International Scholars Raise Concerns over “an Attempt to Destroy a New Religious Movement” in South Korea
On July 20, a webinar on a new religious movement in South Korea and its political, religious, and social dimensions with the recent COVID-19 crisis invited international scholars and experts in the field of religion, international law, and human rights.
Titled “COVID-19 and Religious Freedom: Scapegoating Shincheonji in South Korea”, the webinar addressed the recent issues of aggressive attack from politically powerful conservative and fundamentalist Protestant churches in the country on a newly-established, fast-growing Christian denomination named 'Shincheonji (New Heaven and New Earth) Church of Jesus' founded in 1984.
The new Christian movement by Shincheonji has become a target of “persecution from fundamentalist protestants” because of its successful religious expansion “from the conservative and fundamentalist protestants who see Shincheonji as competitors and want to destroy it," said Massimo Introvigne as an Italian sociologist of religion who studied Shincheonji before and after the COVID-19 pandemic and published the first account of the religious group in English.
Alessandro Amicarelli, Chairman European Federation for Freedom of Belief, pointed out that the South Korean authorities problematized Shincheonji as a cause of the COVID-19 crisis to shut down the church. “Already 30 other people were tested positive before the patient 31 (a member of Shincheonji criticized for the widespread of the virus). Many Chinese including ones from Wuhan had visited Daegu (of South Korea) and infection spread,” he said.
Willy Fautre, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), said that the recent attack on Shincheonji can be viewed as an attempt by the fundamentalist Protestant groups in South Korea to weaken and destroy the competitor in the religious market. He added, "Human rights violations against Shincheonji members through coercive conversion program (also known as 'deprogramming') with kidnapping and confinement for the last decade have been made as a result of the failure of competition from the Protestant churches in the country."
Ciaran Burke, Associate Professor in University of Derby, said that the South Korean health authorities explicitly link Shinchoenji and outbreak of the COVID-19 until now even though a greater link between the virus and confirmation cases has been found in other churches. He also expressed concerns over “collecting personal information of 300,000 domestic and international Shincheonji members by the government which is a possible violation of international agreement, especially the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) South Korea ratified in 1990.”
The prosecution initiated investigation of Shincheonji leaders including founder Man Hee Lee for his alleged role in the widespread of the COVID-19. Three Shincheonji officials were arrested on July 8 on a charge of playing a role in major outbreak at its early stage by “(submitting) inaccurate list of members.”
“The authorities ignored requests to change the word ‘sect’ in their official reports when referring to Shincheonji church. Local governments encouraged the residents to report Shincheonji congregation and facilities to the authorities, creating stigma that the members were to be treated as criminals,” said a Shincheonji official in the webinar.
A recent statement issued by “families of the deceased and victims of COVID-19” wrote that "the thousands of the damage and deaths of Koreans reflect the failure of initial response to contain the virus by the government." It added that the Minister of Justice Choo Mi-ae “allowed COVID-19 patients from China to enter Korea, leading to a widespread outbreak of the virus across the country, which resulted in the deaths of the Korean people.” It also stated that she is trying to avoid her responsibility for the damage by “giving direct orders to prosecutors for a raid and arrests against Shincheonji Church”.
A leading South Korean TV network, MBC reported that a recently conducted screening at Daegu, epicenter of COVID-19 major outbreak within South Korea added the weight to the failure of initial response to contain the virus by the government. The report, citing analysis from a local university hospital, inferred that at least 180,000 of the total population of 2.4 million people in the city of Daegu were infected with the COVID-19, 27 times to the official 6,800 confirmed cases. Most of the confirmation cases, over 5,000, are members of Shincheonji Church as their personal information was collected by the government, while the remaining 180,000 potential infections have not been investigated.
AMBASSADOR OMRIE GOLLEY SUPPORTS HIS CHIEFDOM AND DISTRICT IN THE WAKE OF THE CORONA PANDEMIC AND RAMADAN
Bollore Transport and Logistics has on Thursday 23 April 2020 disclosed food items and Veronica Buckets set for distribution to Constituency 121, 122, Moa Wharf, the Disability Right Movement, School for the Blind and School for the Dumb and Deaf.
Addressing a cross-section of journalists at their Operations Office in Water Quay, Freetown, the Human Resource Manager for Bollore, Claurinda Morgan (Mrs.) said that the donation is in line with their numerous contributions to the deprived communities, and she disclosed further that the said items to be donated has to do with her institution’s support in the fight against the dreadful coronavirus and the food items is in support to the Muslim Community for the Ramadan/Fasting period.
She emphasized that the food items would contribute positive in the lives of people in such a period.
The Public Relations Officer for Bollore, Gassimu outlined that the items cut across veronica buckets, bags of rice, bags of onions, gallons of cooking oil, cartons of magi, cartons of tomato paste, bags of sugar, etc, worth Le177 million.
In his appreciation statements, the Executive Director for Disability Rights Movement (DRIM), Vandy Konneh commended Bollore saying that “Through your donation we will be able to intensify the protection of Persons with Disability and other vulnerable population against the Coronavirus Pandemic and continue working towards the protection and promotion of the rights of Persons with Disability and the Republic of Sierra Leone.”
PRESS RELEASE BY THE LIMBAS IN THE DIASPORA ON THE ARREST AND DETENTION OF MAJOR (RETIRED) ALFRED PAOLO CONTEH
The Limbas in the diaspora havelearnt that the government of President Julius Maada Bio has arrested and detained Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh, on allegation of conspiracy to commit treason, unlawful possession of arms and ammunition and other criminal charges.
We have been reliably informed that:
- President Bio had invited Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh to State House together with few other individuals that were at the helm in the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in Sierra Leone between 2014 and 2016. And that, Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh and the other invitees were to go and share their expertise toward the Government of Sierra Leone’s preparedness against the Corona Virus pandemic.
- Senior executive members of the APC Party duly authorised and approved of Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh’s attendance to President Bio’s call for a bi-partisan engagement on the fight against the COVID-19 in Sierra Leone.
- On arriving at State House on the 19th March 2020, Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh voluntarily handed over his bag containing his own licensed gun to the security there before proceeding to the office of the State Chief of Protocol (SCOP) for his eventual presentation meeting with President Bio and others concerned. The mode and timing of the voluntary handing over of the weapon is now the main dispute that has led to criminal charges.The State prosecution must provide CCTV footage of what transpired between Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh and the security at State House on this matter. WE SHALL CONSIDER ANYTHING SHORT OF THIS UNACCEPTABLE!!!
- The matter has now led to one Colonel (Retired) Saa Sinnah and one gentleman named Mr. Prince George Hughes, both being staff members of the National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons, being charged for alleged unlawful licensing of the said gun that was in the possession of Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh.
- Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh is detained at the Pademba Road prison on 24 hours solitary confinement, under egregious conditions with very limited access by his lawyers and a single visit by his wife, even before criminal charges against him had been proffered and still continuing even after the court had ordered for all the human rights of the detained prisoner to be upheld.
- The preliminary investigations on 3rd April 2020 at the Pademba Road magistrate court, was restricted to selected legal and media practitioners and civil society organisations, thus denying family members and well-wishers to witness the initial proceedings.
If the facts in 1 - 6 above are true, then, we would to like remind President Bio thus:
- Section 20(1) of the 1991 constitution of Sierra Leone provides for protection from inhumane treatment. We therefore urge the government to respect Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh’s right to dignity and humane treatment while in detention.
- An accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty by virtue of section 23 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone. We therefore urge the Director of Public Prosecution to provide the evidence supporting their chargesand hasten the trial. Since the government believes that Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh has a case to answer, we implore your expedient fair trial - for justice delayed is justice denied. Otherwise, we request the immediate release of Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh from detention.
- Sierra Leone The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report is replete with accounts of how some members of the Limba ethnic group were falsely accused and extra-judicially executed. We are concerned about the preliminary investigations at the magistrate court and reports relating to the nefarious conditions on Paolo Conteh’s solitary confinement. We hope President Bio upholds his promise for national cohesion by ensuring thatmembers of the ethnic groups in Sierra Leone continue to peacefully live side by side in our nation’s rebirth with no suspicion by any one group that its members are vulnerable.
- We also call on President Bio to engage and work amicably with the APC Party National Executive for a swift trial and/or release of Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh. Such a step will be in furtherance of national cohesion especially as Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh had received blessings of his APC party to go to State House and work with the President Bio-led government.
As we look forward to President’s Bio judicious action in the best interest of national cohesion, we would like him to know that this is a matter that we are following very closely.
Should anything untoward happens to Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh, we will not stop at anything to seek redress. We shall use the case of Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh and the plethora of available evidence about human rights violations since Julius Maada Bio became president of the Republic of Sierra Leone to substantiate the fact that the statements in the TRC report President Julius Maada Bio and other members of his current government are cited to have made regarding the executions and associated violations of December 1992 were misleading; hence, the need for proper investigation by the International Criminal Court.
We shall undertake international legal campaign, rather than resort to internal skirmish, if justice is not seen to have been done speedily enough. If by the 10th April 2020, the preliminary investigations at the magistrate court on the treasons allegations against Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh do not go ahead or have him released, we shall commence a two-pronged approach thus: inform the moral guarantors to our national peace and sustain the services of international lawyers in the International Criminal Court to start the process leading to the indictment of President Julius Maada Bio and top officials in his government.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!
Long live the Limba ethnic group!!!
Long live Sierra Leone!!!
Bollore, a transport and logistics company in Sierra Leone has donated hand washing materials worth 51 Million Leones to Moa Wharf and Sea Side communities.
The company handles shipment of cargo from abroad to Sierra Leone, and has been in operation for several years.
Veronica buckets, Milla tanks, Chlorine, soap and other hygiene materials were among the donated materials to the communities.
The donor promised to ensure that the beneficiary communities practise hand washing and other preventive measures to halt the spread of the Coronavirus, which was declared in Sierra Leone for the first time on March 31st 2020.
Meanwhile, during the presentation, Memuna Drame, Chief Finance Officer (CFO) for Bollore Company, in her statement recognised the importance of the two communities noting that Bollore is part of them. “This is not a private company helping a community, but Bollore is part of the community,” she said.
Drame also told journalists that the company had been implementing, temperature checks and social distancing and other restrictive measures to cut off the chain of transmission of the Virus.
Ensuring that customers act in accordance with the Corona Virus preventive measures was also emphasised by the CFO.
“We make sure that customers comply with the rules in respect of the Corona Virus prevention. To halt the spread of the virus is the reason the company has donated to this highly infectious communities,” she said.
Drame also assured the beneficiaries that the donated materials would be protected.
The Country Manager of Bollore Transport and Logistics, Captain Fabjanko Kokan was also present at the donation ceremony.
Kokan told the beneficiary communities that more donations would be made by the company.
“The donation today is just the first step, more donations are coming,” Kokan assured.
In his keynote address, he called on communities to act with unity and togetherness to defeat the Corona Virus.
“It is only when we act with solidarity that can we defeat the virus,” Kokan appealed.
Some dignitaries particularly women represented their communities at the donation ceremony.
Among them were the Chairman and the Section Chief of the communities, Lamin Bangura and Chief Alhaji Pa Alimamy Conteh respectively.
In his contribution, Lamin Bangura appreciated the donated materials and thanked the donor.
He said the donation was timely in such a trying moment facing the country.
Also making his voice heard at the donation ceremony, Chief Pa Alimamy Conteh referred to the donation as the first to be undertaken by a company.
During the occasion, Chief Conteh appealed to the community residents to be law abiding and compliant with the hand washing and other rules pronounced by government.
“No one knows the danger side of the law until when one is trapped,” Chief Conteh warned.
Apart from the donation, Bollore has been supporting fishing activities in the beneficiary communities to improve livelihoods.
Fishing in those riverine communities is the key economic and livelihood activity among others.
Bollore’s support to the fishermen is one of the greatest corporate philanthropies to the communities who appreciate the donor.
Sierra Leone has, for the past two days, recorded a case of Corona Virus marking the beginning of a health disaster.
Bollore’s donation of the hand washing materials is a response to the President’s call during the announcement of the index case on 31st March 2020.
Hugo ML drives focus on Multi-Million Dollar Digital Economy with Webinar Series for West Africa Graduates
MARCH 24, 2020: Leading African data annotation company, Hugo ML, is set to launch a free online webinar training to prepare graduates in West Africa to join today’s multi-billion dollar digital economy. The new online series will help participants understand and navigate the digital workspace with Hugo ML sharing insights from its standpoint as a digital employer of African talent.
The four-part informative series will feature topics that include: Remote Work and the Digital Economy, Accessing Global Remote Work Opportunities, An Introduction to Data Annotation for Machine Learning, and Navigating “Work From Home” Challenges in an African context.
The recent Coronavirus outbreak has led many companies to embrace remote work models, presenting a huge opportunity for talented university graduates in West Africa.
“Artificial Intelligence is revolutionizing every aspect of daily life, but gender and racial bias exists in many AI-enabled technologies,” says Simone Bartlett, HugoML co-founder. “It is therefore critical that young Africans are contributing to these technologies shaping their lives. And equally important that we have equal access to jobs created in the field.”
Working remotely can be challenging, especially in West Africa; but being a home-grown company has given Hugo an advantage in navigating these challenges. Join the webinar to learn from their lessons empowering hundreds of successful remote workers in the region.
The webinar will cover opportunities at Hugo ML, but will surface thousands of other online opportunities.
Spaces are limited and are on a first come, first serve basis, so sign up today!https://www.hugoml-remote.com/. To learn more about Hugo ML, its services and upcoming training programs and webinars, please visit www.hugoml.com.
About Hugo HML
Founded in 2018, Hugo ML provides an on-demand, remote workforce for leading tech companies seeking to diversify their data annotation and content moderation teams. The company has over 200 trained annotators across West Africa and expects to hire another 200 in the coming months.
Kailahun District in the Eastern Provinces of Sierra Leone has since the weekend been in boiling waters after members of the ‘Sowies’ traditional ‘Bondo’ Society unleashed terror on two individuals who according to report are now on the run.
‘Sowies’ in our native Lingua- Franka are members of the exclusively traditional female group called ‘Bondo’ Society who are dominantly involved in the cutting process of the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) process. These groups have committed members stretched in all corners of the 14 districts and 4 regions of the country. Therefore, Kailahun in the east is no exception.
Meanwhile, the outrage in Kailahun Town involved a certain Jestina Sesay and her betrothed Aruna Bangura, who according to media report in the East of the country have been on the run for months now.
Jestina, it is confirmed to us, is the daughter of Nyagua Ngobeh, and the latter, it is also confirmed is a very senior member of the Sowie Bondo Society. Hence therefore, Jestina was tipped to have been the person on whom the duty fell on to succeed her mother in running the affairs of the scared society.
However, it was confirmed that Jestina did decline the offer of her mother and several other sowies, claiming that she had serious religious reservations on involving in the practices of FGM, being that herself and the faith of her betrothed Aruna Bangura, Islam, does not permit them to indulge in such act.
Consequently therefore, both Aruna, who was in Kailahun on working assignment before he met Jestina, have been a target. As a result, the couple has fled in fear that they could be caught and the wife forcefully conscripted into the society.
Report says several dangerous traditional masquerades have been scattered in the region in search of the 2 and an insider of the Sowies have confirmed that there is a nationwide coordination from amongst sowies to apprehend them once seen.
Meanwhile, here in Sierra Leone, the traditional Bondo Society is a female society, where young women in provincial areas of the country are sometimes forcefully initiated in a process that is mostly excruciatingly painful.
However, many are speculating that Jestina’s own forceful initiation into the Bondo Society could be fiercer and that she could likely die in there because the Bondo leaders have personal grievance against her owing to the fact that her betrothed Aruna has been a strong campaigner against their act and what they referred to as their “daily sustenance.”
However, reports are that both Aruna and Jestina are still on the run and nowhere to be found though a search warrant has been issued on them.