Need for U.S. Christians to push for freedom of persecuted church

By July 18, 2011

USA (MNN) — Open Doors USA recently launched a new campaign to support the new religious freedom bill in Congress. An average of 100 million Christians are persecuted each year for claiming faith in Christ. This bill would help those suffering for their faith…if it is taken seriously.

The bill HR 1856 was presented in mid-May and is currently in the House of Congress. If this bill gets enough attention to be put to a vote, it would amend the original International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). It would draw in more funds for the U.S. Commission of International Religious Freedom and fix the problems with the first bill.

The U.S. Commission is like the watchdog for the State Department. They make sure that the State Department is promoting religious freedom. The U.S. Commission also does important reporting and works with other countries to improve their religious freedom record.

Open Doors USA Advocacy Director Lindsay Vessey says, "Promotion of international religious freedom as a general concept really means that people in different countries would have the ability hopefully to practice their faith freely. We see that about 70% of people in the world do not have the freedom to practice their faith."

This includes not only practicing your faith, but even sharing it with others. "In many parts of the world, it's illegal to proselytize or to share your faith. So this would have a huge impact on the ability for people to live out their faith and share the Gospel like Christ has called us to do," says Vessey.

Missionaries overseas suffer many forms of persecution for the work that they do. The freedom to spread the Gospel and lack thereof is a major issue that needs to get in front of Congress.

In the past, international religious freedom has been marginalized in the government. One way this is seen is that all ambassadors of various programs report directly to the Secretary of State. But the Ambassador for International Religious Freedom has been reporting to an under-secretary. If HR 1856 is passed, the International Religious Freedom Ambassador would report directly to the Secretary of State as well.

Advocacy, supporting and programming are just a few things that additional funding will allow the IRF office to utilize for promoting religious freedom. The bill would also require the State Department to act on their designations for "Countries of Particular Concern." And foreign reserve officers would receive training for religious freedom.

In order for HR 1856 to be taken to Congress for a vote, the bill needs more co-sponsors. There are 21 members of Congress co-sponsoring the bill so far. Open Doors is encouraging Christians to write their U.S. Representatives and ask them to support the bill.

Vessey states, "I've talked to many members of Congress and their staff who say, ‘Well, we'll consider doing something like this if we hear from our constituents.' So it's really important that they hear from you and that they know that you want them to co-sponsor this bill."

There is a pre-written letter on the Open Doors USA Web site. You can go to and fill in your name and address for the letter to send it to your U.S. Representative.

This bill needs to be passed soon before the US Commission of IRF loses their funding in September. It is critical that Christians act now. The advancement of the Gospel could be greatly helped when pressure is put on other governments to end religious persecution. HR 1856 would help do that. The time is now to stand up for our brothers and sisters in Christ and be heard.

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