The persecution of Christians in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East should be one of the major issues in the 2014 and 2016 political campaigns, says U.S. congressman Frank Wolf.
"This ought to be the human rights issue for the 21st century. You look around the world and, for some reason, every time you go to these places, they always say 'Why isn't the church in the West advocating for us?'" the Virginia Republican told Newsmax TV's John Bachman on "America's Forum" Friday.
"For instance, Pastor Abedini, I mean, this administration won't even meet with Pastor Abedini's wife," Wolf said, referring to Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American Christian pastor imprisoned in Iran.
"You take Pakistan. They gunned down Shahbaz Bhatti, who was the Catholic member of the cabinet. The administration wouldn't help to get him a bulletproof car. You see what's taking place in Syria. You have radical jihadists. You have some from the United States who have gone over there. Fifty to 70 Americans are fighting with the jihadis there.
In Iraq, the Christian community has gone down from 1.5 million in 2003 to about 250- 300,000 now. And more Christian activity took place in Iraq than any other country of the world other than Israel. The Christian Church is being slaughtered. It is going through a very difficult time. The Coptic Christians in Egypt are having a very, very difficult time," Wolf explained.
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He went on to condemn the Obama administration's lack of action on the issue. "There is a religious freedom ambassador post that this administration has left vacant for months.
"They haven't appointed anybody. Secondly, I have a bill that passed the House 401 to 20 -- 401 to 20 -- and is now over in the Senate to set up a special envoy to advocate for Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. This administration is opposed to it. And so you do not have them advocating and speaking out the way it used to be," he said.
"And, frankly, as you know, during the Reagan years and during the Jimmy Carter years, they advocated, they spoke out. And when you talk to religious leaders in these countries, they do not understand why America is not speaking out for them now. "
Wolf, who has represented Virginia's 10th congressional district since 1981 and announced in December that he is retiring after 17 terms, revealed that there will be a conference on the global plight of Christians on Capitol Hill in May.
"We had a big meeting yesterday with [international human rights lawyer] Nina Shea and many of the orthodox and the Armenians and many of the churches that are in that area to bring together the faith community here in the United States for a call to action, because the churches in the West must advocate for those who are being persecuted in the Middle East. Otherwise, during your lifetime, by the time you die, the Middle East will be emptied of Christians. The cradle of Christianity will no longer have any Christians," he said.
As for the situation in Ukraine, Wolf said that once again the Obama administration is failing to stop repression. "There's deafening silence. They are being abused. The president has to speak out. Now, in fairness, at the Prayer Breakfast in the first week of February, the president gave a very good speech. He surprised a lot of people. They have to follow through on that. They have to put a special envoy ambassador who's very strong and very tough."
"Secondly, they have to embrace the bill that passed the House and let it pass the Senate quickly to have a special envoy to advocate for Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. But the White House has to get involved," he added.
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