Although 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."It is an excellent thing for religious liberty," says Philippe Serradji, president of the Theological Institute of Nîmes, France. The seminary has been under pressure since the French government named evangelical churches to a list of "dangerous cults," Serradji says. Evangelicals remain on France's cult list, but Serradji believes the IRFA will benefit them. "If the law is on my side, I can say [to the government], 'if you do this [against evangelicals], there are repercussions.'"The act, which President Clinton signed on October 27, 1998, reformed U.S. foreign policy to promote religious freedom through incentives and sanctions. The Commission on International Religious Freedom, created by the act, released its first annual report last fall. But so far, some feel the IRFA has done little to help persecuted Christians. Responses to IRFA vary by country:


Lawyer Marvin Kramer serves on the Messianic Action Committee, which fights efforts to restrict freedom of religion. Kramer says the Knesset, Israel's legislative body, is considering more anti-Christian legislation. Under the proposed law, Christians who invite non-Christians to a church service or prayer meeting would risk five years in prison. "It would not appear that the International Religious Freedom Act has had any impact on life here," he says.


The IRFA's 1999 report includes seemingly minor statements that may negatively affect at least one country that actively persecutes Christians. "It's not a complete report," says Egyptian Nagi Kheir, spokesman for the ...

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