It seems likely that, when the history of our time is written, the authors will be incredulous that so little was said, let alone done, about the largest genocide of all time.
In fact, with an estimated 300 million Christians being persecuted for their faith, the difference between what is befalling believers now and what happened to the victims of past mass murderers – like Cambodia’s Pol Pot, the Nazis’ Adolf Hitler, the USSR’s Josef Stalin and Communist China’s Mao Tse-tung – is not just that the number of lives being destroyed today dwarfs those afflicted in previous eras. It is that the present horrors are happening on our watch.
The truth is that the sorts of systematic suppression of religious freedom that increasingly is evident around the world didn’t happen overnight. The torture, rape, enslavement and murderous – even genocidal – bloodletting of religious minorities has been inexorably building globally for decades. For example, Open Doors USA has estimated that there are 30 million more Christians subjected to heavy persecution this year than last.
It was the hope of one of liberty’s greatest congressional champions, former Rep. Frank Wolf, that the adoption twenty years ago of his International Religious Freedom Act (IFRA) might prevent such horrors. This statute laudably required the U.S. government to give priority attention to the fundamental human right of freedom of religion.
And today, we have an administration as committed as any to the spirit, as well as the letter of that law: In particular, President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Advisor John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback are tirelessly striving to protect those persecuted for their faith. Tangible evidence of our leaders’ commitment will be on display next week in Secretary Pompeo’s second annual Ministerial meeting concerning religious freedom.
Yet, the data about anti-Christian persecution globally make clear an unhappy reality: The population worldwide that is suffering such persecution is not just shockingly vast. It is continuing to expand. Clearly, more must be done.
One thing we can do is hold the persecutors accountable for their crimes against humanity. And there have to be real costs imposed on the perpetrators.
The bad news is that even a U.S. administration whose leaders authentically want to help the oppressed often confronts vested economic and national security interests that discourage the imposition of sanctions or other penalties for religious persecution.
The good news is that there is another way to encourage persecutors to cease and desist: we can hold accountable those who enable such oppressors by, for example, lobbying to protect them from retribution.
In May 2019, I was proud to join an informal coalition of 45 faith leaders and other champions of religious liberty in sending an Open Letter to one of the most prominent of the firms that perform this service in Washington: Squire Patton Boggs (SPB). We urged its leadership and employees to stop representing several foreign regimes that have been identified as among the world’s worst persecutors of Christians and other religious minorities. SPB’s clients include the People’s Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Cameroon, and the Palestinian Authority.
It must be asked: How can any American in good conscience represent and support regimes that murder, dismember, organ-harvest, torture, and enslave their own people, simply because they hold disfavored religious beliefs?
Regrettably, Squire Patton Boggs has not replied to this request and apparently continues to serve the interests of clients that deny freedom of religion and persecute those who seek to practice it.
So, on Wednesday, July 10th, advocates for religious liberty will gather in fifteen cities across America to encourage the many good people who work for Squire Patton Boggs – and other lobbying firms like it – to stop enabling governments that deny, often ruthlessly, this foundational human right. Find out how you can participate or otherwise help by visiting www.ReligiousFreedomRally.org.
We can no longer deny the reality that unprecedented persecution is taking place in our time. And there are things we can do about it. Please, do your part.
Frank J. Gaffney is President and CEO of Save the Persecuted Christians.