14 / 10 / 2018
The Court (Tribunale) of Perugia, Italy (Credits: AsurnipalCC BY-SA 4.0)

Two Italian court decisions quote scholarly studies to reject the fake news depicting The Church of Almighty God as “against the family.”

Massimo Introvigne

A widespread fake news about The Church of Almighty God, a large Christian new religious movement severely persecuted in China, is that it is “against the family” and “break families.” Unfortunately, the fake news has been spread by Western media in articles available on the Internet, and mentioned in old official reports by the Canadian immigration authorities still available in the data base of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)—although no longer used in Canada, where most asylum requests of The Church of Almighty God refugees are now granted.

As a result, when refugees from The Church of Almighty God tell immigration boards that they have been converted by members of their family, or that in turn they have converted relatives, their testimonies are rejected as not believable and asylum is denied, with the argument that “this is impossible, since it is well known that the Church is against the family.”

Scholars, including the undersigned, have however debunked the fake news, and courts of law in various countries are taking notice, as evidenced by recent Italian decisions.

In fact, the theology of The Church of Almighty God proclaims that the family exists because of God’s sovereignty and arrangement, and is a positive feature of human society. Almighty God teaches, “Were it not for the Creator’s predestination and His guidance, a life newly born into this world would not know where to go or where to stay, would have no relations, belong nowhere, have no real home. But because of the Creator’s meticulous arrangements, it begins the journey of its life with a place to stay, parents, a place it belongs to, and relatives.” In the words of Zhao Weishan, the main administrative leader of The Church of Almighty God, referred to in the Church as The Man Used by the Holy Spirit: “Marriage and giving birth originated from God’s creation and preordination, It’s God who created man and woman and caused them to be fruitful and multiply. It’s an undisputed fact. Marriage and giving birth is from God, so it is a positive thing, which is undeniable.”

I conducted in 2018 a survey among members of The Church of Almighty God in several countries, which resulted in a study published by the prestigious Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, a journal of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. The survey proved that, although other methods of proselytization also exists, most devotees of The Church of Almighty God were converted by members of their family and in turn tried to convert their relatives. On the other hand, my research also found that it is factually true that families of members of The Church of Almighty God are often broken. They are broken by CCP persecution, which separate spouses by arresting one of them, or both with husbands and wives sent to different jails, and compels members of the Church to leave their families by fleeing abroad to escape imminent arrest.

Two orders (ordinanze) of the Italian Court (Tribunale) of Perugia, no. 614 of August 31/September 6, 2018 and no. 615 of August 31/September 10, 2018, take into account the scholarly studies, quash administrative decisions that had rejected the requests of asylum of two female members of The Church of Almighty God, and grant them refugee status.

In the first case, the local territorial commission (commissione territoriale) for the refugees had rejected the application, because the asylum seeker had reported that she had been sheltered and protected by her parents against the persecution and had converted her sister, while the commission believed that The Church of Almighty God is known for being “hostile to family relationships” (ostile alle relazioni familiari).

In the second case, the territorial commission had concluded that the story told by the asylum seeker was not believable, because she claimed she had been converted by her parents, quoting again sources reporting that her Church is “hostile to family relationships” (ostile alle relazioni familiari).

In both cases, the judges quoted my studies to reject these conclusions, noting that scholarly studies prove that “most conversions are based on family relationships, and family networks play a crucial role in protecting devotees from persecution” (la maggior parte delle conversioni avviene su base familiare e le reti familiari svolgono un ruolo centrale nella protezione dei fedeli dalle persecuzioni).

The two decisions also reiterate, based on affidavits by experts, that the fact that the asylum seekers obtained a valid passport in China does not prove that they did not have a credible fear of persecution, considering “how large is the country, how unwieldy is the Chinese administrative system, how corrupted the public authorities are, particularly at the local level” (l’estensione del Paese, il farraginoso sistema amministrativo cinese, l’elevato livello di corruzione delle autorità pubbliche, soprattutto a livello locale).

See full copies of the decisions (in Italian)

Source:Bitter Winter  / Massimo Introvigne

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