GENEVA: The Secretary-General of the Muslim World League has taken part in a summit of major international organizations to coordinate responses to accelerating global challenges.
The forum, held in Geneva, Switzerland, was launched under the title: “Cooperation between International Organizations in the Humanitarian Fields.”
It included — in addition to the MWL and the World Council of Churches — the World Health Organization, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNICEF, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the World Food Programme and a group of prominent international leaders in humanitarian work.
MWL Secretary-General Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa delivered the forum’s opening speech.
He expressed appreciation for the outstanding humanitarian efforts carried out by WHO in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and for other international governmental and nongovernmental organizations that carry out pioneering humanitarian work.
However, he expressed his regret that “humanitarian work has not reached the required level of solidarity and sympathy, and the gap between the rich and the poor remains wide, despite the existence of one international system.”
Al-Issa added: “We do not object to the existence of the rich and the poor, as this is the nature of life, but we call on the rich to alleviate the suffering of the poor by supporting them, especially with the necessities of life such as food, medicine and education.
“It is painful, for example, to see the rich obtain a COVID-19 vaccine while the poor do not get it, or do not get it until late, or get only some doses.
“There is also another reason that drives and even motivates humanitarian work, which is the religious aspect.”
The MWL chief described the religious motive “as one of the strongest, most vital and sustainable motivators of humanitarian action.”
He stressed that it is a faith motive linked to heaven, “and everything related to the creator, glory be to him, has a strong cord that is not affected by any emergency and cannot be severed.
“This is why we believe that voluntary work is one of the strongest pillars of the work of humanitarian organizations around the world, the most important of which is what is based on a religious motive related to the creator. Honest and abstract religious feelings heal wounds, quench thirst, feed the hungry, educate, train and sponsor orphans and widows.”
Al-Issa said: “It should be noted that it is important for the relevant international organizations to have performance measurements for countries in the field of humanitarian work, and they should honor public and private institutions, and individuals who have outstanding efforts in humanitarian work, whether in the field of food, health, education, training or others, including helping the marginalized and the abused, and those subjected to forced labor, particularly human trafficking crimes.”
He reviewed the efforts of the MWL in humanitarian work around the world, stressing that its premise is “faith and humanity without any discrimination,” religious or otherwise. He announced the MWL’s plan to launch an international award to promote the most important efforts in service of humanitarian work.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, called for support of medical workers to help them carry out their duties in saving the lives of refugees and displaced persons.
He said: “I grew up in a war zone, and the smell, sounds and scenes of war dominated my senses. I recall these painful memories every time I’m visiting a combat zone, and I wish that would stop immediately.”
The UNHCR speech, delivered by Kelly Clements, emphasized that peace is the “permanent cure for the displacement crisis,” as well as the cure for many of the hardships facing human beings today. Clements warned that the crisis of displaced people in the world is so huge that no organization can handle it alone.
Secretary-General of the WCC Rev. Prof. Dr. Ioan Sauca said that despite the importance of the work of international humanitarian agencies, national and local faith-based organizations are the vanguards and long-term foundations of humanitarian relief and development. He said that church members do not carry out humanitarian work for the sake of evangelization or other agendas, but to pursue their identity as Christians.
Jagan Chapagain, secretary-general of the IFRC, said that the availability of local leadership for humanitarian work is a vital issue, “and we saw how closures for health reasons and travel restrictions tied our hands in organizations, and the only bet was on local associations.”
He added that the challenges facing humanitarian work are not limited to wars and conflicts, but include climate change, economic collapse and discrimination in all its forms, in addition to the effects of COVID-19.
WFP Executive Director David Beasley warned that rising food prices and inflation have pushed more than 48 countries around the world into situations of instability, political unrest, rioting and protest.
CAIRO: Tribal clashes over the past week in Sudan’s war-ravaged Darfur have killed around 100 people, the UN refugee agency and a tribal elder said Monday, the latest surge in violence in the restive region.
Toby Harward, a coordinator with the UNHCR, said the fighting grew out of a land dispute between Arab and African tribes in the town of Kulbus in West Darfur province. Local Arab militias then attacked multiple villages in the area, forcing thousands of people to flee, he said.
Abkar Al-Toum, a tribal leader in the town, said the dead included at least 62 bodies found burned after militias set more than 20 villages on fire. He said many people were still unaccounted for. He claimed the attackers gained control of water resources, aggravating the humanitarian situation in the area. He did not elaborate.
Abbas Mustafa, a local official, said authorities have deployed more troops to the area. He said the past week of fighting displaced at least 5,000 families.
Harward called for “neutral joint forces” to provide protection for civilians in the area. “If there is no intervention or mediation, & violence is allowed to continue, farmers will not be able to cultivate & the agricultural season will fail,” he said in a series of posts on Twitter.
The news outlet Radio Dabanga reported that the fighting reached the nearby province of North Darfur, causing partial damage to two villages there.
The UN envoy for Sudan, Volker Perthes, said he was “appalled again” by the clashes in Kulbus. “The cycle of violence in Darfur is unacceptable & highlights root causes that must be addressed,” he said on Twitter.
The fighting was the latest bout of tribal violence in Darfur. It came as the country remains mired in a wider crisis following an October military coup. The takeover upended Sudan’s transition to democracy after a popular uprising forced the removal of longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir in April 2019.
Since late last year, eruptions of tribal violence and surges in the fighting in Darfur have killed hundreds of people. In April, after a similar bout of cashes killed over 200, the Sudanese military said it deployed a brigade to the province.
However, the violence has raised questions over whether Sudanese military leaders are capable of bringing security to Darfur. In 2020, the UN Security Council ended its peacekeeping mission there. In recent months, local aid workers have called on the UN to redeploy peacekeepers to the region amid a sure in tribal violence.
The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when ethnic Africans rebelled, accusing the Arab-dominated government in the capital of Khartoum of discrimination. Al-Bashir’s government was accused of retaliating by arming local nomadic Arab tribes and unleashing militias known as the janjaweed on civilians there — a charge it denies.
Al-Bashir, who has been in prison in Khartoum since he was ousted from power in 2019, was indicted over a decade ago by the International Criminal Court for genocide and crimes against humanity perpetrated in Darfur.
MANILA: A center aimed at helping former militants reintegrate into the community is being built in the southern Philippines as part of government efforts to sustain peace in one of Southeast Asia’s most conflict-torn regions, officials said on Monday.
Bangsamoro, a region covering predominantly Muslim areas of Mindanao, has undergone a peace process for nearly a decade since the government struck a permanent cease-fire agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front after almost four decades of conflict.
As part of the peace process, the region’s inhabitants voted for greater autonomy in a referendum held in 2019. This followed the months’-long battle in Mindanao’s Marawi City in 2017 between the Philippine army and pro-Daesh militants, including members of the Abu Sayyaf Group.
The threat from ASG has declined since then; the Philippine military said in April that its operations had decreased the risk from militants affiliated with Daesh. As more ASG members surrender to the military, the government in Bangsamoro is aiming to help them rejoin society.
“This facility is part of the commitment we’ve made to the Western Mindanao Command and the local government . . . as we join them in rebuilding the lives of (the former) ASG members,” Naguib Sinarimbo, who heads the department responsible for local governance in Bangsamoro, said in a statement.
The $469,000 facility will be located in Barangay Langhub in the southwestern Sulu province, which was a stronghold of ASG.
Once it is established, the center will conduct programs to ensure that former militants “will become productive citizens as they return to the community.”
The regional military spokesperson, Col. Alaric Delos Santos, stressed the importance of the center “for the deradicalization of the former ASG members.”
“We all know that inside the ASG, what they were taught was an extremist point of view on Islam. So this time, they will go through the process and get a proper study and understanding of Islam. We will also be able to see their potential to determine the kind of livelihood that should be provided to each of them,” Delos Santos told Arab News.
Since 2017, more than 860 members of the ASG have surrendered to the military in Sulu, according to official data. More than half will join the first batch of programs run at the center, Delos Santos said.
The center, according to security expert Rikard Jalkebro, is essential to sustain peace in Sulu.
“It’s something that has to be done otherwise you can’t really have lasting peace or any kind of sustainable peace situation in Sulu,” Jalkebro told Arab News.
To build trust between former fighters and the local community, Jalkebro said that it was important “to integrate these people into society” by teaching them skills and providing vocational training, adding that these processes take time.
“It’s very difficult, and it’s very easy for them to simply slip back into the old ways.”
RABAT: The father of a Moroccan man sentenced to death by a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) on mercenary charges said his son should be treated as a prisoner of war as he is a Ukrainian national who handed himself in voluntarily.
Morocco-born Brahim Saadoun and Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner were found guilty of “mercenary activities and committing actions aimed at seizing power and overthrowing the constitutional order” of the DPR, Russian media said last week.
The three men were captured while fighting for Ukraine against Russia and Russian-backed forces.
The Moroccan fighter received Ukrainian nationality in 2020 after undergoing a year of military training as a requirement to access aerospace technology studies at a university in Kiev, his father Tahar Saadoun said in an email to Reuters.
He handed himself in “voluntarily” and should be treated as a “prisoner of war,” the father said.
The sentence will be appealed, he said.
“We as a family suffer from the absence of contact with the lawyer to exchange legal information and this adds to our ordeal,” he said.
LONDON: The Court of Appeal in London has refused to grant an injunction to block Britain from sending its first flight of asylum seekers to Rwanda, a plan the United Nations’ refugee chief described as “catastrophic.”
Britain has agreed to a deal with Rwanda to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda in return for an initial payment of 120 million pounds ($148 million) and additional sums based on the number of people deported.
The government has not provided details of those selected for deportation but charities say they include people fleeing Afghanistan and Syria.
Amid legal challenges, the number of people scheduled to leave on Tuesday’s plane has fallen to less than a dozen. However, a High Court judge on Friday refused to grant a temporary injunction to block the flight, and on Monday three justices on the Court of Appeal upheld that decision.
Judge Rabinder Singh said they could not interfere with the original “clear and detailed” judgment, and refused permission for further appeal. A full hearing to determine the legality of the policy as a whole is due in July.
The government says the deportation strategy will undermine people-smuggling networks and stem the flow of migrants risking their lives by crossing the English Channel in small boats from Europe.
Human rights group say the policy is inhumane and will put migrants at risk. The UNHCR has said Rwanda, whose own human rights record is under scrutiny, does not have the capacity to process the claims, and there was a risk some migrants could be returned to countries from which they had fled.
“We believe that this is all wrong … for so many different reasons,” UN High Commissioner For Refugees Filippo Grandi told reporters. “The precedent that this creates is catastrophic for a concept that needs to be shared like asylum.”
Initially, some 37 individuals were scheduled to be removed on the first flight to Rwanda, but the charity Care4Calais said that number has dwindled in the face of legal challenges to just eight.
Earlier, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government was determined to press ahead with the policy despite the legal challenges and opposition, reportedly including from Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne.
“It’s very important that the criminal gangs who are putting people’s lives at risk in the Channel understand that their business model is going to be broken and is being broken by this government,” Johnson told LBC radio. “They are selling people false hope and luring them into something that is extremely risky and criminal.”
The government said the deportation plan would deter the Channel crossings, although more than 3,500 people have reached Britain in small boats since the middle of April when the Rwanda scheme was unveiled, according to government figures
As the court hearings were taking place about 35 migrants arrived in Dover, some carrying their possessions in black bags, where they were taken away by British border forces.
The High Court is separately hearing arguments from Asylum Aid, a refugee charity, which launched a second legal challenge to stop the government flying refugees to Rwanda.
Charlotte Kilroy, a lawyer representing Asylum Aid, said asylum seekers were not given enough time to challenge their deportation, meaning there was a high risk of unlawful and unsafe decisions.
This case is being heard by Jonathan Swift, the same judge who on Friday rejected granting an injunction.
NEW DELHI: Hundreds protested in New Delhi on Monday after the demolition of homes belonging to Muslim activists in India’s Uttar Pradesh, as demonstrations sparked by remarks by ruling party figures about the Prophet Muhammad erupted across the country.
People have taken to the streets in India in recent weeks to protest against derogatory references about Islam and the Prophet Muhammad made by prominent spokespersons from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, which have also caused a diplomatic row with several Muslim countries.
The government has said that the comments do not reflect its views, but protests turned violent last week when two teenagers were killed in the eastern state of Jharkhand. Hundreds of alleged rioters have also been arrested in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where authorities demolished houses of Muslim activists on Sunday.
The demolition sparked further unrest on Monday, as activists and students took part in protests in the Indian capital.
“The government is persecuting Muslims for being Muslim,” Raniya Zulaikha, a protester in New Delhi, told Arab News.
“By targeting protesting Muslims the government is sending the message loud and clear that it is not apologetic to hurt sentiments of the community,” said Zulaikha, who is a member of the Fraternity Movement student group.
Authorities in Uttar Pradesh razed three houses on Sunday, one of which belonged to politician Javed Ahmed, whose daughter, Afreen Fatima, is a prominent Muslim rights activist. Authorities said that Ahmed had built his house illegally and that he had planned the protests in the state last week.
“The main accused, Javed Ahmed, who is the main mastermind of the whole incident — we have acted against his illegal construction,” Ajay Kumar, senior superintendent of police in Prayagraj city of Uttar Pradesh, told reporters.
The controversial remarks made by BJP members followed increasing violence targeting India’s Muslim minority carried out by Hindu nationalists, who have been emboldened by Modi’s regular silences about such attacks since taking office in 2014.
“Since 2014, Muslims in particular and other minorities have been treated as second-class citizens by the present fundamentalist government in India,” Delhi-based human rights activist Ravi Nair, who also protested on Monday, told Arab News.
Officials have previously razed Muslim-owned properties and said that the demolitions targeted illegal buildings and not any particular religious group. However, critics argue that such moves are part of attempts to harass and marginalize Muslims, who represent 14 percent of India’s 1.4 billion population.
“The BJP is using bulldozers to punish vocal Muslims, Muslims who speak for their rights, who resists violence on them,” Apoorvanand Jha, a professor at the University of Delhi, told Arab News.
In Uttar Pradesh, where the demolitions took place, there was fear and apprehension within the Muslim community, said Kulsum Talha, a social activist based in the Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow.
“The Muslim minority is feeling that it is being pushed against the wall. It looks like a vendetta by the state government and nothing to do with justice,” Talha told Arab News.
“The atmosphere is not of trust but mistrust all around, especially among minorities,” she said. “They are losing all kinds of hope in administration and law-enforcing agencies.”