Open Doors supporters have joined other interested parties–including members of Congress, human rights organizations, activists and religious leaders–in calling on President Obama to appoint a Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia. Although the President signed legislation creating the Special Envoy post over one year ago, he has not moved to fill the position.
In May, Open Doors launched a Petition to President Obama asking that he appoint a Special Envoy. The petition received more than 10,000 signatures. It has been very encouraging to have such a strong response from Open Doors supporters. Open Doors’ petition is one of several efforts directed to the President on this issue.
Last March, 52 organizations and individuals and 43 members of Congress signed letters calling on Obama to fill the vacant post of Special Envoy. Democrats and Republicans from both houses of Congress signed the Congressional letter. A second letter from a wide range of organizations, including Open Doors USA, was also sent to the President. Groups and individuals representing many different faith traditions signed onto this letter.
At a Senate hearing in March, Senator Roy Blunt, the sponsor of the Special Envoy bill, questioned Rabbi David Saperstein, the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. Senator Blunt asked the Ambassador about the status of the Special Envoy post. Ambassador Saperstein commented that if a Special Envoy was appointed, it would be helpful to his office in the State Department.
At a June 25th panel discussion on Preserving Religious Pluralism in the Modern Middle East, Faith McDonnell of The Institute on Religion and Democracy commented that the NGO community would really like to see a Special Envoy for the Middle East minorities. “The Congress passed the legislation overwhelmingly on this. President Obama has signed it into law, but there has been no Special Envoy picked yet.”
It has been a year of unprecedented violence toward Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. It is our hope and prayer that the voices of all who signed the petition, along with the voices of our leaders in Congress and other influential groups, will be heard at the White House. If you have not added your name to this letter to President Obama, please sign the Special Envoy Petition today!