Human Rights

Aimee Kang 04-06-2012

Amnesty International members protest human trafficking, 2008. LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images.

Here I am meditating on the broken body that holds the divine and the human in the mysterious way that only the Omniscient understands.

Today, I reflect on this body of Christ. It beckons me and I’m reminded once again that the violence and death that happened on that dark day lingers still. 

It lingers still because we all are created in the image of God.

Dianna Ortiz 04-01-2012

The U.S. government continues to claim the authority to detain and kill without trial.

Kimberly Burge 04-01-2012

There are many reasons to abolish the death penalty. Innocents on death row may be the most compelling.

Annalisa Musarra 03-30-2012
Stan Wiechers, Flickr

Stan Wiechers, Flickr

Religious leaders on Thursday (March 29) delivered more than 230,000 signatures to the office of Village Voice Media, demanding the company shut down the adult advertising section on its website,, where advertisements for sex with underage minors have appeared.

"As a mother and as a member of the clergy, I am outraged by Village Voice Media's continued refusal to shut down's adult section, even after being confronted with evidence that girls and teens have been advertised for sex on the site," said the Rev. Katharine Henderson, president of Auburn Seminary and a leader of the petition.
Debra Dean Murphy 03-21-2012
Photo by Jana Birchum/Getty Images

Lynndie England in 2005 during her courts-martial. Photo by Jana Birchum/Getty Images

You remember Abu Ghraib: the correctional facility in Baghdad where such atrocities took place that the prison’s very name is now synonymous with and shorthand for torture, degradation, military scandal, and unchecked American hubris.

A young army reservist named Lynndie England came to represent the horror of that dark chapter (one of several, as it turned out) of the war in Iraq. Photographs of England posing with abused Iraqi detainees led to a dishonorable discharge, a felony conviction, and a two-year prison sentence. Also revealed during and after the shame of Abu Ghraib was England’s own status as both a co-conspirator and an unwitting casualty. She was not a victim in the same way that the Iraqi prisoners were but, given her rank, gender, background, and the weird sexual dynamics she shared with the scandal’s ringleader (and father of the baby she would give birth to a few months later), England’s culpability, like that of many who commit heinous acts, was not separable from her own troubled life.

In the tidy way we like these narratives to play out, England was supposed to pay her dues for the evil she had done and, with time for reflection and introspection, own her guilt and express her sorrow. Or at least, for public consumption, she was supposed to voice regret for the tragic choices she made back in 2003 and offer an apology to those whom she had wronged. But in a recent interview, England was unrepentant. Her only regret, it turns out, is that her actions at Abu Ghraib may have directly caused American casualties.

Benjamin McNutt 03-16-2012
(Image by ChameleonsEye via

(Image by ChameleonsEye via

When police from the 115th Precinct raided a brothel a few blocks from Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, N.Y., in January 2011, one of the prostitutes leapt from a second-story window, breaking her leg.

The Korean-born woman, along with others in the apartment, was arrested on charges of prostitution. It was a heartbreaking story, even to JudgeToko Serita, who has heard many of them. “This is the saddest case I’ve seen,” she said.

This desperate act might seem to be an isolated, arbitrary event in the life of a single woman, a misfortune created by a series of bad choices she could have avoided.

But her situation wasn’t simply a result of individual choice; this woman was the product of expansive, organized networks of international crime that enslave women into a life of prostitution, robbing them of all dignity — physical, social, psychological, emotional, spiritual — and even their vocational sense of worth.

“She was so ashamed, she’d rather risk the jump than the public humiliation,” said Stella, the woman’s counselor from RestoreNYC — a four-year-old nonprofit that seeks to help sex-trafficked women in New York City escape and establish new lives. (In order to insure the safety of their clients, Restore staff are identified only by first name.)

Cathleen Falsani 03-14-2012
An undated photo of Pastor Nadarkhani in prison.

An undated photo of Pastor Nadarkhani in prison.

Last fall on God's Politics, we ran a few posts on the plight of Youcef Nadarkhani, a Muslim convert to Christianity who was arrested, charged with apostasy, tried, convicted and sentenced to death in Iran in 2010. We asked for continued prayer for the pastor and his family, and for people of conscience to speak out on his behalf.

Fast-forward five months...

As I was browsing through Facebook last night, I noticed a post on my news feed with the photo of a blindfolded man standing next to the executioner's noose and a headline that read, "Youcef Nadarkhani Executed."

My heart stopped for a moment. Please, no, I thought. And the guilt began to flood in: How could I have dropped the ball? If we had continued to sound the alarm on his behalf, would he have been hanged? Could we have helped save him if we'd done more?

I quickly went to Google to look for news reports of Nadarkhani's execution, reportedly on March 3. But I couldn't find any. Nothing on CNN, BBC, Al-Jazeera, NPR.

After searching for a while, I found a post by the American Center for Law and Justice that confirmed what had become my hope: Reports of Nadarkhani's execution were false.

the Web Editors 03-13-2012
Birth control photo, Melissa King,

Birth control photo, Melissa King,

Since Rush Limbaugh’s tirade, calling Sandra Fluke a “slut” for testifying for free access to birth control, the actual subject of debate seems like a distant memory. What were we talking about again? Paying for sex? Wait …

As religion journalist Nicole Neroulias points out in a recent piece, “I Was a Virgin on Birth Control,” and as others have attempted to testify, doctors prescribe birth control to remedy a number of real, physical ailments. These include ovarian cysts (think kidney stone-style pain, guys), endometriosis(which can lead to infertility) and a variety of other conditions that we know all-male panels probably don’t want to hear details about.

Tom Getman 03-09-2012
Key members of the SA Kairos Committee with two senior ANC representatives. (Pho

Key members of the SA Kairos Committee with senior ANC representatives. (Photo courtesy Tom Getman)

In 1985 the South African writers of the Kairos Document declared the Dutch Reformed Church’s “state church” theology to be heretical because of its justification of apartheid. In the months following, Desmond Tutu and many other anti-apartheid leaders risked their lives for change.

On the 2012 Centenary Celebrations of the African National Congress, 21 years after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, the Kairos Southern Africa theologians have released, “A Word to the ANC in These Times.” The document boldly calls attention to the “certain contradictions [that] continue to militate against … fully achieving the dream that the injustice … meted out to black South Africans by the colonizers would come to an end.”

The document raised other critical issues, such as diminishing diversity, party factionalism and inappropriate security measures. The authors clearly declared, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Matthew12:25)

The Kairos steering committee met with the ANC executive in a closed meeting February 8. The discussion focused on poor standards of education, unsustainability of an “opulent ‘American dream’ lifestyle, respecting the Constitution of the Republic, and closing the gap between the richest and poorest.

Jayme Cloninger 03-09-2012
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Boy sorts through minerals looking for gold at a mine in Congo, 2006. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Here it is, the “resolutionary” iPad3, with breakthrough retina display, quad-core processor and 4G LTE wireless connectivity. This next-generation technology is captivating and if you’re an Apple fan, as I am, you’re going to want to trade in your iPad2 and put your name on the waiting list for the iPad3.

And yet, as a human rights activist, it gives me pause. With the innovation of the iPad 3, comes some critical missing features — including conflict free minerals from eastern Congo. To date, Apple has been a leader on this issue, but I know they can do more.

the Web Editors 03-07-2012
Joseph Kony, Kony 2012, Invisible Children

Joseph Kony, Kony 2012, Invisible Children

Invisible Children released a short film Wednesday with the aim to make Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, famous--not for acclaim, but to bring awareness to his alleged crimes in abducting children and forcing them to be child soldiers.

According to the YouTube video, "KONY 2012 is a film and campaign by Invisible Children that aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice."

"It's obvious that Kony should be stopped. The problem is that 99 percent of the planet doesn't know who he is. If they knew, Kony would have been stopped long ago," the half-hour film narrates.


Michelle Alexander 03-01-2012

The fight against mass incarceration is joined by an emerging faith-based movement.

Elizabeth Palmberg 03-01-2012

Clergy to Village Voice: It's not okay to help the sex traffickers.

Jessie Choi 02-21-2012

Sunday, February 19, marked the 70th anniversary of the Japanese Internment Camps. In honor of the many Japanese Americans affected, the Japanese American National Museum partnered with to start the Remembrance Project to ensure these Americans were not forgotten.

It’s important for Americans to remember this part of their history, George Takei tells The Washington Post.

I’m astounded by the number of people — particularly east of the Rockies — who say to me, aghast, ‘I had no idea such a thing had happened in the United States.’ 

Joshua Witchger 02-21-2012
Old radio, adobe wall. Image via Wylio

Old radio, adobe wall. Image via Wylio

Last week Alec Baldwin, host of WNYC’s Here’s the Thing, featured an interview with Rob Morris, president and co-founder of Love 146, an organization that fights sex trafficking and works to care for victims. 

In this half hour conversation, Morris shares the deeply horrifying experience of going into a brothel as a secret investigator, the evils of this multi-billion dollar industry, the exploitation of children at home and abroad, preventative measures for change and education, and how his work is impacting his family.

the Web Editors 02-16-2012
No Room at the Inn. Image via Wylio,

No Room at the Inn. Image via Wylio,

LONDON — Britain's Court of Appeal has ordered a pair of Christian innkeepers to pay 3,600 pounds ($5,800) in damages to a gay couple that was told they could not share a room in the couple's guesthouse.

The three-judge panel rejected an appeal by the innkeepers, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, in their conviction of telling Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy they could not share a double room.

The court in London told the couple, who ran the Chymorvah House in Cornwall, England, to pay the penalty.

Duane Shank 02-08-2012
Man holding Bible speaks during anti-homosexuality rally in Kamapala, Uganda

Man holding Bible speaks during anti-homosexuality rally in Kamapala, Uganda 2/14/10. Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

CORRECTION: After our original post ran yesterday, we learned that there has been some confusion over the language of the current proposed language of the Ugandan anti-gay bill. In fact, the death penalty has not yet been dropped from the text of the bill.

According to news reports, a Ugandan Member of Parliament has introduced a revised bill that is expected to be acted on within a few days.

Margot Starbuck 02-03-2012
"Honour killing" protest in Pakistan. (Photo: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

Mass protest against 'honour killings' of women in Lahore, Pakistan on November 21, 2008. (Photo: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

The recent conviction in Canada of Afghani-Canadian parents and son, in the highly-publicized legal case hinging on what has been described broadly as “honor killings,” has exposed the horrifically demented practice to public scrutiny. 

Though the three defendants — Mohammad Shafia, his wife and son — denied responsibility for the death of Shafia’s three daughters and first-wife, the Canadian court decided otherwise. 

Recordings presented during the trial included wiretaps in which Shafia called his dead daughters “treacherous” and “whores” because they dated boys and wore what Shafia considered to be suggestive clothing. When the verdict was announced, Ontario Superior Judge Robert Maranger determined that the murders of the four women —ages  13, 17, 19 and 52 — were, in fact, motivated by warped (some might say, rightly, “sociopathic”)ideology. As he ruled, Maranger said:

"It is difficult to conceive of a more despicable, more heinous crime. The apparent reason behind these cold-blooded, shameful murders was that the four completely innocent victims offended your completely twisted concept of honor.”

Mohammed Shafia’s distorted concept of honor is one that is shared by far too many around the globe. It says that the murder of women and girls — those ones who don’t play by the family rules — restores the honor the family has been deprived of by virtue of its female members’ behavior.

Duane Shank 02-01-2012
"Super Bowl XLVI: You're Doing it Right." Image via Wylio

"Super Bowl XLVI: You're Doing it Right." Image via Wylio

America’s annual sports extravaganza, the pro football Super Bowl, will be played Sunday in Indianapolis, IN. And everything about it becomes a “super” excess.

Television commercials this year cost $3.5 million for a 30-second spot during the game's broadcast, which has become the most-viewed show on television. Last year, an estimated 111 million people tuned in to watch the Green Bay Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 in Superbowl XLV, setting a new viewership record for a single event. In fact, of the five most watched events in U.S. television history, four are Super Bowl games (the fifth was the final episode of M*A*S*H* in 1983). Last year, $87.5 million was legally wagered on Super Bowl XLV, mostly via Las Vegas, and the amount is expected to be even higher this year.

Given the game's role as the preeminent icon of American popular sports culture, it’s not surprising that the struggles and problems of the larger society intrude on Super Bowl Sunday. Two new laws were signed this week by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels — one good and one bad — that directly relate to this Sunday's game.

First, the good. The seamy underside of the Super Bowl is the increase in sex trafficking that accompanies it. Like any large gathering of people, it attracts traffickers peddling their victims, many of them minors.

the Web Editors 02-01-2012
Front Page of Canada's National Post announcing the Shafia Murder Convictions.

Front Page of Canada's National Post announcing the Shafia Murder Convictions.

According to the Associated Press:

A jury on Sunday found three members of an Afghan family guilty of killing three teenage sisters and another woman in what the judge described as "cold-blooded, shameful murders" resulting from a "twisted concept of honor," ending a case that shocked and riveted Canadians.

Prosecutors said the defendants allegedly killed the three teenage sisters because they dishonored the family by defying its disciplinarian rules on dress, dating, socializing and using the Internet.

The jury took 15 hours to find Mohammad Shafia, 58; his wife Tooba Yahya, 42; and their son Hamed, 21, each guilty of four counts of first-degree murder. First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

After the verdict was read, the three defendants again declared their innocence in the killings of sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar 17, and Geeti, 13, as well as Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, Shafia's childless first wife in a polygamous marriage.

Read a roundup of the ongoing coverage of the Shafia trial and the religious, political and social issues related to the so-called "honor killings" inside the blog...