Yesterday afternoon, I was honored to attend the swearing in of my friend Sam Brownback as the next Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. Years from now, I believe we will look back on yesterday as a defining moment in turning back the tide on what is now being recognized as the worst period of religious persecution in world history. That’s no exaggeration as former Congressman Frank Wolf in our special Religious Freedom Day broadcast last month explained to viewers, “We have 5.5 billion people living in repressive nations.” And Open Doors USA’s latest report finds that 215 million Christians “experience high levels of persecution” just within the 50 countries it monitors on its world watch list — representing 1 in 12 Christians worldwide. Over the last year, President Trump and Vice President Pence have made the issue a priority and Ambassador Brownback is poised to lead the way in sending a message to the foes of religious freedom that America is back!
As we’ve said before, America’s silence under the last administration led to a rise in the global threat that President Trump is now diligently working to control. Congress and religious liberty advocacy groups spent the better part of Obama’s two terms pleading for the president to get off the international sidelines and do something to aid religious minorities that were facing unprecedented persecution. President Obama’s failure on international religious freedom is not a surprise given his hostility toward the First Freedom of Americans here at home. We thank God that we now have a president and an ambassador who will work to restore religious freedom to its preeminent place in both our foreign and domestic policy.
“Never before has there been more religious persecution than there is in the world today, I am sad to say that,” Brownback said upon his swearing in. “Yet this is a foundational human right. If you want more security and less terrorism in your country have more religious freedom. It’s a byproduct, a fruit of more security and peace. It’s in all the data and now we need to spread it to all the world.” Brownback also added, “We’ve got several key places that are really big problems right now. In Iraq there is genocide against the Yazidis and Christians. We have made that declaration. People know it’s going on.”
I’ve known Sam for almost two decades, and I’ve watched him champion this issue since the earliest days of our friendship. He knows that religious freedom is the foundation for all other freedoms and is prepared not just to lead a diplomatic mission to help the persecuted but a rescue mission. Moreover, he and I agree that it is a basic human right for all people of all nations.
With Congress only recently elevating the role of this ambassadorship, Sam is now empowered to help those of all faiths world-wide who are persecuted because of their religion. He will also be leading the efforts of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission that “reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.” The commission is comprised of nine members. Currently there are eight representing both parties, all whose terms expire in May 2018. President Trump, Ambassador Brownback, the USCIRF, and all those involved in advancing religious freedom should have our prayers and support — the lives of millions of people targeted because of their faith around the world depend upon it.
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