Doing What’s Right

    Last Thursday President Bush did something few presidents in history have had the courage to do. However, you may not have heard about it, since much of the press downplayed it. But you shouldn't miss it, because the religious freedom of millions rests on people knowing about and getting behind the president's actions. The president spoke to the American Jewish Committee in Washington Thursday on the subject of religious liberty. Bush spoke about how America, from its birth, has been committed to religious tolerance and religious freedom. We have always been a country that, he quoted George Washington, "gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance." Over two centuries, Bush noted, "Washington's rejection of religious bigotry has matured . . . into a guiding doctrine of our foreign policy." And then the president took direct aim at the countries that persecute people for their faith: He condemned Iraq, Iran, Burma, Cuba, and Afghanistan for their mistreatment of Christians, Jews, and other religious minorities. He reserved special condemnation for China, which, he said, vandalizes churches and mosques, and puts religious leaders under arrest. But the president's strongest words were aimed at the government of Sudan. Sudan, he said, "is a disaster area for human rights." The Muslim government is "waging war against . . . Christians and other non- Muslims. Some 2 million Sudanese have lost their lives; 4 million more have lost their homes. Hospitals, schools, [and] churches . . . have often been bombed by government warplanes; . . . women and children have been abducted and sold into slavery." "Aid agencies report," the president continued, "that food assistance is sometimes distributed only to those willing to undergo conversion to Islam." The president backed up his remarks with some strong action, as well: He announced he had just appointed a special humanitarian coordinator, USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios, to ensure that U.S. food aid to Sudan goes to those who need it, no matter what their religion. And he promised that his administration "will continue to speak and act for as long as the persecution and atrocities in the Sudan last." This is great news, and I know from personal experience that we can count on the president to keep his word. A few months ago, Bill Bennett, Rabbi Sapperstein, and I talked with special advisor to the president, Karl Rove. We pleaded for a special presidential envoy to deal with Sudan. Rove got back to me and said, "We will do it." And indeed the president is keeping his word. The president's action has drawn fire in some quarters. Businesses that use Sudan's gum arabic for soft drinks and other products don't want Bush to take such a hard line against Sudan. But you and I need to let President Bush know how much we appreciate his courageous stand on this issue -- an answer to prayer indeed, delivered on the National Day of Prayer. So, I hope you'll contact the White House and thank the president for standing up for the rights of persecuted citizens around the world, including many, many Christians. I also urge you to call BreakPoint for a copy of the president's magnificent speech. You probably won't find it in your local newspapers or on TV. But I want you to read it, because it's evidence that we now have a president, thank God, who is willing to set his jaw -- and do what is right. For further reference: Bush, George W. "The First Freedom of the Soul." Remarks by the President to the American Jewish Committee, 3 May 2001.


Chuck Colson


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