WASHINGTON, April 20, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More than 50 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), scholars, religious leaders, and human rights advocates sent a letter urging President Obama to swiftly fill the vacant post of Special Envoy for Religious Minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia. Despite the President signing a law in August 2014 creating this position, he has yet to appoint the Special Envoy.
This envoy, subject to direction by the President and the Secretary of State, is to represent the United States in matters and cases relevant to religious freedom for imperiled religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia. The Special Envoy's duties would include promoting religious freedom, monitoring religious intolerance, and denouncing rights violations.
"A senior diplomat at the State Department focused exclusively on protecting and preserving these ancient faith communities is long overdue," said former Congressman Frank R. Wolf. "The crisis facing Christians and other vulnerable religious minorities in countries like Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Iran cannot be overstated. It is time for the president to follow through on his signature. There is no good reason not to appoint a Special Envoy."
The newly-formed 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative spearheaded the effort to send the NGO letter to the President. Forty-three members of Congress sent a similar bicameral bipartisan letter last week asking the President to fill the position and highlighting the bleak situation facing religious minorities throughout the region, foremost among them Christians and Yezidis, who have been violently targeted by the Islamic State.
The congressional letter was led by Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Randy Forbes (R-VA), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).
"Congressman Wolf and I met with representatives from the suffering Christian and Yezidi communities in Iraq," said Randel Everett, President and Founder of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. "They repeatedly told us that they felt abandoned by the West—both policymakers and faith leaders. The simple act of filling this post would send a clear signal that the United States recognizes the gravity of the situation."
SOURCE 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative