The Words of the Fefferman Family
Religious freedom was a major feature at the UPF/WFWP event held March 25-26 in Geneva at the World Council of Churches headquarters and the UN Human Rights Council. At the UNHRC event March 25, I presented a briefing to the participants on the issue of faith-breaking in Japan. Survivors' Association president Luke Higuchi was also slated to speak but had to change his plans because he was needed in Japan to assist with tsunami relief efforts. I summarized his testimony and introduced a five-minute segment from an upcoming documentary in which several Japanese forced-conversion survivors told their stories. The presentation was very well received and stimulated much discussion. We would like to congratulate Swiss UPF leaders Heiner and Carolyn Handschin, and also our Austrian colleague Rev. Peter Zoehrer for an excellent event.
Other relevant presentations included a summary of religious freedom in international law by human rights expert Dr. Antonio Stango and a survey of religious freedom issues in Europe by German religious freedom activist Prof. Christian Brunner. An excellent paper was also given by the noted human rights leader Dr. Aaron Rhodes on the abuse of "hate speech" laws to limit religious discussion
During the conference, Dr. Jean-François Mayer, a leading expert on new religions and associate editor of Religion Watch, interviewed me about the Japan human rights issue. He indicated that he intends to cover our issue in Religion Watch, which is a well-respected bi-monthly newsletter "particularly looking at the unofficial dimensions of religious belief and behavior." Please see it at t.ymlp85.net/japabuqagaejhaaauemy/click.php
Special Rapporteur. Swiss Unification Church members Chantal Komagata and Heiner Handschin met earlier this month with the Special Rapporteur on Religious Freedom, Heiner Bielefeldt, during a UNHRC meeting on religious freedom. Mr. Beilefeldt was very interested in our issue and asked Mrs. Komagata to send him a formal complaint about it. This resulted in our filing an official questionnaire with his office, dealing with the Goto case. We also plan to file additional complaints about other cases. Our expectation is that this will force Japan to respond to the issue during its upcoming Periodic Review. (see www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx)
Suzan Johnson Cook. As we informed you previously, ICRF is formally supporting the nomination of Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook as Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. We have been working in coalition with several other groups on this and are glad to report that the remaining obstacles to her confirmation seem to have been removed. We are hopeful that she will be confirmed soon.
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