December 22, 2016
Wilberforce A!ert: President Obama Signs Expanded Religious Freedom Act
“Peace on earth, good will toward men,” is the message of hope proclaimed by an angel of the Lord more than two thousand years ago to announce the birth of Jesus. Today, the message stands in stark contrast to the stories from Aleppo, the cries of the displaced people in Nigeria and Iraq, the refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and throughout Europe, and the unjustly imprisoned in China.
Earlier this month, ChinaAid reported the story of Peng Ming who recently died in one of China’s prisons. He was a pro-democracy human rights activist who was serving a life sentence on trumped up charges of organizing and leading a terrorist organization, kidnapping and possessing counterfeit money. The Chinese reported that he collapsed while watching television and was unresponsive to resuscitation attempts. However, his family was suspicious about the cause of his death and demanded an autopsy be conducted by an independent, international medical professional.
Peng’s brother says that before an autopsy could take place, officials interrogated him for six hours and attempted to force him to sign a document permitting them to take some abdominal tissue from Peng in order to conduct “scientific experiments.” After Peng’s brother refused, Peng’s family says authorities violated the family’s will and on December 5, removed vital organs, such as Peng’s brain and heart.
While we hear stories such as these, in the midst of sad news, there is good news. On Friday, President Obama signed into law the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act (H.R. 1150).
The bipartisan bill, authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and co-sponsored by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), gives the Administration and the State Department new tools, resources and training to help counter extremism and the growing persecution of religious minorities globally.
“From China and Vietnam to Syria and Nigeria, we are witnessing a tragic, global crisis in religious persecution, violence and terrorism, with dire consequences for religious believers and for U.S. national security,” said Smith, Chair of the Global Human Rights Subcommittee. “Ancient Christian communities in Iraq and Syria are on the verge of extinction and other religious minorities in the Middle East face a constant assault from the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
“The bill is named after former Congressman Frank Wolf, a tireless champion for the rights of the poor and the persecuted globally,” Smith said. “18 years ago, he had the foresight to make advancing the right to religious freedom a high U.S. foreign policy priority. It is largely because of his efforts that religious freedom is taken seriously as a foreign policy issue. This bill is a fitting tribute to his work and service to our great nation.”
Many say peace is unattainable. I’m grateful for individuals such as our colleague Frank Wolf, who – like the widow from Luke 18:1-8 – persisted before the unrighteous judge until justice prevailed. “Peace on Earth” is not just a Christmas slogan. It should be our battle cry. We should stand up against the darkness of tyranny and fight for the oppressed. The International Religious Freedom Act provides another weapon for the battle.