The Church of Almighty God Gets Spotlight in Geneva Side Event: Experts Call for Approval of Asylum for Christians

ADHRRF – On March 1, 2018, during the 37th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Coordination of the Associations and Individuals for Freedom of Conscience (CAP LC) organized a Side Event in Geneva. A panel of international scholars, and human rights and religious freedom experts had a discussion on the CCP’s repression and persecution of The Church of Almighty God (CAG) and the situation of the Church members’ asylum application in foreign countries.

The event was introduced and coordinated by Mr. Thierry Valle, the president of CAP LC. Four speakers delivered their speeches in the meeting, including Professor Massimo Introvigne, an Italian scholar of new religious movements and managing director of CESNUR (Center for Studies on New Religions), and Ms. Rosita Šorytė, the president of ORLIR (International Observatory of Religious Freedom of Refugees).

Since Geneva’s airport was closed because of heavy snow, Mr. Eric Roux, the president of EIFRF (European Interreligious Forum for Religion Freedom) and Ms. Lea Perekrests, deputy director of HRWF (Human Rights Without Frontiers), were unable to attend the meeting. Their remarks were presented by Mr. Iván Arjona-Pelado and Ms. Christine Mirre.

During the meeting, Professor Massimo Introvigne introduced the current situation of religious persecution in China, as well as the persecution against The Church of Almighty God in China. He pointed out that many CAG Christians have been tortured, and some even died while in custody in highly suspicious circumstances.

Ms. Lea Perekrests stated in the text of her speech that the means of torture that the authorities in China have used against The Church of Almighty God members are particularly gruesome. The use of physical torture by the CCP government, deemed illegal in international law, has been widely documented among the cases they’ve collected.

It is learned that the CCP’s persecution of The Church of Almighty God has continued to escalate in recent years. Some Christians of The Church of Almighty God were forced to flee to overseas democracies for asylum. However, most of their requests for asylum were rejected in South Korea and some European countries, and some even have received the departure orders from the governments of their host countries, facing the risk of forced repatriation.

Professor Massimo Introvigne said in the meeting, “As a scholar concerned with religious liberty, I regard it as a scandal that in South Korea and in several European countries, under various pretexts, the obvious fact that CAG asylum seekers would face persecution if they would return to China is sometimes not recognized.”

He also pointed out: “There can be no reasonable doubt that the mere fact of being a member of CAG in China means to be exposed to a serious risk of imprisonment for several years, if not worse. This should mean that CAG members who escaped abroad are entitled to the status of refugees for reasons of religious persecution.”

Ms. Rosita Šorytė noted that members of groups that are really persecuted because of their religion have an absolute right to refugee status according to international conventions. The five principles of interpretation of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees are binding for Korea and European countries. She said, “Refugee boards and courts seem to adopt a restrictive interpretation of ‘persecution.’ It is not necessary to prove that the asylum seeker has been personally persecuted. Being a member of a persecuted group is enough. Of course, that CAG is a persecuted group in China is obvious.” In her view, it should be enough to prove that the asylum seeker is really a member of the CAG and is not simply an economic immigrant.

According to the survey data published by HRWF, the CAG Christians in France face a more severe situation in applying for asylum. As of December 1, 2017, of 412 applicants, 280 Christians were rejected and 103 received the removal orders.

In response to this phenomenon, Mr. Eric Roux stated in the text of his speech, in his opinion, it is wrong that an overwhelming percentage of requests have been denied in France. He presented: “The Church of Almighty God is suffering persecution in China. There is no doubt that its members face a real and immediate risk of being sent to jail based on their religious affiliation if sent back to China where thousands of them have been tortured and at least 30 members lost their life in jail.”

Mr. Eric Roux also pointed out that the decisions regarding the asylum seekers made by the French authorities “should be taken with a real knowledge of the Church based on in-depth studies, not on Chinese anti-cult propaganda or journalists who merely repeat it.” “It is of utmost importance to become acquainted with this academic literature, in order to correct the data they were relying upon due to the lack of reliable sources,” and treat the asylum seekers of the CAG Christians correctly, because “what is at stake is the safety of persecuted human beings, and for the members of the Church, it is a matter of life or death. Sending back to China the members of The Church of Almighty God is tantamount to being accomplice of the persecution they will have to suffer.”

It is learned that Christianity and Catholicism suffer constant repression and persecution from the CCP government in Mainland China. Countless Christians are subjected to arrest, detention, interrogation and cruel torture. The Church of Almighty God, in particular, suffers most from persecution. Since the new Regulations on Religious Affairs went into effect on February 1, 2018, the CCP government has intensified its persecution of religious beliefs, and the human rights situation has been rapidly deteriorating in China.

Managing director of CESNUR Prof. Massimo Introvigne (second from left) delivering a speech in the event. (Photo Ai Jia)
Managing director of CESNUR Prof. Massimo Introvigne (second from left) delivering a speech in the event. (Photo Ai Jia)