An American in Tibet

A recent Gallup poll revealed that a bare 5 percent of Americans harbor "a great deal of confidence" in Congress—down from 42 percent just 30 years ago. When so many Americans see congressmen as self-seeking junketeers in the pockets of special-interest groups, it's refreshing to know one who breaks the mold. Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican, is not much at glad-handing, and he shies away from the limelight. His travels are not the typical junkets to posh resorts but are risky excursions to outposts ravaged by war and famine—especially to places where fellow Christians are persecuted for their faith. Wolf's most recent journey took him to Tibet, where he posed as a tourist. He eluded the tour guide by pretending to be ill, and then sneaked out to talk to Tibetans on the street to get the real story of Chinese repression. Another expedition took him to Sudan, a nation waging a religious war against its own citizens who are Christians or other non-Muslims. Sudanese soldiers are literally snatching children from their mothers’ arms and selling them into slavery. Wolf has also investigated persecution in East Timor, El Salvador, Bosnia, and Ethiopia. What moves this unusual politician? His Christian faith. For his unflagging efforts, Wolf has even won grudging respect from people who oppose his conservative politics. I'm telling BreakPoint listeners about Wolf not merely to spotlight a courageous Christian, but because Wolf and everything he stands for is about to be tested. And so are we. Congress will shortly be taking up the Freedom from Religious Persecution Act. The Act was introduced by Wolf with Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. It would impose sanctions on nations that persecute people for their religious faith—places like Sudan, Egypt, Iran, Vietnam, and China. The bill quickly won widespread support. But then a horde of lobbyists swarmed to Capitol Hill, representing industries with big money at stake. Sanctions against Sudan? Why, that country is the world's leading supplier of gum arabic, a key ingredient in soft drinks and candy. And China—that's a market of a billion people, who already do brisk business with Boeing. Suddenly Congress grew deaf to the horrors of human-rights violations perpetrated by these nations. The Clinton administration joined the opposition. The bill itself was watered down until what remains is largely symbolic. Even so, the act remains a test of our values as a nation: Will we uphold the traditional American commitment to defend inalienable rights, or will we sell out to a cash-register foreign policy? This is a defining moment for Frank Wolf and for us all. What do we really believe as a nation? Are we willing to tolerate slavery? Will we continue trading with nations that burn churches, jail pastors, and torture religious believers? Or is there some point at which we will draw the line? Please call your representatives in Congress, and ask them to support the Freedom from Religious Persecution Act. If this act is not passed, we will know that America has lost its capacity for even elementary moral outrage, that we have grown totally self-obsessed, that we are willing to sell our soul to feed our addiction to soft drinks and candy. May it not be so.


Chuck Colson


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