Western church leaders have not been outspoken enough about religious persecution and human rights violations around the world, said U.S. Congressman Frank R. Wolf (Ret.) at a recent luncheon in McLean, Virginia.
“There is more persecution taking place today than at any other time in history,” he said, and with 75 percent of people live in a religiously oppressed country, “it’s important for the church in the West to speak and then to act. Everything that takes place in Congress is downstream from the culture. The pulpit should be shaping the culture.”
Wolf is Distinguished Senior Fellow with the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, former chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, and author and chief proponent of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Speaking at an event sponsored by the Christian group Bridgepoint Connections, Wolf played the short film “Sing a Little Louder,” showing the anguish of an elderly man who said and did nothing decades ago when a train full of Jews being transported to concentration camps stopped briefly in front of his church.
Wolf spoke of the treatment of Christians and Jews in Iraq, where the Jewish population has dwindled from 148,000 in 1980 to 10 today.
In Egypt, the 1948 Jewish population of 80,000 is now 20, all of them elderly.
In Nigeria, the Boko Haram terrorist group has killed some 20,000 Christians and destroyed 900 churches.
He also expressed outrage at Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and their use in the death sentence of Asia Bibi.
Wolf described two incidents that transformed his world view and life.
In 1984, U.S. Rep. Tony Hall of Ohio invited him to visit famine-stricken Ethiopia. Wolf spent several days in famine areas with members of the aid group World Vision International. In 1985, Hall invited Wolf to go to Romania, where dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was ordering the bulldozing of churches.
Wolf said the trips to Ethiopia and Romania “likely changed everything, my whole life.”
Serving 17 terms in the House, Wolf was a strong leader on behalf of international religious freedom and human rights, culminating in passage of the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act. Since his retirement from Congress in January 2015, Wolf has focused his work exclusively on human rights and religious freedom issues.