Protecting Religious Minorities

John Stonestreet | BreakPoint | Thursday, September 13, 2012

Protecting Religious Minorities

Scarcely a week goes by without a reminder of just how precarious life can be for our Christian brethren in other parts of the world. Most recently, the world watched as Rimsha Masih, a 14-year-old Pakistani Christian, faced a possible death sentence for allegedly burning pages from the Koran.

Even if authorities conclude that the charges against her were baseless or worse, trumped-up, lynching and other mob violence is a very real possibility in her case.

Next door in Iran, pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been sentenced to death for “turning his back on Islam” and “converting Muslims to Christianity.” In all likelihood, his recent release was the result of all the attention his case has generated in the West.

Unfortunately, there is no shortage of threatened and even persecuted Christians in the greater Middle East, the arc running from Morocco to Pakistan. Just as unfortunate is that very few of them can be the subjects of international campaigns.

That’s why you should throw your support behind the effort to create a Special Envoy for religious minorities in the Near East and south central Asia. The proposed position is the brainchild of Representative Frank Wolf, a long-time friend of Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship who is well-known for his work in the area of human rights and religious persecution.

Most Americans, including our leaders, have turned a conveniently blind eye to the fate of religious minorities in countries like Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Chuck repeatedly told BreakPoint listeners about what was happening to ancient Christian communities in Iraq and Egypt. In the months before his death, he warned against precipitous action in Syria out of a concern for that country’s Christian minority.

Chuck knew that, apart from people like Frank Wolf, those in charge of American foreign policy wouldn’t give these groups a second, or maybe even a first, thought. This lack of mindfulness has led to the precipitous decline of what Wolf calls “ancient faith communities, foremost among them the beleaguered Christian community.”

And it isn’t only Christians: Wolf’s concern extends to other beleaguered religious groups such as the Ahmadis and Baha’is.

Wolf’s proposed envoy would address this epidemic of not seeing by ensuring that someone with access and influence would make it his or her mission to make these previously invisible groups visible. Wolf’s model is former Senator John Danforth’s effort as a Special Envoy to negotiate peace in Sudan. Danforth had the ear of then-President Bush and made sure that the peace process and the broader human rights concerns in Sudan got the requisite attention in policy-making circles.

What’s good for Sudan is certainly good for the rest of the region, which is why Wolf’s bill passed the House with bipartisan support, 402 votes to 20. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the Senate.

For reasons not entirely clear, the Senate Foreign Relations committee, chaired by Senator Kerry of Massachusetts, has yet to schedule hearings on the bill. What’s more, Senator James Webb of Virginia has placed what is known as a “hold” on the bill.

Thus, the bill is stuck in bureaucratic limbo, and absent quick action, the bill will die with the end of the 112th Congress in December. That’s why you need to contact senators Kerry and Webb and Majority Leader Harry Reid urging them to act swiftly to move this legislation and give it a straight up or down vote in the Senate. Come to, click on this commentary, and we’ll tell you how to contact the senators.

Because even if the victims of persecution are invisible to us, their victimizers have no trouble seeing them.

As the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, John Stonestreet provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

Publication date: September 13, 2012