Lent pro-life volunteers alarmed as Germany considers UK-style censorship zones to criminalise help and prayer near abortion organisations 

Berlin (15 February 2024) – During Lent, pro-life volunteers again set to the streets to pray for women and their unborn children. In Germany, however, a new bill plans to introduce vaguely defined censorship zones, banning behaviour that could be perceived as “confusing” or “disturbing” within 100 Meters of abortion organizations with fines up to 5,000€.

The bill has already caused confusion due to its vague wording and disputed necessity. In response to a parliamentary question seeking information on how, when, and where problematic incidents of hindrance or harassment near abortion facilities occurred, the responsible Ministry recently admitted: “The federal government does not have any concrete numerical findings” that would support the need for such a far-reaching bill. 

“Thoughtcrimes” in the UK as a warning example

Whereas harassment is already illegal, free speech advocates warn that the language of the bill could criminalise a simple offer of help made to women in crisis pregnancies, as well as prayer. In the UK, where censorship zones have already been introduced, charitable volunteer Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was arrested for praying silently in her head near an abortion facility, as seen in a viral video. With support from ADF International, Vaughan-Spruce was acquitted in court; but two further individuals currently await trial for the same “thoughtcrime”. ADF International is supporting their legal defence.

“The right to peacefully pray is protected by international and national law. No matter one’s opinion on abortion, everyone suffers when we start to censor the right to speak freely, pray, or engage in consensual conversations.  The federal government wants to ban something but doesn’t know what or why. This law doesn’t ban “confusion”, it creates more of it – both for citizens trying to understand the law and police officers who will have to enforce any vague new prohibitions,” noted Dr. Felix Böllmann, German lawyer and Director of European Advocacy for ADF International.

The draft bill is currently with the Federal Council and is still open for amendments. It will be voted on in the parliament.

A new video features ADF International spokesperson Ludwig Brühl explaining the detrimental effects of censorship zones: “The government wants to ban certain opinions in an area the size of almost five football pitches.

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Federal minister Lisa Paus, who is pushing for the bill, said: “if you harass people with expressions of opinion that they clearly don’t want to hear, then this will become an offence punishable with a fine of up to €5,000.” Brühl disagrees: “Of course harassment is rightly prohibited – and has been for a long time. But this is just an excuse to marginalize, punish and censor certain opinions. Pro-life volunteers are there to pray, or to offer information about help available to women who would like to consider other options than abortion.”

ADF International conducts global advocacy for free speech. In the UK and Germany, ADF International lawyers have successfully supported several pro-life volunteers who faced criminal proceedings for their silent prayers.

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European Parliament “strongly condemns” Christmas Eve massacre of Christians in Nigeria, but blames climate change

Adina Portaru before the European Parliament where climate change was blamed for the slaughter of Christians

Brussels (8 February 2024) – In an urgency resolution adopted today, the European Parliament “strongly condemns the acts of violence over Christmas targeting Christians” in Nigeria. However, the text does not fully acknowledge the highly detrimental role of Sharia law, Islamic Extremist groups, and the danger of blasphemy accusations but rather elevates “the role of climate change” and “environmental degradation” as root causes.   

During Christmas 2023, at least 195 Christians were murdered by Fulani militants in at least 20 communities across Central Plateau State, Nigeria. More than 300 Christians suffered injuries or lost their homes. There are reports of 8 churches burnt down and 15,000 people internally displaced by the attacks. “We were taken unawares, and those that could run ran into the bush. A good number of those that couldn’t were caught and killed with machetes,” local resident Magit Macham told Reuters. 

While we applaud the European Parliament’s recognition of the horrific Christmas massacre targeting Christians, we are disappointed that the resolution downplays the religious causes of the violence while highlighting issues such as climate change. Climate change does not cause people to massacre whole Christian villages,” said Dr. Georgia Du Plessis, Legal Officer for ADF International, after the adoption.  

Christians in Nigeria are particularly targeted and vulnerable. In 2021, 90% of all Christians worldwide who were killed for their faith were in Nigeria. On average 14 Nigerian Christians die every day. 

MEP: “Insensitive to human suffering when it comes to Christians” 

In a debate preceding the adoption of the resolution, several Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) raised concerns about attempts to downplay the role of Islamic extremism and terrorism in the violent attacks and killings.  

MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen (ECR) stated that “saying that it is a mere conflict between farmers and herders fails to acknowledge the other causes. It is Muslim extremists causing death and destruction.”  

MEP György Hölvényi (EPP) said in his address: “Blinded by ideology, some people are totally insensitive to human suffering when it comes to Christians. The timing of the attacks, brutal killings, and  destruction of churches cannot be misinterpreted and can only be understood as the persecution of Christians and we should be able to say so.”  

Supreme Court case of Sufi Muslim supported by ADF International could overturn blasphemy laws 

For several years already, ADF International lawyers have supported the defence of Sufi Muslim Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, a young Nigerian musician sentenced to death under the blasphemy law of Kano state in northern Nigeria. Yahaya’s alleged crime involved sending song lyrics on WhatsApp that were deemed blasphemous toward the prophet Mohammed. 

With support from ADF International, Yahaya appealed his case to the Supreme Court of Nigeria and is challenging the constitutionality of Sharia-based blasphemy laws. The case has the potential to overturn the country’s draconian blasphemy law regime in the northern states. Find more information here. 

In April 2023, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for the release of Yahaya Sharif-Aminu and urged Nigeria to “repeal the blasphemy laws at federal and state level”. 

In May 2022, Nigerian persecution caught global attention when Christian student Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu was stoned and beaten to death, and her body burnt, by her classmates in Sokoto State after they accused her of blasphemy for thanking Jesus for helping her pass an exam. Another Christian woman, Rhoda Jatau, condemned the violence against Yakubu on social media and subsequently faced death threats and mob violence. ADF International is also supporting Jatau’s defense. Find out more here. 

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