Will reintroduce bill to create State Dept. Special Envoy position on religious minorities
By ChinaAid News
Washington, D.C. (January 9, 2013) – Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), one of Congress’ most outspoken leaders on religious freedom and human rights, today called on faith leaders in the West to use their influence to speak out on behalf of the persecuted church around the globe.
In a letter today to nearly 300 Protestant and Catholic leaders, Wolf described a global state in which Christians are being murdered, exiled and denied basic freedoms due to their beliefs. He pressed the American church leaders to act and declared his intent to reintroduce a bill to create a special envoy position within the State Department that would advocate on behalf of religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia. Believers in these regions, notably in countries like Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, are particularly vulnerable.
While Wolf’s bipartisan special envoy legislation overwhelmingly passed the House last Congress, it was blocked in the Senate due to opposition from State Department officials and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry, now the presumptive Secretary of State.
In 1998, Wolf authored the International Religious Freedom Act, which created the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and established the International Religious Freedom Office at the State Department headed by an ambassador-at-large. He was the lead sponsor of legislation which successfully reauthorized the Commission last Congress, and he currently serves as co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.
Wolf further described the marked decrease in the population of Christians in Iraq and Egypt in recent years – a troubling trend which mirrors the fate of the Jewish community in these same countries.
“Over the span of a few decades, the Middle East, with the exception of Israel, was virtually emptied of Jews,” he wrote, adding that Christians in the same region are on an identical trajectory. “And yet, the silence of many in the West is deafening. Such stories receive scant attention in the mainstream media, and perhaps more strikingly, are rarely spoken of from our pulpits.”
Wolf declared that more must be done to give a voice to the voiceless: “[Shabbaz] Bhatti can no longer speak. The Chinese bishop under house arrest cannot speak. The North Korean believer enslaved in the gulag can’t speak. The Iraqi nun fearing for her life cannot speak,” he wrote.
“Can you, as a leader in the Church, help?” he asked. “Are you pained by these accounts of persecution? Will you use your sphere of influence to raise the profile of this issue – be it through a sermon, writing or media interview?
“To do nothing is simply not an option,” Wolf concluded.