Speaking Out

After President Clinton's historic visit to China last summer, one commentator said that "even his critics have had to admit [the trip] went better than ever imagined." Well, try telling that to the Chinese. Writing in the Weekly Standard, David Aikman relates that not only has persecution of Chinese Christians continued, but that following Clinton's visit, the crackdown on house-church leaders intensified. Aikman reveals that "a particularly vicious device used against Christian prisoners in China" is an electrified police baton "designed to inflict pain and terror." It's just one more example of why America must pass the Freedom from Religious Persecution Act, which the Senate will vote on before it adjourns. Thanks in large part to the efforts of Rep. Frank Wolf, a persecution bill has already passed overwhelmingly in the House. As recently as a couple of weeks ago, the bill appeared dead, however, in the Senate. The Clinton Administration has fought tooth and nail against it. And then, just a few days ago, the bill came back to life. An agreement has been reached among a number of key senators on the terms of the new bill. Michael Horowitz, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a great advocate for the rights of religious minorities, says, "the Senate version calls for a strong, independent, high prestige Advisory Commission of the sort we have long sought." According to Horowitz, this is vitally important. You see, the persecution bill is not about restricting trade, as business groups have charged. It's about putting the focus on persecution and marshalling public opinion. What's important, Horowitz says, is to create a mechanism that keeps these issues in the public eye every year. A high-level commission—appointed by leaders of the House and Senate as well as the president—will call for honest fact-finding about persecution that politicians would then ignore at their peril. As Horowitz says, "The president can reject the recommendations of this commission—but he better give reasons why. It can't be swept under the rug, which is what has happened in the past. The president will have to stand up and be counted, one way or another." The leadership in the Senate is deeply committed to getting a Senate vote on this bill before it adjourns. Majority Leader Trent Lott and Senate Whip, Don Nickels told me just last week they are insisting on getting it on the calendar. But this is where you come in. This is a bill for which our senators will get lobbying calls from the business community like never before, and the only way this bill will be lost is if the voice of the people isn't heard. Friends, the fate of our brethren—in China, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia—is in our hands: Our senators are not going to vote against this bill if they know the voters back home support it and care deeply about the persecution of Christians. If every Christian in America calls his or her senator, we WILL prevail.


Chuck Colson


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