Tag archives: International Religious Liberty

Former Chinese Dissident: ‘Escalating Crackdown’ on Churches in China”

by Rob Schwarzwalder

May 23, 2014

According to Bob Fu, founder and president of the China Aid ministry and perhaps the world’s leading advocate for religious liberty in his homeland of China, multiple churches are being demolished across the country. The growth of Christianity is causing Chinese political leaders no end of heartburn; in an internal document obtained by Pastor Fu, government officials were told:

You should … correct the phenomenon that religion has grown too fast, there are too many religious sites and there are too many activities, and promote the healthy, orderly, standardized and reasonable growth of the religions in our province… Cadres in charge of ethnic and religious affairs at various levels should see clearly the political issues behind the Cross.

The only “political issue” behind the Cross is that Christians affirm a truth that terrifies oppressive rulers: No one — no government, no leader, no state — is Lord; only Jesus is.

Of course, faithful believers make the finest citizens in the world. But that’s not good enough for tyrants for whom retention of absolute political allegiance is of supreme importance.

As Pastor Fu notes, at the February National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama said he would make international religious liberty a priority for his Administration. Yet the President has left the State Department’s top position on the issue, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, open for about nine months. As Liberty University’s Johnnie Moore writes, “Up to this point, it seems questionable whether the Obama administration really cares about these issues at all. Despite statements like the one made during the National Prayer Breakfast, it appears there has been little concerted effort to make religious freedom a priority.”

Christians are being persecuted, sometimes murdered, tortured horribly or held in ghastly prison camps, in places as diverse as Nigeria and North Korea. When America defends religious liberty abroad, it stands not only with people of faith but advances her vital interests. When we take rank with those persecuted for their religious convictions, we gain swaths of friends in troubled regions and bolster the credibility we desperately need with our adversaries and friends alike.

President Obama needs to appoint a vigorous, brave, and experienced Ambassador to fight for those oppressed due to their faith. That he has not done so for so long raises serious doubts about his earnestness in protecting those who live under the Cross which so frightens the Chinese leadership and whose message is transforming lives from the smallest village in the most impoverished country to those in the highest levels of government, academia, and business in the world’s capitals.

Pastor Fu shared his own testimony of imprisonment and persecution when he was still in China when he spoke at FRC last year. Listen to his moving remarks and call for American Christians to remember with their brothers and sisters in Christ suffering for their faith — remember them in prayer, in giving, and in calling on the federal government to live up to its commitments to work for their liberty.

State Department Stays Mute on Persecuted Religious Minorities Worldwide

by Leanna Baumer

October 22, 2013

Last week, the unremarkable State Department tenure of Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook came to a sudden end with her resignation from the post of U.S. Ambassador-At-Large for International Religious Freedom. A post designed to elevate the status of religious freedom in American foreign policy and to move around intractable State Department bureaucracy by directly advising the Secretary of State, the U.S. Ambassador-At-Large for International Religious Freedom in recent years has functioned instead as a sidelined figure in diplomatic efforts.

That is, when the post has been filled. It took President Obama over a year and a half to even nominate Dr. Cook. Once confirmed in the summer of 2011, Dr. Cook’s inexperience as a diplomat and unfamiliarity with global religious freedom issues became obvious as she failed to establish clear office priorities or to respond to countries designated as Countries of Particular Concern (CPCs) under the International Religious Freedom Act. In contrast to her two predecessors who worked within the admittedly hostile environment of the State Department to establish a critical mass of staff and to weave religious freedom priorities into a broader human rights agenda, Dr. Cook remained largely silent.

In an all-too-familiar pattern, the State Department has indicated it has no prospects on the horizon to fill the now-empty position. This marked lack of interest or concern in a human rights issue that is bi-partisan, fundamental to the message of individual liberty, and central to the story of the United States comes as an explosion of violence in the Middle East and Southeast Asia targets religious minorities.

Just this weekend, Egypt’s long-persecuted Coptic community faced another attack that killed four at a wedding celebration at a Cairo church. A month ago, Christians from All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan faced one of the deadliest attacks on record in their country. Yet, these Christians and other Pakistani religious minorities have little hope of their interests being represented in the diplomatic meetings between Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that are scheduled to take place this week.

Despite the failure of Dr. Cook to leverage her position for religious minorities, to comment verbally on their plight in countries such as Syria, or even just to show up at Congressional hearings, her departure provides a pivotal opportunity for President Obama to nominate a more qualified and pro-active replacement. Georgetown Professor and former diplomat Thomas Farr outlines the necessary steps President Obama should take to “[Let] the US diplomatic corps and the world know that President Obama and Secretary Kerry are giving this ambassador their personal backing to move this issue to the front burner of American diplomacy.” We can only hope that President Obama moves more quickly to nominate a qualified successor than he did to nominate Dr. Cook in the first place.

A Response to “Why Tolerate Religion?”

by Rob Schwarzwalder

May 3, 2013

Freedom of Religion encompasses more than intellectual assent and private, enclosed worship services. It includes the integration of one’s faith into all spheres of life, such that one’s deeply held religious convictions are allowed to animate, unhindered, speech and conduct in the public, professional, and community spheres.

It is for this reason that the Bill of Rights lists freedom of religion as its first enumerated freedom: The Founders recognized that allegiance to God has to precede allegiance to the state, or else the state itself would usurp the role of God. This is directly opposed to the essential principle of America’s very existence, that our rights come from our Creator, not the government.

University of Chicago law professor Bruce Leiter thinks otherwise. In his new book, Why Tolerate Religion, Leiter asserts, “no one has been able to articulate a credible principled argument for tolerating religion qua religion - that is, an argument that would explain why, as a matter of moral principle, we ought to accord special legal and moral to religious practices” (p.7).

I wonder if Prof. Leiter has every read a survey of Western history, perhaps one that contains sections on the persecution of the early church, the Inquisition, anti-Catholic violence, or the Holocaust? Perhaps he should spend a few minutes reading official federal government reports on the ongoing and massive oppression of Christians and other people of faith around the globe.

The assertion that a “principled” case for religious liberty remains unmade is so striking in its ignorance that it invites the derision a serious academic should find embarrassing. As my friend Joe Loconte, professor of history at The King’s College in New York, writes:

The author seems astonishingly unaware of the Judeo-Christian intellectual tradition and its contribution to the foundations of liberal democracy. The scientific revolution, the concept of human dignity, an ethos of compassion for the poor, the political ideals of equal rights and government by consent — all of these developments are unthinkable without the influence of the Judeo-Christian tradition in the West. (Source: Standpoint Magazine)

The University of Chicago Law School often is hailed as one of America’s premier institutions of legal thought and training. It’s luster has been dimmed by Prof. Leiter’s uninformed and prejudicial rant. However smooth his prose, the absence of logic, factuality, and dispassion - ostensibly the very foundations of legal reasoning - does not deter him from publishing one of the most troubling and intellectually discreditable books by a serious American scholar in some time.

My distinguished colleague Bob Morrison summarizes the case for religious liberty this way: “One’s right to worship God and follow his conscience according to the principles of his religious faith was foundational to all morality. A man whose religious faith was repressed could never be a loyal citizen, since the state was usurping his first allegiance and costing him his primary, or first, freedom.”

Anyone presenting himself as an interpreter of American law and justice who fails to grasp these truths should read an interesting couple of texts he might find rather arresting, namely the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Remembering the Creator to Whom the Declaration refers and Whose bestowal of rights and liberties is the steel beam of American public life might prove useful to Prof. Leiter and all who, like him, would reduce religious and, thereby, all liberty to the whim of the state, the very thing against which a brave and thoughtful generation of Americans revolted in the 1770s.

Don’t Forget Our Brothers and Sisters

by Family Research Council

February 21, 2013

In a recent Fox News article, the plight of house churches in China is said to be getting worse. The government has increased its crackdown on these churches which pose a threat to its power. Bob Fu, founder and president of ChinaAid, and a former pastor himself in China, said the government is employing “new tactics of persecution.” Please remember to pray for our brothers and sisters in China that God would preserve them and strengthen them. And remember to thank God for the benefit of religious freedom that we have in America. Stand up for religious freedom here in America so that we can be a beacon of hope to those oppressed around the world.

In case you missed it, FRC recently held a panel discussion of religious liberty in America and will host Bob Fu for a further look at the Chinese church’s persecution in April.

Does U.S. Foreign Policy Matter for Religious Freedom?

by Jared Bridges

October 27, 2011

Yesterday here at FRC headquarters, a sobering panel of religious freedom & foreign policy experts looked at the past, current, and potential impact of U.S. foreign policy upon religious freedom around the world.

Watch the panel below, or visit the event page for audio and embed code.

Participants included:

  • Elyse Anderson, Foreign Policy Director for Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Va.)
  • Ann Buwalda, Executive Director, Jubilee Campaign
  • Dr. Thomas Farr, first Director of the State Department’s office of international religious freedom and Director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and Visiting Associate Professor of Religion and International Affairs at Georgetown’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service
  • Emmanuel Ogebe, Nigerian attorney and human rights leader
  • Tina Ramirez, Director of International and Government Relations, The Becket Fund

Religious Persecution on the Rise Internationally

by Rob Schwarzwalder

August 9, 2011

[caption id=”attachment_6387” align=”alignright” width=”275” caption=”Source: Pew Forum, "Rising Restrictions on Religion"”][/caption]

An arresting new study, issued by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, demonstrates that “restrictions on religious beliefs and practices rose between mid-2006 and mid-2009 in 23 of the worlds 198 countries (12%).” However, as the study notes, this 12% figure is misleading: “Because several countries with increasing restrictions on religion are very populous, however, the increases affect a much larger share of people than of states. More than 2.2 billion people nearly a third (32%) of the worlds total population of 6.9 billion live in countries where either government restrictions on religion or social hostilities involving religion rose substantially over the three-year period studied.”

The Pew report is well quantified; “The researchers involved in this process recorded only concrete reports about specific government laws, policies and actions, as well as incidents of religious violence or intolerance by social groups; they did not rely on the commentaries or opinions of the sources.” In other words, the researchers can back up what they claim with hard data, which makes their findings all the more disturbing. Family Research Council believes that religious liberty is a right bestowed by God, which is why we advocate for it here at home and stand with those persecuted for their faith around the world.

In comments to a group of the Society of Friends (Quakers) in 1789, George Washington noted that “The liberty enjoyed by the people of these states of worshiping Almighty God agreebly to their conscience, is not only among the choicest of their blessings, but also of their rights.” The right of religious liberty is endowed to all men, everywhere, as each of us is made in God’s image and likeness and merits the freedom conscientiously to follow Him. When government interferes with that right, it oversteps its God-given authority. Sadly, such overstepping is far too common in our time.

Christians can write or email the embassies of offending countries, respectfully calling on them to stop persecution of believers in their nations. Some can go to the regions affected to minister to those who are oppressed. Most can give to organizations that help fight persecution (see FRC’s Real Compassion to learn about ministries that work for international religious liberty). And all of us can pray. Let us.

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