World Report

Outgoing US House of Congress strengthens religious freedom

Congressman Frank R. Wolf

In one of the final legislative acts before the Christmas break, the US Congress has passed a new religious freedom act which aims to make tackling religious persecution a key part of America’s foreign policy.

The Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act passed through the Houses of Representatives and Senate with no opposition and was signed into law by President Barack Obama. The move adds greater power to America’s 1998 International Religious Freedom Act.

Under the provisions of the Wolf legislation, America will compile and maintain a ‘Designated persons List’, in effect a record both of violators of religious freedom worldwide and of persons who have been imprisoned and/or tortured due to their faith. The Act will also see the creation of a ‘Special Watch List’ of nations where religious persecution is either tolerated or not adequately tackled.

The new Act is named in honour of retired Congressman Frank R. Wolf who was a passionate advocate for persecuted Christians and other religious minorities around the world.

Meanwhile,  as the new US legislation was coming into effect, a leading Jewish leader in the United States declared that, in world rankings of persecuted groups, “Christians have become the new Jews”.

Territory

In an interview on American television, Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, director of interfaith affairs with the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles called on US Christians to wake up to the scale of persecution being felt by their community around the world.

“We look at the world and we see Christians as the most endangered minority all around the world in a huge swath of territory going from western Africa, all the way around through Afghanistan and Iran,” Rabbi Adlerstein said. “Christians can wake up on any given day and not know whether they will return home, whether they will be killed that day, whether they will be persecuted. Christians have, in effect, become the new Jews.”

As a man with a keen knowledge of the Holocaust through his grandmother who survived a Nazi concentration camp, Rabbi Alderstein lamented the fact that a world that had been silent in WWII and vowed such a genocide would never be allowed again was once again apparently oblivious to the scale of suffering endured by Christians. 

He called on Christians to be the voice for their beleaguered community.

“You shudder to think of how many lives have been lost for the fact that Christians did not have mass demonstrations in Washington years ago when there still could have been safe zones carved out before the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people that would have allowed Christians an autonomous region in the Nineveh region, in the Assyrian triangle,” he said.