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Published on 04 July, 2012

Pressure needed on critical bill

.USA (ODM/MNN) — Open Doors USA has launched a new advocacy campaign to encourage the U.S. Senate to pass a bill to appoint a religious freedom envoy in the Near East and South Central Asia.

According to Open Doors USA Advocacy Director Lindsay Vessey, “The Special Envoy would address economic and security concerns of these minority faith groups, which is especially needed in a country like Iraq where large numbers of Christians and other faith groups have been threatened, forced to flee their homeland, and killed.”

Last year, Open Doors USA supported a bill in the House called H.R. 440 which would require the Obama administration to appoint a Special Envoy for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia. H.R. 440 was easily passed by the House last year. This was partially due to the advocacy campaign Open Doors launched encouraging concerned citizens to contact their U.S. representative, asking him or her to vote for the bill.

30 out of the 33 countries and regions covered in the bill are on the Open Doors 2012 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians including countries like Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan.

A Senate companion bill called S. 1245 was introduced last year, but it still has not been brought to a vote. Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) has placed a hold on the bill, preventing it from moving forward.

"This important bill won't be moved to a vote unless enough people concerned with the persecution of religious minorities are willing to speak out and ask their senators to take action," says Vessey.

If S. 1245 is not passed in this session of Congress and signed into law, the process will have to be started all over next year in the new session of Congress.

“The Senator can put a hold on a bill or resolution, and if nobody’s really paying attention to that particular bill or resolution, then they don’t feel any pressure to change their course of action,” says Vessey. “So we’ve launched a public campaign asking our supporters to e-mail their senators.”

If enough senators support S. 1245, they will create much more pressure on Sen. Webb to release his hold and allow the bill to move to a vote. The Open Doors Advocacy Web site has a sample letter available for you to send to your senator (click here).

Vessey says, “I’ve already been receiving messages that some of our supporters have received back from the Senate offices, so they’re definitely paying attention. They’re looking into this particular bill, and so we really need to apply the pressure now.”

Please also be praying for the hearts of Senators to be moved for this bill and that it may be passed before the end of this congress session. Pray for persecuted Christians all over the world and that the creation of a religious envoy would bring more governmental attention to their need.

Nearly 70% of the world's 6.8 billion people live in countries with little or no freedom of religion. Open Doors is an organization that for over five decades has come alongside Christians in 60 of these restrictive, dangerous countries, campaigning for the freedom to believe from the gulags in North Korea to the halls of Congress. To partner with Open Doors USA, click here.

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