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Senate Condemns Worldwide Human Rights Abuses Against Christians

Resolution: Nonbinding action comes as Clinton administration considers appointing commission to investigate instances of religious persecution.

September 21, 1996|From Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate has passed a resolution condemning ongoing "egregious" human rights abuses against Christians around the world and called on the White House to "expand and invigorate" U.S. policy on behalf of persecuted Christians.

"In many places throughout the world, Christians are restricted in, or forbidden from, practicing their faith, victimized by a 'religious apartheid' that subjects them to inhumane, humiliating treatment, and in certain cases are imprisoned, tortured, enslaved or killed," the resolution said.

The nonbinding resolution was adopted Tuesday night by unanimous consent.

The Senate urged President Clinton to "initiate a thorough examination of all United States' policies that affect persecuted Christians" and to "proceed forward as expeditiously as possible in appointing a White House special advisor on religious persecution."

For the past several months, White House officials have indicated that Clinton is considering appointing a special commission to address religious persecution. However, the panel has not been officially announced.

The Senate resolution also recognized and applauded the World Evangelical Fellowship for declaring Sept. 29 an international day of prayer on behalf of persecuted Christians.

"Religious liberty is a universal right explicitly recognized in numerous international agreements," the resolution said. "Unfortunately, the United States has in many instances failed to raise forcefully the issue of anti-Christian persecution at international conventions and in bilateral relations with offending countries."

"The worldwide persecution and martyrdom of Christians persists at alarming levels," the resolution said.

The measure was co-sponsored by Sens. Don Nickles (R-Okla.), Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), and John Ashcroft (R-Mo).

"The Senate has finally done the right thing," said Richard Cizik, policy analyst for the National Assn. of Evangelicals, which released a "statement of conscience" earlier this year urging the U.S. government to take stronger action on behalf of persecuted Christians.

"This is a half of a step in the right direction," Cizik said. "It's not a major victory, but it is a move in the right direction."

A similar resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) on Aug. 2. The House has a more complicated procedure for passing resolutions but the International Relations Committee cleared the way this week for that measure to reach the House floor.

Congressional sources said that resolution may be acted upon by the full House on Tuesday, the last possible time such a measure could be considered before the end of the current session of Congress.

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