By / Jun 25

On June 25, 2019, the ERLC led a coalition of scholars, religious and secular leaders, human rights advocates, and practitioners through the International Religious Freedom Roundtable expressing our serious concerns over the human rights violations and religious freedom abuses in China. The letter urges the Administration to counter China morally and make international religious freedom a top priority in all areas of American foreign policy with respect to China.

Below is the full text of the letter sent to the White House. Download the pdf letter to view the full list of signatures.

June 25, 2019

President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Trump,

We write as an informal group of organizations and individuals who are scholars, religious and secular leaders, human rights advocates, and practitioners to express our serious concerns over the human rights violations and religious freedom abuses in The People’s Republic of China (hereafter referred to as “China”). As your Administration seeks to counter China economically and militarily, we write to urge you to counter China morally as well, making these concerns a top priority in your trade negotiations and ensuring that international religious liberty remains a top foreign policy priority with respect to China.

We are grateful that your Administration has added Huawei to the Bureau of Industry and Security’s Entity List, which will severely restrict Huawei’s ability to purchase American-produced components. We also appreciate that your administration is evaluating additional Chinese entities owned or controlled by the Communist Party responsible for video surveillance.

For decades, the Communist Party of China has routinely violated the basic human rights of millions in their country by strictly controlling how many children a family can legally have, using extreme forms of technological surveillance to monitor their citizens, and seeking to control the speech of their citizens and snuff out the free exercise of religion.

In the annual global human rights report, the State Department referred to China’s “re-education” camps for Uyghur Muslims as “some of the worst human rights violations since the 1930s”, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that China was “in a league of its own when it comes to human rights violations.”

Since April 2017, China has systematically detained more than one million Uyghur Muslims and placed them into “re-education camps”. In these internment camps, Uyghurs are prevented from engaging in their religious practices and forcibly “re-educated” to the Communist Party’s ideological standard of “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”. They are also subjected to physiological and oftentimes physical persecution, and their cultural heritage and practices are being erased. Families of those in internment camps do not know where their loved ones are, or even if they are still alive.

For decades, China has persecuted Christians, but in recent years the pressure and persecution has increased. Churches have been destroyed, pastors have been imprisoned, and extreme forms of technological surveillance has been used in houses of worship. Government installation of surveillance devices capable of facial recognition in houses of worship raises chilling questions about what the Chinese government plans to do with that information. In short, the Chinese government has sought to control where people worship, whom they worship, and the content of their worship.

Chinese authorities are in the process of developing a Social Credit System, a nationwide reputation system empowered by artificial intelligence that allows the government to monitor and control its citizens through incentives of punishment and reward. Once collected, the data on Chinese citizens can be used to limit an individual’s rights and privileges, and affect how they can engage with and in society.

The Social Credit System will also allow the Chinese government to continue to tighten control over the country’s most persecuted religious groups. The Beijing Public Safety Bureau claims that one hundred percent of Beijing is now covered by surveillance cameras, and the regional authorities shut down one of the largest Protestant house churches in Beijing after church leaders refused to allow the government to install surveillance cameras in the church.

In addition, the Chinese government has, for decades, aggressively interfered with Tibetan Buddhist practices and culture and abused Falun Gong practitioners by imprisoning them by the thousands.

These broad efforts to “sinicize” all religious practice in China, from Islam to Christianity to Buddhism to Falun Gong, is directly inconsistent with international human rights and religious freedom norms, standards, and law. If unchallenged, these norms and standards will be eroded, threatening the lives and freedoms of millions more around the world who are subject to autocratic regimes.

We thank you for the efforts your Administration have undertaken to counter China, but much more is required. We respectfully ask you to make international religious freedom a top priority in all areas of American foreign policy with respect to China.

By / Dec 3

President George H.W. Bush died on Friday at the age of 94. Here are five facts you should know about one of the most respected statesmen in modern American history:

1. Prior to being elected vice-president in 1980 and president in 1988, Bush had garnered one of the most impressive resumes in modern American presidential history. After becoming a highly decorated war hero, he went on to earn a degree in economics from Yale in two-and-a-half years. From there he went to work in the oilfields in West Texas, where he started two successful companies. He lost two U.S. Senate races in Texas, but was twice elected to the U.S. House. He then served as an Ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, head of the U.S. Liaison Office in China (at a time when there was no ambassador to mainland China), and director of Central Intelligence. After leaving the CIA, he became chairman on the Executive Committee of the First International Bank in Houston, a part-time professor of Administrative Science at Rice University’s Jones School of Business, and director of the Council on Foreign Relations.

2. World War II broke out while Bush was in high school, and he joined the U.S. Navy immediately after graduation. At age 18, he was one of the youngest pilots in the Navy, flying bombing missions from aircraft carriers in the Pacific. Bush was shot down in 1944 and survived four hours on a raft in the ocean before being rescued by an American submarine. (All of the other eight men who were shot down and survived were captured, tortured, and killed by the Japanese. Four of the captured Americans were eaten by Japanese military officers.) He returned to flying and flew 58 combat missions. During his service he received numerous awards, including three Air Medals, a Presidential Unit Citation, and Distinguished Flying Cross for his mission in which he was shot down. “I finished the bombing run, which was no ‘heroic’ thing,” he would later say. “They wrote it up as heroism, but it wasn’t—it was just doing your job.”

3. Bush was considered a contender to be vice president for three different presidents. In 1968, the Southern Baptist evangelist Billy Graham reportedly recommended that Nixon choose Bush, who at the time was serving as a U.S. Congressman from Texas. Bush was on a short-list that included California Gov. Ronald Reagan, Texas Senator John Tower, and Maryland Gov. Spiro T. Agnew (Nixon chose Agnew). President Ford also considered Bush, along with NATO Ambassador Donald Rumsfeld and New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, as his choice for vice-president (Ford chose Rockefeller). In 1980, Ronald Reagan initially preferred Gerald Ford to be his running mate. But when questions arose about a “co-presidency,” Reagan chose Bush, his contender in the GOP primary who had come in second in the popular vote.

4. Reagan was initially skeptical about choosing Bush, in part because of his views on abortion. Although Bush opposed abortion, he initially refused to support a pro-life constitutional amendment. After 1980, though, Bush supported the pro-life amendment and became more strongly pro-life. According to biographer John Meacham, this was due to his discussions with religious leaders and his watching the anti-abortion film Silent Scream. “As important, perhaps, was his deep love for several grandchildren who had been adopted from their birth mothers,” says Meacham. “What if the woman who’d been pregnant with one of these babies he adored had chosen to terminate her pregnancy? His conversion to a pro-life position was politically convenient, but it was also heartfelt.”

5. At the age of 20, while still in the Navy, Bush married Barbara Pierce (1925–2018). Their 73-year marriage was the longest presidential marriage in American history. The couple had six children: George W. (b. 1946), Robin (1949–1953), Jeb (b. 1953), Neil (b. 1955), Marvin (b. 1956), and Doro (b. 1959). Two sons would become governors and one would follow in his footsteps to become U.S. President. But those achievements were eclipsed in part by the death of Robin, who died of leukemia at the age of three.  “It taught me that life is unpredictable and fragile,” said Bush. “It taught me the importance of close family and friends, because of Lud and several other friends that rallied around. It taught me that no matter how innocent or perfect a child, she can still be taken away from you by horrible illness. That gets into ‘the Lord works in strange ways,’ if you believe in that. I’ve never gotten a real answer to that one. But I learned a lot from it. Keep going, charging ahead.”

By / Aug 10

Your kids can’t have the TV on for very long without coming across alarming new developments with North Korea. Now that North Korea has missiles that can reach the continental United States and the ability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead to fit in those missiles, the threat to America is more serious than ever before. As your kids head to school, other children may comment on the escalating situation or even make callous jokes about nuclear war.

So, how should you talk to your kids about the situation in North Korea? There are five factors to consider when shaping how you talk with your children about a controversial subject like this conflict.

First, consider the facts. Because children have limited access to reliable information sources, it is commonly the case that they are uninformed or misinformed about difficult topics. Furthermore, they are still developing the ability to effectively process complex information in limited time frames. You are not trying to prove yourself to be a subject matter expert on Asian foreign policy and military strategy. But you should seek to be a reliable source of insight for your children when significant developments emerge.

The facts around the conflict with North Korea are complicated. So, it is helpful to read articles, such as the Atlantic’s recent cover story, that can enable you to familiarize yourself with the history, current state, and future options on the issue. Of course, the level of detail you use when talking with your children will depend on their age, the priority of the issue in your home, and your parenting approach. But we can’t assume that children understand the details. So, helping your child to consider the facts establishes an essential foundation for the rest of the conversation.

Second, characterize the field. If the first factor helps your children to understand what is going on, this one equips them to understand who is involved. In this case, that could include explaining the major players, such as the American government and military personnel as well as North Korean leaders. For those that can understand the more complex aspects of the situation, you can explain the role of South Korea, China, the United Nations, and others in the conflict. Enabling our kids to understand who is involved helps to personalize the issue so that it doesn’t seem like an abstract problem that is disconnected from their experience in everyday life.

In addition to equipping kids to understand who is involved, characterizing the field also includes explaining how they are acting. One of the long-term benefits of candid discussions with your children about controversial issues in the news is that the events often provide teachable moments because of the stark expressions of good and evil, pride and humility, wisdom and foolishness. By providing insight into the character and integrity of the main actors in the situation, parents can better equip their children to display Christ-like character in their daily lives.

Third, confront the fears. When children encounter significant issues, such as global conflict, it often induces anxiety. As a parent, you need to be the one who can anticipate and respond to the doubts and questions that arise in your child’s heart. It is a natural part of fallen humanity for people to respond to uncertainty with anxiety. That is no less true for our children (and, often, parents) when it comes to situations like with North Korea.

Parents must be willing to directly address the doubts and questions of their children. Will our country be safe from nuclear attack? Will our town be hurt if there is a conflict? Will my cousin who is in the military die if there is a war? These are a small window into the fears that may pop up in our children’s tiny hearts. Parents have the unique opportunity to shepherd our children through their fears. When you respond to them in honest and age-appropriate ways, you can signal how we follow a God we can trust, even in life’s most difficult circumstances.

Fourth, coordinate the flow. One of the most important factors parents must consider when discussing difficult topics with their children is how to coordinate the flow of conversation and information our children receive. What should they learn? When should they hear it? How should they learn it? The key to coordinating the flow of information on a controversial subject is to be intentional. Many parents find themselves reacting to a conversation that they are thrust into, rather than proactively anticipating the right opportunity to engage their children on the issue.

Don’t miss the opportunity to help your kids learn how to apply the gospel to everyday life.

In the case of North Korea, coordinating the flow of conversation and information is critical. Surrounded by a 24-hour news cycle and fueled by a heightened apprehension by their peers, your children are going to be confronted by the latest developments in the conflict. The question is: who is going to shepherd your children through it? Will it be the talking heads on TV, the chattering peers in their class, or will it be you? As parents, we can’t always pick the topics we need to engage our children on, but we can coordinate the flow of how we do it.

Fifth, contend for the faith. When controversial issues arise, it creates amazing opportunities for parents to reflect on the implications of the gospel for even the most challenging issues in our culture. Don’t miss the opportunity to help your kids learn how to apply the gospel to everyday life. You can help them learn more about how God is at work in the world when you faithfully equip them to process the difficult effects of living in a fallen world.

There are many insights children can gain through candid conversations about what’s going on in North Korea. As you walk them through why geo-political conflicts develop, you can show them how the Bible has much to say about the history of discord in a James 4:1 world. As you explain the civic functions of our elected officials and military in strategic decision making, you can enlighten them to how the Bible shapes our view of the role government and war in a Romans 13 world. Perhaps most importantly, as you analyze the magnitude of the threat and engage the doubts in their heart, you can equip your children to pray for peace in a 1 Timothy 2:1-2 way.

Parents don’t get to pick the topics that occupy the news cycle. But you do get to shape the way your children think about them if you are intentional in your efforts. By integrating the five factors discussed above, parents can have gospel-shaped conversations with their children about any complex cultural issue