ERITREA: Challenges and Threats Posed by New Religious Movements

15 03 2009

source: american chronicle
Sophia Tesfamariam March 11, 2009 The story is long, so bear with me…it will take a while…but in the end, I hope that we would have learned from the mistakes of the last 8 years and most importantly, that the incoming Obama Administration will not commit the same blunders that have wrecked havoc in the lives of millions in Africa.
Much has been said and written about religion in Eritrea and various accusations have been hurled at the Government and people of Eritrea over the last 8 years. I believe it is time once again to re-visit the issue of “religious freedom” in Eritrea and how this “wedge issue” was hatched and why Eritrea was targeted. While the regime in Ethiopia may have contributed, by way of lies and disinformation, to the campaign to demonize the Eritrean leadership, the scope of the agendas seem to be much larger than anything the aid-dependent minority regime could ever muster on its own. A beggar regime whose national budget is donor subsidized and whose people are dependent on food aid, and whose institutions of government are externally funded and run, neither has the financial or intellectual capacity, to launch or sustain such a campaign.
It was also a campaign that the so-called Eritrean opposition (a dubious association of like-minded defectors, disgruntled diplomats, pedophiles, rapists, self-professed “intellectuals and professionals” and an assortment of scandalous opportunists), who I have baptized as Eritrea´s Quislings League (EQL), could never organize or lead without directives. After overcoming almost three decades of betrayals and untold suffering, the neocolonialists should have been hard pressed to find a single Eritrean Chalabi …but as we have seen in the last decade, Eritrea too has her share of treasonous children and scholars-for-hire… Instead of defending the dreams and aspirations of the Eritrean people, they set out to advance that of others. The EQL sert out to betray the trust of the Eritrean people.
Serving as puppets for the minority regime in Ethiopia; they undermined, ridiculed and sullied every Eritrean institution. They left no stone unturned to isolate Eritrea and deny Eritrea and its people the right to development. They burned the midnight oil churning out “analysis”, “reports”, “lists” etc. to malign Eritrea, its people and its leadership. Even the historical Eritrean Orthodox Church was challenged and its members rebuked. As we will see later, the Eritrean Orthodox Church was long targeted and the EQL, instead of defending the rights of the Church, worked in tandem with its enemies to distort its history and its foundation. Today, we see a member of the EQL is parading “In Chains for Christ”-how fitting for someone who have been unable to unchain himself from mental slavery…this from a man who had the audacity to preach to others about African decolonization.
So, if it not the minority regime in Ethiopia and if not the EQL, then who was running the show? Well, suffice it to say that it too was an equally dubious alliance of fundamentally different and even ideologically opposed religious and political factions. One was the coalition of evangelical Christians (also known as the New Christian Right) and other was the aggressive political ideologues commonly known as the Neoconservatives. Despite their many ideological, cultural, and socioeconomic differences, these two factions found common ground in Bush White House and they, like Machiavelli back then, recognized the power of religion as a potent political tool. The cartel used civil religion to justify, promote and effectuate its political goals. They introduced us to a new brand of politics coined “Political Fundamentalism” -which has been defined as the “strategic manipulation of religious beliefs, narratives, and sentiments for political gain at home and for aggressive militarism overseas”. I will henceforth refer to them as the cartel.
Jeffrey Goldberg of the New York Times wrote about the cartel and its agenda in the 21 December 1997 article “Washington Discovers Christian Persecution”. According to Goldberg, the cartel included:
“…Reaganite conservatives, labor activists, veterans of the Soviet Jewry movement and, most important, evangelical Christians. These unlikely partners are united by their desire to “remoralize” American foreign policy…Midwifed by a handful of veteran organizers, this is an issue manufactured in the mile-square section of Washington that produces the most priceless of political commodities: the wedge issue. It is a process of political manufacturing that Washington seems to have perfected the taking of a simple, transparently righteous issue and turning into a political football…”
The Bush Administration´s Faith Based Initiative buoyed their coffers and offered them further access to nations big and small around the globe.
With a variety of mercenaries in tow, the cartel, which controlled the purse and the agenda, launched a massive disinformation and vilification campaign against the State of Eritrea. Eritrea´s Chalabis, expert information launderers that they have become, were eager to peddle countless lies and exaggerations about Eritrea´s history, economy, and its leadership and people-especially the Eritrean Diaspora. After jumping on the “democracy” and “human rights” bandwagons in the early years, the confused and disoriented EQL lined up to push the “religious freedom in Eritrea” wagon, while the cartel rode high. They figured it would be the most divisive issue, and the one that could help them achieve their ultimate goals. In these circles, treason and deceit are commonplace and there was plenty of that. Eritreans endured an incessant barrage of distortions, fabrications and insults from self-righteous individuals and groups.
The cartel which enjoyed unprecedented access and power in the Bush Administration, is seeking to do the same with the new Barack Obama Administration. With individuals strategically placed in key Washington institutions such as Freedom House, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, Institute on Religion and Public Policy, Open Doors, World Wide Evangelicals, Christian Solidarity Worldwide and in the United States Congress, the “network” managed to pass legislations during the Bush era, that would most probably not see the light of day in an Obama Administration…that does not mean that they will not try… and some already have.
It is that access, influence and power that enabled cartel groupies like Joseph Griebosky of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy and Dick Army, Meles Zenawi´s lobbyist, to provide the minority regime in Ethiopia, the political and diplomatic shield it needed as it violated international law, committed international crimes in Somalia, and committed genocides in the Gambela, Ogaden and Oromia regions of Ethiopia. The cartel and its “network” bombarded Congress with faxes, emails and letters to prevent lawmakers from taking action against the lawless and belligerent regime. When US lawmakers introduced HR-2003, known as the Ethiopian Democracy and Human Rights Bill, it was Joseph Griebosky that wrote to the United States Congress to kill the Bill. Here is what he wrote:
“…Ethiopia has made outstanding progress in democratic development, human rights, religious freedom, political and civil rights. Despite this improvement, the House of Representatives wishes to impose its own timeline and its own standards on Ethiopia’s advance… H.R.2003 is a threat to American political and security interests in the Horn of Africa and in Africa as a whole and only serves to alienate yet another ally with a sticks-but-no-carrots approach to foreign policy…It is imperative that the United States Senate reexamines the merits of H.R. 2003 as currently drafted and amend the bill to provide the appropriate democratic tools and capacity-building agenda, before it causes undue harm to American interests…”
Not surprisingly, Meles Zenawi is not the first brutal dictator that the cartel has defended; their hands are soaked with the blood of thousands of innocent people all over the world. Throughout the Cold War years, these groups have been responsible for helping to get these dictators into power and then provided the diplomatic and political shield and support to stay in power. Some examples of such dictators who enjoyed the cartel´s support are Mohammed Suharto of Indonesia, the most brutal and corrupt of the 20th century, Haiti´s Papa Doc Duvalier, Guatemala´s General Rios Montt, Siad Biarre of Somalia.
In the 1980´s, using language similar to that used by Griebosky to defend Meles Zenawi, the American televangelist Pat Robertson defended the atrocities committed by General Rios Montt of Guatemala. Nikolas Kozloff on 18 September 2005 warned of Pat Robertson´s duplicity and hypocrisy. He wrote:
“…Rios Montt conducted a scorched earth policy. His forces massacred as many as 15,000 Indians. Whole villages were leveled and the army set up “Civilian Self-Defense Patrols” which forced 900,000 villagers to “voluntarily” aid police in tracking down suspects. Rios Montt created “model” villages, similar to concentration camps, which housed Indian refugees. However, when 40,000 survivors sought safety in Mexico, Guatemalan helicopters machine gunned the camps…Amnesty International noted that extra judicial killings carried out the by the military “were done in terrible ways: people of all ages were not only shot to death, they were burned alive, hacked to death, disemboweled, drowned, beheaded. Small children were smashed against rocks or bayoneted to death.”…Far from denouncing such practices, Robertson rushed to defend Rios Montt. “Little by little the miracle began to unfold,” he wrote of the regime. “The country was stabilized. Democratic processes, never a reality in Guatemala, began to be put into place. Most damning of all, even as Rios Montt was carrying out the extermination of the Mayan population, Robertson held a fundraising telethon for the Guatemalan military…”
But Rios is not the only dictator that has won the support of Robertson and the cartel. Mobuto Sese Seko also benefited from his close friendship with Pat Robertson. He then, like Meles Zenawi today, was portrayed by Robertson as a “loyal US ally” in the war against international communism. He also emerged as Mobutu’s close friend, and probably his most valuable asset in a deceptive campaign to maintain his stature with some ruling circles in the United States. Robertson was “wined-and-dined” by Mobutu on the dictator’s presidential yacht, and entertained at his lavish estates. Robertson was rewarded handsomely for his political support and shield. He received extensive lumber and mining concessions along the upper Zaire River and operated a 50,000 acre farm in Zaire (now Congo).
Pat Robertson is not the only member of the cartel that has provided diplomatic and political, shield and support for vicious and criminal regimes that have committed historical crimes against humanity. No one should forget the support given by Jerry Falwell for the apartheid regime in South Africa. In the 1980s, the leaders of the unashamedly pro-free market economics and anti formal religion cartel had invested heavily in apartheid South Africa. Believing that the African liberation struggles would bring an end to their free reign over the territories, they demonized the liberation struggle and its leaders. Many were forced into exile, many more were killed. Back then it was “the fight against communism”, that served as a pretext for their “unholy” alliances. They said that South Africa was “the Kremlin’s Playground” and that its leaders were “Marxist”. Desmond Tutu, Beyers Naudé, and Allan Boesak were portrayed as dangerous “foes” and Nelson Mandela was labeled a “terrorist”.
Ted Haggard, one of the nation’s most influential conservative “Christian” leaders and a staunch ally of the Bush administration, who in a recent letter to his congregation confessed that he was “a deceiver and a liar” and cited “sexual immorality” as the reason for resigning from his position as President of the National Association of Evangelicals and as pastor of his Colorado mega-church (14,000-member congregation), once claimed that Jesus wants a free market economy.
No to be outdone, Billy Graham, a renowned Evangelical Christian and spiritual adviser to multiple U.S. presidents was against communism and supportive of U.S. Cold War policy, including the Vietnam War. But his political views did not stop him from having a very close relationship with the late North Korean dictator Kim Il-sung. Graham said that Il-Sung was a “different kind of communist” and that he was “one of the great fighters for freedom in his country against the Japanese.” There is a saying in Tigrinya that goes something like this-kit bel´o zideleKa aba gumbah, zagra tiblo…
Déjà vu!
Today we see the cartel and its mercenaries employing pretty much the same propaganda techniques to demonize the Government of Eritrea and its leadership. Damning pictures and words have been replayed in thousands of missionary sites by the cartel for over 5 years. Pat Robertson´s 700 Club and the many hundreds of radio programs such as Compassion Radio, and hundreds of website have disseminated un-Christian propaganda. These lies have been regurgitated by young and old Americans; some of these people do not even know where Eritrea is, but chose to propagate the lies and deceptions, forgetting God´s commandments that clearly say, “thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor” and “thou shall not lie´. Toeing the line is a group of cheap imitators who insist on being “In Chains for Christ”. These individuals and groups call on prayers for others when it is obvious that it is them who need prayer and salvation the most.
There are individuals and groups that have been obsessed with Eritrea, as if it were their final quest. One of them is Glenn Penner. This man who insists on challenging this author about Eritrea, as if he would know Eritrea better than I would, is typical of the patronizing and condescending lot. For a man who has never visited Eritrea, knows absolutely nothing about Eritrea´s long and deep religious history, or about Eritrea´s cultures and or about the people, and could care less, has gone out of his way to pen the most outrageous and false articles on Eritrea. For people like him, the end justifies the means. In some he has even attempted to provoke this author (rather childishly, I might add). But he, like all the other peddlers of Christian persecution news, knows that without the deceptions and the lies, there would be no sensational gut wrenching stories to tell. No stories, no funds… “Spreading the Gospel” is not going to earn them the $45 million dollars a year that “persecution of Christians” rakes in…
This member Voice of the Martyrs (VoM) maliciously labeled the Government of Eritrea “Communist” and falsely claimed that “the Eritrean security was trained by the East German Stasi, who were experts at recruiting informers from within religious groups” . Had he known anything about Eritrea´s long and heroic struggle for independence, he would have known that the East German´s never supported the Eritrean peoples struggle and never trained any members of the Eritrean People´s Liberation Front (EPLF). Glenn Penner knowingly misled his readers. Instead of doing his homework, he chose to “cut and paste” unsubstantiated reports from dubious sources such as Release Eritrea. For people like him, it is the sound bites that he chases, not the truth. The fundamentalist and evangelical groups, such as VoM, preyed on the sympathies and kindness of the American public while and fleeced it of millions in donations and contributions, solicited on behalf of the “persecuted”.
But he is not the only person at VoM that has fabricated lies and distorted the truth to hoodwink his readers and hide VoM´s lawlessness. Todd Nettleton is another member of that NGO who has engaged in the most vicious campaign designed to distort Eritrea´s image. He is one of the many individuals and groups missionaries who have abused Eritrea´s visa regulations and entered the country under false pretexts citing tourism or business (English teacher) as reasons and then extending their stay repeatedly to carry on missionary and proselytizing activities.
Unfortunately, Eritrea is not his sole victim; there have been many other nations that have been violated by this wayward “missionary”. He justifies his illegal entry into sovereign nations and his lawless activities by saying that he is doing it for the good of the “converts”…he traverses the globe and tells us that if people are not introduced to the Gospel, “the alternative is that they will go to hell”. The alternative is that there will not be conflicts and violence and therefore no persecution stories for his group to peddle. For Nettleton and his group, its not just Moslems that are targeted, but as we shall see later, it is the established churches, such as the Eritrean Orthodox Church in Eritrea and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Ethiopia, that are prime for “harvest”.
Then there is the audacious Kevin Turner, a USAID subcontractor that entered Eritrea pretending to be a “humanitarian” worker, who had no qualms insulting the people and government of Eritrea, while he was still in Eritrea. Probably felt that his USAID credentials gave him free reign in Eritrea, as it did in Sudan where he has been “converting Moslems” for over 14 years. Turner of Strategic World Impact (SWI) tells an unlikely tale about a dream in which Jesus Christ told him that there were 9 hot spots in the world that he needed to go to and do God´s work. By coincidence, they also nicely aligned with those countries that are of strategic political and economic interest to the cartel leaders.
Feeding on the fear of Islam and the Islam phobic atmosphere in the United States, he sent numerous reports from Eritrea accusing the President of Eritrea, H.E. Isaias Afwerki, a Christian, of trying to “Islamize” the nation. He falsely and malicious propagated the false accusation of Christians being imprisoned “in the middle of nowhere in 40-foot shipping containers” which are “very hot during the day and freezing cold at night”. For Turner and his ilk, the nastier the tale, the better the response from the gullible that he and the cartel sought to deceive. These modern day missionaries are no different than their forefathers…the apple does not fall too far away from the tree…
The scandal ridden-cartel that brought us the illegal detentions of Guantanamo Bay, the prisoner torture and abuse of Abu Ghraib, extraordinary renditions and secret prisons all over the world, including Ethiopia, and the fake National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and National Democratic Institute (NDI) sponsored multi colored and scented revolutions such as: Orange Revolution in Ukraine, Rose Revolution in Georgia, Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, Purple Revolution in Iraq, Saffron Revolution in Myanmar (Burma) and fake elections such as the 2005 elections in Ethiopia and the bloody Kenyan election of 2007, did not have the moral or legal authority or integrity or credibility, to preach to Eritrea about anything, least of all religious freedom.
What triggered the aggressive militancy of the “political fundamentalists”? Yash Tandon of the South Center in his 1996 paper on Africa´s development wrote:
“…The collapse of the Soviet-style Communism obscures a deep crisis facing Western powers. Other forces are emerging to challenge them. One is fundamentalism. The West had a clear answer to Soviet communism, but has no answer to Islamic fundamentalism where the issues go beyond the development paradigm. Against Islamic fundamentalism, the West offers its own forms of Christian fundamentalism…”
During the last ten to fifteen years, there has been a bewildering explosion of new religious movements (NRMs) in Africa. We have all heard about the massive open-air rallies, crusades, revival gatherings, miracle centers, healing ministries and so on. While there are many African Christian churches that have been established by Africans themselves, it hardly explains how the number of churches in Africa grew from about 5000 churches in 1968 to the tens of thousands today. The headlines are filled with stories of this phenomenon. Here are a few examples:
“…Authorities in Cameroon are seeking to control the surging numbers of Pentecostal churches in the country… Distinguishable by the loud music which emanates during services, the churches are found in the most densely-populated areas… concerned officials in the South West Cameroon governor’s office, together with police, have stepped in and begun closing down some of the churches – even though Cameroon is a secular state with freedom of worship…” (BBC 24 April 2007)
“…There has been a boom in the number of new Pentecostal churches in Nigeria in recent years… Almost half the disciples are foreigners… Many Pentecostal churches have set up schools and universities, often focusing on business skills…”(BBC in pictures)
“…The Registrar General is overwhelmed by increasing demand for the registration of churches … the department is facing difficulties in processing 6,740 pending applications by various religious groupings…about 60 applications are filed every month. Already, there are 8, 520 registered churches…The AG [Attorney General] cautioned that some of the groups masquerading as churches were illegal outfits established to cash in on freely flowing money in the evangelical world…There is an astronomical increase in the application for the registration of religious societies, some of them turning out to be either wolves and sheepish or formed purely for financial gain, and take advantage of the unsuspecting public…”(East African Standard 4 September 2007)
Allow me to present some recent stories that will show some of the problems that developing countries are facing because of these modern day missionaries and their illegal, aggressive proselytizing and conversion schemes:
Groups of Ethiopian Christians were reportedly still hiding in churches Thursday, January 18, after one believer was killed, Christian homes burned and several believers were threatened with execution for converting from Islam.
Violence has engulfed some predominantly Moslem villages in Nigeria, where Nigerian Moslems are protesting the visit of German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke.
The recent Hindu attacks on Christians in the east and south of the country where churches homes and schools belonging to Christians were burned down and 22 people were killed and thousands forced to camps is yet another example. In this case, Christians in the area were “forcibly converting Hindus to Christianity”. The report cited a rise in “prosperity and status” that accompanies conversion to Christianity as being the underlying reason.
In March 2008, the Jordanian government deported an unspecified number of expatriates for “carrying out Christian missionary activities under the guise of charity work”. Jordan, where Jesus Christ was baptized and is also home to several tombs of the Prophet Mohammed’s companions and Mount Nebo, and where according to biblical tradition God showed Moses the Promised Land, is a popular destination for Christian, Muslim and Jewish pilgrims alike who revere Moses.
On 6 April 2007, the Times of India report said: “…police had questioned 26 American tourists on a visit to the city after residents of a slum in Baghlingampally complained that the foreigners were trying to convert the locals… a group of 53 foreigners had come to India on tourist visas. Of them, 26 came to the city led by a schoolteacher from California …the villagers complained that the foreigners were trying to convert the locals… the tourists were propagating their religion by luring people with gifts like chocolates and sweets… The tourists are reported to belong to a group, Youth Wing Mission and went to the slum in vehicles provided by Bethel Gospel church…”
Not to single out Kenya, but this statistics on Kenya is interesting and a wake up call for Africans. In “Keeping Kenya Christian” posted on 18 February 2008 , the Economist reported:
“…Missionaries are not the only ones interested in keeping Kenya Christian: the international community also enlists Christ to further Kenya’s stability. Colonial governments funded missionaries to ease tribal tensions. Western governments support them to battle the spread of Muslim extremists. The US government counts hundreds of international Christian groups as development partners. Of the 9,000 Americans in Kenya, two-thirds are missionaries and their families…”
Imagine the fit the bigoted self-righteous cartel would have if 6000 Moslem Kenyan Missionaries came to live in their midst, to convert their children, wives, husbands, fathers and mothers to Islam and convert their Mega Churches to Mega Mosques or as they are doing in Africa, break them up into many “house Mosques” or “Islamic cells”. Yet, when countries introduce laws to protect their people´s peace and security from the cartel and the aggressive militancy that is engaged in religious expansion, “harvesting believers”, creating “underground churches” and “Christian cells”, they are labeled “draconian”, “anti-Religious Freedom” etc. etc. These groups go out of their way to provoke governments, but are the first to cry “foul” when governments act. What hypocrites!
Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana´s first president warned of these groups over 4 decades ago, as he recognized the entry of various “missions” that were established by the neocolonialists to maintain control over the economies of the newly independent African states:
“…Perhaps one of the most insidious methods of the neo-colonialists is evangelism. Following the liberation movement there has been a veritable riptide of religious sects, the overwhelming majority of them American. Typical of these are Jehovah´s Witnesses who recently created trouble in certain developing countries by busily teaching their citizens not to salute the new national flags. ´Religion´ was too thin to smother the outcry that arose against this activity, and a temporary lull followed. But the number of evangelists continues to grow…”
To its Bretton Woods “structural adjustments programs”, the cartel now added the Bible belt´s “spiritual adjustment programs” to maintain its economic stranglehold on Africa and its vast mineral, oil and other natural resources.
According to the modern day missionaries, they have a mandate to make disciples in all nations and fundamentalists and evangelicals launched “The Joshua Project”- to take the Gospel to as many “un-reached” people in the world as possible. The countries have been chosen and put into a neat rectangular area that Luis Bush (no relations to George Bush) says is the most important area that missionaries should focus on. Bush describes it and its importance:
“…It is a belt that extends from West Africa across Asia, between 10 degrees north to 40 degrees north of the equator… 97 percent of the 3 billion people who live in the 55 most un-evangelized countries live in the 10/40 Window… it is the heart of Islam… Adherents to the Islamic religion are growing, as is suggested by the increased numbers pilgrimaging to Mecca. Yet at the same time, it is reported that many Muslims–having studied the Koran in great depth–have discovered in the process that the highest prophet described in the Koran is Jesus Christ and not Muhammad… just as Eastern Europe recognized that the atheistic ideology of Communism could not stand the test of time, so also the “eyes” and the “hearts” of the Muslims will be opened to the truth… it’s where the three main religious blocs are located. There is the Muslim bloc with 706 million … There is the Hindu bloc with 717 million people … And there is the Buddhist bloc with 153 million…”
By the time George Bush came to the White House, the Project was already at its height in places such as India, Burma and in African countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, and Cameroon. In Eritrea, the Afar, Beja, Bilen, Kunama, and Saho were considered the “un-reached” and missionaries eyed the newly independent nation.
Eritrea (pre-independence and post independence) has also seen an explosion of NRMs with roots in Ethiopia or in the West. The variety of these groups include the Church of the Living God- out of the Medhane Alem (Sunday School Ministries) revival groups within the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Dubre Bethel Church , Faith of Christ Church, Hallelujah Church / Hallelujah Pentecostal Church, Kale Hiwot (Word of Life- Baptist church affiliated to the SIM, formerly the Sudan Interior Mission), Mensfesawyan, Mullu Wongel (Full Gospel), Meserete Kristos (Christ is the Foundation-Menonite), Mehrete Eyesus Evangelical Church, Berhane Hiwot Church of Eritrea, Philadelphia Church of Eritrea, New Covenant Church, Rhema (from Ethiopia) etc. etc. the missionary groups were just as many. At one point there were 36 groups…
In the entire history of Eritrea, the only “religious conflict” happened during the British Administration, when individuals in that Administration deliberately and maliciously sought to bring conflict amongst Christians and Moslems in Eritrea. Astier Almedom describes one such incident, a very bloody incident, in her paper “Re-reading the Short and Long-Rigged History of Eritrea 1941–1952 : Back to the Future?”
“…on Wednesday 28 August 1946, the day of Eid (Feast at the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan) a fight broke out in Abba Shaul, the poorest part of the Eritrean quarters of Asmara, in which one Sudanese man died and a few others were injured. As soon as the news of the death reached their barracks, about 70 Sudanese soldiers “careered murderously through Asmara´s native quarter armed with weapons ransacked from the armoury”…Predominantly Christian residential areas were targeted and those who did not wear a turban or an amulet or had the Coptic cross tattooed on their foreheads (as was common among Orthodox Christian women) were dragged out of their homes, lined up, and executed on the streets of Asmara. Ullendorff (1988) noted that this happened between 5 and 6 pm, and that he and his wife had heard the sound of “heavy machine-gun fire, loud and prolonged. As soon as we realized that something pretty serious was happening we went to the Senior Officer´s Mess, less than five minutes´ walk from the Hamasien Hotel the Massacre which lasted about two hours claimed the lives of 46, leaving about 70 wounded; of which 3 of the dead and 13 of the wounded were Sudanese [possibly victims of ´friendly fire´, as there were no records of Eritreans firing back]…”
In addition, during Eritrea´s 30-year long struggle for independence, Christians and Moslems lived and fought together to liberate Eritrea. Even though there were efforts to disrupt and divide the people between ethnic and religious lines, these efforts were immediately recognized and thwarted.
So what is the problem today? For that, I think it is easier to take a look at how these new churches are being established and what their goals are. We will take a look at one of the churches that was established in the early 40s and one that was formed in the 60s. I chose these two because the missionaries involved with these two churches have written extensively about them, making it easy for me to illustrate the problem. Just because the churches were established way before Eritrea´s independence doesn´t mean that they are good for Eritrea, or that they ever had the best interests of the people of Eritrea, as one shameless Eritrean scholar-for-rent suggested in one of his recent posts.
For example, in Africa, the Assemblies of God (AG) had over 245 missionaries in 50 countries. There are 49585 Assemblies of God churches and preaching centers, 48448 national and lay ministers, 232 Bible schools and 11964 Bible school students established in Africa. This mission operates all over Africa and is primarily responsible for the huge number of “churches” mushrooming all over Africa. Here are the staggering numbers :
The Burkina Faso fellowship formed in 1944 and is the largest church in the nation of the 6,000-plus churches and preaching points in that country. Besides emphasizing home missions to the nation´s 58 distinct tribal groups, the Fellowship has sent and supported missionaries to Niger, Senegal, Mali, Benin, Guinea, and Belgium.
In Tanzania the focus is on reaching the nation´s 160 cultural groups and 120 tribes. Its concerted church planting strategy and cross-cultural home missions training have been significant in the fellowship´s growth. In 1980, TAG consisted of 275 churches and preaching points. Today that number has mushroomed to more than 3,200 with at least 100 churches in Dar es Salaam, the capital. Nearly 500,000 adult believers attend AG churches each week.
First introduced to Kenya in 1921 and today nearly 3,200 churches and preaching points have been planted around the nation.
In Nigeria the church´s growth is said to grow at approximately 400 churches yearly. There are more than 10,000 churches and preaching points, and the Nigerian church is the largest AG fellowship in Africa. The Nigerian AG has been instrumental in the development of the Pentecostal church in Niger.
Let us take a look at AG in Eritrea.
Jerry Falley and Maxine Falley are two American missionaries with the Assemblies of God who have written about their “adventure” in Eritrea. In their story they tell how Eritrea was chosen by these American missionaries:
“…A month earlier, Eritrea had been recognized by the United Nations as the newest African Republic. Following 30 years of guerrilla warfare, it appeared the society would be fertile soil for church planting. Since the Assemblies of God had not yet entered Eritrea, Ethiopia or Sudan, I asked to survey those three countries. My Area Director agreed… God threw a curve ball and turned me toward the horn of Africa… On my flight from Nairobi, Kenya to Eritrea, I spent one week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia which was a wonderful introduction to the horn of Africa…Staying at a missions´ guesthouse, I met a man who had just come from Eritrea. He kindly recommended a hotel in Asmara and gave me the telephone number of Kuflu Meskel, chairman of the Board of Elders at the Full Gospel Church and a mathematics professor at Asmara University…”
Soon both Jerry and Maxine Falley were in Eritrea. They say that their primary mission was to work with the un-reached populations-the Afar, Beja, and Rashaida they also knew that without a national link, they could not do what they wanted to do. They established a link with the Full Gospel Church in Eritrea through correspondence, a visit and then by providing for the Church. Falley wrote that the mission had provided half $4500 of the $9000 needed to buy a large tent that was sent to Eritrea for the Church´s use. The balance of $4500 was raised by the local Church members. Falley wrote that the check for payment for the tent was brought from Asmara by an Eritrean American. Falley also writes about the Church in Eritrea and its needs.
Falley says the Chairman of the Full Gospel Church told him:
“…We need training. Training that goes beyond a formal Bible school and teaches us how to share the gospel with other cultures, especially the groups in the lowlands of Eritrea…”
Two months later, the School of Leadership Training was birthed. A shipping container in the church yard served as a classroom and 21 Eritrean students enrolled for the opening class of the School of Leadership Training.
According to Falley:
“…Full Gospel Church of Eritrea was birthed in 1965 as several born-again believers received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Bible studies grew into a young church… Then under 18 years of Communist rule and persecution, they met covertly and emerged in free Eritrea numbering about 250 believers…Six years later with a congregation of near 2,000 believers, a training program was being initiated. Senior pastors Habtom and Twelode were among the students…”
In 26 years, from 1965-1991 the Church managed to get only 250 members and yet, after independence, within 6 years, they managed to get 1750 new members… a whopping 700% increase…
The book FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT: A Brief History of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, by D.G. Hart and John Muether, chronicles the establishment of the OP church in Eritrea. It also contains information on the missionaries in Eritrea. MYEPCE Church was initially established in the early 40s by the American missionary Clarence Duff :
Duff decided to go to Eritrea in 1943, which at the time was under British Military Administration. He was joined the following year by the Rev. Charles E. Stanton and, in 1945, by Mrs. Duff, Mrs. Stanton and the Rev. and Mrs. Francis E. Mahaffy. Three stations were established, in Ghinda, in Arafali and in Assab. Duff wrote about the challenges he faced in Eritrea. The work was far different from his previous experiences. He called Eritrea a “hot, barren, rocky, Mohammedan field”. According to the book, Duff saw the need for many workers and, in effect, two missions:
“…one to the Ethiopic Coptic [Orthodox] Church and another to the Muslims…The mission needed long periods of laborious plowing before it began to reap any significant fruit. Several different languages had to be learned and relationships of trust had to be established. Several times the mission was frustrated by painful defections of individuals who had made what seemed were genuine professions of faith. The persecution and ostracism faced by new converts were harsh. Ten years would pass before the mission would realize the spiritual harvest of new believers…The emerging church had to be strengthened through a program of Christian education, thus heeding Christ’s command in the Great Commission to make disciples. The translation and publishing of solid Christian literature was always a priority in the mission. Francis Mahaffy translated portions of the New Testament into the Saho language and produced over a dozen booklets and tracts in that language. Working among the Coptics, Herbert Bird worked on Bible and catechism translation into the Tigrinya language…”
In 1974 two OPC missionary nurses, Anna Strikwerda and Debbie Dortzbach were kidnapped by members of the Eritrean Liberation Front from the Mehreta Yesus Hospital in Ghinda. Anna Strikwerda was shot and killed and Debbie Dortzbach was held for 26 days and released unharmed on Saturday 22 June 1974. This is how OPC tells the story:
“…At noon, Monday, May 27, four armed men of the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) invaded our Compassion of Jesus Hospital in Ghinda, Eritrea Province, Ethiopia, and took two of our missionary nurses away with them—Miss Anna Strikwerda, who had served at the hospital since 1966, and Mrs. Karl (Deborah) Dortzbach, who was nearing the end of a one-year term of service. Within minutes Miss Strikwerda had been cold-bloodedly murdered, and within two hours Mrs. Dortzbach had been flown off in a helicopter to a mountain hideout… On Tuesday, the day after the attack, Anna was buried in the presence of many, many people (estimates range up to 2,000) at a service conducted by Mr. Steltzer and participated in by elders of the congregation. She was buried in the garden of the hospital…”
The mission continued for about eighteen months but they decided to suspend their work in 1976 when Osman Adem, a “convert” in the hospital, was seized and never seen alive again. Immediately, the mission and the hospital closed, ending thirty-two years of service. The remaining missionaries returned to the United States. OPC returned to Eritrea in 1992, after Eritrea´s independence. Don and Jeanette Taws, who served from 1958 to 1961, returned to Eritrea for three years to reestablish the mission. The church sent Charles and Rhonda Telfer and Steve and Jane Miller and the Church was re-established in 1995. OPC said:
“…August 1995 saw the reopening of the Mehreta Yesus Family Care Center, at which Dr. Grietje S. Rietkerk and Lois Ooms work. In Asmara, Steve and Jane Miller, Dirk Kievit, and Charles and Rhonda Telfer are busily involved in all aspects of establishing and strengthening the indigenous church…”
Lois Ohm worked in Eritrea for nearly two years training traditional birth attendants and community health workers as well as presenting the gospel to Muslim women. Ohm no longer works in Eritrea but is still in Africa. Rietkerk has retired and Steve Miller is back in the USA.
Almost all the faith based groups in Eritrea had similar missions. For instance SIM says:
“…By faith, we see SIM enlarging the kingdom of God in Eritrea by making disciples, developing quality leaders in SIM-staffed Bible schools, building up strong house churches, and reaching unreached people groups. The Tigre, Bilen, Saho, Nara, Kunama, Rashaida, Beja, and Afar are predominantly Muslim peoples and need to hear of God’s compelling love for them…”
According to SIM, the Kale Heywet Church (SIM-related) has planted 11 new churches in 5 years and sent 21 evangelists to “non-Christian and nominally Christian areas of the country “.
Obviously, these groups had no problems “planting churches. If these are legitimate religious groups, why not register them instead of encouraging them to operate “underground”?
Allow me to quickly address the issue of the Jehovah Witnesses (JH) in Eritrea as that is another issue that is repeatedly misrepresented by the cartel and the self serving EQL. What the cartel and the EQL conveniently forget to tell their readers is that in the United States, members of the JH have been jailed for refusing to be drafted, during the war. Children were expelled for not pledging allegiance to the flag etc. etc. and parents were jailed for truancy. There is a long and sordid list of court cases filed against and by the JH that show that Americans were not as tolerant of JH as is being claimed today. Between 1933 and 1951 there were 18,866 arrests of American Witnesses and about 1500 cases of mob violence against them. There is a case about JH members being forced to drink castor oil, a strong laxative, to cause their humiliation and degradation. They were labeled “fifth columnists” and more. Attitudes towards JH have not changed; just dampened by an inordinate amount of legislation.
The Jehovah Witnesses came to Eritrea in the 1940s. While most of the established religious groups in Eritrea have complied with the various laws, there are some, like the Jehovah Witnesses who have rejected the laws and refused to abide by them. The JH refuse to participate in military service. Main issues which cause criticism of JH in Eritrea and in many other countries across the globe include failed prophecies, blood transfusions, and nationalism. In Eritrea the issue that has brought criticism of JH is their refusal to recognize the Government of Eritrea and refusal to abide by its laws. They also refuse to carry Eritrean identity cards. JH believe that “they owed allegiance to no person, flags, or nation; they owed allegiance only to Jehovah,” therefore, they do not vote, salute the flag, or participate in military duty.
The JH refused to participate in the 1993 Eritrean referendum and when the Proclamation on National Service No. 82/1995 of 23 October 1995 which made national service compulsory for all Eritreans between the ages of 18-40 was published, the JH refused to participate in military service. In Eritrea, as in all other countries, a member of any religious group who breaks the law will be punished as any other individual, and cannot invoke obedience to a religious precept as a cause for impunity. No one is punished for the sole fact of belonging to a religious group, as the cartel wants us to believe. A Jehovah´s Witness can be punished if he refuses to do military service in countries where this service is compulsory and no conscientious objection is allowed, although refusing military service is required by his religion.
Every person has the freedom to practice any religion and manifest such practice, but no one has the right to forcible or coercively convert another person. Eritrea´s religious and ethnic harmony and culture of tolerance and respect has been well established. In its April 1995 country profile on Eritrea, the US State Department´s Office of Asylum Affairs acknowledged the peaceful coexistence and religious harmony in Eritrea. It said:
“…There is now religious freedom throughout Eritrea, and all denominations and faiths are permitted to practice. There is no state religion, and no religion is supported over another. The government is carefully balanced to reflect the virtually even composition of the population between Muslims and Christians and is sensitive to outside efforts to influence this even division…”
In May 2002, the Government of Eritrea once again called on all religious groups to comply with Proclamation No. 73/1995 and took action against those that did not comply. According to the US State Department the Mehrete Yesus Presbyterian Church, Faith Mission Church, Seventh-day Adventists, and Baha’i Faith each submitted a complete registration application. The Kalehiwot, Full Gospel, Meserte Kristos, Tinsai, and Philadelphia churches submitted registration packages that did not include individual member names, while the Rhema Church and others groups reportedly submitted blank registration forms. Yet, the western media and the cartel deliberately and maliciously misrepresented that as being some sort of “persecution of Christians”. They are not victims of “religious persecution”; they are victims of the cartel and their mercenaries who have used them to advance other illicit and dangerous agendas using religious freedom as a pretext.
It is very important to understand what religious freedom is, and that it includes in it the freedom not to have one’s religion targeted for destruction. For those who have forgotten Eritrea´s struggle to preserve Eritrea´s cultures, traditions and ethnic and are propagating the cartel´s agenda to disrupt the peaceful coexistence in Eritrea, the destruction wrought in India, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and other countries ought to serve as reminders.
New Religious Movements (NRMs) have existed throughout history, but the visibility, extent, and variety of have increased dramatically in the last decade. From the United States to Europe, Asia and Africa, nations that have been concerned about the mushrooming of the various NRMs and have instituted some forms of legislation to deal with them. While some registration processes are short, there are some that take years for completion. In African countries where the origins and intentions of a particular group are so hard to determine, especially if they are foreign influenced, the bureaucracy may take years. For instance, in Equatorial Guinea, the Assemblies of God group registered in 1987, but it was not until 1993 that it received official recognition.
The actions taken by Eritrea were misrepresented by the cartel and its mercenaries as being harsh, but as we will see, even the most “democratic” and “liberal” European states have opted for additional legislation or something close to that to handle this growing problem. It would take another seating to address the long and ugly history of religious persecution in the United States
In Austria the Bundesstelle für Sektenfragen was created by a federal law in 1998. The law defines a sect as a community referring to religious or philosophical beliefs that can endanger the life or the health of persons, their property, or financial autonomy; the free development of human personality; the integrity of family life; and the free mental and physical development of children…The task of the Bundesstelle is to provide “documentation and information about dangers that can emerge from programmes or activities” of these sects.
Czech Republic
The 2002 law on Religious Freedom and the Position of Churches and Religious Associations created a two-tiered system of registration for religious organizations. To register at the first (lower) tier, a religious group must have at least 300 adult members permanently residing in the country. To register at the second tier, a religious group must have membership, with the requisite signatures, equal to at least 0.1 percent of the country’s population (approximately ten thousand persons).
The 2002 Guidelines for approval of religious organizations requires religious groups to submit the following items: a written text of the religion’s central traditions, descriptions of its most important rituals, a copy of the rules and regulations of the organization, a copy of the organizational structure, and an audited financial statement, as well as background information about the religion’s leadership and each member with a permanent address in the country. Additionally, the organization must “not teach or perform actions inconsistent with public morality or order.”
The Government requires religious groups to petition for legal status with the Ministries of Justice and Culture. Legal status gives religious groups the right to act as juridical persons in the court system, secures their standing as officially registered religious groups, and allows them to construct schools and churches. Groups must provide general background information and have at least 100,000 adult adherents to qualify for registration.
Persons who wish to form a religious group must register with the Ministry of the Interior. Registration requirements are the same for all religious groups. Religious groups are free from taxation.
All organizations, including religious groups, must register with the Government. To register, a group must submit its constitution to the Registrar of Societies section of the Ministry of Labor and Home Affairs. Any person who holds an official position in, manages, or assists in the management of an unregistered organization is liable to a fine of up to $166 (Pula 1,000) and/or up to 7 years in prison. Any member of an unregistered society is liable to penalties including fines up to $83 (Pula 500) and/or up to 3 years in prison.
It is illegal for a religious group to operate without official recognition. To register, a religious denomination must legally qualify as a religious congregation. The definition includes “any group of natural persons or corporate bodies whose vocation is divine worship” or “any group of persons living in community in accordance with a religious doctrine.” The President generally follows the recommendation of the Minister and grants authorization by a presidential decree.
All religious groups are required to register in this predominantly Muslim country.
Religious groups must register with the Government by submitting documentation to the Ministry of Justice detailing the structure and mission of the organization along with a nominal fee. Once approved, a religious group registers formally with the Registrar General’s Office.
The Government requires religious organizations to register with the Registrar of Societies at the Ministry of Home Affairs on the mainland and with the Chief Government Registrar on Zanzibar. Religious organizations must have at least 10 followers to register, provide a written Constitution, resumes of their leaders, and a letter of recommendation from their district commissioner.
All new nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including religious organizations, must register with the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ NGO Board. Foreign missionary groups, like foreign NGOs, must register with the Government.
Governmental controls require the registration of religious groups. To be eligible for registration, groups must have a unique name; possess a constitution consistent with the country’s laws; and display compatibility with the peace, welfare, and good order of the country. Unregistered religious groups are not allowed to operate. Violators can face a fine and imprisonment for up to 7 years.
Hopefully, the Obama Administration will put an end to this impunity by the cartel and its mercenaries and respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations. The American public should stop giving their hard earned monies to this self serving cartel and think twice before condemning other people´s cultures and traditions. It is about time that the public wake up and see the cartel for what they are…abusive, self centered, greedy and most importantly-UNCHRISTIAN!
“…The missionary wants to put an end to pluralism, choice and freedom of religion. He wants one religion, his own, for everyone and will sacrifice his life to that cause. True freedom of religion should involve freedom from conversion…” (David Frawley)
The rule of law must prevail over the law of the jungle!

Maoist rebels kill 15 police in India: officer

3 02 2009

Source: AFP

23 hours ago

MUMBAI (AFP) — Fifteen police officers were killed in the western Indian state of Maharashtra in a shoot-out with leftist militants, police said Monday.
They were ambushed Sunday in jungle near a village in the east of the state, a stronghold of so-called Naxalites — Communist-, Maoist- and Marxist-inspired groups who claim to represent oppressed, landless rural dwellers.
“The patrolling party was ambushed by the Naxalites and 15 of our men died. The encounter went on for nearly one and a half to two hours,” state police chief A.N. Roy told AFP by telephone.
“Our people also fired, killing and injuring some Naxalites.”
Roy said there were regular skirmishes between police and militants in the area, which is close to the border with neighbouring Madhya Pradesh and some 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) by road from the Maharahstra state capital Mumbai.
Indian media on Monday said the militants fled with police weapons, including automatic assault rifles and a mortar shell. But Roy categorically denied reports that the policemen’s bodies were mutilated.
The worst Naxalite attack on police in Maharashtra had shocked the force, the officer said, adding that there was a “renewed determination” to tackle the militants.
“We will continue the fight and not let their sacrifices go in vain,” he said.
The Maoist insurgency, which grew out of a peasant uprising in 1967, his hit more than half of India’s 29 states and the rebels use a heavily forested region in Chhattisgarh as their headquarters.

With less than two weeks to go before the Olympics open in Beijing, the Chinese government is facing the horrendous possibility of terrorist attacks a

29 07 2008

Beijing reacts quickly to claims by the Turkistan Islamic Party taking responsibility for recent attacks and threatening more during the Games policemen stand guard on the Tiananmen Square on July 28, 2008 in Beijing, China. The Chinese authorities have tightened security with over 100,000 police, professional and volunteer security guards. The Beijing Olympic Games start on August 8. ANDREW WONG/Getty Images

With less than two weeks to go before the Olympics open in Beijing, the Chinese government is facing the horrendous possibility of terrorist attacks aimed at the Games. On July 23 an apparent terrorist group released a video taking responsibility for bus bomb blasts a few days before in the southwestern city of Kunming that killed two people. The group also claimed as its own another attack in Shanghai that killed three people in May.

In the video, the group calling itself the Turkistan Islamic Party (, 3/17/08), apparently a Uighur Muslim separatist organization pushing for independence for China’s far western region of Xinjiang, threatened more attacks, including during the Beijing Games that run from Aug. 8-24. “Our aim is to target the most critical points related to the Olympics. We will try to attack Chinese central cities severely using the tactics that have never been employed,” said Seyfullah, the purported commander of the group, according to a translation by the Washington (D.C.)-based terrorism analyst organization IntelCenter.

The government has reacted quickly with reports in the state-controlled press denying the blasts were Olympics-related. “So far, no evidence has been found to indicate the explosions were connected with terrorists and their attacks, or with the Beijing Olympics,” a Yunnan public security official said on July 26, according to China’s official news agency Xinhua. “The blast was indeed deliberate but had nothing to do with terrorist attacks,” added a second official from Shanghai in the same report.

Missiles Defend Olympic Venues

That may be the official stance, but there is no denying that Beijing now views the security of the Games as its paramount concern. China’s efforts—ranging from putting surface-to-air missiles around Olympic venues such as the Bird’s Nest stadium and Water Cube aquatics center, to the planned closure of Beijing’s international airport during the opening ceremony—are turning this year’s Olympics into the most security-focused Games in history. “A safe Olympics is the premise for a first-class Games with Chinese characteristics. Safety is our top concern here,” the state press reported Vice-President Xi Jinping saying while touring Olympic facilities on July 21.

To ensure security, Beijing already held a series of anti-terrorist drills in June aimed at dealing with possible bomb or chemical attacks, as well as attempts to kidnap athletes. Now the capital is preparing to deploy more than 100,000 police, army troops, and volunteers around the capital. Police checkpoints have been set up along major roads to check identity cards for those trying to enter Beijing. Armed police with bomb-sniffing dogs now patrol the city’s railway and subway stations. An additional 2,000 security guards as well as 200 X-ray machines are in the capital’s 93 subway stations to watch for guns, knives, and explosive or flammable liquids.

Meanwhile, Beijing has placed 300,000 surveillance cameras throughout the capital to monitor any suspicious activities. Access to all Olympics venues is being screened, with everything from standard metal detectors to technology for fingerprint and iris scanning. China will spend a record $6.5 billion on surveillance equipment. That compares with the $1.4 billion spent in Athens for the 2004 Games, according to the Alexandria (Va.)-based Security Industry Assn.

Closed Political System Has Greater Control

“All work related to Olympic security is in full swing and security personnel and equipment are all in place,” said Liu Shaowu, director of security for the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games Security Dept. on July 23. “Beijing is confident of dealing with any kind of security threat and will present the world a safe and peaceful Olympics.”

Despite the recent attacks, security experts believe the Chinese government is well-positioned to thwart terrorist threats to the Games. “In a country such as China with a relatively closed political system, they probably are somewhat better prepared when it comes to security than in a more open country like the U.S.,” notes Harvey Schiller, the CEO of New York-based risk management consultancy GlobalOptions Group. “I suspect they have some advantages in securing security,” adds Schiller, who formerly served as the executive director and secretary general of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Roberts is BusinessWeek‘s Asia News Editor and China bureau chief.

Red banner of terrorism

9 07 2008

From Daily pioneer

Francois Gautier

Mao Tse-Tung and his Little Red Book may have been all but forgotten in China where the revolution has been overtaken by free market economics. But here in India, Maoists continue to spread their deadly tentacles through terror and intimidation

It is not often nowadays that one can praise the Government. But in the case of Maoism, one has to, for not only everything has been tried, from negotiation to coercion, but the Government is facing a deadly and ruthless enemy which does not hesitate to kill and maim, so sure that it is in the sincerity of its purpose.

In most of the world, Communism is practically dead. One cannot call China a Communist country anymore — indeed, there may not be a more ruthless capitalist nation in the world today. Even Cuba is slowly inching towards free trade.

In India though, not only is Communism alive, but it is flourishing. You will find Communist Governments in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. The present Congress Government, till the opportunist Mulayam Singh Yadav stepped in, owed its survival to the Communists.

Communists are often not corrupt, they live a simple life and are committed to their cause, which is not always true of other politicians. Unfortunately there is also a darker side: Indian Communists have totally aligned themselves with Lenin and Mao Tse-Tung, to the point that not only are they anti-spiritual, particularly targeting the Hindus, but often anti-Indian. They will never criticise China, for instance, and even support the Chinese in case of tensions between New Delhi and Beijing.

There is an even more dangerous aspect: It is when Communists take to arms, what we know as Maoism. The far Left movement, which is basically a Maoism-inspired armed struggle, began as a violent peasant uprising against landlords at Naxalbari village in West Bengal, on May 25, 1967 (hence the name Naxalism).

It is true that Naxalism and later Maoism may have risen out of a sense of injustice, seeing how there are still unforgivable disparities in certain parts of India which have suffered for centuries from caste discrimination, exploitation by landlords and the lethargy of the local administrative and political system.

But today Maoists are largely driven by the goal of capturing political power. For, Maoists are very clear about their objectives and they freely quote from Mao Tse-Tung: “It’s (Maoism’s) purpose is to destroy an existing society and its institutions and to replace them with a completely new structure.”

Indeed, if one looks closely at Maoism today, one sees murder, rape, kidnappings, extortion, money laundering and human rights violations. As many as 16 of India’s 35 States and Union Territories are affected by Maoism. It affects 192 of India’s 604 districts. This prompted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to declare : “It would not be an exaggeration to say that the problem of Maoism is the single-biggest security challenge ever faced by our country.”

In the last 12 months, the Maoists have redoubled their effort to break up Indian society: On March 15, 2007, Maoists massacred 16 officers of the Chhattisgarh Armed Force, 39 Special Police Officers and injured 12 others at Rani Bodli village. On October 27, 2007, Armed Maoists massacred 17 people, including a former Jharkhand Chief Minister’s son at Chilkhari village of the State’s Giridih district. On December 16, 2007, in a daring jailbreak, 110 Maoists escaped from Dantewada Jail in Chhattisgarh. On February 8 this year in Orissa 300 rebels, including 100 women, gunned down six policemen at a police reserve which houses an armoury as well as others at a training school and two at Nayagarh police station in the heart of the district town. The Maoists also took away over 1,200 state-of-the art rifles and one lakh live bullets. It would seem that the Maoists are within striking distance of Orissa’s capital, Bhubaneswar, which is barely 100 km away.

Sometimes, the media says Maoist violence is on the wane. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Maoists have a ‘budget’ of Rs. 60 crore for carrying out its armed struggle during 2007-09. This money has been raised abroad by NGO’s abroad. Meanwhile, emboldened by the success of Nepal’s Maoists in virtually seizing power, Maoists in India have recently released a stunning declaration outlining their programme.

The Government has tried everything to contain the Maoists: Negotiation, counter-insurgency measures, and arming tribals. But with little result. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has now initiated a dialogue with Maoists to convince them that the gun is not the only solution.

His teachings and initiatives have transformed many villages in Maoist-hit areas of Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. During his visits to Bihar, more than 100,000 youth from warring factions have taken a solemn vow to spread the message of non-violence.

Recently he initiated a much-needed Peace and Reconciliation conference in Oslo, Norway, to focus on internal armed conflicts in South Asia, particularly Maoism. Norway’s Special Envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer, Members of European Parliament Erika Mann, Nirj Deva and Aud Kvalbein, the Deputy Mayor of Oslo, were among the prominent speakers.

The Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism FACT, while aware of the terrible inequalities that still exist in India and which provide a fertile ground for Maoism to spread, is mounting an exhibition on Maoism as a threat to national unity, at Habitat Centre, Palm Court Gallery, from July 8 to 13.

For any comments, queries or feedback, kindly mail us at

History of Naxalism

24 06 2008

Courtesy: hindustan Times

Telangana Struggle: By July 1948, 2,500 villages in the south were organised into ‘communes’ as part of a peasant movement which came to be known as Telangana Struggle. Simultaneously the famous Andhra Thesis for the first time demanded that ‘Indian revolution’ follow the Chinese path of protracted people’s war. In June 1948, a leftist ideological document ‘Andhra Letter’ laid down a revolutionary strategy based on Mao Tsetung’s New Democracy.

CPM splits from united CPI and decides to participate in elections, postponing armed struggle over revolutionary policies to a day when revolutionary situation prevailed in the country.

Communist leader Charu Majumdar wrote various articles based on Marx-Lenin-Mao thought during the period, which later came to be known as ‘Historic Eight Documents’ and formed the basis of naxalite movement.
· First civil liberties organisation was formed with Telugu poet Sri Sri as president following mass arrests of communists during Indo-China war.

CPM participates in polls and forms a coalition United Front government in West Bengal with Bangla Congress. This leads to schism in the party with younger cadres, including the “visionary” Charu Majumdar, accusing CPM of betraying the revolution.

Naxalbari Uprising (25th May): The rebel cadres led by Charu Majumdar launch a peasants’ uprising at Naxalbari in Darjeeling district of West Bengal after a tribal youth, who had a judicial order to plough his land, was attacked by “goons” of local landlords on March 2. Tribals retaliated and started forcefully capturing back their lands. The CPI (M)-led United Front government cracked down on the uprising and in 72 days of the “rebellion” a police sub-inspector and nine tribals were killed. The Congress govt at the Centre supported the crackdown. The incident echoed throughout India and naxalism was born.

• The ideology of naxalism soon assumed larger dimension and entire state units of CPI (M) in Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir and some sections in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh joined the struggle.

July-Nov: Revolutionary communist organs ‘Liberation’and ‘Deshbrati’ (Bengali) besides ‘Lokyudh’ (Hindi) were started.
Nov 12-13: Comrades from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Orissa and West Bengal met and set up All India Coordination Committee of Revolutionaries (AICCR) in the CPI (M).


May 14: AICCR renamed All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR) with Comrade S Roy Chowdhury as its convenor. The renamed body decides to boycott elections. Within AICCCR certain fundamental differences lead to the exclusion of a section of Andhra comrades led by Comrade T Nagi Reddy.


April 22: As per the AICCCR’s February decision, a new party CPI (ML) was launched on the birth anniversary of Lenin. Charu Majumdar was elected as the Secretary of Central Organising Committee. AICCR dissolved itself.
May 1: Declaration of the party formation by Comrade Kanu Sanyal at a massive meeting on Shahid Minar ground, Calcutta. CPI (M) tries to disrupt the meeting resulting in armed clash between CPI (M) and CPI (ML) cadres for the first time.

• By this time primary guerrilla zone appear at Debra-gopiballavpur (WB), Musal in Bihar, Lakhimpur Kheri in UP and most importantly Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh.
May 26-27: Andhra police kill Comrade Panchadri Krishnamurty and six other revolutionaries during a crackdown on Srikakulam struggle in Andhra Pradesh sparking wide protests.
Oct 20: Maoist Communist Centre was formed under Kanhai Chatterjee’s leadership. It had supported Naxalbari struggle but did not join CPI (ML) because of some tactical difference and on the question of the method of party formation.


April 27: Premises of Deshabrati Prakashan, which published Liberation and its sister journals, were raided. CPI (ML) goes underground.
May 11: The first CPI (ML) congress is held in Calcutta under strict underground conditions. Comrade Charu Majumdar is elected the party general secretary.
July 10: Comrades Vempatapu Satyanarayana and Adibatla Kailasam, leaders of Srikakulam uprising are killed in police encounter during the crackdown. Comrade Appu, founder of the Party in Tamil Nadu was also killed around September-October. The Srikakulam movement in continued in Andhra Pradesh till 1975.

• Leading lights of literary world of Telugu like Sri Sri, R V Shastri, Khtuba Rao K V Ramana Reddy, Cherabanda Raju Varavara Rao, C Vijaylakshmi with others joined hands to form VIRASAM (Viplava Rachayithala Sangam) or Revolutionary Writers Association (RWA).

• Artistes from Hyderabad inspired by Srikakulam struggle and the songs of Subharao Panigrahi form a group — Art Lovers – comprising the famous film producer Narasinga Rao and the now legendary Gaddar.


In the background of Bangladesh war, the Army tries to crush the ultra-left movement in West Bengal. Uprising in Birbhum marks the high point of this year.

• Art Lovers change its name to Jana Natya Mandali (JNM) late this year. It joins Communists and start propagating revolutionary ideas through its songs, dances and plays. It functioned legally till 1984.


July: Charu Majumdar is arrested in Calcutta on July 16. He dies in Lal Bazar police lock-up on July 28. Revolutionary struggle suffers serious debacle. CPI (ML)’s central authority collapses.

‘Pilupu’ (The Call), a political magazine was launched in Andhra Pradesh.
• Kondapalli Seetharamaiah reorganises the AP State Committee of Communist Revolutionaries following killing or arrest of the 12-member AP State Committee.

Fresh guerrilla struggles backed by mass activism emerge in parts of central Bihar and Telangana, now a part of Andhra Pradesh.


July 28: The Central Organising Committee of CPI (ML) was reconstituted at Durgapur meeting in West Bengal. Comrade Jauhar (Subrata Dutt) was elected general secretary. Jauhar reorganises CPI (ML) and renames it as CPI (ML) Liberation.

Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLP) was formed again with Sri Sri as president.

Andhra Pradesh state committee was reconstituted with Kondapalli Seetharamaiah representing Telangana region, Appalasuri (coastal AP) and Mahadevan (Rayalseema).

October 12:
Radical students union was formed in Andhra Pradesh. It faced brutal suppression but surged again after emergency was lifted.


Following declaration of emergency on June 25 and the following repression on ultra-leftists and others, the Central Organising Committee in its September meeting decided to withdraw a “common self-critical review” and instead produce a tactical line ‘Road to Revolution’. But it did not unity among the cadres. Armed struggles were reported from Bhojpur and Naxalbari.


CPI (ML) holds its second Congress on February 26-27 in the countryside of Gaya, in Bihar. It resolves to continue with armed guerilla struggles and work for an anti-Congress United Front.


Amidst an upsurge of ultra-leftists’ armed actions and mass activism, CPI (ML) decides to launch a rectification campaign. The party organisation spreads to AP and Kerala.

Revolutionaries organise Telangana Regional Conference in Andhra Pradesh and seeds of a peasant movement are sown in Karimnagar and Adilabad districts of the state. The conference decided to hold political classes to train new cadres and to send “squads” into forest for launching armed struggle. Eight districts of Telangana, excluding Hyderabad, were divided into two regions and two regional committees were elected.

Bihar and West Bengal representatives of Central Organising Committee resign at a meeting. Andhra Pradesh representative fails to attend the meet due to the arrest of Kondapalli Seetharamaiah. The Central Organising Committee is dissolved.


Rectification movements (CPI ML and fragments) limits pure military viewpoint and stresses mass peasant struggles to Indianise the Marxism-Leninism and Mao thought.
• CPI (ML) (Unity Organisation) is formed in Bihar under N Prasad’s leadership (focusing on Jehanabad-Palamu of Bihar). A peasant organisation – the Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Samiti (MKSS) is formed.

• ‘Go To Village Campaigns’ are launched by Andhra Pradesh Party of revolutionaries to propagate politics of agrarian revolution and building of Radical Youth League units in Andhra Pradesh villages. It later helped in triggering historic peasant struggles of Karimnagar and Adilabad.

Sept 7:
The famous Jagityal march is organised in Andhra Pradesh, in which thousands of people take part.

Oct 20:
Andhra Government declares Sarcilla and Jagityal ‘disturbed areas’ giving police “draconian” powers.


From April to June, Village Campaign was for the first time organised jointly by RSU and RYL in Andhra Pradesh. The two organisations also expressed solidarity with National Movement of Assam.

Between 1979 to 1988, MCC focused on Bihar. A Bihar-Bengal Special Area Committee was established. The Preparatory Committee for Revolutionary Peasant Struggles was formed and soon Revolutionary Peasant Councils emerged. Two founding members of MCC passed away-Amulya Sen in March 1981 and Kanhai Chatterjee in July 1982.


April 22: Kondapalli Seetharamaiah forms the Peoples War Group in Andhra Pradesh. He discards total annihilation of “class enemies” as the only form of struggle and stresses on floating mass organisations.

• Mass peasant movement spreads in Central Bihar.

• CPI (ML) puts forward the idea of broad Democratic Front as the national alternative. It was part of a process to reorganise a centre for All-India revolution after it ceased to exist in 1972.

• The central committee was formed by merging AP and Tamil Nadu State Committees and Maharashtra group of the CPI (ML). Unity Organisation did not join. The tactical adopted by the committee upheld the legacy of Naxalbari while agreeing for rectifying the “left” errors.

• CPI (ML) Red Flag is formed led by K N Ramachandran.


CPI (ML) organises a unity meet of 13 Marxist-Leninist factions in a bid to form a single formation to act as the leading core of the proposed Democratic Front. However, the unity moved failed. The M-L movement begins to polarise between the Marxist-Leninist line of CPI (ML) (Liberation) and the line of CPI (ML) (People’s War).
• First state level rally is held in Patna under the banner of Bihar Pradesh Kisan Sabha beginning a new phase of mass political activism in the state.

Indian People’s Front (IPF) is launched in Delhi at a national conference of CPI (ML) (Liberation). At the end of the year the third Congress of CPI (ML) is organised at Giridih (Bihar), which decides to take part in elections.

Peasant movement in Assam shows signs of revival after allegedly “forced” Assembly elections. IPF plays a crucial role in this regard.
• An all-India dalit conference is held in Amravati (Maharashtra) to facilitate interaction with Ambedkarite groups.

CPI (ML) and other revolutionaries try to woo Sikhs towards joining peasant movement following Operation Bluestar in June and country-wide anti-Sikh riots after Indira Gandhi’s assassination in Oct 31 the same year.

People’s Democratic Front is launched in Karbi Anglong district of Assam to provide a “revolutionary democratic orientation to the tribal people’s aspirations for autonomy”.
• PDF wins a seat in Assam Assembly elections bring about the first entry of CPI (ML) cadre in the legislative arena.
• Jan Sanskriti Manch is formed at a conference of cultural activists from Hindi belt at New Delhi.


• Bihar govt bans PWG and MCC
April 5-7: CPI (ML) organises a national women’s convention in Calcutta to promote cooperation and critical interaction between communist women’s organisations and upcoming feminist and autonomous women’s groups.
April 19: More than a dozen “landless labourers” are killed in police firing at Arwal in Jehanabad district of Bihar.

PDF gets transformed into the Autonomous State Demand Committee.

CPI (ML) holds its fourth Congress at Hazaribagh in Bihar from January 1 to 5. The Congress “rectifies” old errors of judgement in the party’s assessment of Soviet Union. It reiterates the basic principles of revolutionary communism – defence of Marxism, absolute political independence of the Communist Party and primacy of revolutionary peasant struggles in democratic revolution.
• CPI (ML) ND is formed in Bihar by Comrade Yatendra Kumar.


The founding conference of All India Central Council of Trade Union (AICCTU) is held in Madras. Key resolutions are passed at this meet.
November: More than a dozen “left supporters” are shot dead by landlords in Ara Lok Sabha constituency of Bhojpur district in Bihar on the eve of polls.
• CPI (ML) (Liberation) records its first electoral victory under Indian People’s Front banner. Ara sends the first “Naxalite” member to Parliament.


In February Assembly election, IPF wins seven seats and finishes second in another fourteen. In Assam too, a four-member ASDC legislators’ group enters the Assembly. Special all-India Conference is held in Delhi on July 22-24 to restructure the party.
August 9-11: All India Students Association (AISA) is launched at Allahabad. It opposes VP Singh’s implementation of Mandal Commission recommendations.
Oct 8: First all-India IPF rally is held in Delhi. CPI (ML) (Liberation) claims it to be the first-ever massive mobilisation of rural poor in the capital.
• CPI (ML) S R Bhaijee group and CPI (ML) Unity Initiative are formed in Bihar. The former is still active in east and west Champaran.
• Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chenna Reddy lifts all curbs on naxal groups. Naxalites operate freely for about a year but observers say it corrupted them and adversely affected the movement.

In the May Lok Sabha elections, Indian People’s Front loses Ara seat but CPI (ML) retains its presence in Parliament through ASDC MP.


• Andhra Pradesh bans People’s War Group
• CPI(ML) reorganises the erstwhile Janwadi Mazdoor Kisan Samiti in South Bihar as Jharkhand Mazdoor Kisan Samiti (Jhamkis).

May 21:
Chief Minister N Janardhan Reddy bans PWG and its seven front organisations again in Andhra Pradesh.
Dec 20-26: CPI (ML) organises its fifth Congress at Calcutta from Dec 20 to 26. CPI (ML) comes out in the open and calls for a Left confederation.


• AISA registers impressive victories in Allahabad, Varanasi and Nainital university elections in Uttar Pradesh besides in the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
• CPI (ML) launches a new forum for Muslims called ‘Inquilabi Muslim Conference’ in Bihar.


February: All India Progressive Women’s Association is launched at national women’s conference at New Delhi.
• Indian People’s Front is dissolved and fresh attempts are initiated to forge a united front of various sections of Leftists and Socialists with an anti-imperialist agenda.
• Interactions among various Communists and Left parties intensify in India and abroad to revive the movement drawing lessons from Soviet collapse.


• A six-member CPI (ML) group is formed in Bihar Assembly. Two CPI (ML) nominees win from Siwan indicating the expansion of party’s influence in north Bihar.
May: N T Ramarao relaxes ban on Peoples War Group in Andhra Pradesh for three months. PWG goes in for massive recruitment drive in the state.
July: CPI (ML) organises All India Organisation Plenum at Diphu to streamline party’s organisational network.

• Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) is launched as an all-India organisation of the radical youth.


• Five members of ASDC make it to Assam assembly. An ASDC member is re-elected to Lok Sabha. Another ASDC member is elected to Rajya Sabha. ASDC retains its majority in Karbi Anglong District Council and also unseats the Congress in the neighbouring North Cachhar Hills district in Assam.
• CPI(ML) takes initiative to form a Tribal People’s Front and then Assam People’s Front
• CPI (ML) joins hands with CPI and Marxist Coordination Committee led by Comrade A Roy to strengthen Left movement.
• CPI (ML) initiates the Indian Institute of Marxist Studies. Armed clashes between ultra-leftists and upper caste private armies (like Ranvir Sena) escalate in Bihar.
• The Progressive Organisation of People, affiliated to revolutionary left movement, launches a temple entry movement for lower castes in Gudipadu near Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh. It emerges successful.


CPI (ML) organises a massive ‘Halla Bol’ rally in Patna. A left supported Bihar bandh is organised as part of “Oust Laloo Campaign” in view of the Rs 950-crore fodder scam.


• CPI (ML) Party Unity merges with Peoples War.
• Naxalites launch major strikes. CPI (ML) PW kills six in Jehanabad on February 14. MCC kills 34 upper caste in Senai village of Jehanabad.
Dec 2: Three top PWG leaders killed in Andhra Pradesh leading to a large scale brutal naxalite attacks on state forces.
Dec 16: PWG hacks to death Madhya Pradesh Transport Minister Likhiram Kavre in his village in Blalaghat district to avenge the killing of three top PWG leaders in police encounter on Dec 2.


• PWG continues with its revenge attacks. Blasts house of ruling Telugu Desam Party MP G Sukhender Reddy in Nalgonda district in Andhra Pradesh in January. In February it blows up a Madhya Pradesh police vehicle killing 23 cops, including an ASP. It destroys property worth Rs 5 crore besides killing 10 persons in AP in the same month.

Dec 2: PWG launches People’s Guerrilla Army (PGA) to counter security forces offensive.


April: CPI (ML) celebrates 32nd anniversary of its foundation in Patna on April 22 and gives a call to rekindle ‘revolutionary spirit of naxalism’.

July: Naxalite groups all over South Asia form a Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA) which is said to be first such an international coalition. PWG and MCC are part of it.
• As per the Intelligence reports, MCC and PWG establish links with LTTE, Nepali Maoists and Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence to receive arms and training. Naxalites bid to carve out a corridor through some areas of Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh up to Nepal.

Nov: MCC organises a violent Jharkhand Bandh on Nov 26.

Dec: Naxalites, mainly in AP, Orissa and Bihar celebrate People’s Guerilla Week hailing the formation of PGA on Dec 2. The week unfolds major violence in the three states during which a plant of Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and the house of an Orissa minister is blown up.

Give up arms: Prachanda to Indian Maoists

17 05 2008

Give up arms: Prachanda to Indian Maoists
Press Trust of India
Saturday, May 17, 2008 (Kathmandu)
Sending a strong message to Maoists in India to shun violence, Prachanda has said the Leftist rebels’ electoral triumph in Nepal should make them understand the difference between ballot and bullet.

”Our behaviour, our policy, our practice itself strongly gave the message to the Maoists of India. Though, we don’t want to directly address them, the benefit we have got, the difference of ballot and bullet has already sent a message,” the Maoist chief said in an interview on a TV channel.

Prachanda, believed to be Nepal’s prime minister-in-waiting, was asked what advice he would give to the Maoists in India.

”There should be a serious discussion in the matter inside the Maoists of India. A strong message has already gone to the Maoists of India and Maoists all over the world about our victory,” said the 53-year-old Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist chief, who led a decade-long armed struggle against monarchy before joining political mainstream in 2006.

Asked whether he would like India to persuade the US to take the Maoists off the terror list, he said ”I won’t request them but expect them to do it”.

”In fact, we already have contact with the US administration,” he said.

Naxal Exhibition: Preview

8 04 2008
FACT India
Naxalism: A Threat to Unified India

Click here for a miniature view of the exhib
Opens :::
April 10th and 11th Oslo, during the Conference on Peace and Reconciliation

Ingeniørenes Hus Møtesenter, Kronprinsens gate 17, 0251 Oslo – Norway, http://www.ingeniorenesh

The Exhibition is a reflection of the Left wing insurgency in India, a blend of photographs, statistics and an analysis that forms the presentation of FACTS. The exhibition travels through the lives of the victims in Naxal infested states and present their lives as well as the lives of those valiant fighters both civilian and from the government. It is a fight against, the act of killing just because ideologies differ. The ideology of Intolerance and disharmony aided by violence, is taking a toll on the very same people, the ideology claims to be fighting for. Here we have been working on a series of issues on Naxalism and the havoc it has created over the years on the Indian populace and threat it poses to the unity of India.

“Its (Maoism’s) purpose is to destroy an existing society and its institutions and to replace them with a completely new structure.” – Mao Tse-Tung

Well-educated Naxalites leaders have taken advantage of the dissatisfaction among the poor and uneducated population by offering them an alternative way to growth and development.

After fighting each other and splitting like an amoeba, today there are many Maoist parties and organizations that either predate the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) or emerged from factions when the CPI-ML split after the death of Charu Mazumdar. Communist Party of India (Maoist) is the consolidated destructive form of the Leftwing extremism that has been creating more problems to the poor than fighting them on their behalf.

Maoist rebels have been attacking innocent villagers without reason and destroying public facilities like Hospitals, Schools, rail, road transport, power transmission and communication facilities which are crucial for the local communities. Armed naxals have denied the basic amenities to the poor and under privileged in the name of liberating them.

The Left wing terror has lead to massacre of politicians in Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Andhra Pradesh apart from killing innocent civilians. Human rights violations have become a part of their daily routine with women being raped, children taken away as child soldiers and couriers while pushing interior areas into a humanitarian crisis and away from development. While their resolutions claim and boast of a free and egalitarian society the Left wing terror group has itself been plagued with caste differences and inequality.

In the name of “supporting oppressed nationalities” the communist terrorists now have developed nexus with extremist organizations in Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and abroad. In the name of a “UF (United Front) of all secular forces” they have been trying to create divisions among Muslims, Christians and Sikhs. While many of the cadres have been deserting the party, frustrated and realizing what a hollow ideology of hate they have been blindly following, the terror perpetrators are hounding those who have left the so-called “movement”.

This Exhibition has been brought to you by FACT India through an extensive field study, and thanks to extensive media coverage of the problem and we would like to acknowledge the sources websites of Ministry of Home affairs and South Asia terrorism Portal.

FACT India is a Registered Trust. Contributions are welcome and donations are exempt under Section 80 G of the IT Act.

FACT India
41, Jor Bagh, New Delhi 110 003, India.

The world should stand beside Tibet

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

As a Tibetan, it is bittersweet to see Tibet on the front pages. The world is finally seeing Beijing’s repressive rule there, but the tragedy is that it has required such bloodshed. As Chinese forces now attempt to crush the protests, the crisis in Tibet has laid bare two important issues: the Tibetan people’s unresolved demands, and how these aspirations impact Tibet, the world and China itself.

For more than 50 years, Tibet has been a land of simmering resentment. Tibetans have various grievances, but the common thread is that Tibetans want what all nations want: to control their own lives, society and religion. Tibetans are not simply protesting specific policies; they are demanding their right to self-determination. It is no coincidence that in many protests, Tibetans are attacking symbols of state power, ripping down the Chinese flag and replacing it with the banned Tibetan one.

Unlike the demonstrations in the 1980s, the protests have spread far beyond the capital, Lhasa, to towns and villages across Tibet. Tibetan exiles are staging sympathy protests worldwide, including when Beijing’s Olympic torch comes through San Francisco today. These actions feed off one another, thanks to the Internet, digital cameras, cell phones and shortwave radio. This unity among Tibetans inside and outside Tibet represents a far stronger challenge to Chinese rule than before, and will give Tibetans renewed inspiration regardless of whether the protests in Tibet are temporarily suppressed.

For the international community, it is now impossible to accept Beijing’s narrative that Tibetans are happy as part of China. The economic growth that Beijing touts in Tibet is exposed as a synonym for Chinese colonization. The world now sees that, like East Timor and other former colonies, the Tibetan people’s demand for freedom may be temporarily repressed but is destined to boil over. The only question is whether the world will do anything to support these legitimate aspirations.

China’s self-absorbed myth that it “liberated” grateful Tibetans has also been shattered; its central narrative justifying Tibet’s place in its empire has vanished. Its policy of “Sinicizing” Tibet through immigration of Chinese settlers and vilifying His Holiness the Dalai Lama is just adding fuel to the fire. For the first time, Beijing has actually admitted that the Tibetan protests are widespread and conducted on a large scale.

Beijing has now resorted to a new propaganda tactic, casting Tibetans as violent criminals and Chinese as victims. This is largely because Beijing needed a domestic response to images seeping into China of Chinese forces attacking Tibetan protesters. State-controlled media are now broadcasting images of Tibetans attacking Chinese settlers; ignoring, of course, that the demonstrations in Lhasa were peaceful for days, and that most other Tibetan protests have been wholly nonviolent (the same cannot be said for Chinese forces, who used live ammunition against unarmed Tibetan protesters. The result of China’s new propaganda strategy has been to create an “us versus them” backlash among many Chinese vis-À-vis Tibetans. This is a reckless and potentially dangerous incitement of Chinese nationalism, but also has the effect of changing Chinese perceptions of Tibet. Tibetans are no longer portrayed as colorful if slightly backward “minorities.” Tibetans are now ungrateful colonial subjects in open rebellion. This is significant, because recognition of the difference between Tibetans and Chinese is the first step to recognition that Tibet is not China.

Looking forward, as with many colonized nations, there comes a tipping point when a sufficient number of people rise up and say “enough.” That point has been reached in Tibet. Ngawang Sangdrol, a Tibetan nun who became a political prisoner at age 12, once declared, “There is fire inside our bodies, but we dare not let the smoke out.” Now, the smoke has escaped, and for Tibetans in Tibet and across the Tibetan diaspora, there is a renewed push for freedom. And China? China will resist losing its colony, but then so did France with Algeria, Serbia with Kosovo, and Imperial Japan with Manchukuo.

The magnitude and vociferousness of the protests across Tibet demonstrate that Beijing cannot forever contain Tibetan demands for self-rule. Trying to do so only leads to instability. Through their courage and resilience in the face of a half-century of military occupation and religious and cultural oppression, Tibetans have made it abundantly clear that they want more than ever to determine their own future. The world should stand by their side.

Nima R. Taylor Binara is a member of the board of directors of Tibet Justice Center, a not-for-profit organization based in Berkeley that advocates the Tibetan people’s right to self-determination.

This article appeared on page B – 9 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Olympic Protests Focus On Tibet’s Struggle

Learn History Behind Tibet, China’s Troubled Relationship

POSTED: 4:37 pm CDT April 7, 2008
As the eyes of the world begin to turn to the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing, the focus has been straying from the athletic competition.Controversy is swirling around the upcoming international event because of many facets of Chinese policies and politics. But one issue has risen to the forefront: Tibet.Protests and demonstrations have erupted in many countries across the world, speaking out against the cultural repression and violence that has revitalized Tibet’s struggle for independence from China.Tibet, also known by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), is the second-largest province in China. TAR incorporates about half of historical Tibet, consisting of Ü-Tsang and western Kham, while the Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures and Counties are part of Quinghai, Gansu, Yunnan and Sichuan. The borders roughly correspond with the actual zone of governmental control before 1959, when Tibet was self-governing.Tibet’s struggle for independence from China began centuries ago, when the Qing Dynasty put Amdo under Chinese rule in 1724. Four years later, eastern Kham was also incorporated into the neighboring Chinese provinces.However, Tibet as we know it today has been seeking independence from China for nearly a century. After the British invasion of Tibet ended in the early 1900s, Britain acknowledged China’s control over Tibet in the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, by stating that it would “not to enter into negotiations with Tibet except through the intermediary of the Chinese Government.”

After World War I

After World War I and the decentralization of China’s government, Tibet enjoyed a brief period of self-governance wherein the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso, ruled in peace until his death in 1933.Despite this apparent independence, neither the Republic of China nor the PRC ever renounced China’s sovereignty over Tibet and in 1950 the People’s Liberation Army invaded and crushed the ill-equipped Tibetan forces. After the Seventeen Point Agreement was signed in 1951, Tibet was officially incorporated into the PRC.Still, the Tibet outlined in the Seventeen Point Agreement was to be a highly autonomous region ruled by the Dalai Lama, and was confined to the modern borders known today. The rest of historical Tibet was subject to land redistribution, which resulted in the first of many rebellions from monks and Tibetan noblemen.

Rebellions, Protests And Unrest

Though the rebellion had outside support, including the help of the American CIA, it was crushed in 1959. Thousands of Tibetans were killed, and the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, fled to exile in India where he currently resides in Dharamsala.Today, Tibet is nominally governed by the Central Tibetan Administration, also known as the Government of Tibet in Exile, though due to recent unrest, China has tightened its central control.Peaceful protests began on March 10 when hundreds of monks from Drepung monastery called for an end to religious restrictions and the release of imprisoned monks. Protests spread rapidly throughout Tibetan populated areas, and concerns of human rights violations lit up across the globe as the Olympic torch makes its way to Beijing.The protests quickly escalated away from nonviolent displays of dissent and developed into riots, resulting in many arrests and deaths — exact numbers of which are unclear due to conflicting reports from China and the Government of Tibet in Exile.Beijing has blamed the Dalai Lama and his followers for inciting the ongoing violence as an attempt to sabotage the Olympics, an allegation the religious and political leader vehemently denies.The exiled spiritual leader has repeatedly condemned violence, and has pleaded with the international community to instigate an objective probe to discover what really may have happened when the Buddhist monks clashed with the Chinese forces.

An Olympic Boycott?

International powers certainly have shown an interest in the conflict. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has stated that he may boycott the opening ceremony if China continues to crackdown on Tibet, and Prince Charles has said that he would skip the Olympics altogether.Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and members of Congress also drafted a house resolution calling on the PRC to end its arrests of nonviolent Tibetan protests, and its ongoing cultural, religious and economic repression in Tibet. Resolution 1077 calls on the Chinese government to begin dialogue with the Dalai Lama and find a long-term solution that will respect the human rights of Tibetans.China has voiced dissatisfaction over foreign discussions of the situation in Tibet during European Union foreign ministers’ discussion in Slovenia.”The Tibet issue is completely China’s internal affairs. No foreign countries or international organizations have the right to interfere in it,” said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu, according to the official Xinhua news agency.The Dalai Lama has expressed that he does not seek the separation of Tibet from China, and instead hopes for “meaningful self-rule” while remaining a part of China. The holy man has insisted that he is willing to work with Chinese authorities to achieve peace and stability in the region.