Category archives: Religion & Culture

Genocide in Iraq

by Travis Weber

July 31, 2014

It is hard to ignore the disturbing reports emerging from Iraq which contribute to mounting evidence of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s (ISIS) extermination of Christians and anything reflecting the Christian religion. Congressman Frank Wolf and others have spoken persuasively and forcefully on this tragedy. Yet judging by the actions (or lack thereof) of our president and the other leaders of the free world, one wouldn’t think much was going on in Iraq. However, the available evidence shows that ISIS’s extermination of Christians is one of the clearest cases of genocide since World War II.

What little President Obama has said about preventing atrocities in foreign lands has centered on the Responsibility to Protect – a relatively recent doctrine which is not clearly established or grounded in international law. While its validity can be debated, there exist clearer grounds on which to address the plight of Iraq’s Christians  – the obligation to prevent genocide contained in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948.

After the horror of the Nazi ideology and ensuing Holocaust was fully realized, the nations of the world gathered together, formed the United Nations, and affirmed they would never let such horrors happen again. The Genocide Convention laid down into international law a binding treaty arrangement in which contracting nations agreed to “undertake to prevent and to punish” genocide. As part of this obligation, parties could “call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action … as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide.” Some argue that the “obligation to prevent” is not a clear, independent requirement of the treaty, but that argument is overcome by the clear language and purpose of the treaty, and a decision of the International Court of Justice holding that the treaty contains a clear, independent obligation to prevent genocide. Indeed, the whole point of the treaty was to prevent horrors like the Holocaust from happening again.

According to the Convention, genocide consists of “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” –

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

While only one of these acts is required to have genocide, ISIS clearly appears to have engaged in at least the first three acts listed above. It appears to have undertaken them with the “intent to destroy” Christians and Christian heritage in Iraq “in whole,” and at least “in part.” Christians are a “religious group.” If the elements of this crime are not met in this case, I’m not sure when they are.

The responsibility to prevent genocide contained in the Genocide Convention requires that the United States and other parties to the treaty act to prevent genocide when they recognize it is occurring. It is difficult to deny that genocide of Iraq’s Christians is currently underway. In other instances, nations have refrained from calling genocide “genocide” (such as in the Darfur region of Sudan several years ago, or in Rwanda in the early 1990s) out of fear of triggering their legal obligation to act to prevent genocide under the Genocide Convention. Is this the effect the treaty was intended to have? It is inconceivable that a mechanism designed to prevent future atrocities would be used as a reason to avoid denouncing those atrocities. Yet there is reason to believe nations have and will continue to operate this way.

While governments may try to craft arguments against their obligation if they do not want to address the issue, that will become more difficult as more facts come to light. The evidence from Iraq is clear – ISIS’ stated intent is to target Christians, which is a classification based on religion, one of the requirements for genocide. No nation which is a party to the Genocide Convention should be able to escape its requirement to act to prevent what ISIS is now doing to Iraq’s Christians.

Over twenty years ago, President Clinton hesitated to take decisive action to stop genocide in Rwanda. He avoided calling it genocide precisely because of the concerns expressed here – the United States would be obligated to do something if genocide was recognized. As a result, over a million lives were lost. Several years later, President Clinton went to Rwanda and admitted his error.

 

Yet this is precisely the point of the binding legal “obligation to prevent” contained in the Genocide Convention – it should not be able to be manipulated according to the shifting winds of foreign policy. It was always understood that binding obligations were necessary to prevent nations from wavering in the future when memories of the Holocaust started to fade.

The Genocide Convention was designed to prevent future horrors. Yet the nations of the world now stand by as genocide of Christians occurs before their very eyes in Iraq. All the elements of this crime are met, and we have an obligation to prevent it. What are we waiting for? That same question, which was asked of Nazi appeasers in the 1930s and President Clinton in the 1990s, will someday be asked of us about Iraq.

Will Rabbi Saperstein Be a True Advocate for Religious Liberty?

by Rob Schwarzwalder

July 29, 2014

After a hiatus of nine months, President Obama has nominated Rabbi David Saperstein to be the next U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, an office within our State Department.

That Rabbi Saperstein is Jewish is a blessing: It is an affirmation that the United States rebukes the anti-Semitism rising in so many countries, and that we believe Jews, Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox can partner together in standing for the “unalienable rights” bestowed to us by our Creator, including what our Constitution affirms is our “first freedom,” religious liberty.

As he speaks and works on behalf of our country, Rabbi Saperstein will, I hope, prove to be an effective and assertive advocate for those persecuted for their faith. However, I fear he is entering his new role with his hands tied: Barack Obama has sought to cabin and diminish lived-out faith in our country. What our President and his administration fail to sustain and advance at home they cannot defend and encourage abroad.

The Rabbi’s predecessor, the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook, left an at-best mixed legacy during her 30 months in the position, at least some of it not her fault. Dr. Tom Farr of Georgetown University, one of the nation’s most respected advocates for international religious liberty, notes that Dr. Johnson Cook was given “very few resources (by the Obama Administration) she could employ to develop strategies to advance international religious freedom.”

Additionally, Rabbi Saperstein’s well-known liberalism is troubling. For example, he criticized the Supreme Court’s decision last month in the Hobby Lobby case, endorsing the idea that the federal government has the right to tell business owners they must provide coverage of contraceptives that can cause abortion. “We believe the court was wrong in saying there are religious claims corporations can make,” he said. “Corporations don’t have souls or consciences the way that people or associations of like-minded people do.” This is nonsense: Corporations are associations of people; that they are constituted for profit makes them no less so. Thus, our legal systems recognizes their embodiment as “corpora” (bodies) – and those people who constitute corporations through direct or shareholding ownership have a right not to be coerced into providing services that conscientiously they find wrong.

Additionally, the Rabbi has been a board member of People for the American Way, whose mission statement affirms its staunch commitment to “progressive” policies. Such PAW “progressivism” includes the marginalization of faith in public life, unrestricted access to abortion-on-demand, and what it calls “dumping” the Defense of Marriage Act. Rabbi Saperstein even went out of his way to oppose the ban on “partial-birth” abortion, saying he was “dismayed” by passage of the measure in the House of Representatives.

Over the past five and one-half years, an Administration much more preoccupied with the advancement of homosexuality in law and society than concerned with protecting religious liberty, either in the United States or through American foreign policy, has failed to inspire confidence in its commitment to what Hamilton called “the sacred rights of conscience” as they are played-out in public life.

We have a deep interest in fighting for international religious liberty, as to do so advances our national security and vital interests. By standing with, and battling for, those persecuted or repressed because of their faith, we build good will toward our country in areas where such is urgently needed. That, in this case, our security and interests are coincident with our deeply cherished values makes religious liberty all the more of a priority for our diplomatic agenda.

Rabbi Saperstein once chaired the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, where I briefly worked years ago. All Americans should pray that the Rabbi will be a lion for religious liberty, and with everyone of good will, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to defending and advancing religious liberty worldwide. However, given his personal convictions and public associations, I confess to having more than a few apprehensions.

New Video: Meriam Ibrahim Freed: Religious Freedom Activists Play Crucial Role

by FRC Media Office

July 24, 2014

Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins expressed deep gratitude and relief early this morning after learning that Meriam Ibrahim and her family arrived in Italy.


Meriam is a Sudanese Christian, married to a U.S. citizen, who was sentenced to death by a Sudan court for the “crime” of converting from Islam, and 100 lashes for “adultery.” Meriam spent months in a notoriously rank Sudanese prison with her 21-month-old son and her newborn daughter. More than 53,000 people signed a WhiteHouse.gov petition launched by FRC asking President Obama to grant her expedited safe haven in the United States. Yesterday, Perkins testified before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations regarding her case.

FRC’s Tony Perkins Urges for Meriam Ibrahim’s Release before House Subcommittee

by FRC Media Office

July 23, 2014

Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins testified today before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations regarding the case of Meriam Ibrahim.  You can read the testimony here.

Nearly 53,000 people signed a WhiteHouse.gov petition launched by FRC asking President Obama to grant her expedited safe haven in the United States.

Persecuted: Would You Remain Silent?

by Nathan Oppman

July 15, 2014

This week, a movie will be released about persecution coming to modern day America, the persecution of Christians. Not for failing to renounce a belief but for failing to go along with a pluralist law that asks all religion to set aside their differences under the guise of anti-terrorism. I encourage you to go see this movie and consider its implications for the future of America. (Note: it is not for children and includes some violent images). Here is a synopsis of the plot from the movie’s website:

The new movie Persecuted opening in July 2014 depicts evangelist John Luther as the last obstacle in the way of sweeping religious reform. When a Senator frames Luther for the murder of an innocent teenage girl, an unprecedented era of persecution is unleashed. An evangelist turned fugitive, Luther’s mission brings him face-to-face with the coming storm of persecution that will threaten the entire Christian community in America.

America has long had a tradition of religious freedom for individuals. It is difficult to imagine a world of persecution in America, such as what is being experienced regularly by Christians in the Middle East or by those in Communist dictatorships such as North Korea. Perhaps, we will never see such persecution. But that does not mean we won’t see persecution. The one thing that is hardly tolerated in America is stating that something is wrong. We must be politically correct.

Political correctness is not only annoying, it is dangerous. Orwell once said that “freedom was the ability to say that 2+2=4.” If a man can no longer speak the truth, he is no longer free. John Luther was told to stop speaking the truth or risk everything. When faced with such a choice, would you be silent?

Hostility to Religion in America” — new FRC publication

by Rob Schwarzwalder

July 8, 2014

As we have just witnessed in some of the responses to last week’s Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, there are those in our country who would not only diminish religious liberty through government coercion but denigrate as an archaism that our culture should jettison. According to C.J. Werleman in Salon, “The hyper-religious conservatives on the bench of the nation’s high court, all of whom were appointed by Republican presidents, see the federal government as being controlled by ‘secular humanists’ who wish to make war against the purity of the Christian belief system. Like the 89 million Americans who count themselves as evangelicals, they seek total cultural and political domination … The American Taliban is on a roll” – and America is a “corporate theocracy.”

Yikes - all that from a decision that says a privately-held company can’t be forced by the government to serve as a conduit for potentially abortifacient drugs. Who knew?

Granted, Werleman’s comments are extreme. Still, they nonetheless reflect the rage of those for whom religious liberty is a matter of ultimate privacy – one’s personal thoughts and occasional, four-walled worship. Rather, religious liberty is the very foundation of all other liberties: If our liberties and dignity do not come from a personal, sovereign Creator, from whence do they come? And if they do come from Him, then government’s role is one of stewardship of those rights, not manipulation or erasure of them.

So, when government seeks to curtail religious liberty, it is affronting the God Who gave it, and asserting its authority to abate all other freedoms. If the ability to believe and practice (in public as well as private life) one’s faith is eroded, what is the foundation of our other rights and liberties? The whim of the state is an unnerving master.

FRC has been at the forefront of the effort to “preserve, protect, and defend” our religious liberty, which is why we wanted you to know about our most recent publication, “Hostility to Religion: The Growing Threat to Religious Liberty in the United States.”

This publication, collated by the Director of FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty, Georgetown-trained lawyer Travis Weber, contains a list of documented accounts of hostility toward faith in the United States today, broken down in the following four definable types of incidents:

  • Section I: Suppression of Religious Expression in the Public Square
  • Section II: Suppression of Religious Expression in Schools and Universities
  • Section III: Censure of Religious Viewpoints Regarding Sexuality
  • Section IV: Suppression of Religious Expression on Sexuality Using Nondiscrimination Laws

Hostility to Religion” can be both downloaded and shared on-line at no charge. Please use this resource in considering the stakes for people of faith in a culture in which articulate religious belief is viewed by some as comic and pathetic and, thus, unimportant and disposable. We need to keep making the argument, graciously but consistently and firmly, that religious liberty matters – to everyone.

Think About What You Are Seeing

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 17, 2014

Two ironic but related headlines in today’s news:

(1) From U.S. News and World Report: “Iraqi Christians flee homes as Sunni militants seize land; many say they’re not going back.” Quote: “During the past 11 years, at least half of the country’s Christian population has fled the country (Iraq), according to some estimates, to escape frequent attacks by Sunni Muslim militants targeting them and their churches. Now many of those who held out and remained may be giving up completely after fighters belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant swept over the city of Mosul and a broad swath of the country the past week.”

(2) From The Chicago Tribune: “Met Opera cancels live transmission due to anti-Semitism concerns.” Quote: “New York’s Metropolitan Opera announced on Tuesday that it has cancelled its plans for a live transmission of the opera ‘The Death of Klinghoffer’ in movie theaters because of concerns that it could fan global anti-Semitism.”

Christians around the world are under pressure, if not overt persecution. Jews are the subjects of a growing, noxious anti-Semitism that threatens the very existence of the State of Israel, let alone the lives of individual Jews around the world.

So, consider the unique irony of this story: old-line Protestant denominations are getting into the act.

United Methodists: “The pension board of the nation’s largest mainline Protestant denomination, the United Methodist Church, has decided to divest its shares in a British company that supplies security equipment to Israel for use in prisons and in the occupied West Bank.”

United Church of Christ: “The United Church of Christ (has) called for a boycott of goods produced in Israeli settlements, including eastern Jerusalem. In a new report released a few days ago in Canada, which will have severe consequences for the congregation in North America, the Church calls for an economic divestment against the Jewish State.”

Presbyterian Church USA: “The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) appears to be on the brink of handing a major victory to a movement that wants institutions to wield their investment dollars against Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians. The Presbyterian General Assembly, gathering in Detroit through next week, will consider withdrawing its investments from some companies whose products are used by the Israeli government in the Palestinian territories. Divestment advocates were narrowly outmaneuvered at the last Presbyterian convention in 2012, losing a crucial ballot by just two votes. They enter this year’s fight with signs of increasing momentum, within and outside the church.”

So, to be clear: Professed heralds of the Gospel of Jesus – a Jew – decide with great moral unction to jettison investments in companies that are in or do business with Israel.

As FRC has documented, religious liberty in the U.S. is being pressed and diminished. Internationally, the Jewish people and/or the State of Israel are being marginalized, often by professing Western Christians.

There is no space to go into all the theological, historical, or political ironies of these actions. Is the modern State of Israel flawless? Of course not – no human government or institution is untainted by sin and short-sightedness. But is Israel the one beacon of hope, decency, and liberty in the Middle East? Yes, without question. And has Israel been victimized, and the Jewish people brutalized, in ways we dislike even considering? Yes. And yes.

Every morning, I drive past the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and observe a sign that says, “Think about what you saw.” The memory of the Holocaust should burn in our memories. It’s freakish evil should be an ongoing reminder of the rapidity with which gross malevolence can erupt. Yet in the ostensibly free and sophisticated West, our failure to think about what we know is deliberate, and chilling.

Christians, are you thinking about what you’re reading?

Your Voice is Needed to Save Meriam Ibrahim

by Hannah Solem

June 17, 2014

Since having the privilege of interning at the Family Research Council this summer, I have been reminded of how crucial it is for Christians to be informed about what is going on in our culture. Not only is it our responsibility to be informed citizens, but it is an honor to live in a nation where we can use our voice to share our beliefs. Last week, I had the opportunity to raise my voice outside the doorstep of the White House for Meriam Ibrahim.

Meriam and I both love the Lord Jesus and we are both committed Christians. Yet, Meriam has endured persecution for her faith that I cannot even fathom. She was raised in a Christian home and married a Christian American citizen. Amidst severe scrutiny by the Sudanese government, Meriam has remained vocal about her faith and has refused to renounce Christ. As a result, Meriam, along with her two children who are likely eligible for U.S. citizenship, has been shackled in a Khartoum prison since January of this year. If not overturned, Meriam has been sentenced to a beating of 100 lashes and death by hanging. Though she is pressed down on every side, she has remained true to our Lord.

Fortunate to live in a nation where I can utilize my freedom of religion and freedom of speech, last Thursday, I participated in a rally to demand this woman’s release. I joined several others outside the gates of the White House where we urged the Obama administration to take action to help with Meriam’s release. We rallied outside the doors of the White House and we called on President Obama to grant her immediately safe haven.

Let me be clear, every part of me believes that we are to speak the truth in love. It is from a heart that is overflowing with love that I pray for those in authority over me; it is from this same heart that I urged my leaders to help release this woman and her young children.

This life refuses to adopt a lifestyle of passivity. In the words of William Wilberforce, “You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know.” Every part of me refuses to look the other way.

One day, Christ will come and He will establish His eternal reign. Until then, Paul exhorts the church in Ephesians 6 to “having done all, stand.” Have we done all to act on this woman’s behalf?

Our help is needed. Our voices are needed. Our time to act is now. Please join me in signing this petition for Meriam’s release: www.frc.org/sudan. We are more than halfway to our goal of 100,000 signers, which is the number the White House requires before it will respond to a citizens’ petition.

To whom much has been given, much will be expected. Americans have been given much. We’ve been given a voice. We’ve been given freedom. Let’s be wise stewards.

Our Father

by Emma Vinton

June 13, 2014

When I was young, my father used to take each of his children out to spend a day with him. Whether it was playing putt-putt golf, getting lunch, or spending a day with him at work, our “day with dad” was always an anticipated treat. Then, those days were times devoted to bonding and having fun with dad. Now, those days have built memories and lasting foundations of love that I would not trade for the world. I was learning to walk in Dad’s footsteps.

When we celebrate our fathers on Father’s Day, we honor men who have ultimately given their lives to the vocation of fatherhood. We are not recognizing men who are handy with tools, or who like cars, sports, and beer, as Hallmark cards so often try to sell us on. We commemorate men who have chosen fatherhood as a primary role in life and who regard all other occupations as inferior. Rather than submitting to the materialist mindset so prevalent, the recognition of the significance of fatherhood grows more potent every day. This is why it is vital to celebrate fathers in a society that degrades strong male figures and attacks traditional fatherhood.

Scripture tells us that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the Church, and to lay down his life for her if necessary. Earthly fathers are figures of our Heavenly Father, and they direct us upward to him. Father’s Day reminds us that, though it is a day to celebrate our earthly fathers, everyday should be one spent with our Heavenly Father, from Whom all blessings flow.

In a letter written to his son on the topics of love, manhood, and marriage, Ronald Reagan said, “There is no greater happiness for a man than approaching a door at the end of a day knowing someone on the other side of that door is waiting for the sound of his footsteps.”

I’m always listening for your footsteps, dad.

As the years pass and simple days of childhood fade into tempestuous reality, one thing remains: the Trinitarian love reflected in the family, flowing from the father. I have learned from my father what true manhood and fatherhood are: the willingness to pour out one’s love and life in sacrifice.

So to the man who taught me about the importance of tradition, family stories and family prayer, whose generosity to the family and to strangers astonishes me still, and who revealed to me, most especially, that doing small things with great love is the road to holiness… Thank you. Thank you for the memories of simpler days when the path of truth was illuminated over lunch and putt-putt, for being a caring father, and for being a father whose footsteps I still wish to walk in.

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