Human Rights

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 Ancestry.com 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 http://bit.ly/zFgPqk

Old radio, adobe wall. Image via Wylio http://bit.ly/zFgPqk

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, http://bit.ly/ADRtVi.

No Room at the Inn. Image via Wylio, http://bit.ly/ADRtVi.

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 http://bit.ly/wFjGGY

"Super Bowl XLVI: You're Doing it Right." Image via Wylio http://bit.ly/wFjGGY

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...

In 1961, going "back South" to form an interracial community meant facing a bitter -- and bittersweet -- history.

Marie Dennis 02-01-2012

With U.S. troops now in Africa to escalate the fight against the Lord's Resistance Army, clergy in the region express concern.

Stewart Burns 02-01-2012

What will it take to shut down "Satan's marketplace," the global slave trade? Every weapon in the arsenal of nonviolence.

Abayea Pelt 02-01-2012

Human trafficking happens around the world -- and right down the street. A Washington, D.C. organization works to save girls from dangers close to home.

Stewart Burns 02-01-2012

In “’Humankind’s Most Savage Cruelty,’” I describe how it will take every weapon in the arsenal of nonviolence to end the global slave trade. Here are some resources for getting started on this most vital mission.

Sylvia Yu 02-01-2012

Chinese churches face off against human trafficking -- and start to see social justice as part of their mission.

Elizabeth Palmberg 02-01-2012

Caught in the crossfire of army, guerrilla, and paramilitary forces, women, farmers, and Indigenous leaders in Colombia fight bravely for the right to live.

Elizabeth Palmberg 01-30-2012

Editor's Note: In a recent New York Times op-ed, Nicholas Kristof slammed Village Voice Media’s Backpage.com for refusing to shut down its adult services section, which has repeatedly been linked to the sex trafficking of young girls. Check out a sneak preview of Associate Editor Zab Palmberg’s forthcoming piece in the March issue of Sojourners Magazine about the faith community’s response to Backpage: 

The Internet makes it easier to sell your old bicycle — but, as a growing interfaith coalition of clergy is emphasizing, it shouldn’t make it easier to sell children for sex.

Two years ago, under pressure from anti-trafficking activists and 17 state attorneys general, Craigslist shut down its “adult services” section. Now, researchers say, the leading online purveyor of “adult” classified ads — which, as numerous criminal cases have shown, include ads pimps use to traffic children they have entrapped — is BackPage.com, owned by Village Voice Media.

01-26-2012

In his column for the New York Times, Nicolas Kristof tells the story of a 13-year-old girl in Brooklyn he calls “Baby Face." She had been sent into an apartment building by a pimp to meet a customer.

But, after being sold for sex five to nine times a day and beaten with a belt when she failed to bring in enough money, she told prosecutors later she was in too much pain to be raped by a john again.

Instead, she pounded on a stranger’s door and begged to use a phone. She called her mother and then 911.

Kristof writes:

The episode also shines a spotlight on how the girl was marketed — in ads on Backpage.com, a major national Web site where people place ads to sell all kinds of things, including sex. It is a godsend to pimps, allowing customers to order a girl online as if she were a pizza.

Jack Palmer 01-25-2012
Tahrir Square, November 2011. Image via Wiki Commons.

Tahrir Square, November 2011. Image via Wiki Commons http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/00/Tahrir_Square_on_Novembe

Today is one year to the day since protestors massed in Cairo's now-legendary Tahrir Square. Inspired by events in nearby Tunisia, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians called on their leader, Hosni Mubarak, to step aside and allow democratic reform to take place. The country, the city, the square, were (and remain) icons for what has become known as the Arab Spring.

The protests that began a year ago brought down a government that for too long had failed to care for its citizens in a manner that was good, decent and just. But in the time since, Egypt has walked a difficult path. How are Egyptians marking this poignant anniversary, how do they feel about the changes that have occurred, and what are their hopes for the years to come?

Here’s a round-up of some of the best insights into these questions from around the world:

Jack Palmer 01-19-2012
"Freedom." Photo illustration via Wylio http://bit.ly/xAJy0A

"Freedom." Photo illustration via Wylio http://bit.ly/xAJy0A

Just how free are we?

Freedom is a word often used by politicians, economists and others in positions of power/authority as a byword for happiness. The more freedom we have, the happier we are. Whether this is actually the case, freedom is something that oftentimes may not be particularly tangible.

Freedom House attempts to help us understand what freedom actually looks like in its annual publication, Freedom In The World, with the 2012 edition published today. And their focus? The Arab Uprisings and the impact they have had, and continue to have, on the world.

From the top-line data that Freedom House has collected, the news isn’t good. Despite seeing “the most significant challenge to authoritarian rule since the collapse of Soviet communism” during the past year, only 12 countries actually recorded an overall improvement in their freedoms, in comparison to 26 countries that saw their freedoms lessened.

Lisa Williams Beautiful Layers

Lisa Williams "Beautiful Layers." Image via Living Water for Girls http://www.livingwaterforgirls.org/?page_id=398

An estimated 27 million people are held in slavery today, and human trafficking is expected to pass drug trafficking as the largest criminal industry in the world. In the United States alone, there are an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 slaves (Salvation Army), many of them children. So we sang “All creatures of our God and king lift up your voice and with us sing, Oh Praise him”, “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’ve come” (“Come Thou Fount”) and “How great is our God.”

Gyspy church. Image courtesy of Jeff Winkowski.

Gyspy church. Image courtesy of Jeff Winkowski.

When I was a kid my summer job was to sell Kool-Aid to people at my mom’s rummage sales, which she and her girlfriends held several times each summer. 

I remember overhearing one of mom’s customers complaining, saying something about being able to “Jew down” at our neighbor’s yard sale. I wasn’t sure why but I knew at age six that this kind of talk was very wrong and it was very offensive. Yet I would have thought nothing about hearing someone say that they got “gypped” at a rummage sale, car dealership, or a candy store. In fact it was not for another twelve years before I learned that Gypsies were a race of people with over 1,000,000 people in the US, and 10,000,000 in Europe, making them Europe’s largest ethnic minority.

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