As shocking as it was to see President Obama bow to King Abdullah in 2009, it’s been more frustrating to see him bend to the Saudis’ religious intolerance.
Although Saudi Arabia continues to climb the charts of faith-based hostility, the subject was probably as absent from last week’s Camp David Arab talks as the King himself. While the President plows ahead with his Iran agenda, he’s missing a crucial opportunity to address the growing issue of global persecution with the countries most responsible for spreading it.
Even his own government is sounding the alarm about the explosion in Christian genocide — most recently in the annual report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). With all eyes on the Middle East, USCIRF explains that ISIS is turning the region into the biggest hotspot for faith-based oppression.
“Humanitarian crises fueled by waves of terror, intimidation, and violence have engulfed an alarming number of countries in the year since the release of [our] prior report last May,” the Commission explains. “The horrors of the past year speak volumes about how and why religious freedom and the protection of the rights of vulnerable religious communities matter.”
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Boko Haram and ISIS continue to sweep through Africa, Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, leaving a bloody and tear-stained trail behind. “From summary executions to forced conversations, rape to sexual enslavement, abducted children to destroyed houses of worship, attacks on these communities are part of a systematic effort to erase their presence from the Middle East.”
Yet in the face of the one of the greatest human rights crises of our time, the Obama administration seems to have no interest in balancing religious liberty with its other interests.
That fact wasn’t lost on USCIRF, which admonished the President to “work toward promoting religious freedom in countries like China, Iran, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia.” America, the Commission scolds, has not prioritized religious liberty enough in foreign policy — fanning the flame of even wider abuses.
Chief among its complaints is that the U.S. hasn’t blocked visas for religious rights violators. Instead, thanks to the lax attitude at the State Department, enemies of freedom continue to stream into the country, while innocent Christians like Iraqi nun Sister Diana Momeka are initially and inexplicably denied entry.
“Directly related to identifying and barring from entry severe religious freedom violators, IRFA also requires the President to determine the specific officials responsible for violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by governments… and when applicable and to the extent practicable, publish the names of these officials in the Federal Register.”
Among other things, the report calls on the U.S. to “train its officials, foreign service officers, and military service members and chaplains more on international religious liberty.”
And these burdens don’t have to fall on the U.S. alone. If the administration cared, it could make this a collaborative effort with countries like the U.K. and Canada. Of course, that cooperation would be a lot easier if the newly appointed Ambassador-At-Large for International Religious Liberty — a post the White House refused to fill for almost three years — had direct access to the White House or the Secretary of State as the law requires.
The world can’t heed the cry for freedom if its biggest defenders are silent. All nations, USCIRF Chair Katrina Swett warned, “should care about abuses beyond their borders, not only for humanitarian reasons, but because what goes on in other nations rarely remains there.
In the long run, there is only one permanent guarantor of the safety, security, and survival of the persecuted and vulnerable. It is the full recognition of religious freedom.”
Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised that the Obama administration is indifferent to religious persecution abroad when their own policies here at home have promoted religious intolerance. Certainly beheadings for your faith are not the same as being forced to violate your beliefs through government policies or laws, but they both spring from the same root of intolerance.
For more on the urgency of this crisis, check out my interview with Fox News’s Shannon Bream.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.