powers being involved with their domestic crisis, Libya style. Thus in order to ensure stability, and stay alive, they can survive without a daily glass Hennessy cognac.

A poster promoting a 'strong and prosperous' economy | Picture: E. Lafforgue

A poster promoting a ‘strong and prosperous’ economy | Picture: E. Lafforgue

TARGETING THE ECONOMY?

So let’s talk about a more realistic and tested model of sanctions – those which target the economy at large and whose (usually unstated) aim is to decrease the living standards of the general populace in order to create some discontent, hence putting the government under political pressure.

Such sanctions have been tried many times, from Serbia to South Africa. In most cases, they were not remarkably efficient, but there have been cases when sanctions seemingly made a great contribution towards desirable change. However, there is a tendency which is often overlooked; that sanctions have worked much better in countries which were democracies or semi-democracies, or where the common people had at least some opportunity to express their discontent with the government’s policy.

Indeed, such sanctions usually work in an indirect way, by making the lives of the common people more difficult, in some cases being without daily bread, in others, without the opportunity to buy a car every few years. All the pressure is built with the hope that discontent can crystalize into all kinds of opposition movements. And, if they are given the luxury of relatively free elections, citiznes become more likely to vote for opposition candidates, as was the case in Serbia and South Africa, for example.

However, this model is not applicable to North Korea.

North Koreans have no way to influence their government’s decisions or even register their dissatisfaction with government policy. They vote in elections with claimed 100% approval rate, and most of them cannot even think about any kind of open civil disobedience.

We have seen how it worked back in the late 1990s when the country faced a grave shortage of food and basic necessities. At least half a million people starved to death during the so-called ‘Arduous March’ of 1996-1999, but their deaths had little, if any, impact on government policy. Indeed, Kim Jong Il and his advisors did not abandon their goals of developing nuclear weapons and missile-based delivery systems, nor did they introduce reforms which, if applied correctly and timely, could have saved most –if not all – the lives lost during the famine.

At least half a million people starved to death during the so called ‘Arduous March’ of 1996-1999, but their deaths had little, if any, impact on the government policy

Of course, North Korean society has changed much since then, so widespread starvation might indeed lead to a revolution, for nowadays citizens are significantly less docile and much better informed about the possible alternatives. However, this is a risky bet, especially if we take into account that an economic crisis will kill many people before it can lead to a revolution.

This is the reason why economic sanctions so far have remained unsuccessful and the North Korean economy continues to perform at a modest, but acceptable level.

This is not to say that harsh economic sanctions do not make sense at all, for such measures might make sense if your goal is denuclearization at any cost. However, if your goal is to improve lives of common North Koreans, this is clearly not the way to go. Fortunately, due to the position of China and other reasons described above, sanctions are not going to drive the North Korean economy to the brink.

WASHINGTON-DC-CAPITOL

Capitol in DC | Picture: Flickr Creative Commons

SOME SAD CONCLUSIONS

It is clear now the dominant mood in Washington and other world capitals is in favor of sanctions, so a sanctions-centered policy is likely to continue for a long time, perhaps many years to come. No amount of debate is likely to change this fact – especially since such a policy sells well with voters, creating a false and misleading impression that a principled and morally correct stance has been taken, and “something is being done” about North Korea and its nuclear threat.

Furthermore – as the experience of Cuba sanctions has demonstrated – even a long-term absence of political effect resulting from the sanctions regime is not going to discourage proponents, who will probably keep saying that “results are just beyond the corner”. In the case of Cuba, such figures were making claims like this for more than six decades, or a period of two generations.

Therefore, we have to accept that we are going to live in a sanctions-dominated world, and find ways to encourage desirable changes within it, even when the environment is harsh and unproductive. But sanctions are not conducive for policies which could probably be significantly more successful, such as cultural and personal exchanges which familiarize North Koreans with the outside world and help them realize that they live in a remarkably inefficient and backward society.

While programs targeting refugees might still be compatible with sanctions, working with the still loyal subjects of the Kim family might be a lot more difficult. Unfortunately, academic and personal exchanges are usually frowned upon by hard-liners who tend to believe that such programs ‘reward’ the North Korean dictatorial regime by inviting their students – who will be scions of the elite – to study in Western schools or encourage other exchanges between North Korea and the outside world. This ability to nearly freeze exchanges and thus reduce the information in-flow to North Korea is a major negative side-effect produced by the excessive adherence to the sanctions regime.

However, as I have said, sanctions are likely to remain part of the American and, broader speaking, Western policy for the foreseeable future. So we have to live within this, unfortunately.

Main picture: NK News

By :

Andrei Lankov

August 16th, 2016

August 18, 2016 Posted by | Blog, Blogroll, Business, Charity, Death, Disgusting, Food, Health, Homeless, housing, Internet, Just Wrong, Money, nature, People, Politics | , , | Leave a comment

North Korea test fires ballistic missile: Seoul


North Korea test fires ballistic missile: Seoul

North Korea on Wednesday test-fired a ballistic missile towards the Sea of Japan, South Korea’s defence ministry said.

  • Posted 03 Aug 2016 08:32
  • Updated 03 Aug 2016 08:56

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un inspects a surface-to-surface medium long-range strategic ballistic missile test in North Korea in undated photo. (Photo: AFP)

SEOUL: North Korea on Wednesday test-fired a ballistic missile towards the Sea of Japan, South Korea’s defence ministry said, in an apparent reaction to the planned deployment of a US missile defence system.

The missile was launched from near the western city of Unyul at around 7.50am Wednesday (6.50am, Singapore time), it added.

The test follows the launch of three ballistic missiles on Jul 19 in what the North said were simulated nuclear strikes on the South.

Pyongyang has carried out a series of missile tests this year in defiance of tough UN sanctions, and vowed to take "physical action" against the planned deployment of a US missile defence system in the South announced in July.

UN resolutions prohibit North Korea from developing ballistic missile technology.

Pyongyang has repeatedly warned of pre-emptive nuclear strikes against the South and US targets, although the main focus of its nuclear weapons programme is to develop a credible strike threat against the US mainland.

A series of missile tests this year aimed at backing up that threat led to an agreement between Seoul and Washington to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence, or THAAD, by the end of the year.

North Korea-US tensions had already been stoked by Pyongyang’s fury at Washington’s decision to personally target leader Kim Jong-Un with sanctions related to human rights abuses.

August 3, 2016 Posted by | Blog, Blogroll, Business, CELEBRITY, Death, Disgusting, Entertainement, Flying, Food, fraud, Health, Just Wrong, People, Politics, religion, Si-Fi, Space, Weird | | Leave a comment

PAKISTAN A Pakistani family converted to Christianity is hounded, victim of death threats – Asia News


 

A Pakistani family converted to Christianity is hounded, victim of death threats
by Stephen John
Since 2006, the couple has had two children and constant persecution from certain Muslims because the wife converted to her husband’s religion. Attempts to file a case against their tormentors have fallen on deaf police ears. After years on the run, the family is now in hiding. Human rights activists want the government to defend religious freedom, human rights and the country’s constitution.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – A Christian family has been on the run for almost ten years, finding temporary refuge but no safe haven. Jobless and desperate, they are unable to meet their own needs, as they continue to be threatened, hounded, and attacked because they want to live a Christian life and raise their children in accordance with Christ’s teachings. 

After hearing their tragic story, AsiaNews decided to present it. Names, places and other details have been changed to protect the family, but their fate is part and parcel of the fight for religious freedom and the rights of Christians in Pakistan.

In May 2006, Amina, a 29 year-old Muslim woman, married 34-year-old Salamat Masih, a Christian. Her family was against it from the start, especially since they had already arranged her marriage to a trusted Muslim man.

However, Amina would not give in to her family’s pressures, and decided to marry the man she loved. The two also wanted a Christian wedding, but no pastor was willing to do it for fear of retaliation by her relatives.

To stop the marriage, Amina’s family filed a case against the would-be husband for rape and kidnapping. Thus, fearing arrest, Amina and Salamat decided to elope in accordance with Islamic law. This meant that Salamat, a Christian, had to convert to Islam since Muslim women are not allowed to marry non-Muslims.

Two Muslim men, Naveed Asim and Kareem Ahmad, acted as witnesses to the Islamic wedding. Proud of converting a Christian to Islam and of the greater standing they achieved among Muslims, they also took on the responsibility of monitoring the newlywed’s life.

With this purpose in mind, the two “guardians” forced the couple to move to Sadar, a town near Karachi, and live according to Islamic traditions, including fasting during Ramadan.

Still, Amina and Salamat did not want to live as Muslims and sought help from a local Church to arrange a Christian marriage and live among local Christians.

Eventually, the pastor of a local church agreed to register their marriage as Christian on 26 October 2006. The couple also found refuge among local Christians because of threats of reprisal from Muslims.

In the following years, the couple had two daughters. Yet, their secret did not last and threats started again, especially from the two men who had taken on the task of acting as their “guardians”.

For Amina, constant threats and pressures proved too much and she miscarried a third child. This further aggravated the conflict because the father chose to give his son a Christian burial rather than laying him to rest in a Muslim cemetery. The family’s enemies had one more reason to persecute them.

Fearing for their life, the family went from city to city, finding temporary shelter in various homes. Muslims from Amina’s community, especially the two “guardians”, kept tracking them down, proffering fresh threats and exerting more pressure on them.

Two years ago, threats turned into an actual attack. Gunmen shot at Salamat, in the leg, then drove their motorcycle over the injured limb. Only the presence of bystanders forced the attackers to flee, thus preventing them from finishing off their victim.

Because of the family’s difficult economic circumstances, Salamat was never properly treated and his leg has not fully healed. Such an impairment has limited his ability to work, making family life that much harder.

The couple’s relatives are no longer able to help for fear of reprisals and attacks by Muslims.  The same goes for co-workers and friends who helped them and gave them refuge. The fear of an attack has proven stronger than the desire to help.

Since March 2015, the family has been hiding in one of the country’s largest cities. Since the family has been tracked down once and attacked before, the location has been kept secret for security reasons.

Attempts to file a case with police for the violence and threats against the family have fallen on deaf years. Law enforcement agencies have refused to deal with it.

Forced into hiding for weeks on end, Amina and Salamat have been unable to work and lead a normal life. Although a local NGO has helped them with their immediate needs, the couple and their children have gone to bed hungry on several occasions.

For Amina’s family, marrying a Christian and converting to Christianity are dishonourable acts, hence the threats. This is the more acceptable since her attackers have walked away, scot-free, ready to strike again.

However, not everyone has stood idly by. Citing the Constitution of Pakistan, the Asian Human Rights Commission has called on Pakistani authorities to respect the principle of equality of citizens, and guarantee freedom of religion. Likewise, it has called for action against the police officers who failed in their duty to protect the family.

PAKISTAN A Pakistani family converted to Christianity is hounded, victim of death threats – Asia News

October 20, 2015 Posted by | Blog, Blogroll, Charity, Death, Disgusting, Food, fraud, Health, Homeless, Internet, Just Wrong, People, religion | , | Leave a comment

Syrian Priest, 270 Christian and Muslim Hostages Kidnapped by Islamic Militants Reportedly Alive


 

Syrian Priest, 270 Christian and Muslim Hostages Kidnapped by Islamic Militants Reportedly Alive

By Stoyan Zaimov , Christian Post Reporter

September 7, 2015|9:32 am

Assyrian Christians

(Photo: Reuters/Rodi Said)

Displaced Assyrians, who fled from the villages around Tel Tamr, gather outside the Assyrian Church in al-Hasaka city, as they wait for news about the Assyrians abductees remaining in Islamic State hands, March 9, 2015. Islamic State released 19 Assyrian Christian captives in Syria on March 1 after processing them through a sharia court, a monitoring group which tracks the conflict said. More than 200 Assyrians remain in Islamic State hands, said the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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A Syrian priest, along with 270 Christian and Muslim hostages kidnapped by Islamic militants earlier this summer in an offensive on the city of Homs, are reportedly alive and hoping that they’ll be released after negotiations.

Fides News Agency said that Father Jacques Murad, who belongs to the monastic community of Deir Mar Musa, is still alive, according to local sources, but is being held hostage with groups of Christians and Muslims taken by jihadists in August. The hostages are reported to be "stable and secure," and are waiting as local ecclesial communities are carrying out negotiations through mediators for their possible release.

 

"The sources contacted by Fides confirm that all the hostages are still in Quaryatayn, and specify that the news on the story of father Murad broadcast in recent days by Lebanese television network Nursat TV did not include any statement regarding the religious person kidnapped, but only reassuring considerations about his fate, expressed by another priest," the report added.

Murad was captured in May by two armed men on motorbikes who arrived at the Mar Elian monastery, before forcing the priest into his car and taking him to an unknown destination.

The monastery has reportedly been hosting hundreds of refugees from the Syrian civil war, including over a hundred children younger than 10. Before he was captured, Murad had been helping provide basic necessities for the refugees.

It was not made clear which groups the jihadists belong to, though the country has been torn apart by clashes between government forces and various Islamic rebel groups seeking to take power.

Christians have been targeted especially heavily by the Islamic State terror group, which has captured significant territory in Syria, and has forced believers to agree to live under strict conditions or be driven out of the captured cities.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights obtained a copy of a document Christians in the captured town of al-Quaryatayn are being forced to sign, which lists 11 stipulations that must be followed.

The contract prohibits: the establishment of churches, the displaying of crosses, making Muslims hear Christian prayers or rituals of worship, the hiding of spies, offending Islamic religious beliefs, the carrying of weapons, the sale of pork or wine to Muslims, and failing to dress modestly.

Syrian Priest, 270 Christian and Muslim Hostages Kidnapped by Islamic Militants Reportedly Alive

September 8, 2015 Posted by | Blog, Blogroll, Death, Disgusting, Health, Internet, Just Wrong, People, Politics, religion | , | Leave a comment

Father-of-five leaves UK to fight ISIS but he may NEVER see his family | UK | News | Daily Express


 

Father-of-five to leave UK to fight ISIS despite admitting he may NEVER see family again

A FATHER is leaving behind his life in the UK to join the battle against Islamic State (ISIS) – despite admitting he might never see his family again.

By Selina Sykes

PUBLISHED: 17:36, Wed, Sep 2, 2015 | UPDATED: 20:25, Wed, Sep 2, 2015

 

Man standing SWNS

Jamie McCarroll is taking the fight against extremism into his own hands

Former soldier Jamie McCarroll, 40, is taking the fight against extremism into his own hands as he feels the UK government is not doing enough to help persecuted Christians in northern Iraq.

The father-of-five from Glasgow, who quit his job to fight ISIS, has not yet explained his decision to his three daughters and two stepsons but has told them the news.

He said: "I’m leaving my life here and my kids, they’re my whole life.

"I’m giving up a lot to go over there to nothing. But I understand what I’m doing and why I’m doing it."

Mr McCarroll, who is self-funding his efforts, plans to join Dwekh Nawsha, a militant group founded in 2014 to help protect the country’s Christian population.

The group’s Facebook page refers to them as "The Sacrificers" who are "doing our duty to the Assyrian people who are in need".

Mr McCarroll said: "They aren’t getting any help from any organisations, and just looking at everything that’s going on is so difficult.

"They’re being murdered all over that part of the world by Islamic State if they refuse to convert their religion.

"It’s very bleak for them as there’s no one helping them at all. The UK and US governments aren’t doing anything to help them."

Man in armySWNS

Mr McCarroll admitted he might never see his family again

I’m giving up a lot to go over there to nothing

Jamie McCarroll

Mr McCarroll, who fought with the Royal Highland Fusiliers, said: "I don’t really think about something bad happening. It’s not something you think about because if you do you won’t last long.

"I’d rather think about going over there and helping those people than worrying about my own safety."

He is hoping to fly out to Erbil, northern Iraq, in the next six to eight weeks, where he’ll be taken to a safe house and undergo training before fighting on the front line.

It is thought more than 2,000 Britons have joined ISIS, while a small handful have also flown out to Iraq and Syria to fight against the extremist group.

Mr McCarroll said: "I’ll be on the frontline fighting, putting my life at risk, and knowing that my children might never see their father again.

"I couldn’t live with myself doing nothing, when I knew I could help."

Mr McCarroll, who joined the army at 18 and served during the Bosnian genocide, stressed there are too many untrained men going over to fight who are a liability to professional soldiers.

He said: "You need to have formal training if you want to go out and help, but there’s people out fighting at the moment who’ve not got any formal training and who’ve been there for over a year now."

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Father-of-five leaves UK to fight ISIS but he may NEVER see his family | UK | News | Daily Express

September 7, 2015 Posted by | Blog, Blogroll, Charity, Politics, religion | | Leave a comment