WASHINGTON -- A U.S. congressman is pushing legislation to make international religious freedom a greater priority at the State Department.
Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., said that with Christians and religious minorities suffering around the globe, the religious freedom must be brought to the forefront.
When Wolf created the Office of International Religious Freedom in 1988, he said it was a dominant issue.
At the time, President Ronald Reagan was an international force to be reckoned with, who considered the words of the U.S. Constitution to be a covenant with the rest of the world.
But Wolf said concern for religious freedom has since diminished.
"In Iraq, where more Biblical activity took place than any other country other than Israel, the Iraqi Christians are going through a very difficult time," he said.
"They speak the same language as Jesus," Wolf noted. "Daniel is buried there. Babylon, Abraham is from Iraq. Esther is from Iraq. People just don't really focus, and now you're finding Iraqi Christians gunned down."
Among other things, Wolf's legislation would:
- Require religious freedom training for all Foreign Service officers.
- Strengthen the "countries of particular concern" designation process for nations that deny religious freedom.
- Elevate the international religious freedom ambassador so he or she reports directly to the Secretary of State.
New York City pastor, Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, has just been tapped by President Obama for the position of the international religious freedom ambassador. As Wolf pointed out, she's walking onto a volatile world stage.
"I mean, in Pakistan, they gunned down the only Christian member of the cabinet, Shavez Bhatti," Wolf said. "They gunned him down."
"You have a Christian woman in Pakistan in jail for blasphemy, and yet we're just shoveling the money into Pakistan," Wolf said.
Johnson Cook will be tasked with identifying countries that persecute people of faith. Those countries will then be subject to U.S. sanctions.
"When a country has human rights and religious freedom, they're generally a democratic country," Wolf told CBN News. "They're generally a country that you're not at war with, you're not arguing with, you're not fighting with."
Wolf said he intends to write every Republican candidate running for president a letter, urging them to make human rights and religious freedom a priority.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has been pushing China to improve the state of religious freedom there.
The communist nation requires churches to register with the government. Unregistered house churches and their leaders are subject to harassment and persecution. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., is currently holding hearings on the issue.
CBN News Washington Correspondent John Jessup talked more about the push for religious freedoms around the world, on Christian World News, May 13. Click play for his comments, following this report.