Legislation signed into law last week by United States President Barack Obama represents a much-needed step forward in the global effort to combat religious persecution, says the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s liaison to Washington, D.C.
Dwayne Leslie, an associate director of the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department for the Adventist world church, says the impact of the new law is potentially significant. It increases the emphasis on religious liberty issues within US foreign policy—such as requiring religious freedom training for all diplomatic officers, mandating tracking of religious repression around the world, and raising the status of the office of the Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom.
“In recent years, we’ve seen the devastation of Christian communities in the Middle East, along with increasing religious violence in so many parts of the world—from Nigeria, to Pakistan, to the countries of Central Asia,” says Leslie. “As Adventists, we believe that every person, regardless of where they live, has a right to worship or not to worship according to their conscience. This fundamental freedom is one that governments around the world have a responsibility to both recognize and protect.”
The passage of bill, known as the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, came in the final legislative moments of 2016 and was passed by unanimous consent by the US House of Representatives after earlier passage by the Senate. This was the last step in a five-year-long effort to pass the bill. President Obama signed the legislation into law on December 16. Continue reading