Anniversaries are so commonplace in Washington, D.C., that an event seldom gets remembered five or ten years later, unless it made a vivid mark on the national memory. The tragedy of 9/11, of course, is a leading example.
But the year 2006 also marked the passing of a decade of highly significant events involving American perceptions of religious freedom worldwide. In January 1996, the National Association of Evangelicals convened Christian leaders in Washington to focus fresh attention on the plight of suffering brothers and sisters around the world. The stories they heard were not newpersecution of Christians in countries from China to Saudi Arabia, from Pakistan to North Korea.
What was different about the original 1996 meeting was that it had been sparked not by an evangelical, but by a Jew, Michael Horowitz, whose knowledge of Christian persecution came from an Ethiopian refugee living in his house.
Horowitz is an exceptional organizer and, as a former official in the Reagan administration, the possessor of a thick Washington Rolodex. He could not be discounted as just another fundamentalist bleating away about Christian things. The January meeting, moreover, was not a one-off event. In April 1996, congressmen Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Chris Smith, R-N.J., wrote to the Clinton White House and asked why it had backed off on commitments to appoint a special adviser on religious freedom.
People started taking notice, and the movement gathered steam. That fall, there occurred what is now an annual event firmly established on church calendars throughout the U.S. and the world: the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP). IDOP has recruited thousands of American churches to participate in events drawing ...1
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