Religious freedom is directly related to a country’s economic growth, lasting stability and sustainable security. According to U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Vice Chair Kristina Arriaga, for far too long, our government asserted that religion belonged in the private sphere. But recent evidence shows that religious persecution increases instability, human rights abuses, and provides a breeding ground for violent extremism. In testimony on Friday to the National Security Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Ms. Arriaga said:
“World events repeatedly have demonstrated that religion remains central to people, and our nation and its diplomats cannot have productive dialogues and satisfactory relations or outcomes if we ignore, downplay, or dismiss religion’s pivotal role.”
Ms. Arriaga encouraged Congress to do all it can through legislation to promote religious freedom abroad, in part by tying U.S. funding and aid to a country’s progress in protecting religious liberties. Sadly, also last week, the Trump Administration lifted economic sanctions against Sudan, a move the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative and other religious freedom advocates fought against through a letter-writing campaign and other advocacy avenues. It is a blow that many do not take lightly, but can’t take personally.
To persist in our work, we must never give up hope. In her testimony, Ms. Arriaga quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable ... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
As individuals, we must use our voices, our time and our resources to make a difference. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. In November, there are a few opportunities we want to highlight for you so your mosque, synagogue, church, temple or community group can begin planning your part. We hope you will join us in one of these ways:
November 5, International Day of Prayer
Pray for those who suffer persecution for their faith. Of the world’s three major monotheistic religions alone, Christians suffer persecution in 128 countries; Muslims suffer persecution in 125 countries; and Jews suffer persecution in 78 countries.
Go to www.SpeakFreedomTexas.org and click on “Church Toolkit” to access resources dedicated to the International Day of Prayer. Open Doors also has prayer resources at: http://prayerevent.opendoorsusa.org
November 22, #REDWEDNESDAY
21CWI is collaborating with UK-based Aid to the Church in Need, which has organized a week of events with the focus on #RedWednesday, a day when you can show your solidarity with the persecuted through hosting various events, lighting your buildings in red, and wearing red. We are asking the Trump Administration and Congress to participate. For more information, go to: https://acnuk.org/campaign/redwednesday/
November 28, Giving Tuesday
The Tuesday after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday is recognized as Giving Tuesday, when non-profits raise money for needed funds to do their work. Many supporters offer matching donations for money donated on that day. 21CWI will be raising funds on our Facebook page: 21wilberforce.
As religious persecution worsens globally, and the data continue to show how vital this freedom is to economic and physical security, we must all do our parts.
Christine Virgin Online Editor
Based on Ms. Arriaga’s testimony, contact your senators and representative and encourage them to vote in favor of all legislation related to religious freedom. For details, read the update on what 21CWI is tracking with our International Religious Freedom Scorecard.
(c) 2017 Wilberforce Initiative