Religious freedom and democracy hang in the balance for Iraq's 22 million people. According to some estimates, since the 1970s the nation's Christian population has dropped to 600,000—a precipitous decline. Saddam Hussein donated pipe organs to Baghdad churches, but he deprived Iraqi Christians of a more important gift: spiritual freedom.
Full religious freedom for Iraq is not negotiable. If the Bush administration is unable to follow through with the necessary influence to protect these emerging freedoms, our costly military victory will be incomplete.
We are worried about religious freedom in Iraq on several fronts. The Bush administration's track record on religious freedom has been weak, especially in Afghanistan and Sudan. About 18 months after the U.S.-led coalition liberated Afghanistan, Christians and other religious minorities are facing new threats.
For example, the new Afghan government is writing a constitution. But reliable sources believe the current draft does not include strong protections for non-Muslims' religious expression. International relief groups are retreating to the relative safety of Kabul, the capital, because militant Muslims are targeting relief workers. Since last November, militants have killed an Afghan worker for Mercy Corps and assassinated a staff member of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Civilian monitors in Sudan have testified that the Muslim-dominated Khartoum government is violating the American-negotiated ceasefire that was designed to protect Sudanese Christians and others in the south. The Bush administration should stiffen its spine—by imposing tough sanctions before the end of 2003 in accordance with the Sudan Peace Act—if Sudan's government won't stop killing and ...1
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