Relief organization that allegedly supported Hamas suspends operations after CIBC closes bank accounts

http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/07/15/relief-organization-that-allegedly-supported-hamas-suspends-operations-after-cibc-closes-bank-accounts/

 

A humanitarian relief organization that lost its charity status two years ago over its alleged support for Hamas said Monday it was suspending operations after the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce won court approval to close its accounts.

The CIBC gave notice in May that it intended to stop providing banking services to the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy — Canada. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice upheld that decision, which went into effect on Monday.

Without a bank, the Toronto-based relief group, which spent $9-million on charitable activities in 2009, said it could no longer transfer money abroad for programs that include the support of orphans in the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon and Sudan.

 

“IRFAN-Canada is choosing not to accept donations at this time because they are unable to transmit funds to the intended destinations,” the group’s lawyer, Naseer Syed, told the National Post. “Therefore, without donations, they will be forced to suspend their humanitarian relief programs.”

CIBC declined to discuss the matter. “We do not comment on client issues,” said Kevin Dove, head of external communications at the Toronto-based bank, where IRFAN-Canada had held two accounts for a dozen years.

Formed in 1998, IRFAN-Canada was mostly active in the Muslim world but it ran afoul of federal regulators, who revoked its charity status in 2011. The Canada Revenue Agency said an audit had determined the group was an “integral part” of an international fundraising effort that supported Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist group.

 

“Our analysis of the audit information has led the CRA to believe that IRFAN-Canada provides support to Hamas,” the Charities Branch wrote. “Our findings indicate that IRFAN-Canada provided over $14.6-million in resources to operating partners that were run by officials of Hamas, openly supported and provided funding to Hamas, or have been listed by various jurisdictions because of their support for Hamas or other terrorist entities.”

In addition, the CRA said it had found IRFAN-Canada videos at the group’s Mississauga office that “demonize Israel, characterize the Arab-Israeli conflict as a religious war, appeal for all Arab and Muslim nations to join in the struggle against Israel and glorify martyrdom.”

In January, IRFAN-Canada appealed the denial of its charity status to the Federal Court. The case was expected to be heard in the fall. While no longer a registered charity, the group had continued to operate as a non-profit organization.

 

After CIBC decided to end its banking relationship with IRFAN-Canada, the group appealed in Ontario court, arguing the decision would damage its reputation, cause its donor base to erode and that “demise will come to the organization.” In particular, the group complained it would be unable to wire Canadian currency to the Palestinian Territories. The bank initially gave no explanation but it later explained the decision was related, at least in part, to the concerns raised by the Canada Revenue Agency. The bank gave the group four months’ notice.

On July 5, Justice Beth Allen dismissed the case against CIBC and ordered the relief group to pay the bank $10,000 in legal costs. The group had provided “little or no” support for its claims and CIBC was entitled to terminate a banking relationship on reasonable notice, she wrote.

In a letter to donors, IRFAN-Canada said it had “recently experienced problems with the bank we deal with because of concerns raised by the Canada Revenue Agency” and that it would “not be in a position to process any new donations.”

“This situation is expected to last until our appeal of the CRA decision is heard later this year at the Federal Court of Canada, at which time we hope and believe our case will be resolved successfully.”

Last December, Liberal leader Justice Trudeau was criticized for agreeing to speak an Islamic conference in Toronto that was sponsored by IRFAN-Canada. The relief group eventually withdrew as a “diamond sponsor” of the event.

 

 

mental illness: HIV patients told by Pentecostal pastors ‘to rely on God’

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23729684

 

Some young HIV patients are giving up their medicine after being told by Pentecostal Church pastors to rely on faith in God instead, doctors warn.

Medical staff told the BBC a minority of pastors in England were endangering young church members by putting them under pressure to stop medication.

Healing is central to Pentecostalism, a radical belief in the power of prayer and miracles.

 

But one pastor denied people would ever be told to stop taking their medicine.

The Children’s HIV Association surveyed 19 doctors and health professionals working with babies and children in England; its members had reported hearing anecdotal evidence of HIV patients deciding to stop taking their anti-retroviral drugs because their pastors had told them to do so.

Among 10 doctors who said they had encountered the problem in the last five years, 29 of their patients had reported being put under pressure to stop taking medicine and at least 11 had done so.

The doctors and health professionals reported a variety of cases:

  • Some said they had dealt with parents who felt under pressure to stop giving their young children their HIV medicine – and some had actually done so
  • Others were breastfeeding mothers with HIV who refused the medicine that would stop the virus being passed onto their babies
  • Some were young people, making the decision for themselves

The healthcare workers also reported that some patients had been told by their pastors they would be healed by prayer or by drinking blessed water.

‘Miracle cure’

Sixteen-year-old Oliver (not his real name) said he was told by a pastor to swap his HIV medicine for a plastic bottle containing water that would heal him.

He said many others had come under the same pressure.

“I’ve been to other churches where… the pastor stands forth there, and he says ‘come take this water… if you drink it for this certain amount of days, you are going to be healed’,” he said.

Later, after his mother had experienced what he believed was a miracle cure, Oliver stopped taking his medication, and his condition quickly deteriorated.

He has since gone back on his medication and said he believed he needed to combine his drugs with his belief in faith healing.

Dr Toni Tan, a consultant paediatrician, said some Pentecostal pastors were endangering the lives of sick followers.

“It’s my view that it’s very wrong for faith leaders to actively encourage their congregations to stop taking their medication… it will lead to their deaths.”

 

Pentecostals and other Christians see healing, like speaking in tongues, as a sign of the presence of God.

Pentecostal pastor Stevo Atanasio, from the East London Christian Church, said that among his congregation, blind people had recovered sight, deaf people had heard again, and what were considered terminal illnesses had been cured.

“We don’t say to people ‘don’t take your medication don’t go to the doctor’. I mean we never say that,” he said.

“But we believe that the first healing comes from inside, it’s a spiritual healing. Some people are hurt, they have broken hearts. If you are healed from inside, then you are healed from outside as well.”

 

‘Avoid culture clash’

Pentecostalism is booming. The number of Pentecostal churches in London, for example, has doubled since 2005.

The overall number of incidents of HIV patients being told to give up medicine is thought to consist of a minority of churches and a small group of people.

But the Rev Israel Olofinjana, who is a former Pentecostal pastor and now a Baptist minister, said he had seen it happening.

“I’ve heard languages like that – ‘put your trust in God, don’t put your trust in medicine’.”

He said many of these churches served migrants with an exalted view of the authority of pastors.

“Within the context of African churches, if you’re coming from a culture where the pastor is like your fathers or mothers, like your community keepers, the word of your pastor becomes very important,” he explained.

“It becomes very significant… there is a minority who say ‘because God can heal absolutely… what’s the need for medicine?’.”

Dr Steve Welch, who is chairman of the Children’s HIV Association, said it found it difficult to engage with the faith leaders of churches where healing was an integral part of the worship.

“We need to stay engaged with the families and understand that… their faith is an important part of the support they get in their condition, and engage positively with them and not make it a clash of cultures.

“I think it’s about engaging with the pastors and faith leaders who are giving this advice because that’s how we will actually address the root of the problem.”