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Thanks to your support, this summer I was on the ground with the Amazon Watch team standing with communities on the front lines of the fight to stop the Belo Monte Dam. I dug my toes into the red clay banks of the early stages of construction and watched as 300 indigenous and local people ripped through the earthen barricade in desperate attempt to free the mighty Xingu River, if only for a moment. We need your help today to ensure that this fight continues.
The last few weeks have been marked by glorious moments of victory and new challenges. Our efforts were validated when a Brazilian judge ordered the immediate halt to construction and suspended all activities at the dam site. Hope!
This was a true win, led by indigenous and local communities and won by the collective efforts of citizens from around the world standing with them…and by you.
As we suspected might happen, President Dilma pressured a member of the Brazilian Supreme Court resulting in Chief Justice Carlos Ayres Britto overturning the decision without giving essential consideration to indigenous rights implications. Back on the roller coaster.
The Federal Public Prosecutor’s office is expected to appeal this decision and demand a review by the full Supreme Court. They must uphold the historic decision that suspended this highly controversial project just two weeks ago. Help us make this possible.
Now is THE moment to dig our toes deep into that red clay and stand steadfast, collectively, in resistance to the Belo Monte Dam. Already over a million of you from around the globe have rallied behind this effort. With your support the people of the Xingu can win.
For the Amazon,
Live Encounters Magazine September 2012 is out on the cyber stand, It’s Free. Please Share.
Exclusive features – The Way of Apostle Thomas – a journey into antiquity by Mark Ulyseas: A poem by well known Irish Poet, Writer Playwright Terry McDonagh : Candess M Campbell Phd exclusive on Health: Romit Bagchi senior correspondent of The Statesman speaks about his book Gorkhaland: Joo Peter’s photo gallery on Geikos (Geishas) in Kyoto: Randhir Khare’s latest book Walking Through Fire: Henky Widjaja bites the bullet on Islamic Defenders’ Front of Indonesia: Natalie Wood is back with a column on her homeland, Israel: Civil & Human Rights Activist Anat Hoffman writes a letter to the readers: Arjun Bagga pens a short story to tickle our sense of proportion.
Knowledge is power and we are empowering people with the free distribution of knowledge.
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Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om
Islamabad: Having fled their homes in the latest spasm of Pakistani religious strife, a few hundred Christians have camped in a forest in the Pakistani capital, cut down trees and are using the branches to build a church.
Their ordeal began when a Christian girl in their poor Islamabad neighborhood was accused by a neighbor of burning pages of the Quran – a blasphemy by Pakistani law that can mean life in prison.
A week after the girl’s arrest, much remains in question: her age – 11 to 16 in conflicting reports; mental condition – Down syndrome has been mentioned; and what exactly she was burning – there’s little evidence that Quran pages were involved.
But as word spread, hundreds of people gathered outside her house demanding action, and on Aug. 20 police arrested the girl pending an investigation. (The Associated Press is withholding her name because it does not generally identify underage suspects.
Most Christians in the neighborhood fled – some 600 families according to one interfaith group. Some said their landlords evicted them. A few have returned.
One of those who moved into the forest on Sunday was Sumera Zahid, who was busy feeding her three children and her parents.
“We used to come here to collect wood for fuel so we find it a suitable place for shelter,” she said. “Here it is not anybody’s home, nobody’s land. Let us live here in safety.”
On Monday their pastor, Arif Masih, spoke to them by the frame of branches they were lashing together for their church.
“We are thankful to the Lord for this land although here is no water and food, but rest assured the Lord will create water fountains and provide all fruits here for you if you remain patient and suffer these hardships, thanking the Lord,” he said.
Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in this 95-percent Muslim nation of 190 million people, and cases often grab huge attention here and abroad.
Crowds have been known to beat or kill suspected blasphemers. Last year two prominent politicians who criticized the blasphemy law were murdered, one by his own bodyguard who then attracted adoring mobs. In July, thousands of people dragged a Pakistani man accused of desecrating the Quran from a police station, beat him to death and set his body alight.
So volatile is the issue that public figures appear loath to speak out on the latest episode. The government has made little substantive comment, and no police protection was evident at the forest encampment.
On Monday the All Pakistan Ulema Council, an umbrella organization of Muslim clerics, held a news conference together with the Pakistan Interfaith League, the group that reports 600 families have fled and is campaigning to return them to their homes.
The two groups called for an investigation into whether the girl was wrongly accused and what role religious extremism played. League chairman Sajid Ishaq demanded government compensation for the displaced Christians, as well as protection.
Critics say the blasphemy laws are often used in vendettas and score-settling. Sensitivities are also heightened by Western reactions to such incidents, such as the U.S. State Department statement calling the latest case “deeply disturbing.”
At the news conference, the head of the clerics’ council, Maulana Tahir-ul-Ashrafi, told the outside world not to interfere, saying Pakistan would provide justice for the girl and her community.
Meanwhile, Nooran Bashir, who had fled a few hours after the girl’s arrest, was back in her home Monday.
“I don’t know whether she burned pages of some holy book or not, but we all had to abruptly leave our homes to save our lives,” she said. She said one of her sons came back with her, but her other children were too frightened and she sent them to relatives.
She said Muslims asked the Christians not to worship in their church, and if they did, to refrain from singing.
But others were not ready to return. About 200 Christians, mostly men, protested in front of the city administration offices Monday, demanding permission to stay in the clearing. About another 100 people, mostly women and children, were back at the clearing.
“We don’t have a big list of demands,” said one Christian resident, Salim Masih. “We have cleared this place with our hands, and we have laid the first foundation of a small church here. Although this is a mere skeleton made of tree branches, this is the holy home of God. This should be respected.”
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Urge Brazil’s Chief Justice to Continue the Suspension of the Belo Monte Dam!
Watch this powerful new video and send an email calling on the Chief Justice to respect the rights of the indigenous people of the Xingu.
Recently we celebrated the news that a high court in Brazil (TRF1) had ordered the immediate halt to construction and all activities at the Belo Monte Dam site due to a lack of prior consultations with affected indigenous peoples. Yesterday, the Brazilian Attorney General’s Office (AGU) representing President Dilma Rousseff presented a complaint to the Chief Justice of the Federal Supreme Court to overturn the historic August 14th ruling that suspends the dam’s construction.
The suspension of the Belo Monte Dam could be overturned at any moment.
Chief Justice Ayres Britto and fellow Supreme Court judges are under intense pressure from the Rousseff administration to lift the suspension and allow construction of Belo Monte to proceed at any cost. We can’t let this happen. It’s critical that concerned citizens from Brazil and around the world voice their concerns to Chief Justice Ayres Britto – he should uphold the decision of the regional federal court, in recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights regarding Belo Monte.
Just two months after Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff inaugurated the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development with pledges of social inclusion and environmental protection, her administration is doing all in its power to pressure the Brazilian Courts to ignore the rule of law and fast track the construction of the destructive Belo Monte Dam in the Amazon.
Send an email to Supreme Court Chief Justice Ayres Britto now calling on him to respect the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Xingu, as guaranteed by the Brazilian Constitution and international conventions and to continue the suspension of the Belo Monte Dam.
For the Xingu and its people,
P.S. Please also consider donating at this critical junction. Funding is urgently needed to allow indigenous leaders to travel to Brasilia to demand justice.
With the hysteria over the arrest of a Christian girl with Down’s syndrome on a charge of blasphemy yet to blow over, the brutally tortured body of an 11-year-old Christian boy has been found in Pakistan’s Punjab province.
The body of Samuel Yaqoob, was discovered with his lips and nose cut off, his stomach removed and his legs mutilated. According to police the body was later burned and could hardly be recognized.
Relatives identified the corpse from a distinctive mark on the boy’s forehead.
Yaqoob, a resident of the Christian Colony of Faisalabad, had been missing since August 20, last seen on his way to a local market. His mutilated remains were found on Eid-Ul-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the month-long Muslim fast of Ramadan.
Detectives are investigating whether accusations of blasphemy had previously been filed against the minor. Yaquub was believed to be an orphan, but The Telegraph reports that his mother was quoted in the local press denying any allegations were made.
“We neither received any phone call for ransom nor were we told that Samuel had committed blasphemy,” she said.
When a Christian group is suspected of transgressing the blasphemy laws, the consequences can be brutal, reports the World Public Forum NGO.
The death of the 11-year-old comes a week after a young Christian girl with Down’s syndrome was charged with blasphemy after reportedly burning pages of a Koran.
Rifta Masih was beaten by local Muslims after they witnessed her allegedly torching pages of the sacred book when cooking. Several hundred Christians have fled their homes following the incident in fear of violence after local mosques reported the alleged incident over loudspeakers, and hundreds of Muslims taken to the streets.
In Pakistan, those accused of blasphemy are subject to instant imprisonment and most are denied bail to prevent mob violence. As a rule, the accused are placed in solitary confinement for their own protection against harassment from inmates or guards.
Those that have been acquitted from the charges, often leave the country, one of the strictest enforcers of Sharia law in the world, reports the Washington Post. In Pakistan, slandering Islam or its holy book is punishable by death.
There have been no executions for blasphemy, though Asia Bibi, a mother of five and a Christian, was sentenced to death two years ago. Bibi has not been executed as of yet, and may be pardoned of her death sentence.
Christian minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Pakistani government politician Salmaan Taseer were both assassinated for opposing the blasphemy laws in connection with Bibi’s case.
Last month, a man accused of desecrating a Koran was dragged from a police station by a mob and beaten to death.
According to Human Rights Watch researcher Ali Dyan Hasan, “The [country’s blasphemy] law creates this legal infrastructure which is then used in various informal ways to intimidate, coerce, harass and persecute.”
Investigators say all 248 fetuses discovered in a Urals forest were likely intended for use in scientific research. Most were terminated after the fifth month of pregnancy.
According to police, forensic examinations showed most of the fetuses were terminated at 22-26 weeks of pregnancy. Initially, it was thought they were 12-16 weeks. All the fetuses were mummified.
Investigators continue to probe the origin of the fetuses, which were sealed in plastic containers and discarded in a remote location in the Sverdlovsk Region. The prevailing theory is that the remains were being used in scientific research, but police emphasize that it is just one of several leads they are working around.
The late stage at which all 248 fetuses were terminated has forced some to believe they are dealing with a coordinated crime.
Elena Mizulina, head of the State Duma Committee on Issues of Family, Women and Children, believes this incident is a case of mass illegal abortions, which she says are rife in the country.
“Such abortions are illegal,” she said in an interview to newspaper Izvestia,“because they are performed at stages when it’s dangerous for the mother, and is the murder of a rather developed embryo. What were found in those containers are not embryos – they are killed unborn human beings.”
Mizulina believes the means of disposal itself – in a forest in the Urals Mountains, and not in the proper facility – shows the criminal intent of whoever was involved in this gruesome act.
“This is probably an attempt to cover up a criminal activity. Whoever did this might have been expecting a visit from medical or law enforcement inspectors and wanted to get rid of incriminating evidence,” Mizulina said.
Russian law allows a woman to terminate pregnancy until the 12th week. Afterwards, abortion can only be performed for medical reasons, if the mother’s life is assumed to be in danger.
Miscarriages, of course, can also occur naturally at any time.
What would you have done if you were faced with the same problem. Would you abort the foetus?
The mother of a Dominican teenage girl is accusing doctors of not putting her daughter’s health first after the girl died when her body failed to respond to chemotherapy. The treatment was delayed over fears it would abort the girl’s pregnancy.
The 16-year-old girl, whose name has not been officially disclosed, grabbed the world’s attention after doctors dragged out her leukemia treatment because of an abortion ban provided by the Dominican Republic’s Constitution.
The Constitution states “the right to life is inviolable from the moment of conception and until death,” which is interpreted quite straightforwardly in courts.
Diagnosed with acute leukemia, the girl was admitted to Semma Hospital in Santo Domingo, but had to wait some 20 days for treatment – doctors feared beginning aggressive chemotherapy as radiation could have aborted the pregnancy. Finally, they gave in Tuesday, public pressure increasing.
Friday, the girl died.
As a blood transfusion began Thursday, the teen’s body rejected it and failed to respond to the chemotherapy altogether, Dr. Antonio Cabrera, the legal representative for the hospital, told CNN.
Her condition rapidly worsening, the girl suffered a miscarriage Friday morning. Cardiac arrest followed. Attempts to revive the girl having failed, the official reason for her death was recorded as complications from her disease.
“They have killed me, I’m dead, dead. I’m nothing,” says Rosa Hernandez, the girl’s mother. “She was the reason for my existence. I no longer live.”
The incident stirred controversy and heated discussion with the Catholic Church and the Dominican public. Given the strict abortion rules, Hernandez had to apply both to the doctors and the government for an exception to be made for her daughter.
“My daughter’s life is first. I know that [abortion] is a sin and that it goes against the law … but my daughter’s health is first,” Hernandez said.
At the moment of her the death, the fetus was 10-13 weeks old, according to various media.