Capitol Hill Briefing: HAF Highlights Persecution of Minority Women in Pakistan
In light of the recent tragic cases of Rimsha Masih, a fourteen year-old disabled Christian girl imprisoned under Pakistan's blasphemy laws, and Rinkle Kumari, a nineteen year-old Hindu girl kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam, HAF hosted a Capitol Hill Briefing last week to highlight the persecution of minority women in Pakistan. The widely attended briefing attracted Congressional staffers, U.S. State Department officials, non-governmental organizations, religious freedom advocates, and members of the media. Bringing together a high-profile panel of policy experts and human rights activists, the briefing explored the legal, institutional, and societal challenges facing minority women in Pakistan, as well as recommendations on how to alleviate their plight.
Role of Religious Organizations in Global Conflict: HAF Speaks at CFR
HAF's Executive Director, Ms. Suhag Shukla, Esq., lead a conversation on the role of faith-based organizations in global conflict and emergency response as part of the Religion and Foreign Policy Conference Call Series organized by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a leading, independent, non-partisan, foreign policy think tank. Shukla's talk distinguished between pluralistic faiths (dharmic traditions) and non-pluralistic/exclusivist faiths (i.e. those that promote conversion based on the claim that theirs is the only legitimate religion). She then highlighted the billion of dollars that flowed into India from Christian missionary organizations and the negative impacts of missionary organizations that tie their relief efforts to coerced conversions. Among the examples Shukla shared was the aftermath of Sri Lanka's tsunami where children in particular were targeted for conversion.
HAF Inaugurates First Sacramento Advocacy Day
HAF traveled to the California State Capitol for its inaugural Sacramento Advocacy Day. A delegation of HAF's Northern California leaders met with a number of state government officials to advocate on behalf of California's large Hindu community. During the meetings, HAF discussed a number of issues, including concerns over the continued inaccurate and negative portrayal of Hinduism in the sixth grade public school textbooks, and the need to ensure that when new textbooks are adopted, the process is conducted in a fair and equitable manner.
HAF Partners with UNHCR to Assist Bhutanese Hindus
HAF announced the formation of a partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as part of a joint project to serve the medical needs of Bhutanese Hindu refugees in Nepal. The initiative arose following a recent fact-finding mission by HAF doctors to UNHCR administered camps in Damak, Nepal, where they conducted a detailed medical assessment on the needs of the refugees. Based on their findings, dental care and mental health emerged as the two areas of greatest concern and required urgent assistance.
HAF Launches Film Tour on Pakistani Hindu Refugees, Inspires Hindu Americans to Assist
The twelve city national tour of The Human Boundaries, a documentary highlighting the plight of Pakistani Hindu refugees, wrapped up with a major screening in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sponsored by HAF, the film tour kicked off on Capitol Hill, and featured live interactions with the filmmaker, Rahul Riji Nair. The Human Boundaries followed a group of 151 Pakistani Hindus who fled to India in September 2011, attempting to escape rampant religious persecution in Pakistan. Nair and his team filmed the documentary in the Dhera Duni Baba camp, near New Delhi, where these men, women, and children lived in desperate conditions hoping to obtain official refugee status from the Indian government.
HAF Submits Written Testimony for Senate Judiciary Hearing on Hate Crimes
On Wednesday, September 19, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) chaired a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing on "Hate Crimes and the Threat of Domestic Extremism." The Hearing was organized in the aftermath of the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin, and was supported by a number of faith-based advocacy and civil rights organizations. Upon the request of Senator Durbin's office, HAF submitted, for the record, written testimony for the Hearing. HAF's substantive testimony provided historical and demographic background on the Hindu American community and highlighted specific incidents of hate crimes, including both hate speech and bias or hate crimes against Hindu Americans. HAF's testimony also pointed to limitations in FBI data collection, which currently does not account for anti-Hindu crimes as a separate category. A number of HAF leaders attended the Hearing as well, demonstrating their support for Sikh Americans and all communities affected by hate crimes.
Hindu Americans Hail Suspension of Anti-Hindu Website
Hindu Americans hailed the recent suspension of a hateful anti-Hindu website, shariah4hind.com, which explicitly advocated for the implementation of Islamic governance in India. The website urged the destruction of all “public idols and statues” in India and a prohibition on the public worship or display of religion by Hindus and other non-Muslims. Sharia4hind.com also issued fatwas, or Islamic rulings, against all Indian political parties and specifically, threatened leading politicians. The website was suspended earlier this week by web host Site5.com, after HAF’s Managing Director and Legal Counsel, Suhag Shukla, Esq., wrote directly to the web hosting company.
HAF Presents on Caste-based Discrimination at Religion Newswriters Conference
HAF's Executive Director, Ms. Suhag A. Shukla, Esq., presented "Not Cast in Caste -- A Hindu Perspective Against Caste-based Discrimination" at the Religion Newswriters Association's annual conference. The HAF presentation followed a press briefing of the film, "Freeing the Untouchables," which was sponsored by Joseph D'Souza's Dalit Freedom Network and Friends Church, the world's largest Evangelical Quaker church. This year also marked HAF's 9th consecutive year attending the conference, which draws hundreds of editors and journalists from across the U.S. covering the religion beat at over 100 newspapers and other media outlets, including the Associated Press, Religion News Service, Washington Post, and New York Times, among many others.