• July 9th, 2020

Coercive conversion and religious abuse condemned

Aletta Shikololo

WINDHOEK - The  Global Citizens human rights groups, religious leaders, youth and women organisations joined their voices and called for religious freedom at a meeting in Windhoek this week. 

The rally, which opposed human rights abuse by religious institutions globally, was held across Southern Africa between the 2nd and 5th of February 2019, in cities including Cape Town, Harare and Windhoek. This was happening as the world celebrated the beginning of the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week to promote peace and tolerance among religions and religious institutions. 

Speaking to religious leaders and youth, the rally’s host and member of the Global Citizens’ Human Rights Coalition in Namibia, Himeezembi Hapera said, “Religious institutions that are guilty of heinous acts like coercive conversion programs must be brought to an end! The world must not be deceived! They must make coercive conversion punishable by law! These institutions are a disgrace to religion!” 

In South Africa, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the rights of Cultural, Religions and Linguistic Communities, is increasing its activity to mediate various infringements committed by religious institutions, including the recent cases of local pastors, Shepherd Bushiri and the Mancoba brothers. 

International civil society organisations are calling for governments to intervene and close down religious institutions abusing individuals’ rights to practice their religions of choice freely.   

The Global Citizens’ Human Rights Coalition was established to expose the practice of coercive conversion in the country and to call for the shutdown of the Christian Council of Korea (CCK) after a 27-year old woman, Ji In Gu, was murdered for refusing to abandon her faith. 
 “In 2018 alone, according to our estimates, the number of coercive conversion victims reached 147, with many others unaccounted for,” Hapera said. 

Perpetrators of these forced conversions approach the families of individuals belonging to churches not associated with the organization and convince them to participate in the process, intended to impose the CCK’s doctrine on the person. 
These conversions often include violence and intimidation. 

Hapera added, “The CCK is not a religious organization, but rather was formed with a political motive, violating South Korea’s laws which call for separation of the state and government. Its leaders use government agencies to bully churches not affiliated with it, buy, and sell positions of authority in the organisation as well as pastorships. 
“Some of its pastor have been found guilty on about 12,000 counts of crime in the last 10 years, including fraud, rape, sexual abuse, embezzlement and murder.”

A member of The Association for Charismatic and Pentecostal Churches of Namibia (ACPCN), Pastor Isak Kharob said that human beings cannot dominate each other, because we all have freedom of religion. 

“Although Namibia has freedom of religion, we cannot confidently say that there is no need to create awareness, as there could be forceful conversion happening in discreet, therefore there is a need to create awareness in Namibia,” he added.
Representatives from the National Youth Development organisation, religious leaders from the Islam Faith, the Association for Charismatic and Pentecostal Churches of Namibia and the Bahai Faith, as well as religious youth from across the city attended the rally in Namibia. 

New Era Reporter
2019-02-07 10:05:38 | 1 years ago

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