Senate Religious Persecution Task Force: Goals & Challenges

Membership, Purpose, Legislative Agenda
with Examples of Religious Persecution

Distributed May 1997 by Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK)

Inhofe (Chairman), Ashcroft, Brownback, Coats, D’Amato, Helms, Specter

Religious persecution is increasing against all faiths but in particular against Christians especially in China and the Muslim world.

A radical regime in Sudan allied with Iran has used massacre, starvation, slavery, and forced resettlement against the Christian minority.

In communist China, there is massive repression against tens of millions of Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, in the unregistered “house church” movement.

The advisory committee established by the administration to monitor religious persecution has done nothing of substance in response to this increasing pattern of abuse.

There is no one-time, quick-fix answer. As the Task Force works on addressing these atrocities, we welcome your input.

Legislation prepared by Senator Specter and Representative Wolf will be the starting point for the Task Force. There are some aspects that could be problematic and I would like to work on alternative language.

SPECTER/WOLF: Provides for targeted economic sanctions.
PROBLEM: Success of economic sanctions has been mixed because they tend to be too weak and waiveable by the president.

SPECTER/WOLF: Increases opportunity for persecuted religious communities to be admitted in refugee status is or granted asylum status.
PROBLEM: The bill uses the plight of Soviet Jews during the Cold War as a model. However, the emigration solution for 2 million Soviet Jews then may not be the solution for 50 million Chinese Christians today.

SPECTER/WOLF: Five year extension of Lautenberg amendment.
PROBLEM: This may unnecessarily complicate our efforts. Claims of asylum or refugee status based on religious persecution must be taken as seriously as forms of persecution.

Other legislative remedies may include:

Withholding funds for a visit of President Jiang Zemin of China for an official visit until the president certifies specified improvements have taken place with respect to Christians.

Free standing legislation on Sudan (also in Specter/Wolf).

Establishment of “equal access” laws that would require U.S. diplomatic and consular premises abroad to permit religious services. The U.S. mission in Saudi Arabia no longer allows Christian services on the premises, although they have set aside facilities for Islamic worship.

Sudan: Religious Persecution

  • In 1992, a nine-year old Christian boy from the Sudanese Dinka tribe was sent by his mother to buy tomatoes at the local market. While on the errand, the boy was stopped by the Muslim secret police and sent with other boys to a children’s “cultural cleansing camp” where they were forcibly converted to Islam.
  • Since declaring Sudan an Islamic state in 1983, the government’s attempt to impose Shari’a (traditional Islamic law) has resulted in the death of more than 1.3 million people and the displacement of more than 3 million others, mostly Christian and non-Muslims.
  • In February 1996, Gaspar Biro (United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Sudan) reported “an alarming increase” in the number of cases of “slavery, servitude, slave trade and forced labor” in Sudan. With growing frequency, Christian villages are raided, men are exterminated, children forced into military training and women sold into slavery or relocated to concentration camps.
  • The Baltimore Sun reported, beginning on June 16, 1996, that two of its reporters went to Sudan and bought slaves for five hundred dollars each.
  • Under the Islamic Shari’a, conversion to Christianity is illegal. In August 1995, five Nuban women were sentenced to death for apostasy or abandoning Islam. In late 1995, ten persons were arrested for converting to Christianity.

China: Religious Persecution

  • Huang Fangxin is a 31 year old convicted criminal serving out a three year sentence in the laogai – Chinas infamous reform-through-labor camp. This criminal was found guilty of being the “ringleader of an illegal religous organization” that successfully witnessed Christianity to many Chinese university students. His “reeducation through labor” was for “disturbing the social order and normal religious life” and for “influencing the stability and unity of village life.”
  • Peter Yongze Xu, minister of a four million member “house church,” has been in hiding since 1991 after having been arrested while attending a Billy Graham crusade in China.
  • In March 1996, seventeen church members were arrested for attending an unlicenced church meetirg in western Xingiang province, a predominantly Muslim region. All but five women were eleased when responsibility was accepted for the illegal gathering. After admitting thel guilt, police severely beat the women, poured scalding water on them and sent them to prison.
  • The Far Eastern Economic Review reported on June 6, 1996, that “police has destroyed at least fifteen thousand unregistered temples, churches and tombs” between February and June 1996 in the Zhejiang province alone.

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