Bahai News - Religious leaders will monitor violations of freedom abroad
Religious leaders will monitor violations of freedom abroad
The State Department named 20 religious leaders to a new committee
advising the Clinton administration on abuses of religious liberty
overseas. The leaders will look for ways religious groups can mediate
conflicts, according to John Shattuck, assistant secretary of state and
chair of the committee. Shattuck said his experience working with
Catholic, Orthodox, and Muslim leaders in Bosnia has shown him "how
important it is to stand up for religious freedom and tolerance."
...The committee includes Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Muslim,
Jewish, and Baha'i clergy. Also included are scholars who are
experts in international conflict resolution, religious diversity, and
the Holocaust. Two evangelicals joined the committee: Don Argue,
president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and James Henry,
pastor of First Baptist in Orlando and former head of the Southern
...Evangelicals had been pressing the administration to appoint a
special advisor to focus specifically on persecution of Christians.
Instead, the State Department formed a committee with a broader mandate:
to address human rights abuses against people of all religions. In the
past several years, human-rights organizations have documented torture
and killing of Christians, Buddhists, Bahai's, and Muslims.
...Critics said they were concerned the committee would gridlock
because its members have fundamental differences over the basic facts.
"If it turns out to be a sham, then we'll take appropriate
action," Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals
told The Washington Post. But until then, "let's assume it's
being done in good faith." Announcement of the committee was
delayed until after the election because the White House wanted to avoid
the perception it was trying to win favor in the religious community,
The Post said.
...President Clinton should take the lead against religious
persecution, Cizik told Religion News Today. Clinton should
"use his bully pulpit" to speak out personally, something he
hasn't yet done, Cizik said. The NAE also will push for "more
straightforward" discussion of religious rights violations in the
State Department's annual human rights report and promote legislation
ensuring better treatment for those seeking asylum in the United States, he said.
...Shattuck is expected to accompany Secretary of State Warren
Christopher on a four-day visit to China this weekend. He said
Beijing's repression of Tibetan culture and religion is an example of an
abusive international situation the advisory panel plans to investigate.
Christopher plans to raise human rights concerns with Chinese leaders
during his trip, U.S. officials said.
...In addition to Argue and Henry, the advisory committee on
religious freedom abroad includes: Joan Brown Campbell, National
Council of Churches of Christ; Diana L. Eck, Harvard University; Wilma
M. Ellis, Baha'is of the Americas; Irving Greenberg, National Jewish
Center for Learning and Leadership; Frederick Calhoun James, African
Methodist Episcopal Church; Leonid Kishkovsky, Orthodox Church of
America; Samuel Billy Kyles, Memorial Baptist Church, Memphis, Tenn.;
Deborah E. Lipstadt, Emory University; David Little, U.S. Institute of
Peace; Laila Al-Marayati, Muslim Women's League; Theodore E. McCarrick,
Archbishop of Newark; Wallace Deen Mohammed, Society of Muslim
Americans; Russel Marion Nelson, The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints; Ricardo Ramirez, Bishop of Las Cruces, N.M.; Barnett
Richard Rubin, Council on Foreign Relations; Nina Shea, Puebla Project
of Freedom House; Elliot Sperling, Indiana University; and Archbishop
Spyridon of America, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
©Copyright 1996, Religion Today
Page last updated/revised 060800
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