Although the year since the U.S. Congress passed the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) has brought little relief for the persecuted church, Christian advocates around the world still hail the act as a leap in the right direction.

The act, signed October 27, 1998, reformed U.S. foreign policy to promote religious freedom through incentives and sanctions. It set up the Commission on International Religious Freedom to investigate religious freedom violations and recommend policy to the president and Congress. IRFA created an at-large ambassadorship for religious freedom and establishes a special advisor to monitor persecution and write an extensive annual report on the state of religious freedom worldwide.

The U.S. president has options to use against violating countries that range from a diplomatic "wrist slap" to trade sanctions.

Religious liberty advocates believe that the IRFA has great potential to help suffering Christians, but that it's too soon to tell if it will make a lasting mark.

Related Elsewhere

See our earlier coverage of the IRFA:

"Religious Persecution Bill Encounters Stiff Resistance" (Oct. 5, 1998)

"Congress Approves Modified Religious Persecution Bill" (Nov. 16, 1998)

"Religious Freedom Report Released" (Oct. 25, 1999)

" 'America Legislates for the World!' Muslims respond to the U.S. State Department report on religious freedom" (Nov. 19, 1999)

See also the U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom and the text of the IRFA.