Anti-Christian violence spurs CUFI support of bill to create U.S. envoy for religious minorities

By Maxine Dovere/JNS.org

Click photo to download. Caption: The crowd at the 2013 Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Washington Summit. In response to the rising tide of global anti-Christian violence, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) is supporting H.R.301, legislation that would direct the U.S. president to appoint a “Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia” within the State Department. Credit: CUFI/Paul Wharton Photography.

In response to the rising tide of global anti-Christian violence, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) is supporting H.R.301, legislation that would direct the U.S. president to appoint a “Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia” within the State Department.

Suicide bombers killed more than 80 people in a Sept. 22 attack on Pakistan’s All Saints Church. In Egypt, Islamists have attacked more than three-dozen churches, businesses, and Christian homes since this summer’s ouster of president Mohamed Morsi, who was part of the Muslim Brotherhood party. The Syrian civil war, meanwhile, has seen the murder of hundreds of Christians, mainly by Al-Qaeda-linked rebel groups.

“CUFI is deeply concerned about Christian communities that have been targeted for attack,” David Brog, executive director of CUFI, told JNS.org. “They are collapsing. This is a human rights crisis, a humanitarian disaster of the first order—yet the world is largely not paying attention.” 

H.R.301, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), passed in the House of Representatives in a 402-22 vote on Sept. 18 and is currently under review in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

According to a summary of the bill, the proposed special envoy would have the rank of ambassador and would be responsible to “(1) promote the right of religious freedom of religious minorities in the countries of the Near East and South Central Asia, denounce the violation of such right, and recommend appropriate U.S. government responses to such violations; (2) monitor and combat acts of religious intolerance and incitement targeted against such religious minorities; (3) ensure that the needs of such religious minority communities are addressed, including economic and security needs directly tied to religious-based discrimination and persecution; (4) work with foreign governments of such countries to address inherently discriminatory laws; and (5) coordinate and assist in the preparation of specified reports required by the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.”

Brog believes that as a Christian organization, CUFI—which says its 1.3 million members make it the largest pro-Israel group in the U.S.—has the duty “to speak up” on the issue.

“As the Jewish executive director of a Christian organization, I take the persecution of Christian minorities very personally,” he told JNS.org. “We refuse to be silent. CUFI has become the constituency for taking action.”

While many in the Christian world focus their activism on feeding the hungry and healing the sick, Christians “have failed to stand up for their own” and need to “stand up for fellow Christians facing murder,” Brog said.

H.R. 301 “will help end the silence and increase attention of throughout America and the world about the plight of Christians and build demand for greater action,” according to Brog.

“It’s time America realized the extent of the persecution [of Christians],” he said. “The country was founded by people who were persecuted because of their religious beliefs. The founders—and the American people—should be outraged.”

Brog cautioned that bills similar to H.R.301 have come before Congress before, but never became law.  

“Now there is a constituency of 1.3 million committed Christians backing it… When a religious minority is targeted, the U.S must oppose such violence with all of our means,” Brog said. “It’s simple: Christian communities are collapsing throughout the Middle East. There is only one country where the Christian population is growing—Israel. The contrast could not be more clear.”

Jewish groups are also responding to recent anti-Christian violence.

“The attacks on innocent civilians at their homes and places of worship in Pakistan, Nigeria, Egypt and Syria are shocking and abhorrent,” Abraham H. Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, said in a statement Sept. 24. “These countries are not doing enough to protect their minority Christian communities or to enforce the rule of law.”

Regarding the recent terror attack on Pakistan’s All Saints Church, American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris issued a statement urging the Pakistani government “to do everything possible to protect the country’s Christian minority.” Harris called for “a sustained global outcry in the face of such deadly attacks, fueled by religious extremism.”

CUFI’s Brog warned against those who try to distract from the Islamic persecution of Christians by blaming the plight of Palestinian Christians on Israel.

“There are those who try to divert attention from the violence of militant Islam,” he told JNS.org. “They are simply trying to sow confusion. The reality is clear: Christians are suffering from militant Islam, not because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The fact is that Christians in the Palestinian Authority are fleeing, and not because of Israel. Israel is protecting Christians from the forces of extremism.”

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Posted on September 29, 2013 and filed under Israel, News, U.S., Christian.