The following is taken from remarks to be made by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) at the Persecuted Church Forum sponsored by Rep. Robert Pittenger in Charlotte, North Carolina. March 7, 2016.
It is a special honor join two of the undisputed champions of global religious freedom, Congressman Robert Pittenger and Congressman Frank Wolf, for this important conference.
A he did in the North Carolina Senate, Robert has brought his intense love for Jesus Christ and love of neighbor, devotion to Biblical principles and commitment to sound policy to the U.S. House of Representatives. In a Capitol seething with bitterness, selfishness, excessive partisanship and chaos, Robert radiates Christ to friend and foe alike, preferring the road less taken, solutions to American and world problems.
Robert takes our Lord’s admonishment in Matthew 25 —”whatsoever you do unto the least of these, you do unto Me” — to all persecuted believers and takes caring for the weakest and most vulnerable to at risk persons anywhere and everywhere including child abuse victims.
Robert is the prime author of the new federal law known as the Kilah Davenport Child Protection Act of 2013 and said after its passage:
“What is wrong with our society that children should be treated so brutally? Let us pause to remember sweet Kilah, her beautiful smile, and her brave fight against the horrific injuries she suffered at the hands of her stepfather. Let us also remember Kirbi, Leslie, and Brian Davenport, who sacrificed so much to care for Kilah and who have worked tirelessly to end child abuse. . . . Our children are precious.”
Precious in our sight, infinitely precious in the Lord’s.
Congressman Frank Wolf and I are part of the Ronald Reagan congressional class of 1980. Through three and a half decades as a Member of Congress and now as Baylor University’s Wilson Chair in Religious Freedom, Frank has poured his life into personally rescuing persecuted believers while writing laws and appropriating funds to end religious persecution.
In 1981, both Frank and I read Pastor Richard Wurmbrand’s book —Tortured for Christ — and were inspired by this remarkable man and his wife Sabina’s overcoming faith. Both endured prison and unspeakable torture. Pastor Wurmbrand’s passionate challenge to Christians then—and now — to pray and fight for the underground church and all persecuted believers can’t be easily ignored or trivialized.
Other books by Pastor Wurmbrand — often called the “Iron Curtain St. Paul” — including his book Marx and Satan opened my eyes to the utter depravity and satanic bedrock of communism and it’s violent, obsessive anti-Semitism and hatred of Christians. He quotes Marx and Engels extensively. “I am great like God” Marx wrote. “I clothe myself in darkness like him. . . . This heaven I’ve forfeited, I know it full well, my soul once true to God, is chosen for hell.”
It was always the “evil darkness” story throughout the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact nations, Romania, North Korea and China. Anywhere communism exists, its leaders hate God and persecutes believers. Communism was — is — as the 1970 Nobel Literature Prize winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote “militantly atheistic”— they don’t deny God’s existence as much as they hate Him.
In a small Beijing apartment in 1994 I met Bishop Su Zhimin, a Catholic Bishop who has spent some 40 years in prison for his faith. Bishop Su told me after celebrating Mass that he harbored absolutely no malice or animosity towards those who mistreated him. With bright clear eyes and a gentle smile, he said he prayed for his jailors and torturers. He forgave them. And it was clear that this bishop’s heart broke for other incarcerated believers. Yet despite it all, he had what St. Paul said God promises to believers: “a peace that surpasses all understanding.”
Tragically, for simply meeting with me, Bishop Su was rearrested and interrogated for nine days. A few years later he was arrested again on bogus charges and sent to prison. A new appeal from his family for his release, even information about his current whereabouts, is he still alive, was made on his behalf by his family this past January.
Throughout China, religious leaders and believers heroically live the tenants of their faith with integrity and passion no matter the negative personal consequences. Frank Wolf and I have seen it in the House Church Movement, ever faithful and courageous.
Congressional Pittenger and I serve on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. The Commission issues an Annual Report—the most comprehensive, well-researched, well-documented report on China’s human rights record in the world.
Last year’s report concluded that the Chinese government and Communist Party efforts to silence dissent, suppress religious freedom, crush human rights advocacy, control civil society, academic freedom, and the Internet were broader in scope than at any other period since the Commission started issuing Annual Reports in 2002.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has instituted a new crackdown on believers summed up by this March 4th headline: “China’s crackdown continues as Christianity thrives. . . . Even state-sanctioned churches feel the government’s wrath.”
Now, even pastors and congregations who have submitted to state-sanction are being investigated, harassed and arrested. Crosses are being removed from the small number of churches permitted to exist and some state-sanctioned churches have been demolished.
I was in Shanghai two weeks ago and gave a keynote speech on human rights at NYU/Shanghai University. I met with religious leaders in the city. They are deeply concerned. President Xi has called for the Sinofication of all religion in China: no contact with believers outside of China and all religious organizations totally subservient to the Chinese Communist Party. Plans are reportedly underway for a major conference to launch this newest attack on believers.
Since the early 1980s, I have met many Chinese women including many Christian women who have been horribly victimized by China’s barbaric population control policy. Forced abortion and involuntary sterilization are commonplace. Most brothers and sisters are illegal. All unwed moms are forced to abort.
At one congressional hearing I chaired in 2009 for example, a Chinese college student named Wujuan, an unwed mother, said that she was brought to a hospital against her will and testified that “as soon as I was taken out of the van, I saw hundreds of pregnant moms there, all of them just like pigs in the slaughterhouse . . . the room was full of moms who had just gone through a forced abortion. Some moms were crying. Some moms were screaming, and one mom was rolling on the floor in unbearable pain . . . then it was my turn . . . it was the end of the world for me…when the surgery was finished, the nurse showed me part of my baby’s bloody foot with her tweezers.” Wujuan contemplated suicide.
The great human rights defender Chen Guangchen defended women from coercive population control in a class action lawsuit in Linyi and received a harsh prison sentence followed by house arrest for his noble deeds. Chen’s daring escape to the U.S. embassy in Beijing is legendary. Today he and his equally courageous wife Weijing continue in the United States to push for reform in China.
The need to help post abortive women in the United States and China is extremely compelling. The physical, psychological and spiritual damage suffered by women is real. Dr. Alveda King—niece of the great civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King—has had two abortions but is now pro-life and a leader of a healing ministry for post abortive women. The need for post-abortive healing is universal, and women around the world are suffering. According to the Chinese CDC, for example, approximately 600 Chinese women commit suicide every day. Not every week, or month, but every day—that’s how broken they are. It’s not difficult to infer that many of these suicide victims have suffered the cruelty of coercion.
Two weeks ago, I chaired a hearing on gendercide, the extermination of the girl-child through sex selection abortion. One witness, Chai Ling, one of the student heroes of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests, and now a Christian, spoke eloquently about her organization called All Girls Allowed and the many Chinese mothers inside China who have heeded the All Girls Allowed appeal and given birth to daughters who otherwise would have been aborted. Those stories of little girls being saved are breathtaking, and miraculous. Chai Ling is motivated by her love for Jesus and she and her team pray unceasingly for the victims and reform
An additional word on the tens of millions of missing girls of China today.
One of many devastating consequences of female gendercide is the historic, unprecedented skewed male/female ratio. Chinese demographers predict that tens of millions of men now and into the future will never find a wife to love and cherish and build a family—because tens of millions of women who should be alive today don’t exist.
The missing girls have also incentivized an ever-expanding magnate for human sex-traffickers. Today, pimps are making fortunes selling women as commodities because of the missing girls. As the prime author of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, and three other anti-human trafficking laws—all of which established strategies that include sheltering, asylum and other protections for the victims, long jail sentences and asset confiscation for the traffickers, and tough sanctions for governments that fail to meet standards, I am deeply concerned that unless the Chinese government ends coercive abortion and gendercide, human sex trafficking will exponentially worsen in the foreseeable future.
Allow me a word about Frank Wolf’s landmark International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. This law has made an enormous difference.
The Wolf law established a religious freedom office within the U.S. Department of State, requires publication of annual religious freedom assessments of every nation of the world and requires the administration to designate countries with egregiously flawed records as “Countries of Particular Concern” or CPC countries.
“Particularly severe” violations of religious freedom are defined in the law as “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom, including violations such as torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; prolonged detention without charges; causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction or clandestine detention of those persons or other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty or the security of persons.”
The law authorizes the Secretary of State to impose any one or more of 18 specific sanctions on CPC countries—from a simple demarche to withholding economic or military funds. When implemented faithfully, it conveys to bad actors that the United States is absolutely serious about religious freedom, especially the victims of persecution.
Often forgotten is how strongly the Bill Clinton Administration opposed enactment of the International Religious Freedom Act back in the late 90s.
At one hearing I chaired on the Wolf bill, the top Clinton appointee for human rights, Assistant Secretary John Shattuck, testified against the legislation and made the outrageously bogus argument that it would somehow diminish other human rights concerns.
In the end, prayer and the skillful tenacity of Chairman Wolf prevailed and the bill was signed into law by . . . Bill Clinton.
However, implementation of the law hit a serious snag during much of the Obama years. For several years, the Obama Administration inexplicably and with no explanation, refused to designate CPCs or to even fill the top position of Ambassador-at-Large in the state department office of religious freedom, an agonizing three-and-a-half-year vacancy. I held several hearings and pressed the administration repeatedly to simply enforce the law on both CPC designation and name an ambassador to the leaderless office. At least now, Rabbi David Saperstein today serves as Ambassador-at-Large.
Meanwhile, in the coming weeks, we’re pushing for the House to take up a bill sponsored by Congressman Pittenger and I appropriately titled the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act which will provide the U.S. government with additional resources and tools including a new religious freedom defense fund to assist persecuted individuals and communities with legal expertise.
The bill will also empower the State Department to create a list of individuals by country who persecute and abuse believers to better target individualized sanctions including rendering such abusers inadmissible to the United States.
Last December, we got reliable inside information that the Obama administration was poised to exclude Christians in Syria from a genocide designation, and name only the Yazidis. I put together an emergency religious freedom hearing on December 9th to counter this unconscionable omission.
One witness, Professor Gregory H. Stanton, President of Genocide Watch said: “Weak words are not enough. Failure to call ISIS’ mass murder of Christians, Shia Muslims, and other groups in addition to Yazidis by its proper name, genocide, would be an act of denial as grave as U.S. refusal to recognize the Rwandan genocide in 1994”
Another witness Chaldean Bishop Francis Kalabat testified and said:
“I wish to note that the Obama administration including President Obama himself, have neglected to mention that the ISIS atrocities were committed against Christians. They rightly mention atrocities committed in Iraq against the Yezidis, and they are horrific. But there are also atrocities of rape, killings, crucifixions (for Christians), beheadings, hangings that the Syrian and Iraqi Christians have endured and they are intentionally omitted. This they do to their shame.”
In a televised congressional hearing two weeks ago, I asked Secretary Kerry about the genocide designation and quoted those three powerful testimonials to the Secretary of State. His response was that he was concerned and studying it.
Last week the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted for a resolution pressing the President to designate the systematic destruction of Christians, Yazidis, and some other minority faiths by ISIS as genocide.
Frank Wolf spoke of Nigeria and the cruelty of Boko Haram earlier today. On one trip to Nigeria, I travelled to Jos, a city where several churches had been firebombed. I spoke and prayed for hours with clergy and survivors mourning the dead. At an IDP camp in Jos, I met Habila Adamu, a Christian from Yobe state in Northern Nigeria. On November 28, 2012, gunmen came to his home at around 11:00 pm.
After demanding that he renounce Jesus Christ and convert to Islam, a Boko Haram terrorist shot Habila, and left him for dead. I was so in awe of his courage and faith, I asked Habila to testify at a congressional hearing in Washington. He did. On November 13, 2013, he told the committee:
“The gunmen ordered me to come out with my family. And when I came out, they ordered my family to go back, and my wife begged them not to harm me. They said she should go back, because they were here to do the work of Allah. When I heard that, I knew that they were here to kill me.
“And my wife brought money to them and begged them not to harm me, they collected the money and they also collected our cell phones. They asked me for the key of the door, and I gave it. One of them opened the door another two more people come inside, making them four in my house with Ak47. They asked for my name and I told them, Habila Adamu. They asked if I am a member of Nigeria Police, I said no. Are you a Nigeria soldier? I said no. You are a member of the state security service (SSS), I said no, I told them that I am a business man. ‘Okay, are you a Christian?’ I said I am a Christian. They asked me why are we preaching the message of Mohammed to you and you refuse to accept Islam. I told them I am a Christian, we are also preaching the gospel of true God to you and other people that are not yet to know God. They asked me if I mean we Christians know God. And I told them we know God and that is why I preach the good news to other people that do not know God.
“Then they asked me, ‘Habila, are you ready to die as a Christian?’ I told them, ‘I am ready to die as a Christian.’ For the second time, they asked me, ‘Are you ready to die as a Christian? and I told them, ‘I am ready,’ but before I closed my mouth, they have fired me through my nose ( the entering point) and the bullet came out through the back. I fell on the ground. The gunmen thought I was already dead because they stomped on me two times and discovered I was dead, and cried out ‘Allah Akbar’ (God is Great). Also my wife thought I was dead, she is crying, while crying she said many things, she said let God give her the heart that she can stand to the end like what I did, let God give my children the heart that they may stand in their faith. When she continues saying all those things, I told her that I am alive. She said that but even though you are alive, the way you are bleeding, you will not survive. And I told her that even though I will die I have a message to everyone that will hear my story after I leave this world that ‘to live in this world is to live for Christ, to die is a gain’ that is my message.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn in the famous 1993 lecture, “Godlessness: the First Step to the Gulag,” pleaded with us to more fully recognize and reverse an existential threat to America. He said:
“As a survivor of the Communist Holocaust I am horrified to witness how my beloved America, my adopted country, is gradually being transformed into a secularist and atheistic utopia, where communist ideals are glorified and promoted, while Judeo-Christian values and morality are ridiculed and increasingly eradicated from the public and social consciousness of our nation. Under the decades-long assault and militant radicalism of many so-called “liberal” and “progressive” elites, God has been progressively erased from our public and educational institutions, to be replaced with all manner of delusion, perversion, corruption, violence, decadence, and insanity.
“But it is during trials such as these,” Solzhenitsyn concludes “that the highest gifts of the human spirit are manifested. If we perish and lose this world, the fault will be ours alone.”
You and I must never forget God nor should we ever cease striving to do “His will on earth as it is in Heaven,” lest we perish and lose this world and even our souls in the process.