Special religious freedom envoy needed
More help for the persecuted church
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been in prison for more than 1,000 days. The Iranian government has sentenced him to die because he chose Christianity over Islam. The only thing humanly speaking that is standing between him and his Iranian executioner is the United States. The Iranian authorities have postponed his execution in the past because of intense international pressure, especially from this country.
If you agree with me that our country can and should do more for the persecuted church, I encourage you to speak to your senators right away and tell them that you want them to pass Senate bill S. 1245, the special religious freedom envoy bill, as soon as they return to Washington, DC. You can also send them an email right now.
Tragically, Youcef’s situation is not an isolated incident. Christians are under severe persecution in many places around the world. In India, militant Hindus and Muslims have recently stepped up their persecution of Christians, including burning churches and kidnapping church leaders. Christians have been beaten, deprived of a means to make a living, and Christian children are prevented from attending school.
Listen to the audio version of this article (MP3), as heard on For Faith & Family Radio, August 17, 2012.
Christians in Iraq are being driven from their homes by the thousands. The Christian population in Iraq is now half the size it was in 2003. In China, Christians live in constant fear that they might anger the communist rulers who tolerate them. House church Christians and their leaders are especially targeted by the Chinese authorities for their determination to worship God free from governmental interference.
The United States has responded to the plight of Christians and other persecuted faith groups by creating the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom and by forming an international religious freedom office within the State Department. Both of these institutions are helping draw attention to the plight of minority faith groups around the world. But clearly more must be done.
Religious freedom advocates in the House of Representatives agree. They are now fighting an uphill battle to bring some more help to persecuted faith groups. Their current effort creates a special envoy at the State Department to focus exclusively on the plight of religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia, including Pakistan and Afghanistan. These are certainly areas that need more attention.
Some argue that we don’t need another office dealing with religious persecution. Let them tell that to the thousands of Christians losing their churches, their homes, their lives and livelihoods. Let them tell that to Pastor Nadarkhani languishing for nearly 3 years now in an Iranian jail.
When a forest fire intensifies, you can either let it burn out of control or you can call in more resources. Surely, this nation that cherishes religious freedom can respond on behalf of these persecuted people, most of whom are Christians. Let’s send them an envoy to plead their case before their tormentors and before our own leaders.
The bill creating this special envoy position has passed the House. It is being held up in the Senate.
If you agree with me that our country can and should do more, I encourage you to speak to your senators right away and tell them that you want them to pass Senate bill S. 1245, the special religious freedom envoy bill, as soon as they return to Washington, DC. You can also send them an email right now.
And while we wait for our elected leaders to do more, please join me in praying for our courageous brothers and sisters in the Lord who willingly sacrifice all for the Lord Jesus.
Dr. Barrett Duke is Vice President for Public Policy and Research for the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and also serves as Director of the Commission’s Research Institute of the ERLC. Read more of his work here. He is also a regular contributor to the For Faith and Family radio broadcast.