Like Gold Tested in Fire
When people wonder if events like the State Department’s ministerial work, the evidence is sitting right in front of them. This time last year, Pastor Andrew Brunson was locked away under house arrest in Turkey — his fate completely uncertain. In fact, one of the most enduring memories of last July’s gathering was his daughter, Jacqueline, making an emotional plea for his release. Twelve months later, it was Andrew speaking in front of the crowd — living proof that this administration’s commitment to religious freedom matters.
‘For me to be back with my wife and my children,“ Pastor Brunson said, still in awe, 'this is what I wanted.” 'It’s wonderful,“ he smiled, 'that I can be here in person and I’m free. And I’m very grateful for that.” So are the millions of people just like him, who take Andrew’s freedom as a sign that the United States will fight for them too. In his speech Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence credited God’s great kindness in bringing Pastor Brunson home, but I can personally attest from my involvement in Andrew’s release that the Vice President was right to say that it took a leader like Donald Trump to carry out the work.
'Pastor Brunson’s story of perseverance in the face of incredible hardship was an inspiration to people across our country and believers around the world,“ the vice president insisted. 'And we express our admiration to him from the bottom of our hearts [for] being an example of faith that is 'like gold tested in fire.’” As the world knows from watching the last three days, Pastor Brunson isn’t the only one with a powerful testimony. All week long, one survivor after another pulled at our hearts with agonizing stories that Secretary Mike Pompeo and Ambassador Sam Brownback are determined no one — on their watch — will repeat.
As the secretary told me on Washington Watch earlier in the week, ‘We don’t want this event to be a one-off where we all congratulate ourselves for having a good week here in Washington.“ This is about permanent, lasting change. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who spent years as a lonely voice in the wilderness for these millions of hurting people, knows how important the moment is. 'This is a game-changer,” he told me. No one can listen to these victims, who suffered unimaginable horrors, and go home unaffected. 'They [will] go back,“ he predicted, 'energized as never before to promote this First Freedom.” And that matters, because, as so many leaders have reiterated throughout the week, 'If [they] do get this right, so many of the other aspects of [their] country in terms of due process of law, other human rights are usually not far behind. This is the one that… make[s] all the difference in the world.“
And based on what the vice president shared, it already is. Since the 2018 ministerial, the Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response Program — helping the people of Nadia Murad and so many others — has donated more than $340 million in aid to religious minorities persecuted by ISIS in the Iraqi region. Pence also shared that the State Department also has more than $5 million dollars in pledges for the International Freedom Fund that’s given 435 'rapid-response grants” to people undergoing intense persecution.
But there are also new developments — significant ones for the 106 countries represented in Washington this week. To cap off the last day of the ministerial, Secretary Pompeo announced a new International Religious Freedom Alliance that will help give America’s partners a way to circumvent the bad actors at the U.N. and confront major challenges and enemies of faith. As he explains it, the alliance will focus on 'new sanctions against foreign military officials supporting countries the U.S. considers to be instigators of religious persecution.“
Which, interestingly enough, set the stage for America to dole out some stiff punishments of its own. To prove how serious U.S. officials are on the issue, Pompeo rolled out brand new sanctions on some of Myanmar’s top military officials for their gross abuse of the Rohingya Muslims. Religious freedom activists have been begging for targeted sanctions against the individuals responsible for persecution like this, and it rarely happens. So for the Trump administration to make a point of holdings this general and his three senior officers accountable is proof of how seriously it takes this new effort.
Also, in Iraq, where women like Nadia Murad, bravely crusade for the thousands of girls sold into sex slavery, the U.S. has just handed down equally stiff punishments for two Iraqi militia leaders and two former Iraqi governors for human rights abuses. In its statement, the U.S. Treasury Department pointed to a video that’s been circulated since 2018 of an Iraqi military officer cutting off the ear of a handcuffed detainee. That’s on top of crimes like extortion, robbery, kidnapping, and rape, and harassment.
The United States, Vice President Pence warned, will not stand by while violent regimes spread terror. 'We will hold them accountable.” And that, thanks to this week’s ministerial, is accelerating.
Originally published here.
In the Hate of the Moment
While the State Department was trying to stop religious hostility, one congresswoman was down the street trying to fuel it. In an eerie backdrop to the Trump administration’s ministerial, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) seemed determined to highlight the threat that exists right here at home — radical Democrats.
Omar, who hasn’t exactly been a friend to Israel, took her contempt to a new level this week when she introduced a new level of anti-Semitism into her congressional agenda. If she learned anything from her February scandal, when she demeaned the Jewish people and drew the ire of her own party, Omar hasn’t shown it. Instead, she’s doubled down on her obvious disdain for Israel with a resolution that would support the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
If you’re unfamiliar, the BDS movement that Omar is promoting is an effort reminiscent of what took place in Nazi Germany leading up to WWII. In 1933, the German government launched Judenboykott, a boycott of Jewish stores and shops designed to not only to hurt the Jewish community economically but to stigmatize and delegitimize the Jewish people. The BDS movement — whether stated or not — has the same effect only it is an international effort targeting the state of Israel.
The BDS movement is being done in the name of the Palestinians, attempting to force Israel to give up their land in the eastern portion of the country, Judea, and Samaria. The sad irony is that while targeting Israel, the movement is hurting many Arabs and Palestinians who are working side by side with Jewish residents in these communities. I’ve been to places like Ariel, which have thriving industrial parks that employ hundreds of Palestinians. The reality is, in those communities, Israel’s thriving economy is fostering a managed and sustainable peace that so many on the outside have promised through third-party intervention.
The criticism has been so overwhelming that CBS News invited the Minnesota congresswoman on its morning show to explain. “Would you like to make it clear that you’re not anti-Semitic?” Gayle King asked. “Oh, certainly not,” Omar said, smiling. “Yes.” “Would you like to make that clear?” King asked again. “Yes,” Omar repeated, a little more frustrated this time. “Oftentimes there are things that you might say, might not hold weight for you, but to someone else, right, the way that we hear and consume information is very different than how the next person might,” she explained.
Of course, to the Jewish people here and abroad, it’s more than what Omar has said (and that’s more than enough). It’s what she’s doing that speaks the loudest. Vice President Mike Pence, like most conservatives and reasonable Democrats, isn’t fooled. He knows this is part of a much deeper hatred, which, if it isn’t stopped now, has the potential to unleash a frightening new chapter in America. “Anti-Semitism is on the rise,” he warned at the ministerial. “In France and Germany, things have gotten so bad that Jewish religious leaders have warned their followers not to wear kippahs in public for fear that they could be violently attacked. And attacks on Jews, even on aged Holocaust survivors, are growing at an alarming rate.”
Then, in a direct nod at Omar, said, “Regrettably, the world’s oldest hatred has even found a voice in the halls of our United States Congress. So let me say it clearly: Anti-Semitism is not just wrong; it’s evil. And anti-Semitism must be confronted and denounced wherever and whenever it arises, and it must be universally condemned.” That’s a scary thought to most Americans, who assumed the U.S.’s new envoy to combat anti-Semitism wouldn’t be needed here at home.
But, as Noam Marans explained at a panel I joined at the ministerial, “Hate is an equal opportunity offender. It sometimes begins with Jews, but it never ends with Jews.” That’s why the U.S. Congress — and Democratic party in particular — needs to stand up and make it clear: this kind of dangerous prejudice won’t be tolerated. Irene Weiss, a Holocaust survivor, who spent eight months in Auschwitz sleeping next to the crematorium, understands all too well where this leads. “Day and night columns of young mothers with children, and elderly men and women, took their last steps as they passed by our barrack. We watched them enter the gate that led to the gas chamber.”
She thought no one could have possibly known such evil existed. “If they knew, surely they would stop it.” It turns out, world leaders knew about Auschwitz and the other extermination camps. “But the killing continued.” Seventy-years later, she said soberly, “Humanity’s vulnerability to the same forces of hate exists today.” And we cannot say we did not know.
Originally published here.
Remember Wen? Meet Planned Parenthood’s More Extreme Boss
Get used to the name Alexis McGill Johnson. The new interim president of Planned Parenthood is already making her media rounds, and one thing’s clear: she doesn’t suffer from the same anxieties as Leana Wen. She’s quite content making abortion a political issue — and a religious one.
The Christian Post met Johnson back in 2014 during a revealing interview about the intersection of faith and life. “We all recognize that abortion and terminating a pregnancy is a very complicated decision, but that issue needs to be left to a woman, her doctor, and her God — not a politician,” she insisted then. And as far as God is concerned, women have nothing to worry about, she argued. Planned Parenthood, she promised, has plenty of support from “female ministers” and other “members of faith.”
The Radiance Foundation’s Ryan Bomberger is equally troubled by Johnson’s criticism of the pro-life agenda. “I feel like it’s an assault on black women’s ability to make a decision,” she argued. But Johnson, Bomberger pushed back, as a multiracial woman, ought to know that her organization has aborted hundreds of thousands of future black women in its intentional targeting of minorities. But she claims that pro-lifers, who’ve done everything they can to expose the eugenics movement behind Planned Parenthood, are the “racist” ones.
Meanwhile, the editors at the Wall Street Journal are just as stunned. “Progressives are hurtling to the Left so fast that even liberals in good standing are casualties of the tornado. Witness the coup this week at Planned Parenthood, which is a tacit reminder that the group is less a health-care outfit than a political lobby.” Dr. Wen, they shake their head, was pushed out of the group because she wasn’t radical enough on abortion. But, they remind everyone, “Dr. Wen wasn’t moderate or timid about abortion.”
“The coup reveals the dishonesty of Planned Parenthood’s requests for public funding. The outfit demands taxpayer money in the name of health services for women but then sacks its doctor president because she wasn’t political enough. The group claims abortion is only part of its portfolio even as it acts like it is Planned Parenthood’s singular purpose.
Planned Parenthood ought to drop the pretense and rely on private funding like other lobbies. There is no shortage of rich liberals. Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg told the Huffington Post last month that she was donating $1 million to Planned Parenthood’s advocacy arm, not her first large donation. American taxpayers who disagree with Planned Parenthood’s message should not have to underwrite a political shop that lobbies for abortion up to the last minute before birth.”
To that I say, Amen!
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.