The “tragic, global crisis in religious persecution, violence, and terrorism” requires America to greatly strengthen its strategies, a letter to top congressional leaders declares, signed by a diverse group of religious, academic and public policy figures.
The global crisis threatens “dire consequences for religious minorities worldwide as well as for U.S. national security,” the signers of the letter warn.
Among the 31 signatories are Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; California pastor Rick Warren; and Kenneth Starr, president of Baylor University.
The letter is addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Specifically, the signers of the letter call for the U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom to have authority within the State Department “to develop an interagency strategy to protect global religious freedom, and the resources he needs to implement that strategy.”
The signers endorse H.R. 1150, named the “Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2015” for the retired Virginia congressman and longtime champion of global religious freedom.
In addition to providing authority to the ambassador for international religious freedom, a post held by David Saperstein since mid-December, provisions of H.R. 1150 include mandatory training “for all foreign service officers, deputy chiefs of mission, and country ambassadors” to “ensure that our diplomats fully understand and can effectively defend the free expression of religion worldwide, the enduring value of religious freedom and its relationship to national security, and how to advance the cause of religious liberty in our foreign policy.”
H.R. 1150 currently is before three House committees: Foreign Affairs; Oversight and Government Reform; and Financial Services.
The signers of the letter, who describe themselves as a bipartisan group of “religious leaders, public intellectuals and scholars,” lament that “religious minorities the world over are suffering unjust discrimination and unconscionable persecution.” But, they note, “the catastrophic state of international religious freedom affects more than the victims. It undermines the national security of the United States.
“Without religious freedom, aspiring democracies will remain unstable,” they note. “Economic growth and development will be more difficult to achieve. The advancement of the rights of women and girls will continue to be obstructed. Perhaps most important of all, religious terrorism will continue to be incubated, nourished, and exported.”
Their letter reminds that “over three-quarters of the world’s people live in countries where restrictions on religion are severe,” according to the Pew Research Center.
“Anti-Semitism is rising at an alarming rate in the Middle East and, most troubling of all, in Europe. Christians in the Middle East, South and East Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa are being subjected to horrific violence. The very presence of the ancient Christian community in Iraq is at risk.”
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SOURCE: Baptist Press