Religious leaders in America are being called upon by a U.S. congressman to advocate for those across the globe who are oppressed for their faith.
“We in the West must speak out on behalf of the persecuted church
around the world,” said Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) in a Jan. 9 letter to
nearly 300 Protestant and Catholic leaders.
“If the faith community in the West isn’t engaged, are we surprised
when government leaders turn a blind eye to matters of religious
freedom?” he asked.
A long-time advocate of religious liberty, Wolf authored the
International Religious Freedom Act in 1998 and currently co-chairs the
Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.
In his recent letter, he said that he plans to reintroduce a bill in
the new Congress to create a special envoy in the State Department to
advocate on behalf of persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East
and South Central Asia.
While such legislation passed the House of Representatives with
bipartisan support over a year and a half ago, it stalled in the Senate
due to opposition from the State Department and Senate Foreign Relations
Committee chair John Kerry, who refused to hold a hearing on the
legislation, he said.
While he acknowledged that a special envoy will not “single-handedly
solve the problem,” Wolf stressed that it would be very helpful to have a
high-level official focusing exclusively on religious minorities.
“Furthermore, to do nothing is simply not an option,” he said.
Calling American religious leaders to action, the congressman decried
the “fear of persecution and outright violence or even death” that
overshadows the Christmas season for believers in much of the world.
“Every day, around the world, men and women of faith are imprisoned, beaten, detained, tortured and even killed,” he said.
While the faithful have always faced oppression, he explained, there is
currently “a historic exodus of Christians from the Middle East”
underway, while “the silence of many in the West is deafening.”
Wolf observed that the “once vibrant communities” of Jews in the region
have been severely depleted. While Iraq was once home to some 150,000
Jews, today there are fewer than 10, he said.
Christianity may face a similar fate, he warned, as entire communities
are fleeing from Egypt, Iraq and other countries in the region,
drastically reducing their numbers in some areas.
This exodus is particularly troubling, the congressman said, because
“(t)he Middle East is the very cradle of Christendom,” a part of the
history relayed in Scripture.
However, the oppression of believers is not limited to the Middle East,
he explained, noting that “Christians are targeted throughout the world
in countries like China, Vietnam and Pakistan.”
Arguing that the silence of good people is what allows atrocities such
as the Holocaust to occur, Wolf called on religious leaders in the West
to speak up for their persecuted brothers and sisters, overcoming
indifference, lack of awareness and pressure to be politically correct.
He encouraged the religious leaders, working within their own spheres
of influence, to “raise the profile of this issue” through sermons,
writings or media interviews.
“The Church globally is under assault,” he stressed, and the proper
response is not simply “drowning out the cries for help from our
brothers and sisters.”