‘Eliminate’ blasphemy laws, says US commission chief on International Blasphemy Day

In some countries blasphemy is a very sensitive topic and often leads to riots and violence, like in Islamabad, Pakistan, in November 2017.(Photo: World Watch Monitor)
Blasphemy laws are “dangerous” and should be “eliminated”, the chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) told Newsweek yesterday on International Blasphemy Day. The freedom to criticise or mock religion should not be decided by governments and their interpretation of laws, said Dr. Tenzin Dorjee. And it . . . Read More

Myanmar’s blocking of aid to Kachin ‘may amount to war crime’ – report

An elderly Kachin woman looks for shelter after fleeing fighting between Myanmar's army and Kachin rebels in December 2011. (Photo: World Watch  Monitor)
Myanmar has blocked humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of forcibly displaced people in the ongoing war in northern Kachin state – for over seven years – says humanitarian group Fortify Rights in a new report. “Consecutive governments and the military have wilfully obstructed local and international aid groups, denying . . . Read More

Religious freedom violations in Asia increasing – UN rapporteur

Pakistani Christians experience an increase in violence such as a suicide attack on the Bethel Methodist Church in Quetta in December last year that killed more than ten and injured dozens of people. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)
Religious freedom in Asia is “eroding”, with an increase in religious fundamentalism across much of the continent, according to the UN’s religious freedom rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed. Shaheed spoke during an event, hosted by the Foreign Correspondents Club in Thailand’s capital Bangkok, on the back of the 4th Southeast Asia Freedom of Religion or Belief Conference. “Freedom . . . Read More

Laos: Law on associations ‘skewed to target religious minorities’

Buddhists meeting in their temple in Laos are often exempt from meeting requirements under the Decree of Association. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)
A law that came into effect in Laos last November “has already been skewed to target religious minorities, especially in rural areas”, according to Mission Network News (MNN). The Decree on Associations requires all groups, whether religious or otherwise, to acquire government approval for holding meetings and other activities. It . . . Read More

UN chief ‘personally concerned’ about return of Christians to Iraq and Syria

Tree and Arabic painting on the wall in Bashiqa, a town near Mosul in Iraq where Christians are slowly returning, saying: "Tomorrow will be more beautiful." (will be better) (Photo: World Watch Monitor)
The UN’s Secretary General has stressed the importance of Christians returning to the areas from which they fled in Iraq and Syria. “I am fully convinced that after the stability of the situation in Iraq and Syria and the adoption of a certain political decision, it is very important to . . . Read More

Report: UN weakness on religious freedom undercuts its authority on human rights

Dressed in the saffron colour, groups such these are promoting the nationalist cause for India to be a Hindu-nation. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)
The UN cannot strengthen, promote and protect human rights if it does not prioritise religious freedom, a report published by the Washington-based human rights alliance, ADF International has argued. The 73-page report, titled “Anti-Conversion Laws and the International Response”, claims that “some UN entities, especially special rapporteurs, have highlighted the . . . Read More

Philippines cathedral bomb attack followed warning of ‘very real’ terrorist threat

The situation in Mindanao has been tense for many years. Military personal stand guard in front of a church in Davao City, Mindanao, after a bomb attack killed 14 people here in 2016. (Photo: MANMAN DEJETO/AFP/Getty Images)
Two people were injured after a bomb went off outside a Catholic cathedral in the southern Philippines a day after regional leaders heard that the risk of terrorist attacks remains “very real”. The explosion at St. Anthony’s cathedral took place on Sunday (29 April) in the City of Koronadal, capital . . . Read More

Persecuted Christians celebrate Easter with mixed emotions

Flag of Syria is waving as sign of victory over the destroyed heavily damaged city of Aleppo. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)
Easter this year was a time of mixed emotions for the Christians who live under pressure for their faith. While political and religious leaders called for peace, reconciliation and brotherhood, Christians in countries like Syria and the Philippines continued to face violence and its consequences. Below, World Watch Monitor gives . . . Read More

Laos government agrees to religious freedom education

Vat That Khao, the Reclining Buddha, in Vientiane. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)
The government in the Southeast Asian nation of Laos has agreed to sponsor religious-freedom education in the country. The US-based Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) will roll out a series of seminars focusing on “religious freedom as a human right, Lao government policy on religious activity and encouraging dialogue between . . . Read More

Brunei takes another step towards full implementation of Sharia

Parliament building in Brunei's capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)
Brunei’s Sultan and his Islamic Religious Council have approved a draft Criminal Code that brings the country another step closer to the full implementation of Sharia (Islamic law), the Borneo Bulletin reports. The draft outlines procedures for investigation, prosecution and the judiciary, and would facilitate the introduction of harsher punishments . . . Read More