In North Korea, Christians meet secretly or else they suffer imprisonment. In northern Nigeria, some Christians have been subjected to Islamic Shari'ah law, which punishes violators with amputation, floggings, and stoning. In countries all over the world, men and women of all manner of religions are victimized because of what they believe. What exactly should we do about it?

Among human-rights advocates, two strikingly divergent opinions have emerged. One side is represented by Robert Seiple, former U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. In October 2002 he wrote an essay for

Among other things, he contrasted the approaches of the U.S. State Department and that of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom: "One is based on quiet diplomacy; the other, public finger pointing. One works with governments; the other castigates governments from afar. One lights candles, if you will, and the other feels obligated to curse the darkness."

As for himself, Seiple concludes, "I have never been comfortable with the 'punishing' approach. While it may appeal to our public machismo at home, it rarely moves the ball forward abroad. Sanctions, especially unilateral sanctions, have a checkered career at best, sometimes creating a negative blowback on those we are attempting to help."

After some key leaders took exception to Seiple's views, Christianity Today invited two longtime religious-rights advocates to make their cases.

This article, written by Michael Horowitz, is the debate's first essay. Also read T. Jeremy Gunn's piece.

Lives are at stake. Remarkably, Robert Seiple argues that the world's persecuted believers, most of whom are Christians, can best be helped through "quiet diplomacy" ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.