U.S. Religious Freedom Post Vacant Amid Attacks

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More than one year into the Obama presidency, the nation is still without an ambassador for religious freedom.

The White House told CBN News, "the president is committed to filling this post with the most qualified person."

Christian leaders say an appointment is needed immediately as religious persecution is on the rise.

So far, 2010 is off to a violent and bloody start for Christians around the world.

Jan. 7 in Egypt, militant Muslims attacked Christians as they gathered for midnight worship on the Coptic Christmas Eve. Eight worshippers were killed by a barrage of machine gun fire in the town of Naj Hammadi and at least 10 others were injured.

CBN News spoke with Richard Land, who's written a letter to the Obama administration urging them to fill the religious freedom ambassador position.  Click play for his comments following Gary Lane's report.

Christians around the world gathered in protest recently in Washington, D.C.

"We need protection from the world," one attendee said. "I cry out to the world. Help us. We are in need of help."

Half a world away, angry Malaysian Muslims went on a rampage following a court ruling allowing Christians to use the word 'Allah' in their publications.

Islamists argued the Arabic reference to God was exclusive to Islam. They responded by attacking at least eight church buildings.

In Somalia, where government forces engaged in deadly battles against Islamic militants, a group known as al-Shabaab killed an Islamic convert to Christianity. The 41-year-old led a secret house church on the outskirts of the capital city of Mogadishu.

Also in northern Nigeria, Muslim teens attacked a Catholic church and burned 19 church buildings in the city of Jos.

Two pastors and 46 Christians were confirmed killed. Christians retaliated and police say at least 300 people were killed in the violence.

In 1998, Congress established the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to advise the state department about countries that abuse religious liberties. It also calls for an ambassador to investigate and represent the country on those issues.

Now, groups that fight persecution are pressing the Obama administration to fill the empty position.

USCIRF commissioner member Richard Land and other advocates have sent a letter expressing their concerns to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

They said "immediate attention" is required because of "many serious religious tensions throughout the world."

*Originally published February 3, 2010.

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