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October Newsletter
Religious Freedom Coalition
October 6, 2003 1:18PM EST


The week of September 15, 2003 I attended and spoke at a conference on religious freedom in Brussels, Belgium. The conference was sponsored by the Institute on Religion and Public Policy (IRPP). The chairman of IRPP is Joe Greiboski, who is a graduate of Georgetown University and an expert on national security. The White House frequently asks Joe Greiboski to do research and prepare papers on national security issues. Thus, it was extremely significant that the IRPP called for an Interparliamentary Conference On Human Rights and Religious Freedom to be held in the European Parliament Building.

Parliamentarians, that is members of parliaments, from around the world were in attendance. In some cases members of embassy staff came on behalf of their nations. In addition, various organizations with an interest in religious freedom, such as the Religious Freedom Coalition were in attendance. Other organizations included Christian Solidarity Worldwide which has worked so hard to end the slaughter of Christians in Islamic Sudan.

Not every nation was represented in this first conference which was voted by those attending to become an annual event. Several former Soviet Republics such as Tajikistan and Kazakhstan sent members of their parliaments, which was somewhat of a surprise considering situations these new nations face. In the case of some nations, legislators did not come; however, a church or organization represented them. For example, in the case of Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church sent a representative. Some of their perspectives were unique and I will cover those further.

Representatives of Islamic nations attended principally to defend their nations’ lack of religious freedom, or in some cases simply to fabricate events. For example, the Egyptian delegation insisted that there is total separation of church and state in Egypt and further that there is no religious persecution at all. My contacts in the Coptic Church tell me differently. Just a few months ago the government bulldozed a brand new church on the day it was to open. Just before arriving in Brussels I read commentaries in the official Egyptian government press claiming once again that the 9-11 jihad attack on the United States was organized by Israeli Intelligence for the purpose of propaganda against Arab nations. Those same newspapers had extreme anti-American and anti-Semitic articles.

Representing the United States was Todd Deatherage from our State Department. Deatherage came directly to the meeting from an official trip to Saudi Arabia. Quoting from George Washington’s farewell address to the American people, he made the point that the denial of one freedom leads to the denial of others. This was a theme repeated by all those from democratic nations. Indeed those nations who repress religious rights, particularly religious minorities, usually refuse other freedoms to their peoples as well. Often, a single religion, such as Islam, is given broad semi-official government authority. In return for that power the religious authorities assist in the repression of other rights.

Saudi Arabia is a prime example of the latter. There are virtually no codified laws in Saudi Arabia. The Royal family simply makes up rules as it goes along. People are arrested without warrant and many times sentenced to long prison terms with no trial. Often people are tortured by the official religious police or the government police. Often people die in custody.

However, denial of religious freedom is not limited to Islamic nations. The Russian Orthodox priest mentioned above presented an argument that only "traditional" religions should have an official status with government because "new" religions could be a threat to society. In Russia many evangelical denominations have been outlawed at the request of the Orthodox church, out of fear of their growth and influence. Laws have been passed making "official registration" of a "new" religion virtually impossible. For years the Salvation Army was denied official status in Russia as an example.

Law professor and international religious freedom expert Dr. Cole Durham presented a Power Point intended to teach the basics of religious freedom to members of parliaments who attended. Like Todd Deatherage from the State Department he clearly stated that, "Where religious freedom is sacrificed, all other rights are in jeopardy." He estimated that as many as 3 billion people in the world do not have true religious freedom and that about 1 million are in jail because of their religious beliefs.

On September 17th I served on a panel addressing the issue of, "How Religious Minorities See Their Place in Law and Society." I opened my segment by pointing out that every religious group in the United States is actually a minority. The largest group, Catholics, comprise only 24.5% of the population and my group, Baptists, comprise only 16.3% of the population. Because there is true religious liberty in the United States, minority religions, regardless of their size, are not repressed. I then pointed to the very different situation in the Muslim world, which comprises a third of the world’s population. In addition, over a billion people live in communist nations where religious minorities face real discrimination because of their faith. There is also a secularization movement in the United States, Canada and Europe that threatens the religious freedom we all cherish.

The Falun Gong had an official representative at the conference who spoke on the same panel as did I. He detailed the arrest and torture of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners in China, with hundreds having died as a result. Until 1999 the Chinese government actually supported the Falun Gong movement in China because it includes exercise and meditation programs. These exercise programs were actually seen by the government as cutting public health costs. According to the Falun Gong representative, when the government discovered there were more practitioners than members of the Communist Party, they became fearful and outlawed the movement. Not only has there been persecution of the Falun Gong in China, but secret police have followed activists among its members to other nations to commit atrocities.

The Chinese government did not send a representative. Officially that government claims there is "separation of church and state" in China and that no religious persecution exists. When they are asked about specific cases of atrocities committed against Christians or practitioners of Falun Gong, they respond that these are not religions but outlawed groups subject to punishment by the Chinese government.

Harry Wu is one of the most respected of Chinese dissidents. Dr. Wu spent nineteen years of his life in a Communist labor camp in China rather than to recant his Catholic faith. His father was tortured to death by the Chinese communists and a brother was murdered. Dr. Wu described in detail the continued repression in China under the Communists that continues even today.

I had lunch with Harry Wu and spent a great deal of time talking with him about the situation in China and the continuing religious repression there. Internal movement is highly regulated and more than 80% of the population cannot move about the nation freely. China does not allow the average Chinese to visit Hong Kong for example, because that city is operated under a "duel system" and still has some democracy. A recent attempt to institute in Hong Kong security laws similar to those that exist in the Chinese mainland had to be halted when half a million people took to the streets. The city, which once had elected leaders is now run by a "chief executive" appointed by the Mainland communist government.

Harry Wu told me that China has a long history of dynasties that are only changed through violence and that he expects no different type of change when the communists finally fall. He is pessimistic about a democracy taking hold in China at any time in the near future. Until there is change there will not be religious or any other form of freedom in China.

I also had long discussions with the representative of the government of Tajikistan which is 90% Muslim. Officially Tajikistan is a secular nation in the same sense that Turkey and Egypt are secular nations. They remain secular only because religious parties are outlawed. Although these nations have parliaments, we would not view them as democratic. However, should any of the three allow truly free and democratic elections, they would become Islamic states and thus enemies of the United States. This makes the task of criticizing these "secular" Islamic nations because of their lack of religious freedom problematical for our government.

While Egypt allows hatred against the United States and Israel to be spewed almost daily in the government newspapers and TV, that government continues to fight radical Islamic guerillas on almost a daily basis. It is not that the Egyptian government is pro-West; it is merely the secular dictatorship protecting itself. The government continues to harass Christians. The same day the conference closed, Egyptian security forces and soldiers attacked a small Coptic church in Assiut during Mass, arresting deacons and tossing communion bread on the floor and then stepping on it. The security forces attempted to arrest a priest, but when the building was surrounded by thousands of Copts from the village they were forced to back down. What occurs on the ground in Egypt is far different than the face presented by its ambassador at the conference.

While Turkey is somewhat better than Egypt today, if a religious party were allowed to have candidates on the ballot and did win, that nation would cease to be a NATO ally. Actually, Turkey has never been a reliable ally of NATO or the United States despite our massive military aid to them.

In the case of Tajikistan there have been clashes with violent Islamic groups. Virtually all the southern former Soviet Republics face terrorism from Islamic jihadists. Russia continues to suffer terrorist attacks not only in Chechnya which is a part of Russia, but in Moscow and other cities as well. Oddly, the Russian government continues to assist Iran in the building of nuclear reactors. These reactors have the capacity to produce enriched uranium for nuclear weapons, weapons that could one day be used by jihadists against mother Russia. The United States and other responsible governments have pleaded with Russia to stop construction on the reactors.

During the conference I was also able to spend some time with various individuals who have vast experience in national security issues and who are associated with the IRPP. None of these experts see any hope for peace in the Holy Land, nor do they see an end to the jihad against America. The long term key to undermining jihadists is spreading religious freedom. I emphasize long term. Religious liberty brings other freedoms to nations and freedom is the enemy of the jihadists.

At the conclusion of the conference, numerous members of various parliaments, along with myself and those representing other groups signed a document calling for religious freedom in all nations. That document included support for the right of an individual to change his religion. While these freedoms may seem universal to us in the United States, they do not exist in much of the world. Indeed, converting from Islam can bring a death sentence.

Does this kind of conference bring about change? Perhaps not immediately, but it serves notice to those who would violate religious and human rights that the civilized world is watching. Also, those of us who understand why religious freedom is so important to the individual and the world society were able to meet and to plan future actions to bring religious freedom to repressed people.

A final word from Brussels: About a year ago my laptop computer just stopped working and was so old it could not be fixed. I mentioned this in an update and in response Rev. Alan Woody, who heads a Florida prison ministry, arranged for me to receive the computer I used for this trip. Also David Buttram, president of the Gospel Tract Society in Kansas, contributed $2,000 to make this important trip to Brussels possible.


Following are remarks I made on September 17th before the Interparliamentary Conference in Brussels:

First and foremost, I want to thank the members of parliaments and other officials representing various governments for their attendance at this conference. Your caring interest in the subject of religious freedom is appreciated by the world’s repressed peoples.

This session concerns the relationship of minority religious groups to their governments. As one of 34 million Americans who are Baptists, I am part of a minority that represents only 16.3% o the U.S. Population. The largest religious group in the United States, Roman Catholics, represent only 24.5% of the population. As members of a minority religion, Baptists receive no different treatment than the 3.5 million Jews of the 1 million or so Muslims. Religious freedom works in a free society. Other than those who come to the United States to practice violence in the name of religion, our nation has virtually no religious violence of an organized nature.

Yet, many, if not most of the world’s nations claim that minority religions must be kept in check or outlawed entirely to preserve peace and tranquillity. What kind of trouble makers do they fear, perhaps a Mahatma Ghandi or a Martin Luther King, or perhaps a Martin Luther?

Those nations who traditionally suppress religious liberty suppress other freedoms as well. They proclaim the lie their societies live out in official government controlled newspapers and on censored TV and radio news shows.

The lack of religious freedom, religious liberty, places a minority of any size in an adversarial relationship to the controlling authority. As an adversary, those in the minority face greater discrimination.

In some areas of the world, such as Bangladesh and Indonesia, rape is sanctioned by government as a means of reducing the threat of the minority. Rape becomes a family punishment for being Christian or Buddhist. The fleeing minorities recount their horror stories of murders, beatings and rapes in a free world press, bringing greater cause for repressive regimes to further punish family and friends left behind. This is particularly the case in the last few communist regimes remaining in the world.

A repressive government, a dictatorship or a monarchy, cannot tolerate any dissent, political or religious. This is true whether the totalitarian regime be Muslim, atheist, or even Christian. Any dissent, even for a small group to hold a different view religiously, becomes a danger because it could become a base for broader dissent. Dictatorships, one party governments and monarchies favor control of an official religion as a means of containing dissent and denying freedom.

Can religious minorities in truly repressive nations such as North Korea or Saudi Arabia negotiate for greater freedom? No. Their only hope lies in the hands of responsible persons such as those attending this conference. Their hope lies in our response to their pleas for help. It is the responsibility of freedom loving nations to assist those facing repression for their religious beliefs as surely as it would be to assist them in their struggle for other basic human rights.

The first weapon of free nations is the spotlight of truth. The recently found U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is casting the light of truth on those nations who violate basic human rights--even when our allies are the villains. A recent report exposing the religious police in Saudi Arabia is just one example. But, other civilized nations must come forward to condemn the behavior of official or sanctioned repression of religious minorities.

Truth, a very publicly told truth, can help the cause of religious freedom in the world today.


Since the time of Mohammed the goal of Islam has been world domination. Mohammed’s armies moved swiftly across Arabia laying waste to the land and killing many thousands of people, many times entire families. Since Mohammed there have been other great Jihads against the West, often times assisted by the West itself. Constantinople, the last great city of the Roman Empire, fell in the 15th century to the Islamic armies of the Ottomans who used modern French cannons against the city’s defenses. Had not French profiteers sold modern cannons and ammunition to the Islamic hoards, the world would be a far different place today. What is now Turkey would still be a Christian nation.

In the 21st Century, once again French profiteers are selling arms to Islamic armies this time aided not only by the Germans and Russians but the United States as well. While France, Germany and Russia sell arms to nations such as Iran and Iraq who sponsor terror, the United States sells arms to "friendly" Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. These "friendly" states, as recent history is a witness, cannot be counted on by us and in fact have also assisted the terrorist movement in the world.

Democrat candidates for President claim we are in a "quagmire" in Afghanistan and Iraq and are already calling for the return of our troops to the United States. This is good news to an enemy who has a hundred year war planned against us. If we can’t fight the new Great Jihad for two years without weakening, how can we defend ourselves ten years from now?

The United States has only 21 active armed divisions, and 14 of those are stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is the real problem. Under the Clinton administration, U.S. armed forces were cut by more than 50%. We do not have the forces required to continue a long battle against a determined enemy such as the jihadists we face. Also the United States maintains a highly skilled volunteer army and cannot count on recruitment for a prolonged bloody conflict. This is why military planners use maximum force with high tech weapons for quick victories. Volunteers for the armed services will dry up when there are mounting casualties over a prolonged period.

In the midst of this, France has declared itself an enemy of the United States. The French government is vocal about wanting to replace the United States as a super power. The French have proclaimed they want to form a European army under their command to "counter balance" the United States. Thus the French see as inevitable a military conflict with the United States to "prove" the European Union is a world power rather than just an economic block.

At a time when the civilized world is faced with a great Islamic jihad, the French want to take the opportunity to challenge the United States for power rather than to unite with America in defense of Western civilization. Already Washington has been forced to tell France very publicly that the formation of a European Command separate from NATO would be "unhelpful."

The outlook is not good. George W. Bush could lose the election in 2004 if our nation continues to bleed in Iraq at the rate of one man dead per day. Any large terror attack that killed a large number of our forces could seal the outcome of the election. Meanwhile there is not a single Democrat candidate that has the background, desire or courage to continue to fight against the jihadists on their territory. This would lead to larger and more deadly attacks on our own soil.

How can the great jihad be defeated? We need a larger army, perhaps 50 divisions and the willingness to go to where the enemy is, in Iran, Syria, Sudan and Pakistan and even Saudi Arabia if necessary.


Edited by Ergun Caner

Voices Behind the Veil gives a fascinating glimpse, in their own words and those of missionaries, into the closed world inhabited by Muslim women (who comprise fully ten percent of all the earth’s people). These women are perhaps more receptive to the Gospel than are the men, because while Islam is a religion of privilege for men, it is an incredible burden for women--physically, spiritually and socially. The birth of a female child is cause for mourning in most Muslim families. Things don’t get any better for her, either. Mohammed taught that the majority of those who dwell in hellfire are women. Mohammed was totally illiterate all his life, and the Qu’ran which he dictated in epileptic like "fits," is a strange conglomeration of misunderstood and misquoted teachings from the Old and New Testaments, plus a lot of pagan superstition thrown in. The focus of Voices Behind the Veil is highly evangelistic, exploring ways to reach those trapped in the darkness and confusion of Islam.Quality paperback - 218 pages. $15.00 per copy includes shipping. Please mention offer 03N10.

For your copy of Voices Behind the Veil, send a gift of $15.00 or more to:

The William J. Murray Report, P. O. Box 77511, Washington, DC 20013.


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