This photo shows the ancient Maitham Al Bahrani Mosque in Mahooz, Bahrain, bulldozed by regime forces.
From the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy:
Bahrain NGO’s send letter to the Vatican regarding an imminent visit by Bahrain king
The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain and the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights have sent a letter to His Holiness Pope Francis I urging him not to meet with the King of Bahrain on his planned visit in the wake of severe human rights abuses. The letter also asks His Holiness to condemn the violations against religious freedom in Bahrain and advocate for an end to the oppression.
The letter, sent on 12 May 2014, highlights the violations committed by the government of Bahrain against religious freedom including the destruction of religious and cultural property, the attacks against places of worship and religious events and the targeting of religious personnel. The attacks have recently escalated including the deportation of the prominent Shia religious scholar Sheikh Hussein Al-Najati and the dissolution of the Shia Islamic Scholars Council. The UN Special Rapporteur on Religion described the deportation as “an act of religiously motivated discrimination.”
See full text of the letter:
His Holiness, Pope Francis, Apostolic Palace, Vatican City
We are writing to you regarding a proposed request by the King of Bahrain, Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, to meet with your holiness in the wake of severe human rights abuses. It is also our intention to inform you about these abuses in Bahrain that have targeted ordinary civilians, men, women and children of faith and their holy places of worship.
In 14 February 2011, ordinary civilians in Bahrain took to the streets demanding a constitution that is agreed upon by the people, the recognition of their human rights, civil liberties, an end to corruption and greater representation in the political sphere.
These peaceful protests were responded to with a brutal crackdown taking the lives of at least 95 individuals to date.
The government of Bahrain began a widespread crackdown against civilians: thousands were sacked from their jobs, expelled [from] schools and universities, systematically tortured, imprisoned.
Since the beginning of the crackdown, the government of Bahrain used sectarian targeting as one of the main tools to divide society. Bahrain has a documented history of systematic marginalization and discrimination against the Shia majority. The government of Bahrain destroyed over 28 places of worship as reprisals against protesters after inviting foreign troops into the country to crush peaceful demonstrations. During the destruction, security forces even prevented locals from removing holy books and religious artifacts from the places of worship.
This included the Amir Mohammed Barbagi Mosque which was more than 400 years old and an important religious and cultural site. The destruction was described as collective punishment by an independent commission of inquiry.
The rest of the letter is here.
Unfortunately, the king of dictatorial Bahrain did visit Pope Francis I. The Vatican Radio report on this says that the two men had ‘cordial discussions’.
After the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy scandals of child abuse, the Vatican bank, etc. many people hoped that Pope Francis I would manage to clean up the church. This blog pointed out that Francis I would need the strength and intelligence of Greek mythological demigod Heracles for that. Apparently, as far as relationships between the Vatican and dictatorships are concerned, the clean-up still has to start.
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Bahrain has a new third in line to the throne, with the birth of a royal baby.
Baby Hamad was born on Monday night and is the grandson of Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Premier.
His father, Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, is the Crown Prince’s oldest son and second in line to the throne.
The Al Khalifa dynasty was founded in 1766 and has ruled the Gulf state since 1783, including under the current Emir, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, who was appointed in 1999 and proclaimed himself King of Bahrain in 2002.
The Al Khalifa family also makes up about half of the government Cabinet and its members also are in most of the country’s important business roles.