February 15, 2017
As a candidate, Donald Trump said very little publicly about rising threats to religious freedom abroad. But recent reports suggest that President Trump may be moving quickly to nominate the official charged by law to lead that element of United States foreign policy: the ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom. Given that President George W. Bush took well over a year to get his nominee in place, and President Barack Obama took more than two, it appears that Trump may be placing a higher priority on international religious freedom than his predecessors. He has ample reason to do so. Studies show that religious freedom can make substantial contributions to democratic stability, economic growth and the undermining of religious violence and terrorism. Unfortunately, studies also show that religious freedom is in global decline, while religious persecution and terrorism are spreading.
November 15, 2016
Our symposium explored the following: To what extent is religious liberty critical for human flourishing? When and how does it contribute to economic prosperity, democratization, and peace? What challenges face religious communities living under repressive governments or hostile social forces? How is the persecution of religion related to other infringements of basic human rights? What is the relationship between religious freedom and violent religious extremism, and is there a role for religious freedom in efforts to undermine radicalization and counter violent religious extremism and terrorism over the long term? Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) delivered a keynote address on the promotion of international religious freedom as an urgent global imperative.
August 4, 2016
According to Open Doors, Christians are being martyred at an accelerated pace over the last three years, by a variety of groups, including ISIS. Open Doors counts more than 7,000 Christians killed for their faith last year, a substantial increase from 4,344 in 2014 and 2,123 in 2013. These figures do not necessarily include Iraq, Syria, or North Korea, where accurate numbers are hard to come by. The 2016 report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) also paints a grim picture. "By any measure," the 276-page report says, "religious freedom abroad has been under serious and sustained assault since . . . 2015." The victims are not just Christians, either, the report says: "From the plight of new and longstanding prisoners of conscience, to the dramatic rise in the numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons, to the continued acts of bigotry against Jews and Muslims in Europe . . .there was no shortage of suffering."
July 27, 2016
During my time in Congress I often reached out to Chuck Colson for his wise advice and counsel. I am struck by Chuck's foresight on the erosion of our religious liberty. [He wrote:] "I believe we are heading for a new Dark Ages, with persecution coming to the church soon. It's going to happen as a result of conflicts over sex. This is where modern human beings do not want to be in any way restrained. They will accept the law that governs them in just about every area of their lives except sexual passion. We must reflect on how we defend religious liberty. We don't want to defend it by claiming our opponents are bigots. Instead, we have to show why, if we allow the government to take away our freedom of conscience, we're going to lose all other liberties. That's the kind of approach that is going to have to be made to get a majority of the people with us."
July 14, 2016
My father fled Fidel Castro's Cuba and lost everything. My father did not stew on his losses. Instead, he stayed focused on the horizon, on the future, and he taught his kids to do the same. Sitting around our kitchen table at night, he would speak about what was possible, not what was lost. He filled me with excitement when he would tell me that in this new country, a young Latina woman from Cuba could do whatever she set her mind to. Speaking to the next generation in Denver and taking the oath of office for USCIRF-both experiences brought me back to that kitchen table. In taking on this role for USCIRF, I want to carry on that spirit of possibility and optimism for all people who suffer, especially for their beliefs.
May 2, 2016
The global refugee crisis, political strife and economic dislocation all contributed to a worldwide deterioration of religious freedom in 2015 and an increase in "societal intolerance," according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. "At best, in most of the countries we cover, religious freedom conditions have failed to improve," says Princeton professor Robert George, the USCIRF chairman. "At worst, they've spiraled downward." In its annual report, the commission identified 17 countries as "Tier One" concerns, meaning they have "particularly severe religious violations of religious freedom that are systematic, ongoing, and egregious."
April 14, 2016
We are calling on churches across America to observe April 17, 2016 as Stand with the Persecuted Sunday. Please make time during your weekend services to view a brief, 2-minute video, distribute a special bulletin insert, and spend time in prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters internationally. While believers face growing hostility in America, we have experienced nothing like the mistreatment, displacement, violence, rape, crucifixions, and beheadings experienced by followers of Jesus in Iraq, Syria, Libya, other parts of the Middle East and beyond. We are honored to partner with ministries like Open Doors USA, The Voice of the Martyrs, Institute on Religion and Democracy, In Defense of Christians, Christian Solidarity Worldwide-USA, International Christian Concern, 21st Century Wilberforce, and others who are highlighting the plight of the persecuted. Please urge your pastor and church to join us on Sunday, April 17 and Stand with the Persecuted.
April 6, 2016
Religious believers around the world experience violence, repression, and exile of various forms and degrees. It deserves our attention and America's action. This lecture featured remarks by former Congressman Frank Wolf of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative; Dr. Thomas Farr, Director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University; Tina Ramirez, Founder and Executive Director of Hardwired Global, an organization focused on training and promoting religious freedom around the world.; and Pervez Rafique, President of Bleeding for Belief, an organization working to stop religious persecution in Pakistan and former Member of the Punjab Provincial Assembly in Pakistan.
February 1, 2016
Christianity isn't dying and no research says it is; the statistics about Christians in America are simply starting to show a clearer picture of what American Christianity is becoming - less nominal, more defined, and more outside of the mainstream of American culture. Stetzer puts it like this: The cultural cost of calling yourself "Christian" is starting to outweigh the cultural benefit, so those who do not identify as a "Christian" according to their convictions are starting to identify as "nones" because it's more culturally savvy. So if you picture a continuum with the mere absence of cultural benefits for Christians on one end, and the aggressive persecution of Christians on the other end, Christianity in America is now on that continuum and is moving from indifference to derision to exclusion to hostility.
January 14, 2016
Sadly, predictions about 2015 had come true-persecution of Christians increased on every continent in the last year. While much of the attention is on radical Islam-which is sure to blame-perennial offenders (like #1 North Korea) continue to make a deadly impact with their incredibly repressive state-sponsored persecution. The ten worst nations for persecution of Christians throughout 2015 were North Korea, Iraq, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Iran and Libya.
January 4, 2016
On the other hand, the Obama Administration and the State Department, faced with growing calls to acknowledge this genocide, have spent months debating whether to label the Islamic State's attacks against members of only one religious minority, the Yazidis, a "genocide," a classification that carries important legal and political implications. This situation raises an important question: what about others? In particular, what about the largest non-Muslim minority in the Middle East: Christians. In response to the Administration's reluctance to designate Christians as victims of genocide, many organizations and individuals have urged Secretary of State John Kerry to include Iraqi and Syrian Christians as well, thus raising a further question: if not now, when?
December 18, 2015
Middle East researchers acknowledged the terrible threat that Middle East researchers acknowledged the terrible threat that ISIS poses to religious freedom, virtually wiping out minority communities, including Christians. Bishop Angelos of the Coptic Church in the United Kingdom said that Western nations don't want to defend the Christians of the Middle East because they fear being seen as biased. If Western nations won't step in to stop ISIS, who will?
June 25, 2015
As a nation founded in the pursuit of religious freedom, America can and must do more to root-out the religious intolerance that is helping to foster much of the political instability and violence we see today. Specifically, we believe the Obama Administration should integrate the protection of religious freedom into its overall response to growing terrorist threats and development efforts around the world. Doing so would help to eliminate the underlying causes of violent extremism, promote increased international economic stability, and foster greater respect for human rights.
June 24, 2015
Robert P. George, chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, said, "I believe that our government does care about the plight of Christians in the Middle East. Countries that fail to uphold religious freedom are more likely to be plagued by poverty and insecurity, tyranny and terrorism. Hence, religious freedom belongs prominently at the table with economic and security concerns in the conduct of our foreign policy."
June 4, 2015
In Let My People Go: The War Against the Eradication of the Global Church, ACLJ Films shares the powerful stories of the persecuted and those fighting for their freedom. This documentary goes behind the scenes to tell the compelling stories of a number of Christians who have been targeted because of their faith. ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow and others provide a detailed look at what's behind this persecution - the rise of ISIS - the Islamic State.
April 22, 2015
The global swell of radical Islamic terrorism led by the Islamic State (ISIL) has ushered in an exceptionally dangerous era for religious minorities, particularly Christians. On Sunday, a video surfaced depicting the execution of dozens of Ethiopian Christians in Libya, a country that has descended into terrorism-fueled chaos in recent years. Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Monday said, "We've taken steps regardless of an individual's religious identity to try to protect anybody who is being targeted because of that religious identity." Certainly, "working hard" and "taking steps" to protect "anybody" is better than nothing, but is the White House "doing all it can to protect Christians"? It seems we have our answer...
April 21, 2015
Religious persecution of Christians is rampant worldwide, as Pew has noted, but nowhere is it more prevalent than in the Middle East and Northern Africa, where followers of Jesus are the targets of religious cleansing. Pope Francis has repeatedly decried the persecution and begged the world for help, but it has had little impact. Western leaders - including Obama - will be remembered for their near silence as this human rights tragedy unfolded. The president's mumblings about the atrocities visited upon Christians (usually extracted after public outcry over his silence) are few and far between. And it will be hard to forget his lecturing of Christians at the National Prayer Breakfast about the centuries-old Crusades while Middle Eastern Christians were at that moment being harassed, driven from their homes, tortured and murdered for their faith.
April 13, 2015
The message is clear: not only should Christians remain silent about gay marriage if we know what's good for us, but we must be made to agree with and even celebrate what Scripture calls sin. As Ana Marie Cox recently said of Christians on MSNBC, "you're going to have to force [them] to do things they don't want to do." But gay columnist Frank Bruni recently took it to the next level in the New York Times, writing that it's time Christians get with the program and "take homosexuality off the sin list."
March 17, 2015
We must preserve and promote freedom of conscience. We must promote understanding of and respect for freedom of conscience and belief as an inherent aspect of whom each of us are as human beings and as essential to respect each individual's inherent dignity.
October 29, 2014
Katrina Lantos Swett, chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said, “We want to see people at the highest levels saying ‘we get it,’ religious freedom is not just a nice issue, it’s central to our foreign policy and national security policy. We are not totally in the dark in the way our government actually works, but what you need is attention from those at the highest level that think this is important, this is a priority that is crucially in our national interest.”
October 16, 2014
Today we cannot overlook the fact that approximately 100 million Christians still live under oppression and persecution for expressing their faith in Jesus. Christians living under oppressive regimes cannot walk down the road holding a Bible, read it in freedom, choose for themselves the faith they wish to follow, or express their faith in an open marketplace of ideas without fear of persecution or death. In places like North Korea, ranked highest on Open Doors' World Watch List of countries that persecute Christians, is where more than 70,000 Christians live and work in labor camps for the crime of trying to practice their faith. Or in places like Iraq and Syria, where Jihadist rebels from the Islamic State have pushed Christ-followers from their homes, tried to force conversion to Islam, and tortured and killed people for their faith. But Christians in the West can do something to help. We can let those living under persecution know that they are not forgotten.
September 22, 2014
Stability is not possible for a country if it is going to have warring religious groups within it, violent religious extremism. One of the antidotes to that is military. I have no problem personally with the use of drones, for example, if they are used with care for non-combatants, never intending to harm any innocents. However, there's another way to do this. It's called religious freedom. If we could succeed in places like Iraq, or even a better example, Egypt, which says it is trying to develop a democracy-our message to them should be, it won't work without religious freedom.
September 15, 2014
Based on these trends and empirical relationships, it is therefore in the interest of policy makers throughout the world to respect and protect freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), because FoRB promotes peace and stability, respects diversity, guards the rights of minorities and women, and creates environments where economic competitiveness flourishes and sustainable development is possible. It is also in the interests of businesses to protect religious freedom within their companies and communities. Indeed, businesses are at the crossroads of culture, creativity and commerce, and therefore can and should be among the most FoRB-Friendly institutions on earth.
August 1, 2014
Once again, North Korea stands out as the worst offender for "its absolute prohibition of religious organizations and harsh punishments for any unauthorized religious activities." Other countries of note were Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan - each of which put severe restrictions on members of religious groups that did not conform to the state-approved religion - as well as China, Cuba, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, countries where religious activity was only lawful if explicitly authorized by the state. Reports on each of the countries can be found here.
July 31, 2014
President Barack Obama's nomination of Rabbi David Nathan Saperstein - director of Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and a Georgetown University professor - to serve as ambassador at large for international religious freedom at the U.S. State Department has brought with it some harsh critique. Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with the Catholic Association, a faith-based organization that advances religious liberty, flatly decried the choice, saying it shows President Barack Obama's "callous disregard for religious liberty."
June 11, 2014
Speaking on the second and final day of the SBC's national meeting at the Baltimore Convention Center, Russell Moore said members shouldn't "call it a comeback" because the history of the Baptist faith is rooted in persecution. "We're living in a time right now in which religious liberty is imperiled at home and around the world," said Mr. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
June 5, 2014
Religion is the No. 1 motivation for giving and serving in America. Christian faith prompted the rise of such historic charities as the Red Cross, YMCA, Salvation Army, United Way, and Goodwill Industries. Today, of the $300 billion donated to charity in America each year, 32 percent is directed to religious causes. Educational institutions rank a distant second, at 14 percent.
May 13, 2014
To unashamedly proclaim the Gospel in its fullness is to place in jeopardy one’s security, one’s personal aspirations and ambitions, the peace and tranquility one enjoys, one’s standing in polite society. One may in consequence of one’s public witness be discriminated against and denied educational opportunities and the prestigious credentials they may offer; one may lose valuable opportunities for employment and professional advancement; one may be excluded from worldly recognition and honors of various sorts; one’s witness may even cost one treasured friendships.
May 1, 2014
Societal well-being tends to suffer when religious freedom is unprotected. Politically, religious freedom abuses are linked with abuses of other human rights. Economically, religious persecution can marginalize the persecuted, causing their talents to go unrealized and robbing affected countries of added productivity and abundance. Civically, whenever religious liberty is violated, nations surrender the benefit religious beliefs may yield through the molding of character which enables the responsible exercise of citizenship. Socially, wherever freedom of religion is abused, peace and security may be threatened, affecting these societies and in some cases the security of the United States and the world.
April 12, 2014
Dutch Jesuit priest Frans van der Lugt, killed in Syria last week just shy of his 76th birthday, spent 50 years in his adopted country, humbly serving poor and disabled persons regardless of their race or religion. On Monday morning, a still-unidentified assailant dragged him into the street outside his Jesuit residence, beat him, and then shot him twice in the head.