Editorial: Progress for the Persecuted
It's working! In response to the National Association of Evangelicals' January 1996 Statement of Conscience, the Clinton administration appointed a panel of 20 religious leaders charged with "increasing the flow of information to the U.S. government concerning the conditions of religious minorities facing persecution around the world." That committee is having its effect.
When the panel was named in November 1996, many had deep doubts about its potential since the White House had slipped from a back-channel commitment to appoint a special adviser to the President on persecution of Christians to the appointment of a multifaith panel charged with monitoring religious persecution. The lines of authority had shifted from the White House (which had shown concern about persecution) to the State Department (which had seemed deaf to the problem). Besides, the appointees included a representative of the National Council of Churches, which had in the past refused to recognize persecution in China.
Frankly, the proposed committee looked like a media-relations effort to co-opt the issue rather than an empowered task force to address a crisis. But after evangelical and Catholic activists evaluated key factors (such as budget, staff, timetable, and lines of reporting), they took the risk.
One of the first cases the committee dealt with has now been favorably resolved. Last February, on the first day the committee met, NAE President Don Argue, a member of the committee, presented a brief to the State Department on the plight of Bob and Heidi Fu, house-church leaders who had fled mainland China for Hong Kong, but were trapped there as Chinese rule over the British colony approached. Apparently the U.S. consulate general there was giving political ...