Inflammation and stories on religion

Religious Persecution in China
The idea of a Chinese monoculture is integral to the Communist Party’s control over its citizenry. As a result of the Chinese centralized government, religious persecution in China has arisen as a consequence of the country’s ethnic composition.

Chinese nationals are predominantly Han Chinese (more than 90 percent), while the remaining population is divided into 56 minority ethnic groups—each having distinct cultures and belief systems. As a communist nation spanning an enormous territory, China has strategically excluded these minority groups from its vision of the Chinese nation-state. 

Since assuming power, President Xi Jinping has exerted intensifying pressure over China’s religious and spiritual communities. This affront on global religions—including Buddhism, Christianity and Islam— continues to take place in China. The surveillance and detainment of clergy members and religious dignitaries have accompanied the closure and destruction of churches and monasteries.

In Western China’s Xinjiang province, the Communist Party has begun to corral and ‘re-educate’ the Muslim Uighur demographic under the guise of national security. This targeted campaign against the Uighurs has been the subject of worldwide criticism and stands as a blunt example of China’s disregard for basic human rights.

The Uighur Muslim minority experiences the highest degree of religious persecution in China, primarily because of their proximity to the Middle East and supposed threat to the Chinese Communist Party. Xi Jinping has attempted to curb the potential for domestic terrorism and insurgency in the majorly Muslim province of Xinjiang through a series of legal measures to police, deny and indoctrinate.

Indoctrination Camps

In response to an escalation in anti-government violence in 2014, the Communist Party launched a large-scale indoctrination campaign against the Uighurs. Following an attack that year, the Communist Party expanded its surveillance and grip on the region. Such efforts culminated in the building of a ‘re-education’ facility located in a remote part of the Taklamakan Desert. 

Today, the world recognizes this facility as an internment program; the re-education camp quickly became the site of the most alarming religious persecution in China. Under these oppressive living conditions, Uighurs must renounce Islam and submit to party dogmas. To date, estimates determine that these facilities have detained at least 1 million Uighur Muslims.

Limitations on Movement

Beginning in 2016, the Chinese government imposed a Passport Recall Policy on the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. With the pretense of terrorism prevention, the policy restricts Xinjiang residents from being able to freely travel, especially to zones that it deems high-risk (i.e. the Middle East). When applying for passports, Xinjiang residents are subject to rigorous and invasive bureaucratic procedures not required of citizens hailing from other provinces. These include arbitrary application and passport renewal fees, as well as the processing of biometric data (DNA, blood samples and 3D imaging, etc.). 

Forced Labor

The idea of indoctrination through labor is reminiscent of inhuman labor practices from the Cultural Revolution, which had the intention of bolstering party loyalty. Comparatively, Uighurs and other Muslim detainees released from the Xinjiang camps must work in Chinese factories. Accepting lowly factory jobs is often a condition of release from the camps. In many cases, preexisting restrictions on mobility leave factory jobs—such as textiles and agribusiness—as the only employment options available for those released. As early as April 2018, the local government hatched the factory labor program, aimed at utilizing citizen labor to bring lucrative industries to the region. 

Solutions

While Uighur religious persecution in China has gained international attention the issue persists; there are various ways to aid protection of human rights for the Uighur population.

One way to advocate for the human rights of the Uighur population is to support the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP), a nonprofit subsidiary of the Uyghur American Association (UAA). UHRP works to advocate for democracy and human rights in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People Republic of China. The sensitive geopolitics of the region can cause the relief efforts of international human rights organizations to become ineffective. UHRP helps to bolster relief efforts by supporting victims in telling their stories, increasing global media coverage of the religious persecution in China and exerting pressure on the perpetrators of this crisis.

Additionally, with increased awareness in the United States, the U.S. House recently passed an Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act. If enacted, this legislation would direct resources to China that will address human rights infringements and abuses. Supporting endeavors such as these will aid to end arbitrary religious persecution in China.

Elena Robidoux
Photo: Flickr

 

Everything You Need to Know About the Protests in India
People in India gathered on December 19, 2019, to protest the government’s intensified religious discrimination. Around 25,000 people filled the streets of Mumbai and 10s of thousands more protested other major cities in India. On Dec. 11, the Indian government passed a new Citizenship Amendment Act. This act makes religion a qualification to gain citizenship. As the people continue to disagree with the actions of the state, here is everything that people should know about the protests in India.

Reasons for the Protests

The Citizenship Amendment Act promises to expedite the citizenship statuses of people of religious minorities in the countries neighboring India. This includes Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and many more, however, it excludes Muslims. Many of the protestors view the bill as an anti-Muslim sentiment in India, coming to a legislative light under Prime Minister Modi, even though Islam is the second-largest religion in India. It also sparks the fear that the 200 million Muslims with citizenship currently living in India could have their status called into question in the future.

Who are the Protestors?

Most of the protestors at the forefront are students from some of India’s most acclaimed universities, like Jamia Milia Islamia University (JMIU) in New Delhi, Tata Institute of Social Sciences and IIT-Bombay. The first protest at JMIU turned violent. In addition, there was rampant police brutality against Muslim students. Consequently, this sparks other universities to stand in solidarity against police brutality. Police officers threw tear gas into the library and hit some nonviolent students with batons.

Violence in the protest

The protests in India as a whole have resulted in the arrests of thousands of people, of which authorities arrested around 5,000 “preventatively” and 23 died. Six people alone died in Uttar Pradesh, a city in the north. However, the police chief of the area, Prakash Singh, claimed that the police did not fire any bullets and that they used only tear gas and batons on peaceful protestors. Despite these claims, the causes of death have yet to receive a public release. The most recent wave of peaceful protests in India has been in violation of an act temporarily preventing gatherings of more than four people at a time, heavily restricting the right to protest at a time of mass civil unrest.

Internet and Cellular Service Shut Downs

The internet and cellular services shut down in parts of the country, specifically the state of Uttar Pradesh. Prior to the cut, authorities arrested over 100 people. As of the end of 2019, there were inflammatory or inciting posts on social media regarding the CAA. Additionally, the police chief backs this move as a means to prevent the circulation of fake news and to stop the apparent fear-mongering of the CAA opposition.

The scale of the public outcry against the Citizenship Amendment Act shows that the fight to maintain India’s position as a secular state is far from over, although the authorities have stopped protestors. Protestors have had international support as well. On December 18, 2019, many people protested outside of the Indian consulate buildings in New York City, Chicago and San Francisco. As the protests in India rage on, the country remains torn over the discriminatory nature of this new law, and what it means for its democracy as a whole.

Anna Sarah Langlois
Photo: UN Multimedia

Destruction of the Thracian BulgariansThough somewhat obscure today, the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians refers to the systematic expulsion of the native Christians (Bulgarians, Greeks and Armenians) in Eastern Thrace. These atrocities occurred during and after the Second Balkan War of 1913. Additionally, it involves some of the figures later complicit in the Armenian Genocide of World War One. Historians increasingly view the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians as a prototype for subsequent Ottoman campaigns of ethnic cleansing.

Today, the descendants of Thracian Bulgarian refugees remain attached to their Thracian heritage. Amazingly, this is despite gradual assimilation into the dominant culture of Bulgaria. The Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians remains a point of contention between the governments of Turkey and Bulgaria.

9 Facts About the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians

  1. Although the Ottoman census of 1906-1907 indicated a Muslim majority in five of Eastern Thrace’s counties, non-Muslims possessed numerical and cultural significance. Moreover, both Muslims and non-Muslims occupied positions across the empire’s social strata from peasant farmers to imperial administrators. Therefore, despite Ottoman claims to the contrary, Eastern Thrace’s character transcended a single religion and ethnicity.
  2. The Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians consists of mass deportations and atrocities against Thracian Bulgarians, Greeks and Armenians. This arose from the late Ottoman Empire’s suspicion of non-Muslim minorities. The transformation of Eastern Thrace from a core to a peripheral territory occurred following the Balkan wars of independence. Ottoman officials saw ethnic minorities as a liability to the cohesion and security of the state. In place of deported or massacred Thracian Christians, the Ottoman state settled Muslim refugees from the western Balkans.
  3. With the expulsion of Bulgarian forces and the Ottoman reoccupation of Eastern Thrace during the Second Balkan War, non-Muslims faced accusations of disloyalty and subversion. Locals and officers alike singled out Thracian Armenians in particular as untrustworthy. These assumptions played on ethnic prejudices that precipitated the 1906 Adana massacre. They would reach a fever pitch during the Armenian Genocide of World War One. Thus, in Malgara, occupying Ottoman forces accused the local Armenians of appropriating property from Muslims, which incited a mob to murder 12 Armenians and raze 87 houses.
  4. On July 14, 1913, the recapture of Rodosto (present-day Tekirdag) from Bulgaria by Ottoman volunteer forces occurred. Local Christians and Jews were told they must surrender “government” property. In framing local non-Muslims as unjust appropriators of property, this stirred volunteers arriving by an Ottoman battleship. Further, they despoiled the town’s unarmed non-Muslim inhabitants, killing 19 people in the process and displaced others. This constitutes one of the most serious massacres of the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians.
  5. Mass expulsions of Thracian Bulgarians and Greeks, punctuated by intermittent killings, characterized Ottoman policy in Eastern Thrace. This occurred even after the September 29, 1913 peace treaty between Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire. Where voluntary deportation proved unfeasible, the Interior Ministry resorted to tax and labor levies to coerce emigration. The government signed three population exchange agreements between 1913 and 1914. These agreements were biased in favor of Muslim refugees from Balkan countries and against Christian refugees from Ottoman Thrace. This granted de facto legitimacy to a long-established reality arising from the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians.
  6. Enver Pasha played a role in fomenting violence against the Bulgarians and Greeks of Western Thrace across the Ottoman-Bulgarian border. Later, Enver Pasha became one of the architects of the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek genocides. Led by Enver Pasha, a coterie of fighters forded the Maritza river and razed 22 Bulgarian villages to the west of the Maritza river. Reportedly, these forces killed thousands of Bulgarians. However, the Ottomans did not regain Western Thrace.
  7. The process of resettling refugees in the wake of the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians placed a strain on the Bulgarian state and people. The experience of property expropriation without compensation left the refugees initially reliant on the assistance of the Bulgarian government and people. Substantial aid only arrived in the 1920s when the League of Nations provided loans to permanently house the refugees (incidentally, the first methodical policy of its kind).
  8. Attempts to preserve the cultural uniqueness of the Thracian Bulgarians spurred the formation of the Thracian organization. This organization protested the 1925 Agreement of Friendship between Bulgaria and Turkey. The agreement essentially validated the uncompensated appropriation of Thracian Bulgarian territory by the newly-established Turkish Republic. Though the post-World War Two communist regime suppressed Thracian associations, the fall of communism promoted their resurgence. Today, the associations seek to maintain the Thracian culture within Bulgaria and Turkey without advocating for an explicit right of return.
  9. In 2011, the Bulgarian Parliament voted for a proposal urging Bulgaria and Turkey to negotiate compensation for property expropriated during the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan displayed a willingness to negotiate over the matter in October 2010. The issue of compensation remains unresolved.

Although it transpired over a century ago, the legacy of the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians persists. Descendants of those directly affected especially recognize the importance of this history. The role as the prototype for the genocides of the Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians during World War One is also key. Further, this confirms that the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians is anything but peripheral to an understanding of the twentieth century’s upheavals.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Genocide in Ethiopia
Over 3 million people have had to move due to ethnically motivated attacks. Some people have burned churches and there have been many recent deaths in ethnic-based conflicts. If these conflicts do not stop soon, a horrific genocide in Ethiopia could ensue. Here are some facts about the rising genocide in Ethiopia.

7 Facts About the Rising Genocide in Ethiopia

  1. Ethnic and Religious-Based Conflicts: Multiple ethnic groups, including Oromo extremists who want to take back the power others have historically denied them, have been starting ethnic and religious-based conflicts. There has been a long history of ethnic conflicts in Ethiopia. These conflicts include opposition between the Oromo people and Amarah people and the Oromo and the Gedeo people. Additionally, the Tigrean people have had more control over the government resulting in a long and complex history. The Oromo extremists’ acts of violence attempt to eradicate anything resembling the Ethiopian Empire including Christianity (a religion that has a long history in Ethiopia). People are burning Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Churches to the ground due to these conflicts. The Crisis Group, an organization that seeks to reduce conflicts worldwide, urges the Ethiopian prime minister (Abiy Ahamed Ali) to, “govern more inclusively, working to collaboratively with state institutions on reforms and involving civil society in reconciliation efforts.”
  2. Violence from the Conflicts: Recently, there has been a rise in ethnic and religious clashes in Ethiopia. On October 23, 2019, during a protest, ethnic and religious-based violence broke out and killed up to 78 people in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. Authorities arrested 409 people who were in connection with the attacks.  
  3. The Role of Fake News: The BBC reported that fake news has aided in spurring these attacks. The entire protest emerged from a false claim that security forces were detaining Jawar Mohammed, the founder of the Oromia Media Network and a renowned anti-government activist with a Facebook following of 1.75 million people. These claims were not true. The Ethiopian Prime Minister has responded to this spreading of fake news by warning of forthcoming tough measures against media organizations fueling conflict. Here is a petition from the Genocide Prevention Department to help prevent more violence. This organization is fighting to hold OMN Media, which is a network that is currently broadcasting the hate propaganda accountable for instigating violence.
  4. Ethiopia’s Efforts to Prevent Violence: The new governmental changes that have been making strides to peace have intensified ethnic conflicts in Ethiopia. The Tigrean and Oromo people seek to break away from the government because they oppose its recent efforts to bring peace to Ethiopia. These strides towards peace include the Eritrea peace deal which ended a 20-year stalemate following the 1998-2000 border war, freeing thousands of opposition activists from jail and allowing exiled dissidents to return home.
  5. German Bernhanu and Ignorance: Small disputes become fatal skirmishes due to the absence of a culture of constructive dialogue and the alarming rise of intolerance. During an interview with The Borgen Project, Germa Bernhanu discussed how propaganda fuels a lot of these conflicts because people ignorantly follow. An example of ignorance causing violence is the October 23, 2019 skirmishes that resulted from falses claims.
  6. The Role of Education: Only 41 percent of girls are literate in Ethiopia while 34 percent of school-aged children do not attend school. If more Ethiopian children could gain an education, the ignorant following of propaganda may not be an issue. Organizations like Save the Children and the World Bank are working towards educating children around the world. In the U.S., the Keeping Girls in Schools Act seeks to solve this issue as well by empowering young girls, but the U.S. has not passed this bill yet. Contacting Senators and House Representatives is a great way to urge congress to pass this bill.
  7. Potential for Genocide: Many Ethiopians have a great fear that genocide will break out in Ethiopia. Ethiopians such as Elijah Wallace, Ethiopian native and scholar, and Haile Gebrselassie, Ethiopian running legend, also say the potential for a genocide to emerge in Ethiopia soon is great. Many believe that the situation is very fragile due to political protests against the Ethiopian government’s attempts to unify Ethiopia as well as ethnic and religious-based feuds that have broken out in Ethiopia recently. Since very bloody ethnic-based clashes continue to happen in Ethiopia, the beliefs that genocide in Ethiopia is a very likely possibility in the near future are strong.

While a full-blown genocide has thankfully not occurred in Ethiopia yet, genocide in Ethiopia is certainly a looming possibility. If the Ethiopian government is able to defuse the conflicts and figure out how to handle them, these conflicts might be able to resolve without outside interference. 

– Emily Oomen
Photo: Flickr

Mein Horrendous Facts about Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler, one of the most notorious figures in human history, became the leader (Führer), of the German Nazi Party in 1921 and the Chancellor in 1933. His fascist and lawless power led to the onset of World War II and the death of at least 11 million people. Here are 10 horrendous facts about Adolf Hitler and his rule.

10 Horrendous Facts About Adolf Hitler

  1.  As the leader of the Nazi Party, Hitler gave numerous politically charged speeches during which he blamed Germany’s Jewish population for the nation’s turmoil following World War I. He asserted that German Jews sought to control the Weimar Republic, the post-war government. He also claimed that they had influenced the Weimar Republic to accept the Treaty of Versailles which significantly limited the nation’s military power and demanded $33 billion in reparations for World War I. During a 1922 speech in Munich, Hitler proclaimed “There are only two possibilities, either victory of the Aryan or annihilation of the Aryan and the victory of the Jew.”
  2. While in prison for the failed coup d’état of the Beer Hall Putsch, Hitler wrote the first volume of Mein Kampf. Democrats, communists and internationalists are all targets in this narrative, but it targeted the Jews most bitterly. He declared that the highest racial purity was that of the German people, making them the master race and thus responsible for the elimination of all Jewish people. In this book, Hitler’s proclamations about Jews overtly shifted from those of deportation to murder. Further, he wrote extensively in support of the dismantling of democracy. Before the start of World War II, people purchased more than five million copies.
  3. In 1933, the same year that Hitler assumed total power, concentration camps arose in Germany. Suspected enemies of the Nazi Party faced imprisonment at the camps, the first of which was Dachau. Political opponents, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals comprised the initial target population. Following 1938, Hitler’s forces filled the camps with Jewish prisoners, simply because they were Jews.
  4. Hitler outlawed youth groups like the Boy Scouts and required all non-Jewish boys in Germany to join his Hitler Youth Organization. Through this group, the Nazi Party held the power to condition over 90 percent of Germany’s young men. The boys faced military-like training in weaponry and survival while fostering an almost religious devotion to Hitler. Following years of indoctrination, boys at the age of 17 had to serve in the military.
  5. In 1935, Hitler enacted the Nuremberg Laws which stripped Jewish populations in Germany of their citizenship and banned marriage between Jews and Germans. Many consider these laws the foundation on which Hitler built the ensuing internment and murder of the German Jews. The passing of the Nuremberg Laws legalized the persecution of Jewish people as a part of Hitler’s Final Solution.
  6. On the nights of November 9 and 10 in 1938, German mobs took to the streets to attack Jews, destroying their homes and workplaces as well as burning synagogues. This event, called Kristallnacht or the Night of Broken Glass, led to the murder of 96 Jews and the burning of between 1,000 and 2,000 places of worship. Hitler and his administration both introduced the propaganda leading to this riot and offered encouragement for the mobs to continue their harassment. The administration later held Jews financially responsible for the damages incurred during these events.
  7. In early 1939, the Nazi Party secretly began the Child Euthanasia Program under which it murdered disabled children by lethal drug overdoses and starvation. Later that year, the program, shifting to the name Operation T4, extended to target disabled adults who faced murder by gas chamber. Hitler authorized all phases of the Nazi Party’s euthanasia efforts in order to “cleanse” Germany’s Aryan race, leading to the deaths of at least 250,000 physically and mentally disabled people. The infamous use of gas chambers at Hitler’s extermination camps originates from this program.
  8. Following the German invasion of Poland in 1939, Hitler began a campaign of anti-Jewish propaganda in order to concentrate Poland’s Jewish populations into areas called ghettos. Nazis propagated the idea that Jews carried diseases like typhus and thus required isolation. Ghettos suffered overcrowding and were cold, unsanitary and largely lacked in terms of food.
  9. To facilitate the Final Solution, Hitler authorized the implementation of Jewish extermination camps in 1941. Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau comprised the six camps intended only for the sole purpose of murder. Between 1942 and 1943, Hitler’s Nazi Party attempted to destroy these camps in order to conceal its abhorrent actions from Allied forces.
  10. With the loss inevitable to the Allied forces, Hitler and his frenzied party began recruiting thousands of young men, even those below the 17-year-old age requirement, to fight losing battles. Recruiters offered the children chocolates and candy in exchange for their lives. Thousands died in combat from lack of experience and training while others’ States executed them for refusing to fight.

Hitler’s Holocaust enabled the mass murder of at least 6 million European Jews. Another 5 million targeted groups perished alongside in concentration camps’ gas chambers or at the hands of Hitler’s barbaric forces. As demonstrated by the 10 horrendous facts about Adolf Hitler, people should never forget Nazi Germany’s actions so that they may never be repeated.

 – Bhavya Girotra
Photo: Flickr

Health of Rohingya Muslims
Beginning in August 2017 and continuing to the present day, an estimated 24,000 members of the Rohingya Muslim ethnoreligious group have been murdered by Myanmar militia forces for cleansing purposes. Members of Myanmar’s army and police forces have raped around 18,000 girls and women. A total of approximately 225,000 homes have burned down or undergone vandalism since the beginning of this crackdown on the Muslim minority group of Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Since then, an influx of Rohingya Muslims has entered the Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh in attempts to escape the inhumane living circumstances of the Rakhine State. By February 2018, around 688,000 Rohingyas had entered Bangladesh. They joined close to 212,000 Rohingyas that settled in Bangladesh before the exodus that began six months prior. One area of concern is the health of Rohingya Muslims.

Even after leaving the region where they experienced persecution, the quality of health of Rohingya Muslims has not been ideal. This is due to the frequency in which they travel into Bangladesh, as well as the large groups they move within.

Health Concerns for Refugees

One major, ongoing concern for the health of Rohingya Muslims is the fact that they have limited access to preventative health care services. These services become necessary when a mass group of individuals resides in a singular location, like a refugee camp, for an extended period. According to an Intersector Coordination group situation report, rape survivors among Rohingya Muslims have not received adequate clinical treatment for harms and diseases they may now carry.

There is also a lack of preventative and diagnostic services for blood-borne diseases like HIV and tuberculosis. The World Health Organization found in 2017 that, though both Bangladesh and Myanmar had comparatively low rates of HIV cases, Rakhine state in 2015 had an exceptionally large number in comparison to the rest of Myanmar. This, paired with the fact that Myanmar armed forces raped a large number of women and girls, illustrates a need for more thorough diagnostic procedures for blood-borne and sexually transmitted diseases.

Around 42,000 pregnant women and 72,000 lactating mothers require quality care assistance, as of October 22, 2018. Around 3,000 of those women had entered health facilities to receive treatment for their symptoms of malnourishment.

Medical Advancements and Humanitarian Aid

While refugees have limited access to health care, medical advancements have occurred to address as many of these refugees’ needs as possible. The World Health Organization reported on March 18, 2019, that a new software known as Go.Data will now allow for more efficient investigations into disease outbreaks, “including field data collection, contact tracing and visualization of disease chains of transmission.” On February 28, 2018, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre donated $2 million to the Sadar District Hospital in Cox’s Bazar. This will help strengthen the medical facility in the region of Bangladesh that includes a dense population of Rohingya refugees.

One more great stride in improving the health of the Rohingya Muslims: In the year following the August 2017 mass migration,  155 new health posts emerged, supplying for around 7,700 individuals per location. This could not have been possible without the partnership of the Bangladesh government, the World Health Organization and other groups supporting the rights of the Rohingya.

Continued support for and increased awareness of the persisting struggles of the Rohingya Muslims will do incredible things in ensuring improvement to their quality of life.

– Fatemeh-Zahra Yarali
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Lichtenstein

Liechtenstein is a little-known principality located between Austria and Switzerland. Despite its small size (roughly 38, 000 inhabitants) it has a growing economy, which allows for residents to have a high standard of living. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Liechtenstein.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Liechtenstein

  1. Liechtenstein provides its workers with some of the highest wages in Europe – Because of the growing economy, citizens of Liechtenstein benefit from one of the highest wage levels across Europe. On average, citizens make about $92,000 annually. When compared to the average gross salary of Germany’s citizens, Liechtenstein’s citizens have a higher income by about $15,000.
  2. Living costs are high – While the country has high wage levels, it also has high living expenses. The average citizen spends about half their monthly income on their fixed costs, which usually include housing, utilities, transportation and health insurance. Despite the high living costs, Liechtenstein has a zero percent poverty rate with poverty being defined as those living at or below $5.50/day.
  3. The country offers universal health care – Health insurance is required and guaranteed to all people living or working in Liechtenstein. Individuals’ insurance is financed by their insurance holder and their employer as well as by state subsidies. Although there is no current data with regards to the increase in healthcare costs over time in Liechtenstein, in 2016, the government spent $188 million on social welfare programs such as healthcare.
  4. The government provides its residents with a high-quality education – Liechtenstein relies on its excellent education system to provide the economy with highly qualified workers. After completing the mandatory schooling period of 11 years (from primary school to high school), individuals are left with a range of options to pursue further education. These options include vocational training, higher education (college or university), and apprenticeships.
  5. A high percentage of Liechtenstein labor force commutes into work – The Feldkirch-Buchs railway connects Switzerland to Austria, passing through Liechtenstein on the way. This railway allows workers to commute into Liechtenstein. Since a majority of the country’s workers, (55 percent) are from neighboring countries, this system is crucial in maintaining Liechtenstein’s labor force. The reason behind the high number of commuters is because Liechtenstein’s economy has grown so quickly over the past years that its domestic labor force has not been able to keep up.
  6. Liechtenstein has a strong economy – Liechtenstein has one of the highest measures of GDP per capita in the world ($168,146.02) and a low inflation rate of 0.5 percent. Although not officially recognized by the European Union, it does receive some of the monetary and economic benefits of the organization because of its deal with Switzerland, which stipulates that they import a large percentage of their energy requirements from the Swiss and use the Swiss Franc as their national currency.
  7. Residents have religious freedom – Although an overwhelming majority of the population is Roman Catholic (the official state religion), there remain many individuals in the country who practice other religions or other forms of Christianity. The state is currently in the process of separating itself from the church, however, this is largely considered a symbolic move, as the current union does not appear to affect adherents of other religions. The government is pursuing this initiative by creating a provisional constitutional amendment to establish new regulations between the state and the religious communities. Additionally, there has been mention of providing more equitable funding for all the different religious organizations, rather than solely giving the Catholic church more funding.
  8. The country provides immigrants with good living conditions – Immigrants make up about 65 percent of the total population in Liechtenstein.  Many of these immigrants come from nearby countries such as Switzerland, Austria and Germany. Although the requirements for the naturalization process are quite lengthy, (an individual has to live in Liechtenstein for 30 years before beginning the process) immigrants receive all the same benefits that natural-born citizens receive.
  9. Liechtenstein has low unemployment – Liechtenstein has an unemployment rate of 1.9 percent. Most of its labor force is employed in the services and goods sectors, with only 0.6 percent being employed in the agriculture sector. About 40 percent of the workforce is employed in the industrial sector, which, combined with the manufacturing sector, make up about 40 percent of the country’s gross value added. Its economy is focused primarily on high-quality exports, services and goods such as machine and plant construction, as well as precision tools and dental instruments, among other items.
  10. Liechtenstein has had issues with spreadable diseases in the past – Some of the most common diseases include influenza, hepatitis B and tick-borne encephalitis. The country has since introduced several initiatives to address these issues, signing treaties with Switzerland and Austria in order to provide its citizens with better healthcare options.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Liechtenstein demonstrate the quality of life with which residents of Liechtenstein experience on a daily basis. While the country certainly has some very positive trends going for it (namely, unemployment, wages, GDP, and its education system) it also has some things to improve upon, such as reducing living costs, which make it hard for many individuals to live in the country. Nevertheless, Liechtenstein appears to be in a good state presently, as it provides many services and freedoms that make it a desirable place to live.

– Laura Rogers
Photo: Flickr

Aid to Indonesia

Indonesia is no stranger to natural disasters; it has experienced a lot of destruction throughout the years. A major natural disaster occurs in Indonesia almost every year in the form of tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Christian organizations are planted internationally in order to minister and bring aid to those in need. World Vision Ministry is one such organization that has been in Indonesia since 1960. Here is a look at World Vision’s aid to Indonesia.

World Vision’s Foundation

World Vision in Indonesia is based on a vision of a world that is committed to the well-being of children. The organization strives to build thriving communities where peace and justice can prevail with security, opportunity and contentment. This is accomplished through its relief, development and advocacy work. World Vision has become one of the world’s largest charities with annual revenue reaching more than $1 billion. It has ministries in 90 countries, focusing on children.

In the 1970s, World Vision Indonesia initiated a community development approach that provides more integrated support toward the empowerment of the poor communities and their children. Its involvement improved basic education, health, income generation and basic infrastructure for Indonesia. In 1998, World Vision raised 14 million to aid the poor in Jakarta, Indonesia. As a global humanitarian organization, World Vision’s ministry is dedicated to continuous aid to Indonesia whether it be a food crisis or assistance to victims of natural disasters.

Programs to Empower

According to the ministry, World Vision introduced the Area Development Program (ADP) approach in the 1990s to create an effective and lasting transformation in the lives of people in poor communities. The organization describes the ADPs as nurturing an inclusive approach to tackle poverty across extensive areas, normally involving several villages and communities. World Vision’s aid to Indonesia through the ADP approach has led to more sustainable developments and impacts through longer intervention and lifetime concentrated programs.

Today, World Vision has a partnership with Wahana Visi Indonesia, which supports around 50 ADPs in aid to Indonesia’s North Sumatra, Jakarta, East Java, West Kalimantan, Central Sulawesi, East Nusa Tenggara, North Maluku and Papua. World Vision in Indonesia has helped to save lives in many ways, but it is most effective in its emergency response.

Emergency Relief and Support

World Vision has administered emergency relief support to those affected by natural disasters or communal conflicts for many years. In 1963, World Vision supported the victims of Mount Agung eruption in Bali and then provided aid to Indonesia in the resettlement of displaced people in West Kalimantan, Maluku among other sites in the 1970-80s. The ministry remained Indonesia in 1997 and 2009 following the drought from the El Nino weather phenomenon, severe economic crises, earthquakes and the major tsunami in Aceh province.

In December 2018, World Vision provided aid to Indonesia when the Sunda Strait tsunami struck Java and Sumatra, resulting in more than 300 deaths. The ministry distributed hygiene and household items to families who lost their homes and provided safe places for mothers to feed their young children.

Margie Siregar, Humanitarian Emergency Affairs Director with World Vision, spoke with NPR’s Ari Shapiro while she was in Jakarta, Indonesia. “We had 30 aid staff already in the place before the earthquake happened and now we are providing some public kitchen and children feeding,” Siregar told NPR. The workers of World Vision also provided the children with a child-friendly space where they could play and recover from the trauma. In Central Sulawesi, an estimated 460,000 children in four districts were affected according to World Vision Indonesia.

Combatting Poverty

Each fiscal year, World Vision raises around $20 million from donors and sponsors in various countries to combat poverty and bring lasting transformation in the lives of the children to facilitate their communities. In 2018, 86 percent of World Vision’s total operating expenses went to aid Indonesia by establishing programs that benefited children, families and communities in poverty.

Parents in Indonesia are being empowered to care for their children through education on child protection and disaster risk reduction thanks to World Vision’s aid to Indonesia. Those who are interested in aiding the families affected by the recent tsunami may donate to World Vision’s Indonesia tsunami relief fund.

Carolina Chaves
Photo: Flickr

Malaysian Women
In the country of Malaysia where 30 million people are affected by widespread poverty, human trafficking, crime, a growing Islamic movement, as well as numerous other misfortunes, women are the most affected by these problems. In some Islamic cultures, there is an outlook that Muslim women should be subservient, submissive and should not have equal rights. However, compared to other Islamic countries, women’s aid in Malaysia has been a much greater success.

In this Southeast Asian country, there have been significant developments in the fight to protects women’s rights. One such organization that has joined this fight is the Women’s Aid Organization. This organization is challenging the antiquated views of women as well as helping to end violence against women and work towards equality between men and women.

The Women’s Aid Organization

The Women’s Aid Organization (WAO) was started, courtesy of Tan Siew Sin, the first Minister of Commerce and Industry in Malaysia, who donated a cash reward of RM 30 thousand to establish a shelter for battered women and their children in 1979. This shelter was eventually made into what is today the Women’s Aid Organization.

The vision of this organization is for violence against women to be eliminated. Its mission statement is “to promote and create respect, protection and fulfillment of equal rights for women. To work towards the elimination of discrimination against women, and to bring about equality between women and men.” Women’s aid in Malaysia has been largely influenced by this organization.

The objective of the Women’s Aid Organization is to provide protection, shelter and counseling to women and their children in the case of mental, physical or sexual abuse at any given time. The WAO also takes on research into the factors that play a part in the inequality of women.

Additionally, the organization advocates with government organizations and NGO’s to abolish factors contributing to the subordination of women through law, policy and organized reforms. It strives to provide a better understanding of the issues of violence against women and the underlying inequalities that they face on a daily basis.

Programs in the Women’s Aid Organization

The Women’s Aid Organization has three main services available to help women and their children in times of need.

  1. The first service is the Refuge, which operates as a shelter for abused women and their children. The Refuge is the center for WAO activities to educate women about domestic violence and women and family concerns, which are inevitably associated with this issue.
  2. The second service is the Child Care Centre, which is a place for children of former WAO’s residents who are going back to work and starting their lives over. The children of these women are cared for, either full-time or during the mother’s work hours, and provided an education at local schools along with recreational activities.
  3. The third service is social work, which is the center for advocacy on behalf of the women and children needing help. This section provides services to help women through legal, medical and welfare departments and ensure they are being treated fairly.

These services give women and their children the support and protection they need. Through the combination of these programs and several other services offered through the WAO, an extremely supportive system is created for maltreated women to use whenever it is needed.

Women’s aid in Malaysia has come a long way because of the WAO. Compared to other Islamic countries, this country is more progressive in its approach to the issue of women’s inequalities. Through more organizations like this one, women’s rights will become more of a priority for the authority figures of Malaysia. Aid is very much so needed in this Southeast Asian country, but much more so for women, whose odds are stacked up against them because of the way they have been seen in society for so long.

– Megan Maxwell
Photo: Flickr

Religious Freedoms Boost Economic Growth
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, specifically mentions religious freedom in Articles 2, 16 and 18. Article 18 states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” explicitly establishing religious freedom as a basic human right.

When working in developing nations, aid organizations often focus their aid toward expanding human rights and freedoms, such as ensuring healthy living conditions or equal education for girls. Since religious freedom is a human right, it is important that aid organizations work against religious persecution and intolerance. There is also a significant link to show that religious freedom boosts economic growth, suggesting that assuring religious freedom will help developing nations prosper overall.

4 Ways Religious Freedom Boosts Economic Growth

  1. Encourages peace – Religious persecution often leads to violence and conflict, disrupting normal economic activities. Conflict especially discourages foreign investment, which is necessary for economic growth, especially in developing nations. For example, many developing nations depend on tourism, which decreases significantly during a conflict. Religious freedom is also a key to stability, which encourages local business.
  2. Reduces corruptionThe Pew Research Center has found that nations with laws and policies that restrict religious liberty have higher levels of corruption. In fact, “Nine of the 10 most corrupt countries have high or very high governmental restrictions on religious liberty” according to the World Economic Forum.
  3. Reduces harmful regulation – Certain religious regulations can create legal barriers and directly affect economic activity. For example, restrictions concerning headscarves have been used to discriminate against women in the workplace and anti-blasphemy laws have been used to attack business rivals.
  4. Promotes diversity – Freedom of religion encourages diversity – religious pluralism – in all areas of society, and diversity has been shown to boost economic growth. For example, the inclusion and participation of minorities can boost economic innovation. According to the World Economic Forum, “the world’s 12 most religiously diverse countries each outpaced the world’s economic growth between 2008 and 2012,” showing that religious freedom boosts economic growth.

U.S. Aid and Religious Freedom

Initially passed 20 years ago, the bipartisan International Religious Freedom Act officially made religious freedom a priority in U.S. foreign policy. According to The U.S. Department of State, “Protecting religious freedom and religious minorities is an American ideal” and supporting victims of persecution and repression remains a priority.

Putting policy into practice, The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is assembling new metrics to measure religious intolerance in developing nations. USAID also works extensively with local faith-based organizations to actually deliver assistance and relief. Working with local faith-based organizations helps USAID maintain cultural sensitivity and reach community members, who often uniquely trust their faith-based organizations.

At The Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom conference, USAID Administrator Mark Greene said, “We believe that religious pluralism, which is part of a cultural mosaic, we believe it is worth preserving as a matter of development.” Religious freedom boosts economic growth and is essential for development, which is ultimately the goal of any foreign aid.

– Kathryn Quelle
Photo: Flickr