Christian Persecution

One Year Later, Obama Administration’s Top Religious Freedom Post Still Vacant
Thursday, January 21, 2010
By Patrick Goodenough, International Editor

A Nigerian soldier stands in the remains of a building in the city of Jos, destroyed in fighting between Christians and Muslims that cost more than 200 lives this week. (AP Photo)

( year after President Obama took office, the administration’s top international religious freedom post remains empty, at a time when a wave of religious persecution is troubling veteran campaigners.

“President Obama has not yet named an ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom,” a State Department press officer confirmed by phone late Wednesday. She referred further queries to the White House, where attempts to get comment were unsuccessful.

The Christian advocacy organization Open Doors USA launched a

petition Wednesday urging Obama to appoint an ambassador immediately, saying that leaving the position unfilled violated U.S. law.

“By not having an ambassador-at-large for the past 12 months, the U.S. has failed to demonstrate the importance of religious freedom,” said advocacy director Lindsay Vessey.

“And considering the many religious conflicts around the world and the many Christians and people of other faiths who are persecuted for their beliefs, it is disappointing that President Obama has failed to fill this position,” she added.

The petition says it is imperative that the U.S. has an ambassador-at-large and urges the president to appoint, as quickly as possible, “an individual with a proven history of commitment to the promotion of international religious freedom.”

Religious freedom campaigners have noted a surge in incidents of violence against Christians in particular over the past two months.

Barnabas Fund, a charity helping Christians in Islamic societies, drew attention to attacks – including fatal shootings, bombings, assaults, arson attacks, threats and arrests – in Iraq, Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan, Algeria, Egypt, Malaysia and, most recently, Nigeria, where clashes between Muslims and Christians this week have reportedly cost several hundred lives.

Even though the Christmas and New Year season often sees anti-Christian violence in parts of the world, Barnabas Fund international director Patrick Sookhdeo said he was shocked by the scale and widespread nature of the recent incidents.

“I cannot remember such a spate of attacks on our brothers and sisters happening in my lifetime,” he said Wednesday.

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