FRC Blog

3 Things the U.S. Can Do to End Blasphemy Laws Around the World

by Arielle Del Turco

December 16, 2020

When a Coptic Christian in Egypt was accused of insulting Islam on Facebook two weeks ago, a mob swiftly gathered to attack and set fire to the homes of several Christians in the community in retaliation. This horrific incident is just one example of how blasphemy accusations lead to violence against individuals around the world.

Blasphemy laws, which prohibit insulting religion, exist in many countries, and are used to justify violence against those who express beliefs that differ from the majority. As blasphemy laws continue to violate basic human rights around the world, it is time for free countries to take a stronger stand against these laws.

This past summer, a Sharia court in Nigeria sentenced a 13-year-old boy to 10 years in prison on a blasphemy charge. The boy had been accused of using foul language about Allah when quarreling with a friend.

However, it is not just Muslim-dominated countries that retain blasphemy laws. Scotland has been entrenched in political debates this year about whether its blasphemy law ought to be updated to target hate speech. A proposed update to the law would criminalize speaking, publishing, or distributing content thought to be hateful towards minority communities.

It was just two years ago that the European Court of Human Rights refused to overturn the conviction of an Austrian woman charged with blasphemy for allegedly derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed’s life. Even in Western countries that rarely enforce their blasphemy laws, there is no guarantee that such laws will not be used. Ireland and Greece are among a few Western countries to recently repeal their blasphemy laws.

In addition to the social hostilities they often enflame, blasphemy laws are harmful because they allow the government to limit both free speech and religious freedom. When “blasphemy” is legally forbidden, it promotes the idea that some religious believers’ fragile feelings are more important than the ability of other religious believers or non-believers to express their faith.

Yet, current trends indicate governments are tightening their religious restrictions. A study by the Pew Research Center released in November found that government restrictions on religion around the world have reached their highest point in the past 11 years. And at least 70 countries still have blasphemy laws on the books today, according to a recent report by Family Research Council.

Faced with the global scourge of blasphemy laws, what can the U.S. government do?

1. Congress can pass a resolution calling for the repeal of blasphemy laws around the world.

While lacking the force of law, resolutions can still send a strong message that Congress either supports or condemns the behavior of other countries. Opinions expressed by the U.S. government can carry a lot of weight for countries looking to modernize and secure positive relationships with the West. H.Res.512, which passed in the House of Representatives last week, is a good example of a resolution that calls for the global repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws. The Senate can follow up by passing its own version of the resolution.

2. The State Department should utilize its diplomatic efforts to advocate for an end to blasphemy laws in countries that maintain them.

The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 established mechanisms to incorporate the promotion of religious freedom into American foreign policy. In standing with the United States’ interest in advancing religious freedom and other human rights, American diplomats at all levels who work in countries that have blasphemy laws should raise this issue in discussions with their counterparts.

3. The State Department can prioritize the repeal of blasphemy laws through the Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance it helped launch earlier this year.

The alliance is intended to be what U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback has called the “activist club of nations” who are serious about promoting religious freedom as a fundamental human right. This venue ought to be maximized to build a coalition of countries to join in calling for the repeal of blasphemy laws.

As blasphemy laws continue to harm individuals around the globe, free societies should not look the other way. By defending the fundamental rights to freedom of speech and religion, free countries can appropriately leverage their influence to affirm the freedoms they cherish for all people.

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Christmas Present: Choosing Joy and Proclaiming the Good News

by Molly Carman

December 16, 2020

This is Part 2 of a 3-part series. Read Part 1: Christmas Past.

We have all experienced disappointment, tension, and fatigue in 2020. These emotions and circumstances can leave us feeling exhausted and make it tempting to gloss over Christmas this year. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Christmas is an opportunity to pause and remember Christ’s presence in our lives as Emmanuel, “God with us.”

Throughout Scripture, God’s people are repeatedly commanded to remember who God is and what He has done. The command to remember might seem obvious, but it does not come naturally to humans. We are prone to forget God’s nature and His goodness to us, which is precisely why Scripture repeatedly commands us to remember. While we are not commanded in Scripture to celebrate Christmas in particular, we are commanded to remember what God has done for us, and Christmas is a traditional time to remember the grace and gift of Christ’s first coming to earth.

After wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, Moses commanded the people of Israel, “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands” (Deuteronomy 8:2). You would think that after 40 years, the Israelites would not forget all that God had done for them in the wilderness. But despite frequent reminders from Moses and other leaders, the people did forget.

You would also think that it would be hard to forget how God humbled himself and was made a man to die in man’s place (Philippians 2). However, Christians continue to forget, regardless of God’s gentle and frequent reminders. Christmas is a time when we remember and celebrate the first coming of Christ, proclaiming this good news to the world and encouraging one another. However, it is easy to forget this good news in the hustle and bustle of the season or amid the trying circumstances of a year like 2020. Therefore, it is good to remind one another—this year and every year—of the true meaning of Christmas and all that God has done by sending His son, Jesus Christ.

Psalm 103:2-5 says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all you diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” We can easily become distracted by the pain of this year and all that could have been, but even our worst circumstances pale in comparison with the blessing of all that Christ has done by saving us from eternal separation from God.

There are three things that we can do to practice remembering God’s goodness to us this Christmas. First, we can refocus. The chaos of the world, especially in a particularly challenging year like 2020, is overwhelmingly distracting. The only remedy to distraction is focus, which requires self-control, discipline, and determination. Focus on the beauty, joy, and goodness of Christ. “Set your minds on things above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).

Second, we can choose joy: “Rejoice always, I will say it again, rejoice” (Philippians 4:2). Complaining and focusing on our less-than-perfect earthly circumstances distracts us from the blessings of the Lord, both present and promised.

Third, as we refocus and choose joy, we can then encourage those who have forgotten and share the good news with those who have not yet heard so that all may rejoice and share in the presence of Christ. “But exhort one another every day, as long it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).

The good news of the gospel starts at the birth of Christ, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). May we help one another remember and not forget the sacredness of Christmas and the beauty of the season.

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China’s Bride Trafficking Problem

by Arielle Del Turco

December 15, 2020

My friend asked me to go work with her in China… I agreed to go with her as long as the work there would be good.” This was the simple way that one unsuspecting Kachin girl from Burma (Myanmar) ended up as a victim of human trafficking and forced marriage in China. Soon after her arrival in China, the friends she came with left her with a Chinese man to live as his wife.

Forced to stay at his house, she was afraid and unsure of where to go for help. Before long, she gave birth to twins. Finally, she determined one day to wake up before her captor and flee to seek help from the authorities in a nearby city. She spent two months in a Chinese jail before being transferred to Burmese authorities who took her back to Burma, where a humanitarian organization provided her with shelter and support.

This brave survivor shared her story last week at a State Department event titled, “Trafficking of Women and Girls in China via Forced and Fraudulent Marriage.” She is just one of many Kachin girls—and girls and women from other countries neighboring China—tricked into crossing the border into China with offers of work or tales of a legitimate marriage, which turns out to be sexual exploitation.

The Kachin ethnic group, like many ethnic minorities in Burma, receive little support from the Burmese government. Insurgencies in the Kachin state are among several across Burma which are collectively referred to as the Burmese civil war, a conflict that has been ongoing for decades and the source of multiple humanitarian crises. Some estimate that more than 90 percent of the Kachin people are Christian—mostly Baptist and Roman Catholic. The ongoing conflict and lack of support from the government makes Kachin girls and women vulnerable to manipulation by traffickers and brokers. In 2019, Human Rights Watch published a heart-wrenching, exhaustive report on the trafficking of Kachin “brides” from Burma to China.

Other countries that surround China also deal with widespread bride trafficking issues, including Pakistan, Vietnam, and North Korea. China’s former “one-child policy,” imposed from 1979 to 2015, along with a cultural preference for sons, has created a skewed male-female ratio and a significant shortage of women. This imbalance fuels human trafficking and prostitution within China.

Bride trafficking in Pakistan earned international attention last year when Pakistani authorities compiled a list of 629 Pakistani women and girls sold as brides to Chinese men and taken to China. The investigation was soon shut down over Pakistani officials’ fear that the inquiry would ire China and threaten Chinese investments into the cash-strapped country.

During the Pakistani investigations, Christian women were found to be particular targets because the pervasive social marginalization of Christian communities makes them easy targets for foreign traffickers. Many Christians in Pakistan are uneducated and impoverished, exacerbating the problem. Christian women from poor households lack the agency in society to protect or advocate for themselves.

Corrupt pastors in Pakistan—abusing their trusted role in the community—have been found to work with Chinese brokers to identify prospective female targets for trafficking and orchestrate fake marriages.

At the State Department event, Saleem Iqbal, a Christian activist who has helped rescue several girls from China, described how brokers, sometimes cooperating with a pastor who receives a cut of the profit, convince their victims to go to China: “The promises that were made were not just that the man is a Christian man who is from China and is just looking for a wife and will provide a good life in China, but also that the [woman’s] family will be taken care of when the woman is taken to China. And since they come from a poor household, they did not want to turn down these offers…”

The cases discussed at the State Department’s event are troubling. As Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Kelley Currie noted, human trafficking may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about China’s many human rights violations, but this significant trend deserves global attention and action.  

Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback highlighted the connection between religious freedom issues in Burma, Pakistan, and elsewhere and the issue of human trafficking: “Often religious minorities, not exclusively because they’re religious minorities, but because they’re vulnerable” are targeted, “and it’s incumbent upon us, as the international community, to aggressively push back against both ends of this problem,” which are religious freedom violations and human trafficking.

In many devastating cases, human trafficking and religious freedom violations assist each other. Each of these is a serious human rights issue, and together they create even more tragic scenarios. Activists that work on human trafficking issues and religious freedom issues have a lot to gain by working together, especially when it comes to China.

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Christmas Past: Reflecting on the Origins of Yuletide Traditions

by Molly Carman

December 15, 2020

This is Part 1 of a 3-part series.

Christmas is the most widely celebrated holiday in the world. With all the associated traditions, music, decorations, and food, it should come as no surprise that many children and adults consider it their favorite holiday. Unfortunately, due to our culture’s increasing biblical illiteracy, many people who celebrate Christmas are unaware of its true meaning and origin.

Traditionally, Christmas (“Christ’s mass” or the Feast of the Nativity) is a Christian holiday that was originally a Catholic mass service memorializing the birth of Jesus Christ. The early church did not initially celebrate His birth. However, in the fourth century, Pope Julius I chose December 25 as a dayfor celebrating Christ’s birth and the day was formally established by emperor Constantine when he declared Christianity the formal religion of Rome. The tradition spread to Egypt by the fifth century, England by the sixth, and Scandinavia by the eighth.

Although the Bible does not specify the exact date of Christ’s birth, there are various reasons why December 25 may have been chosen for its observance. First, the Roman Catholic Church traditionally celebrates the annunciation of the Angel to Mary nine months earlier, on March 25, during the spring equinox. Also, December 25 was already a major Roman feast day honoring the sun god, set during the winter solstice. This darkest time of year might have been chosen in order to symbolize God bringing us “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). While most biblical historians now believe that Christ was most likely born in either the spring or fall, the traditional December date has remained the same.

The precise date of Christ’s birth is not the point of Christmas. Neither are evergreen trees, sleigh rides, cookies, and presents. Christmas ultimately celebrates the first coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to save us from our sins. Unfortunately, as the holiday has been popularized and marketed to a consumeristic culture, various secular traditions have taken over, distracting us from the sacred intent behind the holiday. Our culture has slowly forgotten that Christ, not material and earthly things, makes Christmas the joyful celebration that it is.

Our behavior during the Christmas season betrays what we truly believe and value. When we believe and value the first coming of Christ, we cease chasing after earthly goods and worship Him alone. Let us take some time to remember why we celebrate Christmas and the remarkable, humble entrance of our Savior into the world:

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

Since the fall of mankind, God had promised and foretold of a coming Savior who would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15) and save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Throughout the Old Testament, this is God’s greatest and most emphasized promise to His people Israel. This promise found its fulfillment in a humble manger (Luke 2:11-12). The King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16) miraculously entered the world as a baby born to a virgin (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:18-25), with stable animals as witnesses. Imagine that! Despite God foretelling that Christ would come to them as a lowly, suffering servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12), His coming was nothing like what the Jews imagined or envisioned. Nevertheless, it was exactly how God intended it to be, for His wisdom is foolishness to the world (1 Corinthians 1:25). Jesus, the Son of God and second person of the holy trinity, came to a sin-corrupted and broken world to save a people who would reject Him.

The way that Christmas is celebrated—the traditions, music, decorations, and food—has changed over the years, but the ultimate meaning of Christmas has not changed. The holiday is an opportunity to consider the significance of Christ’s first coming and remember that He will be coming again—this time not as a baby and a suffering servant, but as a conquering King (Psalm 2, Isaiah 9:7, Revelation 19:11-16). Reflection is God’s gift to us, helping us learn from the past so that we can live more faithfully in the present and future. Reflection requires intentionality, honesty, and courage.

The best part about Christmas is not the presents, but the ultimate present of Christ’s presence in the world. When Christ came, the promise of Isaiah was fulfilled: “Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever” (32:16-17). May we all grow in the knowledge of Christ as we remember His incarnation and commit to renewing our minds with a biblical worldview this Christmas season.

Molly Carman is a Policy and Government Affairs Intern at Family Research Council whose research focuses on developing a biblical worldview on issues related to family and current events.

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A Christmas Carol for Life

by Mary Jayne Caum

December 14, 2020

When approached on Christmas Eve to make a donation to the poor, Scrooge asked, “Are there no prisons? … And the Union workhouses? … Are they still in operation?” The philanthropists in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol sadly informed Scrooge that these wretched institutions were still running. Scrooge stated that the poor should look to these institutions instead of looking for a handout. When the philanthropists informed Scrooge that many would rather die than go to the prisons or workhouses, Scrooge retorted, “If they would rather die … they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

Every Christmas season since I was a small child, my family inevitably watches A Christmas Carol together (the George C. Scott version, of course). Every Christmas season, I am shocked by Scrooge’s callous and inhumane response to poverty and suffering. Sadly, despite Dickens’ efforts, there are still those among us who would rather decrease the “surplus population” than help the less fortunate. In fact, these modern-day Scrooge’s tell us we will be helping the less fortunate by decreasing the surplus population.

Since the 1960s, abortion supporters have argued in favor of using abortion as a means of population control. To legitimize abortion as a method of population control, abortion supporters argued that we should not allow “the unwilling to bear the unwanted.” This popular phrase perfectly encapsulated their willingness to kill off the surplus population, and to this day abortion is used by prominent politicians as a solution to the world’s economic problems.

The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained in an interview the link between abortion and decreasing the surplus population, “Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.” It is unclear from her comments exactly which population Justice Ginsburg was referring to, but it is clear she believed abortion could be used to decrease the surplus population.

In an effort to transform Scrooge before it was too late, a deceased friend of Scrooge, Jacob Marley, visited Scrooge to warn him of his apparent destiny and of the ghosts who will soon visit Scrooge. While trying to explain to Scrooge how the old miser will likely suffer the same fate as Marley if Scrooge does not cease being selfish, Scrooge continued to prattle on about finances and business without recognizing his own selfishness and Marley’s warnings. Frustrated at Scrooge’s narrow mindedness and callousness towards humanity, when Scrooge commented on what a great businessman Marley was, Marley shouted, “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business.”

Jacob Marley was right. Mankind is our business. We should not work to decrease the “surplus population”—whatever that means—through abortion. Instead, we should welcome every life with love and charity. Each life has inherent value and dignity. Since each person is made in the image of God and is designed by God for a purpose, no baby is unwanted or worthy of death. This Christmas season, let us dedicate ourselves to life. Let us again make mankind our business. We must admonish the Scrooges in our midst who advocate for decreasing the surplus population, and instead commit to caring for those around us in need.

To accomplish this goal of caring for the unborn, please consider donating to your local pregnancy resource center or the Human Coalition to help end abortion and encourage women with unplanned pregnancies to give life to their precious child.

Mary Jayne Caum is a Government Affairs Research Assistant at Family Research Council.

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FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of December 6)

by Family Research Council

December 11, 2020

Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:

1. Update: The COVID Bait and Snitch

In the middle of a global pandemic, you’d think health officials would have better things to do than mask checks at empty churches. Well, think again. Many states are turning neighbors into government informants with absolutely no way to screen phony or politically-motivated tattling.

2. Update: New ’Woke’ Denomination is a Warning Sign to Christians

Over the weekend, the formation of a new Methodist denomination was announced during an online worship service hosted by former and current Methodist church leaders. According to organizers, the Liberation Methodist Connexion (LMX), as the group will be called, is a socially progressive denomination that will reimage what it means to follow Jesus.

3. Blog: Nigeria Is Officially Declared a “Country of Particular Concern”—and Not a Minute Too Soon

In a year when bad news seems to be relentless and unstoppable, there is still good news to report. Very good news, in fact. At long last, broken and bloodstained Nigeria has been declared a “country of particular concern” by the U.S. State Department.

4. Blog: 3 Alarming Developments for Religious Freedom in China This Year

Family Research Council has released an updated publication on the state of religious freedom in China, which, in just one year, have noticeably worsened. Bob Fu, President of ChinaAid and Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom at Family Research Council, knows well the dangers that the Chinese government can pose to people of faith.

5. Washington WatchRep. Mike Johnson Explains Why State AGs are Calling Out Election Abuse in a New SCOTUS Case

Mike Johnson, U.S. Representative from Louisiana, joined Tony Perkins to discuss the Texas lawsuit contesting election results in four battleground states—Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

6. Washington Watch: Cleta Mitchell Talks About the Thousand Pages of Testimony That Prompted the Trump GA Lawsuit

Cleta Mitchell, Election Law Attorney, joined Tony Perkins to discuss the Trump Campaign filing a lawsuit challenging the Georgia election.

7. Pray Vote Stand broadcast: Call To Prayer for our First Freedom

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony welcomed Ryan Tucker, Jack Hibbs, and Carter Conlon to join in a special time of prayer asking God to move on the hearts of elected officials and judges to uphold our first freedom.

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Is Abortion the Solution to Women’s Problems?

by Mary Szoch

December 10, 2020

On December 8, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies held a hearing entitled “The Impact on Women Seeking an Abortion but are Denied Because of an Inability to Pay.” Based on the title, some may think this hearing was about finding ways to actually improve the lives of pregnant women in need, but that was certainly not the case. 

In her opening remarks, Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) made it clear that this hearing was about removing the Hyde Amendment. She began,Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, yet for too long some women in this country have been denied their right to an abortion. The Hyde Amendment is a discriminatory policy. For more than 40 years, it has been routinely extended—every year as a legislative rider—but the time has come in this current moment to reckon with the norm, with the status quo, and view it through the lens of how it impacts communities of color.”  

Since 1976, the so-called “discriminatory” Hyde Amendment has been included in each annual spending bill and has maintained widespread bipartisan support. Hyde does not restrict abortion in and of itself; it merely states that taxpayer funding cannot be used to pay for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest, and saving the life of the mother. A 2020 Marist poll found that 60 percent of Americans, including 37 percent of people who identify themselves as pro-choice, oppose taxpayer funding of abortion. Contrary to DeLauro’s claims, Hyde is not discriminatory at all. Instead, it simply aims to protect taxpayers from paying for a practice they believe is the killing of an innocent unborn baby.

DeLauro went on to explain what she believes Hyde’s impact on communities of color has been. She stated that women who are seeking an abortion but are denied are four times more likely to live below the Federal Poverty Level, more likely to experience serious complications at the end of pregnancy (such as eclampsia and death), more likely to stay with an abusive partner, more likely to suffer anxiety and loss of self-esteem, and less likely to have aspirational plans for their future. 

DeLauro’s comments relied on the “Abortion Turnaway Study” conducted by the strongly pro-abortion Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco. Though touted by mainstream media as a reputable study, the methodology of the study was flawed, and the results were tailored to fit the picture the researchers set out to present. That is, that few women regret their abortion, and being denied an abortion has serious negative consequences on a woman’s health and well-being.      

Imagine for a minute though, that DeLauro’s comments were accurate. Imagine that women carrying an unwanted child to birth are four times more likely to live below the poverty line, experience serious pregnancy complications, stay with an abusive partner, suffer anxiety and loss of self-esteem, and have less aspirational plans for their future. Wouldn’t the solution to this bleak situation look something like providing these women with better health care, affordable housing, childcare, job coaching, counseling, tutoring, mentors, and friends? That is the work of pregnancy resource centers, like the ones Christiana Bennett referenced during the hearing. These centers—Care Net, Heartbeat International, the Gabriel Network, and Birthright, to name a few—are lifelines and beacons of hope for women. Their message to pregnant women with nowhere else to turn is: “You can do it! And we’ll be right here to help you!” Rosa DeLauro’s message, on the other hand, is: “No, you can’t…unless taxpayers pay for you to abort your child.”  

In her remarks, DeLauro failed to mention that the Hyde Amendment has saved over two million lives—many of whom are people of color. Hyde’s removal will most certainly increase abortions. Women who are pregnant and in need face incredibly challenging situations—lack of health care, homelessness, abuse, food insecurity, the list goes on and on. Rosa DeLauro’s solution is for taxpayers to pay for these women to kill their unborn children. Clearly, she and the pro-abortion members of Congress who claim to represent women’s rights need to reconsider how they can best help women.

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Nigeria Is Officially Declared a “Country of Particular Concern”—and Not a Minute Too Soon

by Lela Gilbert

December 8, 2020

Nearly at the end of 2020—a year when bad news seemed to be relentless and unstoppable—a good report has emerged. Very good news, in fact. At long last, broken and bloodstained Nigeria has been declared a CPC— a “country of particular concern”—by the U.S. State Department.

On Monday, December 7, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement:

The United States is designating Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, the DPRK, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, as amended, for engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.”

Shortly after Pompeo’s announcement, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) published a statement headlined, “USCIRF Welcomes the State Department’s Designation of Nigeria among World’s Worst Violators of Religious Freedom.” The commission applauded the decision—one that many international observers, activists, and victims of Nigeria’s violence have long demanded:

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) praised the State Department’s announcement that it has named 10 “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPCs), including Nigeria for the first time, and placed four countries on its “Special Watch List” (SWL) for severe violations, pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).

We are gratified that the State Department has named 10 countries as CPCs. We particularly welcome Nigeria’s designation for the first time as a CPC for tolerating egregious violations of religious freedom, which USCIRF had been recommending since 2009. Nigeria is the first secular democracy that has been named a CPC, which demonstrates that we must be vigilant that all forms of governments respect religious freedom,” said Chair Gayle Manchin.

At Family Research Council, we have written repeatedly and at length about the horrifying violence in that West African country. Our lengthy report on Nigeria forewarned:

Since the dawn of the twenty-first century, and with horrifying acceleration in recent years, verified reports of murders, rapes, mutilations, and kidnapping of Christians in Nigeria have persistently increased. These attacks are frequently accompanied by the torching of homes, churches, villages, and agricultural fields. A July 15, 2020 headline reports that 1,202 Nigerian Christians were killed in the first six months of 2020. This is in addition to 11,000 Christians who have been killed since June 2015. Such violence has reached a point at which expert observers and analysts are warning of a progressive genocide—a “slow-motion war” specifically targeting Christians across Africa’s largest and most economically powerful nation.

And indeed, since that writing in July 2020, massacre after massacre has devastated Nigeria’s Christians communities, and with relentless repetition.

Just last year, President Donald Trump himself raised the issue of Christian persecution with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. “We’ve had very serious problems with Christians who have been murdered, killed in Nigeria,” Trump said, with Buhari seated next to him. “We’re going to be… working on that problem very, very hard because we can’t allow that to happen.”  The president’s appeal fell on deaf ears.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Buhari is himself a member of the Fulani ethnic group, which is responsible for a large part of the killing, and has gone on unhindered during his presidency. Meanwhile for years, international authorities have turned a blind eye to Nigerian butchery perpetrated not only by Fulani jihadis, but by Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP). Making excuses for the violence and rarely addressing the religious nature of the conflict, even the American Embassy has seemed unwilling to do more than plead for reconciliation meetings.

Thankfully, all that changed on December 7, 2020 when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared Nigeria a CPC. This, in turn, can lead not only to closer scrutiny and, presumably, additional pressure on all concerned in the violence, but also to financial measures. “Congress is notified, and where non-economic policy options designed to bring about cessation of the particularly severe violations of religious freedom have reasonably been exhausted, an economic measure generally must be imposed.” Economic measures might well diminish the hundreds of millions of aid dollars the U.S. has poured into Nigeria for many years.

Will there finally be a shift in the calculations of Nigeria’s leadership and a crackdown on the surging violence of the jihadis? Or will the bloodbath increase until—as in Iraq during ISIS’ devastating assaults on Christian and Yazidi communities—the world wakes up and takes action against the terrorists?

Can the CPC designation really stop the vicious cycles of violence against Christians in Nigeria? Only time—and responsible international diplomacy—will tell. But in fact, as my Hudson Institute colleague Nina Shea recently told me, it’s late in the game as the threat of another genocide looms larger every day. “More Christians have been targeted and slaughtered by extremists in Nigeria,” she pointed out, “than in the entire Middle East in recent years.”

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The Harrowing Plight of North Korean Defectors

by Rachel Nicole

December 7, 2020

The grossest human rights violations perpetrated by the North Korean (DPRK) government are disclosed in the testimonies of North Korean nationals who have survived the escape from their home nation. In the past, the DPRK’s primary tactic towards international accountability over human rights abuses has been silence. However, more recently, they have changed their strategy to flat-out denial and have projected charges of human rights violations onto the U.S. The DPRK habitually uses deflective arguments that are circular and illogical.

In April 2015, a heated exchange occurred between DPRK state representatives and defectors at a UN event in New York City. At the event, “Victims’ Voices: A Conversation on North Korean Human Rights,” DPRK representatives interrupted while three North Korean defectors were sharing their stories (see 17:24). Joseph Kim had just finished speaking and Jo Jin Hye was about to speak when a DPRK representative in the audience interrupted the proceedings and read a prepared statement aloud. The defectors in the audience began to shout, “Out with you!” Jo Jin Hye then decided to start her testimony by holding her U.S. passport aloft and announcing that she was now a naturalized U.S. citizen. The audience applauded. Amidst the chaos, the DPRK representative finished reading his statement and he and his compatriots smugly left the room.

Because many defectors sell the last remaining food they have in order to finance their journey toward the Chinese/North Korean border, the path of escape often begins with near-starvation. Upon arrival at the border, most have no money left and are extremely desperate and hungry, making them easy targets for human traffickers who take advantage of the desperate and vulnerable.

One defector says she was wooed by a woman who promised she would “take her into a family” and treat her “as one of my own daughters.” The woman enticed the starving teenage girl with food. Once in the wealthy woman’s care, the girl was taken to China without notice, where she was sold as a wife to an older man. She soon became pregnant and bore him a son, which made the man’s Chinese wife jealous. While the girl was pregnant with the man’s second child, the Chinese wife reported her to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials, who swiftly deported her back to North Korea. Her North Korean-Chinese son witnessed the traumatic event that separated him from his mother. While the repatriated, pregnant defector was being held at the North Korean detention center, the DPRK officials forcibly aborted her unborn child via an injection. She was then immediately placed in a labor camp and forced to work, even though her body was still experiencing the trauma of the abortion.

The Tongil Mom organization in South Korea has documented countless similar testimonies. In an event hosted by Family Research Council, two defectors shared testimonies like the one described above. Tongil Mom is focused on helping female defectors heal from the many layers of trauma they experienced not only as citizens in the DPRK but also as defectors who dared to escape the Hermit Kingdom’s grip.                    

Other defectors have successfully found their voice in the South Korean government and international affairs. Thae Yong-Ho is the first North Korean defector to be elected to the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea. He is the former Deputy Ambassador of North Korea to the United Kingdom. Jang Jin-Sung, a defector and former North Korea United Front propaganda writer, provides valuable insight:

Despite Pyongyang’s deceptive ways, many people in the outside world continue to believe in the theoretical North Korea in which dialogue with the regime is seen as the way to effect change. But I know from my years inside the government that talking will not get Pyongyang to turn any corners, not even with the North’s current leader, Kim Jong-un.

Dr. Sandra Fahy, an anthropologist and expert on North Korea, has spent much of her career documenting North Korean defectors’ first-hand accounts and recommends Westerners listen to them. Whether by following those that have gone public with their testimonies on YouTube, such as Yeonmi Park and Kim Min-Ki, or reading literature written by defectors such as Jang Jin-Sung, consuming truthful media about North Korean abuses of its own citizens is crucial. By searching “North Korean defector escape” on YouTube, anyone can see video proof of the regime’s brutality.

Currently, North Koreans looking to defect often use brokerage services to get themselves safely out of the country. Kim Min-Ki, himself a defector in 1997, has helped more than 6,000 defectors escape. There are only two field brokers still doing this dangerous work. Kim’s path initially took him across the Tumen River into China. He was then able to migrate through Vietnam, Cambodia, and finally to South Korea with the help of a South Korean national and member of the special forces who guided him through the process. He also stayed at a safe house run by a church along the way. Kim says springtime is the prime season to defect because April 15 is Kim Il Sung’s birthday and because the water levels begin to rise. The cost to defect from North Korea to China using a broker is about US$15,000. The cost of getting from China to Thailand ranges from free (due to charitable help) to US$2,000 (if charitable help cannot be found). From Thailand, defectors cross into Cambodia illegally, incurring a US$0.50 fine. However, Cambodia recognizes defectors as refugees, and they can travel to South Korea easily from there.

What are Westerners to do about the grim situation in the DPRK? Defector Kim Min-Ki’s message to the world is, “North Korean defectors are still being trafficked for money. They’re being used as birth-giving machines, and [he’d] be grateful if people would at least be concerned about these heartbreaking events.”

Rachel Nicole is an intern focusing on international religious freedom with the Center for Religious Liberty in FRC’s Policy & Government Affairs Department.

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FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of November 29)

by Family Research Council

December 4, 2020

Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:

1. Update: Christian Conservatives Shatter Turnout Records for Trump

No one could have predicted the twists and turns of this election, but Donald Trump was certainly right about one thing: his deeply religious base was going to rewrite the record books. Back in January, talking to a group of evangelicals, he predicted that as high as their turnout was in 2016, Christian conservatives would “blow those numbers away in 2020.” And boy, did they.

Update: Supremes Take a Bite out of Big Apple Restrictions

While most Americans were at home prepping for Thanksgiving, nine Supreme Court justices were still at the office Wednesday night, cooking up something else: a rebuke of New York City’s COVID restrictions. New Justice Amy Coney Barrett made her presence felt — casting the tie-breaking vote that only solidified the working mom’s standing as a rock-solid defender of religious freedom.

3. Blog: Brutal Attack on Indonesian Christians Stirs Renewed Fears of Persecution

A jihadi attack recently took place against Christians in Sulawesi, one of Indonesia’s largest islands. This vicious attack resulted in the mutilation and death of four members of the local Salvation Army, including at least one beheading, along with the torching of several homes and a Christian house of worship. Thus far, however, there have been no arrests.

4. Blog: The Dying Art of Gratitude

In a trying year like this one, it can be far easier to list challenges, tragedies, disappointments, and frustrations than to focus on the blessings. This holiday season let’s challenge ourselves to look not only to the future but also to reflect upon the past. There is far more to be thankful for this year than we likely have taken the time to consider.

5. Washington WatchSen. Roy Blunt Agrees the Media Has No Interest in Honoring the Election Certification Process

Roy Blunt, U.S. Senator from Missouri, Chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, and the Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, joined Tony Perkins to discuss the contested election, the prospects for Joe Biden’s nominees in the U.S. Senate, and what’s at stake in the Georgia Senate runoffs.

6. Washington Watch:State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz Describes the Last-Minute Push to Dispute PA’s Electors

PA State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz joined Tony Perkins to discuss the resolution she is co-sponsoring disputing the Pennsylvania election.

7. Pray Vote Stand broadcast: Call To Prayer

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony welcomed Bishop Garland Hunt, Stephanie Borowicz, and Michele Bachmann to lead in a special time of prayer asking God to light the path forward for America.

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