Atheist Republic News Summary: 45 Crushed to Death at Religious Festival

45 People Crushed to Death During Israeli Religious Festival
Location: Mount Meron, Israel

On April 30th, 2021, forty five people, including five US citizens, were killed, and about one hundred and fifty others were wounded in a crush at a mass Jewish gathering overnight at Mount Meron in northern Israel. Each year, hundreds of thousands of Jewish participants pay homage to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second-century sage, at his burial site. Investigators are examining exactly how the accident happened at the mountain. According to the volunteer-based emergency organization, United Hatzalah, around 100,000 people were in attendance. Social media video from the site shows people crammed into a passageway while suddenly many are struggling to continue walking and thrown back and forth in waves of the commotion.  Shimon Lavie, Israel Police's northern commander, stated that the police command had prioritized security and public safety, but he could not reveal what caused the stampede. Lazar Hyman, vice president of United Hatzalah, said it was one of the worst disasters that he had ever experienced.

Ex-Muslim Nigerian activist Mubarak Bala illegally detained for over 1 year
Location: Nigeria

Mubarak Bala, president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was arrested at his residence in Kaduna state on April 28, 2020. He was taken to neighboring Kano state where religious figures had made calls for action against him. The United Nations has denounced Nigerian authorities for failing to release Mubarak by stating that his detention is a flagrant violation of fundamental human rights. He had posted comments critiquing Islam on social media that caused an outrage among the predominantly Muslim northern area of Nigeria. Mubarak was denied contact with his lawyer or family. Through his continued detainment, the government is sending a message to the radical groups that the silencing and threatening of human rights defenders and minority non-believers is acceptable. In December 2020, Nigeria's high court ordered his release on bail and damages of 250,000 Naira ($657). Yet officials have proceeded to detain him. Mubarak's lawyer stated that the police detained Bala on "a holding charge" often used in arbitrary detentions, where formal charges are not presented. Amina, Mubarak's wife, described the psychological toll on her and their one-year-old child as unbearable emotional trauma.

Pakistani Government Refuses to Compromise on Deadly Blasphemy Law
Location: Islamabad, Pakistan

The European Union announced, on April 29th, a resolution that claimed the judicial procedures in blasphemy cases in Pakistan are highly flawed due to the low standards of evidence required for accepting blasphemy allegations. The Pakistani government has decided not to compromise on the country's blasphemy law and the law declaring Ahmadi community as non-Muslim. However, the government will introduce new legislation concerning various aspects of human rights in line with its agreements with the European Union. Prime Minister Imran Khan, on May 3rd, held a meeting to review the EU Parliament's resolution. Pakistan would suffer an annual loss of $3billion if the EU revokes its GSP+ status. According to the EU resolution, the accused are often presumed guilty and have to prove their innocence rather than the reverse. The European Parliament called on the European External Action Service to use all the tools at their disposal to assist religious communities and pressure Pakistan to do more to defend religious minorities. Despite the very recent ban on the extremist religious party TLP, on April 20th, the Pakistani Minister of the Interior announced that a resolution on the removal of the French ambassador to Pakistan would be presented to the National Assembly. Imran Khan has spoken out against this removal.

Pakistani Religious Leaders Claim ‘Not a Single Case of Blasphemy laws Misuse’
Location: Lahore, Pakistan

On April 1st, Hafiz Ashrafi, chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC), stated at a joint press conference with representatives of different religions and religious sects that the EU resolution on Pakistan’s blasphemy laws was based on ignorance of facts and false propaganda. According to him, not a single case of abuse of blasphemy laws was reported in the country during the last six months. He stated that the laws of Pakistan guarantee the protection of all citizens' rights. He invited the representatives of the European Union and the US Ambassador for Religious Freedom to visit Pakistan to find out these facts. He insisted that some individuals and institutions wanted to damage Pakistan's dignity, honor, and relations with other nations by spreading propaganda. He added that the instances regarding forced conversions reduced significantly during the past months. He demanded the international community respect the “sanctity” of all religions. Ashrafi noted that he and Prime Minister, Imran Khan, would go to Saudi Arabia on a three-day visit to discuss applicable legislation regarding “Islamophobia” and blasphemy with political and religious leaders.

Louisiana Republican Leader Uses Bible to Defend “Good” Side of Slavery
Location: Louisiana, United States

Recently, Martha Huckabay, the president of the Women's Republican Club of New Orleans, defended slavery.  At the beginning of May, the Republican-dominated state legislature was debating House Bill 564, which bans the teaching of racism or sexism in public schools. Fellow Republicans recognized this bill as an attempt to white-wash the past, micromanage teachers, and stifle free speech. State Rep. Ray Garofalo insisted that he wants the students to learn the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of slavery. Republican State Rep. Stephanie Hilferty opposed by saying that there's nothing good about slavery. Garofalo defended himself by stating that he just meant he wasn't trying to stifle legitimate academic discussions. Huckabay went after Hilferty for challenging Garofalo and stated that Hilferty was twisting Garofalo's words. She argued how Hilfery would know that there is no good in slavery, since she did not live through it. Huckabay said that slavery goes all the way back to biblical times, and many slaves loved their masters, and their masters loved them. She noted that anyone who was questioning her perspective on slavery is a "foolish troll."

Two Women Tortured in Sorcery-Related Attack in Papua New Guinea
Location: Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

In Papua New Guinea, two women, after being accused of witchcraft, were brutally attacked in Port Moresby by 20 men. On April 25th, the women were tortured and burnt with hot irons for hours in a settlement in the capital. One of them managed to escape and got rescued by the police. She mentioned that she was being questioned by the perpetrators and forced to admit to the murdering of a woman who died earlier in the week. Police found the other woman lying in a garden, badly wounded and tied with ropes. Community leader Elliot Raphael said that a solution needed to be found to immediately address violence against women. Supt. Gideon Ikumu of National Capital District (NCD) Metropolitan noted up to 20 men fled before police arrived at the scene but that their identities were known to them. Sorcery Accusation Related Violence, or SARV – is persistent in Papua New Guinea. This latest attack provoked outrage among senior police officers and politicians. Powes Parkop, NCD governor, stated that the fact that such an incident could still happen in the capital city shows that Papua New Guinea is a long way away from ending gender-based violence and sorcery accusatory violence in particular.

Argentina Nuns Accused Of Abusing At Least 20 Deaf Children
Location: Mendoza, Argentina

On May 3rd, two Argentine nuns of the Provolo Institute in western Mendoza, went to trial for their part in the sexual exploitation of at least 20 deaf children. The abuse took place under their care between 2004 and 2016. Kumiko Kosaka, a 46-year-old Japanese nun, is the main accused on trial, facing charges of aggravated sexual violation and covering up the crimes. Argentine sister Paraguayan Asuncion Martinez, 53, is also accused of exploiting minors and hiding the crimes. Seven other accused female employees joined the embattled nuns, including the institute's legal representative, in-house psychologist, cook, and four directors, for their complicit role in the frequent abuse in the school. In 2019, Argentine priest Horacio Corbacho, 60, and Italian clergyman Nicola Corradi, 84, were each sentenced to more than 40 years in prison for fostering a society of sexual exploitation and harassment within the Provolo Institute. The Provolo Institute was established in 1995 in Mendoza. The boarding school granted free education to underprivileged children with hearing and speech impediments. The facility has since closed.

Gaza reporter says she was beaten for not wearing hijab
Location: Gaza City, Palestine

Rewaa Mershid, a Palestinian reporter, was recently beaten with branches for not wearing a hijab by a member of the Hamas-run border patrol in Gaza. The Islamic militant group, Hamas, has promised an apology and said it would punish the man. The incident highlighted Hamas’ occasional brutal treatment of both reporters and women in Gaza. On April 25th, Rewaa was filming at a privately owned farm near the heavily guarded Gaza frontier when two members of a Hamas-run border patrol approached and asked them to identify themselves. An argument broke out, and one of them cut a branch off a tree and hit her. A statement was issued by the Palestinian journalists’ union condemning the attack. The incident sparked debate on social media in which some took her side while others condemned her behavior. In 2020, the International Federation of Journalists reported 76 cases of media rights violations by Gaza security forces and 42 by PA security forces in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Mershid was moved by the supportive messages she received on social media, but she no longer feels safe in Gaza.

Two Indian Frogs Married in Ritual to Please Rain God
Location: Tripura, India

In western Tripura, tribal tea garden workers recently arranged a wedding for two frogs in a ritual traditionally known as "bang er biye" (frog wedding). The amphibian couple tied the knot with poise after taking a dip in the river and dressed in elegant wedding clothes. In a video the frogs can be seen getting married as two women hold them up. Following Hindu wedding traditions, the frogs swapped garlands, following which the male toad put vermillion (sindoor) on the female frog's forehead to signify her as his wife. According to reports, the custom is done to appease Lord Indra, the Hindu god of rain. By getting the frogs married, villagers wish to please the rain god to ensure good rainfall, which will preserve their tea gardens from drought. In May 2019, two frogs were married in Karnataka's Udupi to ensure good rainfall. However, the frogs were later 'divorced' within two months of the marriage due to excessive rainfall.

10. Blasphemous art portrays Jordan Peterson embracing the Devil

This week, the Atheist Republic team discusses one of the latest pieces in the Blasphemous Art series, specifically the recent art “Jordan Peterson embraces the Devil.” The team talks about the deeper meaning behind this artwork, it’s symbolism, and its relationship to Peterson’s beliefs about the power of narratives and mythology. They also discuss some of the controversy that this art stirred up, and respond to critics.

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