By Mark Tooley
Recently, U.S. Representative Frank R. Wolf (R-VA) wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urging the State Department not to block legislation on the creation of a special envoy to focus on persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia. Introduced by Wolf and U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), the bipartisan bill, H.R. 440, to establish such a position passed overwhelmingly (402-20) in July 2011. But the legislation is being held up in the Senate by Foreign Relations Committee member Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) at the request of the State Department.
Wolf has a special passion for the persecuted. He and U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) were the first Western government officials ever allowed to enter a Soviet political labor camp. In 1989 they visited the notorious Perm Camp 35 in the Ural Mountains and met with 23 political prisoners and dissidents. In succeeding years Wolf has championed the human rights of the persecuted and oppressed from China to Sudan. His tenacious appeal for an intercessor for vulnerable populations in the increasingly Islamized Middle East and South Central Asia is just the latest of many fights for global justice and religious freedom that are now related in his autobiography, Prisoner of Conscience: One Man’s Crusade for Global Human and Religious Rights.
In the October 25, 2012 letter to Clinton, Wolf warned that “time was running out — both in terms of the legislative calendar for this year and in terms of the plight of these communities.” Both the House-passed legislation and companion bill introduced by Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Carl Levin (D-MI) are “languishing in the Senate.” The congressman, co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, noted that the introduction of the bill “pre-dated the so-called ‘Arab Spring,’” but that “the dramatic changes in the region over the year have only made these communities more vulnerable.”
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