Religious leaders will monitor violations of freedom abroad
...The committee includes Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish, and Baha'i clergy. Also included are scholars who are experts in international conflict resolution, religious diversity, and the Holocaust. Two evangelicals joined the committee: Don Argue, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and James Henry, pastor of First Baptist in Orlando and former head of the Southern Baptist Convention.
...Evangelicals had been pressing the administration to appoint a special advisor to focus specifically on persecution of Christians. Instead, the State Department formed a committee with a broader mandate: to address human rights abuses against people of all religions. In the past several years, human-rights organizations have documented torture and killing of Christians, Buddhists, Bahai's, and Muslims.
...Critics said they were concerned the committee would gridlock because its members have fundamental differences over the basic facts. "If it turns out to be a sham, then we'll take appropriate action," Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals told The Washington Post. But until then, "let's assume it's being done in good faith." Announcement of the committee was delayed until after the election because the White House wanted to avoid the perception it was trying to win favor in the religious community, The Post said.
...President Clinton should take the lead against religious persecution, Cizik told Religion News Today. Clinton should "use his bully pulpit" to speak out personally, something he hasn't yet done, Cizik said. The NAE also will push for "more straightforward" discussion of religious rights violations in the State Department's annual human rights report and promote legislation ensuring better treatment for those seeking asylum in the United States, he said.
...Shattuck is expected to accompany Secretary of State Warren Christopher on a four-day visit to China this weekend. He said Beijing's repression of Tibetan culture and religion is an example of an abusive international situation the advisory panel plans to investigate. Christopher plans to raise human rights concerns with Chinese leaders during his trip, U.S. officials said.
...In addition to Argue and Henry, the advisory committee on religious freedom abroad includes: Joan Brown Campbell, National Council of Churches of Christ; Diana L. Eck, Harvard University; Wilma M. Ellis, Baha'is of the Americas; Irving Greenberg, National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership; Frederick Calhoun James, African Methodist Episcopal Church; Leonid Kishkovsky, Orthodox Church of America; Samuel Billy Kyles, Memorial Baptist Church, Memphis, Tenn.; Deborah E. Lipstadt, Emory University; David Little, U.S. Institute of Peace; Laila Al-Marayati, Muslim Women's League; Theodore E. McCarrick, Archbishop of Newark; Wallace Deen Mohammed, Society of Muslim Americans; Russel Marion Nelson, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Ricardo Ramirez, Bishop of Las Cruces, N.M.; Barnett Richard Rubin, Council on Foreign Relations; Nina Shea, Puebla Project of Freedom House; Elliot Sperling, Indiana University; and Archbishop Spyridon of America, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
©Copyright 1996, Religion Today