Religious Envoy Bill Would Have Major Impact on World Hot Spots
Open Doors USA, Rep. Wolf Urge Sen. Webb
To End His Senate Hold on Legislation
SANTA ANA, Calif. (July 17, 2012) – Last month Open Doors USA launched an advocacy campaign to encourage the U.S. Senate to pass a bill which would create a special envoy at the U.S. State Department for religious minorities, including Christians, in the Near East and in South Central Asia.
Senate bill S. 1245 was introduced last year, but it still has not been brought to a vote. Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) has placed a hold on the bill, preventing it from moving forward. If S. 1245 is not passed in this session of Congress and signed into law, the process will have to be started all over next year in the new session of Congress. The House overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan measure last summer. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is sponsor of the Senate version of the bill.
Last week Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), asked Sen. Webb to lift the hold placed on the legislation. Wolf has talked to Webb personally and to his staff.
Part of the letter Rep. Wolf sent to Sen. Webb reads: “…I would venture that the Members of an ethnic religious group from North Africa but primarily Egypt, where they are the largest Christian denomination in the country. Christians, Baha’is, Chaldo-Assyrians, Ahmadis, small remaining Jewish population and countless other religious minorities throughout the Middle East and South Central Asia who face daily persecution, hardship, violence, instability and even death would be hard-pressed to see your objection to this straight-forward, bipartisan legislation.
“Will a special envoy guarantee these communities’ survival – and even flourishing – in the lands they have inhabited for centuries? I do not know. But I am certain, that to do nothing is not an option – lest on this administration’s and this Congress’ watch we witness a Middle East emptied of ancient faith communities, foremost among them the beleaguered Christian community.”
Sally Rae, Advocacy Assistant at Open Doors USA, states: “We applaud Rep. Wolf’s efforts to urge Sen. Webb to lift his hold on S. 1245. The creation of a Special Envoy will add a strategic voice of support to these vulnerable regions, especially countries such as Syria, Egypt and Iran. It would communicate that the United States is doing all we can to stem the persecution, violence and even death that religious minorities face in these countries.
“We urge those who care about moving this bill forward to contact their senators. Go to http://advocacy.opendoorsusa.org/ for a sample letter. With a third of the U.S. Senate facing election votes in the fall, it is a great time to share with your elected officials about the issues most important to you. Already over 2,300 people have joined in this timely and critical campaign.”
The Near East countries include Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and also the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The South Central Asian countries include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. All of these countries are on the Open Doors 2012 World Watch List – www.worldwatchlist.us/ — of the worst persecutors of Christians with the exception of Israel, Lebanon and Nepal. The Special Envoy would be appointed by the President and report to the President and Secretary of State.
Nearly 70 percent of the world’s 6.8 billion people live in countries with little or no freedom of religion. Open Doors is an organization that for over five decades has come alongside Christians in 60 of these restrictive, dangerous countries, campaigning for the freedom to believe from the gulags in North Korea to the halls of Congress. Open Doors’ outreach to more than 100 million persecuted believers includes delivery of Bibles and other materials, training of indigenous leaders in the Word, Christian community development, prayer and advocacy. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.
(For more information or to set up an interview, contact Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email [email protected]).